William Wordsworth

   The great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, at Cockermouth, a Cumberland village on the northern edge of the Lake District. His father, an attorney, died when Wordsworth was 13. His mother had died when he was 8. Words­worth's uncles became his guardians.

   From 1778 to 1787, Wordsworth attended the grammar school at Hawkshead. It was a school in which he was free to read whatever books he liked and to roam the countryside. Hawkshead is in one of the most beautiful parts of the Lake District. Wordsworth loved the region and spent much of his life there. His poetry and philosophy grew out of his feeling for the beauty of nature.

   In 1787, Wordsworth entered St. John's College, Cambridge. He spend his vacations on walking tours through England and the alpine regions of Europe. After receiving his degree in 1791, he went to France to learn French, spending most of his time in Orleans. It was the time of the French Revolution, and Wordsworth supported the cause of the revolutionists. While he was in France he fell in love with Annette Vallon, the daughter of a surgeon in Blois. A daughter was born to them, but they did not have their families' consent to marry. Wordsworth returned to En­gland in 1792, shortly before England declared war on France. He did not see Annette again until 1802.

   A new life began for Wordsworth when he and his sister, Dorothy, settled at Racedown, Dorset, in 1795. The brother and sister were extremely close and shared a love for poetry and nature. They became good friends of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and moved to Alfoxden to be near him.

   In 1798, Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads, a collection of their poetry. It began with Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner'' and ended with Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey." For the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth wrote a now-famous preface giving his ideas about the subject matter and style of poetry. He thought poetry should express real human emotions in ordinary language. Lyrical Bal­lads is often said to mark the beginning of the Romantic movement in English literature.

   In 1799, Wordsworth and his sister moved to Grasmere, in the Lake District. They went to France in 1802 to meet Annette and Wordsworth's daughter Caroline. Little is known of this meeting, but shortly afterward Words­worth married Mary Hutchinson, a friend since school days. They had five children.

   For years Wordsworth worked on The Prelude, a long autobiographical poem in many parts. He finished it in 1805, but it was not printed until after his death. Poems in Two Volumes appeared in 1807. This collection included Wordsworth's most famous ode, "Intimations of Immortality."

   Wordsworth was made poet laureate of England in 1843. He died on April 23, 1850.