Book cover of William Wordsworth's biography, written by his descendant, Andrew Wordsworth

Well-kept Secrets
The Story of William Wordsworth

By Andrew Wordsworth
Includes a colour plate section
Published by Pallas Athene Books

Well-kept Secrets: The Story of William Wordsworth marked the 250th Anniversary of the birth of the great Romantic poet. Written by sculptor Andrew Wordsworth, a descendant based in the Tuscan countryside, this insightful biography studies the poetry to understand more fully Wordsworth’s deeply private and often enigmatic personality, and it observes the artist’s life to better grasp the meaning hidden behind the often deceptively immediate verses.

The challenge

The book was launched on the 7th of April 2020 when the UK began to be in the grip of the Covid pandemic. So, the planned interviews with BBC R4 and BBC Cumbria were cancelled alongside a talk that Andrew was going to give at Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s historic family home, and some other coverage. As mentioned, the author lives in Italy and couldn’t travel to the UK as planned (he lives in the remote Tuscan countryside, so his internet connection was very poor which made Zoom/ Skype interviews impossible). In addition, several well-established scholars released a new biography of the great poet to celebrate the Anniversary: we were against a very steep competition.

The solution

Contact as broad a range of media as possible devising original pitches carefully aimed at each publication; for example, an article explored the poet’s complex and contradictory Christianity while another looked at Wordsworth’s relationship with Europe and his contribution to the shaping of British identity. Moreover, I got in touch with Cambridge University where William Wordsworth, and later Andrew Wordsworth, had studied and I set up various promotions aimed at their students/ alumni. I also started a dialogue with the author’s former College, Winchester. In addition, I worked closely with the local media (newspapers and radio). Many blogs covered the book, including the one associated with Dove Cottage, home to The Wordsworth Trust. Lastly, I targeted several associations studying the poet himself or Romanticism as an artistic period. Unfortunately, some of the coverage I had arranged with the academic journals didn’t materialise as the campaign ground to an abrupt halt towards the end of March. For the same reason all the radio interviews (national and regional) got cancelled.

The result

The publishing media (both The Bookseller, Non-fiction Preview, and bookbrunch) featured the book. The piece for bookbrunch explored why there was the need for a new biography of Wordsworth. The Irish Times (ABC circ. 79,420+) commissioned an author’s article about Wordsworth, Europe and English identity, and The Church Times — the leading publication of the Anglican Church — published a feature about the poet’s complex faith. The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph reviewed the book alongside the other biographies (the author wrote a letter in response to the Guardian’s coverage with which he disagreed, and they published the letter too). The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) ran a detailed ‘group review’, and so did The Spectator. The book was also featured at length in the poet’s main local media, ‘The Cumberland News’; the same article appeared across all of the CN Group’s publications (local towns’ newspapers). It was also reviewed by