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By Frederick Burwick, Paul Douglass (eds.)

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With a feeling that the whole of literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order” (14). Since the creative process, understood in these terms, consists not in the poet’s negotiation with the tradition but in the tradition’s self-expression through the poet, the idealist critic cannot, in fact, account for the historicity of generic conventions. This limitation becomes obvious in Frye’s Anatomy, which articulates an idealist theory of literature without, as in Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” the burden of a corresponding scheme of aesthetic evaluation.

Glory and hope to newborn Liberty! / . . But . . spare / These courts of mystery. . / be the house redeemed With its unworldly votaries, for the sake Of conquest over sense, hourly achieved Through faith and meditative reason. . (Prelude [1850] 6: 425–426, 434–435, 441–442, 448, 450–451, 456–459) Now there is no statement this direct in the 1837 Memorials, but by giving the Tuscan monasteries so much attention, by investing them with so much cultural value—the legacy of St. Francis at La Verna, of Milton at Vallombrosa, and, although he neglects to mention it in the sonnets, of the Florentine humanists, who held learned symposia at Camaldoli—and by placing them side by side with sonnets on Italian liberty, Wordsworth is expressing the hope that the Italian reformers will show greater wisdom than the French, or for that matter, the English, whose ruined monasteries were one of his favored haunts.

Wordsworth’s Translations For Wordsworth, a gifted linguist, translation was habitual from his childhood—recreational, social, and therapeutic. Over the years he read in Italian or translated Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto, Metastasio, Machiavelli, Michael Angelo, Beccaria, Chiabrera, and many others who are not recorded. Dorothy reports to her friend, Jane Pollard, that after his return to Cambridge from his walking tour, “He reads Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Latin, and English, but never opens a mathematical book.

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