William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical ballads. London: J. and A. Arch, 1798. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical ballads. London: J. and A. Arch, 1798. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical ballads. London: J. and A. Arch, 1798. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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Lyrical Ballads

Author: William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ref No: 1798 WORD
Date Added: c1886
Date Created: 1798

The poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) first met in Bristol in August 1795. The most fruitful period of their association came two years later, when they lived within walking distance of each other in western Somerset. Both poets were convinced of the need to replace the artificial diction of late eighteenth-century verse with a fresher language more attuned to everyday speech.

At one point they planned to write works in tandem, but nothing came of this scheme beyond Wordsworth’s suggesting a few plot ideas for Coleridge’s long narrative poem ‘The rime of the Ancient Mariner’. None of the twenty-three poems contained in their collaborative venture, Lyrical Ballads, which they chose to present anonymously, was a product of joint authorship. Besides ‘The Ancient Mariner’, Coleridge contributed ‘The Nightingale’ (subtitled ‘a conversational poem’) and two brief extracts from his verse tragedy Osorio (eventually retitled Remorse and not performed until 1813). Everything else was written by Wordsworth. Deemed too obscure to be an inviting opener, ‘The Ancient Mariner’, which had pride of place in 1798, was moved further back in subsequent editions.

A pencilled note at the front of the Library’s copy says it was ‘a dying gift’ from William Tatton to William Wildman. A Londoner born in 1805, Tatton migrated to New Zealand aboard the barque Eden in 1850. He died in New Plymouth in August 1886. His beneficiary might have been the same William Wildman who opened a bookstore in Auckland in 1886. A later note on the endpapers, written by Henry Shaw during his tenure as curator of the Grey Collection, says that Wildman passed on the book to Sir George Grey soon after receiving it. It did not remain long in Grey’s hands either. It was among the first batch of books the former governor donated in 1887.

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