Seth Reid 2 between the goals of literature and the goals of politics early in the preface. Wordsworth explainsthat his
preface is not a “systematic defense” of his literary theory because such a task wouldrequire “
pointing out, in what manner language and the human mind act and re-act on eachother
retracing the revolutions, not of literature alone, but likewise of
society itself” (47).
Such a task, he claims, would take a length of paper unsuited to a preface, but even in thisdismissal of justifying his purpose, the proximity of literary taste to revolution reveals
Wordsworth‟s belief that “language and the human mind” are inextricably linked to theformation of “society itself.”
And this is not, according to Wordsworth, a simple relationship between l
iterature and society: because they “act and react on each other,” the form of each is
always dependent on the other. Here Wordsworth gives consequence to his literary theory, whichhe goes on to explicate, by saying that it is necessarily the same as his theory of the way societyought to look.
By looking at the preface as Wordsworth‟s
political tract, we gain a new understanding of his assessment of the role of lower, rural classes in poetry and of the grounds on which Coleridgemight oppose this assessment. Considering that Wordsworth views the structure of literature asvitally affecting the structure of society, his literary proposal is telling of his political ideals.
Wordsworth explains that “t
he principal object
” of his collection is to use
“language really used by men” and that he favors “l
ow and rustic life
” as a subject because
in that condition, theessential passions of the heart find a better soil in which
they can attain their maturity…
and,consequently, may be more accurately contemplated,
and more forcibly communicated…” (48).
Not only does Wordsworth bring the lower classes to the foreground of his literary experiment,he also implies that due to their station in society, they are a superior literary subject to any other
classification of person. Additionally, by referring to their language as the kind “really used by