Nicholas Roe

Nicholas Roe, Reader in English at the University of St Andrews, recently edited the New Everyman Selected Poems of John Keats. The extracts from Wrangham’s correspondence are reproduced here by permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

Wordsworth’s Lost Satire

Nicholas Roe, 6 July 1995

Everyone knows that as a young English Jacobin Wordsworth visited France, becoming so intimately entangled in Revolutionary affairs that he might have remained there, eventually to be destroyed in the Terror. Later in life, though, he deliberately suppressed many aspects of his earlier career, in order to represent himself as an elect spirit – the prophet of nature, who had survived triumphantly undisfigured by the turmoil of contemporary history. A closer examination reveals a less impressive figure. Wordsworth was the revolutionary who abandoned Paris at the onset of the Terror; the democrat who was indifferent to the emancipation of slaves; the citizen reformer who remembered to forget state conspiracy and terrorism at the London treason trials of 1794. The French Revolution, which Wordsworth acknowledged as the most inspiring human cause in European history, became merely a subordinate scene in the drama of his self-justification.

I identified the caricature in the foreground of Copenhagen House as Joseph Priestley, given its slight resemblance to the figure that stands at the centre of Gillray’s New Morality cartoon holding a volume labelled ‘Priestley’s Political Sermons’. Jenny Graham asserts that this identification is ‘improbable’, since Priestley had left for America in 1794 and so could not have been at the...

Wordsworth​ was the first poet I fell in love with as a teenager. My English teacher (who preferred Pope and Henry James) mocked me for my taste, reminding me of Shelley’s description of...

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Leigh Hunt was a poet, playwright (tragic and comic), masque composer, translator (from Latin, French and Italian), satirist, anthologist, biographer and autobiographer, magazine editor,...

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Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

‘The best-known publication date in English literature,’ says Michael Mason of 1798. But the terse, intelligent Introduction to his new edition of the Lyrical Ballads seems out to...

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Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

‘I am of that odious class of men called democrats,’ Wordsworth wrote to his friend William Mathews in 1794. Much the same can be said of Coleridge, on the evidence of his letters and...

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