English 333

Worked the desk today for an hour and a half in the morning. Morning desk duty is a completely different animal than desk duty during lunchtime or in the afternoon after the kids get out of school. Morning desk duty is usually much quieter, at least in Reference, which gives you time to work on many of the kinds of projects we do when we can. For instance, today I worked on deleting some very old and tattered Young Adult novels. They were things which didn’t make a lasting impression on YA reviewers or on the teens themselves. Most had rarely circulated. Some were heavily used, but we ordered new copies of them so that kids can read something that hasn’t been dragged through the dirt at the bottom of the bookdrop for thirteen years.

William Wordsworth by Benjamin Robert Haydon

William Wordsworth by Benjamin Robert Haydon

I helped one teen student today. She needed to do a research paper on William Wordsworth. This request sent me spinning back over 10 years to English 333, the Romanticism class at my college. I remember reading Wordsworth & liking him for the most part. I did recall, however, that several other English majors and I had a world of fun at old Billy’s expense.

Wordsworth didn’t have a very eventful life, really. He lived in the Lake District in a big old cottage with his spinster sister. He roamed the countryside and wrote poetry, while his sister kept a journal of events in their lives. Well, mostly his life. Well, mostly things that they talked about. Come on, they lived in a cottage in the very defining epitome of the sticks before any communication other than postal mail. They had to pass the time somehow, right? And that’s were the fun began for us English majors. One entire diary entry for the sister consisted of this line: “William gathered sticks.” Isn’t that a marvelous insight to the mind of poetic genius at work? He gathered sticks. Okay, was that the inspiration for “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud?” or “Intimations of Immortality?” Snort.

Dorothy Wordsworth

Dorothy Wordsworth

Here’s another one: Wordsworth, somewhere, somehow, met a chick. He apparently fell in love, proposed, and she agreed to marry him. Get this: the night before his wedding, again according to our spinster’s diary, he brought the wedding ring he was going to give his wife to his sister, probably for safekeeping, I don’t remember now. Anyway, I do remember she said that she wore it all night long while weeping for him. Uh-huh. Riiiight. That’s sooo completely normal, right? Yeah, right! We were convinced, Claudia, Leslie, all the others, and I, that old studboy Billy and his sister had been doing the nasty out there in their Sticksville cottage. This passage was just the proof that we needed for our theory. I mean, he was basically the founder of the Romantic school of literature. Those crazy romantics, like the married Mrs. Mary Wollstonecraft who ran off with Percy Shelley. This kind of rebellious behavior had to come from somewhere, right? Well, we were convinced that it came from Wordsworth sexing up his sister Dorothy. I don’t remember if we ever asked our professor about these suspicions. She was a serious sort, and she probably would have gotten quite annoyed with us, I’m sure.

Of course, basically none of these recollections would help the earnest young lady who was asking me for help. I found what we had on her particular Wordsworth poem and passed on what I could about MLA citation style. She thanked me profusely and was headed out the door when she turned around and beelined back to the desk. “I probably better check out a biography of him just in case,” she said.

“We don’t have one in right now. I checked for any books on him when we started looking & someone’s checked everything out. I’m sure someone else is doing a paper on Wordsworth, and they got to our sources before you did. You probably won’t need it for a criticism paper.”

This is where I should have stopped, but I heard myself go on.

“And anyway, Wordsworth had a pretty dull life. He didn’t do much. If anybody asks you, all you have to remember is that he lived alone for many years in a cottage in the Lake District with his sister. He wandered around the countryside and wrote poetry. She kept a diary about him. One entire entry was something like this: ‘March 8th: William gathered sticks.’ He eventually got married. That’s about it. You’ll do fine.”

She smiled and ran off. I was sorry that I couldn’t really get into the boom-chicka-wow-wow theory, but there are just some places you can’t go with the general public, no matter how fond you are of the memories that their questions bring to mind.

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