Should we read Wordsworth to appreciate Keats?

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Should we read Wordsworth to appreciate Keats?

Postby Saturn » Wed Nov 24, 2004 12:15 pm

I know that Keats had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Wordsworth the man, but he did greatly respect his work and often spoke of him in the same breath as Milton and Shakespeare.

I've read lots of Wordsworth's work in various anthologies and am thinking of getting his Major Works.
I feel I have been too harsh on him in the past and am willing to give him more credit than before.

If Keats rated him so highly, should we read Wordsworth and so gain a better appreciaton of Keats' own work and the influence that Wordsworth had on it?

Any thoughts fellow Keatsians?
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Junkets » Wed Nov 24, 2004 1:55 pm

Hmmm, I think I've aired my thoughts on the matter of Wordsworth in past threads, but I'd suggest steering clear . But taking your point on board I've always thought that I should read more of the chief of lake poets, and I've had an unnerving desire to read the Prelude. That said, I wouldn't agree that a knowledge of Keats would be certain to benefit from a knowledge of Wordworth, but I would be willing to read more Wordsworth to re-enforce my disliking for him. I ask, how can I decide I dislike his poetry when all I know is a mere fraction of his output?
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Re: Should we read Wordsworth to appreciate Keats?

Postby Despondence » Wed Nov 24, 2004 3:24 pm

Stephen Saturn wrote:I know that Keats had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Wordsworth the man, but he did greatly respect his work and often spoke of him in the same breath as Milton and Shakespeare.
Quite. And this always made wonder - why? To find out, what else can we do but read from the man's works..
Stephen Saturn wrote:If Keats rated him so highly, should we read Wordsworth and so gain a better appreciaton of Keats' own work and the influence that Wordsworth had on it?
In principle yes, but in practice, maybe the main question is what of Wordsworth should we read? The man was prolific, and to me his works come across as very uneven - not so much in quality as in sentiment, though.

Why did you read "Faerie Queene" and "Paradise Lost"? Maybe because they are great works of English literature - I read them (well, fragments of them....ahem) because Keats did.

Some of the strangest things I 've read by W. are the "Ecclesiastical Sonnets". Some of them almost upsetting me by their dogmatic reverence of an obsolete doctrine - and others with a subtle satirical streak, making me lean back and wonder if he's been winding me up all along - and yet and other few of them ringing so true with what I have become myself. So what to make of this? I don't know, but it gives pause for thought. I don't know that any of that had an impact on Keats, but reading it might help in understanding the younger man's reverence of the older.
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Postby Saturn » Thu Nov 25, 2004 12:33 pm

I'm just curious about Wordsworth that's all - I just don't get him most of the time - I've heard him put even above Shakespeare which is crazy in my opinion, so I'm kind of intrigued at what all the fuss is about.

I think his real curse was that he lived too long and wrote too much - if all he ahd done was his early poems and Lyrical Ballads I think people would have had a much better opinion of him than they do.

I am interested in reading the Prelude as well, but I think we should read the earlier versions of it, as the 1850 version is supposed to be markedly inferior in quality - an old man's hazy recreation of his past.

I can't recommend Coleridge more highly to people though - much superior to Wordsworth and a much neglected poet due to his well-documented crippling opium addiction which, in spite of, he still wrote some very insightful criticism and poetry of the highest quality.

READ MORE COLERIDGE
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Postby Junkets » Thu Nov 25, 2004 4:09 pm

Hmm, Coleridge does have some good poetry, and I have been known to quote that timeless line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 'Unhand me bearded loon', whenever the opportunity arises...
Although one of the more popular of his poems I do find Kubla Khan facinating, and I also like a few of the chapters from the Biographica Literaria (chapter 13 or 16 in particular, can't remember which one it was though) a lot, where he gives a description of his poetical theories. But I'm not that well read on his stuff. It has been suggested that his poetry suffered dramatically from his addiction, but he certainly did have flashes of inspiration amid what I perceive to be poetry of a constrained nature.
Trivia of a mildly interesting fashion; I used to live down the road from where Coleridge lived near Bristol.
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Postby Saturn » Thu Nov 25, 2004 6:04 pm

That's cool.

Does anybody live near their literary heroes??

Perhaps someone lives in the house on the Isle of White where Keats stayed on his holidays there.
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Wordsworth?

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:39 pm

Keats is much better than Wordsworth and I don't see a purpose in reading Wordsworth. Wordsworth was a rich, elitist-oligarch that wrote poems that were mere logical deductions; if I wanted a math lesson I could just go to the library.

As a matter a fact if you read Wordsworth you'll appreciate Keats even more because you'll be so glad Keats actually did something with poetry!
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Postby Saturn » Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:42 pm

That's pretty harsh - even I wouldn't go that far!!!!
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Postby Despondence » Thu Dec 09, 2004 1:44 pm

Don't underestimate the importance of Wordsworth to Keats, even if you yourself care nothing for the works of the former. Some (I among them) might even go so far as to say that Keats would not have become Keats without Wordsworth. While Spenser, and Keats' reading of the Faerie Queene, is usually credited with "awakening his genius", his first ventures in this vein were still very immature (To Hope, Immitation of Spenser, Apollo, the "summer poems" &c). Rather, it was Wordsworth's poems of 1807 (perhaps also the Lyrical Ballads) that provided Keats with the impetus for abandoning the blithe and superficial style of the summer poems, and to break free from G.F. Mathew &co. This was the first step toward becoming a great poet, and Keats owes that legacy to Wordsworth.

Wordsworth was also the first "discovery" that Keats had made on his own. Up until one point he had been reading solely what C.C. Clarke fed to him, which did not include Wordsworth. In 1815 Wordsworth was still largely unknown to the public, but Keats clearly drew on his works, as a number of poems in 1815 and 1816 shows (e.g. Epistle to G.F. Mathew, Solitude). In discovering Wordsworth by himself, Keats was, for the first time, way ahead of his peers, Hunt, Matthew, Clarke &c.

I apologise if some of the above sounds imprecise - I don't have the book with me at the moment; most of this is from Gitting's biography.
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Postby Saturn » Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:25 pm

No mistakes at all there that I can see.

I posed the question to begin with because I know how influential Worsworth was to Keats, it cannot be underestimated or denied.
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Postby Despondence » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:10 pm

Well, I guess I was addressing myself mostly to MonroeD, for once (knowing that you know all this already). I notice I fudged the dates - it was apparently the 1815 edition of Wordsworth that Keats posessed, not the 1807 (according to Gittings, at least).

For the life of me, I still can not understand how Wordsworth evokes such vehement offense in you all. What is it that you so dislike? Can you give me one concrete example so I can check for myself? Maybe I have just been lucky in not being exposed to the material that would provoke in me the same response.
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Postby Saturn » Fri Dec 10, 2004 3:11 pm

It's not really his poetry that annoys me, I suppose it's mainly how he treated people and his political turncoatery which saw him switch from a radical to an ultra conservative.

His superior attitude and dismissive view of Keats' and his work also.

When he read Endymion I think he said something like "It is a pretty piece of paganism".
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Postby Despondence » Fri Dec 10, 2004 3:33 pm

No, that was when Keats was visiting Wordsworth in person together with Haydon, who informed Wordsworth of a new most delightful piece that Keats was working on (the hymn to Pan). So Keats was asked to recite it there and then, whereupopn Wordsworth delivered that comment. But in Motion's interpretation, we souldn't take this too seriously - Keats was prepared for a harsh reception, and went there knowing full well he might be put under pressure. There was also something about the interpretation of this statement (I have to go back and check my Motion...), indicating that it need not have been intended - nor recieved - so offensively or dismissive as we percieve it today.

But for the rest, I admit I don't know enough of Wordsworth's political chicanery or personal character to take a disliking to him on those grounds.
Last edited by Despondence on Sun Dec 12, 2004 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Saturn » Fri Dec 10, 2004 3:39 pm

I think from what I have read that the comment was supposed to be dismissive, as Wordsworth had abandoned the Classical imagery he previously espoused and was pouring scorn on Keats' Classical leanings.
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There's a letter Keats writes

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Sat Dec 11, 2004 6:29 pm

There is a letter of Keats where he basically states that Wordsworth was a pompous bigot, and I completely agree.

Wordsworth and Byron were similar since they were both wealthy, and had a "country-club" attitude towards John Keats; that causes me to vomit!
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