April is National Poetry Month and it feels especially fitting this year in Lauinger Library as we work on processing the largest collection of poetry ever gifted to the University, The Paul F. Betz Wordsworth and English Literature Collection. This spectacular collection prominently features the work of celebrated Romantic poet William Wordsworth but it also shines a light on many of his contemporaries, associated writers of the Romantic period in Britain and other figures in English literary history.
If you were to visit the Booth Family Center for Special Collections today, you’d find Rosemary Hall, a graduate student from the iSchool at the University of Maryland, busily processing an incredible selection of manuscripts from some of these less well-known poets from that era.
She has been sifting through manuscripts from more than 50 British poets from the late 18th and 19th centuries. She has come across the works of Alfred Austin, who served as Poet Laureate in 1896 following the death of Tennyson, and John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1865 to 1866. She has also seen the work of poets that have not even yet been identified, whether it was because their signature was illegible or their work was never published! In addition to arranging and cataloging the manuscripts, Rosemary has been working with a fellow intern across the Atlantic at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, England, to investigate any direct connections between the poets in the collection and Wordsworth himself.
Rosemary says it best herself, “It is awe-inspiring to see and handle materials that are not only old in age, but display such humanity. There is something so special about a person's handwriting - the way it changes with the subject matter and the emotions they are spilling onto the page. With poetry especially you can see a person's emotions on manuscripts in ways you never can in typed form. I studied Romantic Poetry for my undergraduate degree, so working with this collection in particular is very special for me. I can't help but read the poems as I catalog them!”