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William Wordsworth was a British poet, who spent his life in the Lake District of North England. He was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, as steward to an estate. The first few years of William’s life were the toughest. His mother died when he was eight and the next year he was sent to attend the principal grammar school of the district at Hawkshead where he was well educated. Only four years later, however, his father died, and he found himself an orphan at the age of thirteen. He had a very rough childhood having to rely on his own beliefs instead of his parents guiding him along. He developed an early fondness of the beauty and sublimity of the Lake District that touched his life and his beliefs (Hayden 79).
In 1887 he registered at Saint John’s in Cambridge where he was an indifferent student. In the same year, however, he published his first poem, a sonnet that appeared in the respectable European Review. Still, at this early point no one could have predicted the development that a decade later would make Wordsworth the spokesperson for a revolution in English poetry (Heaney 31-32). In the summer of 1790, allowing his republican sympathies, he and a classmate took a walking tour through revolutionary France. He returned to France after his graduation in the following year and in Orleans had a romantic affair with Annette Vallon, by whom he had a daughter, Caroline, in December of 1792. But the political tensions that erupted into war between England and France in February of 1793 forced him to return to England before she was born, and he did not see her until that start of the new century, during the Peace of Amiens, when she was nine. Returning to France at that point, he established financial arrangements for his daughter’s education.
In resettling himself in England, Wordsworth did not return to the Lake District, but rather spent the next few years in London with other radicals surrounding the publisher Joseph Johnson. Johnson obviously saw Wordsworth’s talents by publishing his first two volumes of poetry the very year of his return. The names of these pieces were Descriptive Sketches and An Evening Walk (Hayden 131). In 1795 Wordsworth was reunited with is sister, Dorothy, and the two moved at Alfoxden House, near Bristol, in 1797, where thy met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two young men began a collaboration that, a year later, resulted in their publishing of Lyrical Ballads.
During the time that Wordsworth was with his sister and Coleridge he wrote several poems including Lucy, Ruth, and Matthew. After he moved to Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and in 1802 married Mary Hutchinson. His second verse collection, Poems, in Two Volumes, appeared in 1807. Wordsworth’s central works were produced between 1797 and 1808. His poems written during middle and late years have not gained similar critical approval. Wordsworth has had many works that have gained great approval by critics.
At this point in time, just as his literary figure became firmly based, he settled into a general decline both as a poet and a thinker. Significantly of that settled indifference Wordsworth’s relocating his family the previous year, 1813, to the elegance of Rydal Mount overlooking Derwent Water, where he would live the rest of his life. Some of Wordsworth’s major works include Tintern Abbey, An Evening Walk; Descriptive Sketches, Upon Westminster Bridge, Intimations of Immortality, a number of sonnets, and many others.
Hayden, John, William Wordsworth. Twayne Publishers: Boston, 1991
Heaney, Seamus, The Essential Wordsworth. Galahad Books: New York, 1993
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British poetry, William Wordsworth, The Lucy poems, Dove Cottage, Rydal Mount, Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, Lyrical Ballads, Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Matthew poems, Grasmere, Ode: Intimations of Immortality
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