Wordsworth’s Pastoral Poems, 1858

Wordsworth’s poems were rarely illustrated in his lifetime, but this edition, published eight years after his death, includes engravings by popular English artists that are representative of many others published with his works in the later nineteenth century. Technological advances of the time allowed these kinds of illustrations to be distributed widely by publishers in England and America, broadly affecting the way readers visualized and interpreted Wordsworth’s pastoral poems. Idyllic images of nature, as seen here alongside the opening lines of “Michael,” contrast with words telling of the losses real pastoral communities experienced.


Illustrated editions also reinforced the association of Wordsworth’s poetry with the geography of the Lake District. Notice the picture of Wordsworth’s longtime home, Rydal Mount, on the cover page. The “Michael” illustration depicts the terrain of Greenhead Ghyll, not far from Grasmere.

Contributed by Abigail Clayton