The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who all lived in the Lake District of England, United Kingdom, in the first half of the nineteenth century. As a group, they followed no single "school" of thought or literary practice then known. They were named, only to be uniformly disparaged, by the Edinburgh Review . They are considered part of the Romantic Movement.
The three main figures of what has become known as the Lakes School were William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. They were associated with several other poets and writers, including Dorothy Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, Mary Lamb, Charles Lloyd, Hartley Coleridge, John Wilson, and Thomas De Quincey.
The "Lake Poet School" (or 'Bards of the Lake', or the 'Lake School') was initially a derogatory term ("the School of whining and hypochondriacal poets that haunt the Lakes", according to Francis Jeffrey as reported by Coleridge)that was also a misnomer, as it was neither particularly born out of the Lake District, nor was it a cohesive school of poetry. The principal members of the 'group' were William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Dorothy Wordsworth was an auxiliary member who was unpublished during her lifetime (her journals, letters, and poems were published posthumously), but she provided much of the inspiration for her brother William's work.
There was a certain amount of additional irony involved in the 'School's' perception by readers, who were inspired, upon reading the poetry, to visit the area, thus helping to destroy, in the mind of Wordsworth at least, the very thing that made the Lakes special (although he himself ended up writing one of the best guides to the region). In addition, many of the first and second generation practitioners of Romantic poetry had a complex and not entirely easy relationship with the Lakes (apart from Wordsworth). "For the most part other Romantic poets either struggle with a Lake Poet identity or come to define themselves against what the Lakes seem to offer in poetic terms."
For Wordsworth, who settled at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, with his sister Dorothy after some years of wandering, the Lakes became bound up with his identity as a poet. Born and brought up on the fringes of the Lake District (at Cockermouth and Penrith), Wordsworth came back to the area in December 1799 and settled into a 'poetic retirement' within his 'native mountains.' Although Wordsworth did not 'discover' the Lake District, nor was he the one who popularised it the most, he "was destined to become one of the key attractions to the area, while his particular vision of his native landscape would have an enduring influence upon its future".Not just a 'nature poet', his poetry "is about the organic relationship between human beings and the natural world...' After a brief flirtation with the Picturesque in his Cambridge years, he came to see this aesthetic view of nature as being only one of many (although it is arguable that he "was under the sway of Picturesque theory", he frequently transcended it). His 'vision' of nature was one that did not distort it in order to make art.
Wordsworth's early radical political ideas led him to his second poetic innovation: the use of 'plain language' and having for his subject the 'common man', as represented by the Dales-folk, (rather than "kings and queens, lords and ladies or gods and goddesses" as was the case up to then). : his poem The Prelude , he wrote to Dorothy, was "the poem on the growth of my own mind."His third innovation was to do with the inward-turning of his mind, producing a semi-autobiographical take on nature and imagination
Despite this reclusive side of his personality, Wordsworth was a strong believer in family and community, and he was much concerned with the effects on (especially poor) people's way of life of social change (for example, due to the enclosure movement) that were taking place. He disliked change that flew in the face of Nature: the planting of regimented lines of Larches; the coming of the railways; new building that did not chime with the vernacular; and the building of grand houses in the Lakes by the industrialists of Lancashire particularly upset him. In 1810 he published his Guide to the Lakes , tellingly subtitled "for the Use of Tourists and Residents" , and with a Section Three entitled "Changes, and Rules of Taste for Preventing their Bad Effects."Nicholson argues that the Guide was the outcome of the loss of Wordsworth's poetic vision of nature and a turning outwards into hard facts in order to preserve his sanity after "years, perhaps, of disillusion, disappointment, of spiritual impotence..." Another aspect of it was the link to the ideas of Uvedale Price, whom Wordsworth knew and who proposed a "conservative, historicising and non-interventionist aesthetic". The Guide ran to five editions during Wordsworth's lifetime and proved to be very popular. Indeed, it has been said that "the architectural axioms of building and gardening in the Lake District for the next hundred years were established by the Guide".
For other writers, the region's pull was more uncertain. Coleridge followed Wordsworth to the Lakes and moved into Greta Hall in 1800. Although identified by his contemporaries as a 'Lake Poet', Coleridge's response to the landscape was at variance with the vision of Wordsworth, leading Coleridge to identify the landscape's "Gothic elements"..."and in so doing seems to recognise a potential for psychological horror rather than solace."Wordsworth's rejection of the poem Christabel, partly written at Greta Hall, for the Lyrical Ballads collection, added to Coleridge's depression over his personal life, his doubts about being able to write as he would have wished and his ill-health which was made worse by the Cumbrian climate. This led him to resort to the Kendal Black Drop, making matters desperate. Coleridge moved out of the area in 1804.
Robert Southey, it has been argued, although becoming identified as the central 'Lake Poet' (he lived at Greta Hall from 1803 to 1843), was mostly a prose writer and did not particularly subscribe to the Wordsworthian vision of the Lakes.Southey, like Wordsworth, started out on the republican left, but, by the time the threat from Napoleon had dwindled, he had become the embodiment of a Tory extolling the virtues of nation and patriotism, and using the Lakes as a touchstone, and as "the symbol of the nation's covenant with God."
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Letitia Elizabeth Landon's sketch, Grasmere Lake, A Sketch by a Cockney, in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1834, is a spoof on the Lake Poets, whom she admired (especially Wordsworth) but regarded as outmoded. In her view the days of Romanticism were over.
The second generation of Romantic poets were drawn to the area by the Romantic vision of seclusion and by the perceived republican views of the older poets, but found a different reality when they arrived. Shelley lived for three months in 1811 at Keswick, having been drawn to the Lakes by reading the early, "liberty and equality" Southey, only to find that Southey's views had changed and that the Lakes had been despoiled by "the manufacturers."
Keats, in the Summer of 1818, had a similar response to that of Shelley, finding his hero's house full of fashionable people and Wordsworth himself away canvassing for the local Tory candidate. Keats moved on to Scotland which provided him with the inspiration he sought (and where, in particular, he felt the influence of Robert Burns).
Byron did not visit the Lakes, but he ridiculed the isolation and narrowness of mind of the older Lake Poets, as well as of their abandonment of radical politics.
The hale and hearty John Wilson provided an alternative take on the role of Lake Poet. He lived near Windermere between 1808 and 1815 and knew the older Lake Poet trio well. His poetry (Isle of Palms) reveals a physical response to the Lakes scenery (he was an energetic walker and climber), and emphasises companionship and energy as against Wordsworthian quiet and solitude.
Wilson knew both Harriet Martineau and Thomas De Quincey. Martineau settled in a house she had built near Ambleside in 1845. As befitted her sociology-based background, her views concentrated on the need for the Lakes to be connected more with the outside world (for example, she was in favour of improved sanitation and of the new railways being set up through the district, unlike her friend Wordsworth). Her guide to the Lakes (Complete guide to the Lakes, 1855) was a rather factual and clear-eyed description about what to find there and about the condition of the people.
De Quincey moved into Dove Cottage in 1809 after having met his hero Wordsworth a couple of times before at Allan Bank, where the Wordsworths lived during 1808-1811, and then at Rydal Mount ( Recollections of the Lake Poets , edited essays, 1834-1840). His worship of Wordsworth turned sour after De Quincey married a local girl and the Wordsworths refused to meet her. Instead, according to Nicholson, he turned more to the local dalesfolk and "he got to know the dalesmen as people, as persons, better than ever Wordsworth did."He reversed the practice of the Picturesque - instead of using the imagination to transform (and distort) the real, external world, he used the external world of the Lakes to feed his dreams and imagination.
The beauty of the Lake District has also inspired many other writers over the years, beyond the core Lake Poets. These include their contemporaries Bryan Procter, Felicia Hemans, and Walter Scott, as well as the labouring-class and slightly later John Close, who catered particularly to the growing tourist trade. Other poets include James Payn, Margaret Cropper, and Norman Nicholson.
John Ruskin settled in the house Brantwood, overlooking Coniston Water, in 1871, aged 48, having visited the Lakes many times previously. Worn out in body and mind, he was looking for a restful escape, and it was this "weariness and despair that caught the sympathy of the Lake visitors. They, too, turned to the Lakes for comfort and rest," rather than for the "stimulus and excitement that had been the joy of the early travellers.".Ruskin, although he wrote little about the area, ended up taking on the mantle of Wordsworth as the "new Sage of the Lakes, the Picturesque Figure, the Old Man of Coniston." Nicholson saw him as the "Picturesque Figure" "for in him are combined its three main phases - the aesthetic, the scientific and the moral...". His scientific approach to the rocks and water of the Lakes, Nicholson argues, was an attempt, not to understand his subject, but to teach people how to react to it in a "practical and moral" way.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He also shared volumes and collaborated with Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, and Charles Lloyd. He wrote the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as the major prose work Biographia Literaria. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture. Coleridge coined many familiar words and phrases, including suspension of disbelief. He had a major influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson and on American transcendentalism.
William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798).
Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the Lake Poets along with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and England's Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 until his death in 1843. Although his fame has been eclipsed by that of Wordsworth and Coleridge, his verse still enjoys some popularity. The English word "zombie", from the Haitian French "zombi", is purported to have first been recorded by Southey in his 1819 essay History of Brazil.
Thomas Penson De Quincey was an English essayist, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821). Many scholars suggest that in publishing this work De Quincey inaugurated the tradition of addiction literature in the West.
Dorothy Mae Ann Wordsworth was an English author, poet, and diarist. She was the sister of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and the two were close all their adult lives. Wordsworth had no ambitions to be a public author, yet she left behind numerous letters, diary entries, topographical descriptions, poems, and other writings.
Dove Cottage is a house on the edge of Grasmere in the Lake District of England. It is best known as the home of the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth from December 1799 to May 1808, where they spent over eight years of "plain living, but high thinking". During this period, William wrote much of the poetry for which he is remembered today, including his "Ode: Intimations of Immortality", "Ode to Duty", "My Heart Leaps Up" and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", together with parts of his autobiographical epic, The Prelude.
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" is a poem by William Wordsworth, completed in 1804 and published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). The poem was completed in two parts, with the first four stanzas written among a series of poems composed in 1802 about childhood. The first part of the poem was completed on 27 March 1802 and a copy was provided to Wordsworth's friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who responded with his own poem, "Dejection: An Ode", in April. The fourth stanza of the ode ends with a question, and Wordsworth was finally able to answer it with seven additional stanzas completed in early 1804. It was first printed as "Ode" in 1807, and it was not until 1815 that it was edited and reworked to the version that is currently known, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality".
"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" is a three-stanza poem written by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in 1798 when he was 28 years old. The verse was first printed in Lyrical Ballads, 1800, a volume of Wordsworth's and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poems that marked a climacteric in the English Romantic movement. The poem is the best known of Wordsworth's series of five works which comprise his "Lucy" series, and was a favorite amongst early readers. It was composed both as a meditation on his own feelings of loneliness and loss, and as an ode to the beauty and dignity of an idealized woman who lived unnoticed by all others except by the poet himself. The title line implies Lucy lived unknown and remote, both physically and intellectually. The poet's subject's isolated sensitivity expresses a characteristic aspect of Romantic expectations of the human, and especially of the poet's, condition.
Charles Lloyd II, poet, was a friend of Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth and Thomas de Quincey. His best-known poem is "Desultory Thoughts in London".
Dorothy "Dora" Wordsworth was the daughter of William Wordsworth (1770–1850). Her infancy inspired Wordsworth to write "Address to My Infant Daughter" in her honour. As an adult, she is further immortalised by him in the 1828 poem "The Triad", along with Edith Southey and Sara Coleridge, daughters of her father's fellow Lake Poets. In 1843, at the age of 39, Dora Wordsworth married Edward Quillinan against her father's wishes. Throughout her life, she formed intense romantic attachments to both genders, the most significant being her friendship with Maria Jane Jewsbury. Another close friend was Maria Kinnaird, adoptive daughter of Richard "Conversation" Sharp and the future wife of Thomas Drummond. Dora and Maria were friends from their teenage years and some of their correspondence has survived
Recollections of the Lake Poets is a collection of biographical essays written by the English author Thomas De Quincey. In these essays, originally published in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine between 1834 and 1840, De Quincey provided some of the earliest, best informed, and most candid accounts of the Lake Poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey, and others in their circle. Together, the essays "form one of the most entertaining of Lakeland books."
William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their 1798 joint publication, Lyrical Ballads. His early years were dominated by his experience of the countryside around the Lake District and the English moors. Dorothy Wordsworth, his sister, served as his early companion until their mother's death and their separation when he was sent to school.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772. The youngest of 14 children, he was educated after his father's death and excelled in classics. He attended Christ's Hospital and Jesus College. While attending college, he befriended two other Romanticists, Charles Lamb and Robert Southey, the latter causing him to eventually drop out of college and pursue both poetic and political ambitions.
Lines Written at Shurton Bars was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795. The poem incorporates a reflection on Coleridge's engagement and his understanding of marriage. It also compares nature to an ideal understanding of reality and discusses isolation from others.
The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in April 1798. Originally included in the joint collection of poems called Lyrical Ballads, the poem disputes the traditional idea that nightingales are connected to the idea of melancholy. Instead, the nightingale represents to Coleridge the experience of nature. Midway through the poem, the narrator stops discussing the nightingale in order to describe a mysterious female and a gothic scene. After the narrator is returned to his original train of thought by the nightingale's song, the narrator recalls a moment when he took his crying son out to see the moon, which immediately filled the child with joy. Critics have found the poem either decent with little complaint or as one of his better poems containing beautiful lines.
"Dejection: An Ode" is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1802. The poem in its original form was written to Sara Hutchinson, a woman who was not his wife, and discusses his feelings of love for her. The various versions of the poem describe Coleridge's inability to write poetry and living in a state of paralysis, but published editions remove his personal feelings and mention of Hutchinson.
Guide to the Lakes, more fully A Guide through the District of the Lakes, William Wordsworth's travellers' guidebook to England's Lake District, has been studied by scholars both for its relationship to his Romantic poetry and as an early influence on 19th-century geography. Originally written because Wordsworth needed money, the first version was published in 1810 as anonymous text in a collection of engravings. The work is now best known from its expanded and updated 1835 fifth edition.
Greta Hall is a house in Keswick in the Lake District of England. It is best known as the home of the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey.
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Scholars regard the publishing of William Wordsworth's and Samuel Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as probably the beginning of the movement, and the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 as its end. Romanticism arrived in other parts of the English-speaking world later; in America, it arrived around 1820.
Thomas Poole was a Somerset tanner, Radical philanthropist, and essayist, who used his wealth to improve the lives of the poor of Nether Stowey, his native village. He was a friend of several writers in the British Romantic movement, a benefactor of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family, and an influence on the poems of Wordsworth.