At age 28, William Wordsworth had neither a settled income nor the professional qualifications needed to secure one. He had no home, and he could not support the illegitimate child he had fathered during an impetuous love affair in France. The major part of a slim, anonymously issued volume of Lyrical Ballads was all he had to show for the years ...
At age 28, William Wordsworth had neither a settled income nor the professional qualifications needed to secure one. He had no home, and he could not support the illegitimate child he had fathered during an impetuous love affair in France. The major part of a slim, anonymously issued volume of Lyrical Ballads was all he had to show for the years since he had left Cambridge, and yet he was convinced that he was called to be a major poet. Recognition came slowly, but by age 70 he was revered as a cultural icon, the Poet Laureate of England, and the most celebrated native of the Lake Country, where he was visited by royalty and many of the great poets of his day. Based on an intimate knowledge of the poet's manuscripts, on a fresh look at contemporary records, and a careful analysis of the vast amount of research that has appeared in the last two decades, this vividly written volume is the first serious biography of Wordsworth to appear in over twenty-five years. Stephen Gill, a leading authority on Wordsworth's work, reveals that in many ways this giant of English literature lead a heroic life. Persisting against critical condemnation, numbing blows from the death of friends and family, including three of his own children, and his inability to make enough money from his writings to support himself, his dedication to his art did not waver. Moreover, Gill corrects the image of the older Wordsworth as a stodgy betrayer of his radical youth. While his politics certainly did change, and his poetic power waned, from 1799 almost to his death in 1850, Wordsworth single-mindedly shaped his own life in submission to an imaginative possession whose importance he never doubted. Illustrated with over twenty halftones--including portraits, manuscript pages, and places important to Wordsworth and his family--this is an authoritative account of one of literature's great innovators, a writer who permanently enlarged the range of English poetry, both in subject matter and in treatment, and left a body of work that has enjoyed an enormous and lasting popularity. Providing considerable insight into Wordsworth's poetic achievement, Gill illuminates what was most essential to Wordsworth himself: his life as a writer.
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Publishers Weekly, 1989-04-21 Gill, tutor at Lincoln College, Oxford, has availed himself of the mass of recent Wordsworth scholarship, plus the large cache of the poet's family papers discovered in 1977, in producing this solid, intelligent and highly readable biography, which, while not neglecting Wordsworth as solitary visionary, brings out his determination to be an intellectual power in the land. Concentrating on Wordsworth the writer, Gill intersperses sensitive commentary on his poetic oeuvre, giving major attention to The Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude , with a running account of his family life, friendships and travels. His was a life containing much hardship heroically endured. Wordsworth's friendship with Coleridge, which helped inspire his early poetic blaze, gradually went sour; his poetry never earned him a livelihood and for 20 years was widely scorned; and the deaths of some of his closest friends and three of his children were stunning blows. Gill sends us back to the poetry with renewed interest, while enlarging our respect for the poet's rugged commitment to his muse. Illustrations. (June)
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