And Then There Were Three

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And Then There Were Three

From author to appearance, purpose to publisher, the creation of the Lyrical Ballads was far from simple. Though the blank-verse Tintern Abbey is one of the “other poems” hidden in the back of just one edition of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ballads, the pastoral ode best represents the Wordsworthian anxiety that casts a shadow over the entire, complex publication of the Lyrical Ballads.

Tintern Abbey was not meant to be a part of the Lyrical Ballads, but was added at the last minute, when the poems were already in the printing press (Moorman). Though hasty and not quite fitting, Wordsworth’s final addition to the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads became its most illustrious installation. Though both the Lyrical Ballads and Tintern Abbey eventually found their own wide audiences, the single poem did not fit with the purpose of the whole.

Wordsworth and Coleridge set out to conduct an experiment. Coleridge’s short ballads were radical because they were, in his own words, “directed to persons and characters supernatural or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth.” Wordsworth’s mission was the opposite: “to give charm of novelty to things of every day” (cited by Rannie). Though Wordsworth’s 1798 Advertisement and Prefaces of 1800 and 1802, and Coleridge’s 1817 Biographia Literaria explain the experiment clearly and directly, their initial intention for publication was nothing like the volumes of poems that were eventually produced.

The idea for a joint effort eventually came out of the Wordsworth and Coleridge’s partnership on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. While Coleridge produced the bulk of the poem, its ...

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...ment within the volume, Tintern Abbey is at the forefront.


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Jordan, John E. Why the Lyrical Ballads? London: University of California Press, 1976.

Moorman, Mary. William Wordsworth: The Early Years, 1770-1803. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957.

Rannie, David Watson. Wordsworth and His Circle. London: Methuen & Co., 1907.

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