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Friday, 26 March 2010


A wonderfully fascinating article in the Times Literary Supplement describes the unhappy life of William Wordsworth's daughter, Dora.

TLS - Dora Wordsworth

Wordsworth never struck me as an attractive man; he always seems so self-absorbed and more obsessed with his reputation as a poet than any genuine brilliance in his poetry. His early works are brimming with wonder and beauty (some of The Prelude and Upon Westminster Bridge are so beautiful to me) but his later writings, once he realised he was part of the poetic 'set' of his age, are so clumsy, verbose, unrefined and read like drivel:

This thorn you on your left espy;
And to the left, three yards beyond,
You see a little muddy pond
Of water, never dry;
I've measured it from side to side:
'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

I have an ancient book of William Hazlitt's essays, in which he writes of Wordsworth making some mundane remark about the sunset, and Hazlitt seems in awe of it simply because Wordsworth is a self-professed poet, but it is so trite and and so 'expected' of a poet that it seems rather trivial to me.

What is most attractive about Wordsworth is his surroundings. His homes - Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and Rydal Mount - are stunning for the landscape in which they are set - far more stunning than the rather dull man who inhabited them! Anyone living amid such beauty could not fail to write something beautiful and I would imagine that, as Wordsworth grew older and lost his youthful zeal, it must have been a great trial to him to be forever living up to his ideal of what it meant to be a poet. All the same, at least he aspired to and wrote of beauty.

No wonder Dora went off the rails a bit!

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