The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth

Co-edited with Richard Gravil

Oxford University Press, 2015

OHWW coverThe Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth deploys its forty-eight original essays, by an international team of scholar-critics, to present a stimulating account of Wordsworth’s life and achievement and to map new directions in criticism. Nineteen essays explore the highlights of a long career systematically, giving special prominence to the lyric Wordsworth of Lyrical Ballads and the Poems in Two Volumes and to the blank verse poet of ‘The Recluse’. Most of the other essays return to the poetry while exploring other dimensions of the life and work of the major Romantic poet. The result is a dialogic exploration of many major texts and problems in Wordsworth scholarship.

This uniquely comprehensive handbook is structured so as to present, in turn, Wordsworth’s life, career, and networks; aspects of the major lyrical and narrative poetry; components of ‘The Recluse’; his poetical inheritance and his transformation of poetics; the variety of intellectual influences upon his work, from classical republican thought to modern science; his shaping of modern culture in such fields as gender, landscape, psychology, ethics, politics, religion and ecology; and his 19th- and 20th-century reception-most importantly by poets, but also in modern criticism and scholarship.

[This volume] provides rich explorations of Wordsworth’s oeuvre, together with well-informed discussions of his inheritance, legacy and reception.

The Times Literary Supplement

. . . like Coleridge, I was aware of having sat through a long and overwhelmingly wondrous experience that touched me as very few works of secondary literature ever have.

For essay after essay shows how the best of Wordsworth criticism seems to lose its secondariness and become part of the adventure in the growth of the poet’s mind—an adventure that was Wordsworth’s own preoccupation and achievement.

—Leslie Brisman, Karl Young Professor of English, Yale University

Read the entire review here.

While some individual chapters would be perfect for undergraduate reading lists (Nicholas Roe’s biographical summary for Wordsworth’s early life is the foremost example), this volume is primarily aimed at scholars and postgraduate students. As such, several essays reflect deepening critical interest in the poet’s later work; for example Daniel Robinson’s focus on The River Duddon, Peter J. Manning’s discussion of later narrative poems including ‘The Russian Fugitive’, and Pamela Woof’s reading of a selection of Ecclesiastical Sketches and Italian Memorials. This book differs then from the pair of student-focused introductory studies that were published in 2010 by Emma Mason and Daniel Robinson respectively. And yet, for all of its chronological and thematic breadth, the Oxford Handbook demonstrates that the ‘Poem upon the Wye’ and ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’, which have been the crux of criticism for over 30 years, maintain principal position. Not only do these poems each have their own dedicated chapter (see the sections by Susan J. Wolfson and Michael O’Neil), but they are points of reference for almost every contributor. This shows that whilst Wordsworth scholarship has ventured beyond traditionally canonical texts, the governing questions are still those focused on memory, imagination, place, the mind, and nature. The prevalence of these key poems and themes also secures the utility of this Handbook for non-Wordsworthian Romanticists.

Review of English Studies

More at OUP—click here.

Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing

University of Iowa Press, 2014

ROBINSON COVERAs a young writer with neither profession nor money, William Wordsworth committed himself to a career as a poet, embracing what he believed was his destiny. But even the “giant Wordsworth,” as his friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him, had his doubts. In Myself and Some Other Being, Daniel Robinson presents a young Wordsworth, as ambitious and insecure as any writer starting out, who was trying to prove to himself that he could become the great poet he desired to be and that Coleridge, equally brilliant and insecure, believed he already was.

Myself and Some Other Being is the story of Wordsworth becoming Wordsworth by writing the fragments and drafts of what would eventually become The Prelude, an autobiographical epic poem addressed to Coleridge that he hid from the public and was only published after his death in 1850. Feeling pressured to write the greatest epic poem of all time, a task set for him by Coleridge, Wordsworth feared that he was not up to the challenge and instead looked inside himself for memories and materials that he might make into poetry using the power of his imagination. What he found there was another Wordsworth—not exactly the memory of his younger self but rather “some other being” that he could adapt for an innovative kind of life-writing that he hoped would justify his writing life. By writing about himself and that other being, Wordsworth created an innovative autobiographical epic of becoming that is the masterpiece he believed he had failed to write.

In focusing on this young, ambitious, yet insecure Wordsworth struggling to find his place among other writers, Robinson ably demonstrates how The Prelude may serve as a provocative, instructive, and inspirational rumination on the writing of one’s own life. Concentrating on the process of Wordsworth’s endless revisions, the real literary business of creativity, Robinson puts Wordsworth forward as a model and inspiration for the next generation of writers.

Daniel Robinson has given us a wonderful, multifaceted new account of how ‘writing life’ shaped Wordsworth’s odyssey of his own mind in The Prelude. Brisk, incisive, and accessible, this book carries us to the heart of Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic to reveal the hard Wordsworthian task of ‘writing the self.’”

—Nicholas Roe, author, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years

 “Daniel Robinson returns us to that difficult, wondrous, ongoing gift of Wordsworth’s The Prelude—a gift that reminds us that to write a poem involves self-creation. A poem is a confounded, confounding thing; Robinson offers us ThePrelude as both a threshold and a destination, a poem of continual entrance and insistent egress. By insisting that Wordsworth continues to be of this moment, relevant here and now, Robinson’s Myself and Some Other Being is a book of honest, visionary criticism: a psychopomp into that eternity that Wordsworth wrote into existence.”

—Dan Beachy-Quick, author, A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work 

“Robinson’s engaging Wordsworth is not the Victorians’ stodgy poetic patriarch, but the undistinguished Cambridge grad who would dramatically refashion British poetry and who by thirty understood that he would have to write himself and his life if he was to fully discover that life, both as man and as poet. This eminently readable book is ripe with insight, appreciation, and critical and cultural sophistication.”

—Stephen C. Behrendt, George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English, University of Nebraska

The Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame

Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

MR form and fame coverThe Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame presents an ambitious poet with a keen sense of tradition and technique and a woman writer invested in her own poetic proteanism. Mary Robinson’s formal strategies put her in direct competition with her male predecessors and contemporaries, a program she was particularly suited to fulfill given the sophisticated sense of form, genre, and gender that makes her one of the most accomplished poets of the 1790s. The definitive study of Robinson’s poetry, The Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame offers a comprehensive analysis of her work, studying her poems in the instant of their publicity and in their literary, social, and political contexts, while exploring Robinson’s representation of herself as a poet, professional author, and erstwhile celebrity. Examining Mary Robinson in relation to such poets as Petrarch, Pope, Robert Merry (“Della Crusca”), Southey, and Coleridge, Daniel Robinson sheds new light on Robinson’s importance to the literary scene of the 1790s and on poetic practice during the Romantic period.

Here, finally, is the first full-length study of Mary Robinson’s poetry and the most insightful work on that author since Judith Pascoe’s Romantic Theatricality. Beginning with Robinson’s years as one of John Bell’s featured poets in The World and the Oracle, Robinson tracks her development from newspaper ingénue to central contributor for Daniel Stuart’s Morning Post. Throughout we find sustained attention to Robinson’s technical achievements as a poet, from the odes of ‘Laura Maria’ to the sonnets of ‘Sappho’ to the later, virtuoso works that eventually became Lyrical Tales. Here, contexts beget forms, and formal innovations take on political valences. Equally welcome is the decision to incorporate her other writings—her many novels, treatises, plays, and tracts, indeed, her entire oeuvre—to bear on the poetry. A truly foundational work.

—Michael Gamer, Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

In Robinson’s nuanced and learned readings, Mary Robinson’s poems snap into focus. The formal virtuosity of the poems rewards this critic’s efforts to understand and winningly explain Mary Robinson’s ambitious reworkings of poetic genres, and her investment in the poetry networks of her day. This book will serve as a cornerstone of future Robinson research.

—Judith Pascoe, Professor of English, University of Iowa

Robinson offers us a refreshingly new way to think about Mary Robinson, and about how important contemporary ‘fame’ was to a poet fully engaged in the literary and cultural conversation swirling in the British press in the 1790s. Not just a reassessment of a perennially mischaracterized poet, Robinson’s book is a revealing portrait of an unexpectedly practical literary artist who knew her craft and who deployed it shrewdly among an array of poetic personae.

—Stephen C. Behrendt, George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English, University of Nebraska

In addition to providing an incisive commentary on [Mary] Robinson’s formal and stylistic practices, the book also offers a thorough assessment of the social circles, publishing networks, and personal affiliations that determined the development of her poetic identity.

The Year’s Work in English Studies

In this pioneering monograph, author D. Robinson argues that his subject’s critical appeal, which remained in tension with her scandalous past, was formalist, deriving from her skills with prosody and rhyme. . . . Recommended.


As editor of Robinson’s poetry in The Works of Mary Robinson (Pickering & Chatto, 2009), Daniel Robinson is well qualified to amplify this growing body of criticism. Besides expanding our knowledge of Robinson’s poetry, he also sheds new light on the wider intellectual, political and social communities of which she was a part. Above all, this is an erudite study of Mary Robinson’s use of poetic form as both a key motivation for, and a dialectic response within, the writing of poetry in the late eighteenth century.

Review 19

William Wordsworth’s Poetry

Continuum, 2010

WWs Poetry Readers Guide coverThis Reader’s Guide provides an overview of Wordsworth’s career, which began in obscurity, persisted through ridicule, and culminated finally in popular success and acclaim. It introduces readers to the literary, philosophical, and political contexts crucial to understanding Wordsworth’s poetry, offering fresh approaches for reading his most important poems in light of recent developments in literary studies while also spotlighting traditional ones. This guide explores the reasons why Wordsworth continues to be the leading figure of British Romantic literature. It is an indispensable guide to studying Wordsworth’s poetry, language, contexts and criticism.

Very much in the spirit of Wordsworth himself – who famously remarked that he wished ‘either to be considered as a Teacher, or as nothing’ – Daniel Robinson has here taught us anew how to read Wordsworth’s poetry. Judiciously balancing attention to such larger contexts as intellectual history, politics, and posthumous reputation with consideration of such discrete matters as style, language, and form, Robinson presents a fully realized overview of the poet as well as the poetry. Integral to the strength of the volume is the long central chapter, ‘Reading Wordsworth’s Poetry,’ in which Robinson offers careful, nuanced readings of the poetry of the ‘great decade’ (1797-1807), all the while locating this work in conversation with Dorothy Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, and others. Robinson’s guide will be essential reading not only for first-time readers, but also for returning students and scholars in search of a clear presentation and penetrating analysis of Wordsworth’s greatest poetry.

—Charles W. Mahoney, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Connecticut, USA

More information at Continuum Books.

Purchase William Wordsworth’s Poetry at Amazon.

The Works of Mary Robinson: Poems

2 vols. Pickering and Chatto, 2009

mary-darby-robinsonMary Robinson’s contemporaries dubbed her “the English Sappho.” An ardent admirer of her poetry, Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared her “a woman of undoubted Genius,” and he praised the meter of her poem “The Haunted Beach” in a letter to his fellow poet Robert Southey: “ay! that Woman has an Ear’.” A prolific poet, she wrote Della Cruscan verse under a variety of pseudonyms, political and satirical poems, a long sonnet sequence entitled Sappho and Phaon (1796), and a volume entitled Lyrical Tales(1800) that reflects the influence of Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1798). Robinson often reprinted her poems, which appeared in variant forms in newspapers, her novels, and in volumes of poetry. This collection is the first complete and scholarly edition of Robinson’s poetry ever published and will include periodical verse that did not appear in the posthumous 1806 Poetical Works.

There are few better signs that a writer has reentered the canon than the appearance of a superbly edited collected works from Pickering and Chatto … these volumes … are consistently edited to a high standard. Variants and silent corrections are recorded following the notes at the end of each volume, which identify contemporary references and Robinson’s literary allusions.

The Wordsworth Circle

More information at the Pickering and Chatto website.

Lyrical Ballads and Related Writings

Co-edited with William Richey

Houghton Mifflin, 2001

LB and Related Writings coverIn addition to the complete 1798 London edition of Lyrical Ballads, this volume contains a generous sampling of ballads, rustic and humanitarian poetry, and nature poems by the poets’ contemporaries; literary, philosophical, and political backgrounds by essayists such as Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Wollstonecraft; and reactions toLyrical Ballads.

Purchase Lyrical Ballads and Related Writings at Amazon.




A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

Co-edited with Paula R. Feldman

Oxford University Press, 1999

Century of Sonnets coverA Century of Sonnets is a striking reminder that some of the best known and most well-respected poems of the Romantic era were sonnets. It presents the broad and rich context of such favorites as Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymanidas,” John Keats’s “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” and William Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” by tracing the sonnet revival in England from its beginning in the hands of Thomas Edwards and Charlotte Smith to its culmination in the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Expertly edited by Paula R. Feldman and Daniel Robinson, this volume is the first in modern times to collect the sonnets of the Romantic period–many never before published in the twentieth century–and contains nearly five hundred examples composed between 1750 and 1850 by 81 poets, nearly half of them women. A Century of Sonnets includes in their entirety such important but difficult to find sonnet sequences as William Wordsworth’s The River Duddon, Mary Robinson’s Sappho and Phaon, and Robert Southey’s Poems on the Slave Trade, along with Browning’s enduring classic, Sonnets from the Portuguese. The poems collected here express the full sweep of human emotion and explore a wide range of themes, including love, grief, politics, friendship, nature, art, and the enigmatic character of poetry itself. Indeed, for many poets the sonnet form elicited their strongest work.

A Century of Sonnets shows us that far from disappearing with Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, the sonnet underwent a remarkable rebirth in the Romantic period, giving us a rich body of work that continues to influence poets even today.

A splendid introduction…. A first-rate anthology for students and common readers alike.


Purchase A Century of Sonnets at Amazon. Now available for Kindle!

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