‘Adam of a New World’: Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude

  • Nicholas Roe
Part of the Macmillan Studies in Romanticism book series (SR)


Tom Paine’s Rights of Man offered the most compelling definition of the French Revolution as ‘a renovation of the natural order of things’: ‘The present generation’, said Paine, ‘will appear to the future as the Adam of a new world’ (RM, ii. 290). In these terms Paine sought to counter Burke’s idea of the revolution as a destructive inversion of the natural order constituted by society: ‘There must be blood for the evil is radical and intrinsic’.1 As things turned out, the optimism of the early revolution was succeeded by terrorism in France and twenty-three years of war in Europe: ‘The Adam of a new world’ shared the same human weaknesses as Adam of the older world, and this was the melancholy proof of experience which qualified Wordsworth’s memory in Book Six of The Prelude:

France standing on the top of goloden hours,

And human nature seeming born again.

(vi. 353–4)


Natural Order French Revolution Childish Interview Imaginative Negotiation Autumnal Crocus 
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  1. 3.
    See Norman Fruman, ‘Coleridge’s Rejection of Nature and the Natural Man’ in Coleridge’s Imagination, Essays in Memory of Peter Laver, ed. R. Gravil, L. Newlyn, N. Roe (Cambridge, 1985).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, Wessex Edition (London, 1912), 380. Subsequent page references in text.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    John Williams, Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics (Manchester, 1989) 92, hereafter cited as Williams.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    William Wordsworth, The Pedlar, Tintern Abbey, The Two-Part Prelude, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth (Cambridge, 1985), 42.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicholas Roe 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Roe
    • 1
  1. 1.University of St AndrewsUK

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