“By Gothic Virtue Won”: Wordsworth’s Convention of Cintra and the Peninsular War

Tom Duggett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores the politics of The Convention of Cintra (1809), William Wordsworth’s prose tract on the notorious Convention between the British and French armies in Portugal during the Peninsular War. In Cintra, I argue, Wordsworth adumbrates a “Gothic” politics that mediates between his past radical and his future loyalist political sympathies. The chapter begins with an account of how the Peninsular War came to be conceived in specifically “Gothic” terms by Wordsworth and his contemporaries, including discussion of Southey’s Roderick, The Last of the Goths (1814) and Coleridge’s Letters on the Spaniards (1809). I then offer a reading of Cintra as a renewal of the pamphlet war between competing accounts of the “Gothic” state in the 1790s; setting the tract in dialogue with Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Tom Paine’s Rights of Man (1791–2), John Thelwall’s Rights of Nature (1796), and Wordsworth’s own unpublished Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff (1793). I argue that in Cintra Wordsworth develops the “Gothic” language of reform coming out of Spain for the purposes of domestic reform. I conclude with a discussion of the presence behind Cintra of John Milton; a presence that I suggest places Cintra at the heart of the Recluse project—that “gothic Church,” as Wordsworth called it, of a poetic enterprise.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGothic Romanticism
Subtitle of host publicationWordsworth, Architecture, Politics, Form
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages53
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Gothic
ISSN (Print)2634-6214
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6222


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