List of entries |  Feedback 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
William Wordsworth

A leading poet of the *Romantic movement, inspired by an intense experience of nature. He was born in the *Lake District (the house at Cockermouth is kept as a museum) and spent nearly all his life there. His most formative period elsewhere was the year 1791–2 which he spent in France, recalled later in his French Revolution, as it Appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement (1809):
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!


Back in England, the year 1795 brought two important developments. A small inheritance enabled him to set up house with his remarkable sister Dorothy (1771–1855), who had a profound influence on him; her ability to observe and describe nature equalled his own, and he was not above pinching good phrases from her journal for his poems. They lived together for the rest of his life, even after his marriage in 1802 to their mutual friend Mary Hutchinson and the birth of five children. The other great event of 1795 was meeting *Coleridge. Dorothy and William moved to Somerset in 1797 to be near him, and the friendship between the two poets led in 1798 to *Lyrical Ballads, a turning point in English romantic poetry. Dorothy and William lived from 1799 in *Dove Cottage, and in 1800 Coleridge followed them to the Lake District.

Dorothy kept her Grasmere Journal during the early years at Dove Cottage, recording a simple life of walks, conversation, reading. It was here that her brother wrote many of the short lyric poems for which he is best known, published in Poems (2 vols, 1807). The collection included 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' (with its host of golden daffodils), 'My heart leaps up' (beholding a rainbow in the sky), and the sonnet on *Westminster Bridge.

Published with these was 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of early Childhood', making the painful observation that such intense and mystical experiences of nature seem linked to youth; in it he describes how the beauties of the earth still move him but somehow lack the 'celestial light' and 'visionary gleam' that once they had. His autobiographical account of those inspirational years was published after his death as The Prelude (1850). It had been conceived as the prelude to a major poem on man and nature which Coleridge had urged him to write. The Excursion (1814), a political and philosophical treatise, was the only other part of this large project which he completed.

In 1813 the Wordsworth household moved to Rydal Mount, a larger house nearby, where he lived for the rest of his life. His reputation suffered from the effects of a young romantic living to the age of 80. He became *poet laureate in 1843. As early as 1818 the young *Keats, attempting to visit the famous radical at Rydal Mount, had been surprised at the reason why he was unavailable; he was out campaigning for the Tory candidate in a forthcoming election.

A  B-BL  BO-BX  C-CH  CI-CX  D  E  F  G  H  IJK  L  M  NO  P  QR  S-SL  SM-SX  T  UV  WXYZ