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The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels

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It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and ‘Kubla Khan’, as well as Coleridge’s unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth’s revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of ‘Tintern Abbey’, his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding.  Bestselling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolso It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and ‘Kubla Khan’, as well as Coleridge’s unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth’s revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of ‘Tintern Abbey’, his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding.  Bestselling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and an ever-shifting cast of friends, dependants and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. To a degree never shown before, The Making of Poetry explores the idea that these poems came from this place, and that only by experiencing the physical circumstances of the year, in all weathers and all seasons, at night and at dawn, in sunlit reverie and moonlit walks, can the genesis of the poetry start to be understood.   What emerges is a portrait of these great figures as young people, troubled, ambitious, dreaming of a vision of wholeness, knowing they had greatness in them but still in urgent search of the paths towards it.  The poetry they made was not from settled conclusions but from the adventure on which they were all embarked, seeing what they wrote as a way of stripping away all the dead matter, exfoliating consciousness, penetrating its depths. Poetry for them was not an ornament for civilisation but a challenge to it, a means of remaking the world.


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It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and ‘Kubla Khan’, as well as Coleridge’s unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth’s revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of ‘Tintern Abbey’, his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding.  Bestselling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolso It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and ‘Kubla Khan’, as well as Coleridge’s unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth’s revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of ‘Tintern Abbey’, his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding.  Bestselling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and an ever-shifting cast of friends, dependants and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. To a degree never shown before, The Making of Poetry explores the idea that these poems came from this place, and that only by experiencing the physical circumstances of the year, in all weathers and all seasons, at night and at dawn, in sunlit reverie and moonlit walks, can the genesis of the poetry start to be understood.   What emerges is a portrait of these great figures as young people, troubled, ambitious, dreaming of a vision of wholeness, knowing they had greatness in them but still in urgent search of the paths towards it.  The poetry they made was not from settled conclusions but from the adventure on which they were all embarked, seeing what they wrote as a way of stripping away all the dead matter, exfoliating consciousness, penetrating its depths. Poetry for them was not an ornament for civilisation but a challenge to it, a means of remaking the world.

30 review for The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rodney Jones

    I have always sensed that because of the intensity of the psychological relationship between Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy on the one hand, and Coleridge on the other, that it is difficult to avoid taking a side. Unashamedly I am a Wordsworthian, and while appreciating Coleridge's occasional flashes of pure genius, my instinct has always been to see him (or, more accurately, his behaviour) as detrimental to Wordsworth. Accordingly, when I encounter a book such as 'The Making of Poetry", in w I have always sensed that because of the intensity of the psychological relationship between Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy on the one hand, and Coleridge on the other, that it is difficult to avoid taking a side. Unashamedly I am a Wordsworthian, and while appreciating Coleridge's occasional flashes of pure genius, my instinct has always been to see him (or, more accurately, his behaviour) as detrimental to Wordsworth. Accordingly, when I encounter a book such as 'The Making of Poetry", in which Nicolson tries to treat both men equally and fair-handedly, my instinct is that I am not going to agree and I must consciously maintain an open-mind. The book deals exclusively with the Somerset years of 1797/98 which concluded with the publication of Lyrical Ballads. Several excellent books have covered this period in detail and so, while one anticipates some newly discovered gems of information, experience suggests that is unlikely. In fact this book's approach is novel - not only did Nicolson spend a year in the same immediate area of Nether Stowey/ Alfoxton, regularly re-walking the routes revealed in Dorothy's journals and embracing the atmosphere of the Quantock hills, little changed in the past 200 years, but he also includes extracts from the journal of a local clergyman who was recording daily life in this poor, rural area while Wordsworth and Coleridge were walking the hills and writing the poetry. This approach had merits and defects. The merit was the juxtapositioning of Nicolson's year with that of the poets. He shared both the summer sunshine and the frosts and snows of winter with the poets. The defect is an aspect of the merit. Nicolson's account paralleled Dorothy Wordsworth's style, often revealing at some considerable length (or so it seems to the reader) the minutiae of botanic and meteorological observation - which is fine if you are reading Dorthy's journal, but can become distracting when you want to get on with what the three were actually doing at that time. That said, Nicolson again displays his remarkable gift for clear and lucid writing. One interesting observation that Nicolson makes, is to detect very early signs of the relationship break-down which would fully manifest itself ten years later. In hindsight, of course, we can see that two such very different men, with very different characters, were unlikely to contain an emotional explosion indefinitely. Wordsworth's was a conservative character - his drift more and more to the dutiful and conventional (political and religious) was already underway at Alfoxton. Coleridge was already becoming addicted to the Brandy and Opium compounds that would eventually all but destroy him. I have always felt that the pair were the perfect example of genius and brilliance. There can be no denying Coleridge's rich store of book-infused knowledge, his spell-binding fashion of expatiating that knowledge, and his brilliant mental skills in manipulating it. But the more reticent, taciturn Wordsworth, willing to listen but when forced to converse would be dogmatic and didactic, was simply a poetic genius, a genius which no amount of words can encapsulate. Nicolson does us a service in tracking so carefully the first signs of this divergence and breakdown. My initial concerns with the book were unfounded and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in poetry and of the events that led to the publication of 'Lyrical ballads'.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    3.5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim Atkinson

    The latest offering from Nicolson is an interesting specimen:: a immersion into the landscape that surrounded an epoch-making year in the life of two of the greatest poets in the English language. One year, one place: it's a very concentrated examination of themes that seem to demand a wider canvass, like a watercolour miniature of a subject that demands a wide, heroic panorama. As usual, the writing is good and the research meticulous. The latest offering from Nicolson is an interesting specimen:: a immersion into the landscape that surrounded an epoch-making year in the life of two of the greatest poets in the English language. One year, one place: it's a very concentrated examination of themes that seem to demand a wider canvass, like a watercolour miniature of a subject that demands a wide, heroic panorama. As usual, the writing is good and the research meticulous.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jee Koh

    A gem of a book, most valuable for the close tracking of the intertwined lives, loves, and writings of Coleridge and the Wordsworths. It quite corrected my mistake that Coleridge learned interfusion from Wordsworth, when the truth was the other way. Nicolson makes his partisanship on behalf of Coleridge clear throughout, a note of ill balance that I must admit rubs me up the wrong way, being a Wordsworthian. Some of the nature writing shows a tinge of purple, but hat off to a man who immersed hi A gem of a book, most valuable for the close tracking of the intertwined lives, loves, and writings of Coleridge and the Wordsworths. It quite corrected my mistake that Coleridge learned interfusion from Wordsworth, when the truth was the other way. Nicolson makes his partisanship on behalf of Coleridge clear throughout, a note of ill balance that I must admit rubs me up the wrong way, being a Wordsworthian. Some of the nature writing shows a tinge of purple, but hat off to a man who immersed himself so thoroughly in the life of nature and poetry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason Wilson

    A sparkling account of a year of collaboration between Wordsworth and Coleridge. Coleridge arrives full of admiration for Will W, and the collaboration on lyrical ballads is the result. There is good stuff on their political radicalism - the neighbours whispered behind their shutters that they were, shudder, democrats. Their dismay at grinding poverty is thrown into sobering relief by the author’s reflection that it partly remains. Their philosophical work on personal relationships foreshadows e A sparkling account of a year of collaboration between Wordsworth and Coleridge. Coleridge arrives full of admiration for Will W, and the collaboration on lyrical ballads is the result. There is good stuff on their political radicalism - the neighbours whispered behind their shutters that they were, shudder, democrats. Their dismay at grinding poverty is thrown into sobering relief by the author’s reflection that it partly remains. Their philosophical work on personal relationships foreshadows existentialism and the book is good on their differing relationships with nature : Wordsworth the semi pantheistic , and Coleridge for whom it’s all in subjective perception. The paradox of love of humanity yet prickly responses to individuals would bedevil later romantics and many radicals too. In the end Wordsworth soured things by threatening to swallow , metaphorically, both Coleridge and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth, herself no mean writer and thinker, while Coleridge had a troubled marriage due to his clinging to a threesome with the two Wordsworth’s. One edition of lyrical ballads passed off Coleridge’s offerings as Wordsworth’s despite their different qualities : the Wordsworthian Prelude is epic but ponderous as a reflection on shaping by childhood and memory that foreshadows Proust, and the daffodils is well known. But for me it’s Coleridge who wins : The Ancient Mariner and the vampiric Christabel are glorious philosophical gothic, Kublai Khan is nicely mystical and Frost at Midnight a beautiful evocation of new fatherhood. Coleridge the humble Christian resented W’s mixed spiritual views. The book is a pleasure though the endless descriptions of nature that interrupt discussions of the poets get in the way a bit - sorry, but ferns just don’t excite me. Great stuff though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Husband

    A fascinating portrait of three figures (Coleridge, Dorothy & William Wordsworth) in the landscape of the Quantocks during a pivotal year. It is meticulously researched, with the author supplementing the extracts of poetry, diaries, letters & political context with his immersive experience of living in the landscape that inspired them. The brilliance of this book is Nicholson’s ability to render his insightful analysis into fine prose, e.g. on Wordsworth’s description of poetry as ‘the first and A fascinating portrait of three figures (Coleridge, Dorothy & William Wordsworth) in the landscape of the Quantocks during a pivotal year. It is meticulously researched, with the author supplementing the extracts of poetry, diaries, letters & political context with his immersive experience of living in the landscape that inspired them. The brilliance of this book is Nicholson’s ability to render his insightful analysis into fine prose, e.g. on Wordsworth’s description of poetry as ‘the first and last of all knowledge’ Nicholson deconstructs this as: ‘Its spirit and goal is to exfoliate consciousness, to rescue understanding from the noise and entropy of habit, to find richness and beauty in the hidden or neglected actualities.’ The artist Tom Hammick should also be acknowledged as his woodcuts complement the text and turn the hardback book into a beautiful object.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    The year the Lyrical Ballads were written in the late 1790s by Coleridge and Wordsworth, was a year spent in the Quantocks. The author retraces their steps, studies their diaries and notebooks, poetry and journeys and weaves the tale. But in the background is the French Revolution , unrest and eventually divergent paths for the two poets. Very enjoyable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Keith Taylor

    Another close look at that summer to summer year, 1797 to 1798, where Coleridge and the Wordsworths lived close together in Somerset, the Quantocks, walking together, talking over a whole new approach to poetry (what we have come to call English Romanticism), and writing the poems that would come to be "Lyrical Ballads," the most influential book of English poetry ever written. Nicolson's arguments and discussions are not particularly new, but they are detailed and a worthy addition to the conve Another close look at that summer to summer year, 1797 to 1798, where Coleridge and the Wordsworths lived close together in Somerset, the Quantocks, walking together, talking over a whole new approach to poetry (what we have come to call English Romanticism), and writing the poems that would come to be "Lyrical Ballads," the most influential book of English poetry ever written. Nicolson's arguments and discussions are not particularly new, but they are detailed and a worthy addition to the conversation. There are some wonderful readings of poems, particularly of Coleridge's, that have helped me see things more clearly. Nicolson went to the place and lived there for a year, experiencing the kinds of weather that shaped the poems, walking the paths the poets walked. He is a good observer of the natural world (I stumbled across his book on seabirds last year and liked it very much), but every so often his prose does get a bit heavy-handed. I found myself wishing for some Wordsworthian directness from time to time, but it was eventually forgivable because of the strengths of this book. Here's a conclusion near the end: "... I wondered how much this year had been a success. Had these two poets altered the way in which we understand nature, each other and ourselves? Had they won? Perhaps they had in relation to our ideas of the self, as something that is bodily as well as mental, and whose health relies on deep connections to the natural world. That may be the greatest legacy of this year of marvels: the dissolution of the boundaries of the self, so that we all now think, to a greater or lesser extent, that a tide floods and ebbs through us, often unnoticed, usually unrecognized, but in constant rhythmic motion, a dynamic psychic geography that makes us who we are." And Nicolson is very good about the differences between Wordsworth and Coleridge. The latter looked closely at the world, but as a way to things beyond the world, to the intrusion of the divine, or the infinite into the ordinary. Wordsworth was happy enough with the ordinary, was convinced that it deserved to be celebrated in and of itself. Here Nicolson begins by quote some lines from Wordsworth's "The Thorn": Not five yards from the mountain-path, This thorn you on your left espy; And to the left, three yards beyond, You see a little muddy pond Of water, never dry; I've measured it from side to side: 'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide And then Nicolson continues, "These were to become his most infamous lines, declaimed by London and Edinburgh wits to general amusement, publicly criticised by Coleridge for their 'laborious minuteness and fidelity to the representation of objects, and their positions,' thought by the diarist Henry Crabb Robinson to be incapable of being repeated 'in company' for fear of laughter, tesitly defended by Wordsworth -- 'they out to be liked' -- and later revised by him to make them seem less crazy." And Nicolson attempts the defense of these lines -- "they are a true description of what you find" there, and he goes two hundred years later just be sure. And then, "the words dare part of the poetic experiment on which Wordsworth was now engaged, purifying his language, making poetry into an aspect of the real, laying the foundations against which all else might also be measured." [And on a decidedly personal note: A reviewer once said of one of my books (I really don't remember which one) that occasionally I allowed myself to slip into mere "reportage." Yes!! I'm deeply under the Wordsworthian influence! Proudly so!]

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve Griffin

    A handsome book covering the 'most famous year in British poetry' - 1798, when Wordsworth and Coleridge spent time in the Quantock Hills in Somerset and wrote some of their most renowned poems including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey. The author Adam Nicolson spent a year in the area and writes evocatively about the landscape and wildlife that inspired them. Beautiful woodcut illustrations help to bring it all to life. Recommended. A handsome book covering the 'most famous year in British poetry' - 1798, when Wordsworth and Coleridge spent time in the Quantock Hills in Somerset and wrote some of their most renowned poems including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey. The author Adam Nicolson spent a year in the area and writes evocatively about the landscape and wildlife that inspired them. Beautiful woodcut illustrations help to bring it all to life. Recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    This ought to have been a really enjoyable and fascinating book. The year that Wordsworth and Coleridge spent in North Somerset writing, conversing, thinking and eventually publishing Lyrical Ballads is the stuff of biographers' dreams. As is the way of things, we only have fragments of what was actually said during that year - Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, scraps of William's poetry drafts, letters and memoires from Hazlitt and Lamb, and Coleridge's much later recollections. We also know that This ought to have been a really enjoyable and fascinating book. The year that Wordsworth and Coleridge spent in North Somerset writing, conversing, thinking and eventually publishing Lyrical Ballads is the stuff of biographers' dreams. As is the way of things, we only have fragments of what was actually said during that year - Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, scraps of William's poetry drafts, letters and memoires from Hazlitt and Lamb, and Coleridge's much later recollections. We also know that the two great poets drifted apart after this year, each pursuing a different poetic and philosophical vision. Piecing together this year will then involve quite considerable speculation and hindsight. Both are employed considerably by Adam Nicolson, and it's no criticism to point this out. At times the later split between the two poets seems to colour every aspect of their writing, and the sceptic in me wonders just how much is being read into a particular turn of phrase or omission. Nicolson's contention that at the heart of their differences lay an understanding of their place in the world - Coleridge part of a great cosmic whole, Wordsworth filling the cosmic whole - seems borne out. The chapters on the great pieces of poetry written during this year - Kubla Khan, Ancient Mariner, Tintern Abbey - are very well done and helpful. I was a little surprised not to see Malcolm Guite's recent book on Coleridge and the Ancient Mariner referred to, but perhaps it was published just too late to be used as a source. The downside the book is the grandiose language and descriptive nature passages that felt like padding and distracted from the main subject. It was difficult not to skim over them. Some passages are simply excessive in their wordiness. Take, for instance, this from p259: Are the stories they tell true, or untrue? Or not untrue? They often seem impossible, but are they not also unimpossible? Do they matter? Are they about anything at all? Are the tellers of the tales trustworthy, or maybe simply not untrustworthy? And so on. Does it make sense, unsense, or simply not unsense? The pictures are quite nice.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    A lush journey through a year in the live's of Coleridge and Wordsworth... and the author who plonked himself in the same geographic location. A little more of the author than interested me. The book is beautiful, and I learned much about the two poets and the era. However I found myself scanning over the author's description of the landscape - I got bored with his style and his imitative use of double hyphenated adjectives. And really I don't particularly care how he thinks it all looks now. I A lush journey through a year in the live's of Coleridge and Wordsworth... and the author who plonked himself in the same geographic location. A little more of the author than interested me. The book is beautiful, and I learned much about the two poets and the era. However I found myself scanning over the author's description of the landscape - I got bored with his style and his imitative use of double hyphenated adjectives. And really I don't particularly care how he thinks it all looks now. I am interested in the recursive relationship between creativity and landscape, but the poets' creativity, not Adam Nicholson's. I choose this book off a list of best books of 2019 so figure my opinion is not on trend!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katedurie50

    Given that the relationship of the two poets (or three, given Dorothy's participation) is well documented, the question is, what does this volume add? There are a whole series of bright woodcuts. But Nicholson's strength lies in his ability to contextualise one remarkable year, weather and season, following the trio cottage by cottage and rooting himself in the same landscapes, tracing their encounters with the poor and dispossessed as well as the authorities who were suspicious of ther radical Given that the relationship of the two poets (or three, given Dorothy's participation) is well documented, the question is, what does this volume add? There are a whole series of bright woodcuts. But Nicholson's strength lies in his ability to contextualise one remarkable year, weather and season, following the trio cottage by cottage and rooting himself in the same landscapes, tracing their encounters with the poor and dispossessed as well as the authorities who were suspicious of ther radical tendencies and thought them French spies. The reward is that the poetry is even richer - and Nicholson has some sharp insights, say, on their relationship to MIlton.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Hall

    Mr. Nicolson's research is five-stars-plus in its thoroughness both among source documents and on-the-ground experience of the geography and weather in the Quantocks. His nature descriptions are sometimes a bit much (though I could not do nearly as well) and the paper cut-out thingies (which also I could not do) just don't work outside an art class. I wish there were period illustrations and perhaps some contemporary drawings, paintings, and photography. But, gosh, what a good and informative rea Mr. Nicolson's research is five-stars-plus in its thoroughness both among source documents and on-the-ground experience of the geography and weather in the Quantocks. His nature descriptions are sometimes a bit much (though I could not do nearly as well) and the paper cut-out thingies (which also I could not do) just don't work outside an art class. I wish there were period illustrations and perhaps some contemporary drawings, paintings, and photography. But, gosh, what a good and informative read!

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Galvani

    Highly trumpeted in reviews, but really for the specialist. The author seemed more interested in the purpleness of his own prose. I read this wanting to learn more about these great poets but felt burdened rather than enlightened by the trudge, it really was a trudge.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    In the year 1797-1798 the Wordsworths and the Coleridges spent a year in villages in the Quantock hills in the English West Country. The two poets had an intensively creative year and produced Lyrical Ballads which set the path for the Romantic poetry in the following century. Adam Nicolson spent a year in the same spots, walking the paths walked by the poets, watching the seasons, the weather, the birds and looking over the landscape which has not changed in the intervening two hundred years. H In the year 1797-1798 the Wordsworths and the Coleridges spent a year in villages in the Quantock hills in the English West Country. The two poets had an intensively creative year and produced Lyrical Ballads which set the path for the Romantic poetry in the following century. Adam Nicolson spent a year in the same spots, walking the paths walked by the poets, watching the seasons, the weather, the birds and looking over the landscape which has not changed in the intervening two hundred years. He read the diary of the Rev William Holland, vicar of Over Stowey which covered the same period. The local inhabitants including the vicar looked on the poets with unchristian suspicion and they were reported to the authorities as being French spies because they walked and explored day and night and asked questions about whether a stream flowed into the sea. The Home Department sent spies to observe them. The book moves easily between what the poets were doing and Nicolson’s own observations of the same place at the same time of the year. He too did over night walks and watched sunsets from places the where Wordsworth and Coleridge stood. Nicolson examines some of the poetry that was written. I loved his insights. There were visitors. Charles Lamb and a young William Hazlitt spend time with them. There were political activists and they all fed off one another’s ideas and creativity. They were young. The poets were in their twenties and Wordsworth wasn’t a political person by nature, nor a religious one. Coleridge was both and a passionate speaker who could hold a whole room in thrall. But for this brief year each was what the other needed and we have The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan and This Lime Tree Bower my Prison and Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey and I am forever grateful for that. I enjoyed this thoroughly. If I have a criticism it is that I would have loved some photos of the places as they are today or even early photos so I can imagine. I don’t live in England and I have never been to this West Country. It is illustrated by modern paintings, excellent in themselves but they don’t speak to me about the text or the period or the poetry. A missed opportunity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    A J HOOPER

    I think I'm on my own here in finding The Making of Poetry disappointing. I was particularly interested to read about this particular year in the lives of the two great poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. It's the year in which the Lyrical Ballads was written which I studied for A level and I was hoping for insight into the psychological background of each man, something that had been completely lacking from the inadequate teaching I first received. Background there is but mainly political, not reall I think I'm on my own here in finding The Making of Poetry disappointing. I was particularly interested to read about this particular year in the lives of the two great poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. It's the year in which the Lyrical Ballads was written which I studied for A level and I was hoping for insight into the psychological background of each man, something that had been completely lacking from the inadequate teaching I first received. Background there is but mainly political, not really emotional. Why did Coleridge choose his bride so dispassionately? Was this what all men of the age did? Or was there something in his mental and emotional make up that said 'avoid entanglement with women and focus on channeling emotion into something safe and distancing, ie poetry'? What was it about Richard and Dorothy Wordsworth that meant they were joined at the hip? Where did that emerge from in their background? Its easy to see that Coleridge and his open encouragement of friendship appealed to many, not least Wordsworth. But it's also predictable that Coleridge's almost manic thought processes would ultimately doom the mens' relationship. It can't have helped that Coleridge would knock off a poem before breakfast while Wordsworth would still be staring at a blank page by suppertime. I can just imagine feelings of inferiority on Wordsworth 's part, quickly overlaid with a certain amount of scorn and suspicion as a defense system. It's this I would definitely like to have read more of. Yes, Nicholson is a very poetic writer himself but there's so much repetition of the joys of nature that it gets in the way of the ultimate aim which is to shine a light on the two great men. I guess I've just read the wrong book. Sorry Adam. Your own poetry is impressive.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    A deep dive into that tangled knot of poetic and emotional bonds between Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dorothy wove between them during that year in the Lakes District. Nicolson knows the history and the landscape very, very well, to the point where he can't resist taking the reader back and forward in time and place to see the changes time hath wrought. I find the story of the Romantic's artistic and geographical adventures quite stimulating enough without Nicolson's perambulations, but for all tha A deep dive into that tangled knot of poetic and emotional bonds between Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dorothy wove between them during that year in the Lakes District. Nicolson knows the history and the landscape very, very well, to the point where he can't resist taking the reader back and forward in time and place to see the changes time hath wrought. I find the story of the Romantic's artistic and geographical adventures quite stimulating enough without Nicolson's perambulations, but for all that he tells the familiar story with so much enthusiasm and expert research that I was caught up as always in reliving that marvelous year.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janet L Boyd

    This really is a remarkable book for anyone interested in the Romantic poets. The author embedded himself for a year in the landscape shared during 1797 by Wordsworth and Coleridge - the Quantocks in southern England - which he argues shaped the poetry they would come to write. My takeaways: Coleridge was a bit of a harmless madman who believed he was connected to everything in the universe, Wordsworth was a curmudgeon who believed he contained everything in the universe, and neither of them gav This really is a remarkable book for anyone interested in the Romantic poets. The author embedded himself for a year in the landscape shared during 1797 by Wordsworth and Coleridge - the Quantocks in southern England - which he argues shaped the poetry they would come to write. My takeaways: Coleridge was a bit of a harmless madman who believed he was connected to everything in the universe, Wordsworth was a curmudgeon who believed he contained everything in the universe, and neither of them gave enough credit to the women who supported them during this time (Sara Coleridge and Dorothy Wordsworth).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    A beautiful book with Tom Hammick’s wonderful woodcuts too, many of which are made with fallen timber from Alfoxden in the Quantocks. I love Nicolson’s approach—going there and considering especially the importance of place to the making of poetry, and I was stunned to learn of the roughly 25 foot fall he took there while exploring. (Now that’s dedication!) It’s an ambitious book and full of insights, many of which are very moving. The writing that stood out to me among the poets was that of Dor A beautiful book with Tom Hammick’s wonderful woodcuts too, many of which are made with fallen timber from Alfoxden in the Quantocks. I love Nicolson’s approach—going there and considering especially the importance of place to the making of poetry, and I was stunned to learn of the roughly 25 foot fall he took there while exploring. (Now that’s dedication!) It’s an ambitious book and full of insights, many of which are very moving. The writing that stood out to me among the poets was that of Dorothy Wordsworth who feels like a real discovery for me! She is in my future!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erica Basnicki

    Great book, but frustratingly abstruse at times (see what I did there?). Not sure whether the author figures himself an 18th century poet, or if there was a reason for it that was lost on me (a very casual Wordsworth/Coleridge reader). Of course, maybe casual readers aren’t the target audience. Having said that, I desperately want to explore the Quantocks now, and retrace some of those walks myself. That is the super power of this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Magnus Svensson Bragsjö

    Fascinating about a year in the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William and Dorothy Wordsworth. A year that would change the way they see the world and nature, as well as the way they write poetry. This is especially true of William Wordsworth who was transformed in this ”year of marvels”. The book is written with real feeling for both the poets and the nature in The Quantocks.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nola

    Finally completed, this was a book that I couldn't read continuously, it is one of those books to read a few pages at a time and let it sink in. It was taking us back to poetry making over a year, 1798 - the author walked the lanes, forests, in the Quantocks that Wordsworth and Coleridge over that time inspired each other and their poetry output as a result. Finally completed, this was a book that I couldn't read continuously, it is one of those books to read a few pages at a time and let it sink in. It was taking us back to poetry making over a year, 1798 - the author walked the lanes, forests, in the Quantocks that Wordsworth and Coleridge over that time inspired each other and their poetry output as a result.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Toye

    I find this interesting in the “poetic” way it is written. I am a great fan of Coleridge and Wordsworth and they begin to come alive in ways. The setting is well evoked. One off putting element is the pictures which I find less than convincing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jef Sneider

    The author tried very hard to write a beautiful book while reliving part of the lives of the poets by visiting the places where they lived and wrote. Unfortunately, I was looking for more poetry and less for the author to show off his chops. I did not finish the book. Very disappointing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Richard Smith

    My blog on a mafrvellous book plus lots of quotes: https://richardswsmith.wordpress.com/... My blog on a mafrvellous book plus lots of quotes: https://richardswsmith.wordpress.com/...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim O'mahony

    Enthralling and beautifully-written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rupert Symons

    Beautiful piece of writing which brings to life the first English romantic poets. Now I want to visit Somerset and read it again.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I found the style of writing too dull to pursue. I'll have to find a different way to explore Wordsworth and Coleridge: reading them, I suspect... I found the style of writing too dull to pursue. I'll have to find a different way to explore Wordsworth and Coleridge: reading them, I suspect...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    My wife and I walked the Coleridge Way last year. A friend kindly loaned me his copy of the book suggesting it might be of interest as its contents included descriptions of the area as well as an historical account of the poet's life there. The account was informative describing how Coleridge and Wordsworth ended up living close to each other, meeting up frequently to participate in walks together with friends and family. Their discussions covered many topics including politics, natural history a My wife and I walked the Coleridge Way last year. A friend kindly loaned me his copy of the book suggesting it might be of interest as its contents included descriptions of the area as well as an historical account of the poet's life there. The account was informative describing how Coleridge and Wordsworth ended up living close to each other, meeting up frequently to participate in walks together with friends and family. Their discussions covered many topics including politics, natural history and poetry. They were perceived radical in their views, sympathising with the philosophy of those involved in the French Revolution and supporting the 'common man' in their writings. Their characters proved to be very different and over the course of the year their friendship became increasingly strained. Nevertheless they were both very productive in their poetry writing. It was during this period that Coleridge wrote 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', perhaps his best known work, as well as 'Kubla Khan'. Both influenced each others works. There was much then of interest in the book. As well as a historical account of the year they were together, the author spent time walking the same countryside that the poets had walked some two centuries earlier. He used his observations to analyse how the Somerset countryside also pervaded their poetry. Whilst this aspect of the book was interesting there were several times where I found it difficult to follow the author's account and to understand his thought processes. His descriptions became 'lyrical' and confusing even after careful rereading. Similarly some of his explanations of influences to be found in the poets writings I found challenging to grasp. Unfortunately it was this inability to follow passages of the book that, for me, meant it not as enjoyable as it might have been otherwise. Maybe not then a book for the general reader but for someone with a specific interest in poetry and/or the subject matter.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    I have long loved the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth, so I couldn't help but read this book. I did find it fascinating, and it helped me to see each poet, and their poems, in a new light. It gave me a new understanding of the impact of the age in which they lived, the people they came across in their everyday lives, as well as their own personal circumstances and the landscape that surrounded them. The woodcuts and paintings by Tom Hammick complemented the book beautifully, making it a joy to I have long loved the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth, so I couldn't help but read this book. I did find it fascinating, and it helped me to see each poet, and their poems, in a new light. It gave me a new understanding of the impact of the age in which they lived, the people they came across in their everyday lives, as well as their own personal circumstances and the landscape that surrounded them. The woodcuts and paintings by Tom Hammick complemented the book beautifully, making it a joy to read.

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