William Wordsworth

(1770-1850)

From Wordsoworth’s, “Tintern Abby”
  • Title: The Prelude Or Growth of A Poets Mind
  • Author: William Wordsworth
  • Publication Date: 1805
  • Critical Notes: Ernest De Selincourt
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, London

Writing after the Science Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, Wordsworth’s The Prelude or Growth of a Poets Mind (1805) explored elements of nature, childhood, self, ambition, and love. All important themes valued by Romanticists as they wrote in contrast to hubris, the excess of knowledge, reason, scientific exploration, and technology’s distance from the natural world.

Wordsworth is a perfect place to start in exploring Romanticism during the 1800’s-1850’s. Wu (2012) notes, “Today Wordsworth is regarded as one of the foremost of the Romantics; during the early 1800s…By the 1820’s Wordsworth had acquired the status of father-figure to second-generation writers such as Keats, Byron, and Shelley” (L. 13464). William Wordsworth began his position of England’s Poet Laureate and held the place until his death. Below, check out a few pages of poetry written and edited in Wordsworth’s own hand! (source: Digital Library of India).

The Prelude is a poetic, autobiographical exploration of the Wordsworth’s life from early childhood to adult. Prior to this period, the poetic speaker was not meant to be read as the author, but the “speaker”. Capturing the poet’s voice as his own was groundbreaking and controversial. Wu states, “The only precedent of recent vintage was Rousseau’s Confessions (1782-9)…Wordsworth created a new kind of poem, the latter-day descendants of which include Ginsberg’s Howl (1956) and Bunting’s Briggflatts (1965)” (L. 13441). Notably, it is not a favorite of many modern day critics, likely due to the length. The copy featured here is 693 pages long.

Notice how the poem values nature and childhood,

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