The Hidden Wordsworth

Kenneth Richard Johnston
Publication Date
2013

In this account, Kenneth R. Johnston portrays a Wordsworth different in crucial ways from the one that the poet intended us to know. Taking advantage of unprecedented access to government archives in England and France, family papers, school and university records, and intimate letters, he brings little-known aspects of Wordsworth's life and character to the fore. With its urban revolutions and Alpine scenery, French mistresses and passionate sisters, secret agents, aristocratic ogres, and furious guardian uncles, The Hidden Wordsworth unfolds a life that Byron might have envied. Johnston relates Wordsworth's attempt to cover up these personal details, his systematic and successful efforts to hide his "juvenile errors" from his contemporaries and from history. But they did not disappear: many of them stare us in the face from the lines of his greatest poetry, like purloined letters we have not seen because they are too obvious.