Although enduring interest in Select Views in Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire (1810) has focused almost exclusively on Wordsworth’s anonymous letterpress, the volume’s fundamental raison d’être was the landscape art of the Rev. Joseph Wilkinson. As recounted in our introduction (see especially paras. 6–9), Wilkinson was an avid amateur artist with a particular passion for his native Lake District. In publishing Select Views, he fulfilled a fifteen-year dream of putting his sketches into wider circulation.
At one especially low point in their collaboration, Wordsworth sniped that Wilkinson’s “drawings, or Etchings, or whatever they may be called” were bound to “please many who in all the arts are most taken with what is worthless,” while producing a “sort of disgust” in those with more cultivated tastes. Taking their cue from this rant, many Wordsworth scholars have subsequently dismissed Wilkinson out of hand, positing that he was “a conscientious but not very talented” artist who burdened the great poet with a “portfolio of very indifferent drawings” that were “both inaccurate and lifeless.” In contrast, however, many of Wilkinson’s contemporaries, including several members of the so-called Wordsworth Circle, genuinely admired his work (see introduction, para. 8). While some sense of redundancy will almost inevitably attend forty-eight drawings of a single region by the same artist, Wilkinson’s best sketches display genuine gifts for shading, situation, and perspective. Consequently, it is not altogether surprising that the era’s leading specialist in art prints, Rudolph Ackermann, agreed to publish Select Views under his prestigious imprimatur.
The gallery that follows features high-resolution scans of all forty-eight plates in the copy of Select Views at Indiana University’s Lilly Library. Their order both here and in most bound copies corresponds with the sequence suggested by the contents page that subscribers received with the final serial installment of December 1810. For details on the order in which Wilkinson’s landscapes and Wordsworth’s letterpress were originally serialized, see the table at the end of Appendix 1: The Serialization of Select Views.
1. The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, ed. Ernest De Sélincourt et al., 2nd ed., 8 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967–1993), 2:404.
2. Peter Bicknell, introduction to The Illustrated Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, ed. Peter Bicknell (New York: Congdon and Weed, 1984), 16; Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), 158; Ernest De Sélincourt, introduction to Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, ed. Ernest De Sélincourt (London: Henry Frowde, 1906), iii.