Wordsworth’s Early History: “Michael” and The Recluse

Tom Duggett*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


This chapter goes back to “Michael, A Pastoral Poem” (1800), reading it as a “Gothic” history in the specific Wordsworthian sense developed in this book. Wordsworth speaks of the poem as a “history / Homely and rude” of family breakdown and generational crisis, and I argue that its historical character consists in the “Gothic” obliqueness with which it registers not only a loss of tradition but also the arrival of the so-called new time—that is, consciousness of an accelerating self-made history. Further relating the poem to the personal and artistic context of a gradually “materializing” Gothic “Plan” (Coleridge’s phrase), from Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude (1805) to The Excursion (1814) and The White Doe of Rylstone (1815), I argue for “Michael” as a key text in Wordsworth’s long turn from an initial “revolutionary architecture” of the Gothic to an influential ethos of “self-evolving” “insularity.” The chapter concludes with a discussion of “global” presences in the “national theodicy” of The Prelude. Preserving and erasing lines on China after the loss of his brother John to the Canton trade, Wordsworth replays the historical drama of “Michael” in personal and global form.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGothic Romanticism
Subtitle of host publicationWordsworth, Architecture, Politics, Form
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

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


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