William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, England. He was one of five siblings, three of whom died before him. He had a happy childhood but unfortunately became an orphan at the age of 13. William was sent away to school and did not meet his closest sibling, his sister, Dorothy, for another 9 years. He later attended St. John’s College, in Cambridge. After graduating he went on a walking tour of Europe and was extremely influenced by the French Revolution. He appreciated the importance given to the common man, in which the individual’s thoughts and emotions mattered.

On coming back to England, Wordsworth, together with Coleridge, initiated the Romantic Movement in English Literature. The new poetry resulted from “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquility.” This was the poetry of the “Lake Poets”, who got their inspiration from nature, in which their Imagination flowered. This was a break from the formal and forced nature of poetry in the Enlightenment, or The Age of Reason. The individual, his emotions and feelings were important, and this in turn allowed him to create poetry, using his Imagination.

Wordsworth’s two important works, during his lifetime, were, “Lyrical Ballads” and “The Prelude”. The first was a collection of poems he collaborated on, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His sister Dorothy always lived with him and contributed to his works. These were beautiful lyrical poems, in which deep emotions were recollected by observing nature in the beautiful Lake District of England. “The Prelude” was the work of a more mature Wordsworth. This is an epic poem which records the growth of his mind as a poet, and his great masterpiece.

Wordsworth was married to his childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson and the couple had 5 children. He was most happy in his rustic, country surroundings and did not like urban life. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1843, but wrote no further poetry. He died in 1850.