Literary Connections: making the right connections with literature
William Wordsworth
Wordsworth in 1805;
see also Romanticism

Lyrical Ballads (1798 edition)
Lyrical Ballads (1798)
(read Tintern Abbey)

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Wordsworth - stamp seller?

In April 1813 Wordsworth was appointed Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland. Although the £400 a year which went with this post made him financially secure, this acceptance of a government job by the former radical was seen as a betrayal - as Robert Browning wrote in The Lost Leader: "Just for a handful of silver he left us." Wordsworth compounded his teachery, in the eyes of the younger generation of poets, by campaigning for Tory politicians in the 1818 and 1820 elections.

Wordsworth published his long poem Peter Bell in 1819 and dedicated it to Robert Southey, who in 1813 had become the establishment's poet by accepting the office of Poet Laureate (Southey is mercilessly mocked by Byron in Don Juan). Shelley responded with a parody entitled Peter Bell the Third, mocking Wordsworth for his change of allegiances. In 1843, on the death of Southey, Wordsworth was himself appointed Poet Laureate.

J K Stephen (1859-92) published a rather cruel sonnet on Wordsworth's subject matter and style in The Granta in 1891:

Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Which bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
At other times - good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the ABC
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. (Wordsworth: Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1802 edition)

There's more about this parody by Stephen on Everything2. It seems he was 'an English Poetic Parodist [is that a job?], Royal Tutor, and International Law Scholar'.

For more on Wordsworth, see:

Wordsworth in print
Wordsworth on the web

Editions of Wordsworth's poetry and prose:

Examination candidates who are studying the 1805 edition of The Prelude should be warned that these sites either provide only extracts or the 1850 version. The copy of The Prelude on the invaluable Project Gutenberg is (at least when last checked) also the 1850 version - you need to look further for the earlier text or buy a printed copy!

Wordsworth resources: