Wordsworth's Gothic Politics and The Convention of Cintra
AbstractThis article studies the politics of The Convention of Cintra (1809), William Wordsworth's prose tract on the notorious Convention between the British and French armies in Portugal during the Peninsular War. In Cintra , I argue, Wordsworth adumbrates a ‘Gothic’ politics that mediates between his past radical and his future loyalist political sympathies. I begin with an account of how the Peninsular War came to be conceived in specifically ‘Gothic’ terms by Wordsworth and his contemporaries. I then offer a reading of Cintra as a rehearsal of the pamphlet war between competing accounts of the ‘Gothic’ state in the 1790s; setting the tract against Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Tom Paine's Rights of Man (1791–2), John Thelwall's Rights of Nature (1796), and Wordsworth's unpublished Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff (1793). I argue that in Cintra Wordsworth develops the ‘Gothic’ language of reform coming out of Spain for the purposes of domestic reform. I conclude with a discussion of the presence behind Cintra of John Milton; a presence that I suggest links the ‘Gothic’ politics worked out in Cintra to the Recluse project—that ‘gothic Church’, as Wordsworth called it, of a poetic enterprise.