Wordsworth - Poet Of The People [Sunday Feature]


Sunday Feature20200405

On the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth's birth Jenny Uglow presents a programme which looks at the poet's response to the Industrial Revolution and contrasts his view with that of Adam Smith, the great Enlightenment moral philosopher and 'father of modern economics'.
Jenny visits the Lake District and finds that far from hills and dales empty except for sheep, the countryside that Wordsworth knew was rapidly industrialising with mills and canals, quarries and ironworks. But while Wordsworth lamented the end of small farm self sufficiency, an end to what he saw as the dignity of work on the land as factories took hold, Adam Smith saw the potential of industrialisation. We visit his homes in Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh to hear about his hopes of offering prosperity and 'betterment' to every level of society as the new economic order evolved.

The two men's world views - of what constitutes a good society, of how to take care of the poor, the place of morality in commerce - actually inform debates which are relevant now. And counter-intuitively these views were not as polarised as they first might seem.

The backdrop is Wordsworth's Grasmere, where Dove Cottage and the attached museum and archive are enjoying a major upgrade, and Panmure House in Edinburgh - Adam Smith's final home - which has been restored as a centre to honour his legacy.

Produced by Susan Marling
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 3

On Wordsworth's 250th, Jenny Uglow sets the poet in contrast to the economist Adam Smith.