chapter  1
28 Pages

An Independent Mind?

Wordsworth at Cambridge, 1787–1791
WithMark J. Bruhn

Pope's early and substantial influence on Wordsworth's philosophical thought traces all the way back to his "Lines on the Bicentenary". Later in life Wordsworth somewhat abashedly recalled that "These verses were much admired, far more than they deserved, for they were but a tame imitation of Pope's versification, and a little in his style". In pointed contrast to the lines he's just summarized and cited, in which Pope characterizes human progress from the state of nature to the state of social contract and scientific conquest as so many effects of the same governing passion of "Self-Love", Wordsworth's thought turns without logical transition, as even the fair copy of MS. Wordsworth's intention to intervene against Pope in this specific context is signaled by his next revision, which projects the affective focus of the lines on "diffusive love" back upon the more obviously Popean passage on "Science".