WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: A Biography by Hunter Davies

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A modest, homey, amateurish life by a writer who did a better job with The Beatles (1968). Several years ago Davies was wandering in the Lake District, which he knows remarkably well, when he discovered that there was no full-length ""general"" biography of Wordsworth in print (i.e., one not packed with literary criticism). That deficiency has now been remedied, but only in the bare, physical sense. Because, while Davies has shaped all the data of Wordsworth's long and largely uneventful life into a pleasant enough narrative, he shows no more understanding of Wordsworth's art than one would expect from a college freshman who'd just skimmed through the Norton Anthology. Davies has every right not to encumber his text with analyses of the poetry, elaborate or otherwise, but his feeble grasp of Wordsworth's poetic enterprise vitiates the book. He says practically nothing about The Prelude except to borrow bits of concrete information from it. He lamely defines the Romantic movement as ""poets, writers, artists and musicians. . . overthrowing the eighteenth-century classical framework and developing a more romantic, spiritual, lyrical inspiration, based on feeling rather than on form."" But perhaps the most irritating thing about Davies is his flatfooted, slangy-sloppy style. ""Strange stuff to write about your sister"" (on the connection between the ""Lucy"" poems and Dorothy Wordsworth). ""Marriage had a big effect on him."" ""William developed an almost lemming-like longing to serve them [the Lowthers] . . . as if a recessive gene from his father and grandfather, long dormant and despised, was eating into his soul."" Apart from such distracting howlers, Davies tells his story with reasonable clarity and engaging enthusiasm. But in missing the revolutionary implications of the poet's work--Wordsworth's epic exploration of his own mind--Davies has missed the essence of his subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum