Wordsworth learnt Italian from the exile Isola at Cambridge and loved Italy all his life, but his ‘Italian’ poetry is for the most part disappointing. The elegiac sonnet On The Extinction of the Venetian Republic (‘Once did She hold the gorgeous East in fee’), written in 1802, is the most memorable of his Italian writings, and doubtless contributed to the Romantic image of Venice as the city of recently departed grandeur; but otherwise one cannot but regret that Wordsworth did not visit Italy while at the height of his poetic powers. In his walking tour of 1790 he went only as far as Lake Como, whose beauty he recorded in The Prelude (Book 6, 660–726); in 1820 he went to Milan; but it was not until 1837, at the age of sixty-seven, that he made an extended tour of Italy with Crabb Robinson. But he was, for example, ‘indifferent’1 to Venice, and the poetry which resulted from these visits has very little interest; and even in the more spontaneous mode of letter writing he fails to display very much enthusiasm for what he is seeing.2


Lone Mother Epic Poetry English Poet Walking Tour Past Glory 
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Chapter 3

  1. 3.
    See D. Sultana, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Malta and Italy (Oxford, 1960).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Byron’s Letters and Journals ed. L. A. Marchand, vol. vi (London, 1976) pp. 193–4. Letter of August 1819.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    H. Matthews, Diary of An Invalid 2nd ed. (London, 1820) p. 282.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See I. Origo, The Last Attachment (London, 1949).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    For a detailed argument of this view, see R. Gleckner, Byron and The Ruins of Paradise (Baltimore, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    P. B. Shelley, Letters, cd. F. L. Joncs, vol. i (Oxford, 1964) p. 504. Letter of 8 September 1816.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    E. J. Lovell, Jr, Byron: The Record of A Quest (Connecticut, 1969) p. 229.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    G. Mazzini, Scritti vol. xxi (Imola, 1915) p. 238.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    The best account of these literary debts is still that of C. M. Fuess, Lord Byron As A Satirist In Verse (New York, 1912) ch. 7.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Countess of Blessington, Conversations of Lord Byron (London, 1834) p. 38.Google Scholar

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© Kenneth Churchill 1980

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  • Kenneth Churchill

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