Gilbert and Wordsworth
Wordsworth acknowledged Gilbert’s ‘admirable’ prose ‘description of the Calenture’ – a delirium affecting seafarers – as a source for a passage in ‘The Brothers’. Wordsworth’s fascination with extreme psychological states incurred on long sea voyages was the seed idea behind ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, which was to have been his joint project with Coleridge. Wordsworth’s aesthetic goal was to find ‘the genuine language of passion’, a language freed from the conventions of polite literature. Although the rapture of Gilbert’s voice had that quality of freedom from convention,for Wordsworth it ran too close to madness.In Wordsworth’s most successful adoption of Gilbert’s prose, the quest for ‘Primeval Nature’s Child’ (Excursion, III: 928) in the American wilderness, Wordsworth’s character, the Solitary, finds only savagery and degeneration.
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