Jonathan Wordsworth

Jonathan Wordsworth is a lecturer in Romantic Studies at the University of Oxford and a fellow of St Catherine’s College. William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision is due out next year.

Wordsworth in Love

Jonathan Wordsworth, 15 October 1981

I was amused some years back to find that the distinguished head of my college used to play the same game as I did when bored by meetings of the Governing Body. He would let his eye move round the table, and try to imagine what each of our decorous colleagues in turn would look like in bed. Transferring the game to a literary scene, one would have no trouble at all with the later Romantics – Byron, Shelley, Keats. Among the older generation, Blake and Coleridge might be a little more difficult. Wordsworth for most would be impossible. To Shelley he seemed ‘a solemn and unsexual man’ (‘Peter Bell the Third’), and even the revelation early in this century that he had a French girlfriend, and French illegitimate daughter, has not altered the stuffy public image of Victorian Poet Laureate and sage of Rydal Mount.

SIR: I have always rather agreed with Wordsworth’s comment, after Southey’s paltry notice of Lyrical Ballads (1798), that if he couldn’t think of anything pleasant to say about a friend’s book he shouldn’t have reviewed it. That Marilyn Butler should choose to attack The Borders of Vision in print might in any case seem less than amiable (LRB, 7 July): that she should take the opportunity...

Wordsworth in Bed

15 October 1981

SIR: I am grateful to Marilyn Butler (Letters, 19 November 1981) for the comments she makes on my review of the letters of William and Mary Wordsworth 1810 (published as a limited edition by the Trustees of Dove Cottage). Can she be right, though, to say that Shelley in describing Wordsworth as ‘a solemn and unsexual man’ was talking about his poetry, not his life? Shelley, after all, spent four...

Benevolent Mr Godwin

E.P. Thompson, 8 July 1993

A feast for the Godwinians. First comes the handsome facsimile of the quarto first edition of Political Justice (1793) in the series edited by Jonathan Wordsworth for Woodstock Books. This series...

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Her eyes were wild

John Bayley, 2 May 1985

Wordsworth’s genius lay in its own sort of negative capability. The most striking feature of his poetry, as of his personality, is their intense and intimate relations with what always...

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Three feet on the ground

Marilyn Butler, 7 July 1983

One evening, declares Jonathan Wordsworth as he begins his new critical book, a poet happened to be walking along a road, when the peasant who was with him pointed out a striking sight: ...

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