|:: William Wordsworth Biography ::
William Wordsworth was a Romantic poet. The Romantic Movement describes a group of people who threw off the rigid scientific world created by Isaac Newton and his other followers. Wordsworth led the romantic poets, along with William Blake, beginning a revolution in thought and expression. He believed that through nature and communion with nature, we find happiness. He chose "rustic" people because:
"in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language" (Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, second edition).
William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, Cumberland County, England, April 7, 1770, and he died on April 28, 1850. He was buried by the side of his daughter in the beautiful churchyard of Grasmere.
His father was law agent to Sir James Lowther, afterward Earl of Lonsdale, but he died when William was in his seventh year.
The poet attended school first at Hawkshead School, then at Cambridge University. William was also entered at St. Johns in 1787. Having finished his academical course, Wordsworth, in 1790, in company with Mr. Robert James, a fellow-student, made a tour on the continent. With this friend Wordsworth made a tour in North Wales the following year, after taking his degree in college. He was again in France toward the close of the year 1791, and remained in that country about a twelvemonth. He had hailed the French Revolution with feelings of enthusiastic admiration.
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven."
A young friend, Raisley Calvert, dying in 1795, left him a sum. A further sum came to him as a part of the estate of his father, who died intestate; and with this small competence Wordsworth devoted himself to study and seclusion.
In 1793, in his twenty-third year, he appeared before the world as an author, in "Descriptive Sketches" and "The Evening Walk." The sketches were made from his tour in Switzerland with his friend, and the Walk was among the mountains of Westmoreland.
In 1795 Wordsworth and his sister were living at Racedown Lodge, in Somersetshire, where, in 1797, they were visited by Coleridge. The meeting was mutually pleasant, and a life-long friendship was the result. The intimate relations thus established induced Wordsworth and his sister to change their home for a residence near Coleridge, at Alfoxen, near Neither Stowey. In this new home the poet composed many of his lighter poems, also the "Borderers," a tragedy, which was rejected by the Covent Garden Theatre. In 1797 appeared his "Lyrical Ballads," which also contained Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."
In 1798, in company with his sister and Coleridge, he went to Germany, where he spent some time at Hamburg, Ratzeburg and Goslar. Returning to England, he took up his residence at Grasmere, in Westmoreland. In 1800 he reprinted his "Lyrical Ballads" with some additions, making two volumes. Two years later he married Mary Hutchinson, to whom he addressed, the beautiful lines, "She was a Phantom of Delight." In 1802, Wordsworth, with his sister and his friend Coleridge, visited Scotland. This visit formed one of the most important periods of his literary life, as it led to the composition of some of his finest lighter poems. In 1805 he completed the "Prelude, or Growth of my own Mind," a poem written in blank verse, but not published till after the author's death. In the same year he also wrote his "Waggoner," but did not publish it till in 1819. At this time he purchased a cottage and small estate at the head of Ulleswater, Lord Lonsdale generously assisting him. In 1807 he published two volumes of "Poems."
In the spring of 1813 he removed from Grasmere to Royal Mount, where he remained for the rest of his life, a period of thirty-seven years. Here were passed his brightest days. He enjoyed retirement and almost perfect happiness, as seen in his lines:
"Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.
The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power."
At the same time he commenced to write poems of a higher order, thus greatly extending the circle of his admirers. In 1814 he published "The Excursion," a philosophical poem in blank verse. By viewing man in connection with external nature, the poet blends his metaphysics with pictures of life and scenery. To build up and strengthen the powers of the mind, in contrast to the operations of sense, was ever his object. Like Bacon, Wordsworth would rather have believed all the fables in the Talmud and Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind--or that mind does not, by its external symbols, speak to the human heart. He lived under the habitual away of nature:
"To me the meanest flower that blows can, give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
The removal of the poet to Rydal was marked by an incident of considerable importance in his personal history. Through the influence of the Earl of Lonsdale, he was appointed distributor of stamps in the county of Westmoreland, which added greatly to his income without engrossing all of his time. He was now placed beyond the frowns of Fortune--if Fortune can ever be said to have frowned on one so independent of her smiles. The subsequent works of the poet were numerous--"The White Doe of Rylstone," a romantic narrative poem, yet colored with his peculiar genius; "Sonnets on the River Duddon" "The Waggoner;" "Peter Bell;" "Ecclesiastical Sketches;" "Yarrow Revisited," and others. His fame was extending rapidly. The universities of Durham and Oxford conferred academic honors upon him. Upon the death of his friend Southey, in 1843, he was made Poet Laureate of England, and the crown gave him a pension of per annum. Thus his income was increased and honors were showered upon him, making glad the closing years of his life. But sadness found its way into his household in 1847, caused by the death of his only daughter, Dora, then Mrs. Quillinan. Wordsworth survived the shock but three years, having reached the advanced age of eighty, always enjoying robust health and writing his poems in the open air. He died in 1850, on the anniversary of St. George, the patron saint of England.