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Publisher Description

A dazzling new biography of Wordsworth’s radical life as a thinker and poetical innovator, published to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth.

William Wordsworth wrote the first great poetic autobiography. We owe to him the idea that places of outstanding natural beauty should become what he called ‘a sort of national property’. He changed forever the way we think about childhood, about the sense of the self, about our connection to the natural environment, and about the purpose of poetry.

He was born among the mountains of the English Lake District. He walked into the French Revolution, had a love affair and an illegitimate child, before witnessing horrific violence in Paris. His friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge was at the core of the Romantic movement. As he retreated from radical politics and into an imaginative world within, his influence would endure as he shaped the ideas of thinkers, writers and activists throughout the nineteenth century in both Britain and the United States. This wonderful book opens what Wordsworth called ‘the hiding places of my power’.

W. H. Auden once wrote that ‘Poetry makes nothing happen’. He was wrong. Wordsworth’s poetry changed the world. Award-winning biographer and critic Jonathan Bate tells the story of how it happened.



‘Magisterial … Gripping and at times ineffably sad, this book would be poetic even without the poetry. It will be the standard biography of Ted Hughes for a long time to come’ Sunday Times

‘A work of head-spinning revelations … Bate offers a complete picture of Hughes: the man, the work and the restless mythologies that prowled his imagination … A moving, fascinating biography’ The Times

‘Comprehensive and definitive … Bate's relaxed prose keeps everything moving anecdotally … underpinning it all is a vast command of archival material … He is also a sure guide to the genesis and reception of each of Hughes's major books’ Daily Telegraph

‘Bate captures the great poet in all his wild complexity … A powerful and clarifying study, richly layered and compelling’ Melyn Bragg, Observer

‘[An] important … ultimately triumphant biography … Bate is obviously suited as a biographer and critic. His standing in his academic profession is eminent’ Financial Times

‘Magisterial … Bate writes with sympathy and perception about Hughes and his poetry, and displays tact in shielding the identity and feelings of several of those caught up in the maelstrom of the poet’s life. This fine book tells readers as much as they need to know for now’ The Economist

‘Bate has read this huge mass of material with a scholar’s ability to date and arrange it … Hughes carried on telling himself tales from myth about the desires that drove him. This scrupulous and lucid biography makes it all seem like muddle and self-deception, tormenting to himself and the many who loved him’ Guardian

‘Heartbreaking … [Bate’s] analysis of the poems and how they relate to Hughes's life is particularly illuminating’ Daily Mail

‘Fascinating’ John Preston, Spectator, Books of the Year

‘Elegantly retells the myth and, occasionally, violence of the story and gives it new flesh’, Philip Hoare, Spectator, Books of the Year

Fiction & Literature
April 2
William Collins

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