Exploring the relationship between poverty and religion in William Wordsworth’s poetry, Heidi J. Snow challenges the traditional view that the poet’s early years were primarily irreligious. She argues that this idea, based on the equation of Christianity with Anglicanism, discounts the richly varied theological landscape of Wordsworth’s youth. Reading Wordsworth’s poetry in the context of the diversity of theological views represented in his milieu, Snow shows that poems like The Excursion reject Anglican orthodoxy in favor of a meld of Quaker, Methodist, and deist theologies. Rather than support a narrative of Wordsworth’s life as a journey from atheism to orthodoxy or even from radicalism to conservatism, therefore, Wordsworth’s body of work consistently makes a case for a sensitive approach to the problem of the poor that relies on a multifaceted theological perspective. To reconstruct the religious context in which Wordsworth wrote in its complexity, Snow makes extensive use of the materials in the record offices of the Lake District and the religious sermons and congregational records for the orthodox Anglican, evangelical Anglican, Methodist, and Quaker congregations. Snow’s depiction of the multiple religious traditions in the Lake District complicates our understanding of Wordsworth’s theological influences and his views on the poor.
'William Wordsworth and the Theology of Poverty provides a helpful, introductory, theological, and poetic lexicon by which to better understand how poverty can be defined and engaged.' Journal of Markets and Morality 'Heidi J. Snow's William Wordsworth and the Theology of Poverty is, in a word, rich: rich because it provides a new approach and a compelling argument to understanding Wordsworth's religious sympathies; rich because it offers fresh readings of many of his poems, including The Excursion; and rich because it is written with clarity, insight, scholarship, and sincerity.' Wordsworth Circle '... [Snow's] book is helpful in showing how his poems reflect the best of their ideas about poverty.' Anglican & Episcopal History '[This book is] of manifest importance for its criticism of the imprecise understanding of Christianity that has long stymied serious historicist study of Wordsworth. One, moreover, comes away from this book sensing that it may point the way for a broader reconsideration of the theological underpinnings of the whole of Wordsworth's oeuvre.' Literature and Theology