Wordsworth's death and the figure of the poet in 1850


This article will consider the extent and nature of the celebrity of the Poet Laureate William Wordsworth, who died in 1850. Ostensibly the most famous English poet alive in that year, on his death on 23 April 1850, Wordsworth had been Poet Laureate for just over seven years and had been actively producing verse since 1793. Shortly after his death, his longest poem, now considered a masterpiece of autobiographical epic, The Prelude, was published; one could easily assume that the death of such a major poet coupled with the publication of one of his most significant works would dominate the literary world in that year; yet notices of his death, while widespread, were fleeting in focus, and The Prelude met with a lukewarm reception. This challenges the concept of even a Poet Laureate as a literary celebrity. Nonetheless, as I will show, his name endured as a byword for ‘poet’ in periodicals of the time, and the Wordsworthian pastoral lyric remained an enduring form in periodicals of the year of his death; meaning that Wordsworth as a figure of ‘true poet’ endured even as his personal celebrity had waned

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