Sad relicks and apt admonishments: Wordsworth's depiction of the poor in his work dating from the 1790s to 1807.
The aim of this thesis is to show, by means of a chronological study of poverty as treated in the poetry dating from the early 1790's to 1807, that Wordsworth's treatment of this topic was both highly politicized and unusually probing. To look at his treatment of poverty is also to gain some understanding of his changing political and social views over these years. He began writing about poverty and the poor in a period in which picturesque and/or sentimental ways of viewing poverty alternated with moralisitically judgmental ways. His approach and attitudes are soon seen to be different. After a period of fervent protest at the very existence of poverty, he proceeds to probe the more hidden costs, to the indigent, of poverty, an approach which is less overtly polemical. This study seeks to demonstrate that this stage is no less committed, and, indeed, comprises an insightful analysis of the social and psychological damage consequent on poverty, damage now widely recognised as one of the major costs of poverty both to the individual and to the state. Furthermore, Wordsworth becomes concerned with the alienation both from the self and from the other consequent on poverty. It is this that he recognises as a major, yet rarely acknowledged, component of poverty. He recognises too, his increasing inability to understand the impoverished other. Conscious of the divide that separates the privileged from the indigent, he can only wonder at, and acknowedge, the powers of endurance of which some seem capable. From such examples he, in his precarious vocation of poet, can learn much. Such admiration of the reolution and independence apparent in some of the indigent leads him to espouse values and judgments which tend to differentiate clearly between the deserving and the undeserving poor. Although such attitudes become increasingly prevalent in Wordsworth after 1807, the work of the preceding years remains a rare, forceful and multi-dimensional cry of protest against poverty.