Wordsworth was the favorite poet of President Woodrow Wilson ’79, according to a recent statement of Professor George McLean Harper ’84 of the Department of English, who has assumed this fall the University’s new Woodrow Wilson Professorship of Literature. Professor Harper, who joined the Faculty at about the same time that Wilson did, and who was a close friend of the latter, is regarded as the foremost authority in this country upon Wordsworth, having contributed to that field a two-volume biography, William Wordsworth, His Life, Works, and Influence, and Wordsworth’s French Daughter, as well as numerous articles concerning the poet.

“Like Viscount Grey, his great fellow worker in the cause of peace, Mr. Wilson found most satisfaction in the poems of Wordsworth,” says Professor Harper. “Mr. Wilson was a great lover of poetry, a trait which was inculcated in him by his father, who was an example of literary culture. He would have been distinguished as a man of letters even if he had not achieved fame in the political fields. His History of the American People and his earlier George Washington are evidences of his literary skill.”

“In his addresses,” points out Professor Harper, “Mr. Wilson compelled attention by his power of mind – he made his audiences think. Few public speakers, in America at least, have succeeded as well as he did in conveying political philosophy to their audiences and without much concession to ignorance, indifference, or prejudice. That people heard him gladly is proof that men and women like to be treated as if they had brains. I think his rely to the Pope, when the United States entered the War, a letter which was in reality a speech to the American people, is perhaps the most forceful and eloquent of his addresses.”

As incumbent of the Woodrow Wilson Chair Professor Harper continues to give his regular courses in the curriculum, including his popular undergraduate course on Wordsworth and Coleridge. Other courses which he is giving are “English Literature in the Seventeenth Century,” a graduate as well as an undergraduate course, a special course on Wordsworth and Coleridge for graduate students, and a graduate course in the “History of Literary Criticism.” This fall he has been appointed a member of the faculty committee on public speaking.

In 1918, Professor Harper edited several editions of French text and of addresses of President Wilson.

This was originally published in the October 22, 1926 issue of PAW.