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William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth William Wordsworth[2†]

William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798)[1†][2†]. 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[1†][2†]. It was posthumously titled and published by his wife in the year of his death[1†][2†]. Wordsworth was Britain’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850[1†][2†].

Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England, Wordsworth was the second of five children in a modestly prosperous family[1†]. He lost his mother when he was 7 and his father when he was 13, which led to the orphan boys being sent off by guardian uncles to a grammar school at Hawkshead, a village in the heart of the Lake District[1†]. Despite these early hardships, Wordsworth developed a deep love for nature and poetry at a young age, which played a crucial role in his path to becoming a pivotal figure in the English Romantic revolution in poetry[1†][2†].

Wordsworth’s poetry, including his most notable works such as “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”, “Michael”, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”, “The Excursion”, “The Prelude”, and “The World Is Too Much with Us”, is celebrated for its detailed portrayal of nature and its exploration of the human psyche[1†]. His works have had a lasting impact on literature and continue to be studied and cherished today[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England[1†][3†]. He was the second of five children in a family of modest prosperity[1†][3†]. His parents were John Wordsworth, a legal agent for James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and Collector of Customs at Whitehaven, and his wife, Ann Cookson[1†][3†]. Tragically, Wordsworth lost his mother when he was just 7 years old and his father when he was 13[1†][3†]. After the death of their parents, Wordsworth and his siblings were sent off by their guardian uncles to a grammar school at Hawkshead, a village in the heart of the Lake District[1†][3†].

At Hawkshead, Wordsworth received an excellent education in classics, literature, and mathematics[1†][3†]. The natural scenery of the English lakes could terrify as well as nurture, as Wordsworth would later testify in the line “I grew up fostered alike by beauty and by fear,” but its generally benign aspect gave the growing boy the confidence he articulated in one of his first important poems, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey…”, namely, “that Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”[1†].

In 1787, Wordsworth moved on to St. John’s College, Cambridge[1†]. Although he found the competitive pressures of the university repelling, he used his time there to further indulge in his love for literature[1†]. Despite his idling through the university, he devoted his summer vacation in 1790 to a long walking tour through revolutionary France[1†].

Wordsworth’s father, although rarely present, did teach him poetry, including that of Milton, Shakespeare, and Spenser, in addition to allowing his son to rely on his father’s library[1†][3†]. This early exposure to the works of such great poets played a crucial role in shaping Wordsworth’s own poetic voice[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

William Wordsworth’s career is marked by his enduring contributions to English literature as a central figure in the English Romantic revolution[1†][4†][5†]. His works, particularly “Lyrical Ballads” (1798), which he co-wrote with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the English Romantic movement[1†][4†].

Wordsworth began writing poetry as a young boy in grammar school, and before graduating from college, he went on a walking tour of Europe, which deepened his love for nature and his sympathy for the common man[1†][4†]. These themes became major aspects of his poetry[1†][4†].

His most famous works include “The Prelude”, “The Solitary Reaper”, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”, “Lucy Gray”, “Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”, and others[1†][6†]. His 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[1†][4†]. It was posthumously titled and published by his wife in the year of his death[1†][4†].

Wordsworth was a poet of spiritual and epistemological speculation, concerned with the human relationship to nature[1†][4†]. He was a fierce advocate of using the vocabulary and speech patterns of common people in poetry[1†][4†]. His works are celebrated for their detailed portrayal of nature and exploration of the human psyche[1†][4†].

Wordsworth was Britain’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850[1†][4†][6†]. Despite the critical and public appreciation that came later in his life, his poetry had lost much of its force and his radical politics had yielded to conservatism[1†][5†]. Nevertheless, he is remembered as a poet whose works have had a lasting impact on literature and continue to be studied and cherished today[1†][4†].

First Publication of His Main Works

William Wordsworth’s literary career is marked by a series of powerful works that have left an indelible impact on English literature. His first significant work, “Lyrical Ballads” (1798), was a joint publication with Samuel Taylor Coleridge[1†][2†]. This collection of poems, which includes Wordsworth’s famous “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”, is often credited with launching the Romantic Age in English literature[1†][2†].

Here are some of Wordsworth’s main works along with their first year of publication:

Wordsworth’s works are characterized by a deep love for nature, a focus on the ordinary man and the rustic life, and a revolutionary approach to poetic language and meter[1†][2†]. His works have been studied and celebrated for their philosophical depth, their exploration of the human relationship with nature, and their revolutionary impact on poetry[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

William Wordsworth’s poetry is a testament to the power of feeling, instinct, and pleasure above formality and mannerism[9†]. His work is characterized by a deep love for nature, a focus on the ordinary man and the rustic life, and a revolutionary approach to poetic language and meter[9†][10†]. Wordsworth’s style remains plain-spoken and easy to understand even today, though the rhythms and idioms of common English have changed from those of the early nineteenth century[9†].

Wordsworth’s poetry reflected many characteristics of romanticism. He laid emphasis on spontaneous emotion as a source of poetry[9†][11†]. His images and metaphors mix natural scenery, religious symbolism, and the relics of the poet’s rustic childhood—cottages, hedgerows, orchards, and other places where humanity intersects gently and easily with nature[9†].

Many of Wordsworth’s poems deal with the subjects of childhood and the memory of childhood in the mind of the adult. In particular, childhood’s lost connection with nature, which can be preserved only in memory[9†]. His works have been studied and celebrated for their philosophical depth, their exploration of the human relationship with nature, and their revolutionary impact on poetry[9†][10†].

Wordsworth’s poetry praises the value of the simple individual, the child, the helpless, the working class, and the natural man[9†][10†]. Such sentiments were explosive in the age of the French Revolution, when Wordsworth was young. He helped to define the attitudes that fostered the spread of democracy, of more humane treatment of the downtrodden, and of respect for nature[9†][10†].

Wordsworth’s works initiated the Romantic era by emphasizing feeling, instinct, and pleasure above formality and mannerism[9†]. More than any poet before him, Wordsworth gave expression to inchoate human emotion[9†].

Personal Life

William Wordsworth had a complex personal life that was marked by deep relationships and profound loss. While living in France, Wordsworth conceived a daughter, Caroline, out of wedlock[12†]. He left France before she was born, but returned in 1802 with his sister Dorothy to meet Caroline[12†].

In the same year, Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend[12†]. They had five children together[12†]. However, the following years were personally difficult for Wordsworth. Two of his children died, his brother was drowned at sea, and his sister Dorothy suffered a mental breakdown[12†][13†].

Wordsworth’s personal life was deeply intertwined with his professional life. His sister Dorothy was not only a close companion but also a collaborator who contributed to his creative process[12†][2†]. His wife Mary published his magnum opus, The Prelude, posthumously[12†][2†].

Despite the personal tragedies he experienced, Wordsworth’s love for nature and his deep personal relationships profoundly influenced his poetry, making him one of the most influential figures of the English Romantic movement[12†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

William Wordsworth’s legacy is profound and enduring. He is remembered as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and one of the greatest poets of the 19th century[14†]. His work changed forever the way we view the natural world and the inner world of feeling, connecting the two indivisibly[14†][15†]. We are his heirs, and we see and feel through him. His vision illuminated our landscape[14†][15†].

Wordsworth’s poetry is imbued with lessons of love for ourselves and that of the natural world surrounding us[14†][16†]. His message of enduring love that encompasses all ‘truth and beauty’ is what Wordsworth hopes will persist once he himself is 'dust’[14†][16†]. In voicing his hopes for a ‘work that should endure’, Wordsworth reveals his fears of being forgotten[14†][16†]. However, he hopes that his ‘powers’ and ‘knowledge’, immortalized in his poetry, will be enough to endure throughout history[14†][16†].

Wordsworth’s powerful and emotional legacy of hope, love, and imagination persists. Through his poetry, he captures ‘the perfect image of a mighty mind, of one that feeds upon infinity’ and carries it throughout history, to speak to us now, from the 'dust’[14†][16†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - William Wordsworth: English author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - William Wordsworth [website] - link
  3. Wikipedia (English) - Early life of William Wordsworth [website] - link
  4. Poetry Foundation - William Wordsworth [website] - link
  5. Britannica - William Wordsworth summary [website] - link
  6. TeachersCollegesj - What are the achievements of William Wordsworth? [website] - link
  7. Wand of Knowledge - Life and Works of William Wordsworth [website] - link
  8. Poetry & Poets - What are the works of william wordsworth? [website] - link
  9. SparkNotes - Wordsworth’s Poetry: Full Book Analysis [website] - link
  10. eNotes - William Wordsworth Analysis [website] - link
  11. IJHSSI - Volume 04 Issue 4 Ser. I, PP 65-68 - An Analysis of William Wordsworth as a Romantic Poet - Mukesh Kumar Meena [document] - link
  12. Academy of American Poets - About William Wordsworth [website] - link
  13. BBC History - Historic Figures - William Wordsworth (1770-1850) [website] - link
  14. Poems Please - The Joyful Life and Legacy of William Wordsworth [website] - link
  15. The Guardian - An introduction to the poetry of William Wordsworth [website] - link
  16. Palatinate - William Wordsworth’s Legacy: 250 years on [website] - link
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