The William Wordsworth Page

William Wordsworth is one of the most prominent poets from the English Romantic period. In fact, Wordsworth’s joint publication with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, entitled Lyrical Ballads, was thought to be the canon that helped launch the Romantic Age.

Born on April 7, 1770, Wordsworth was the second of five children. His father, John, was a legal representative to the 1st Earl of Lonsdale so the family lived in a small mansion during their formative years. None of the children were close with John and they remained distant until John’s death, though John was the one who introduced William to poetry.

When he was eight years old, Wordsworth’s mother Anne died, and John sent him to board at Hawkshead Grammar School. It was at this school that he met his future wife, Mary Hutchinsons. His debut as a writer occurred in 1787 when one of his sonnets was published in The European Magazine. In the same year, he went to St John’s College in Cambridge where he earned an A.B. degree in 1791. This was a year after he took a walking tour of Europe where he visited places like the Alps, France, Italy, and Switzerland.

In 1791, Wordsworth visited France and became enamored with the Republican movement that was occurring there. Soon, he got romantically involved with a woman named Annette Vallon and she gave birth to their daughter, Caroline a year later. In 1793, he returned to England alone, although he did financially support both Annette and his daughter after he became successful. When he wrote another of his popular poems, It is Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free, it was after a reunion with Caroline after an estrangement of ten years. However, they were separated again during the Reign of Terror, a four-year period of violence in France. They were able to reunite in 1802.

During his estrangement from his daughter, Wordsworth penned his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, a criticism of English Romantic poems. In 1793, some of his work was published in An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. In 1795, he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge and they wrote Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Another of his poems, Tintern Abbey, was also included. By 1805, four editions had been published.

Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and Coleridge also traveled to Germany in 1798. He lived in a town called Goslar from until 1799 and during that time, he began work on The Prelude. Wordsworth’s most famous work, The Prelude is an autobiographical work written about his early years. The Prelude was edited many times and was only published after his death. He also wrote The Lucy Poems. Wordsworth and his sister then returned to England, settling in Grasmere in the Lake District. There, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and fellow poet Robert Southey became known as the “Lake Poets.”

In 1802, Wordsworth married his childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson, and they had five children: John, Dora, Thomas, Catherine, and William. Only John, Dora, and William lived to adulthood. In 1812, Thomas died at the age of six and Catherine died at the age of four.

In 1807, Wordsworth published Poems in Two Volumes and in 1813, after being appointed the Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, he moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside, where he lived for the rest of his life. 1814 saw the publishing of The Excursion, the second part of his 3-part The Recluse; the first and third parts would never be finished. In 1838, Wordsworth received an honorary Doctor of Civil law degree from Durham University and then the same, the next year from Oxford. After Southey passed away in 1843, he became Poet Laureate. However, after his daughter Dora’s death in 1847, Wordsworth stopped writing poetry altogether.

Wordsworth passed away on April 23, 1850 from pleurisy, an inflammation of a cavity surrounding the lungs.

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