The Ruined Cottage Revisited
The chapter examines the development of Book One of The Excursion, from its origins as The Ruined Cottage in 1797 through to final revision in 1845. A detailed account is provided of the poem’s evolution through various manuscript versions. The poem’s relation to other contemporaneous work and to Wordsworth’s emerging aesthetic theories is established. The evolution of the figure of the Pedlar is traced and the significance of his upbringing in the Scottish church is brought out. As the poet attempts to define what kind of consolation can properly be found in a story such as that of Margaret, he moves towards an explicitly Christian faith. Such a faith it is argued, contrary to received critical opinion, was always present even in the Pedlar’s much-discussed exposition of ‘natural wisdom’. The final revisions to the poem are situated more firmly in the religious experience of the poet’s last decade.
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