Cover image for Wordsworth and the Victorians
Wordsworth and the Victorians
Gill, Stephen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford [England] : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 346 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
England's Samuel : Wordsworth as spiritual power -- 'Fit audience' : the marketing of Wordsworth -- The poetry of humble life -- Wordsworth at full length : George Eliot -- The active universe : Arnold and Tennyson -- The Wordsworth renaissance -- The last decade : from Wordsworth Society to National Trust.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR5887.3 .G55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Wordsworth was an eighteenth-century contemporary of Blake and his greatest poetry was composed before Keats had written a line. His impact, however, was not fully registered until the Victorian period, when it became common to place his poetry in the great line of Spenser, Shakespeare, andMilton. In part this book examines how it influenced the Victorian poets and novelists who acknowledged its importance to them. However, drawing on a variety of sources from autobiographical memoirs to publishers' accounts, Wordsworth and the Victorians also examines the emergence of Wordsworth as acultural icon and the various ways in which his reputation was constructed and transmitted through the agency not of literary giants but of critics, scholars, publishers, and latterly the disciples of the Wordsworth Society. For some readers, ranging from Quakers to Anglo-Catholics, Wordsworth was primarily a religious poet. For others, by contrast, his strength was that he was spiritually uplifting without being doctrinally specific, and this study includes testimonies from many who witnessed what Wordsworth had meantto them at times of crisis. For other readers, who valued the Guide to the Lakes as much as, if not more than, Wordsworth's verse, Wordsworth's importance was that as laureate of Nature he could be pressed into service for the cause of environmental protection. The book finally examines Wordsworth'srole, thirty and more years after his death, in the battle to establish the National Trust.

Author Notes

Stephen Gill is Professor of English Literature and Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. He is the author of William Wordsworth: A Life (OUP, 1989), and editor of William Wordsworth in the Oxford Authors series (OUP, 1984).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The idea for this study originated in Gill's definitive biography William Wordsworth: A Life (CH, Oct'89), when Gill (Lincoln College, Oxford) decided that further exploration of Wordsworth's cultural significance during the last 25 years of his life deserved special attention. Why, Gill speculated, did Wordsworth's importance grow as his creative powers began to wane? To answer this question, he has expanded on material touched on in the biography, here focusing on the poet's impact in 1843 (when he was appointed poet laureate), in 1850 (the year of his death, when he was memorialized as a seer), and during the following 40 years (when he was accorded a place in the great line of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton). Though he could have pursued the theme to the end of WW I, Gill points out in his introduction his intent to open up an interesting subject, not close it down. This he does in eight tightly packed chapters that delve into Wordsworth as a spiritual power, as a humble poet, as an influence on such figures as Eliot, Ruskin, Darwin, Tennyson, and Arnold, and as an appealing target for critics, scholars, and many readers in the UK and US. Gill writes convincingly of Wordsworth as a Victorian icon, and his book should interest Wordsworth devotees, students of 19th-century British literature, and a wide range of literary historians. Highly recommended for all collections. G. A. Cevasco; St. John's University (NY)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on the Text
1 Fame
2 England's Samuel: Wordsworth as Spiritual Power
3 `Fit Audience': The Marketing of Wordsworth
4 The Poetry of Humble Life
5 Wordsworth at Full Length: George Eliot
6 The Active Universe: Arnold and Tennyson
7 The Wordsworth Renaissance
8 The Last Decade: From Wordsworth Society to National Trust
Appendix: The Membership of the Wordsworth Society in 1884