The purpose of this thesis is to discuss Wordsworth's evolving nature project, particularly during the Regency, when his sonnet collection The River Duddon offered an alternative view of nature to that found in the works of Byron and Shelley. This thesis argues that The River Duddon deserves renewed critical attention not only because of the acclaim it received at its publication in 1820, but also because it marks yet another turn in Wordsworth's evolving nature project, and one that comes in opposition to the depiction of nature given during the Regency by Byron, and Shelley. Wordsworth's portrayal of nature dramatically changed throughout his lifetime. The first chapter deals with the poet's shifting notions of nature up until 1810. Most of the poems discussed here come from Lyrical Ballads, the key collection of Wordsworth's early years. In particular, I suggest that "Tintern Abbey" can be read as a hypothesis wherein Wordsworth reconciles the doubt regarding nature he expressed in earlier poems such as "The Female Vagrant" and "The Thorn." While Wordsworth continued to express doubt in poems such as "Two April Mornings," "The Fountain," and "Michael," he expressed an appreciation for nature in relation to God in "Ode: Intimations on Immortality." On the eve of the Regency, however, he returned to doubting nature's benevolence in "Peele Castle." The second chapter deals with the Regency, looking at the development of Wordsworth's reputation and the emergence of Byron and Shelley's so-called "Satanic School" of poetry. Wordsworth's career during this time was marked by mixed criticism, as evidenced by The Excursion and Peter Bell. At this same time, his Romantic philosophies of nature were being challenged by the more liberal views set forth by Byron and Shelley. This chapter looks specifically at Byron's Don Juan and "Darkness" and Shelley's Alastor and "Mont Blanc" in order to contrast Wordsworth's nature project with that of the "Satanic School." My final chapter turns to Wordsworth's final Regency-era publication, The River Duddon. Here I argue that, while this is one of the poet's lesser-known works, The River Duddon marks a significant new phase in the Romantic conversation concerning nature and is thus worthy of more extensive study. Not only does this poem portray a more confident trust in nature than previously seen in Lyrical Ballads, but it also serves to juxtapose the depiction of nature presented by the "Satanic School" during the Regency. To highlight differences between the projects of Wordsworth and the "Satanic School," I conclude with a comparison of The River Duddon with Byron's "Darkness" and Shelley's "Mont Blanc."
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
May, Kimberly Jones, "Wordsworth's Evolving Project: Nature, the Satanic School, and (underline) The River Duddon (end underline)" (2007). Theses and Dissertations. 1247.
Wordsworth, The River Duddon, the Satanic School, Byron, Shelley, The Regency