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9 - William Wordsworth and William Cobbett: Scotch travel and British reform

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Peter J. Manning
Affiliation:
Professor and Chair Department of English, Stony Brook University
Leith Davis
Affiliation:
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Ian Duncan
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Janet Sorensen
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

I bring together the roughly contemporary tours of Scotland of William Cobbett and William Wordsworth in part to enable distinctions between two figures often associated as nostalgic relics of the agricultural order of their childhoods – Cobbett the farmer, Wordsworth the eulogist of Lake District smallholders – and in part to suggest a more general point about the relation between geographical place and the rhetorical places of argument by laying out the differences in what by title alone would appear to be accounts of common materials – differences in style, format, price, audience, and authorial stance.

Responding in April 1831 to a request for a poem, Wordsworth lamented that “the Muse has forsaken me – being scared away by the villainous aspect of the Times.” The Reform Bill, introduced in the House of Commons the previous month, had deranged his equilibrium: “Poor Father,” Dora wrote in June, “is quite overpowered by the horrors and sorrows which seem to him hanging over his hitherto favored spot of earth. He can neither think nor talk on any other subject.” In part to escape his fears that “if this Bill passes in any thing like its present shape a subversion of the Constitution and a correspondent shock to all institutions … is in my judgement inevitable,” Wordsworth and Dora set off in September to Scotland (LY, ii: 504–5).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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