Lot 520
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 23,111) inc. premium
Lot Details
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF HIS SONNET ['TO THE AUTHOR'S PORTRAIT'], untitled herein, 14 lines, with an autograph signed note ('Wm Wordsworth') at the end presenting the manuscript to a woman [probably Juliet Smith], 1 page, quarto, with a note in another hand on the verso of the integral leaf 'The Portrait alluded to was presented by Pickersgill for St John's College Cambridge'), Rydal Mount, 28 November 1832

Go faithful Portrait! and where long has knelt
Margaret, the saintly Foundress, take thy place;
And, if time spare the colours for the grace
Which to the Work surpassing Skill has dealt,
Thou, on thy rock reclined, though Kingdoms melt
In the hot crucible of change, wilt seem
To breathe in rural peace, to hear the Stream,
To think - and feel - as once the Poet felt!
Whateer thy fate, those features have not grown
Unrecognised through many a starting tear
More prompt - more glad to fall than drops of dew
By Morning shed around a Flower half-blown,
Tears of delight that testified him true
To life thou art, and, in thy truth, how dear!

In printed versions of this sonnet the sixth line reads 'And states be torn up by the roots, wilt seem' and in line 10 'household' for 'starting'.

The note at the end reads: 'Dear Madam, Accept the above written with the horizontal Pen which you were so kind as to present to me during my late very agreeable visit at Tent Lodge'. Wordsworth wrote to Juliet Smith of Tent Lodge in Coniston asking that friends might see views from the front of her house in a letter attributed to early September 1835 in the Letters, VI. Part 3.

AUTOGRAPH POEMS OF MORE THAN FOUR LINES OR QUOTATIONS BY WORDSWORTH ARE SURPRISINGLY RARE: only two others have been sold at auction since 1976. Michael Silverman had another in 2010. Perhaps this is partly a consequence of Wordsworth's aversion to the physical act of writing which is a recurrent theme in his letters. For instance, he told De Quincey: 'I have a kind of derangement in my stomach and digestive organs which makes writing painful to me.' His usual solution to the problem was to get his womenfolk to write for him, which accounts for most of his poetical manuscripts being in the hands of those amanuenses.

Wordsworth's papers are largely divided between The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, the British Library and Cornell University.

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's, 15 December 1920; Maggs (1920).

REFERENCES: Autograph Prices Current, volume 5, 1919-1921, compiled by A.J. Herbert; P.J. Croft, Autograph Poetry in the English Language, 2 volumes, 1973.
  1. Simon Roberts
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