Wordsworth: How to Know Him, a biography published in 1916, shows that lovers of literature wanted to relate to the great writer on a personal level long after his death.
Though intellectuals were beginning to resist it, biographical reading of literature was popular at the time of World War I when this book was published. Rather than merely rehearse landmark events and works, English professor Caleb Thomas (C. T.) Winchester aimed in this biography to look at the inner Wordsworth. With chapters such as “Characteristic Merits,” “His Philosophy of Life,” and even “Limitations and Defects,” Winchester’s biography focused on aspects of the poet that made him more accessible and relatable as a person.
The portrait and poem displayed here, found at the start of the book, introduce the focus of this biography with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lines: “No portrait this, with Academic air! / This is the poet and his poetry.”
Contributed by Noelle Conder