Victorian scholar William Knight remains one of the most prolific Wordsworth scholars of the nineteenth century. His many publications helped establish Wordsworth's positive Victorian reputation that twentieth and twenty-first century scholars inherited. My particular focus is how Knight's 1889 inclusion of "Home at Grasmere" in his Life of William Wordsworth, rather than in his chronological sequencing of the poems, establishes a way to read the poem as a biographical artifact for his late-Victorian audience. Knight's detailed account of the poet's life, often told through letters and journal accounts, provides more contexts-including Dorothy's journal entries and correspondence of the early 1800s-to understand the poem than MacMillan's 1888 stand-alone edition of the poem (whose pre-emptive publication caused a small debate in 1888-89). Knight presents "Home at Grasmere" as a document of Wordsworth's personal experience and development as grounded in the Lake District. Analyzing the ways Knight's editorial decisions-both for his biography as a whole and his placement of "Home at Grasmere" within it-shape the initial reception of "Home at Grasmere" allows me to enrich the conversation about Wordsworth and the Victorian Age. Currently scholarship connecting Knight and Wordsworth remains sparser than other areas of Wordsworth commentary. However, several scholars have explored the connections between the two, and I augment their arguments by showing how Knight's invention of the poem creates an essential part of the "Home at Grasmere" archive-a term Jacques Derrida uses to describe a place or idea that houses important artifacts and determines the power of the knowledge it preserves. I argue this by showing that Knight's editorial decisions embody the characteristics of an archon-keeper or preserver of archival material-as he creates the way to read the poem as a biographical artifact while also responding to Wordsworth's own beliefs about the poetry and biographical theory. Knight's archival contribution allows Victorians to view the poem as a product of Wordsworth's developing poetic genius and helps establish Wordsworth as the great Romantic poet.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Wright, Patria Isabel, "On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life: William Knight's Life of William Wordsworth and the Invention of "Home at Grasmere"" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 3975.
William Angus Knight, William Wordsworth, Home at Grasmere, Victorian Biography, Derridean Archive