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Wordsworth in Love

Jonathan Wordsworth, 15 October 1981

... Shelley, Keats. Among the older generation, Blake and Coleridge might be a little more difficult. Wordsworth for most would be impossible. To Shelley he seemed ‘a solemn and unsexual man’ (‘Peter Bell the Third’), and even the revelation early in this century that he had a French girlfriend, and French illegitimate daughter, has not altered the stuffy ...

Three feet on the ground

Marilyn Butler, 7 July 1983

William WordsworthThe Borders of Vision 
by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Oxford, 496 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 19 812097 4
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William WordsworthThe Poetry of Grandeur and of Tenderness 
by David Pirie.
Methuen, 301 pp., £14.95, March 1982, 0 416 31300 0
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Benjamin the Waggoner 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Paul Betz.
Cornell/Harvester, 356 pp., £40, September 1981, 0 85527 513 8
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... One evening, declares Jonathan Wordsworth as he begins his new critical book, a poet happened to be walking along a road, when the peasant who was with him pointed out a striking sight:         ’Twas a horse, that stood Alone upon a little breast of ground With a clear silver moonlight sky behind. With one leg from the ground the creature stood, Insensible and still; breath, motion gone, Hairs, colour, all but shape and substance gone, Mane, ears, and tail, as lifeless as the trunk That had no stir of breath ...

Benevolent Mr Godwin

E.P. Thompson, 8 July 1993

Political Justice 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, £150, November 1992, 1 85196 019 8
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The Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin 
edited by Mark Philp.
Pickering & Chatto, £395, March 1993, 1 85196 026 0
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Political Writings 
by Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 411 pp., £39.95, March 1993, 1 85196 019 8
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Memoirs of Wollstonecraft 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, 199 pp., £8.95, April 1993, 1 85477 125 6
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... facsimile of the quarto first edition of Political Justice (1793) in the series edited by Jonathan Wordsworth for Woodstock Books. This series makes available facsimiles of works which were significant to the Romantic poets, and in particular to Wordsworth and Coleridge. ...

Her eyes were wild

John Bayley, 2 May 1985

Letters of Dorothy WordsworthA Selection 
edited by Alan Hill.
Oxford, 200 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 19 818539 1
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Dorothy Wordsworth 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 318 pp., £12.50, March 1985, 0 19 818519 7
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The Pedlar, Tintern Abbey, The Two-Part Prelude 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26526 6
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The Ruined Cottage, The Brothers, Michael 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 82 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26525 8
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... Wordsworth’s genius lay in its own sort of negative capability. The most striking feature of his poetry, as of his personality, is their intense and intimate relations with what always remained outside them. He never seems identified with his own discoveries, even with the drama of his own sensibility. Yet what he writes is subtly and comfortingly self-confirmatory, never more so than when the world, the human heart, the music of humanity, the mountains, are speaking to him (‘as if admonished from another world’, ‘To give me human strength by apt admonishment ...

One Bit of Rock or Moor

Susan Eilenberg: Wordsworth and the Victorians, 3 September 1998

Wordsworth and the Victorians 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 300 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 19 811965 8
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The Five-Book Prelude 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Duncan Wu.
Blackwell, 214 pp., £40, April 1997, 0 631 20548 9
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... Durability was what mattered. Wordsworth founded his poetry on what he called ‘the beautiful and permanent forms of nature’ and built it according to ‘the primary laws of our nature’. It cleaved stubbornly to facts, to countable things, to rocks and stones and trees, and behaved rather like the boy Wordsworth himself, who, as he much later reported, often ‘grasped at a wall or tree’ on his way to school in order to reassure himself of the material reality of a world he did not entirely believe in ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... I am of that odious class of men called democrats,’ Wordsworth wrote to his friend William Mathews in 1794. Much the same can be said of Coleridge, on the evidence of his letters and publications of the mid-1790s. By the early decades of this century, British, French and American scholarship concurred in finding both poets to be, in the 1790s, republicans and advanced reformers, who then suffered disappointment in the course of the French Revolution and, in different ways and at different times, changed their minds ...

Regrets, Vexations, Lassitudes

Seamus Perry: Wordsworth’s Trouble, 18 December 2008

William Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’: A Casebook 
edited by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 406 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 0 19 518092 5
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... unexpectedly, in the winter of 1798, in an uncomfortable lodging in Goslar, Lower Saxony, where Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy found themselves marooned for four miserable months. The weather was terrible – it was reputedly the coldest winter of the century – and leaving town was practically impossible: ‘When we left the room where we sit we were ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... was anonymous, caught on less well than the second (1800), twice as long, and firmly attributed to Wordsworth alone. The two authors worked on four editions, appearing over seven years, further proof that there was no ‘historical moment but a sequence of moments’. Mason passes over the innovative 1798 and 1800 and chooses as his text 1805. A ...

After-Meditation

Thomas Keymer: The Girondin Wordsworth, 18 June 2020

Radical WordsworthThe Poet who Changed the World 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 608 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 816742 4
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William WordsworthA Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, new edition, 688 pp., £25, April, 978 0 19 881711 6
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... round up to the clouds’. But it wasn’t just the landscape he had come for. He longed to meet Wordsworth, the poet of liberty and humanity, the great philanthropic voice of the rural poor. He made the seven-mile pilgrimage to Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s scenic home near Ambleside, but it was election season in ...

Silly Willy

Jonathan Bate, 25 April 1991

William Blake: His Life 
by James King.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 297 81160 6
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... material surrounding Blake. He didn’t go to Paris in the early days of the French Revolution, as Wordsworth did; he didn’t experiment with drugs like Coleridge or escape from a lunatic asylum like Clare; he didn’t die young by drowning or of consumption like Shelley or Keats. Those staple sources for the biographer, the author’s letters, are poor ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

Constable 
by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... of the West and the crisis of the planet are the avowed contexts of another work on landscape art, Jonathan Bate’s robust and opportunistic essay Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. The book claims to set ‘a new agenda for the study of Romanticism in the 1990s’, and it starts by proclaiming ...

Spivsville

Jonathan Bate, 27 July 1989

Train, Train 
by Graham Coster.
Bloomsbury, 225 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780747503941
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The Philosophers 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780715625118
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The King of the Fields 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 256 pp., £10.95, July 1989, 0 224 02663 1
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Sister Hollywood 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 224 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 00 223479 3
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Penelope’s Hat 
by Ronald Frame.
Hodder, 440 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 340 49397 6
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... advertising campaign. Early in Train, Train Edwards proffers a strong misreading of a Wordsworth sonnet in which railway labourers admire a        wide-spanned arch, wondering how it was raised, To keep, so high in air, its strength and grace. Edwards thinks the arch is that of a railway viaduct, whereas in fact ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... at the same time the lonely outsider commemorated by Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and (more cannily) Wordsworth. David Fairer maintains that their Wertherisation of Chatterton’s alleged suicide concentrated the Romantic poets’ minds on their own social isolation, on the necessary dissidence of the poet’s task and the short time reserved for its ...

Re-Readings

Chris Baldick, 10 November 1988

Poetry, Language and Politics 
by John Barrell.
Manchester, 174 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2441 2
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Garden – Nature – Language 
by Simon Pugh.
Manchester, 148 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 2824 8
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Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture 
by David Cairns and Shaun Richards.
Manchester, 178 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2371 8
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The Shakespeare Myth 
edited by Graham Holderness.
Manchester, 215 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 1488 3
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... or sample demonstrations of theoretical routines cried up as novelties. The series edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield under the title ‘Cultural Polities’ has some twenty volumes in store already, covering popular fiction and music as well as canonical literature. Of these, the first four published titles present a mixed impression in ...

The Last Georgian

John Bayley, 13 June 1991

Edmund Blunden: A Biography 
by Barry Webb.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.50, December 1990, 0 300 04634 0
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... Barry Webb has assembled shows Blunden going out to bat with Rupert Hart-Davis, in a match between Jonathan Cape and the Alden Press. That was in 1938. Blunden looks miniature, a frail determined Don Quixote with eagle nose and jaw, who had persuaded the burly Yorkshireman as they set out for the crease together not to wear batting gloves, which were ...

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