The Wordsworth edition The Major Works, edited by Stephen Gill and published by Oxford University Press in 1984 (and revised later) was the first

selection of Wordsworth's work (...) in which the poems are ordered according to the date of their composition, and presented in texts which give as nearly as possible their earliest completed state.

The edition includes a number of poems that were not printed during Wordsworth's lifetime, The Prelude being the most notable one. A number of Wordsworth's poems were revised after their first publication. Poems that were not published during Wordsworth's life also underwent revision (e.g. The Prelude).

One of the longer poems in this edition is "Home at Grasmere", which was written in 1800 but not published by Wordsworth. On page 178, the edition says (italics by Stephen Gill):

(...) If we were forced to change,
Our home again was sweet; but still, for Youth,
Strong as it seems and bold, is inly weak
And diffident, the destiny of life
Remained unfixed, and therefore we were still

[Lines 185-191 are missing]

We will be free, (...)

How does Stephen Gill know that exactly seven lines are missing instead of an uncertain number?


1 Answer 1


TL;DR: Line numbers in the margin of manuscript A indicate that the missing page 9r in manuscript B had 24 lines, of which 17 can be restored from manuscript A, meaning that 7 are missing.

Manuscript history

Stephen Gill writes (p. 743):

Home at Grasmere Earliest composition 1800. Not published in W[ordsworth]’s lifetime, other than ll. 959–1048, which appeared in the Preface to The Excursion (1814). Revised version of whole poem published 1888 as The Recluse. It is very difficult to date the poem securely. See Beth Darlington (ed.), Home at Grasmere, Part first, Book First of the Recluse (1977), and Jonathan Wordsworth, ‘On Man, On Nature, and On Human Life’, Review of English Studies NS 31 (1980), 2–28. On MS and other evidence the composition of Home at Grasmere has been assigned to 1800–6. The text printed here is the earliest complete one, MS B.

The manuscript history of the poem is complex. The summary at wordsworth.org.uk indicates that the manuscripts containing the first part of the poem (the section with the missing lines) were:

  1. An initial draft or drafts (Spring 1800), now lost.

  2. Manuscript A (1806). One leaf divided into six columns, first line “We will be free, and as we mean to live”. This has lines 192–457 of the poem, so there must have been another leaf with lines 1–191, but this is now lost.

  3. Manuscript B (1806). The earliest complete version of the poem. First line “Once on the brow of yonder Hill I stopped”.

  4. Manuscript D (1812–4 and 1831–2). Revised complete version of the poem. First line “Once to the verge of yon steep barrier came”.

Manuscript B

The history of manuscript B is itself complex. In 1806, Mary Wordsworth made a fair copy of the opening lines of the poem on the recto (right-hand) pages of the first part of manuscript B. In 1812–4 and 1831–2 revisions were entered on some of the verso (left-hand) pages; these revisions were then copied to manuscript D.

The problem with trying to prepare a complete version of the poem based on manuscript B is that leaf 9 is missing: it has been torn out. Here are photos of pages 8r, 8v and 10r from manuscript B (click through for larger versions).

Page 8r has:

Tis (but I cannot name it) tis the sense
Of majesty and beauty & repose
A blended holiness of earth & sky
Something that makes this individual Spot
This small abiding-place of many men
A termination and a last retreat
A Centre, come from wheresoeer you will
A Whole without dependence or defect
Made for itself and happy in itself
Perfect Contentment, Unity entire.
  Long is it since we met, to part no more,
Since I and Emma heard each other’s call
And were Companions once again, like Birds
Which by the intruding Fowler had been scar’d
Two of a scatter’d brood that could not bear
To live in loneliness: ’tis long since we
Remembring much & hoping more found means
To walk abreast tho’ in a narrow path
With undivided steps. Our home was sweet
Could it be less if we were forc’d to change
Our home again was sweet; but still, for Youth
Strong as it seems & bold is inly weak
And diffident the destiny of life
Remained unfix’d & therefore we were still

Page 8v has later revisions of lines whose 1806 versions appear on pages 11r and 12r.

Page 9 is missing. In the top right of 8v (and in the top left of 10r) you can see the stub where the page was torn out.

Page 10r has:

Of outward things but for the prize within
Highest ambition: in the daily walks
Of business ’twill be harmony & grace
For the perpetual pleasure of the sense
And for the Soul I do not say too much
Though much be said an image for the soul
A habit of Eternity & God.
  Nor have we been deceived thus far the effect
Falls not below the loftiest of our hopes
Bleak season was it turbulent and bleak
When hitherward we journey’d & on foot
Through bursts of sunshine & through flying snows
Pac’d the long Vales how long they were & yet
How fast that length of way was left behind
Wensley’s long Vale & Sedbergh’s naked heights
The frosty wind as if to make amends
For its keen breath, was aiding to our course
And drove us onward like two Ships at sea
Stern was the face of nature we rejoiced
In that stern countenance for our souls had there
A feeling of their strength. The naked trees
The icy brooks as on we passed appear’d
To question us whence come ye to what end
They seemed to say what would ye said the shower

Manuscript A

The missing lines on page 9r can be partially restored by using manuscript A, an incomplete fair copy of the poem also made in 1806. Here’s the first column of manuscript A (click for a larger version):

This starts with the lines:

We will be free and as we mean to live
In culture of divinity and truth
Will chuse the noblest Temple that we know
Not in mistrust, or ignorance of the mind
And of the power she has within herself
To enoble all things made we this resolve
Far less from any momentary fit
Of inconsiderate fancy light and vain
But that we deem’d it wise to take the help
Which lay within our reach; & here, we knew,
Help could be found of no mean sort; the spirit
Of singleness & unity and peace
In this majestic self-sufficing world
This all in all of nature it will suit
We said no other       on earth so well
Simplicity of purpose love intense
Ambition not aspiring to the prize
Of outoward things but for the prize within

whereupon it joins the text on page 10r of manuscript B. So the last 17 lines on the missing page 9r can be restored from manuscript A.

There must have been more than 17 lines altogther: if you count the lines on nearby pages, then 7r and 11r have 26 lines, and 8r and 10r have 24.

How many lines are missing?

Manuscript A has some line numbers in the right margin. After the passage quoted above manuscript A continues and the line number 215 appears in the right margin:

Manuscript A lines 209–215

Of outoward things but for the prize within
Highest ambition: in the daily walks
Of business t’will be harmony and grace
For the perpetual pleasure of the sense
And for the Soul I do not say too much
Though much be said an image for the soul
A habit of eternity and god.             215

Counting backwards in manuscript A, it must be the case that “We will be free and as we mean to live” is line 192. Counting forwards from the beginning of manuscript B, “Remained unfix’d & therefore we were still” is line 184. So under the assumption that pages 1r to 9r had the same text as the missing part of manuscript A, the lines on page 9r must have been lines 185–208.

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