William Wordsworth, along with Robert Southey and Samuel Coleridge, is one of the "Lakeland Poets," a group that is widely credited with beginning the English Romantic Movement. The movement was characterized by a rejection of the Enlightenment, which focused on reason, logic, and structure. Romanticism, on the other hand, focuses on emotion and imagination. Often the poets are called "nature poets" because of their emphasis on man's connection to nature. Wordsworth addressed this connection in poems such as "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," "Ode; Intimations of Immortality," and "I wandered lonely as a cloud." The stress placed on the importance of imagination and the sublime in the English Romantic Movement subsequently inspired the American Romantic Movement, which was headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and followed up by Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, among others. The most famous poets of the English Romantic Movement are William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, William Blake, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats.
Wordsworth's poetry is distinguished by his straightforward use of language and meter and his natural and often colloquial themes and imagery. This is not to say, however, that Wordsworth's ideas are simple. He weaves several ideas throughout his poetic works, including the importance of the natural world, transcendentalism and interconnectedness, religion, morality, mortality, memory and the power of the human mind.
Wordsworth began publishing in 1793, at the age of 23, with a collection of poetry about a tour he took in the Swiss Alps - Descriptive Sketches. In 1798 Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems anonymously. In 1800 the two published another edition of Lyrical Ballads that included Wordsworth's famous preface highlighting several of the key ideas of the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth published Elegiac Stanzas and Poems in two volumes in 1803 and 1805 respectively, followed by The Excursion in 1812, Collected Poems in 1815, and Peter Bell and The Waggoner in 1819. Wordsworth published Ecclesiastical Sketches in 1822. After Wordsworth's death, his wife published Preface, which was previously known only as "Poem for Coleridge." At the time of his death, Wordsworth was known in England as the best poet in the world.