William Wordsworth 1770 - 1850
great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and
original, must himself create the taste by which he is to
be relished." (From 'Letter to Lady Beaumont,' 1807).
William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth
in the Lake District and his father John Wordsworth was Sir
James Lowther's attorney. Wordsworth
House in Cockermouth is open to the public for viewing.
For a short time he went to school in Cockermouth, where one
of the pupils was Fletcher Christian, the mutineer from the Captain Bligh's ship, The Bounty.
Later he would attend school in Penrith,
his mother's home town. William was taught a love of the
countryside whilst also learning parts of
Milton and Shakespeare by heart.
William's mother, Ann died when he was 8 and his father, 5 years later. With the domestic problems in his young life he was to be separated from his sister Dorothy but later on in life, they would be close once again.
After his mother's death Dorothy went to live with relations
in Yorkshire, while William and his brothers were sent away
to school in Hawkshead. William and his brothers boarded
with Ann Tyson, who looked after them with great love and
He loved the area and the landscape deeply affected Wordsworth's
imagination and gave him a love of nature. When he was 13
his father died, and various uncles looked after Wordsworth.
His siblings returned to live with the relations in Penrith.
In 1787 he entered into St. John's College, Cambridge, returning
home to Hawkshead for his holidays and staying with Ann Dyson.
There is very little detail to mention of his days at St.
John's College, Cambridge, but he took his B.A. in 1791.
a summer vacation in 1790, Wordsworth went on a walking tour
through revolutionary France and also travelled in Switzerland.
On his second journey to France, Wordsworth had an affair
with a French girl, Agnate Vallon, a daughter of a barber-surgeon,
by whom he had a illegitimate daughter, Anne Caroline. The
affair was the inspiration for the poem 'Vaudracour and Julia.'.
After his journeys, Wordsworth had a number of unhappy years.
In 1795 he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth and his
sister, Dorothy lived in Racedown, Somerset, then later on
in Alfoxden, to be nearer Coleridge. Encouraged by Coleridge
and stimulated by the close contact with nature, Wordsworth
composed his first masterwork, Lyrical Ballads, which opened
with Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner.'In about 1798 he started
to write large and philosophical autobiographical poetry,
completed in 1805, and published posthumously in 1850 under
the title THE PRELUDE. The long work described the poet's
love of nature and his own place in the world order.
"Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows Like
harmony in music; there is a dark Inscrutable workmanship
that reconciles Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society."
Wordsworth spent the winter of 1798-1799 with Dorothy and
Coleridge in Germany, where he wrote several poems, including
the 'Lucy' poems. On arrival back from Germany in 1799, William
and Dorothy decided to return to the Lake District, Hawkshead
for the first time in 10 years. They spent one night in Hawkshead before moving onto Grasmere.
In December 1799, William and Dorothy moved into a small cottage
at Town End [Dove Cottage], Grasmere and lived here for 8
It was here that he produced some of his best works and also
Dorothy wrote her Grasmere Journal [1800-1803].
In 1802 William married Mary Hutchinson and 3 of his children
were born here in Dove
Cottage. Dorothy continued to live with them. When Mary
was expecting their fourth child, the cottage was becoming
too small, so they moved, first to Allan Bank and the Vicarage
in Grasmere before moving to his last home at Rydall
Mount in 1813. He was appointed official distributor of
stamps for Westmorland and became a patriotic, conservative
public man, abandoning his radical faith. In 1843 he succeeded
Robert Southgey (1774-1843) as England's poet laureate.
Wordsworth died on April 23, 1850.
His second verse collection, "Poems in Two Volumes", appeared
in 1807. In the same year, Thomas de Quincey met Wordsworth
for the first time and wrote about him and other Lake Poets
in several essays.
Wordsworth's central works were produced between 1797 and
1808. His poems written during middle and late years, have
failed to gain the same critical approval.