Literary daybook, Sept. 3

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

By the Salon Books Editors

Published September 3, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

Today in fiction

On Sept. 3, 1900, Dr. Uyterhoeven leaves for the Cape.
-- "The Chess Garden" (1995)
by Brooks Hansen

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to

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Today in Literary History
On this day in 1802, William Wordsworth completed the sonnet "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," one of his most well-known short poems. Although Wordsworth had already moved back to the Lake District, and would soon devote himself to the poetry of "Nature's holy plan," this poem is of urban beauty:

"Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!"

Wordsworth's "calm so deep" may have been connected to his recent visit to France to see for the first time his 9-year old daughter, Caroline, and her mother, Annette Vallon, with whom he had had an affair in 1791. The three apparently found some sort of closure during the month they spent together at Calais, and Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson, as planned, that October.

The revelation of Wordsworth's illegitimate child to the literary world was not made until 1921, through the scholarship of Princeton's George McLean Harper. The news created quite a stir among the professors, but judging by the Faculty Song composed that year by the seniors, the kids took it in stride:

"Harper went to France to get
The red-hot dope on dear Annette,
And there performed a deed of note,
Revealing Wordsworth's one wild oat."

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," contact Steve King.

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