Abstract

Robert Bridges's The Growth of Love exists inthree complete texts and a number of fragments. This article addresses the question of whether the different texts of this sequence, and by extrapolation of other late Victorian sonnet sequences which demonstrate similar textual instability, should be considered as divergent versions of the same poem or as separate poems in their own right. A comparison of the seventy-nine-sonnet text of 1889 with the sixty-nine-sonnet text of 1898 suggests that these are indeed versions of the same poem. But the twenty-four-sonnet text of 1876 is radically different in its structure to its successors, and includes many sonnets subsequently excluded or extensively revised. A close examination of all three texts demonstrates that both the sequence and the individual sonnets which comprise it change their significance throughout the process of revision. As the textual record of intervening stages between published texts is fragmentary, it becomes impossible to assert either that The Growth of Love is the same poem throughout its textual history or that the sonnets which comprise it are ever anything more than fragments of an unstable whole.

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