WILLIAM WORDSWORTH by Stephen Gill

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

A Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gill's biography of William Wordsworth claims to incorporate new information from the editions, chronologies, papers, and letters published since the standard two-volume biography by Mary Moorman (1957, 1965). But, unfortunately, it makes little interpretive use of this new material and is uninformed by contemporary critical and psychological insight. In fact, Gill (a tutor at Oxford) sets us back several generations in proposing that the key to Wordsworth is the "profoundly religious vision" of "Tintern Abbey," where "through love of Nature he participates in the Divine." Like Moorman, Gill avoids the self-image implicit in Wordsworth's definition of a poet as a "man speaking to men," "pleased with his own passions," "who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him." Indeed, Gill avoids dealing with most of Wordsworth's passion and intensities, his sexuality, his relationship with his sister Dorothy, with Mary (Gill only mentions the love letters discovered in 1977), and with his French mistress, Annette Vallon. Pregnant within weeks of meeting Wordsworth and abandoned by him soon after to bear and raise his child, Annette is treated as an anecdote. The grammatical obscurity of the sentence in which he explains Wordsworth's motives reveals the stylistic lapses that occur whenever Gill encounters Wordsworth the human being: "To discover sexual passion and the responsibility it entails in so short a time must deeply affect anyone who is not callously self-centered, and Dorothy's account of Wordsworth's 'sort of violence of Affection. . .which demonstrates itself every moment of the Day when objects of his affection are present with him' suggests that he was not that." Such are the misreadings that exclude the Wordsworth who was by his own admission a "lover" of "all that we behold," who could be petulant, hypocritical, and unforgiving, but who was nonetheless a very great and very human poet.

ISBN: 19-812828-2
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
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