Wordsworth and Helen Maria Williams; or, the Perils of Sensibility

Author: Gravil, Richard


ISBN 978-1-84760-094-3 124 pages

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Three Essays on Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams and Sensibility, and the likely effect of this literary liaison on his contemporary reputation

Why did Wordsworth write his first published poem to Helen Maria Williams? What role did she play in forming his views of poetry, and of the French Revolution? Why was Wordsworth able to recite in 1820 a poem by Miss Williams that he first read in 1790? Was his own poetical sensibility comparable with that of the older woman? Did the reception of Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes by Francis Jeffrey and others—as “˜puerile”, “˜namby-pamby”, “˜lisping” and “˜affected”—reflect a belief that manly sense and feminine sensibility, are not compatible? If so, why did Wordsworth run that risk? This little book attempts to suggest answers to some of those questions, and to provoke more systematic considerations of them all.

About the author

Richard Gravil is the author of Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1776““1862 (2000), and of Wordsworth's Bardic Vocation, 1787““1842 (2003).


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