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William Wordsworth: A Life By Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)

William Wordsworth: A Life
by Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)

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Based on intimate knowledge of the poet's manuscripts, on a fresh look at contemporary records and on a study of the mass of material that has appeared since the last serious biography, this new account of Wordsworth focuses on what was most important to him - his life as a writer.
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William Wordsworth: A Life Summary

William Wordsworth: A Life by Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)

Based on intimate knowledge of the poet's manuscripts, on a fresh look at contemporary records, and on a study of the mass of material that has appeared since the last serious biography, a quarter-century ago, this new account of Wordsworth focuses on what was most important to him - his life as a writer. The common notion is that the older Wordsworth betrayed his youthful, radical self to become a prosy Tory bore. By contrast, this intelligent and authoritative biography demonstrates that once the poet had returned to the Lake District, determined to live dedicated to poetry at whatever cost, his life took on a unity and purpose it had previously lacked. His politics certainly changed, and his poetic power waned, but from 1799 almost until his death in 1850, Wordsworth single-mindedly shaped his own life in submission to an imaginative possession whose importance he never doubted. It was, in its way, a heroic life. Wordsworth suffered numbing blows from the death of friends and family, including three of his own children. Critics reviled his poetry for over twenty years, and he never made enough money by his pen to live on - unlike his dear friend Scott. Yet his dedication to his art did not waver. In middle age he knew that contemporaries valued him as a moral sage; in old age he suffered the embarrassment of being a cultural icon. The lucid narrative that Stephen Gill draws out is the story of that hard-won triumph: its purpose is to bring readers back freshly to poetry that is full of human understanding and experience, and a tested, sober faith in 'Man's unconquerable mind'.

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William Wordsworth: A Life Reviews

The most scholarly and up-to-date book on Wordsworth... His judgement and interests are eminently sensible and show a full picture of Wordsworth. * Nikolai Tolstoy, Daily Mail *
Impressive new Clarendon biography ...William Wordsworth: A Life is every inch the new definitive work. Gill has taken full account of Wordsworth studies in the past 30 years, blended the new materials with the old, and come out with a book that is scholarly, readable, likely to last. * Jonathan Wordsworth, Sunday Times *
excellent biography of Wordsworth ... Gill is master of the very extensive primary and secondary sources, and a particular expert on the manuscripts, which the poet subjected to constant revision. * William Scammell, The Listener *
not least among the virtues of this excellent biography is the way in which Stephen Gill balances the inner against the external man ... This is the kind of biography which any writer would be delighted to inspire, let alone deserve ... it is a measure of the significance of this biography that its seriousness matches that of Wordsworth itself. * Peter Ackroyd, The Times *
all stolid good sense * Blake Morrison, The Bookseller *
thorough, scholarly biography * Anthony Powell, Weekend Telegraph *
Stephen Gill's new biography ... is enormously well-informed and avoids extravagant speculation, ... It provides an entertaining, shrewd, and manageably-sized narrative of Wordsworth's life * Peter Swaab, Sunday Telegraph *
Stephen Gill's admirable biography ... it succeeds, where such biographies often fail, in transforming the life into the work by actively exploring, not avoiding, the complex problems that Wordsworth's self-account presents to his biographer. * London Review of Books *
lively, painstaking book * Archie Hind, Glasgow Herald *
thorough, scholarly biography * Anthony Powell, Daily Telegraph *
Gill has already proved himself as an editor of Wordsworth's manuscripts and now turns that research to elegant profit. * Anthony Lane, Independent *
It is difficult to see how a biography of Wordsworth could be enthralling, but Stephen Gill has made his so. This densely particularised and humane biography returns us anew to the poet's questions with an inwardness and sympathy few previous writers have displayed. * Isobel Armstrong, Southampton University, TES *
This is the kind of biography which any writer would be delighted to inspire, let alone to deserve ... it is a measure of the significance of this biography that its seriousness matches that of Wordsworth himself. * Peter Ackroyd, The Times *
the first comprehensive biography of Wordsworth since Mary Moorman's 30 years ago * Blake Morrison, Observer *
not many biographies are so admirably devoid of pretentiousness, silliness, and banality * Chloe Chard, Weekend Financial Times *
in Stephen Gill's monumental work, exacting, controlled, measured and profound, we have a moving portrait of a great poet the confirming of whose reputation has been substantially advanced by Gill's scholarship and judgment. * Bruce Arnold, Irish Independent *
Gill is an immensely learned, scrupulous and judicious guide ... It is a mark of a good biography that the peripheral figures - the friends and acquaintances - are brought to life by a few swift, bold strokes ... A new biography of Wordworth was certainly needed, and this one will be an indispensable companion for Lake Poet enthusiasts. Its insights are astute and its choice of quotation excellent; it could not have condensed more information into a single volume, yet it never becomes a mere procession of facts ... this volume is fluent and comprehensive. * Jonathan Bate, Country Life *
a large, very readable study by Oxford scholar Stephen Gill who makes use of much fresh material * Michael Field, The Star *
admirable biography * London Review of Books *
thorough and scholarly biography ... Many books have been on Wordsworth, but this one takes a fresh look at contemporary records and the mass of material which has been unearthed since the last serious biography, a quarter-of-a-century ago. * John Hurst, Cumberland & Westmorland Herald *
What Gill has done, very well, is to match the poetry to the poet's development. Gill, with his illuminating extracts, saves us from our own ignorance. * Anthony Hern, London Evening Standard *
this biography clears new and central ground for future academic revaluations of the poet and his work ... It renders Wordsworth newly accessible and calls attention to his reciprocal relation to, and profound effects on, the national life. * New York Times Book Review *
a lovingly told story * Christopher Hall, The Countryman *
a thorough and detailed study of Wordsworth's life in relation to the poetry ... Gill is a thoughtful critic as well as a careful biographer ... sympathetic study * J. B. Pick, The Scotsman *
When dealing with politics or family matters Gill can be very shrewd, and especially so in his subtle account of the growing strains between Wordsworth and Coleridge after 1800. And on textual matters Gill writes with an authority well beyond that of any previous biographer. Many of his poetry discussions are first rate, sensitive and illuminating. * Norman Fruman, Times Literary Supplement *
an eminently accessible as well as definitive study of the poet's life * Sunday Times *
not a general biography of the Great Lakes poet, nor is it merely a critique of his work ... It is an authoritative and readable study ... of Wordsworth's writing in an effort to lay bare the poet's life as a writer of poetry "full of human understanding and experience." ... a fascinating and enlightening study ... few will deny it's value in bringing the man and his work into fresh perspective * Evelyn Holtzhausen. Cape Times *
This isn't a critical book ... and discussion of the poetry is carefully fused with Wordsworth's self-discussion. ... this biography is good value ... Always well-written, it wears its substantial scholarship lightly * Simon Petch. Sydney Morning Herald *
Stephen Gill ... has written what must now be the definitive biography ... a multitudinous life about which, even after reading this thorough and admirable biography we still wish we knew more. * David Parkin, Yorkshire Post *
a model literary biography * Bernard Bergonzi, The Tablet *
compendious new biography of William Wordsworth ... solidly constructed * Chicago Tribune *
the biography is both scholarly and readable ... If William Wordsworth: A Life brings new readers to the poems or old readers back it will have succeeded admirably in its aim. * Peter Dyson, University of Toronto, The Globe and Mail *
Gill has peformed a remarkable act of revisionary scholarship by shifting the bulk of the story to the years at Rydal Mount ... this is a distinguished work of literary biography ... The biographer's wide-ranging knowledge of the period adds immensely to the success of this study. It will be many years before another biography of Wordsworth is required. * Jay Parini, USA Today *
He offers a more factually meticulous version of the poet's early years to stand beside the mythopoeic self-presentation of the poetry. He understands the importance of Wordsworth's inner life. Gill's biography quietly but memorably reveals the drama of Wordsworth's life. * Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor *
fine new biography ... Mr Gill's biography is up-to-date in its scholarship ... It neither sentimentalizes nor oversimplifies. * Richard Locke, Columbia University, Wall Street Journal *
all stolid good sense * John Linklater, The Bookseller *
this biography contains much to interest scholars * Henry Bartlett, The Courier-Mail *
it is robust and intelligent on his marvellous body of poetry * Observer *
Gill's narrative is well-paced and well-written. Gill's account is comprehensive and engaging, and skilful in its corporation of biographical detail. The Wordsworth specialist, as well as the general reader, will come away from it refreshed and inspired. * Charles Rzepka, Boston University, Essays in Criticism *
eloquent and straight-forward retelling of Wordsworth's life * J.D. Gutteridge, Notes and Queries *
triumphantly reconciles a vast amount of material to produce a life of Wordsworth that is sensitive to modern scholarship and faithful to the age in which the poet himself lived ... Stephen Gill has written a biography of Wordsworth for our times, and it will remain the standard life of the poet for many years to come. * Nicholas Roe, University of St Andrews, Review of English Studies, Vol. XLI, No. 164, Nov '90 *
From the paperback:
An assured blend of old and recently-researched material which combines fluently into a vibrant study of the poet. Mr Gill avoids wild speculation and brings us the essence of the man thankfully devoid of spurious conjecture. * Tony Firth, Yorkshire Post *
a unique look at this Romantic poet * Windsor Star *

About Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)

Editor Oxford Authors William Wordsworth

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Short forms of citation; Introduction; PART I. 1770-1799; PART II. 1800-1822; PART III. 1822-1850; Notes; Appendix; Family tree of William Wordsworth

Additional information

William Wordsworth: A Life by Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)
Stephen Gill (Fellow and Tutor, Lincoln College, Oxford)
Used - Very Good
Oxford University Press
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