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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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Wordsworth, The Prelude, and Posterity

Wordsworth, The Prelude, and Posterity

Chapter:
(p.250) 14 Wordsworth, The Prelude, and Posterity
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0014

Wordsworth and Coleridge left Somerset for Germany in the fall of 1798. Unable to travel with Coleridge because of expenses and Dorothy’s presence, Wordsworth began composing the ‘spots of time,’ boyhood memories which became the seeds of The Prelude, which was in turn to be a ‘portico’ to his intended masterpiece, the never-completed Recluse. The Prelude was not published until after Wordsworth’s death in 1850, thus denying the benefit of its immediate influence to a younger generation of Romantic poets, along lines suggested by T. S. Eliot’s ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent.’ In Book X of The Prelude Wordsworth describes the efforts of England’s ‘shepherds’ (Pitt’s government) to turn ‘all judgments out of their right course.’ He compares Pitt’s Reign of Alarm to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, finding the latter more honest, though bloodier. These controversial observations may well have led him not to publish The Prelude during his lifetime.

Keywords:   wordsworth, coleridge, germany, romantic poets, T. S. Eliot

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