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William Wordsworth Biography


Early life – William Wordsworth

Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, in north-west England. His father, John Wordsworth, introduced the young William to the great poetry of Milton and Shakespeare , but he was frequently absent during William’s childhood. Instead, Wordsworth was brought up by his mother’s parents in Penrith, but this was not a happy period. He frequently felt in conflict with his relations and at times contemplated ending his life. However, as a child, he developed a great love of nature, spending many hours walking in the fells of the Lake District. He also became very close to his sister, Dorothy, who would later become a poet in her own right.

In 1778, William was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire; this separated him from his beloved sister for nearly nine years. In 1787, he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge. It was in this year that he had his first published work, a sonnet in the European Magazine . While still a student at Cambridge, in 1790, he travelled to revolutionary France. He was deeply impressed by the revolutionary spirit and the principles of liberty and egalite. He also fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon; together they had an illegitimate daughter, Anne Caroline.

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Friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge

After graduating, Wordsworth was fortunate to receive a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert to pursue a career in literature. He was able to publish his first collection of poems, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches . That year he was also to meet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. They became close friends and collaborated on poetic ideas. They later published a joint work – Lyrical Ballards (1798), and Wordsworth greatest work ‘ The Prelude ‘ was initially called by Wordsworth ‘ To Coleridge ‘

This period was important for Wordsworth and also the direction of English poetry. With Coleridge , Keats and Shelley , Wordsworth helped create a much more spontaneous and emotional poetry. It sought to depict the beauty of nature and the quintessential depth of human emotion. In the preface to Lyrical Ballards , Wordsworth writes of poetry:

“The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Lyrical Ballards includes some of his best-known poems, such as, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, “A Slumber Did my Spirit Seal”.

A SLUMBER did my spirit seal; I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, With rocks, and stones, and trees.

– W. Wordsworth 1799.

In 1802, after returning from a brief visit to see his daughter, Wordsworth married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson. Dorothy continued to live with the couple, and she became close to Mary as well as her brother. William and Mary had five children, though three died early.

Lake District

Lake District, North Windermere, near Grasmere.

In 1807, he published another important volume of poetry “ Poems, in Two Volumes “, this included famous poems such as; “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, “My Heart Leaps Up”, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils;

– W. Wordsworth – I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

In 1813, he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland; this annual income of £400 gave him greater financial security and enabled him to devote his spare time to poetry. In 1813, he family also moved into Rydal Mount, Grasmere; a picturesque location, which inspired his later poetry.

“My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die!”

Poet Laureate

By the 1820s, the critical acclaim for Wordsworth was growing, though ironically critics note that, from this period, his poetry began losing some of its vigour and emotional intensity. His poetry was perhaps a reflection of his own ideas. The 1790s had been a period of emotional turmoil and faith in the revolutionary ideal. Towards the end of his life, his disillusionment with the French Revolution had made him more conservative in outlook. In 1839 he received an honorary degree from Oxford University and received a civil pension of £300 a year from the government. In 1843, he was persuaded to become the nation’s Poet Laureate, despite saying he wouldn’t write any poetry as Poet Laureate. Wordsworth is the only Poet Laureate who never wrote poetry during his official time in the job.

Wordsworth died of pleurisy on 23 April 1850. He was buried in St Oswald’s Church Grasmere. After his death, his widow Mary published his autobiographical ‘Poem to Coleridge’ under the title “The Prelude”.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan . “ Biography of William Wordsworth” , Oxford, UK. , 22nd Jan. 2010. Last updated 6th March 2018

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William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth


Who Was William Wordsworth?

Poet William Wordsworth worked with Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Lyrical Ballads (1798). The collection, which contained Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," introduced Romanticism to English poetry. Wordsworth also showed his affinity for nature with the famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." He became England's poet laureate in 1843, a role he held until his death in 1850.

Poet William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was 7, and he was an orphan at 13. Despite these losses, he did well at Hawkshead Grammar School — where he wrote his first poetry — and went on to study at Cambridge University. He did not excel there, but managed to graduate in 1791.

Wordsworth had visited France in 1790 — in the midst of the French Revolution — and was a supporter of the new government’s republican ideals. On a return trip to France the next year, he fell in love with Annette Vallon, who became pregnant. However, the declaration of war between England and France in 1793 separated the two. Left adrift and without income in England, Wordsworth was influenced by radicals such as William Godwin.

In 1795, Wordsworth received an inheritance that allowed him to live with his sister, Dorothy. That same year, Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two became friends, and together worked on Lyrical Ballads (1798). The volume contained poems such as Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," and helped Romanticism take hold in English poetry.

The same year that Lyrical Ballads was published, Wordsworth began writing The Prelude , an epic autobiographical poem that he would revise throughout his life (it was published posthumously in 1850). While working on The Prelud e, Wordsworth produced other poetry, such as "Lucy." He also wrote a preface for the second edition of Lyrical Ballads ; it described his poetry as being inspired by powerful emotions and would come to be seen as a declaration of Romantic principles.

"Though nothing can bring back the hour, Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower." -- from Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

In 1802, a temporary lull in fighting between England and France meant that Wordsworth was able to see Vallon and their daughter, Caroline. After returning to England, he wed Mary Hutchinson, who gave birth to the first of their five children in 1803. Wordsworth was also still writing poetry, including the famous "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" and "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." These pieces were published in another Wordsworth collection, Poems, in Two Volumes (1807).

Evolving Poetry and Philosophy

As he grew older, Wordsworth began to reject radicalism. In 1813, he was named as a distributor of stamps and moved his family to a new home in the Lake District. By 1818, Wordsworth was an ardent supporter of the conservative Tories.

Though Wordsworth continued to produce poetry — including moving work that mourned the deaths of two of his children in 1812 — he had reached a zenith of creativity between 1798 and 1808. It was this early work that cemented his reputation as an acclaimed literary figure.

In 1843, Wordsworth became England's poet laureate, a position he held for the rest of his life. At the age of 80, he died on April 23, 1850, at his home in Rydal Mount, Westmorland, England.


  • Name: William Wordsworth
  • Birth Year: 1770
  • Birth date: April 7, 1770
  • Birth City: Cockermouth, Cumberland, England
  • Birth Country: United Kingdom
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: At the end of the 18th century, poet William Wordsworth helped found the Romantic movement in English literature. He also wrote "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • Astrological Sign: Aries
  • Cambridge University
  • Death Year: 1850
  • Death date: April 23, 1850
  • Death City: Rydal Mount, Westmorland, England
  • Death Country: United Kingdom


  • Article Title: William Wordsworth Biography
  • Author: Editors
  • Website Name: The website
  • Url:
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: October 27, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014

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The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth

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1 The Early Life of William Wordsworth, 1770–1800

Nicholas Hugh Roe is Professor of English at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He is the author of Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (1988), John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (1997), The Politics of Nature (2002), and Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt (2005). His edited books include Keats and History (1995), Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Sciences of Life (2001) and Leigh Hunt: Life, Poetics, Politics (2003). He was a founding editor of the scholarly journal Romanticism in 1995, and also edits the Keats–Shelley Review. His current projects include a biography of John Keats for Yale University Press, a collection of essays on English Romantic Writers and the West Country, and the Keats volume for the Longman Annotated English Poets series. Nicholas Roe is a Trustee of the Keats–Shelley Memorial Association, and Chairman of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation.

  • Published: 12 November 2015
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This chapter covers the early life of William Wordsworth from his birth at Cockermouth on 7 April 1770, through his first published poem and other early poetry, up to the composition of ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ in July 1798. The poet’s education in the Lake District and at Cambridge University is explored, as is his involvement in the French Revolution. As those personal and public events were experienced or witnessed during the 1780s and 1790s, we can see how their patterns of expectation and disruption foreshadowed the ambitions and discontinuities of Wordsworth’s long career as a poet—a reality that The Prelude was designed to suppress. Particular attention is given to Wordsworth’s many travels during these formative years.

William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, a north Cumberland market town, on 7 April 1770, the son of John Wordsworth (1741–83) and Ann Cookson (1747–78). He had four siblings: Richard (1768–1816, later a lawyer), Dorothy (1771–1855, writer), John (1772–1805, mariner in the East India Company), and Christopher (1774–1846, clergyman and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge). Their childhood home, a substantial house that fronted onto Main Street, was provided for their grandfather and father in their roles as agents for the Lowther family. 1 At the back was a walled garden extending to the bank of the River Derwent, flowing from its mountainous source at Styhead Tarn to meet the tide at Workington. The garden, river, and distant summit of mighty Skiddaw were recalled by Wordsworth many times in his poems, as, under Coleridge’s influence, he learned to recognize in the river’s ‘steady cadence’ a power that had ‘tempered’ and ‘composed’ his life as a poet ( Prel–2 , i . 10–11). 2 We need to remember, however, that that was not how it had been experienced by the five-year-old boy as he played in the river shallows: the life he had lived day-by-day held little resemblance to the version of it presented in his many autobiographical poems. In The Prelude , for instance, his mud-larking on the riverbank becomes a scene of solemn benediction,

giving [him], Among the fretful dwellings of mankind, A knowledge, a dim earnest of the calm Which Nature breathes among the fields and groves. ( Prel-2 , i . 12–15)

At other times he loads experiences and events with portentous meanings that they had not originally possessed; in the passage above, for example, ‘the fretful dwellings of mankind’ transform the back streets of Cockermouth into a scene of biblical suffering, where the young poet receives intimations that he is a spirit favoured by ‘Nature’. Wordsworth—and Coleridge—needed to believe in The Prelude ’s narrative of poetic election, for his early life—like John Keats’s—had been shattered by a series of deaths, dislocations, and abandonments. Alienation was the reality of life for young Wordsworth; he was, as he described himself, ‘a borderer of the age’—an outlaw like the rapacious bands of Reivers who raided the border country a few miles to the north of his provincial birthplace. When he dramatized his experience of alienation in The Borderers , the character Rivers (‘Reivers’) came close to identifying the poet with a murderous outlaw. 3

Away from Cockermouth, William and his sister passed long periods with their maternal grandparents in Penrith. Then, in March 1778, their mother died. Dorothy was dispatched to live with a succession of relatives at Halifax, Penrith, and Forncett, near Norwich, the home of her uncle William Cookson. The eight-year-old William joined his brother Richard at Hawkshead grammar school in Furness, to the south of the Lake District. Here he remained until summer 1787, studying classics and mathematics in the schoolroom and on holidays venturing down through the landscape of Furness to the shores of Morecambe Bay. He was already familiar with the works of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton and now added to them the classical poets in Latin and Greek. Encouraged by his schoolmaster, William Taylor, he also read through eighteenth-century and contemporary poetry by Thomas Gray, James Beattie, Charlotte Smith, Mark Akenside, George Crabbe, and Robert Burns. Emulating Taylor, who also wrote poetry, Wordsworth had begun to compose his own verses and published his first poem, a sonnet ‘On seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams weep at a Tale of Distress’, in the European Magazine for March 1787:

SHE wept.—Life’s purple tide began to flow In languid streams through every thrilling vein; Dim were my streaming eyes—my pulse beat slow, And my full heart was swell’d to dear delicious pain. Life left my loaded heart, and closing eye; A sigh recall’d the wanderer to my breast; Dear was the pause of life, and dear the sigh That call’d the wanderer home, and home to rest. That tear proclaims—in thee each virtue dwells, And bright will shine in misery’s midnight hour; As the soft star of dewy evening tells What radiant fires were drown’d by day’s malignant pow’r, That only wait the darkness of the night To chear the wand’ring wretch with hospitable light. 4

The sonnet has been said to be ‘typical of the young Wordsworth’ in that its sentimental idiom is ‘indistinguishable from numerous contemporary poetic tributes to the same subject’. 5 For a young poet just beginning to write, however, imitation of an admired model was (and is) more of a strength than otherwise—a first stage in the process of finding a distinctive voice. Aged 16, he had already mastered the language and rhetoric of sensibility—‘Dim were my swimming eyes—my pulse beat slow, | And my full heart was swell’d to dear delicious pain’ (3–4)—and had been impelled to write about an emotional experience that foreshadows his evocation of ‘sensations sweet, | Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart’ in ‘Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’. Along with the ‘thrilling vein’, ‘swimming eyes’, and ‘dear delicious pain’ found in many other poems of the day was a growing point for the future: the suggestion that empathy with distress brings a momentary ‘pause’ as one sees into the life of a ‘wand’ring wretch’. Inside this otherwise conventional sonnet we find a distinctively ‘Wordsworthian’ vision beginning to be articulated. The poem was signed ‘Axiologus’ (literally, ‘the worth-of-words’).

Wordsworth’s experiences at Hawkshead were not confined to books. Boarding with a local woman, Ann Tyson, he was free to explore the local landscape around Hawkshead and Esthwaite Water. In The Prelude he would trace in those schoolboy adventures the incidents and episodes he described as ‘spots of time’—moments of beauty and of fear that had survived the passage of many years, to revive in later life as reassuring tokens of continuity and inspiration. 6 Among the most pleasurable of his Hawkshead ‘spots of time’ were recollections of bird-nesting, boating, nutting, skating, and exploring the gothic ruins of Furness Abbey. Much darker memories were associated with his discovery of the clothes of a drowned man beside Esthwaite Water, and a subsequent search for the body. Another fearsome ‘spot of time’ associated a wild landscape, where he anxiously awaited horses to take him home for Christmas, with the shock of his father’s death on 30 December 1783. Years afterwards, as he called to mind that day of eagerly anticipated homecoming, the ordinary sights and sounds of the landscape—

the wind and sleety rain, . . . . . . . . . . . The single sheep, and the one blasted tree, And the bleak music of that old stone wall, The noise of wood and water, and the mist

—appeared as a scene of awful power associated, amid ‘storm and rain’, with the ‘workings of [his] spirit’ ( Prel-2 , i . 361–5, 371, 374). How this later understanding developed is suggested, rather than explained. 7

Wordsworth had been in the house at Cockermouth when his father died, and his first response was—understandably, perhaps—to chastise himself. If he had not longed so much for Christmas-time, his father would still be alive; ‘I bowed low | To God, who thus corrected my desires’ ( Prel–2 , i . 359–60). The experience and his reflections upon it told him that to hope too much was to be ‘blasted’, cast out as an orphan ( Prel-2 , i . 363), and this was a lesson that the greatest events of the age—the French Revolution—would also impress upon him. As those personal and public events were experienced or witnessed during the 1780s and 1790s, we can see how their patterns of expectation and disruption foreshadowed the ambitions and discontinuities of Wordsworth’s long career as a poet—a reality that The Prelude was designed to suppress. It was Coleridge who instigated Wordsworth’s life’s work, a grand philosophical poem to be entitled ‘The Recluse’. From 1797 until his death in 1850 Wordsworth worked indefatigably on various sections of ‘The Recluse’, paradoxically making ever more evident his lifelong inability to bring that great work to completion. Surviving components of ‘The Recluse’, many of them unpublished in the poet’s lifetime, would endure like fragments of the stone wall above Hawkshead. And, like the French Revolution, ‘The Recluse’ proved to be a lost cause. Wordsworth’s early life as a poet was a history of similar dislocations—of parents lost and home abandoned; of causes taken up, only to be dropped; of poems begun but left incomplete; of glad creative impulses succeeded suddenly by dismay. While The Prelude rendered this narrative ‘in the end | All gratulant if rightly understood’ ( Prel-13 , xiii. 384–5), Wordsworth’s various categorizations of his poems endeavoured to impose order and coherence on an oeuvre that was often fragmentary. 8

His growth as a poet was a process of coming to terms with those unsettling and at times painful actualities of his life. As a schoolboy at Hawkshead, he was already starting to find his way. He had worked on a long couplet poem about the local landscape, The Vale of Esthwaite , an exercise in topographical verse anticipating a poem that subsequently saw print, An Evening Walk (1793). From the outset, his poetic impulse was to root himself in his native landscape—to come ‘home to rest’. The next stage on his path into the future, however, led him away from the Lake District, across the industrial north of England towards Cambridge University and St John’s College, where he arrived in October 1787.

Wordsworth had been well prepared for university, and he began his studies in classics and mathematics with an auspicious first class result in the college examinations. As would sometimes prove the case in his later poetic life, however, a vigorous outset faltered. The examinations of June 1788 placed him in the second class, and thereafter he failed to complete the academic requirements for an honours degree. He graduated in January 1791 without the honours for which he had begun his studies three years before. Making ‘short mention’ of his Cambridge years in The Prelude , Wordsworth claims that there had been ‘a strangeness in my mind, | A feeling that I was not for that hour, | Nor for that place’ ( Prel-13 , iii. 79–81). As elsewhere in The Prelude , Wordsworth was inventing a ‘strange’ sense of destiny that he had not felt as he sat on the wooden college benches struggling to complete his examination scripts. Rather than being a ‘chosen Son |…with holy powers’ ( Prel-13 , iii. 82–3), as he tries to suggest in The Prelude , the undergraduate Wordsworth had been distracted by the pleasures of college and town life, and in the summer of 1790 he had left the country to make a walking tour with his friend Robert Jones through revolutionary France to the Alps. 9

We can plot their 1790 route in some detail, passing to the north and east of Paris from Calais to Arras, Troyes, Dijon, then voyaging down the river Saône to Lyons and so to the Monastery of the Grande Chartreuse. Throughout France they witnessed celebrations marking the first anniversary of the Revolution on 14 July:

’twas a time when Europe was rejoiced, France standing on the top of golden hours, And human nature seeming born again. Bound, as I said, to the Alps, it was our lot To land at Calais on the very eve Of that great federal Day; and there we saw In a mean City, and among a few, How bright a face is worn when joy of one Is joy of tens of millions. ( Prel-13 , ix . 352–60)

It was a moment that Wordsworth evidently recalled clearly, but not everyone had joined that rejoicing throng. Back in London The Times had looked to ‘the bloody day of…French festivity’ and ‘human sacrifice’ led by ‘those Amazonian butchers who accompanied the Royal Family from Versailles to Paris’. 10 The great pamphlet debate about France between Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) and Tom Paine’s Rights of Man (1791) was about to get under way.

One year later, on 13 July 1791, Wordsworth was on a walking tour in North Wales, once again with his friend Robert Jones. Perhaps it was on this very day that he set off before dawn to climb Snowdon, ascending through the mist, ‘forehead bent | Earthward, as if in opposition set | Against an enemy’ ( Prel-13 , xiii . 29–31), before emerging under a full moon, bright in its ‘single glory’, as Book 13 of The Prelude recalls (in 1791 the full moon was on 15 July). This was a scene of ‘admiration and delight’, Wordsworth remembered, filled by the sound of ‘waters, torrents, [and] streams | Innumerable’ ( Prel-13 , xiii . 58–61). On the international scene in mid-1791, France appeared to have secured its revolution peacefully, and, although The Times noticed ‘fabricated reports of Counter Revolutions, of Plots, of Incursions, Invasions and Massacres’ another point of view came from the Morning Post : 11

The prospect of the harvest in France is good beyond the memory of man. The corn countries were never so loaded, and they are not over-run by game, to destroy and eat up the bounty of Providence. ‘All this’, said a joyful farmer in the neighbourhood of Montreuil,—‘all this, Monsieur, is destined to the use of man —What a Revolution is this! We shall reap what we sow!’ 12

In bringing together Wordsworth’s experience of mountain glory on Snowdon’s summit, and what was reported at the time as nature’s ‘bounty’ in France, the summer of 1791 saw a peak in Wordsworth’s expectations of contemporary events. The rumoured revolutionary plots noted by The Times also marked a watershed from which alternative narratives of revolution could flow like torrents down opposite slopes of Snowdon. The agitation of ‘Democrates’ at Paris was ‘every day more and more unpopular’ according to The Times . 13 These ‘Democrates’ were the Montagnards —that is, ‘The Mountain’—synonymous with the Jacobins who would shortly be led by Robespierre. That disastrous prospect was not, of course, apparent to anyone in 1791, and the future course of Wordsworth’s career also led into the dark.

Five months after climbing Snowdon Wordsworth, having left university, returned to France. He went first to Paris, where he visited the ruins of the Bastille, the National Assembly and the Jacobin Club, listening to the uproar of the city ‘with a stranger’s ears’. He then headed south to Orleans, where he boarded with a royalist landlord, M. Gellet-Duvivier, before moving on to Blois on the banks of the river River Loire. He had arrived in France in December 1791 as an uninformed ‘enthusiast’ for the revolution; he would leave, twelve months later, as the regicide republican we encounter in his political pamphlet A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff (1793). In the interim he had met many of the revolutionists of the day, including the politician Brissot and the journalist Gorsas; he befriended the republican soldier Michel Beaupuy; and fathered a daughter, Caroline, with a young French woman, Annette Vallon. 14

Wordsworth’s 1790 encounter with France left its mark in his couplet poem Descriptive Sketches (1793) and in Book Six of The Prelude ; his second visit during 1791–2 reverberated through his narrative poems ‘Salisbury Plain’ (1793–5) and ‘The Ruined Cottage’ (1797–9), some of the shorter poems of Lyrical Ballads (1798), and it is recalled in Books Nine and Ten of The Prelude . In October 1790 he had stepped ashore at Dover en route to Cambridge and his final year at St John’s College; when he returned to England in December 1792 he was on his way to London, and the radical years that would bring his first meeting with another poetic graduate, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834). A west-country man from Ottery St Mary, Devon, Coleridge had attended school in London at Christ’s Hospital before studying at Jesus College, Cambridge (1791–4); he would quit the university as a Unitarian dissenter, and swiftly make a public reputation as a poet and charismatic political lecturer.

During the same period, 1793–5, Wordsworth was living as a penniless vagrant, wandering back and forth across the country, mingling with social outcasts—beggars, wounded soldiers, war widows—whose plight resembled his own. The French King, Louis XVI, had been executed in January 1793, and on 13 July Wordsworth’s French landlord, Gellet-Duvivier, was guillotined. He had been arrested at Orleans after an assassination attempt on Leonard Bourdon—a Member of the National Assembly. Far from being dead, Bourdon was present at the Revolutionary Tribunal in Paris as capital sentences were passed on nine men. Annette Vallon’s brother Paul had also been involved in the attack on Bourdon, but escaped into hiding or he, too, would have been executed on this day. Report of this notorious trial appeared in the London press from 24 July, and word would have reached Wordsworth—who was staying on the Isle of Wight—very shortly afterwards. 15 Its effect was shattering. Feeling angry and alienated he set off across Salisbury Plain to walk to his friend Jones at his North Wales home, passing Tintern Abbey as he strode up the Wye Valley. His embittered mood found expression in a protest poem, ‘Salisbury Plain’ (1793–4) that grew out of this forced march into Wales. Describing a bleak, elemental landscape that resembles the heath in Act Three of King Lear , Wordsworth’s poem speaks out for all those who, like Poor Tom, are cast out by society, forced to survive ‘naked and unhoused’, or unjustly persecuted like Gellet-Duvivier. As this poem draws to its noisy conclusion, Wordsworth denounces everything he sees ranged against his hopes for humankind:

Heroes of Truth pursue your march, uptear Th’Oppressor’s dungeon from its deepest base; High o’er the towers of Pride undaunted rear Resistless in your might the herculean mace Of Reason; let foul Error’s monster race Dragged from their dens start at the light with pain And die… (‘Salisbury Plain’, SPP , 541–7).

The longer-term fallout from the Bourdon trial was also notable. 16 It occurred exactly five years before the day on which Wordsworth dated his poem on the Wye: 13 July 1798. If we look for acts of ‘betrayal’ and ‘dread’ that pursued Wordsworth—as the poem suggests—then this ‘unjust tribunal’, where his French acquaintance was sentenced to death, is what the poet most likely had in mind. What the poem does not voice explicitly is Wordsworth’s fearful sense of his own complicity in revolutionary violence, as a republican partisan if not more overtly through some personal action, or default, by himself. That self-implication surfaces briefly, powerfully, in Book Ten of The Prelude :

long after the last beat Of those atrocities (I speak bare truth, As if to thee alone in private talk) I scarcely had one night of quiet sleep, Such ghastly visions had I of despair And tyranny and implements of death, And long orations which in dreams I pleaded Before unjust Tribunals, with a voice Labouring, a brain confounded, and a sense Of treachery and desertion in the place The holiest that I knew of, my own soul. ( Prel-13 , x . 370–8)

Those ‘ghastly visions’ have the force of things actually done, or witnessed, by Wordsworth himself. It is indeed possible that, for personal and political motives, Wordsworth somehow contrived to return to Paris during the terrible summer and autumn of 1793. Around 1840 he told Thomas Carlyle that he had witnessed the execution of Gorsas, a journalist and Girondin deputy. Gorsas was guillotined on 7 October 1793, and in the margin of his copy of Carlyle’s French Revolution Wordsworth noted tersely: ‘I knew this man’. 17

At this moment one ‘mace | Of Reason’ wielded in ‘Salisbury Plain’ could be found in the hefty volumes of William Godwin’s philosophical treatise, Political Justice , published in February 1793. For many young English Jacobins like Wordsworth, the two huge volumes of Godwin’s book appeared to offer a potent alternative to the turmoil that had overset France, by presenting a reassuringly rational argument in favour of human progress. ‘Error’ would be corrected by rational thought alone, without recourse to violent action. For a while, Wordsworth was captivated by Godwin until he realized how thoroughly his philosophy of ‘independent intellect’ had sidelined those other aspects of human nature that found expression in poetry: feeling, intuition, and imagination. The nature of ‘political justice’ would preoccupy Wordsworth over the coming years, particularly in his revisions to ‘Salisbury Plain’ (1795–9), the murderous cooperation of Rivers and Mortimer in his gothic drama The Borderers (1796–7), and in the harrowing tale of the war widow Margaret that forms the narrative of ‘The Ruined Cottage’ (1796–8).

In August 1794 Wordsworth made a visit to the grave of his schoolmaster, William Taylor, at Cartmel Priory in southern Furness. The moment brought back memories of his schooldays, and the physical countenance of the teacher who had encouraged his earliest poems. Afterwards, while crossing the nearby Levens Sands at low tide—it was a short cut in those days—he heard by chance some momentous news from France: Robespierre was dead. Looking back at that moment in The Prelude , Wordsworth described the ‘glee of spirit’ with which he greeted the destruction of this genius of the French Terror. Perhaps he had indeed felt something like that, experiencing a thrill of elation that also threatened a contrary plunge into the depths of despondency. As Wordsworth recalls that moment in The Prelude , the whole passage is braced by an awareness that his feelings of triumph at Robespierre’s demise would soon be overwhelmed by further horrors, just as surely and swiftly as the returning tide would obliterate his footprints. At this moment in London, twelve reformists were awaiting trial on trumped-up charges for seditious libel; among them were Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker; John Horne Tooke, a veteran campaigner for reform; and John Thelwall, poet, lecturer, and a leading firebrand of the reform movement. If found guilty, they could face execution—a dreadful event that some feared might inaugurate a British Terror similar to the events recently witnessed in France.

That autumn Wordsworth sketched a plan for a reformist magazine, ‘The Philanthropist’, in a series of letters to a university friend, William Mathews. ‘I am of that odious class of men called democrats’, he informed his friend, and in 1794 this meant that Wordsworth looked for a reform in Parliament, political rights for Dissenters and Catholics, and an end to the war with France. The ‘Philanthropist’ scheme may have been one motive that led Wordsworth south to London in February 1795, where over the next six months he met prominent reformers in the city. He was frequently in company with William Godwin, and also met William Frend (Coleridge’s tutor at Jesus College); George Dyer, scholar, poet, pamphleteer; Thomas Holcroft, playwright; and possibly Citizen John Thelwall too. Yet, as always with Wordsworth at this time, he was soon ready to travel onwards—and might have attempted to visit his lover Annette and their daughter, as the Morning Post reported: ‘The passage from Dover to Calais is now so completely open, that on Saturday and Yesterday, several Young Gentlemen from Dover took a trip over to visit their acquaintance’. 18 In the same columns of The Morning Post was a list of ‘Queries to Mr. Pitt’, addressed to the prime minister:

Is it not a fruitless attempt to the overthrow of the French Republic…? Is not Peace absolutely necessary to quiet the minds of the People of ENGLAND…? Is it not prudent to conciliate the People by pacific measures, to prevent any convulsion in the country…? Should you not…redress the grievances of the People, whose temper is totally changed within the last SIX MONTHS? What effect do you suppose it will have on the public mind, when the people of England are menaced with Famine, at the time that France will be receiving the benefits of an abundant harvest…? 19

These ‘Queries’ tapped into public unrest that would shortly trigger a gun attack on the king’s coach, and within a month of this Morning Post article Wordsworth quitted London and travelled to Bristol. Here he met the poets Coleridge and Robert Southey (1774–1843) for the first time, possibly at merchant John Pinney’s house in Great George Street. By agreement with the Pinneys Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy would stay at their country house, Racedown Lodge near Lyme Regis, Dorset, arriving there at the end of September 1795. Here, living in retirement, Wordsworth was suddenly extraordinarily productive. He embarked on his play The Borderers and began a first version of his narrative poem ‘The Ruined Cottage’, abandoning the hectoring Spenserian verse of ‘Salisbury Plain’ for the less strident cadences of blank verse. 20

As we have seen, Wordsworth’s restless wandering in these years was a continuation of the formative dislocations he had experienced with his parents’ early deaths, his various removals to Penrith, Hawkshead, Cambridge, and the disappointing university career that seems to have propelled him across the channel to France. One way of making sense of Wordsworth during these distracted years is to track his tortuous passage from revolutionary enthusiasm, through republicanism, to William Godwin’s rationalist philosophy of Political Justice , and thence to poetry and Lyrical Ballads . To move from a revolution that promised, in Tom Paine’s words, a ‘renovation of the natural order of things’ to poems that would challenge ‘pre-established codes of decision’ can help us understand one possible context for the experimental agenda of Lyrical Ballads . For many years that volume was held to be the ‘beginning’ of English Romanticism, quite unlike anything that had preceded it. And yet the ballad form of ‘The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere’ and ‘The Thorn’ and the blank verse of ‘The Nightingale’ point to continuities with earlier traditions, much as ‘Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’ developed and deepened aspects of Wordsworth’s first published sonnet. Those connections internal to Wordsworth’s poetic career suggest that, amid the distractions of day-to-day life, he was seeking continuities in his imaginative growth that would, in due course, and with Coleridge’s encouragement, form his principal subject in The Prelude . In that poem, the great political cause of the age, the French Revolution, becomes merely a passing episode in an overarching history of the poet’s mind.

With ‘Salisbury Plain’ Wordsworth had, for a time, entered a poetic (and political) cul-de-sac. The formality of its Spenserian verse, coupled with violently exaggerated language, taught him that a more graceful and various verbal texture might indicate a way forward. In ‘The Ruined Cottage’ he discovered that the tragedy of Margaret’s ‘sore heart-wasting’ after the loss of her husband was most powerfully communicated in poetry of undemonstrative insight, as when the poem’s narrator describes how the woman’s

voice was low, Her body was subdued. In every act Pertaining to her house-affairs appeared The careless stillness which a thinking mind Gives to an idle matter—still she sighed, But yet no motion of the breast was seen, No heaving of the heart. ( RCP , MS.D, 379–85)

Wordsworth has learned from Shakespeare and keys this quietly affecting passage to Cordelia’s loving reticence in King Lear . It was Cordelia who protests to her father that she cannot ‘heave | [Her] heart into her mouth’, as Lear acknowledges in his grief after her death: ‘Her voice was ever soft, | Gentle, and low’ (I. i. 90–1; V. iii. 272–3). Just ten years before, Wordsworth had begun his life as a poet with ‘Dim were my swimming eyes—my pulse beat slow, | And my full heart was swell’d to dear delicious pain’. The ‘careless stillness’ of ‘The Ruined Cottage’ shows us that Wordsworth’s imagination remained alive to the ‘slow pulse’ of that early attempt. We feel Margaret’s ‘full heart’ all the more poignantly because it cannot ‘heave’; it has ‘no motion’, a phrase that Wordsworth would revisit in one of the poems most definitive of his genius:

A slumber did my spirit seal, I had no human fears: She seem’d a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force She neither hears nor sees Roll’d round in earth’s diurnal course With rocks and stones and trees! ( LBOP , 164)

In this compact and elegiac ‘Lucy’ poem, written at Goslar in late 1798 or early 1799, Wordsworth requited all the long years of desolating sorrow that Margaret had endured. He does so by evoking a heartfelt lapse, or ‘pause of life’, akin to the experience recounted in his sonnet ‘On seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams weep at a Tale of Distress’.

In June 1797 Wordsworth and his sister welcomed Coleridge to Racedown, visiting from his home at Nether Stowey, Somerset. Together they read with mutual admiration Wordsworth’s ‘Ruined Cottage’, the first two acts of Coleridge’s play Osorio , and passages from The Borderers . At the end of the month Coleridge hastened back to Stowey, returning to Racedown early in July to accompany the Wordsworths to Stowey and their new residence, Alfoxden House, at the nearby hamlet of Holford. With that move across country, the annus mirabilis that would culminate in Lyrical Ballads was under way. News of an unsuccessful French invasion attempt along the coast at Ilfracombe was still fresh, and in July 1797 Citizen John Thelwall would arrive from London. Together Wordsworth, Dorothy, Coleridge, Sara Coleridge, and Thelwall made a ‘most philosophical party’ walking on the Quantock heights. In the Morning Chronicle the ‘Hamburg Mail’ delivered its usual update on French and European affairs: ‘Switzerland itself does not appear to be secure from this Revolutionary spirit, as many discontents and disturbances prevail…The disputes between the Swiss and the French, relative to the navigation of the Lake of Lugano, are not yet settled’. 21 That report is a preliminary to the French invasion of Switzerland in nine months’ time, an event Coleridge would mark in ‘France: An Ode’. And the fact that Hamburg’s port was still open and accessible had registered; this would be where Wordsworth, Dorothy, and Coleridge landed in September 1798 en route to eastern Germany.

An elated awareness of landscape, space, and creative excitement suffuses Wordsworth’s poetry from this time, as it does Dorothy Wordsworth’s ‘Alfoxden Journal’. In 1798 Britain and France had been at war for five years, and the poets were not alone in turning away from London and metropolitan politics in quest of somewhere to start over. The Quantock Hills—two days from London by the fastest coach—offered the geographical and psychological sense of remove that encouraged the poets’ experiments with lyrics that offered the alternative insights and renewals of Lyrical Ballads .

But why the Quantock Hills? At a period of political and social unrest the remoteness of the Quantocks might be thought to have offered shelter from political persecution, and the shaded coombs and windswept uplands both nurtured and disciplined composition. This was the landscape Coleridge celebrated in ‘Fears in Solitude’, and, rather than retreating from revolutionary sympathies, both poets had settled in a historical heartland of rebellion—as Coleridge, a Devonshire man, certainly knew. A dozen miles from Nether Stowey was Taunton, a parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War and a centre for Non-conformity with an academy ( c .1670–1759) linked to the network of dissent that criss-crossed the country. 22 The Duke of Monmouth’s challenge for the throne in 1685 had gathered momentum near Racedown in Dorset, only to meet defeat at ‘sad Sedge-Moor’—Thomas Hardy’s phrase. 23 Hundreds were executed in Judge Jeffreys’s ‘bloody assizes’ that followed. When the French planned their invasion attempt in 1797, they targeted a remote area of the Somerset coast—possibly anticipating a welcome from locals whose forebears had experienced murderous retribution. 24 Certainly Coleridge and Wordsworth found a like-minded friend in Thomas Poole, the tanner of Nether Stowey who had founded a poor man’s club in the village (Poole’s enemies thought of this club as his ‘private army’). For the poets, moving to Somerset was less of an escape from the dangers of London and Bristol than a homecoming in a provincial landscape long associated with a principled spirit of independence. The geopolitical history of the West Country was unquestionably a factor in the Home Office decision to dispatch a spy—Coleridge’s ‘Spy Nosy’—to report on the ‘nest of democrats’ at Alfoxden. He followed in Thelwall’s footsteps, arriving at Stowey on 15 August 1797, and swiftly established that the ‘democrats’ were not French insurgents. 25

November of 1797 saw the Wordsworths and Coleridge make a long walking tour to Watchet and Dulverton, during which they projected a poem that became ‘The Ancyent Marinere’. Around this time, too, was formed the plan for the collaborative volume that was eventually published as Lyrical Ballads (1798). Early in the following year Wordsworth—urged on by Coleridge—first started to develop his ideas for ‘The Recluse’. He was also at work on ‘The Ruined Cottage’, ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’, and a study of the hardships occasioned by the war that became ‘The Discharged Soldier’. This astonishingly productive spring of 1798 saw Wordsworth compose ‘Goody Blake and Harry Gill’, ‘Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman’, ‘The Idiot Boy’, ‘The Last of the Flock’, ‘We are Seven’, ‘Simon Lee’, ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’, ‘Anecdote for Fathers’, a first version of his comic ballad Peter Bell , and ‘The Thorn’. At a time when the madness of King George III meant that King Lear was not staged, Wordsworth’s poems were populated with outcasts that could have been encountered in the world of Shakespeare’s play: the old, the sick, the poor, and the insane—all of these ‘wand’ring wretches’ find voices in Wordsworth’s poems. 26

Around 20 May, William Hazlitt, son of the dissenting minister at Wem, Shropshire, visited Nether Stowey and Alfoxden and read some of the poems destined for Lyrical Ballads . Recalling that moment in later years, Hazlitt said that

the sense of a new style and a new spirit in poetry came over me… It had to me something of the effect that arises from the turning up of the fresh soil, or of the first welcome breath of Spring… Coleridge and myself walked back to Stowey that evening, and his voice sounded…as we passed through echoing grove, by fairy stream or waterfall, gleaming in the summer moonlight. 27

Moonlit in hindsight, Hazlitt’s ‘First Acquaintance with Poets’ was grounded in substantial stuff—the ‘turning up of fresh soil’ just a few miles from King Alfred’s stronghold at Athelney—from where he set out to defeat the Viking invaders. It was King Alfred’s spirit of English liberty and independence that Wordsworth and Coleridge captured in Lyrical Ballads , and, especially, in the book’s concluding poem.

‘Tintern Abbey’ (or, ‘On revisiting the Wye’, as Wordsworth more pertinently called it) was composed during a four-day walking tour with his sister up the Wye Valley, 10–14 July 1798. Although it was composed ‘on location’ Wordsworth’s poem does not describe an actual landscape, but a landscape of the mind to which various features are summoned for the purposes of poetry:

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length Of five long winters! And again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, Which on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky. The day is come when I again repose Here, under this dark sycamore, and view These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits, Among the woods and copses lose themselves, Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb The wild green landscape. Once again I see These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees, And the low copses—coming from the trees With some uncertain notice, as might seem, Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some hermit’s cave, where by his fire The hermit sits alone. ( LBOP , 1–24)

‘[A]‌gain I hear’, ‘Once again | Do I’, ‘I again repose’, ‘Once again I see’—the mood is affirmative, responding to a moment of recognition and completion that, in retrospect, can be seen to mark the close of the annus mirabilis that began in July 1797. In these twenty-four lines there are five sentences, and we can sense Wordsworth’s mounting confidence by the simple expedient of a line count for each sentence: the sequence runs 1.5, 2, 4.5, 7, and, finally, 9. As he composes, he finds he has more to compose; what he has just said seems immediately to call for further amplification. Only nine of the twenty-four lines are end-stopped, and punctuation inside the lines lends a gentle counterpoint to the onward iambic flow of verse. We’re aware of the poetry’s understated permissions and resistances, as if attuning itself to Wordsworth’s jagged swings of temper in previous years, and insinuating a more regular, moderated rhythm. Repetitions also contribute to this process of verbal regulation—‘Five…five…five’; ‘secluded…seclusion’; ‘These…these’; ‘green…green…Green’; ‘hedge-rows, hardly hedgerows’; ‘wild…wild’; ‘trees…trees’. The effect of all of this is to underline how ‘changed indeed’ Wordsworth was from the time of his first visit to the Wye in 1793.

What Wordsworth’s blank verse does not allow us to hear is the aggressive voice of an earlier poem such as ‘Salisbury Plain’: ‘Heroes of Truth pursue your march, uptear | Th’Oppressor’s dungeon from its deepest base’ (‘Salisbury Plain’, SPP , 541–2). By 13 July 1798 this ear-splitting rhetoric has been succeeded, in ‘On revisiting the Wye’, by a more reticent but no less explicit manifesto—hear, behold, think, connect—concerted by various verbal and rhythmic patterns. Instead of ‘uptearing’, the game now is to discern relationship, to establish links between past, present and future. From the outset we are made aware that this poem celebrates a revisit, a return—but a revisit and return to what? There is nothing that links the poem’s landscape—‘this dark sycamore’, ‘these orchard tufts’—with the actuality of the Wye Valley in July 1798 either at or above Tintern, and, as we are constantly reminded, Tintern Abbey itself does not appear in the poem. So what was Wordsworth revisiting on the banks of the Wye?

In ‘On revisiting the Wye’, Wordsworth composed a poem on revisiting a place that was not a place; he could recognize it, he could hear it, although it was not a location in any conventional topographical sense. The poem’s full title in Lyrical Ballads (1798) is suggestive:

LINES written a few miles above TINTERN ABBEY, On revisiting the banks of the WYE during a tour , July 13, 1798.

When Wordsworth’s readers saw this on page 201 of the volume, they would also have been aware that on the same page was a footnote to the poem’s fourth line: ‘The river is not affected by the tides a few miles above Tintern’. That phrase ‘a few miles above Tintern’ has perplexed many readers, keen to locate where exactly Wordsworth had stood. What Wordsworth gestures to, however, is the invisible point at which the salty tidal seawater, with all its fretful associations of change, met the ‘inland murmur’ of the river where—as with the River Derwent behind his childhood home at Cockermouth—the steadiness of its flow is ‘not affected’ by the tides. The phrase ‘not affected’ points us to that elusive threshold where the tide no longer has any physical influence and, in a stroke of genius, also suggests how that other river—the river of the poet’s mind—is no longer ‘affected’ and unsettled in thought or feeling. What we are invited to contemplate is a location that has no topographical presence; a moment simultaneously within and outside time; and a ‘pause of life’ that is true to the experience related in his sonnet on Helen Maria Williams:

—that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on, Until, the breath of this corporeal frame, And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul ( LBOP , 42–7).

As the ‘affections gently lead us on’, Wordsworth gives full articulation to the mysterious feelings he had tentatively approached in his first published poem. 28

The poetics of his poem ‘On revisiting the Wye’—its language, versification, and rhythms—are conscious of a changeful universe manifest in bright then bloody events in France; in painful extremities of thought and feeling; and in the restless, rootless travelling characteristic of Wordsworth’s early life. Accompanying those public and personal histories were more subtle revolutions as years and seasons turned, and tides unceasingly ebbed and flowed. All of these experiences were summarized by John Keats as a process of ‘sharpening one’s vision’ and ‘convincing ones nerves that the World is full of Misery and Heartbreak, Pain, Sickness and oppression’. ‘To this point’, Keats speculated, ‘was Wordsworth come, as far as I can conceive when he wrote “Tintern Abbey”’. In the same letter he tells his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, ‘ We are now in that state—We feel the “burden of the Mystery”’. 29 In that moment of fellow-feeling Keats acknowledged that his own life as a poet had begun, like Wordsworth’s, with the tragic loss of both of his parents—a fact that Keats may have heard from Wordsworth himself when they met in London in December of 1817. In his poem on the Wye, Wordsworth had embarked on the autobiographic poetry that would lead into his first version of The Prelude , begun in Germany over the winter of 1798–9, and the longer, more elaborate versions of the poem that he wrote in later years. He had also written the poem against which John Keats would measure his own achievement, as he too sought to banish the ‘weariness, the fever, and the fret’ in a poem that, like ‘Tintern Abbey’, is ‘Green to the very door’: ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.

Select Bibliography

Bromwich, David , Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998 ).

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Gill, Stephen , William Wordsworth: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990 ).

Johnston, Kenneth R. , The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998 ).

Moorman, Mary , William Wordsworth, A Biography: The Early Years 1770–1803 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957 ).

Roe, Nicholas , Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988 ).

Sheats, Paul D. , The Making of Wordsworth’s Poetry 1785–1798 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973 ).

For more on the Wordsworth and Lowther families, see Terry McCormick’s essay in this volume (chapter 37).

See Christopher Salvesen , The Landscape of Memory. A Study of Wordsworth’s Poetry (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 99–101 .

See David Bromwich , Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 19–20 . See also Frederick Burwick’s essay on The Borderers in this volume (chapter 8 ).

European Magazine, and London Review (March 1787), 202.

F. M. Todd , ‘Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams, and France’, Modern Language Review 43:4 (Oct. 1948), 456. See also Duncan Wu’s essay in this volume (chapter 28 ).

See Prel-13 , i. 307.

See also Anthony John Harding’s essay in this volume (chapter 21 ).

R. P. Graves reported Wordsworth as saying that the idiosyncratic ordering of his poems was to avoid ‘an amount of egotism, placing interest in himself above interest in the subjects treated by him’. See Mark L. Reed , A Bibliography of William Wordsworth, 1787–1830 , 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), I. cxi .

For Wordsworth’s life in Cambridge, see especially Kenneth R. Johnston , The Hidden Wordsworth , rev. edn (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000) , chapter 5 .

‘London’, The Times (13 July 1790).

‘France’, The Times (13 July 1791).

‘London’, The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (13 July 1791).

For more on Wordsworth in France, see my Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988) , chapter 2. For Gorsas, see ‘Wordsworth’s Secrecy: Gorsas and “The Philanthropist”’ in my The Politics of Nature: William Wordsworth and some Contemporaries , 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 143–58 .

See for example the London Packet or New Lloyd’s Evening Post (22–4 July 1793) and Diary or Woodfall’s Register (24 July 1793).

For more on Wordsworth and Leonard Bourdon, see my essay ‘Politics, History, and Wordsworth’s Poems’, in Stephen Gill (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Wordsworth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 196–212, esp. 203–210 .

See also essays in this volume by Simon Bainbridge (chapter 6 ) and Philip Shaw (chapter 23 ).

‘London’, The Morning Post and Fashionable World (13 July 1795).

‘Queries to Mr. Pitt’, The Morning Post and Fashionable World (13 July 1795).

For more on the ‘Salisbury Plain’ poems see Quentin Bailey’s essay in this volume (chapter 7 ); for more on ‘The Ruined Cottage’ see Paul H. Fry’s essay in this volume (chapter 20 ).

‘The Hamburg Mail. Frontiers of Italy, June 20’, The Morning Chronicle (13 July 1797).

For more on Taunton, see Peter J. Kitson , ‘Coleridge’s Bristol and West Country Radicalism’, in Nicholas Roe (ed.), English Romantic Writers and the West Country (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 115–28 .

Thomas Hardy, ‘A Trampwoman’s Tragedy’, line 8.

For more on this French escapade, see Roe, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years , chapter 7.

See Roe, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years , chapter 7.

For more on the first edition of Lyrical Ballads , see Daniel Robinson’s essay in this volume (chapter 9 ).

William Hazlitt , ‘My First Acquaintance with Poets’, in The Complete Works of William Hazlitt , ed. P. P. Howe , 21 vols (London: J. M. Dent, 1930–4), XVII. 117 .

See also Susan Wolfson’s essay in this volume (chapter 10 ).

The Letters of John Keats 1814–1821 , ed. Hyder Edward Rollins , 2 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958; 1972), I. 281 . Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds, 3 May 1818.

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William Wordsworth

Nov 24, 2013

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William Wordsworth. By Catherine Russell. Biography . Born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland in the Lake District, the British poet William Wordsworth is famous for leading the Romantic movement of poetry.

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William Wordsworth By Catherine Russell

Biography Born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland in the Lake District, the British poet William Wordsworth is famous for leading the Romantic movement of poetry. Wordsworth had a happy childhood until he was eight when his mother died followed by his father five years later which led to him and his beloved younger sister being separated along with his other brothers. The Wordsworth children were left under the care of two of his uncles and William was sent to a grammar school to study. After graduation in 1790, William set out on a walking journey through France where he met Annette Vallon and had a love affair which resulted in a illegitimate Daughter named Anne Caroline, who is thought to be the subject of Wordsworth’s poem called Vaudracour and Julia.

In 1795, Wordsworth met Samuel Coleridge and together they took inspiration from Nature and created many lyrical works of poetry that lead the romantic movement. Not extremely successful with selling his poetry, Wordsworth struggled with money issues throughout his life. In 1802 he married Mary Hutchinson and together they lived at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria where they cared for William sister Dorothy for about twenty years. In 1850 on April 23, William Wordsworth died from respiratory failure. He was buried in St. Oswald’s Churchyard in Grasmere, Cumbria, England.

Why I enjoy Wordsworth… William Wordsworth was greatly influenced by the beauty of nature and he expressed this passion often in his poetry. This is what I admire and enjoy about Wordsworth work because I as well share an love for the splendor of the trees, wind, flowers and everything else nature displays. I also appreciate Wordsworth choice of words and structure of his poems which he communicates his emotions and viewpoints extremely well.

Poetry SHE DWELT AMONG THE UNTRODDEN WAYSSHE dwelt among the untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove, A Maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love: A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye! --Fair as a star, when only one Is shining in the sky. She lived unknown, and few could know When Lucy ceased to be; But she is in her grave, and, oh, The difference to me!

THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US; LATE AND SOON THE world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

LONDON, 1802MILTON! thou should'st be living at this hour: England hath need of thee: she is a fen Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, Have forfeited their ancient English dower Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; Oh! raise us up, return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart: Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, So didst thou travel on life's common way, In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud I wandered lonely as a cloudThat floats on high o'er vales and hills,When all at once I saw a crowd,A host, of golden daffodils,Beside the lake, beneath the treesFluttering and dancing in the breeze.Continuous as the stars that shineAnd twinkle on the Milky Way,They stretched in never-ending lineAlong the margin of a bay:Ten thousand saw I at a glanceTossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced, but theyOut-did the sparkling waves in glee: - A poet could not but be gayIn such a jocund company:I gazed -and gazed -but little thoughtWhat wealth the show to me had brought.For oft, when on my couch I lieIn vacant or in pensive mood,They flash upon that inward eyeWhich is the bliss of solitude;And then my heart with pleasure fillsAnd dances with the daffodils.

The Sun Has Long Been Set The sun has long been set,The stars are out by twos and threes,The little birds are piping yetAmong the bushes and the trees;There's a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,And a far-off wind that rushes,And a sound of water that gushes,And the cuckoo's sovereign cryFills all the hollow of the sky.Who would go `parading'In London, `and masquerading',On such a night of JuneWith that beautiful soft half-moon,And all these innocent blisses?On such a night as this is!

My Imitation of a Wordsworth Poem Morning Comes Light breaks over the shadowed hill, Unfolds a hand of life. Shakes the trees of the morning chill; Awakens last nights strife. Arising with the stroke of sun, Her face is streaked with tears. Although the day has not begun; Her heart is filled with fears. For my imitation of Wordworth's work I decided to imitate Wordsworth’s rhyming scheme and stanza structure as seen in his poem, A slumber did my spirit seal to form a poem of my own.

Response to a Literary Criticism I read a literary criticism by Amelia Warren with the title, The Significance of Gender in Radcliffe and Wordsworth. This criticism compares how Wordsworth’s poetry is often written in first person; using “I” quite frequently instead of “he” or “she”. The author then proceeds to compare Wordsworth’s tendency to compose poetry this way to another poet, Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) who instead tends to write using third person. Radcliffe’s poems are like novels, as in the poetry surrounds the characters that are presented to us to discover. This style, which is quite unlike Wordsworth’s singular presentation of the characters in his poems that gives us a perspective and view of the world from Wordsworth’s eyes in the 17th century. Although both styles of poetry are appealing and pleasing to our senses I can relate with Wordsworth’s frequently used style of writing in first person because I tend to write in a similar style.

Bibliography • Websites: • 1. Warren, A. (1993). The Significance of Gender in Radcliffe and Wordsworth. Retrieved December 6, 2005, from Victorian Web • Web site: • 2. Selendy Communications. (2001).The complete poetical works of William Words. Retrieved November 28, 2005, from the Archives of Classic poem • Web site: • 3. Menon, S. (2003). William Wordsworth. Retrieved December 6, 2005, from The Literature Network • Web Site: • Books: • 1. Coffin, C. & Roelofs, G. (1954). The Major Poets: English and American. • New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

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William Wordsworth

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William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England on April 7, 1770. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was eight—this experience shapes much of his later work. Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School, where his love of poetry was firmly established and, it is believed, he made his first attempts at verse. While he was at Hawkshead, Wordsworth’s father died leaving him and his four siblings orphans. After Hawkshead, Wordsworth studied at St. John’s College in Cambridge and before his final semester, he set out on a walking tour of Europe, an experience that influenced both his poetry and his political sensibilities. While touring Europe, Wordsworth came into contact with the French Revolution. This experience as well as a subsequent period living in France, brought about Wordsworth’s interest and sympathy for the life, troubles, and speech of the “common man.” These issues proved to be of the utmost importance to Wordsworth’s work. Wordsworth’s earliest poetry was published in 1793 in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. While living in France, Wordsworth conceived a daughter, Caroline, out of wedlock; he left France, however, before she was born. In 1802, he returned to France with his sister on a four-week visit to meet Caroline. Later that year, he married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend, and they had five children together. In 1812, while living in Grasmere, two of their children—Catherine and John—died.

Equally important in the poetic life of Wordsworth was his 1795 meeting with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was with Coleridge that Wordsworth published the famous Lyrical Ballads in 1798. While the poems themselves are some of the most influential in Western literature, it is the preface to the second edition that remains one of the most important testaments to a poet’s views on both his craft and his place in the world. In the preface Wordsworth writes on the need for “common speech” within poems and argues against the hierarchy of the period which valued epic poetry above the lyric.

Wordsworth ’s most famous work, The Prelude (1850), is considered by many to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. The poem, revised numerous times, chronicles the spiritual life of the poet and marks the birth of a new genre of poetry. Although Wordsworth worked on The Prelude throughout his life, the poem was published posthumously. Wordsworth spent his final years settled at Rydal Mount in England, travelling and continuing his outdoor excursions. Devastated by the death of his daughter Dora in 1847, Wordsworth seemingly lost his will to compose poems. William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount on April 23, 1850, leaving his wife Mary to publish The Prelude three months later.

Essays by William Wordsworth

  • Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Poems by William Wordsworth

  • “Why art thou silent! Is thy love a plant”
  • A Complaint
  • A Poet! He Hath Put his Heart to School
  • A Slumber did my Spirit Seal
  • Character of the Happy Warrior
  • Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
  • Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, Painted by Sir George Beaumont
  • Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg
  • I Travelled among Unknown Men
  • I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
  • Influence of Natural Objects in Calling Forth and Strengthening the Imagination in Boyhood and Early Youth
  • Inside of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge
  • It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free
  • It is not to be Thought of
  • Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798
  • Lines Written in Early Spring
  • London, 1802
  • Most Sweet it is
  • November, 1806
  • Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room
  • October, 1803
  • Ode to Duty
  • Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
  • On the Departure of Sir Walter Scott from Abbotsford, for Naples
  • On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic
  • Resolution and Independence
  • Scorn not the Sonnet
  • September, 1819
  • She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
  • She Was a Phantom of Delight
  • Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman
  • Sonnets from The River Duddon: After-Thought
  • Surprised by Joy
  • The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement
  • The Green Linnet
  • The Power of Armies is a Visible Thing
  • The Reverie of Poor Susan
  • The Simplon Pass
  • The Solitary Reaper
  • The Tables Turned
  • The World Is Too Much With Us
  • There was a Boy
  • Three Years She Grew
  • To a Highland Girl
  • To a Skylark
  • To the Cuckoo
  • We Are Seven
  • Written in London. September, 1802
  • Yarrow Revisited
  • Yarrow Unvisited
  • Yarrow Visited. September, 1814
  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Ullswater, Cumbria, made famous by Wordsworth’s poem ‘I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud’.

Radical Wordsworth, Well-Kept Secrets, William Wordsworth review – lives of the poet

Republican, eco-warrior young Wordsworth v grand older poet – 250 after his birth, do we still have to take sides?

J ames Boswell started his biography of Dr Johnson on an anxious note: “To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others,” he confessed, “may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.” How presumptuous, then, must the biographer of William Wordsworth feel? Not only is he one of the greatest of all English poets, but in The Prelude , largely unpublished until after his death, he excelled all mankind in writing the history of his own life – or rather, what he called “the growth of a poet’s mind”. No biographer could hope to compete with the sheer audacity and originality of Wordsworth’s 14-book blank verse account of what had made him a writer and a man. But as these three studies make plain, there is more than one way to tell the story of a life.

Although his verse autobiography tracks the sources of a poet’s character and imagination, in real life its author tried just as strenuously to keep himself hidden from view. Wordsworth thought one of the best ways to put off would-be biographers was to claim that virtually nothing had ever happened to him. Now we know differently. The “well-kept secrets” to which Andrew Wordsworth (a descendant) alludes in his title are, first, the poet’s “true feelings towards his sister”, and second, “the existence of his illegitimate daughter”. The latter might justly be described as a secret, since knowledge of Caroline Wordsworth’s birth in revolutionary France did not become public until seven decades after Wordsworth had died. It is also true that he enjoyed an intensely and unusually loving, creative relationship with his sister Dorothy. But this can scarcely be said to constitute a “secret”; Wordsworth doesn’t appear to have felt burdened by his feelings towards her, nor did he try to conceal them. Andrew Wordsworth stops short of suggesting, as others have done, that the connection may have been incestuous. Rather, he sees in the five celebrated “Lucy” poems – a series of works concerning a young girl who has died, composed between 1798 and 1802 – coded references both to Caroline and Dorothy, expressing the author’s fears for the loss of one or both of them but also in some sense steeling himself to bear it.

Andrew Wordsworth, Well-Kept Secrets

One of the many enjoyments of Stephen Gill’s William Wordsworth: A Life is the quiet pride it communicates in a job well done. Wordsworth emerges from this comprehensive and absorbing study as a man whose sense of purpose and duty steadily grew from youth to old age. That sense had its origins in the early loss of his parents on the one hand, and in his poetic vocation on the other. The orphaned Wordsworth did not see his sister again until they were both grown up. Once reunited, they embarked on a remarkable experiment in domesticity and writing, one to which both siblings, their friends, and (later) Wordsworth’s wife, Mary, were devoted. Gill carefully draws out the rewards and the costs of what it meant for other people to commit their lives to an often testy, sensitive man whose needs dominated the household. He also rightly pauses on several occasions to remind us that, while biographies impose a shape and certainty on the lives of their illustrious subjects, those subjects could not themselves have known how things would turn out. It took a long time indeed for Wordsworth’s greatness to be recognised. For much of his long life (he died aged 80) he was either poor, or vilified by critics, or both.

First published in 1989, Gill’s biography now appears in a second edition to mark the 250 th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The new text includes ampler consideration of Wordsworth’s wife and sister, and an updated frame of critical references. But the book is essentially the same judicious, substantial account that it was 31 years ago. Even if it hasn’t changed much, this biography is centrally concerned with the value of change, as weighed against the merits of consistency. Like the poems it considers, William Wordsworth: A Life is constantly and subtly attentive to first and second thoughts. It cherishes and brings into sharp focus the work of revision: Wordsworth found the temptation to rewrite himself irresistible. His inability to leave his own works alone was evidence of his strongest instinct “to search for the continuity between past and present selves, to demonstrate an essential wholeness of being”.

Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth- A Life

Readers have always been divided on the merits and wisdom of such “tinkering”, as the author called it. But the general consensus on Wordsworth’s career has been that the radical young man is superior to the reactionary old codger; that the works of his first decade as a writer outweigh anything he composed thereafter. When Jonathan Bate reviewed the first edition of Gill’s biography in 1989, he praised the author’s unusual willingness to attend to the latter part of its subject’s life. “Instead of the poet’s declining into the vale of years, writing worse and worse poetry,” Bate then wrote, “we are presented with a man who is an increasingly powerful force in national culture and who continually revises his work with deliberate purpose, if mixed effect”.

Gill’s readiness to find interest and value in Wordsworth’s middle and old age is indeed one of the most rewarding aspects of his biography. He gives a sense of clarity and roundedness to the whole career, and explains that Wordsworth himself did not recognise different phases of his own writing life as separable from one another. Nor did he view his own poems as “discrete objects” belonging to a single moment: early, middle, or late. He did not think of himself as a man who had changed – this charge was the most serious of those brought against him by a younger generation of poets, who saw Wordsworth as reneging on his early revolutionary principles in order to retire into rural seclusion and a steady job – but as a man whose commitments had remained the same.

Bate’s professed view of 31 years ago, that Gill’s handling of later Wordsworth was one of the most valuable things about his work has not endured. Not, at least, as far as his own opinions are concerned. In Radical Wordsworth , Bate champions what he himself once dismissed as the worn-out view that “early equals good and late equals bad”.

Jonathan Bate, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World

Having announced at the outset that “the long life of Wordsworth tails off into monotony”, Bate encourages us to dismiss the poet’s maturity and old age as dull and forgettable. He also argues that “too often, biographies of Wordsworth have been depressed by trivial occupations and the round of ordinary intercourse. These are not the things that inspire great poetry.” On the contrary, it was Wordsworth’s most radical claim that apparently trivial things and people, the rhythms of ordinary life, were the stuff of true poetry. But for Bate, the Wordsworth who matters is the republican and the polemicist who attacked hereditary monarchy, argued for universal suffrage, and held his own government and legal system to account. His Wordsworth is an eco-warrior, the prophet of “a carbon-warmed atmosphere”.

One problem with this version of events is that, as Gill points out, most evidence of Wordsworth’s early, fiery convictions survives in the form of writings he chose not to publish himself. He was never sufficiently reckless to commit himself to the career of a political journalist. Considered in the light of his earliest experiences, such caution is hardly surprising. Wordsworth’s childhood was marked and shaped by a devastating loss of security. He devoted his adulthood to imposing a sense of order on his surroundings and coherence on his past, drawing strength and fortitude from domestic routine and shoring up a sense of his own identity through returning to and recasting his early experiences. Many readers may continue to rate his first thoughts over his second ones, but Wordsworth was constitutionally inclined to disagree: “My first expressions I often find detestable,” he wrote in a letter of 1814; “and it is frequently true of second words as of second thoughts, that they are the best.”

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William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards

William Wordsworth Biography and Works

Table of Contents

William Wordsworth Biography and Works

William Wordsworth Biography and Works , William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was an English Romantic poet who helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798, a collection of poems he co-authored with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

He is considered one of the most influential and celebrated poets in the English language, with a body of work that spans over five decades and includes some of the most beloved and widely anthologized poems in the English canon.

Early Life and Education

William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, a small town in the Lake District region of northwestern England. He was the second of five children born to John Wordsworth, an attorney, and his wife, Ann Cookson. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was only eight years old, and he was sent to live with his mother’s family in Penrith, a town about twenty miles from Cockermouth. Wordsworth’s father died when he was thirteen, and he was then sent to live with an uncle in Hawkshead, a small village in the Lake District. William Wordsworth Biography and Works

William Wordsworth Biography and Works:- Wordsworth attended Cambridge University, where he studied classics and wrote poetry. He also traveled to France, where he became fluent in French and was exposed to the revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution. Wordsworth’s experiences in France would have a profound impact on his political and philosophical beliefs and on his poetry. 

Poetic Career

Wordsworth’s early poetry was heavily influenced by the neoclassical style of the eighteenth century, but he gradually began to develop a more personal and expressive style that would become the hallmark of Romantic poetry. William Wordsworth Biography and Works, In 1793, Wordsworth published his first collection of poems, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, which were well-received by critics but did not receive much attention from the public.

Also Read:- William Shakespeare Biography and Works

William Wordsworth Biography and Works:- In 1795, Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he would form a close friendship and a productive literary partnership. The two poets collaborated on Lyrical Ballads, which was published in 1798 and is now considered a seminal work of English Romanticism. The collection included some of Wordsworth’s most famous poems, including “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” “We Are Seven,” and “The Tables Turned.” The poems in Lyrical Ballads broke with the conventions of eighteenth-century poetry by using ordinary language, focusing on ordinary people and everyday experiences, and exploring the emotions and inner lives of the speakers.

Mature Career

Wordsworth continued to write poetry throughout his life, and his later work is often characterized by a more reflective and philosophical tone. In 1807, he published his most ambitious work, The Prelude, an autobiographical poem that he continued to revise and expand throughout his life. The poem explores the development of Wordsworth’s consciousness and his poetic sensibility, from his childhood experiences in the Lake District to his travels in France and his encounters with the natural world.

William Wordsworth Biography and Works:- In addition to his poetry, Wordsworth was also a prolific essayist and prose writer. He wrote about a wide range of topics, including politics, nature, education, and literary criticism. His essay “Preface to Lyrical Ballads,” which he wrote in 1800, is considered a manifesto of English Romanticism and a key text in the history of literary criticism.William Wordsworth Biography and Works

Late Life and Legacy

In his later years, Wordsworth became increasingly involved in politics and social reform. He served as a local magistrate and was active in the campaign for parliamentary reform. He also continued to write poetry, and his later work often reflected his political and social concerns. William Wordsworth Biography and Works

William Wordsworth Works

Please note that some of William Wordsworth’s works were published in various years, and their themes often overlap or encompass multiple aspects. The table provides a general overview of the major works and their respective publication years and themes. William Wordsworth Biography and Works

#1. Lyrical Ballads (1798)

“Lyrical Ballads,” co-authored with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is a groundbreaking collection of poems that challenged the conventions of 18th-century poetry. It includes Wordsworth’s famous poems such as:

  • “Tintern Abbey” – Reflects on the transformative power of nature and the lasting impact of childhood memories.
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (Coleridge) – A narrative poem exploring guilt, redemption, and the supernatural.

#2. “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” (1798)

This introspective poem reflects on the restorative influence of nature on the human spirit. Wordsworth contemplates his return to Tintern Abbey after a five-year absence, marveling at the memories and sensations it evokes.

#3. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1807)

Also known as “Daffodils,” this poem celebrates the beauty of nature and the transformative effect it has on the poet’s mood. It describes a vivid encounter with a field of daffodils, emphasizing the lasting impact of nature’s beauty on the human imagination.

#4. “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” (1807)

In this reflective ode, Wordsworth explores the loss of innocence and the fading connection with the divine as one grows older. He contemplates the significance of childhood memories and the glimpses of immortality they offer.

#5. “The Prelude” (1850)

“The Prelude” is an autobiographical long poem that reflects on Wordsworth’s own experiences, emotions, and philosophical beliefs. It explores themes of memory, growth, and the development of the poet’s mind, tracing his journey from childhood to adulthood.

#6. “The Excursion” (1814)

A philosophical poem in blank verse, “The Excursion” delves into themes of nature, spirituality, and the role of the imagination in shaping human existence. It follows a group of characters engaged in a poetic dialogue about life’s deeper meanings.

William Wordsworth’s works demonstrate his deep connection to nature, his belief in the power of the individual’s experiences, and his ability to evoke profound emotions through poetic language. His poetry continues to be celebrated for its timeless relevance, vivid imagery, and the enduring beauty of his words.

#7. “The Prelude” (1850)

William Wordsworth Biography and Works “The Prelude” is an autobiographical long poem that reflects on Wordsworth’s own experiences, emotions, and philosophical beliefs. It explores themes of memory, growth, and the development of the poet’s mind, tracing his journey from childhood to adulthood. The poem is divided into several books, each focusing on different stages of Wordsworth’s life and the significant events that shaped him as a poet.

#8. “Sonnet Series”

Wordsworth wrote an extensive series of sonnets that delve into various themes, including nature, love, loss, and the passage of time. Some of the notable sonnets include “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” “ London, 1802 ,” and “The World is Too Much with Us.” William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards

#9. “The Lucy Poems”

“The Lucy Poems” is a collection of five lyrical poems dedicated to an enigmatic figure named Lucy. These poems, including “Strange fits of passion have I known” and “She dwelt among the untrodden ways,” explore themes of love, beauty, mortality, and the fleeting nature of life.

#10. “The Solitary Reaper”

“The Solitary Reaper” is a poem that captures the sublime beauty of a Scottish girl singing in a field. Wordsworth immerses himself in the enchanting scene, describing the impact of her melodic voice and reflecting on the power of music to evoke deep emotions and transcend language barriers.

#11. “Elegiac Stanzas”

“Elegiac Stanzas” is a poignant elegy composed by Wordsworth in memory of his close friend, Charles Gough. The poem reflects on the nature of grief, the fleeting nature of life, and the significance of human connections in the face of mortality.

#12. “Ode to Duty”

In “Ode to Duty,” Wordsworth explores the concept of duty as a guiding force in life. He reflects on the importance of moral responsibility and the fulfillment that comes from fulfilling one’s obligations. The poem emphasizes the virtues of steadfastness, integrity, and self-discipline in navigating the complexities of existence.

#13. “The Daffodils” (1804)

“The Daffodils,” also known as “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” is one of Wordsworth’s most beloved and widely recognized poems. It vividly describes the poet’s encounter with a field of daffodils, evoking a sense of joy, wonder, and the profound impact of nature’s beauty on the human spirit.

#14. “To a Butterfly”

“To a Butterfly” is a short and lyrical poem in which Wordsworth addresses a butterfly, marveling at its ephemeral beauty and delicate existence. The poem reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the interconnectedness of all living beings.

#15. “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (1807)

In this depth philosophical ode, Wordsworth contemplates the loss of the spiritual connection and sense of wonder experienced in childhood. He explores the transient nature of life and grapples with the idea of the soul’s pre-existence and its ultimate reunion with a divine realm. William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards

William Wordsworth’s works encompass a wide range of themes, from the awe-inspiring beauty of nature to the complexities of human emotions and the philosophical musings on life and mortality. His poetry captures the essence of the Romantic era and continues to captivate readers with its profound insights, lyrical language, and timeless relevance.

Themes and Style

Themes: William Wordsworth’s poetry is characterized by a deep appreciation of nature, an emphasis on the beauty of the simple and ordinary, and a celebration of the power of the human imagination. His poetry often explores the relationship between the individual and nature, the connection between the past and the present, and the role of memory and imagination in shaping our experiences.

Style: Wordsworth’s poetry is characterized by a simple, direct language that is intended to evoke a sense of immediacy and authenticity. He believed that poetry should be written in the language of everyday speech, rather than in the artificial language of traditional poetry. His poetry is also characterized by a careful attention to the details of the natural world, and by an emphasis on the sensory experience of the world.

William Wordsworth Biography and Works William Wordsworth was a best figure in English Romantic poetry and one of the most influential poet in the English language. His poetry celebrated the beauty and power of nature, explored the relationship between the individual and the natural world, and celebrated the imaginative powers of the human mind.

His simple and direct style, William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards , use of the lyric form, and emphasis on the subjective experience of the poet have influenced generations of poets who have followed in his footsteps. Wordsworth’s legacy continues to inspire readers and writers alike, and his poetry remains an enduring testament to the power of the human imagination and the beauty of the natural world.

Q: Who was William Wordsworth?

A: William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major English Romantic poet, known for his poems that celebrated nature, imagination, and the human spirit. He was also a key figure in the English Romantic movement, along with poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Q: What are some of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems?

A: Some of Wordsworth’s most famous poems include “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (also known as “Daffodils”), “Tintern Abbey,” “The Prelude,” “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” and “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”

Q: What was William Wordsworth’s writing style?

A: Wordsworth’s writing style was characterized by simple, direct language that emphasized the power of nature, the imagination, and the subjective experience of the poet. He believed that poetry should be written in the language of everyday speech, rather than in the artificial language of traditionl poetry. William Wordsworth Biography and Works | Themes and Literary Awards He also used the lyric form, which is a short, musical poem that expresses the poet’s personal feelings and emotions.

Q: What is the significance of nature in William Wordsworth’s poetry?

A: Nature was a central theme in Wordsworth’s poetry, and he believed that it had the power to heal, inspire, and reveal the divine. He often used nature as a metaphor for human emotions and experiences, and celebrated the beauty and power of the natural world in his poetry.

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She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

by William Wordsworth

She dwelt among the untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove, A Maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love: A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye! —Fair as a star, when only one Is shining in the sky. She lived unknown, and few could know When Lucy ceased to be; But she is in her grave, and, oh, The difference to me!

Summary of She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways

  • Popularity of “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”: William Wordsworth, a great English poet, wrote ‘She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways’. It is an elegy about life and death. The poem speaks about the speaker ’s deceased lover. It illustrates how her demise inflicts a never-ending pain upon him. This short poem explains the tragedy of death and its impacts on human life.
  • “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways” As a Representative of Loss: The speaker introduces us the setting where her beloved once lived. He says that she lived in a magnificent and idyllic place. Sadly, there was no one to praise her magnificent beauty and love her. He compares her with beautiful natural objects like violet by a mossy stone and a fair/bright star, which indicates that the lady was an epitome of beauty. Despite her magnificent appearance, she could not escape death. Leaving the speaker in despair, the beautiful lady died and her death brought a great sense of loss for him. What, however, stays in the minds of the readers is the way he expresses his extreme love for his late beloved.
  • Major Themes in “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”: Transience of life, death, and loss are the major themes of this poem. The poem centers on the idea that death is unavoidable; every living creature has to taste it. The poet describes and appreciates his dead lover. This beautiful piece expresses the grave loss and acute pain of the speaker who has lost his beloved. He appreciates her beauty by comparing her with beautiful natural objects. However, no matter how beautiful a person is, one day he has to die. Although her death has not brought any change in the cycle of the universe, yet, to the speaker, her death makes a big difference as he loves her.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”

literary devices are very important elements of a literary text. Their use not only brings richness to the text but also makes the readers understand meanings. William Wordsworth has also made this poem superb by using figurative language . Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  • Assonance : Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ee/ in “When Lucy ceased to be”.
  • Alliteration : Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /h/ in “Half hidden from the eye”.
  • Consonance : Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /r/ in “A Maid whom there were none to praise”.
  • Enjambment : It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break ; rather, it continues in the next line. For example,
“She dwelt among the untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove, A Maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love.”
  • Imagery : Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Beside the springs of Dove”, “Half hidden from the eye” and “But she is in her grave, and, oh.”
  • Metaphor : It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. There is only one metaphor used in the first line of the second stanza where he compares her to a violet.
“A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye.”
  • Simile : It is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make meanings clear to the readers. The speaker has compared her with a shining star in the second stanza. For example,
“Fair as a star, when only one Is shining in the sky.”
  • Symbolism : Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. Here, “star” and “violet” symbolize beauty.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • End Rhyme : End Rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Wordsworth has used end rhyme in this poem. For example, “ways/praise”, “Dove/love”, “eye/sky” and “be/me.”
  • Quatrain : A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is a quatrain.
  • Rhyme Scheme : The poem follows the ABCB rhyme scheme and this pattern continues till the end.
  • Stanza : A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem with each comprises four lines in it.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful when talking about the glorious beauty of nature and precious stones.

“A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye! —Fair as a star, when only one Is shining in the sky.”

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  • The Second Coming
  • Ode on a Grecian Urn
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  1. Biography of Wordsworth

    william wordsworth biography slideshare

  2. PPT

    william wordsworth biography slideshare

  3. About William Wordsworth (Biography & Facts)

    william wordsworth biography slideshare

  4. Biography and poems of William Wordsworth: Who is William Wordsworth

    william wordsworth biography slideshare

  5. William Wordsworth-Brief Biography

    william wordsworth biography slideshare

  6. William Wordsworth

    william wordsworth biography slideshare


  1. William Wordsworth

  2. William Wordsworth documentary

  3. William Wordsworth biography

  4. William Wordsworth Biography

  5. William Wordsworth Complete Biography and Works detail in Hindi, In a Unique Way to get 100% Success

  6. William Wordsworth documentary


  1. Biography Of William Wordsworth

    Critical Appreciation Of William Wordsworth Author Background: Born April 7th 1770 in Cockermouth, England, William Wordsworth grew up without his mother after the age of 8, and he grew to love poetry at the Hawkshead Grammar School. Wordsworth revolutionized literature with his philosophy that humans become more corrupt as they get older ...

  2. William wordsworth

    3. HIS LIFE William Wordsworth was the second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Cumberland, part of the scenic region in northwestern England known as the Lake District. His sister, the poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, to whom he was close all his life, was born the following year, and ...

  3. Biography Of William Wordsworth

    Biography of William Wordsworth Throughout history, there have numerous poets who have had grand influences on the future of literature. Many poets have different writing styles and themes, but nevertheless, they often share various similarities within their work. Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Keats can be seen as some of the most comparable people ...

  4. PPT

    Presentation Transcript. William Wordsworth Benjamin Robert Haydon, William Wordsworth, 1842, London, National Portrait Gallery. William Wordsworth 2. Life • Born in Cockermouth in Cumberland in 1770. • His father, a lawyer, taught him poetry and allowed him access to his library. • 1791: B. A. Degree at St John's College, Cambridge.

  5. William Wordsworth

    William Wordsworth (born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, England—died April 23, 1850, Rydal Mount, Westmorland) English poet whose Lyrical Ballads (1798), written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the English Romantic movement.. Early life and education. Wordsworth was born in the Lake District of northern England, the second of five children of a modestly prosperous estate ...

  6. William Wordsworth

    William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 - 23 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798).. Wordsworth's magnum opus is generally considered to be The Prelude, a semi-autobiographical poem of his early years that he revised and expanded a number of times.

  7. William Wordsworth Biography

    William Wordsworth Biography. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major Romantic poet, based in the Lake District, England. His greatest work was "The Prelude" - dedicated to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Prelude is a spiritual autobiography based on Wordsworth's travels through Europe and his observations of life.

  8. William Wordsworth

    Name: William Wordsworth. Birth Year: 1770. Birth date: April 7, 1770. Birth City: Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. Birth Country: United Kingdom. Gender: Male. Best Known For: At the end of the ...

  9. PPT

    William Wordsworth Adv. English 12 Poetry Study By: Sydney Hines. A Short Biography • Mr. William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth on the River Derwent in the United Kingdom. • He had three siblings a sister Dorothy and two brothers John and Christopher. • When Mr. Wordsworth was eight years old his mother died and he and his brother John were sent to a boarding school ...

  10. 1 The Early Life of William Wordsworth, 1770-1800

    William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, a north Cumberland market town, on 7 April 1770, the son of John Wordsworth (1741-83) and Ann Cookson (1747-78). He had four siblings: Richard (1768-1816, later a lawyer), Dorothy (1771-1855, writer), John (1772-1805, mariner in the East India Company), and Christopher (1774-1846, clergyman and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge).

  11. William Wordsworth

    William Wordsworth. William Wordsworth (1770-1850), an early leader of romanticism in English poetry, ranks as one of the greatest lyric poets in the history of English literature. William Wordsworth was born in Cookermouth, Cumberland, on April 7, 1770, the second child of an attorney. Unlike the other major English romantic poets, he enjoyed ...

  12. William Wordsworth Analysis

    This biography traces Wordsworth's life over eight decades, shedding light on his relationship with his family, his early poetic career, and his politics. Bloom, Harold, ed. William Wordsworth ...

  13. PPT

    Presentation Transcript. William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet. He was born on 7 April 1770 in Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Cumberland. William Wordsworth died on 23 April 1850, and was buried at St. Oswald's church in Grasmere. William Wordsworth. Wordsworth was the second of five children.

  14. PPT

    A Short Biography. Mr. William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth on the River Derwent in the United Kingdom. He had three siblings a sister Dorothy and two brothers John and Christopher. 904 views • 12 slides. William Wordsworth. William Wordsworth. April 7, 1770 - April 23, 1850. Major figure in the first generation of ...

  15. PPT

    Presentation Transcript. William Wordsworth By Catherine Russell. Biography Born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland in the Lake District, the British poet William Wordsworth is famous for leading the Romantic movement of poetry. Wordsworth had a happy childhood until he was eight when his mother died followed by his father five years ...

  16. William Wordsworth : Biography and Literary Works

    Biography. William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England on April 7, 1770. Wordsworth's mother died when he was eight—this experience shapes much of his later work. Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School, where his love of poetry was firmly established and, it is believed, he made his first attempts at verse.

  17. Radical Wordsworth, Well-Kept Secrets, William Wordsworth review

    J ames Boswell started his biography of Dr Johnson on an anxious note: "To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others," he confessed, "may be reckoned in ...

  18. William Wordsworth Biography and Works

    William Wordsworth Biography and Works:-In addition to his poetry, Wordsworth was also a prolific essayist and prose writer. He wrote about a wide range of topics, including politics, nature, education, and literary criticism. His essay "Preface to Lyrical Ballads," which he wrote in 1800, is considered a manifesto of English Romanticism ...

  19. She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

    Popularity of "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways": William Wordsworth, a great English poet, wrote 'She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways'. It is an elegy about life and death. The poem speaks about the speaker's deceased lover. It illustrates how her demise inflicts a never-ending pain upon him. This short poem explains the tragedy of death and its impacts on human life.