Biography of William Wordsworth

Born on April 17, 1770, in Cockermouth of the Lake District of northern England, William Wordsworth is one of the most important English poets and a founder of the Romantic Movement of English literature. Wordsworth, along with Samuel Coleridge and Robert Southey, became known as a "Lakeland Poet" because of the area where he lived, which is renowned for its beautiful, wild landscapes, charming pastures, and countless lakes. The three Lakeland Poets were greatly inspired by their surroundings - a fact that is especially evident in poems such as "I wandered lonely as a cloud," "Ode; Intimations of Immortality," "It is a beauteous evening," and "The Solitary Reaper."

Wordsworth was the second of seven siblings born to Christopher and Anne Cookson Wordsworth. His sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, was also a poet and author who wrote such pieces as "Grasmere - A Fragment" and "Thoughts on my Sick Bed." Dorothy and William were very close, which is especially evident in the fifth stanza of "Lines Composed a Few Miles from Tintern Abbey." Wordsworth's mother died when he was eight, after which he was sent away to Hawkshead Grammar School. His father died when he was thirteen. He later attended St. John's College in Cambridge.

Wordsworth traveled to Revolutionary France in 1790, and spent a year there. During that time he fell in love with Annette Vallon. The two never married, although it is clear that they had planned to. They had a daughter named Caroline. Shortly after Caroline was born, Wordsworth ran out of money and was forced to return to England. The war between the two countries prevented him from returning to France until 1802.

Later, Wordsworth and his sister moved to Dorsetshire, where Wordsworth met Samuel Coleridge. The two formed a mutually beneficial and inspirational relationship, eventually beginning the English Romantic Movement with the publication of their Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The book includes Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" and Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," arguably their two most famous works. Also in 1798, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dorothy moved to Germany, where Wordsworth began work on The Prelude, and a group of poems known as the "Lucy Poems." In 1799 Wordsworth returned to the Lake District, where he lived until his death in 1850.

In 1802, after amicably separating from Anne Vallon, Wordsworth married a childhood friend named Mary Hutchinson. He and Mary had five children, although two of them died tragically in 1812. Wordsworth finally settled with his family and sister in Grasmere, England. He became widely successful and was named poet laureate in 1843, succeeding Robert Southey. William Wordsworth died on April 23, 1850 of pleurisy. He is buried at St. Oswald's Church, in Grasmere.


Study Guides on Works by William Wordsworth