Review by Kacy Muir
One of my favorite novels and films happens to be one in the same — Big Fish —written by Daniel Wallace and John August, respectively. The reasons are many, but two stand out in particular. Together, both mediums aspire to inspire the art of storytelling and evoke romanticism in a swift, but everlasting connection of words: “A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.” Famous Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, lived and died long before the creation of either medium. However, author, Daniel Robinson, demonstrates in his latest work, Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing, that Wordsworth, in posthumously publishing his famous epic autobiographical poem, “The Prelude,” would live on through his words (University of Iowa Press, 2014).
At the behest of fellow Romantic poet and close friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth was tasked to write a poem that would not only challenge every emotion he possessed, but also reflect his being. Fearful of failing and insecure of his own talent, Wordsworth spent much of his life mastering what would become his most significant piece of work: “The Prelude”. It is interesting to note that while the poem remained unpublished until his death in 1850, Wordsworth’s last poem would become his magnum opus — echoing into the centuries to come.
In discussing Wordsworth’s epic poem, “The Prelude,” Robinson notes that “as a writer, he is free to adapt his personal history and his poetic identity to suit his creative needs through the very act of writing [and thereby] he becomes both the hero and the bard of his own epic, an odyssey of his own mind.” As a result, Wordsworth develops into “[t]wo consciousnesses, conscious of [himself] / And of some other Being.” If Robinson’s work could be described in only one word, it would be inspiring. Though many may be uncertain of where the road to ambition may lead them, Wordsworth inspires anyone with a dream to continue — a sentiment amplified by Robinson.
Robinson presents an in-depth analysis of Wordsworth’s final draft of the poem, as well as the scribbles and drafts that led him there. While the book’s primary focus is “The Prelude,” Robinson offers a great many references to Wordsworth’s most notable works including Lyrical Ballads and The Excursion. Robinson’s work is without pretentious or superfluous language. Much like his inspiration, Robinson shares a similar modesty as that of Wordsworth. The book reads as a behind-the-scenes look into Wordsworth’s life and the experiences of not only attempting to accept Coleridge’s heady albeit worrisome challenge, but also complete the poem with grace and satisfaction.
Robinson’s Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing is a brilliant and provocative work that is perfect for any English Literature, Wordsworth, and/or Romantic enthusiast. Through Robinson’s careful examination, readers so too, become entranced by Wordsworth. Inspired by the way in which Wordsworth worked meticulously on one revision after the next, readers are presented with his story — a testament that we live on — circling back to the beginning as “we see into the life of things.”