William Wordsworth as rhetor in the "The River Duddon Sonnets"
William Wordsworth's later poems, especially The River Duddon Sonnets, have not received the recognition that they deserve. Since most of the criticism on Wordsworth's later poems center on the so-called "decline" of Wordsworth's creativity, these poems are unduly neglected. It is time to have a closer look at the merits of Wordsworth's poems other than the ones of the "golden decade," of which a myriad of studies are available. A careful and impartial assessment of Wordsworth's The River Duddon Sonnets will show that Wordsworth was capable of genuine artistry and craftsmanship. His education and reading in the classics provided him the knowledge of rhetoric which he utilizes in The River Duddon Sonnets. His ethos as a knowledgeable and well-read man projects out in every sonnet of the Duddon series, and he uses this rhetorical strategy of ethos to his advantage. Wordsworth had written 523 sonnets, including the two sonnet cycles: The River Duddon and the Ecclesiastical Sonnets. His earlier sonnets earned him the merits of a great sonneteer, and The River Duddon must be included in that tradition of excellence. Wordsworth deserves to be ranked with the master sonneteers, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Milton. His influence on other poets, such as Shelley, Tennyson, and Arnold, needs further investigation.