Early lifeThe second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in what is now named Wordsworth House in , Cumberland, part of the scenic region in northwestern England known as the . William's sister, the poet and diarist , to whom he was close all his life, was born the following year, and the two were baptised together. They had three other siblings: Richard, the eldest, who became a lawyer; John, born after Dorothy, who went to sea and died in 1805 when the ship of which he was captain, the '' '', was wrecked off the south coast of England; and , the youngest, who entered the Church and rose to be Master of . Wordsworth's father was a legal representative of , and, through his connections, lived in a large mansion in the small town. He was frequently away from home on business, so the young William and his siblings had little involvement with him and remained distant from him until his death in 1783. However, he did encourage William in his reading, and in particular set him to commit large portions of verse to memory, including works by , and Spenser. William was also allowed to use his father's library. William also spent time at his mother's parents' house in Penrith, Cumberland, where he was exposed to the moors, but did not get along with his grandparents or his uncle, who also lived there. His hostile interactions with them distressed him to the point of contemplating suicide. Wordsworth was taught to read by his mother and attended, first, a tiny school of low quality in Cockermouth, then a school in Penrith for the children of upper-class families, where he was taught by Ann Birkett, who insisted on instilling in her students traditions that included pursuing both scholarly and local activities, especially the festivals around Easter, May Day and . Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the '' '', but little else. It was at the school in Penrith that he met the Hutchinsons, including Mary, who later became his wife. After the death of Wordsworth's mother, in 1778, his father sent him to in (now in ) and sent Dorothy to live with relatives in . She and William did not meet again for nine years. Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in 1787 when he published a sonnet in '' ''. That same year he began attending . He received his BA degree in 1791. He returned to Hawkshead for the first two summers of his time at Cambridge, and often spent later holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their . In 1790 he went on a walking tour of Europe, during which he toured the extensively, and visited nearby areas of France, Switzerland, and Italy.
Relationship with Annette VallonIn November 1791, Wordsworth visited and became enchanted with the Republican movement. He fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, who, in 1792, gave birth to their daughter Caroline. Financial problems and 's tense relations with France forced him to return to England alone the following year.Everett, Glenn
First publication and ''Lyrical Ballads''The year 1793 saw the first publication of poems by Wordsworth, in the collections ''An Evening Walk'' and ''Descriptive Sketches''. In 1795 he received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert and became able to pursue a career as a poet. It was also in 1795 that he met in Somerset. The two poets quickly developed a close friendship. For two years from 1795, William and his sister Dorothy lived at Racedown House in Dorset—a property of the Pinney family—to the west of . They walked in the area for about two hours every day, and the nearby hills consoled Dorothy as she pined for the fells of her native Lakeland. She wrote,
"We have hills which, seen from a distance almost take the character of mountains, some cultivated nearly to their summits, others in their wild state covered with furze and broom. These delight me the most as they remind me of our native wilds."In 1797, the pair moved to , Somerset, just a few miles away from Coleridge's home in . Together Wordsworth and Coleridge (with insights from Dorothy) produced '' '' (1798), an important work in the English . The volume gave neither Wordsworth's nor Coleridge's name as author. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems, " ", was published in this collection, along with Coleridge's " ". The second edition, published in 1800, had only Wordsworth listed as the author, and included a preface to the poems. It was augmented significantly in the next edition, published in 1802. In this preface, which some scholars consider a central work of Romantic literary theory, Wordsworth discusses what he sees as the elements of a new type of verse, one that is based on the ordinary language "really used by men" while avoiding the poetic diction of much 18th-century verse. Wordsworth also gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility", and calls his own poems in the book "experimental". A fourth and final edition of ''Lyrical Ballads'' was published in 1805.
''The Borderers''Between 1795–1797, Wordsworth wrote his only play, ''The Borderers'', a verse tragedy set during the reign of , when Englishmen in the North Country came into conflict with Scottish . He attempted to get the play staged in November 1797, but it was rejected by , the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre, who proclaimed it "impossible that the play should succeed in the representation". The rebuff was not received lightly by Wordsworth and the play was not published until 1842, after substantial revision.
Germany and move to the Lake DistrictWordsworth, Dorothy and Coleridge travelled to Germany in the autumn of 1798. While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the journey, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness. During the harsh winter of 1798–99 Wordsworth lived with Dorothy in Goslar, and, despite extreme stress and loneliness, began work on the autobiographical piece that was later titled ''The Prelude''. He wrote a number of other famous poems in Goslar, including "The Lucy poems". In the Autumn of 1799, Wordsworth and his sister returned to England and visited the Hutchinson family at Sockburn. When Coleridge arrived back in England he travelled to the North with their publisher Joseph Cottle to meet Wordsworth and undertake a proposed tour of the Lake District. This was the immediate cause of the brother and sister's settling at Dove Cottage in Grasmere (village), Grasmere in the Lake District, this time with another poet, Robert Southey, nearby. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the "Lake Poets". Throughout this period many of Wordsworth's poems revolved around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.
Marriage and childrenIn 1802, Lowther's heir, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, paid the £4,000 owed to Wordsworth's father through Lowther's failure to pay his aide. It was this repayment that afforded Wordsworth the financial means to marry. On 4 October, following his visit with Dorothy to France to arrange matters with Annette, Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson. Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary. The following year Mary gave birth to the first of five children, three of whom predeceased her and William: * Rev. John Wordsworth MA (18 June 180325 July 1875). Vicar of Brigham, Cumberland and Rector of Plumbland, Cumberland. Buried at Highgate Cemetery (west side). Married four times: *# Isabella Curwen (died 1848) had six children: Jane, Henry, William, John, Charles and Edward. *# Helen Ross (died 1854). No children. *# Mary Ann Dolan (died after 1858) had one daughter Dora (born 1858). *# Mary Gamble. No children. * Dora Wordsworth (16 August 18049 July 1847). Married Edward Quillinan in 1841. * Thomas Wordsworth (15 June 18061 December 1812). * Catherine Wordsworth (6 September 18084 June 1812). * William "Willy" Wordsworth (12 May 18101883). Married Fanny Graham and had four children: Mary Louisa, William, Reginald, Gordon
Autobiographical work and ''Poems, in Two Volumes''Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call ''The Recluse''. In 1798–99 he started an autobiographical poem, which he referred to as the "The Prelude, poem to Coleridge" and which he planned would serve as an appendix to a larger work called ''The Recluse''. In 1804 he began expanding this autobiographical work, having decided to make it a prologue rather than an appendix. He completed this work, now generally referred to as the first version of '' '', in 1805, but refused to publish such a personal work until he had completed the whole of ''The Recluse''. The death of his brother John, also in 1805, affected him strongly and may have influenced his decisions about these works. Wordsworth's philosophical allegiances as articulated in '' '' and in such shorter works as "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" have been a source of critical debate. It was long supposed that Wordsworth relied chiefly on Coleridge for philosophical guidance, but more recently scholars have suggested that Wordsworth's ideas may have been formed years before he and Coleridge became friends in the mid-1790s. In particular, while he was in revolutionary Paris in 1792, the 22-year-old Wordsworth made the acquaintance of the mysterious traveller John "Walking" Stewart (1747–1822), who was nearing the end of his thirty years of wandering, on foot, from Madras, India, through Persia and Arabia, across Africa and Europe, and up through the fledgling United States. By the time of their association, Stewart had published an ambitious work of original materialist philosophy entitled ''The Apocalypse of Nature'' (London, 1791), to which many of Wordsworth's philosophical sentiments may well be indebted. In 1807 Wordsworth published ''Poems, in Two Volumes'', including "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood". Up to this point, Wordsworth was known only for ''Lyrical Ballads'', and he hoped that this new collection would cement his reputation. Its reception was lukewarm, however. In 1810, Wordsworth and Coleridge were estranged over the latter's opium addiction, and in 1812, his son Thomas died at the age of 6, six months after the death of 3-year-old Catherine. The following year he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, and the stipend of £400 a year made him financially secure, albeit at the cost of political independence. In 1813, he and his family, including Dorothy, moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside (between Grasmere and Rydal Water), where he spent the rest of his life.
The ProspectusIn 1814 Wordsworth published ''The Excursion'' as the second part of the three-part work ''The Recluse'', even though he had not completed the first part or the third part, and never did. He did, however, write a poetic Prospectus to ''The Recluse'' in which he laid out the structure and intention of the whole work. The Prospectus contains some of Wordsworth's most famous lines on the relation between the human mind and nature: Some modern critics suggest that there was a decline in his work beginning around the mid-1810s, perhaps because most of the concerns that characterised his early poems (loss, death, endurance, separation and abandonment) had been resolved in his writings and his life. By 1820, he was enjoying considerable success accompanying a reversal in the contemporary critical opinion of his earlier works. The poet William Blake, who knew of Wordsworth's work, was struck by Wordsworth's boldness in centering his poetry on the human mind. In response to Wordsworth's poetic program that, “when we look / Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man- / My haunt, and the main region of my song” (The Excursion), William Blake wrote to his friend Henry Crabb Robinson that the passage "“caused him a bowel complaint which nearly killed him”. Following the death of his friend the painter William Green (painter), William Green in 1823, Wordsworth also mended his relations with Coleridge. The two were fully reconciled by 1828, when they toured the Rhineland together. Dorothy suffered from a severe illness in 1829 that rendered her an invalid for the remainder of her life. Coleridge and Charles Lamb both died in 1834, their loss being a difficult blow to Wordsworth. The following year saw the passing of James Hogg. Despite the death of many contemporaries, the popularity of his poetry ensured a steady stream of young friends and admirers to replace those he lost.
Religious beliefsWordsworth's youthful political radicalism, unlike Coleridge's, never led him to rebel against his religious upbringing. He remarked in 1812 that he was willing to shed his blood for the established Church of England, reflected in his ''Ecclesiastical Sketches'' of 1822. This religious conservatism also colours ''The Excursion'' (1814), a long poem that became extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It features three central characters: the Wanderer; the Solitary, who has experienced the hopes and miseries of the French Revolution; and the Pastor, who dominates the last third of the poem.
Laureateship and other honoursWordsworth remained a formidable presence in his later years. In 1837, the Scottish poet and playwright Joanna Baillie reflected on her long acquaintance with Wordsworth. "He looks like a man that one must not speak to unless one has some sensible thing to say. However he does occasionally converse cheerfully & well; and when one knows how benevolent & excellent he is, it disposes one to be very much pleased with him." In 1838, Wordsworth received an honorary doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Durham and the following year he was awarded the same honorary degree by the University of Oxford, when John Keble praised him as the "poet of humanity", praise greatly appreciated by Wordsworth. (It has been argued that Wordsworth was a great influence on Keble's immensely popular book of devotional poetry, ''The Christian Year'' (1827).) In 1842, the government awarded him a Civil List pension of £300 a year. Following the death of Robert Southey in 1843 Wordsworth became
DeathWilliam Wordsworth died at home at Rydal Mount from an aggravated case of on 23 April 1850, and was buried at St Oswald's Church, Grasmere. His widow, Mary, published his lengthy autobiographical "Poem to Coleridge" as '' '' several months after his death. Though it failed to interest people at the time, it has since come to be widely recognised as his masterpiece.
In popular cultureWordsworth has appeared as a character in works of fiction, including: * William Kinsolving – ''Mister Christian''. 1996 * Jasper Fforde – ''The Eyre Affair''. 2001 * Val McDermid – ''The Grave Tattoo''. 2006 * Sue Limb – ''The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere''. 2008 Isaac Asimov's 1966 Fantastic Voyage#Novelization, novelisation of the 1966 film ''Fantastic Voyage'' sees Dr. Peter Duval quoting Wordsworth's '' '' as the miniaturised submarine sails through the cerebral fluid surrounding a human brain, comparing it to the "strange seas of thought". Taylor Swift's 2020 album ''Folklore (Taylor Swift album), Folklore'' mentions Wordsworth in her bonus track "The Lakes (song), The Lakes", which is thought to be about the .
Further reading* Juliet Barker. ''Wordsworth: A Life'', HarperCollins, New York, 2000, * Hunter Davies, ''William Wordsworth: A Biography'', Frances Lincoln, London, 2009, * Stephen Gill, ''William Wordsworth: A Life'', Oxford University Press, 1989, * Emma Mason, ''The Cambridge Introduction to William Wordsworth'' (Cambridge University Press, 2010) * * Mary Moorman, ''William Wordsworth, A Biography: The Early Years, 1770–1803 v. 1'', Oxford University Press, 1957, * Mary Moorman, ''William Wordsworth: A Biography: The Later Years, 1803–1850 v. 2'', Oxford University Press, 1965, * M. R. Tewari, ''One Interior Life—A Study of the Nature of Wordsworth's Poetic Experience'' (New Delhi: S. Chand & Company Ltd, 1983) * ''Report to Wordsworth,'' Written by Boey Kim Cheng, as a direct reference to his poems "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" and "The World Is Too Much with Us"