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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay describes what sensibility meant to Wordsworth by examining the works of several writers of the 1780s—Cowper, Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Smith, and Robert Burns—demonstrating how their poetry shaped his early and mature verse. Sensibility was a literary manner that gave Wordsworth the means by which to approach such difficult subjects as grief at his parents’ deaths, mystic vision, and depression. As a voracious reader of poetry, it was impossible for Wordsworth to have avoided its influence of sensibility, yet his genius is distinguished by the ability to transcend it, while reworking its central tropes to create something wholly original.

Keywords: Sensibility, The Prelude, Jane Austen, William Cowper, Helen Maria Williams, Laurence Sterne, Charlotte Smith, Robert Burns, Hawkshead Grammar School, the Gothic

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