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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

William Wordsworth’s concept of British nationhood reflected the poet’s deep conviction that the greatness of any nation rested upon that nation’s moral strength and steadfastness even more than upon military or economic superiority. In Wordsworth’s opinion, without that moral grounding, no nation can achieve lasting greatness either domestically or globally. The centrality of that moral grounding to Britain and British culture, he contends, accounts for his country’s historical prosperity and supremacy. While Wordsworth’s politics changed over the course of his life from his early republicanism to his later conservatism, his commitment to the moral dimension of British nationhood—and of the British nation—never wavered. This essay traces that moral imperative across the length of Wordsworth’s career, both in his poems (especially, but not exclusively, in his political sonnets) and in his prose (including both his letters and his 1809 essay on the Convention of Cintra).

Keywords: Wordsworth, conservatism, Convention of Cintra, greatness, nation, nationhood, politics, prosperity, republicanism

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