William and Dorothy Wordsworth: A Miscellany by Gavin Herbertson
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|William and Dorothy Wordsworth: A Miscellany by Gavin Herbertson|
|Reviewer: Sean Barrs|
|Summary: This is a stunning collection of nature poems by William Wordsworth, accompanied by the writings of his sister Dorothy, showcased in a perfect edition waiting to be read in the great outdoors.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Rucksack Editions|
William Wordsworth was a defining member of the romantic literary era. He was part of the first wave, and his poetry helped to shape a large part of it. Nature was the key: existing in nature, finding one's own true nature and becoming natural in the process were the driving forces behind it.
Thus, Wordsworth spent a large part of his life in the Lake District. He lived there with his sister Dorothy and together they would seek artistic inspiration from the scenery and there take walks together. For a time, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was involved with the siblings but after he fell out with Wordsworth, over philosophical differences regarding poetry, Wordsworth remained relatively secluded apart from the companionship of his sister. And this edition touches on part of this; it demonstrates his reliance on her and the intellectual relationship they had together.
By reading Dorothy's recollections of her travels in Scotland with Wordsworth and Coleridge such a thing can be seen. She saw as much beauty in nature as Wordsworth did. Having such close contact and regular discussions with a likeminded individual, no doubt, would have transmuted such ideas into his art. For me though, one poem that stood out to me in this edition is The Tables Turned and that's because of the lines Come forth into the light of things//let Nature be thy teacher. Man is stuck; he is restless in the city reading his books and engaging in standard civilisation. He remains separate from nature due to his self-induced isolation. Wordsworth proposes that man should walk into it once more to gain wisdom, as he and Dorothy did. No doubt, this is the reason he chose to live in such natural surroundings, surroundings which became a spark for his creativity.
His poetry was also an effort to reach the common man; it was writing free of loftiness and complications with the intension of being simple and organic, well, at least in theory. In this edition, there are many poems from Lyrical Ballads which, perhaps of all his works, portray this idea most strongly. As he got older his poetry became more personal to him, often directly about himself and his experience; consequently, it became less approachable to the common man in the nineteenth century. But that's neither here nor there, it's unimportant because his work remained excellent despite some of the back steps (or betrayals as Percy Shelley would call them) that he took.
I think it is also worth mentioning the size and design of the edition here; it is compact but hardy and strong with an outer cover of card. It has been designed specifically to be taken out in nature; it is the kind of book that would accompany you on a long summer walk, to be taken out and read when surrounded by greenery and lakes. This is the perfect thing to take on a trip to the Lake District, clearly what the publishers had in mind.
You could shelve this book next to Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find by John Batchelor.
So this is a great edition, displaying some of Wordsworth's best shorter works form across his literary career. It is a good taster if you're unfamiliar with the poet and what to read a broad range of his work. If you have an interest in learning more about Wordsworth then it is also worth checking out The Immortal Dinner: A famous evening of genius and laughter in literary London, 1817 by Penelope Hughes-Hallett and Words and Pictures: Writers, Artists and a Peculiarly British Tradition by Jenny Uglow. You might also appreciate Byron's Women by Alexander Larman and Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility by Marian Veevers.
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You can read more book reviews or buy William and Dorothy Wordsworth: A Miscellany by Gavin Herbertson at Amazon.com.
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