This is the first book to address William Wordsworth's profound identification of the spirit of nature in trees. It looks at what trees meant to him, and how he represented them in his poetry and prose: the symbolic charm of blasted trees, a hawthorn at the heart of Irish folk belief, great oaks that embodied naval strength, yews that tell us about both longevity and the brevity of human life. Linking poetry and literary history with ecology, Versed in Living Nature explores intricate patterns of personal and local connections that enabled trees – as living things, cultural topics, horticultural objects and even commodities – to be imagined, theorized, discussed and exchanged. In this book, the literary past becomes the urgent present.
Peter Dale lives in Essex. His previous books include The Irish Garden: A Cultural History (2018). Brandon C. Yen divides his time between the UK and Taiwan. He is the author of ‘The Excursion’ and Wordsworth’s Iconography (2018).
"I can't give this book any higher praise than to say that I'm sure Wordsworth would have delighted in it. Versed in Living Nature is profoundly scholarly, but the chapters crackle with life, each one demonstrating that the authors' love of Wordsworth's work is undimmed by their command of the field they have surveyed. Dale and Yen respond to prompts both great and apparently small by exploring diverse historical pathways, and every one turns out to be interesting. A wonderful book."
– Stephen Gill, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford
"This absorbing study explores the centrality of trees in Wordsworth's thinking both in poetry and in prose. Compellingly argued, beautifully written and illustrated, and drawing on an extraordinary range of reading, it brings into view a Wordsworth who speaks powerfully of some the most urgent issues of our time."
– Heather Glen, Professor Emerita of English Literature, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Murray Edwards College
"In this gorgeously illustrated book, Dale and Yen piece together an arboreal biography which ranges vividly across Wordsworth's writing and the places that mattered most to him. Versed in Living Nature imaginatively speaks anew to Wordsworth's sense of rootedness and the workings of personal and poetic growth: it is a love letter to the land and the shaping powers of topography; a book green with the life of horticultural, historical and creative perceptions."
– Tom Owens, Assistant Professor of English, Stanford University
"This book makes a major contribution to our understandings of the social and cultural history of trees and their deep importance for Wordsworth."
– Charles Watkins, Professor of Rural Geography, University of Nottingham