The first book to explore the extraordinary story of the legendary friendship - and quarrel - between Wordsworth and Coleridge, two giants of English Romanticism. Wordsworth and Coleridge's passionate intimacy, shared ambition and subsequent estrangement contribute to a tragic tale. But Sisman's biography of this most remarkable friendship - the ...
The first book to explore the extraordinary story of the legendary friendship - and quarrel - between Wordsworth and Coleridge, two giants of English Romanticism. Wordsworth and Coleridge's passionate intimacy, shared ambition and subsequent estrangement contribute to a tragic tale. But Sisman's biography of this most remarkable friendship - the first to devote itself wholly to exploring the impact of their relationship on each other - seeks to re-examine the orthodox assumption that these two poets flourished as a result of it. Instead, Sisman argues that it was a meeting that may well have been disastrous for both: for it was Wordsworth's rejection of Coleridge, and not primarily his opium addiction, that destroyed the latter as a poet, and that Coleridge's impossible ambitions for Wordsworth pushed the latter towards failure and disappointment. Underlying the poignancy of the tale is the intriguing subject of the influence one writer can have on another. Sisman seeks to answer fundamental questions about this relationship: why was Wordsworth so reliant on Coleridge, and why was he so easily swayed in the most critical decision of his career? Was it in Coleridge's nature to play second fiddle? Would it, in fact, have been better for both men if they had never met?
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Publishers Weekly, 2006-11-20 The close (but ill-fated) friendship between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously spawned England's Romantic revolution in poetry. Although the men barely meet until almost halfway into this narrative, Sisman (who won a National Book Critics Circle award for Boswell's Presumptuous Task) provides an extensive background to their relationship, delineating in particular the political landscape that so influenced both men's thinking. The book opens with Wordsworth's travels through revolutionary France and his growing intimacy with his sister, Dorothy. But as soon as the charismatic Coleridge enters the scene in 1797, Wordsworth recedes-perhaps because, as a reluctant letter writer, he left fewer resources for Sisman to draw on. Still, Sisman elegantly weaves the two men's stories together. Knowing how people tend to justify their own actions, Sisman is appropriately skeptical of their own accounts of their lives, using them to propose the most likely scenarios rather than as hard fact. Though lengthy, this book engages the reader's attention, freely mixing larger questions of politics with gossip, which helps bring to life figures long reified in the public imagination. At times there is too much detail, which doesn't enhance an already overloaded story explored extensively elsewhere. But Sisman does open up to the general reader the personal interactions that led to the birth of Romanticism. 16 pages of photos. (Feb. 19) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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