Wordsworth (1770—1850), was born in Cockermouth,
Cumberland. One of the great English poets, he was a leader
of the romantic movement in England.
In 1791 he
graduated from Cambridge and traveled abroad. While in France he
fell in love with Annette Vallon, who bore him a daughter,
Caroline, in 1792. Although he did not marry her, it seems to have
been circumstance rather than lack of affection that separated
them. Throughout his life he supported Annette and Caroline as
best he could, finally settling a sum of money on them in 1835.
The spirit of the
French Revolution had strongly influenced Wordsworth, and he
returned (1792) to England imbued with the principles of Rousseau
and republicanism. In 1793 were published An Evening Walk
and Descriptive Sketches, written in the stylized idiom and
vocabulary of the 18th cent. The outbreak of the Reign of Terror
prevented Wordsworth's return to France, and after receiving
several small legacies, he settled with his sister Dorothy in
Dorsetshire. Wordsworth was extraordinarily close to his sister.
Throughout his life she was his constant and devoted companion,
sharing his poetic vision and helping him with his work.
Wordsworth became the intimate friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
and, probably under his influence, a student of David Hartley's
empiricist philosophy. Together the two poets wrote Lyrical
Ballads (1798), in which they sought to use the language of
ordinary people in poetry; it included Wordsworth's poem "Tintern
Abbey." The work introduced romanticism
into England and became a manifesto for romantic poets. In 1799 he
and his sister moved to the Lake District of England, where they
lived the remainder of their lives. A second edition of the Lyrical
Ballads (1800), which included a critical essay outlining
Wordsworth's poetic principles, in particular his ideas about
poetic diction and meter, was unmercifully attacked by critics.
Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson, an old school friend; the
union was evidently a happy one, and the couple had four children.
The Prelude, his long autobiographical poem, was completed
in 1805, though it was not published until after his death. His
next collection, Poems in Two Volumes (1807), included the
well-known "Ode to Duty," the "Ode: Intimations of
Immortality," and a number of famous sonnets.
Wordsworth's creative powers diminished. Nonetheless, some notable
poems were produced after this date, including The Excursion
(1814), "Laodamia" (1815), "White Doe of Rylstone"
(1815), Memorials of a Tour of the Continent, 1820 (1822),
and "Yarrow Revisited" (1835). In 1842 Wordsworth was
given a civil list pension, and the following year, having long
since put aside radical sympathies, he was named poet laureate.