Politics and the Poet: A Study of Wordsworth

Politics and the Poet: A Study of Wordsworth

Politics and the Poet: A Study of Wordsworth

Politics and the Poet: A Study of Wordsworth

Excerpt

This book is the result of an attempt to investigate and document Wordsworth's notorious change of political heart. It is not a biography of the poet, but a study of certain events in his life and time, and of their effect on the development of his ideas on man and society.

The aim has not been to divert attention from Wordsworth's poetry, but to fill in some of the background essential to an appreciation of that poetry and to an understanding of the poet. The extent to which this background is essential is suggested by his own view of himself as one who 'united some of the faculties which belong to the statesman with those which belong to the poet'. In 1833 he told an American visitor, Orville Dewey, that 'although he was known to the world only as a poet, he had given twelve hours thought to the conditions and prospects of society, for one to poetry'.

There is then some point in devoting our reasonably exclusive attention to this rather vexed question of his political development. Not that this is a 'defence', nor an attempted refutation of the so-called 'apostasy'. There can be no question that in his age Wordsworth was opposed to most of the political opinions which he had held in his youth. He for one had no doubt of the fact. 'I should think that I had lived to little purpose', he wrote to his friend James Losh in 1821, 'if my notions on the subject of government had undergone no modification -- my youth must, in that case, have been without enthusiasm, and my manhood endued with small capability of profiting by reflexion.'

If this is apostasy, then an apostate he was, and, it is to be hoped . . .

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