Penguin Classics Wordsworth a Life in Letters

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9780141442136: Penguin Classics Wordsworth a Life in Letters

William Wordsworth is usually remembered as the quintessential Victorian Poet Laureate: a dull, worthy, establishment figure, with impeccable middle class, Tory, Anglican credentials, whose moralistic poetry has been required reading for generations of yawning school children. Yet there is so much more to Wordsworth than Daffodils and The Prelude. This selection of letters and autobiographical fragments introduces us to the real Wordsworth: the rebellious schoolboy, who vandalised his family portraits, became a supporter of the French Revolution and fathered an illegitimate daughter in France; the radical poet whose flouting of the conventions of the day attracted the ridicule of the reviewers and forced him to endure thirty years of rejection, obscurity and financial hardship before achieving belated critical and popular success; the devoted brother, husband and father who could still write passionate love letters to his wife after ten years of marriage and the birth of five children; and, finally, the revered patriarch whose poetry formed the hearts and minds of a generation, whose opinions were sought by writers, politicians, churchmen and educationalists throughout the English speaking world, but who thought nothing of vaulting walls, skating on the Lakes or climbing Helvellyn even in his seventies.

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About the Author:

William Wordsworth was born in the Lake District in April 1770, and died there eighty years later on 23 April 1850. In his youth Wordsworth experienced the French Revolution first hand and spent his twenties wandering throughout Europe. In 1794 Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge with whom he wrote Lyrical Ballads in 1798 and to whom he addressed his epic work, The Prelude. Wordsworth gradually established himself as the great poet of the Romantic period and in 1843 he became Poet Laureate.

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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