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William Wordsworth


Biography | Romanticism In Literature | The Solitary Reaper | My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold | Quotes | Bibliography

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumberlan on April 7, 1770. He was educated at Saint John's College, a branch of the Univeristy of Cambridge. He was very fond of nature even in his youth and he often took meditative vacations in the scenic wilderness of the English Lake District. In 1791 he received his degree and travelled to France where he witnessed the heart of the French Revolution and its emphasis on individual rights. While in France he fell in love with a young woman named Annette Vallon. In December of 1793 she bore him a daughter, and shortly later he returned to England. His return was determined by the hostilities that grew between France and Great Britian in 1793, but Wordsworth still remained sympathetic to the French cause. After his move to England, Wordsworth fell into a deep depression seeing the French revolution ended entirely when its leader, Robespierre, was executed. He found his salvation his sister Dorothy who encouraged his writing endeavors and his friend and fellow poet Samuel Coleridge who was an admirer of his early writing efforts. Coleridge and Wordsworth later collaborate on a book of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Their book was met with hostile criticism by literary critics of that time because of its individuality and defiance of usual English verse. In 1801, he published the secondary edition to Lyrical Ballads called "Preface." Its was also met with less than enthusiastic criticism. Wordsworth believed poetry was "emotion recollected in tranquillity." He rejected the contemporary form and intellectual approach that romantic poets felt robbed poetry of its emotional outreach. He also wrote in conversational blank verse in "common words" meant for "common people." Wordsworth was never discouraged by the hostility thrown at his poetic form. He wrote poetry that exemplified his principles in individuality, emotion, and the internal peace brought by nature.

In 1799, poet Robert Southey befriended both Coleridge and Wordsworth. The poets were also neighbors and became known as the "Lake Poets." In 1802, Wordsworth married childhood friend Mary Hutchinson whom he wrote the poem "She Was A Phantom of Delight" for. In 1805, he completed The Prelude, a book of poems that properly displayed Wordsworth's romanticism. After many needed revisions, it was published pothumously in 1850 and considered his greatest collection of works. In 1807 he published Poems in Two Volumes which included most of his well-known sonnets. In 1813, Wordsworth, his family, and his sister moved to Rydal Mount, where he spent the remainder of his life save for his periodic travels.

By 1810, Wordsworth's political and intellectual views had changed dramatically and he had became a staunch conservative. Many believe he was disillusioned by the rise of Napoleon and France and his new friendship with Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. His poetry became dull with very little inspiration. After 1920, however, the tides of literary criticism began to turn and Wordsworth lived to see the day his writings were praised by the public. In 1843 he was awarded a government pension and even succeeded his friend Southey as poet laureate. He died on April 23, 1850, and was laid to rest at Grasmere churchyard.

Young Wordsworth

Young William


William Wordsworth at age 61.

William and Mary in 1839

William and Mary Wordsworth in 1839

Life mask

The life mask taken of William Wordsworth's face.