William (1770-1850), is considered by many scholars to be the most important
English romantic poet. In 1795, Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They collaborated
on Lyrical Ballads (1798), a collection of poems often regarded as the beginning of the
English romantic movement. Wordsworth wrote most of the poems in the book. See
In the preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth outlined ideas
about poetry that have since been identified with romanticism. He argued that serious
poems could describe "situations from common life" and be written in the
ordinary language "really used by men." He believed such poems could clarify
"the primary laws of our nature." He also insisted that poetry is "emotion
recollected in tranquility" and that a poet is "a man speaking to men,"
different from his fellows only in the degree of his sensitivity but not in any essential
Wordsworth has often been praised for his descriptions of nature. But he rightly claimed
that his primary interest was the "mind of man." In fact, a key section of his
poem The Prelude: or, Growth of a Poet's Mind insists that love of nature leads to the
love of humanity. His finest poems, including "Michael," the "Lucy"
lyrics, "The Solitary Reaper," and "Resolution and Independence,"
dramatize how imagination creates spiritual values out of the memory of sights and sounds
Early life. Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, which is now in the county of Cumbria. His
mother died in 1778, his father in 1783. Relatives provided for his education. Wordsworth
entered Cambridge University in 1787, the year he wrote his first significant poem. During
a summer vacation in 1790, he visited France, then in turmoil because of the French
Revolution. After graduating from Cambridge in 1791, he returned to France and became a
supporter of the revolution. He returned to England in December 1792. Although liberal in
his youth, he later became politically and religiously conservative. As a result, he was
severely criticized as a traitor to his own youthful principles. Wordsworth was appointed
poet laureate in 1843.
Later career. Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson in 1802. They had five children.
Wordsworth was deeply saddened by the drowning death of his brother John in 1805. His
sadness was reflected in his poem "Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele
Castle" (1806). This poem may have marked the end of Wordsworth's youthful creative
period. It seems to reject his early optimistic belief, stated in "Tintern
Abbey," that "nature never did betray the heart that loved her." In 1807,
Wordsworth published one of the most famous poems in English literature, "Ode:
Intimations of Immortality." In this piece, Wordsworth praised childhood and urged
individuals to rely on intuition.
Wordsworth's masterpiece is his long autobiographical poem, The Prelude. He wrote it
between 1798 and 1805, but he continued to revise it for the rest of his life. The poem
was published in 1850, shortly after his death. The revisions that Wordsworth made in The
Prelude between 1805 and 1850 clearly indicate how his values changed as he aged. In its
best passages, The Prelude achieves a remarkable combination of simplicity and grandeur.
Wordsworth wrote most of his best poetry before 1807. But he wrote several important
works, notably The Excursion (1814), later. This long poem discusses virtue, education,
and religious faith. Wordsworth also wrote 523 sonnets, many of which compare with those
of William Shakespeare and John Milton.