BBC Television is making a film about Wordsworth and Coleridge. Twenty or thirty years ago the idea would have caused barely a ripple. It was the kind of thing that the BBC was expected to do. But not anymore: and in a world where television has less and less time for high culture, the news could scarcely fail to be welcome.

Or could it? Some programs, however worthwhile their themes, are worse than no program at all, and such details as have so far emerged suggest this might well be one of them. Wordsworth, it appears, is going to be portrayed in it as a cold-hearted exploiter, Coleridge—the junkie of genius— as his tragic victim. We are going to be asked to accept that he deliberately encouraged Coleridge in his drug habit so that he could take advantage of his gifts (since he was plainly the lesser poet); that he drove him to the very edge of destruction; and then,...


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