William Wordsworth 1770-1850

Wordsworth, born in his beloved Lake District, was the son of an attorney. He went to school first at Penrith and then at Hawkshead Grammar school before studying, from 1787, at St John's College, Cambridge - all of which periods were later to be described vividly in The Prelude. In 1790 he went with friends on a walking tour to France, the Alps and Italy, before arriving in France where Wordsworth was to spend the next year.

Whilst in France he fell in love twice over: once with a young French woman, Annette Vallon, who subsequently bore him a daughter, and then, once more, with the French Revolution. Returning to England he wrote, and left unpublished, his Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff - a tract in support of the French Revolutionary cause. In 1795, after receiving a legacy, Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy first in Dorset and then at Alfoxden, Dorset, close to Coleridge.

In these years he wrote many of his greatest poems and also travelled with Coleridge and Dorothy, in the winter of 1798-79, to Germany. Two years later the second and enlarged edition of the Lyrical Ballads appeared in 1801, just one year before Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson. This was followed, in 1807, by the publication of Poems in Two Volumes, which included the poems 'Resolution and Independence' and 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood'.

During this period he also made new friendships with Walter Scott, Sir G. Beaumont and De Quincy, wrote such poems as 'Elegaic Stanzas suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle' (1807), and fathered five children. He received a civil list pension in 1842 and was made poet-laureate just one year later.

Today Wordsworth's poetry remains widely read. Its almost universal appeal is perhaps best explained by Wordsworth's own words on the role, for him, of poetry; what he called "the most philosophical of all writing" whose object is "truth...carried alive into the heart by passion".

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Quotes (3)

The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), British poet. My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (l. 7-9). . . The Poems; Vol. 1 [William Wordsworth]. John O. Hayden, ed. (1977, repr. 1990) Penguin Books.
Imagination, which in truth Is but another name for absolute power And clearest insight, amplitude of mind, And reason, in her most exalted mood.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), British poet. The Prelude; XIV. Conclusion (l. 189-192). . . Oxford Anthology of English Literature, The, Vols. I-II. Frank Kermode and John Hollander, general eds. (1973) Oxford University Press (Also published as six paperback vols.: Medieval English Literature, J. B. Trapp, ed.; The Literature of Renaissance England, John Hollander and Frank Kermode, eds.; The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, Martin Price, ed.; Romantic Poetry and Prose, Harold Bloom and Lionel Trilling, eds.; Victorian Prose and Poetry, Lionel Trilling and Harold Bloom, eds.; Modern British Literature, Frank Kermode and John Hollander, eds.).
The child is father of the man.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), British poet. My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (written 1802, published 1807).

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