Radical Wordsworth
Jonathan Bate, Read by Jonathan Keeble

Book cover image

Narrated By: Jonathan Keeble

Duration: 16 hours and 2 minutes

What to expect

A Times and Sunday Times Best Book of 2020

‘Radical Wordsworth deserves to take its place as the finest modern introduction to his work, life and impact’ Financial Times

‘Richly repays reading … It is hard to think of another poet who has changed our world so much’ Sunday Times

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.

Genre

Biography: literary, Social & cultural history

Listen to a sample

‘An entertaining biography … Excellent, intellectually rousing’
The Times

‘This new book, like everything Bate writes, richly repays reading … He is illuminating on the sources of Wordsworth’s nature worship … He carefully and persuasively re-examines the effects of the revolution on Wordsworth … Bate shows that it was Wordsworth who inspired the founders of the National Trust … It is hard to think of another poet who has changed our world so much’
Sunday Times 

‘A bold and bracing account, masterful with its material, patiently brilliant in reading the poems, and gloriously convincing about its subject’s social significance’
Daily Telegraph

‘Bate’s stirring biography … is neither rushed nor reductive. It is full of sharp anecdotes that evoke the lives of the Wordsworths … Bate is able to set the poetry amid the personal’
Spectator

‘A pacy writer and doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to Wordsworth’s later poetry … When he was at his best, Bate says, his poems were as powerful as any since Shakespeare and they ‘uphold and feed’ the spirit of anyone who reads them’ Daily Mail

‘As when a conservator carefully swabs away from an oil painting the crusty accretions and gunk of ages to reveal shining colours and unexpected detail – so Jonathan Bate sets about the youthful Wordsworth, and shows us, page by page, just how world-changing he really was … With wonderful elan, close reading and detective work, Bate blows the chalk-dust away’ Kathleen Jamie,New Statesman

‘Bate is a supremely capable guide, steeped in the poet’s work and milieu … Radical Wordsworth deserves to take its place as the finest modern introduction to his work, life and impact’ Financial Times

‘[A] marvellous new biography of Wordsworth … Exhilarating … his inspiriting fleet-footed book …embroiders together life, poetry and landscape with such dexterity’
Observer