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William Wordsworth 1770-1850

Biography

One of Britain's most celebrated poets, William Wordsworth is known for his distinctive, lyrical style, inspired by the landscape of the Lake District where he spent much of his life.

Wordsworth was born in 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria. His idyllic childhood was overshadowed by the death of both parents, his mother in 1778 and his father in 1783. After studying at St John's College, Cambridge, he travelled through France during the time of Revolution and was greatly influenced by the drive for political justice. At this time, he fathered a daughter with Annette Vallon in Blois. He was horrified on his return in 1793 that England had declared war on France, leaving him estranged from his new family and disheartened. Reunited with his sister Dorothy, the Wordsworths set up home in Alfoxden, Somerset, in 1796, and the following year, they welcomed Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a guest, which marked the beginning of a prolific pairing of poetic and political minds. As a result, the Lyrical Ballads were published in 1798, now widely regarded as the cornerstone of Romanticism. Settling in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, in 1799, Wordsworth began composing The Prelude, an extended poem, in his words, "containing views of Man, Nature, and Society."

In his later years, Wordsworth's political views shifted significantly, and by the time he accepted the honour of Poet Laureate in 1843 the radical Wordsworth had departed entirely. His lyrical and philosophical verse, nonetheless, has secured his status as a national icon.

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I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills

William Wordsworth

Daffodils

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Slideshow of Wordsworth's Upon Westminster Bridge

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Performance poet Luke Wright reads Daffodils.

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