A Question of Loyalty: Wordsworth and the Beaumonts, Catholic Emancipation and Ecclesiastical Sketches

Jessica Fay

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In the Roman Catholic Emancipation debate, William Wordsworth took the opposite view to his friend and patron Sir George Beaumont. Whilst Wordsworth's position as a committed anti-emancipationist is well-known, this essay explores the Beaumonts’ Catholic heritage and their political allegiances. This contextual material provides a backdrop for a reading of a previously un-noted document that Lady Beaumont sent to the Wordsworths in 1809: ‘An account of an English Hermit’. This pamphlet, by an unknown Anglican clergyman (Thomas Barnard), describes the life of an unknown nonjuror (Thomas Gardiner). Analysis of the manuscript, and the circumstances of its circulation, resituates Wordsworth's objections to Emancipation and casts new light on the tone of his Ecclesiastical Sketches (1822). I explore how Wordsworth uses the ‘Advertisement’ to the sonnets in order to counter any resentment the anti-Catholic publication may have engendered between the poet and Sir George, and conclude with a close reading of ‘Catechising’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2016


  • Wordsworth
  • Sir George Beaumont
  • Catholic Question
  • allegiance
  • politics
  • sonnets


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