“The Youth . . . still is Nature’s priest”: Wordsworth and the Child of Nature
William Wordsworth, English Poet Laureate from 1843 to 1850, is often credited with discovering the Romantic child. In presenting this figure in his poetry, Wordsworth created a cult of childhood during the Romantic era, which continued well into the Victorian period and beyond. Wordsworth’s conception of childhood is often thought to be ahistorical and apolitical, especially in contrast with William Blake's deeply contextualized presentation of children in his poetry. The Wordsworthian child most often acts as a child of nature. For Wordsworth, Nature is both the best parent and the best possible teacher for a child. Wordsworth's autobiographical Prelude, inspired by Rousseau's Emile, focuses on the development of the poet largely through his interaction with Nature beginning in childhood. There is little need for a human instructor when a child can go out into Nature and be taught by imagination and experience.
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