Wordsworth: A Life

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9780060787363: Wordsworth: A Life

The figure of William Wordsworth looms over the nineteenth century like a presiding genius. Sage, seer, and Poet Laureate, Wordsworth was revered by his Victorian contemporaries as a writer of tender, lyrical poetry, a controversial challenger of social and artistic convention, a devoted champion of country life, and the spiritual founder of the conservation movement.

In this masterful work, the first biography to fully examine Wordsworth's entire life, critically acclaimed biographer Juliet Barker draws on unpublished sources to present a new picture of him as both public icon and private family man. Balancing meticulous research with engaging prose, she reveals not only the public figure who was courted and reviled in equal measure but also the complex, elusive, private citizen behind that image, vividly re-creating the intimacy of Wordsworth's domestic circle, showing the love, laughter, loyalty, and tragedies that bound them together. Wordsworth is a major biography of one of the world's foremost poets, and a rich, unforgettable portrait of a fascinating and fiercely passionate man.

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About the Author:

Juliet Barker is internationally recognized for her ability to combine groundbreaking scholarly research with a highly readable and accessible style. Best known for her prizewinning and best-selling book The Brontës (1994), which was widely acclaimed as setting a new standard in literary biography, she is also an authority on medieval tournaments. Born in Yorkshire, she was educated at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School and St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she obtained a doctorate in medieval history. From 1983 to 1989 she was the curator and librarian of the Brontë Parsonage Museum. She has, for many years, been a frequent contributor to national and international television and radio as a historian and literary biographer, and has lectured in the United States and New Zealand. In 1999 she was one of the youngest-ever recipients of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, awarded by the University of Bradford in recognition of her outstanding contribution to literary biography. She is married, with two children, and lives in the South Pennines.

From Publishers Weekly:

Following Wordsworth over the course of his eight decades (1770–1850), Barker, unlike other biographers, gives equal attention to his early poetic career and radicalism, and to his "middle-aged Toryism" and later domestic years. As she did in The Brontës, Barker puts her subject in the context of his family: his early orphaning; his deep bond with his equally sensitive sister, Dorothy; and the tragic early deaths of his children. Apart from Wordsworth's enjoyment of the Lake District's inspiring landscape, he had a somewhat Dickensian upbringing among tightfisted relatives. Wordsworth's intelligence won him a place at Cambridge, which was intended to position him for the clergy, but his poetic calling and radicalization during the French Revolution determined otherwise. The English political circles in which the young Wordsworth moved introduced him to Coleridge, whose early inspiring friendship eventually deteriorated as the two poets' creative paths split (Barker underscores Coleridge's exasperating character). She is far more forgiving of Wordsworth's abandonment of his early ideology, sympathizing with his practical need as a family man to take a government job enforcing the press-restricting Stamp Act until he received a civil pension—and ultimately the laureateship. Although the U.S. version has been abridged slightly from the British edition, it amply displays Barker's painstaking scholarship. (Dec.)
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