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Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World Reviews

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World by Jonathan Bate

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World

Jonathan Bate

3.71 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: William Collins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 1 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9780008167424

A dazzling new biography of Wordsworth's radical life as a thinker and poetical innovator, published to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth.

3 stars out of 5

"Devastating dalliance among the daffodils: When Coleridge found Wordsworth in bed with the love of his life"

Bate, an Oxford academic, is a pacy writer and he doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to Wordsworth’s later poetry. Hardly any of it is worth reading, he declares, calling it both pompous and turgid. ‘The second half of Wordsworth’s life was the longest, dullest decline in literary history,’ he says. Yet paradoxically it was then that his fame blossomed. He accepted the role of Poet Laureate in 1843 — so the young radical who had rejoiced in revolution had become a leading member of the Establishment. Friends began to notice ‘a tendency towards vanity and pomposity’, Bate comments


4 stars out of 5
John Carey
22 Mar 2020

"packs in a lot of erudition"

That said, this new book, like everything Bate writes, richly repays reading, and bears comparison with his pioneering life of Ted Hughes (2005). He is illuminating on the sources of Wordsworth’s nature worship, pointing out that it was probably based on listening to Coleridge talk about Enlightenment thinkers such as Spinoza and Baron d’Holbach, whose works Wordsworth had not read. Although nature worship seems wholesome and innocent to us, it would, Bate notes, be readily identified by contemporary readers with the pantheistic atheism that was at the ideological heart of the French Revolution.

4 stars out of 5
James Marriott
21 Mar 2020

" An entertaining biography celebrates the young radical romantic, not the elderly bore"

This excellent, intellectually rousing book is about the young poet. This is Wordsworth the dreamy, serious radical glimpsed flying across frozen lakes on his skates, or marvelling at revolutionary Paris, or falling in love with the beautiful Annette Vallon in France. This is the Wordsworth who was the “pure emanation of the spirit of his age”, who pitied the poor, loved the natural world and believed “all that we behold is full of blessings”.