Wordsworth in the Tropics of Cumbria
In ‘Wordsworth in the Tropics’ Aldous Huxley provides a representative and still covertly influential appraisal of the ‘Nature’ of Lakeland and its poets: ‘Nature […] is not at all like […] the cozy sublimities of the Lake District.’ Huxley’s statement presages and codifies a critical disposition to suspect Wordsworth’s nature as fake, or, in Marjorie Levinson’s words, an ‘attempt to green an actualized political prospect and to hypostatize the resultant fiction’. Such an account ignores the stark and often strange materiality of Wordsworth’s nature, peculiarly evident in moments of accident and exposure recurrent in early works like Salisbury Plain, ‘The Ruined Cottage’ and The Borderers. With reference to these texts and contemporary reports from the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, this chapter will expose the critical commonplace of Wordsworthian ‘Nature’ to the inclement weather of the landscape dismissed by Huxley and those after him as ‘cozy’, and re-pose questions about the materiality of Wordsworth’s nature. Namely, can our conception of Wordsworth’s poetry (and the critical mythology of Romanticism itself) weather a radically material universe? Or will it succumb to exposure and accident in the Tropics of Cumbria?