The Poet in Search of a Public

  • D. D. Devlin


This epigraph reads like an epitaph on Wordsworth’s hope that he might be read by ordinary country people, by those very rustics whose language he once considered the most suitable for poetry. The words were spoken some twenty or thirty years after Wordsworth’s death by an old man who had at one time been a gardener’s boy at Rydal Mount, and they were quoted in a paper read to the Wordsworth Society by H. D. Rawnsley in 1882.1 They make clear, with great firmness and some regret, Wordsworth’s final failure to communicate with a large unliterary public, his failure to be what he insisted a poet must be, a man speaking to men. He never gave up his hopes for such an audience, but as time passed they declined into wistful regret. In a comment dictated to Isabella Fermor in 1843 on his “The Labourers’ Noon-day Hymn”, Wordsworth said:


Natural Heart Paradise Lost Common Reader Romantic Poet Ordinary Judgement 
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  1. 1.
    H. D. Rawnsley, “Reminiscences of Wordsworth among the Peasantry of Westmoreland”, in William Knight (ed.), Wordsworthiana (London, 1889) pp. 81–119.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Roger Lonsdale (ed.), The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith (London, 1969) p. 115.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    See Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth, The Later Years (Oxford, 1965) p. 100n.Google Scholar
  4. 23.
    For an interesting discussion of these lines see John F. Danby, The Simple Wordsworth (London, 1960) pp. 44–5.Google Scholar
  5. 34.
    Edith J. Morley (ed.), Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers (London, 1938) p. 73.Google Scholar

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© D. D. Devlin 1980

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  • D. D. Devlin

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