William Wordsworth

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I travelled among unknown men

I travelled among unknown men,
  In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
  What love I bore to thee.

'T is past, that melancholy dream!
  Nor will I quit thy shore
A second time, for still I seem
  To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel
  The joy of my desire;
And she I cherished turned her wheel
  Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
  The bowers where Lucy played;
And thine too is the last green field
  That Lucy's eyes surveyed.


Wordsworth, Dorothy, and Coleridge travelled to Germany in the autumn of 1798. While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the journey, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness. [8] During the harsh winter of 1798–99 Wordsworth lived with Dorothy in Goslar, and, despite extreme stress and loneliness, began work on the autobiographical piece that was later titled The Prelude. He wrote a number of other famous poems in Goslar, including "The Lucy poems". In the Autumn of 1799, Wordsworth and his sister returned to England and visited the Hutchinson family at Sockburn. When Coleridge arrived back in England he travelled to the North with their publisher Joseph Cottle to meet Wordsworth and undertake a proposed tour of the Lake District. This was the immediate cause of the brother and sister's settling at Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, this time with another poet, Robert Southey, nearby. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the "Lake Poets". [19] Throughout this period many of Wordsworth's poems revolved around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.

Marriage and children

Dove Cottage (Town End, Grasmere) - home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, 1799-1808; home of Thomas De Quincey, 1809-1820 Dove Cottage - geograph.org.uk - 70618.jpg
Dove Cottage (Town End, Grasmere) – home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, 1799–1808; home of Thomas De Quincey, 1809–1820

In 1802, Lowther's heir, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, paid the £4,000 owed to Wordsworth's father through Lowther's failure to pay his aide. [20] It was this repayment that afforded Wordsworth the financial means to marry. On 4 October, following his visit with Dorothy to France to arrange matters with Annette, Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson. [8] Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary. The following year Mary gave birth to the first of five children, three of whom predeceased her and William:

Later career

Autobiographical work and Poems, in Two Volumes

William Wordsworth
Wordsworth on Helvellyn by Benjamin Robert Haydon.jpg
Wordsworth on Helvellyn by Benjamin Haydon (National Portrait Gallery).
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
In office
6 April 1843 23 April 1850

Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call The Recluse. [24] In 1798–99 he started an autobiographical poem, which he referred to as the "poem to Coleridge" and which he planned would serve as an appendix to a larger work called The Recluse. In 1804 he began expanding this autobiographical work, having decided to make it a prologue rather than an appendix. [25] He completed this work, now generally referred to as the first version of The Prelude , in 1805, but refused to publish such a personal work until he had completed the whole of The Recluse. The death of his brother John, also in 1805, affected him strongly and may have influenced his decisions about these works. [26]

Rydal Mount - home to Wordsworth 1813-1850. Hundreds of visitors came here to see him over the years Rydal Mount - geograph.org.uk - 959824.jpg
Rydal Mount – home to Wordsworth 1813–1850. Hundreds of visitors came here to see him over the years

Wordsworth's philosophical allegiances as articulated in The Prelude and in such shorter works as "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" have been a source of critical debate. It was long supposed that Wordsworth relied chiefly on Coleridge for philosophical guidance, but more recently scholars have suggested that Wordsworth's ideas may have been formed years before he and Coleridge became friends in the mid-1790s. In particular, while he was in revolutionary Paris in 1792, the 22-year-old Wordsworth made the acquaintance of the mysterious traveller John "Walking" Stewart (1747–1822), [27] who was nearing the end of his thirty years of wandering, on foot, from Madras, India, through Persia and Arabia, across Africa and Europe, and up through the fledgling United States. By the time of their association, Stewart had published an ambitious work of original materialist philosophy entitled The Apocalypse of Nature (London, 1791), to which many of Wordsworth's philosophical sentiments may well be indebted.

In 1807 Wordsworth published Poems, in Two Volumes , including "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood". Up to this point, Wordsworth was known only for Lyrical Ballads, and he hoped that this new collection would cement his reputation. Its reception was lukewarm, however.

In 1810, Wordsworth and Coleridge were estranged over the latter's opium addiction, [8] and in 1812, his son Thomas died at the age of 6, six months after the death of 3-year-old Catherine. The following year he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, and the stipend of £400 a year made him financially secure, albeit at the cost of political independence. In 1813, he and his family, including Dorothy, moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside (between Grasmere and Rydal Water), where he spent the rest of his life. [8]

The Prospectus

In 1814 Wordsworth published The Excursion as the second part of the three-part work The Recluse, even though he never completed the first part or the third part. He did, however, write a poetic Prospectus to The Recluse in which he laid out the structure and intention of the whole work. The Prospectus contains some of Wordsworth's most famous lines on the relation between the human mind and nature:

  ... my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to the external World
Is fitted:—and how exquisitely, too—
Theme this but little heard of among Men,
The external World is fitted to the Mind;
And the creation (by no lower name
Can it be called) which they with blended might
Accomplish ... [28]

Some modern critics [29] suggest that there was a decline in his work beginning around the mid-1810s, perhaps because most of the concerns that characterised his early poems (loss, death, endurance, separation and abandonment) had been resolved in his writings and his life. [30] By 1820, he was enjoying considerable success accompanying a reversal in the contemporary critical opinion of his earlier works.

The poet William Blake, who knew of Wordsworth's work, was struck by Wordsworth's boldness in centering his poetry on the human mind. In response to Wordsworth's poetic program that, “when we look / Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man- / My haunt, and the main region of my song” (The Excursion), William Blake wrote to his friend Henry Crabb Robinson that the passage "“caused him a bowel complaint which nearly killed him”. [31]

Following the death of his friend the painter William Green in 1823, Wordsworth also mended his relations with Coleridge. [32] The two were fully reconciled by 1828, when they toured the Rhineland together. [8] Dorothy suffered from a severe illness in 1829 that rendered her an invalid for the remainder of her life. Coleridge and Charles Lamb both died in 1834, their loss being a difficult blow to Wordsworth. The following year saw the passing of James Hogg. Despite the death of many contemporaries, the popularity of his poetry ensured a steady stream of young friends and admirers to replace those he lost.

Religious beliefs

Wordsworth's youthful political radicalism, unlike Coleridge's, never led him to rebel against his religious upbringing. He remarked in 1812 that he was willing to shed his blood for the established Church of England, reflected in his Ecclesiastical Sketches of 1822. This religious conservatism also colours The Excursion (1814), a long poem that became extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It features three central characters: the Wanderer; the Solitary, who has experienced the hopes and miseries of the French Revolution; and the Pastor, who dominates the last third of the poem. [33] Wordsworth’s poetry

Wordsworth's Poetic Philosophy

Behler [34] has pointed out the fact that Wordsworth wanted to invoke the basic feeling that a human heart possesses and expresses. He had reversed philosophical stand point that S.T. Coleridge owns, ‘creating the characters in such an environment so that the public feels them belonging to the distant place and time. And it is true that the philosophical realization by William Wordsworth let him choose the language and structural patterning of the poetry that a common man uses every day. [35] Kurland expresses that the conversational aspect of a language emerges through social necessity. [36] Social necessity posits the theme of possessing the proper knowledge, interest and biases also among the speakers. William Wordsworth has used conversation in his poetry to let the poet ‘I’ merge into ‘We’. The poem “Farewell” exposes the identical emotion that the poet and his sister nourish:-

“We leave you here in solitude to dwell/ With these our latest gifts of tender thought;

Thou, like the morning, in thy saffron coat,/ Bright gowan,  and marsh-marigold, farewell!” (L.19-22).

Such kind of conversational tone persists all through the poetic journey of the poet, that positions him as a man in the society who speaks to the purpose of communion with the very common mass of the society. [37] Again; "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" is the evidence where the poet expresses why he is writing and what he is writing and what purpose it will serve to the humanity.

Laureateship and other honours

Wordsworth remained a formidable presence in his later years. In 1837, the Scottish poet and playwright Joanna Baillie reflected on her long acquaintance with Wordsworth. "He looks like a man that one must not speak to unless one has some sensible thing to say. However he does occasionally converse cheerfully & well; and when one knows how benevolent & excellent he is, it disposes one to be very much pleased with him." [38]

In 1838, Wordsworth received an honorary doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Durham and the following year he was awarded the same honorary degree by the University of Oxford, when John Keble praised him as the "poet of humanity", praise greatly appreciated by Wordsworth. [8] [39] (It has been argued that Wordsworth was a great influence on Keble's immensely popular book of devotional poetry, The Christian Year (1827). [40] ) In 1842, the government awarded him a Civil List pension of £300 a year.

Following the death of Robert Southey in 1843 Wordsworth became Poet Laureate. He initially refused the honour, saying that he was too old, but accepted when the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, assured him that "you shall have nothing required of you". Wordsworth thus became the only poet laureate to write no official verses. The sudden death of his daughter Dora in 1847 at age 42 was difficult for the aging poet to take and in his depression, he completely gave up writing new material.


Gravestone of William Wordsworth, Grasmere, Cumbria WilliamWordsworth Grave.JPG
Gravestone of William Wordsworth, Grasmere, Cumbria

William Wordsworth died at home at Rydal Mount from an aggravated case of pleurisy on 23 April 1850, [41] [42] and was buried at St Oswald's Church, Grasmere. His widow, Mary, published his lengthy autobiographical "Poem to Coleridge" as The Prelude several months after his death. [43] Though it failed to interest people at the time, it has since come to be widely recognised as his masterpiece.

Composer Alicia Van Buren (1860–1922) used text by Wordsworth for her song "In Early Spring". [44]

Ken Russell's 1978 film William and Dorothy portrays the relationship between William and his sister Dorothy. [45]

Wordsworth and Coleridge's friendship is examined by Julien Temple in his 2000 film Pandaemonium. [46]

Wordsworth has appeared as a character in works of fiction, including:

Isaac Asimov's 1966 novelisation of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage sees Dr. Peter Duval quoting Wordsworth's The Prelude as the miniaturised submarine sails through the cerebral fluid surrounding a human brain, comparing it to the "strange seas of thought".

Taylor Swift's 2020 album Folklore mentions Wordsworth in her bonus track "The Lakes", which is thought to be about the Lake District. [47]

Major works

Related Research Articles

The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet's Mind; An Autobiographical Poem is an autobiographical poem in blank verse by the English poet William Wordsworth. Intended as the introduction to the more philosophical poem The Recluse, which Wordsworth never finished, The Prelude is an extremely personal work and reveals many details of Wordsworth's life.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud Lyric poem by William Wordsworth

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is a lyric poem by William Wordsworth. It is one of the most popular poems of Wordsworth. The poem was inspired by an event on 15 April 1802 in which Wordsworth and his younger sister Dorothy came across a "long belt" of daffodils while wandering in the forest. Written some time between 1804 and 1807, it was first published in 1807 in Poems, in Two Volumes, and a revised version was published in 1815.

<i>Lyrical Ballads</i> Poem collection by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798 and generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Ode: Intimations of Immortality Poem by William Wordsworth

"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" is a poem by William Wordsworth, completed in 1804 and published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). The poem was completed in two parts, with the first four stanzas written among a series of poems composed in 1802 about childhood. The first part of the poem was completed on 27 March 1802 and a copy was provided to Wordsworth's friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who responded with his own poem, "Dejection: An Ode", in April. The fourth stanza of the ode ends with a question, and Wordsworth was finally able to answer it with seven additional stanzas completed in early 1804. It was first printed as "Ode" in 1807, and it was not until 1815 that it was edited and reworked to the version that is currently known, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality".

She dwelt among the untrodden ways

"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" is a three-stanza poem written by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in 1798 when he was 28 years old. The verse was first printed in Lyrical Ballads, 1800, a volume of Wordsworth's and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poems that marked a climacteric in the English Romantic movement. The poem is the best known of Wordsworth's series of five works which comprise his "Lucy" series, and was a favorite amongst early readers. It was composed both as a meditation on his own feelings of loneliness and loss, and as an ode to the beauty and dignity of an idealized woman who lived unnoticed by all others except by the poet himself. The title line implies Lucy lived unknown and remote, both physically and intellectually. The poet's subject's isolated sensitivity expresses a characteristic aspect of Romantic expectations of the human, and especially of the poet's condition.

The Lucy poems Five poems written by William Wordsworth

The Lucy poems are a series of five poems composed by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) between 1798 and 1801. All but one were first published during 1800 in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, a collaboration between Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge that was both Wordsworth's first major publication and a milestone in the early English Romantic movement. In the series, Wordsworth sought to write unaffected English verse infused with abstract ideals of beauty, nature, love, longing and death.

William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their 1798 joint publication, Lyrical Ballads. His early years were dominated by his experience of the countryside around the Lake District and the English moors. Dorothy Wordsworth, his sister, served as his early companion until their mother's death and their separation when he was sent to school.

The "Matthew" poems are a series of poems, composed by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, that describe the character Matthew in Wordsworth's poetry.

"We are Seven" is a poem written by William Wordsworth and published in his Lyrical Ballads. It describes a discussion between an adult poetic speaker and a "little cottage girl" about the number of brothers and sisters who dwell with her. The poem turns on the question of whether to account two dead siblings as part of the family.

"Lucy Gray" is a poem written by William Wordsworth in 1799 and published in his Lyrical Ballads. It describes the death of a young girl named Lucy Gray, who went out one evening into a storm.

I travelled among unknown men

"I travelled among unknown men" is a love poem completed in April 1801 by the English poet William Wordsworth and originally intended for the Lyrical Ballads anthology, but it was first published in Poems, in Two Volumes in 1807. The third poem of Wordsworth's "Lucy series", "I travelled..." was composed after the poet had spent time living in Germany in 1798. Due to acute homesickness, the lyrics promise that once returned to England, he will never live abroad again. The poet states he now loves England "more and more". Wordsworth realizes that he did not know how much he loved England until he lived abroad and uses this insight as an analogy to understand his unrequited feelings for his beloved, Lucy.

"Three years she grew in sun and shower" is a poem composed in 1798 by the English poet William Wordsworth, and first published in the Lyrical Ballads collection which was co-written with his friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As one of the five poems that make up the "Lucy series", the work describes the relationship between Lucy and nature using words and sentiments. The author creates an impression of the indifference of nature as the poem progresses. The care with which Nature had sculpted Lucy, and then casually let her "race" end, reflects Wordsworth's view of the harsh reality of life. Although Nature is indifferent, it also cares for Lucy enough to both sculpt and mould her into its own. Wordsworth valued connections to nature above all else. The poem thus contains both epithalamic and elegiac characteristics; the marriage described is between Lucy and nature, while her human lover is left to mourn in the knowledge that death has separated her from mankind, and she will forever now be with nature.

The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in April 1798. Originally included in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, which he published with William Wordsworth, the poem disputes the traditional idea that nightingales are connected to the idea of melancholy. Instead, the nightingale represents to Coleridge the experience of nature. Midway through the poem, the narrator stops discussing the nightingale in order to describe a mysterious female and a gothic scene. After the narrator is returned to his original train of thought by the nightingale's song, he recalls a moment when he took his crying son out to see the moon, which immediately filled the child with joy. Critics have found the poem either decent with little complaint or as one of his better poems containing beautiful lines.

"A slumber did my spirit seal" is a poem written by William Wordsworth in 1798 and published in the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads. It is usually included as one of his The Lucy poems, although it is the only poem of the series not to mention her name. The poem is a mere eight lines long; two "stanzas."

Poor Susan

"Poor Susan" is a lyric poem by William Wordsworth composed at Alfoxden in 1797. It was first published in the collection Lyrical Ballads in 1798. It is written in anapestic tetrameter.

<i>Peter Bell</i> (Wordsworth) Poem by William Wordsworth

Peter Bell: A Tale in Verse is a long narrative poem by William Wordsworth, written in 1798, but not published until 1819.

<i>The White Doe of Rylstone</i>

The White Doe of Rylstone; or, The Fate of the Nortons is a long narrative poem by William Wordsworth, written initially in 1807–08, but not finally revised and published until 1815. It is set during the Rising of the North in 1569, and combines historical and legendary subject-matter. It has attracted praise from some critics, but has never been one of Wordsworth's more popular poems.


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  30. Already in 1891 James Kenneth Stephen wrote satirically of Wordsworth having "two voices": one is "of the deep", the other "of an old half-witted sheep/Which bleats articulate monotony".
  31. Abrams, M.H. (1971). Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. Norton. p. 24.
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  38. Baillie, Joanna (2010). Thomas McLean (ed.). Further Letters of Joanna Baillie. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 181. ISBN   978-0-8386-4149-1.
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  43. e g Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal 26 December 1801
  44. "Collection: Papers of Alicia Keisker Van Buren, 1889–1915 | HOLLIS for". hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
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  46. Van Gelder, Lawrence (13 July 2001). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'Pandaemonium'". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  47. "Taylor Swift dedicates Folklore song to the Lake District". BBC. 12 August 2020.
  48. 1 2 3 4 5 M. H. Abrams, editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period, writes of these five poems: "This and the four following pieces are often grouped by editors as the 'Lucy poems,' even though 'A slumber did my spirit seal' does not identify the 'she' who is the subject of that poem. All but the last were written in 1799, while Wordsworth and his sister were in Germany, and homesick. There has been diligent speculation about the identity of Lucy, but it remains speculation. The one certainty is that she is not the girl of Wordsworth's 'Lucy Gray'" (Abrams 2000).
  49. Wordsworth, William (4 January 1810). "French Revolution". The Friend . No. 20. Retrieved 8 June 2018.

Further reading

Court offices
Preceded by British Poet Laureate
Succeeded by