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New Directions: Lyrical Ballads

  • John Williams
Chapter
Part of the Critical Issues book series (CRTI)

Abstract

If The Ruined Cottage reveals where Wordsworth believed his vocation as a poet was taking him in 1798, the Lyrical Ballads volumes were undoubtedly to become a major influence on the shaping of English Romanticism in later years. The first edition of the Ballads contained a brief ‘Advertisement’ which refers to critical issues that were as much germane to The Ruined Cottage as to the poetry of the Ballads. The general tone is dismissive, and assumes that most readers will find the poetry unsatisfactory. Wordsworth peremptorily suggests that the problem lies with the faulty taste of the reader, not the poet. The impression given is that he really can’t be bothered to take the time to argue the case fully. This is not a poet prepared to linger; he has other things on his mind. We are thus presented with a critical issue to savour, and it is one that has long been with us. Bernard Groom, writing in 1966, describes the first edition of the Ballads as evidence of ‘a vital phase in Wordsworth’s poetic life’, ‘phase’ being the operative word. He suggests that it would be wrong to see the volume as a quintessential expression of the poet’s ‘romanticism’: ‘Many of these early poems [those included in the first 1798 volume]… are of a transitional character.’1

Keywords

Vital Phase Transitional Character Narrative Voice Romantic Sympathy Early Poem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Bernard Groom, The Unity of Wordsworth’s Poetry ( London: Macmillan Press — now Palgrave Macmillan, 1966 ), p. 30.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Stephen Maxwell Parrish, ‘Dramatic Technique in the Lyrical Ballads’, in Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads, ed. Alun R. Jones and Williams Tydeman ( London: Macmillan Press — now Palgrave Macmillan, 1972 ), p. 130.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    David B. Pirie, William Wordsworth: The Poetry of Grandeur and Tenderness ( London: Methuen, 1982 ), p. 69.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Marjorie Levinson, Wordsworth’s Great Period Poems ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986 ), p. 12.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Thomas McFarland, William Wordsworth: Intensity and Achievement ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992 ), p. 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 9.
    Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760–1830 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 59 and 61.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    William Hazlitt, The Spirit of the Age in The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed. P. P. Howe (New York: AMS Press, 1967), vol. XI, p. 132.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    John Williams, Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989 ), pp. 9–18.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    David P. Haney, William Wordsworth and the Hermeneutics of Incarnation ( Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1993 ), p. 91.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Roger Sales, ‘William Wordsworth and the Real Estate’, in Wordsworth: Contemporary Critical Essays, ed. John Williams ( London: Macmillan Press — now Palgrave Macmillan, 1993 ), p. 96Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    John Lucas, England and Englishness ( London: Hogarth Press, 1990 ), p. 106.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Kenneth R. Johnston, The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy ( New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1998 ), p. 701.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Williams 2002

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  • John Williams

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