Wordsworth, Social Reform Literature, and Politics of the 1790s

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Wordsworth, Social Reform Literature, and Politics of the 1790s

The historical mix of social fictions in England and France at the end of the 1780s greatly impacted the literature of the period. Tom Paine's The Rights of Man (1791) and Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1791) were the two most widely read works that spurred a decade long debate on how the nation of England was to be governed and by whom. As a young man during this period, William Wordsworth formed part of the circle of writers who fought for the Republican cause of democracy and its ideals. Similar to the poet William Cowper, Wordsworth's early poetry contributed to a larger framework of social reform literature that the publisher Joseph Johnson
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In countering the politically conservative ideals sweeping the nation in the early 1790s reaction to the French Revolution, reform publishers like Johnson, and his coterie of writers, actively confronted writers like Edmund Burke and his proponents. Burke's criticism of radicalism in his Reflections on the Revolution in France is salient to the debates, warning of the spread of French-Jacobin ideals to British soil. He criticized heavily the reform works like those Joseph Johnson and his circle of writers published. Burke's attack (in part a reaction to the reformer Dr. Price, a leading advocate of social reform[3]) set off a storm of political controversy concerning the most fundamentally esteemed principles that many saw as the basis of English civilized life in the 1790s: Reason, Truth, Liberty, Virtue, Justice, and God. In order to persuade his readers, Burke attempts to justify the historical abuses that France's monarchy perpetrated toward its citizens. He constructs a history that constituted the same "leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated" in Britain, one that he felt all patriotic British citizens implicitly agreed with.[4] His aim was to sanitize the French aristocracy's complicity as political agents of an abused monarchy, and to

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