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Chapter 3 - “This Potter-Don-Juan”

Peter Bell in 1819

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2021

Jeffrey Cox
Affiliation:
University of Colorado Boulder
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Summary

While written in the 1790s, Wordsworth’s Peter Bell was only published in 1819 as part of his effort to contest the dominance of Scott and Byron in narrative poetry. As contemporary responses make clear, the poem could be read as a rebuke to Byron’s celebration of villain-heroes: what came to be known as Byronic heroes, morally mixed but charismatic men. Wordsworth’s earlier participation in a collective satire on Byron suggests how Peter Bell responds to Byron and helps make sense of the ways in which Byron, Shelley, and Hunt saw the poem as a rejection of their ongoing work. While Wordsworth offered the poem as an example of the ways in which natural experiences can lead to spiritual reform, his turn to a Methodist preacher at the climax of the poem enraged his younger contemporaries, who saw Methodism as a key force in reactionary culture. In Shelley’s The Witch of Atlas and Peter Bell the Third, in Byron’s Don Juan, and in satires and reviews of Peter Bell and related works by Keats, Reynolds, and Hunt we see a collective attempt by the Cockney School to answer the challenge they heard in Peter Bell.

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William Wordsworth, Second-Generation Romantic
Contesting Poetry after Waterloo
, pp. 110 - 128
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • “This Potter-Don-Juan”
  • Jeffrey Cox, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Book: William Wordsworth, Second-Generation Romantic
  • Online publication: 10 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108946698.004
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  • “This Potter-Don-Juan”
  • Jeffrey Cox, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Book: William Wordsworth, Second-Generation Romantic
  • Online publication: 10 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108946698.004
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • “This Potter-Don-Juan”
  • Jeffrey Cox, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Book: William Wordsworth, Second-Generation Romantic
  • Online publication: 10 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108946698.004
Available formats
×