Wordsworth’s poetry itself is heavily identified with autobiographical intention. His greatest poem, THE PRELUDE, OR THE GROWTH OF THE POET’S MIND, was written in three different versions (1799, 1805, 1836) but did not see publication until after the poet’s death in 1850. Wordsworth did not misrepresent essentials, but he often sacrificed the literal facts about people and experiences to the aesthetic requirements of his poem. Biographical accuracy demands a reassessment of Wordsworth’s recollections and allusions.
Throughout his life Wordsworth was known as a “recluse,” a visionary leading a very private existence removed from the turmoil of society. Gill questions this image of the poet’s life by demonstrating Wordsworth’s concern over the state of his own reputation and the reception of his poems. He issued numerous editions of his work. He kept in touch with important intellectual movements. He was not a hermit-bard.
Finally, Gill takes considerable pains to clarify the situation of Wordsworth’s later years. Although his poetic powers declined, his later work was received with interest as his earlier work gained in reputation. He became a poet of increasing importance to the national and literary culture. George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, and other major Victorians were heavily influenced by his work and thought.