Deep Distresses: William Wordsworth, John Wordsworth, Sir George Beaumont : 1800-1808

Deep Distresses: William Wordsworth, John Wordsworth, Sir George Beaumont : 1800-1808

Deep Distresses: William Wordsworth, John Wordsworth, Sir George Beaumont : 1800-1808

Deep Distresses: William Wordsworth, John Wordsworth, Sir George Beaumont : 1800-1808

Synopsis

Deep Distresses is a study of the intersecting family and professional vicissitudes that afflicted Wordsworth during the period of his greatest poetic productivity. The negative national publicity over his mariner brother's death at sea is the focus of th

Excerpt

The first draft of this book was written at a time of real joy in my life. Begun during a few sabbatical months in Oxford and London in 1996—97, it proceeded quickly and rewardingly as the specialty libraries of the United Kingdom revealed the relevance of their collections to my questions. I admit beginning naively, wanting only to understand the principal problem of "Elegiac Stanzas”: Wordsworth's declarations of his youthful naïveté transformed into wisdom, yet undermined by awkward syntax and biographical contradiction. the poem's inspiration was apparently a painting by Sir George Beaumont, which prompted an epiphanic reinterpretation of his poetic vision, but I wondered why Beaumont painted the oil in the first place. and what of the precipitating biographical event, the poet's brother dying at sea as a captain of an East Indiaman? What did it mean to be a captain of a merchant vessel? Why did the poet's desperately needed money get involved in John's risk-filled ventures? What were the facts of the sinking that caused a controversy? What did Beaumont's oils on Peel Castle in a Storm have to do with all of this?

My personal history as well as my love for "Elegiac Stanzas” drew me to an embedded story of military and commercial misadventure, lurid lives in exotic lands, innocence betrayed, love suppressed, and suicidal despair. I have had a long part-time experience with both military and commercial ocean operations and felt an interest in understanding the story of the Abergavenny from a military point of view. Having some awareness of what soldiers and civilian laborers would expect at a time of crisis and what they would be inclined to do out of self-interest—should leadership be wanting—I hoped that my background might help me to interpret the reports on the shortcomings charged against John Wordsworth with more insight and possibly more interest than past investigators.

The libraries of Oxford University—the Bodleian, the Indian Institute, and the English Faculty libraries; the print and drawing collections of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England . . .

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