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My Life: William Wordsworth


William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, the son of an attorney, was born on the 7th April 1770 at Cockermouth in Cumbria.  His early life was cut short; for his mother died in 1778, and his father shortly afterwards in 1783.

Wordsworth was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School in the Lake District, where he showed a keen interest in the works of John Milton (1608-1674), and then onto St.John’s College, Cambridge.  It was here his political side emerged, and he became an early supporter of the French Revolution.

In 1790, Wordsworth went on a walking holiday to France, who would have believed, the effect it would have on him, and he returned there in November 1791.  For he wanted to improve his knowledge of France, and its language.

Whilst there, he had an affair with Annette Vallon, which resulted in an illegitimate daughter: Ann Caroline, born in December 1792.

The French Revolution had moved into a period of bloodshed, and Wordsworth was ever so involved.  Had it not been for his cautious uncles, stopping his allowance, which compelled him, to return home, which no doubtedly saved his life, the outcome could have been far worse.

In 1793, Wordsworth was forced to leave France and his loved one: Annette Vallon and his daughter.

The separation for him was painful, and left him with a sense of poetic guilt, and resulted in an important theme in his work, to that of abandoned women.  He wrote the poem; “Guilt and Sorrow” which revealed that he still had strong views on social justice.

In 1796, Wordsworth set up home at Alfoxden in Somerset, with his sister Dorothy.

It was in 1798, that William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge published the “Lyrical Ballads” book, which contained “Tintern Abbey.”  Described by Wordsworth as a successful blending of inner and outer experience, of sense, perception, feeling and thought.  A poem with imaginative thoughts about man and the universe.  Along with the acclaimed poem the “Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge.

In 1799 William and his sister Dorothy moved to Grassmere in the Lake District.

It was in 1802, William married Mary Hutchinson, but what should have been a time of happiness for William, saw much sadness and pain over the next five years.  Two of his children died, his brother drowned at sea, and his sister Dorothy had a mental breakdown.

In 1807, he published the poem “Ode to Duty” based on his brother’s death.  At the same time, “Resolution and Independence” along with “Intimations of Immorality” were also published, which brought out Lord Byron on the attack against his work.  However, he was popular with most critics.

At the time of writing “Lyrical Ballads” he eagerly wanted to push the boundaries of his work experiences within a philosophical lyrical manner, to include abstract impersonal speculation.

In the summer of 1802, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy went to Calais, renewing his contact with France.  This confirmed his disappointment of the outcome of the French Revolution.  The realities of life were in stark contradiction to his visionary expectations of his youth.

Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, had slipped deeper into his dependency upon Opium, which would see their friendship slipping further and further apart in the coming years.

In 1802, Wordsworth took a new direction.  He wrote poems on England and Scotland, with delight and solace, and France was symbols of oppression.

Wordsworth shared thoughts, that personal experience is the only way to gain knowledge, as detailed in the poem: “The Prelude” completed in May 1805.

In 1813, Wordsworth was appointed to a Government position … alongside his love as a poet.  In 1832, he opposed the Reform Bill, which merely transferred political power from land owners to the manufacturing class.  Till the day he died, he never stopped pleading for better conditions for victims of the factory system.

William Wordsworth’s crowning moment of his life came in 1843, when he succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate.

William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount in 1850 at the age of 80.

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