William Wordsworth by edited by Stephen Gill.

By edited by Stephen Gill.

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Birth of first son, John. W, DW, and C tour Scotland from mid-August. The Ws meet Sir Walter Scott 17 September. C is ill and plans to leave for better climate. Much composition, especially on The Prelude, which is enlarged after March from planned five-book structure. ‘Ode to Duty’ and completion of ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’. C sails to Malta. On 18 May Napoleon is crowned Emperor. 5–6 February, John Wordsworth (b. 1772), Captain of the Earl of Abergavenny, drowned. W circle is very deeply affected.

Then how her old bones would shake! You would have said, if you had met her, ’Twas a hard time for Goody Blake. Her evenings then were dull and dead; Sad case it was, as you may think, For very cold to go to bed, And then for cold not sleep a wink. Oh joy for her! when e’er in winter The winds at night had made a rout, 50 from lyrical ballads (1798) 13 And scattered many a lusty splinter, And many a rotten bough about. Yet never had she, well or sick, As every man who knew her says, A pile before-hand, wood or stick, Enough to warm her for three days.

What happened to Wordsworth over the last twenty five years of his life is that he became an unignorable feature in the cultural landscape, not loved perhaps, but certainly respected and increasingly revered. Many factors contributed to this development—sheer longevity obviously being one of them—but two stand out. The first is that, as generally happens with any original artist, the audience belatedly caught up. Having been scorned or ignored, Wordsworth’s early work began to be appreciated more widely, so that the poet of Lyrical Ballads or The Excursion was taken up by early figures in the Tractarian movement and became an acknowledged influence on writers such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Matthew Arnold.

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