We are delighted that Pamela Woof, former President of the Wordsworth Trust, is to continue her wonderful literature classes on Wordsworth’s great autobiographical masterpiece The Prelude for a fourth year. In her own words:
‘How was Wordsworth to finish his epic, the journey through his own experience? Written in 1804, Book X was already too long. Yet the poem had to reach an ending, and that ending must be positive. Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton had resolved the crises of their poems: the Greeks had conquered Troy; Odysseus had got back to Ithaca; Aeneas did establish Rome; Dante, after pains of the Inferno and trials of Purgatory, entered Paradise; Adam and Eve, repenting disobedience, learnt of redemption.
But Wordsworth’s crisis had no similar resolution. His poem’s events were real, unfinished business witnessed by himself; thoughts and feelings about England and France during the most violent political revolution Europe had known. The war succeeding this would go on till 1815.
It meant that there is more than one narrative line in Book X: the terrible events themselves, the killings and the blood; the elation and euphoria of the young Wordsworth aged 20 who had been in France in 1790; the innocent, thoughtful discussions that he had in Blois in 1792; his helpless despair at the Terror; the magnitude of this failure to change society; England’s part in the drama; and the considered views of the mature man of 34 looking back.
Complicated facts overlap in the poem with ever-changing feelings. The perspective of time and associations brings up images from boyhood and from Wordsworth’s reading; the past is not safely past – it mingles with the present and affects the future.
Altogether, Book X presents a rich insight into a mobile and sensitive mind, the mind of a poet – the essential subject, after all, of The Prelude.
We begin with some further consideration of Book X and move on to Wordsworth’s brilliant and unique resolution of the poem’s crisis in his last three books, ending with Coleridge’s reaction to the entire unpublished poem.’
Newcomers are welcome, and copies of The Prelude 1805 will be provided.
Cost: £10 per class or £70 for a season ticket (8 classes)Book Online