A compelling portrait of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge emerges from Adam Nicolson’s The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths, and Their Year of Marvels. To be more precise, the poets themselves emerged from that year in the Quantock Hills, Somerset, July 1797–June 1798, with something they did not have before: two unmistakable and distinct imprints of genius.

Nicolson presents his case in naked terms: the year “has a claim to being the most famous moment in the history of English poetry.” Rather than pursue a strictly academic study, he embedded himself for a year in the selfsame Quantocks, to observe the landscape in which each of Wordsworth and Coleridge asserted his own poetic voice. Month by month, even day by day, Nicolson sets the conversations had and poems written against the backdrop of the changing...


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