Offending Wordsworth

Posted Monday March 2, 2009 by John Gunders in |

OK, I’m tired and emotional, and I’m not enjoying this at all, but I’m writing about the Romantic Subject in the final chapter of my thesis, and have felt compelled to re-read Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. My way of coping is to cut and paste the most egregious examples of Eighteenth Century excess for your delectation.

It has therefore appeared to me, that to endeavour to produce or enlarge this capability is one of the best services in which, at any period, a Writer can be engaged…. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place…

OK call me cynical, but was that an application to be made Poet Laureate, or what?

The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse.

“Sickly and stupid German Tragedies”: What? Like Goethe?

there can be little doubt but that more pathetic situations and sentiments, that is, those which have a greater proportion of pain connected with them, may be endured in metrical composition, especially in rhyme, than in prose.

Right. You’re talking about Daffodils, aren’t you?

Hence I have no doubt, that, in some instances, feelings, even of the ludicrous, may be given to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me tender and pathetic.

Oh yeah.

OK, done now. Well at least it wasn’t as bad as reading his poetry…

(Quotations taken from an online version of the Harvard Classics edition, available at

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