William Wordsworth

Literature / Great Poets

Brief biography and works of William Wordsworth, England's Poet Laureate

Wordsworth is regarded as the first and greatest English Romantic poet and became England's Poet Laureate in 1843. He is most popular with the poem "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." 

Early Life of William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, the Lake District where he lived most of his life. The region's magnificent landscape gave him a love of nature that deeply affected his life. He was orphaned at 13, but two uncles had him educated at a good local school and at Cambridge University where he began writing poetry.  
At age 23, his first poems were published. An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches were inspired by a walking vacation in France and Switzerland.

In 1795 Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and in 1798 the two jointly produced Lyrical Ballads together. Most of the poems were Wordsworth's. He used ordinary but lyrical words to express strong sentiments about remembered scenes and events. His brilliant imagination could make everyday ordinary countryside scenes alive and seemingly full of meaning.

The Young Man and Best Poetry

In 1802, when he was 32 years old, he married Mary Hutchinson. By the time he was 36, Wordsworth had written his best poetry, including a first version of The Prelude, considered his greatest autobiographical epic. In this long poem, he tells how he came to love nature and see himself as a part of the natural world. All this was new at a time when many poets still wrote about ancient Greek and Roman heroes with a flowery language that no one actually spoke. His friendship with Coleridge fell out in 1810.

Later Years

For years Wordsworth shared a Lake District home with his sister Dorothy. Scenes described in her diary inspired some of his most famous lines. The Prelude was not published until after his death. In 1843, he succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate.  Wordsworth died seven years later at the age of 80, on April 23, 1850, in Grasmere.   

A quote from Wordsworth's famous "Intimations of Immortality"

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath elsewhere had its setting,
And cometh from afar."

Works by William Wordsworth
An Evening Walk, 1793
Guilt and Sorrow, 1793
Descriptive Sketches, 1793
Lyrical Ballads (with Samuel Taylor Coleridge), 1798, 1800, 1801
Poems in Two Volumes, 1807
The Excursion, 1814
'Surprised by Joy', 1815
The Waggoner, 1819
Peter Bell, 1819
The Prelude, 1850, (Published after he died) 

Photo Credit:

William Wordsworth.  Public Domain. 

Cambridge Guide to Literature in English by Ian Ousby. CUP, Cambridge, 1993
Chambers Biographical Dictionary, edited by Una Mcgovern, Chambers Harrap, Edinburgh,  2002
Larousse Dictionary of Writers, edited by Rosemary Goring, Larousse, 1994

Note:  I originally wrote and publish this piece for Suite101.com, October 22, 2008. / Tel 

(c)  2010.  Tel Asiado.   Inspired Pen Web.  All rights reserved.  

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