Wordsworth's Picturesque Theory

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Wordsworth’s approach of the theories of the Picturesque is paradoxical: if in some texts he is criticising them, in others he openly uses them. In the Preface he never actually employs the term ‘Picturesque’, but the effects of the “tendency of life and manners” to which “literature and theatrical exhibitions […] have conformed themselves” driving the works of Shakespeare and Milton “into neglect” (Wordsworth Pref. 5), can be compared to the effects of “false theories” – namely the Picturesque – on the perception of nature: “If our minds be not perverted by false theories, unless those mountains be seen under some accidents of nature, we shall receive from them a grand impression, and nothing more” (Wordsworth, App. 351). The search for “accidents…show more content…
Using the term ‘Utopia’ to speak about Wordsworth’s idealism, Wiley says that “only through displacement can utopia project the structures of the actual world elsewhere and reconstruct them in an alternative and preferable form” (Wiley 6). This is precisely what Wordsworth does by literally moving to the Lake District. The “wild secluded scene [which] impress / Thoughts of more deep seclusion” (Wordsworth LB 87.6-7) in Tintern Abbey, materialises in the vale of Grasmere: far from the turmoil of the cities, there he finds a “territorial sanctuar[y]” (Kroeber 116) in which he can reconstruct his visions of an ideal world. His poem Home at Grasmere, depicts the moment he and his sister Dorothy arrive in the vale to settle and it feels like a relief. The nature they had to cross during their journey to the vale is unwelcoming, the wind is “frosty” and “the naked trees” and “the icy brook” seem threatening: “Whence come ye, to what end? […] Wild Wanderers, whither through my dark domain?” (Wordsworth Home 158-69). But, as they arrive in the vale, “the sunbeam [greets them with a] ‘Be happy’” and the “bright and solemn sky [faces them] with a passionate welcoming” (Wordsworth Home 171-2). At last, Wordsworth leaves “the realities of life so cold [in the] past” (Wordsworth Home 65-70) and surrenders to total physical seclusion as he declares: “Embrace me then, ye Hills, and close me in; / Now in the clear and open day I feel / Your guardianship; I take it to my heart” (Wordsworth Home 110-12). Kroeber argues
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