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2 September 2014
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William Wordsworth

Inspired by the French Revolution and his visits to Europe Wordsworth sought a new voice for poetry, more aligned with nature and the common man.

Wordsworth - Fact File

  • 1770: Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland
  • 1790: Travels to France
  • 1798: Publishes Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge
  • 1843: Becomes Poet Laureate
  • 1850: Dies

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth's reputation is defined by his poems of nature, but his early life was dominated by the French Revolution and the libertarian ideals of the time.

Born 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, Wordsworth graduated from Cambridge in 1791 and then travelled to France and Europe.

During his time in France he fell in love with Annette Vallon and the couple had a daughter, Caroline, in 1792, but the political situation in France at the time made it a dangerous place and Wordsworth was forced to leave his young family behind.

Wordsworth eventually settled in Dorset with his beloved sister and influential friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Together they wrote Lyrical Ballads in which they sought to write poetry in ordinary speech for the people. First published without the names of the authors, it was the book that arguably defined the Romantic movement.

Wordsworth's major work was his autobiographical poem The Prelude. Completed in 1805, he continued to make changes and it was not published until after his death.

Wordsworth's later works were much criticised and a later version of the Lyrical Ballads was slammed by the reviewers, but he still remained a formidable figure in the literary world and in 1842, long after his radical beliefs had waned, he was made poet laureate.

Image: National Portrait Gallery, London

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