Advanced Search Find a Library. Your list has reached the maximum number of items. Please create a new list with a new name; move some items to a new or existing list; or delete some items. Your request to send this item has been completed. APA 6th ed. Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study.
The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.
Romanticism and the City (Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters)
The E-mail Address es field is required. Please enter recipient e-mail address es. The E-mail Address es you entered is are not in a valid format. Please re-enter recipient e-mail address es. You may send this item to up to five recipients. The name field is required. Please enter your name. The E-mail message field is required.
The Correspondent Breeze
Please enter the message. Please verify that you are not a robot. Would you also like to submit a review for this item? You already recently rated this item. Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. Series: Nineteenth-century major lives and letters. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private.
Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Reviews User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Be the first. He describes a typical day on the lake of Coniston in terms very different from the heightened adventure of the boat-stealing episode:.
This ruin inspires not a sublime awe but rather a pleasing sense of natural processes, of familiar joys. The impulsiveness of the boat-stealing episode becomes a celebration of the habitual—of custom and ceremony, in this case the ritual of tea-drinking. The hall seems to have become part of the landscape, in which the long boughs of trees stretching over the water form a gloomy cloister, a refuge from which the light of the setting sun is visible.
Any awe that a "neglected mansion-house" might inspire is domesticated by the homey details. Next, the various accidents of weather loosen the stones themselves; they tumble in irregular masses upon what was perhaps smooth turf or pavement, or nicely-trimmed walks and shrubberies, now mixed and overgrown with wild plants and creepers, that crawl over, and shoot among the fallen ruins … while the ivy mantels over other parts, and crowns the top. Time thus transforms the regularity and smoothness of beauty into a picturesque scene.
For Price, variety and intricacy are the primary characteristics of the picturesque. An old mansion that is neglected but not in a state of ruin is a perfect example of the picturesque. Perhaps Wordsworth's introduction of the word grotesque is meant to convey the "picturesquely irregular" as suggested by the OED.
The hall is not just beautiful, it is "Grotesque and beautiful," almost a contradiction in terms. Wordsworth may also have had Milton's description of Paradise in mind, where grotesque is clearly associated with wild and irregular vegetation:. Perhaps Wordsworth's description of the beautiful here also suggests the picturesque because he introduces into the poem the human community, and thus necessarily a kind of variety and irregularity not found in the misty visual images of the beautiful.
We wonder what has happened over the years, but no story fills in the gaps as it does in "The Ruined Cottage. On Coniston Water Wordsworth represents people in daily contact with nature. The ruins, too, are placed in a human context, as they are not in "Tintern Abbey," where there is no mention of the ruins themselves, much less of the beggars and vagrants who inhabited them, as recent criticism has emphasized. Rather than the lone "I" of the boat-stealing episode, in the Coniston scene the narrator uses the plural pronoun to indicate that this event is shared among friends.
Only after the initial description of Coniston does the narrator use the singular pronoun to reflect on personal insights derived from the custom of stopping to enjoy the lake. Whereas the first part of the scene identifies the experience as nurturing and maternal, this second part figures nature as a remembered lover:.
Wordsworth shifts to the first person singular here because he looks away from the old house and the shared meal to the "high eastern hills," away from the "covert" or refuge and toward eternity. He records a special moment in which he recognizes that the "beauteous sight before me" will be linked to his "moral feelings. The youth imagines that "fair scenes" such as the "radiance of the setting sun" over the hills of Coniston will become a memory for him like the memory of a lost love: "My soul would send a longing look to you.
Although he feminizes the landscape here as a lover, the tone is wistful rather than proprietary. In the two-part Prelude Wordsworth traces the boy's development from a primitive "naked savage in the thunder-shower" to a civilized, more cultivated young man. He uses different modes of representation to convey the emotions associated with the experiences that have shaped his life. The boat-stealing episode evokes the structure of a Gothic tale, with psychological rather than supernatural explanations; the scene on the lake of Coniston remains pictorial and ritual-like, rather than a dramatically plotted narrative.
The beautiful is framed and contained as a memorial scene, whereas the sublime intrudes itself into the unconscious memory. There is no conflict in the Coniston passage, as there certainly is in the boat-stealing. The boy leaves the protected cavern of the willow tree for his adventure on Ullswater, but the adolescent remains "in our small boat," "in the covert," on "the calm smooth lake" of Coniston. Although Wordsworth emphasizes the duality of the sublime and the beautiful, he acknowledges that certain events and occupations defy classification:. This passage seems to be presented as a justification for including a memory that has neither the thrilling quality of Ullswater nor the beauty of Coniston—neither romance nor pastoral.
If anything, the scene introduces a Cowperesque mock-heroic dimension into the narrative.
- Wordsworth and Coleridge - Promising Losses | P. Larkin | Palgrave Macmillan;
- Find a copy in the library.
- Harold Honeybone Finds A Wife.
- Canadians in the American Civil War: Extracts from The Irish Canadian.!
- Nineteenth-Century Major Lives And Letters Series!
- Brother: A Story of Hope and Survival from Africa’s Rebel Heart.
I am referring to the card game that immediately precedes this discursive passage:. Using the mock-heroic form here seems to be another way for Wordsworth to order his past. Whereas memory mediates the "danger and desire" of the sublime, the mock-heroic provides a distance from.
This is an old, patched-together deck of cards, "husbanded through many a long campaign. And through long use the cards all begin to look alike, so that the children have to use their imagination to distinguish among them. Part of the joke, of course, is that the place of the dying royalty will be usurped by plebeians, and, perhaps before that, kings by queens and by "hearts of sable hue.
The mockheroic also gives Wordsworth an avenue for political commentary. In recognizing and memorializing other modes of perception, Wordsworth begins to question the arrogance and autonomy of the sublime. Especially since he, like Burke, came to associate the sublime with the unbridled energies of the Revolution and the Terror, Wordsworth looked toward the habitual and customary—values associated with "patriotic and domestic love" —to contain that violence in its energy.
The beautiful in the two-part Prelude, centered on sociability and community, underscores the dangers of the sublime and also sets it in high relief. The aesthetic categories of the sublime and the beautiful, associated by Wordsworth with his earliest imaginative life, are also linked to the thoughts of his more mature years and to his representation of gender and his relationships with women. In fact, it is possible to look at the poetry of Wordsworth's later years, as well as the mode of his domestic life, as a feminization of the impulses of the sublime.
Interestingly, too, in the description of the picnic on Coniston Wordsworth associates the grace and hospitality of the beautiful mansion with the feminine. The young boaters depend on their hospitality and care in setting up a "delicate meal. The conditions of the Wordsworths' household as it was coming into existence in and as it would establish itself in the coming years replicate these aesthetic categories.
As we shall see, Wordsworth's interest in women and conventional feminine values in his poetry is paralleled by the circumstances of his life, in which Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wordsworth, and Sara Hutchinson played nurturing and supportive roles that first made his sublime poetry of solitary visions possible, and then rechanneled the direction of that poetry. Significantly, in Wordsworth's poetry there is no female sublime, and hence no female identity apart from male perception.
The poet in "Tintern Abbey," as we shall see, meditates on his sublime experiences, but his sister inhabits the beautiful as seen from the male perspective. This exclusion haunted Dora Wordsworth in , when she visited Tintern Abbey for the first time and tried to find her place between her father's "sense sublime" 95 and the "lovely forms" that he attributes to her aunt.
Much has been written recently about Wordsworth and the archetypal Romantic female, the silenced object of male desire. As gendered narratives of development, what is interesting about the Lucy poems—in contrast to the heroic story of the growth of the poet's mind—is that Lucy is always shaped or controlled by someone else. Whereas the boy of The Prelude seeks out adventures, learning his limitations through experience or being nurtured by "gentle visitation[s]" , the archetypal girl Lucy is also the archetypal stepchild.
In "Three Years She Grew," for instance, a personified mother nature decides her fate:. Emptied of drama and tension, the girl's narrative is one of passive surrender and early death in which a feminine nature is implicated. While the boy is fostered by both fear and beauty, Lucy is perceived only as an object of the beautiful, both by her lover and by nature. It could be argued that when the women Wordsworth wrote about chose to write or to draw, they composed in a mode best described as picturesque, the aesthetic category that seemed to open up a space for women as writers, painters, and observers.
Dorothy Wordsworth's style has been described as picturesque,  and both Sara Hutchinson's sketch The Mill—Grasmere and Dora Wordsworth's watercolor Dove Cottage, Town End demonstrate picturesque features in the raggedness of the edges, the roughness of nature figures 1 and 2. Uvedale Price particularly identifies a mill as having "the greatest charm to the painter" of the picturesque, because of "the extreme intricacy of the wheels and the wood work; the singular variety of forms, and of lights and shadows, of mosses and weather stains from constant motion" 52— In a more recent essay, "The Picturesque Moment," Martin Price notes that the picturesque expresses itself best in scenes "in which form emerges only with study or is at the point of dissolution.
It turns to the sketch, which precedes formal perfection, and the ruin, which succeeds it. Thus, both the sketch and the journal were genres that the women of the Wordsworth circle—who voiced no ambitions toward artistic or literary careers—could nonetheless work within. As we will see in the case of Dora Wordsworth and her travel journal of , she regularly writes and sketches in this picturesque tradition. But whereas the picturesque, in which nature is not terrifying but does need human care, opens up possibilities for women as creators and observers, Wordsworth moves in the direction of the beautiful—a more idealized conception of nature and gender.
By , when Wordsworth recognizes his audience in the "Essay, Supplementary to the Preface" as those few who are appreciative of his genius, he constructs images of female piety and domesticity at the center of his poetry—or in the case of "Laodamia," an image of failed piety. Far from transcending the feminine in his later poetry, he retrieves the ideal images of the beautiful and resituates them in the transitional culture of the s and s.
It is not such a far leap from the Coniston scene of the two-part Prelude or "She was a Phantom of Delight" composed —4 to the domesticated and conventional images of "The Triad" , where Words-. But Wordsworth's evocation of the beautiful in his later poetry has something of the mock-heroic playfulness found in the early card game from the two-part Prelude. Although the images of female beauty are often distanced and ideal, the contexts in which they are presented are just as often playful, as if to suggest that Wordsworth is conscious of his own exaggerations.
Accordingly, in chapter 5 I shall replace the stereotype of the somber and stodgy poet of Rydal Mount with a more subtle picture. What I wish to emphasize here is that in —99 Wordsworth already prefigures the gendered values and conventions of his later life. The gendered landscapes of the two-part Prelude set the stage for what is to come. Whereas many readers of Wordsworth have seen little connection between the Wordsworth of and the Wordsworth of , I see the earlier work as containing—to borrow Wordsworth's own agricultural metaphor from The Prelude— the germ of the later Wordsworth.
But the question remains: what role do women and the poet's ideas about women play in the husbandry of Wordsworth's imagination? Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel, When Wordsworth wrote the fragmentary passages that would form the two-part Prelude in —99, he was not thinking specifically in terms of audience or publication. Rather, as he says in his letter, he wrote in the isolation of the German winter "in self-defence. Especially in the second part, Wordsworth evokes the beautiful, associated with the feminine, and describes its influence on his life.
But by the time he composed the Preface to Lyrical Ballads , Wordsworth was considering his relationship with his audience. Now Wordsworth presents himself as a poet with a vocation; he specifically stakes his claim to being a serious male poet who sees himself in the company of poets from Catullus to Pope PrW In the Preface Wordsworth reiterates his claim to this male vocation at the same time that he defends writing about abandoned women and mad mothers and focuses his poetics on emotion.
Furthermore, Wordsworth's dependency on women as responsive readers of his work grew even stronger in the first decade of the nineteenth century. But in the Preface Wordsworth makes no direct connection between his writing, in which women figure prominently as subjects, and women readers or writers. There is also an interesting discrepancy between Wordsworth's public pose in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, his aim of reforming the reading. In the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth paradoxically wants to reach his audience by replicating the intimacy of a private reading, imagining his audience in place.
Furthermore, contrary to Klancher's argument that Wordsworth moves from a concern with "consumption" to a preoccupation with "reception," I believe that Wordsworth never fully abandons the consumption model and, in fact, he rephrases it in the late s and s. Klancher assumes a Wordsworthian decline after and stops there; he reads the "Essay, Supplementary" as if it were Wordsworth's last word on readers and poetic tradition.
But for thirty-five more years, as his correspondence reveals, Wordsworth was intensely involved in new editions of his poetry, in revising poems for publication, and in the debate over the laws of copyright. He thought and wrote constantly about how his poetry was presented to the public and who was reading it. In fact, he thought even more intensely about himself as a publishing poet because he was a poet in an age of popular novel-reading, an activity he steadfastly disparaged. In an essay that precedes the more recent historicist arguments and that Klancher particularly critiques , Morris Eaves theorizes that in one phase of an expressive theory the artist not only expresses the work of art but also expresses and personalizes his audience.
For Blake the ultimate model for the relationship between artist and audience is that of Jesus to his disciples —95 ; for both Wordsworth and Blake, Eaves claims, the basis of the mutual love relationship between artist and audience is equality: "An art that assumes a worthy audience of equals is the only authentically democratic art" Both Eaves's elegant argument and Klancher's critique of its Romantic idealism omit the category of gender.
But, as I shall argue, gender anxiety was at the heart of Wordsworth's formulations in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Wordsworth imagined as gendered the marketplace he must enter, the literary tradition to which he aspired, and the role of the poet he wished to fill. If in Wordsworth imagines that he is above the frantic and fickle marketplace and the tastes of uncultivated readers, and in the "Essay, Supplementary" he seems to give up on the reading public altogether, by around he redefines his relationship to his contemporary audience.
Although Wordsworth always complained about how little money he made from his publications—not enough to buy his shoestrings, according to one story—he did achieve popularity in the s. And when he perceived of himself as a known and popular poet, he wanted to enter the marketplace on his own terms: in carefully planned editions of poems. His involvement with gift annuals, as we shall see in chapter 5, gave him great anxiety because they were financially tempting but robbed him of at least some control over the production and distribution of his own work.
He resented not so much entering the market as entering the market on someone else's terms and in the mixed, feminized company of the anthologies that were finding their way into middle-class drawing rooms and into literary hearts across England. In the first years of the nineteenth century, however, Wordsworth inhabited a different literary world.
In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads he couches the bond between the poet and tradition in terms that are familial but that exclude women from the genealogy:. I have at all times endeavored to look steadily at my subject, consequently I hope it will be found that there is in these Poems little falsehood of description, and that my ideas are expressed in language fitted to their respective importance.
Something I must have gained by this practice, as it is friendly to one property of all good poetry, namely good sense; but it has necessarily cut me off from a large portion of phrases and figures of speech which from father to son have long been regarded as the common inheritance of Poets. Wordsworth wants to preserve the ideal of inheritance from father to son, but he also wants to change the terms of that inheritance.
What should be passed on from father to son, he implies, are not phrases and figures of speech which can be reproduced by any imitator but a universal, permanent and philosophical language that goes back to the King James Bible and beyond, to the origins of the modern English language. This is not the language of "sickly and stupid German Tragedies" or that of "frantic novels" PrW , that is, of popular gothic fiction such as that of Ann Radcliffe.
Wordsworth contrasts the philosophical language to which he aspires with the artificial language of writers who "separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression in order to furnish foods for fickle tastes and fickle appetites of their own creation" Wordsworth's rhetoric in the Preface privileges the stable and the permanent over the fickle and the fashionable. It would have been usual at the time to link such terms as universal and permanent, on the one hand, and such qualities as capriciousness, fickleness, fashion, and appetite, on the other hand, with gender categories.
The universal is masculine, of course, and everything uncertain or fickle is feminine. Mary Wollstonecraft, for instance, speaks in the Vindication of the Rights of Woman of the "frippery of dress" 75 , "the varnish of fashion" 99 , and "luxury and appetite" as the vices to which women are most subject. And for all the apparent modesty in the "man speaking to men" euphemism, Wordsworth goes on to claim that the poet is greater than ordinary mortals:. The poet Wordsworth describes here is not just the author of the Lyrical Ballads; this is also the poet whom Coleridge has urged to write the great philosophical poem of the age, The Recluse.
His "comprehensive soul" distinguishes him not only from other "men" but also, by inference, from inferior poets and authors of "frantic novels. Whereas in his life and poetry Wordsworth may cultivate the feminine, in the Preface his gendered rhetoric associates the feminine with contemptible qualities in both authors, with their false refinements, and in the reading public, with its degenerate taste. Although Wordsworth does not name them, he implicitly denigrates popular women writers as well as any readers who respond to them:.
For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves.
The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespear and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. The political importance of this passage has been noted in recent years, but its gendered rhetoric deserves equal attention. In Wordsworth's analysis of the corrupt state of society, the increasingly urban, industrial, and commercial world is driven by cravings and desire for instant gratification.
According to this view, society is corrupted by what it thinks of as progress, and literature by the same craving, the public's desire to be entertained and teased by gothic plots often fashioned by women writers when they could be reading Shakespeare—or Wordsworth. In contrast to the extravagance of these writers, Wordsworth argues for the elegant simplicity of the Lyrical Ballads. And in contrast to the instant gratification of appetite, Wordsworth wants readers to cultivate a taste.
This intercourse, according to neoclassical standards, should be governed by a sense of propriety. The extended sexual metaphor suggests that legitimate forms of intercourse are sanctioned by custom and thought, not debased by instant gratification of desire. The admirable writer, in Wordsworth's terms, does not prostitute himself to gratify the reader, nor does he want to tease the reader.
Wordsworth instead subscribes to an ideal, universal view of the male artist working in a male tradition: an exclusive, patriarchal, but non-Freudian non-Bloomian model of literary relationship. Wordsworth's view of contemporary society and the reading public sounds remarkably like another writer's critique:. These are the women who are amused by the reveries of the stupid novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste, and draw the heart aside from its daily duties.
I do not mention the understanding, because never having been exercised, its slumbering energies rest inactive, like the lurking particles of fire which are supposed universally to pervade matter. A strange alliance, perhaps, but both writers distrust the trends in literature and the manners that such trends follow. Wollstonecraft wants to wake middle-class women's energies from their moral and imaginative slumber; Wordsworth wants to awaken a feminized reading public to the powerful simplicity of his own poetry.
Wordsworth disparages the gothic tradition as a low and feminized form that caters to the base instincts of the reading public. Gothic fiction seems almost below comment in Wordsworth's immediate circle, but their dislike extends to the novel in general. The Wordsworths maintained judging from correspondence a lifelong dislike of the novel as a genre. Typical comments from Dorothy Wordsworth include the letter she wrote to William on 23 April "We have not been sufficiently settled to read anything but Novels. Adeline Mowbray [, by Mrs. Opie] made us quite sick before we got to the end of it" MY Nor did William ever show much interest in novels, to say the least.
He had some eighteenth-century favorites and had some respect for Scott as a novelist, but he remained ambivalent about the genre. Wordsworth was even reported to have said of Dickens: "a very talkative, vulgar young person—but I dare say he may be clever…. I have never read a line he has written. Bradford Mudge has recently argued that Wordsworth's disparagement of the gothic in particular and the novel in general can be seen in the context of male anxiety about the popularity of novels, the explosion of women as readers, and the threat of women writers.
Wordsworth, as we have seen, anticipates this midcentury discourse by connecting "frantic novels" with illicit sex and by implying that some women authors—never named—are engaging in literary prostitution. One of the great paradoxes of Wordsworth's stance against popular gothic fiction is that he seems to be drawing the line between high masculine and low feminine culture, but the core of the Preface and of his program for poetry explodes hierarchies, lifting and ennobling the simple, the lowly, and the rustic. Wordsworth accomplishes this through experimentation with a popular form, the ballad.
But in the Preface Wordsworth frames his argument by emptying the ballad of its folk heritage and lifting it up to the level of a literary genre. In this inventive approach to the origins of ballads, Wordsworth in effect erases a part of women's literary tradition. It was a woman Edward Fitzgerald, I think, suggested who made the ballads and the folk-songs, crooning them to her children, beguiling her spinning with them, or the length of the winter's night. As a male poet, too, Wordsworth can emphasize the importance of "pleasure" without fear of criticism, for pleasure had been sanctioned by theorists from Aristotle to Burke:.
Nor let the necessity of producing immediate pleasure be considered as a degradation of the Poet's art. It is far otherwise. It is an acknowledgment of the beauty of the universe, an acknowledgment the more sincere, because not formal, but indirect; it is a task light and easy to him who looks at the world in the spirit of love: further, it is a homage paid to the native and naked dignity of man, to the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which he knows, and feels, and lives, and moves. We have no sympathy but what is propagated by pleasure. So, at the same time that he condemns the fickle taste of the reading public, Wordsworth builds his poetics on the idea that the true pleasures of poetry are akin to those of legitimate and well-regulated sexual passion.
He argues that "the direction of our sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it" derive from "the perception of similitude in dissimilitude" With the authority of a male tradition, Wordsworth claims that the poet is "a man pleased with his own passions and volitions" as he imparts pleasure to the reader.
Although Wordsworth and other male writers may be nervous about female passions, Wordsworth is certainly not shy about constructing his poetics on an extended sexual analogy. In fact, he explicitly describes meter as both adding a charm to poetry and tempering the power of poetic passion so that it does not exceed proper bounds. The metrical form of poetry is thus for Wordsworth the perfect medium both for expressing the overflowing passions and for keeping those passions in check, presumably so that his poetry never sinks to the level of mere gratification of appetite.
Meter, "the exponent or symbol held forth … in different areas of literature" , is basic both to the poet's relationship to poets of the past—from Catullus to Pope—and to his contemporary audience. Marlon Ross has argued that Wordsworth and other Romantic poets "subliminally" identify with two related nineteenth-century masculine roles: those of "the scientist and the industrial capitalist.
Wordsworth has much more uncertainty—both subliminal and spoken—about the role model of the poet as masculine conqueror than Ross acknowledges. Rather than a masculine empire, Wordsworth sees the industrial and commercial world as feminized fickle and transitory , opposed to the.
Pocock argues that the view of economic man as a conquering hero is a nineteenth-century fantasy, very different from the eighteenth-century conception:. His eighteenth-century predecessor was seen as on the whole a feminized, even an effeminate being, still wrestling with his own passions and hysterias and with the interior and exterior forces let loose by his fantasies and appetites, and symbolised by such archetypically female goddesses of disorder as Fortune, Luxury, and most recently Credit herself….
Therefore, in the eighteenth-century debate over the new relations of polity to economy, production and exchange are regularly equated with the ascendancy of the passions and the female principle. Pocock's insight helps to clarify Wordsworth's position, which is in this case more in tune with the eighteenth century.
Wordsworth's anxieties about the contemporary world in the Preface lead him to disassociate himself from "effeminate" displays of appetite, sensation, and over-refinement in culture and society. Wordsworth feminizes the fickle audience—and the marketplace he must enter. In the place of capriciousness and corruption, Wordsworth urges his readers to cultivate a taste based on a particular tradition; hence the allusion to classical writers and to Sir Joshua Reynolds's standard of a taste that must be acquired through the contemplation of excellent models.
Without considering gender, David Simpson has argued that Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction, appended to the Preface, is also an economic and political statement. By extension, both the poetic diction of the neoclassical period and the literary excesses of the contemporary gothic are associated with corruptions on two extremes of the spectrum: with over-refinement, on the one hand, and with appetite, on the other. In eighteenth-century discourse, both of these are associated with the feminine, with the inability to find a middle ground between the two extremes.
Paradoxically, Wordsworth's own language implicates both poetic diction and the gothic, both high and low, in the same corruption of language and taste:. In process of time metre became a symbol or promise of this unusual language, and whoever took upon him to write in metre, according as he possessed more or less of true poetic genius, introduced less or more of this adulterated phraseology into his compositions, and the true and the false were inseparably interwoven until, the taste of men becoming gradually perverted, this language was received as a natural language: and at length, by the influence of books upon men, did to a certain degree really become so.
Abuses of this kind were imported from one nation to another, and with the progress of refinement this diction became daily more and more corrupt, thrusting out of sight the plain humanities of nature by a motely masquerade of tricks, quaintnesses, hieroglyphics, and enigmas. This is an extraordinary passage, in which Wordsworth uses the charged language of adulteration, perversion, and corruption to condemn poetic diction. Furthermore, the image of the "motely masquerade of tricks" suggests both illicit pleasures and a carnivalesque inversion of appropriate relationships, with the degraded masquerades usurping the "naked dignity of man.
Perhaps Wordsworth expended so much rhetorical energy in the Preface disassociating himself from the feminine in art and culture because he knew that his subject matter forsaken women, mad mothers, and other marginalized figures and his reverence for emotion would in fact associate him with women and with women writers. Like the other male Romantics, Wordsworth feared the charge of feminization as leveled by contemporary critics.
In his infamous review of the poems, which also includes comments on the Lyrical Ballads, Francis Jeffrey implies that Wordsworth has feminized poetry with his "namby-pamby," his "prettyisms," his "babyish" verse. Jeffrey's attack on Wordsworth's lack of decorum reveals gendered standards. Although Jeffrey implies that serious male poets do not write poems on daisies or daffodils, he approves of a few poems such as "The Character of the Happy Warrior" as being "manly.
Nor, it might be added, does the liberal Jeffrey object to Wordsworth's defense of the lower classes per se: his critique is motivated by anxiety about gender, not class. In fact, Jeffrey and Wordsworth share a deep anxiety about gender, an anxiety that lies at the heart of both Jeffrey's rejection of low hence, feminized subjects and Wordsworth's distrust of the novel. They just do not agree on what is unworthy. Despite Wordsworth's implicit denial of his connection with women writers, the Preface belongs in the context of the rise of women poets in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Because scholars have only recently begun to rediscover the women writers of this period, Wordsworth's Preface has been read in isolation from this tradition. The first issue of the Women Writers Project Newsletter, however, includes the astounding claim that over five hundred women published at least one volume of verse between and He does not even mention women writers in the Preface, because he does not want to be placed in their company. Indeed, one could—and many of us have—read the Preface as if there were no women writers to be considered.
As Marlon Ross suggests, patriarchal tradition viewed women as dabblers in verse, not as poets with careers to found and maintain. The question is no longer, Why were there no female Shakespeares? In Wordsworth's case, patronizing attitudes toward the careers of women writers and the refusal to take women writers seriously when discussing the "common inheritance of Poets" perhaps begin to explain the absence of women from the Preface. Wordsworth, I think, particularly felt the need to distance himself from popular contemporary women writers, who were, after all, his competitors.
He deliberately constructs a view of literary history without women, mentioning gothic novelists only to dismiss them. By his silence he completely omits poets such as Charlotte Smith, whose Elegiac Sonnets was among the many well-known volumes by women. As Mary Moorman explains, Smith not only received Wordsworth warmly, but she also "gave him a. Despite this interest in both writers, neither finds her way into the Preface. By , in the "Essay, Supplementary to the Preface," Wordsworth could safely praise the natural imagery of Anne Finch's poetry in the context of denigrating other eighteenth-century writers.
One of the many ironies of Wordsworth's position in the Preface is that in his later years he began to advocate the inclusion of women poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in various anthologies of British verse. In a letter dated 12 January to Dionysius Lardner, for instance, Wordsworth complains that "neither Dr Johnson, nor Dr Anderson, nor Chalmers, nor the Editor I believe of any other Corpus of English Poetry takes the least notice of female Writers—this, to say nothing harsher, is very ungallant. The best way of giving comprehensive interest to the subject would be to begin with Sappho and proceed downwards through Italy antient and Modern, Spain, Germany, France, and England" LY On 16 October of the same year he writes to the editor Alexander Dyce concerning Dyce's Specimens of the British Poetesses, congratulating him on the publication but asking to be consulted if there is to be a second edition, specifically so that he can include the poems of Anne Finch LY Granted, in Wordsworth sees his mission as a kind of gallantry, but he is nonetheless quite familiar with female poets and he has a sense of a female tradition that begins with Sappho.
Perhaps Wordsworth was more generous and less defensive in his correspondence because there he was not considering his own reputation and readership—or perhaps he was feeling secure enough in to be generous. In the Preface, however, the popularity of women writers is an unacknowledged influence on and subtext of Wordsworth's attempt to define his career.
As Stuart Curran and Marlon Ross indicate in separate articles, this anonymous publication made a much greater impression on the reading public of London and Edinburgh than another anonymous publication of , the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads,. But although Baillie's preface resembles Wordsworth's, her anonymity and her tone reveal crucial differences in how she views her role. Wordsworth claims that as a poet he is not different in kind from other men, but only in degree—he feels and thinks more intensely.
He "detains" the reader because of the importance of his subject and his authority in presenting it. Baillie acknowledges, "I am not possessed of that confidence in my own powers, which enables the concealed genius, under the pressure of present discouragement, to pursue his labors in security, looking firmly forward to other more enlightened times for his reward" Baillie asks for helpful criticism and apologizes for any appropriations she may unconsciously have made from other writers.
Whereas Wordsworth both appeals to tradition and claims originality, Baillie says, "There are few writers who have sufficient originality of thought to strike out for themselves new ideas upon every occasion" In feminist terms, Baillie sees herself as a collaborator, not as a solitary original genius. She is not so much interested in founding a career or attaining fame in posterity as she is in teaching the people of her own time.
Baillie is concerned with the effect that literature has on the mind of the reader, or that drama has on the audience. She states that "there is no mode of instruction they will so eagerly pursue, as that which lays open before them, in a more enlarged and connected view than their individual observations are capable of supplying—the varieties of the human mind" 4. For Baillie, the best literature leads to greater understanding of "human nature," not as an abstraction, but as an idea that encompasses diversity.
Unlike Wordsworth, who states that his purpose is to trace "the grand and simple affections of our nature" PrW in the stories of common folk, Baillie wants to discover how those affections change in different circumstances. She is not as confident as Wordsworth is of the universality and permanence of the affections, although she does state that "The highest pleasure we receive from poetry, as well as from the real objects which surround us in the world, are derived from the sympathetic interest we all take in beings like ourselves" 6. For Baillie, pleasure is grounded in sympathy and identification rather than in the tension between similarity and dissimilarity.
Despite her more modest self-presentation, Baillie anticipates Wordsworth in arguing for simplicity and naturalness in literary representation and in her critique of gothic and romance. Wordsworth, however, is more dismissive than she of "frantic novels" as a mark of corrupt taste, and, as we have seen, his comments about genre are also about gender.
Baillie wants to analyze the impulse toward the marvellous, but she does not impose negative gendered terms on the argument:. Our desire to know what men are in the closet as well as in the field; by the blazing hearth and at the social board, as well as in the council and the throne, is very imperfectly gratified by real history. Romance writers, therefore, stept boldly forth to supply the deficiency; and tale writers and novel writers, of many descriptions, followed after.
If they have not been very skilful in their delineations of nature; if they have represented men and women speaking and acting as men and women never did speak or act; if they have caricatured both our virtues and our vices; if they have given us such pure and unmixed, or such heterogeneous combinations of character, as real life never presented, and yet have pleased and interested us; let it not be imputed to the dulness of man in discerning what is genuinely natural in himself.
There are many inclinations belonging to us besides this great master-propensity of which I am treating. Our love of the grand, the beautiful, the novel, and, above all, of the marvellous, is very strong; and if we are richly fed with what we have a good relish for, we may be weaned to forget our native and favourite aliment.
Yet we can never so far forget it but that we shall cling to, and acknowledge it again, whenever it is presented before us. In a work abounding with the marvellous and unnatural, if the author has any how stumbled upon an unsophisticated genuine stroke of nature, we shall immediately perceive and be delighted with it, though we are foolish enough to admire, at the same time, all the nonsense with which it is surrounded.
After all the wonderful incidents, dark mysteries, and secrets revealed, which [sic] eventful novel so liberally presents to us; after the beautiful fairy-ground, and even the grand and sublime scenes of nature with which descriptive novel so often enchants us; those works which most strongly characterise human nature in the middling and lower classes of society; where it is to be discovered by stronger and more unequivocal marks, will ever be the most popular. Rather than simply dismiss the appeal of the marvellous, Baillie places it in the context of a desire to know more about personal and domestic life, and not just the military and social chronicles of "real history.
But they never lose their taste for what is native and. Baillie goes on to imply that this appeal is most strongly associated with the "middling and lower classes of society," thus anticipating Wordsworth's theory. Even the inclusiveness of Baillie's language—"men and women speaking"—suggests the wider possibilities of human discourse. To conclude the paragraph Baillie introduces the familiar pairing of art and nature, using the metaphor of landscape to underscore the value she places on the natural and native as opposed to artful cultivation of the unknown plants:.
For though great pains have been taken in our higher sentimental novels to interest us in the delicacies, embarrassments, and artificial distresses of the more refined part of society, they have never been able to cope in the public opinion with these. The one is a dressed and beautiful pleasure-ground, in which we are enchanted for a while, among the delicate and unknown plants of artful cultivation: the other is a rough forest of our native land; the oak, the elm, the hazel, and the bramble are there; and amidst the endless varieties of its paths we can wander forever.
Into whatever scenes the novelist may conduct us, what objects soever he may present to our view, still is our attention most sensibly awake to every touch faithful to nature; still are we upon the watch for every thing that speaks to us of ourselves. Whereas Wordsworth sees the reading public as so sated with extravagance that it may be incapable of appreciating tales of common life and basic human affections, Baillie seems to have faith that readers will respond with sympathy to "natural" writing. She does not construct a resisting or negligent reader as a defense for the possibility that her works will not be well received.
Instead, she implies that failure will mean that her works lack the human appeal of that "native and favourite aliment. Wordsworth's uneasiness in the Preface—uneasiness with the direction his society is taking and with what he regards as the corrupted taste of his readership—is compounded by his uneasiness with the role of the poet: "there is a numerous class of critics who, when they stumble upon these prosaisms as they call them, imagine that they have made a notable discovery, and exult over the Poet as over a man ignorant of his profession" , my emphasis.
Wordsworth fears the judgment of other professionals, the critics. He is less concerned in this passage with poetic diction per se than he is with rhetorical strategy and with his own status as a professional who is not a hack writer. He worries about what his so-called prosaisms reveal about himself and the kind of poetic ambitions he holds. Wordsworth's preoccupation is all the more intense because in. Wordsworth who has been encouraged by friends to write this preface to his volumes. Perhaps Wordsworth reveals such anxiety in the Preface and the letters of the period because he was unsure of himself as an actor in the prescribed middle-class male script: his brothers were following the conventional paths into law Richard , the East India Company John , and the clergy Christopher , but at thirty William was still a little-acknowledged poet.
In a later letter, Mary Wordsworth revealed that the elders in her family had regarded William as a "Vagabond" at the time: "My father's Bachelor Brother Henry,—upon whom we were, as Orphans, in some measure dependent … had no high opinion of Young Men without some Profession, or Calling. He felt compelled to justify this choice to his formidable elders and to the world; he could not be a man ignorant of his profession.
In , in the poem strategically placed at the end of the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth had meditated on his vocation as poet, this time by addressing his hopes and dreams to Dorothy Wordsworth. John Barrell and David Simpson have in separate pieces recently written on the place of Dorothy in "Tintern Abbey" and in William's poetry generally. Therefore, according to this argument, Wordsworth addresses Dorothy in "Tintern Abbey" in a language that she cannot understand.
In Simpson's words, "it may be that Wordsworth and Coleridge's joint entry into the literary marketplace of is in fact prefigured in the preparation of the volume and concluded as one reads through it by the marginalization of the exemplary female, who may be a worshipful or proleptic companion but who can never be a reader" Leaving aside the irony of this comment when we think of Wordsworth's female readership, I would suggest that the emphasis on language here misses the point.
It is not so much that Dorothy Wordsworth is excluded by William's language even though she herself. He describes both her past and her future in terms he has invented. She may embody "nature and the language of the sense" to him, but he has defined her in terms of his own story. She is present as the poet composes himself and his poem, and she assists in the processes leading to its publication in the Lyrical Ballads.
Nevertheless, the core of "Tintern Abbey" is Wordsworth's narrative of a young man's life: his progression from the "glad animal movements" 74 of his "boyish days" 73 through the "dizzy raptures" 85 and "aching joys" 84 of eroticized adolescence to the present time of subdued thoughts about humanity. There is nothing new in seeing "Tintern Abbey" as a familiar Wordsworthian "scene of instruction," with the brother projecting his sense of reality and his morality onto the devoted sister. Carolyn Heilbrun clarifies this distinction between language and narrative in Writing a Woman's Life:.
If I had to emphasize the lack either of narrative or of language to the formation of new women's lives, I would unquestionably emphasize narrative. Much, of a profound and perceptive nature, has been written about the problem of women coping with male language that will not say what they wish: we remember Woolf's enigmatic statement that Jane Austen was the first to write a woman's sentence.
Some part of us responds to this, as to the words of Anne Elliot in Persuasion —"Men have had every advantage of us in telling their story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. Or, as Heilbrun goes on to argue, the failure to invent new narratives, new life patterns for themselves. In —and, as Austen's Anne Elliot knew, a few years later—this was much easier for a man than for a woman to do. But if women were—and are—to have their own narratives, they must be more than good listeners, muses, or footnotes. Wordsworth plotted his life against convention he did not enter the clergy or the bar , and in The Prelude he attempts to justify his choice to himself and eventually to the world.
He uses the archetype of the. Wordsworth presents himself as the typical Englishman who has lived through the failure of revolutionary hope and who needs to reestablish his life.
Data Protection Choices
But while Wordsworth describes himself here and in "Tintern Abbey" as suffering through the revolution and its aftermath, Dorothy remained in England, viewing events from afar and dependent on relatives for her home. Until she set up a household with William in , Dorothy lived the life of an orphan, shuttled from one family to another. Wordsworth makes no mention of Dorothy's real circumstances or possibilities in "Tintern Abbey. Seen in the light of Heilbrun's theory, the two plots Dorothy Wordsworth might have learned from literature were the marriage plot and the plot of abandonment and death.
Historians such as Lenore Davidoff and Catherine Hall have taught us that another familiar middle-class plot—and the one, of course, that Dorothy Wordsworth chose—had the unmarried sister or daughter live in the household of a brother or her father; such a sister contributed immeasurably to the economy of the household and helped to raise the children. In , however, before settling at Grasmere, Wordsworth did not yet envision his vocation in relation to his sister's work. In "Tintern Abbey" the beloved sister silently serves as a mirror in which the poet can gaze into his past and hope for his future.
But in "Tintern Abbey" Wordsworth sees Dorothy's reflective and subsidiary role as potentially redemptive—as a way that he can avert the finality of death. He imagines that in redeeming him she will be able to save herself, but he does not acknowledge the differences in their experiences of the momentous events of the s and in their daily lives when they were apart. What if she had taken her literary talents seriously? What if she had borne an illegitimate child?
Instead of posing such disruptive questions, Wordsworth frames his narrative so that Dorothy, representing the possibilities of the beautiful, tempers and calms his unsettling memories:. Theresa Kelley has read "Tintern Abbey" as a poem in which the beautiful subdues the sublime and revolutionary passions.
This image of mental harmony and refuge, Wordsworth's version of Milton's "paradise within," is related both to "the neglected mansion-house" two-part Prelude on Coniston and to Rydal Mount, the comfortable house of later years. But what of the disruptive questions that do not fit into this version of Wordsworth's life story? If we are to be other than resisting readers of Wordsworth, then we must explain why "Tintern Abbey" continues to hold appeal for readers, in spite of the poet's blindness.
It is true that the male poet denies his sister her own story, but he does bless her life with the highest love he can imagine:. Also, in focusing on the transference of his hopes and joys to his sister, Wordsworth demonstrates his dependence on her, even as he constructs his myth of male development. In this poem that closed the edition of the Lyrical Ballads, the poem in which Wordsworth frames his own narrative of loss and recovery, he acknowledges his "dear, dear Sister" as his most valued audience and his dearest friend.
In comparison to the marginalized women of the other poems in the Lyrical Ballads, many of them the mad mother, the forsaken Indian woman, Martha Ray driven to the brink by their distress and suffering, Dorothy Wordsworth is given a privileged place as she stands with the poet sur-. In acknowledging her importance in his myth of redemption, Wordsworth may unconsciously be trying to redeem the abandoned women who fill the pages of the volume—and perhaps even the abandoned woman in the narrative of his own life.
Wordsworth idealizes his sister, but he stands with her above the Wye Valley in "Tintern Abbey" and never in fact abandons her. I disagree with Diane Long Hoeveler's conclusion that "William is speaking, after all, from the growing realization that his imagination is failing and … he is, as any poet would be, bitter. He chooses, probably unconsciously, to displace his bitterness onto Dorothy, for if she is for him the emblem of the feminine within, then she is the cause of his imaginative decay. Wordsworth also feared that he would not find a larger audience for his poetry than the ever-responsive sister to whom his meditation is addressed.
But this is still different from blaming her for his anticipated failure of imagination. At the time that Wordsworth was contemplating the Preface, he was also writing "Michael," a poem implicitly concerned with the poet's vocation.
Late in the planning of the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads, "Michael" was added to the volume in lieu of Coleridge's "Christabel. In fact, there is a strong link between the role and responsibility of the poet in "Michael" and Wordsworth's self-dramatization as a publishing poet in the Preface. In both "Michael" and the Preface, Wordsworth works out what it means to be a poet in an age of cultural crisis—more specifically, what it means to be a male poet in a patriarchal society. In "Michael" Wordsworth's focus is on the bond established between father and son.
The poet-narrator writes for the delight of "the few natural hearts" who will be his "second self" when he is gone, thus casting himself as a father-figure for succeeding generations of poets.