Wordsworth: A Life in Letters
Juliet Barker

Wordsworth: A Life in Letters

William Wordsworth is usually remembered as the quintessential Victorian Poet Laureate: a dull, worthy establishment figure, with impeccable middle-class, Tory, Anglican credentials, whose moralistic poetry has been required reading for generations of school children. Yet there is more to Wordsworth than "Daffodils" and "The Prelude". This selection of letters and autobiographical fragments introduces us to the real Wordsworth: the rebellious schoolboy, who vandalized his family portraits, became a supporter of the French Revolution and fathered an illegitimate daughter in France; the radical poet whose flouting of the conventions of the day attracted the ridicule of reviewers and forced him to endure 30 years of rejection, obscurity and financial hardship before achieving belated critical and popular success; the devoted brother, husband and father who could still write passionate love letters to his wife after ten years of marriage and the birth of five children; and finally, the revered patriarch whose poetry influenced a generation, whose opinions were sought by writers, politicians, churchmen and educationalists throughout the English-speaking world, but who thought nothing of vaulting walls, skating on the Lakes or climbing Helvellyn even in his 70s.

Book Details:

  • Author: Juliet Barker
  • Published Year: 2002
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Penguin

Juliet Barker

Juliet Barker was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and St Anne's College, Oxford, where she obtained a doctorate in medieval history. From 1983 to 1989 she was the curator and librarian of the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Her books include The Brontes, which won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award and was short-listed for both the AT&T Non-Fiction Prize and the Marsh Biography Award, The Brontes: A Life in Letters, Wordsworth: A Life, Wordsworth: A Life in Letters.She is a frequent contributor to newspapers and appears regularly on radio and television. In 1999 she was one o...
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Book Reviews

  • "An enjoyable book, sympathetically selected and annotated, and making a fine companion to Juliet Barker’s biography . . . not to be missed"
    Angela Leighton, Times Literary Supplement
  • "Dr Barker’s judicious selection (and interweaving paragraphs) shows us Wordsworth the writer in a way not possible in a biography that seeks to explain the life as well . . . [it] allows us to hear the man himself"
    Kate Chisholm, Sunday Telegraph
  • "Works surprisingly well . . . These letters also give us domestic details of a type too insubstantial to be noticed in a biography, but nevertheless charming . . . it makes a good story"
    Adam Sisman, The Literary Review
  • "Intense, shrewd . . . The book’s main attraction . . . is something more diffuse: the general impression of Wordsworth as a recognisably decent, kind and likeable person"
    Andrew Motion, Financial Times