The Crimson Bookshelf

"WORDSWORTH'S ANTI-CLIMAX," by Willard Sperry. Harvard University Press. $2.50.

A study of Wordsworth's poetic decline such as Dean Sperry's has long been needed, for nearly every other previous critic has been the "man of a thesis," as the French say; that is, with Professor Herbert Reed, for example, Annette Vallon was the all-sufficient reason while others have averred that it was Wordsworth's adoption of Tory principles after his disgust with the French Revolution due to the invasion of Switzerland. "The Ecclesiastical Sonnets" are indeed sorry stuff after the "Tintern Abbey," the "Prelude" and the "Ode on Intimations of Immortality." "In fact," as a CRIMSON editor of yore once wrote, "most of Wordsworth's later poems written while he was a stamp-distributor or laureate have to be taken by us moderns with a bromo-seltzer!" This is a just criticism though it be advanced somewhat too vigorously.

Dean Sperry reviews all the other opinions of Wordsworth's dismal anti-climax, giving in every case the devil his due and showing what facts each ignores. His own belief is, that Wordsworth in embracing the sensationalist psychology from Hartly, out of Locke and Hume, was pursuing a course detrimental to the continuation and enhancement of his poetic powers and the Dean gives his reasons lucidly and even persuasively.