William Wordsworth Questions and Answers

William Wordsworth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Who is William Wordsworth's Lucy in the "Lucy poems"? Identity of the girl.

Expert Answers info

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,057 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

The term "Lucy poems" is one applied to five poems by the English poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850). The poems usually referred to by this term are:

  • "Strange fits of passion have I known"
  • "She dwelt among the untrodden ways"
  • "I travelled among unknown men"
  • "Three years she grew in sun and shower"
  • "A slumber did my spirit seal"

These poems were all written by Wordsworth between 1798 and 1801, and four of them were published in the 1800 second edition of Lyrical Ballads. The term "Lucy poems" and the treatment of these five as a group did not originate with Wordsworth but rather was something that happened after his death as critics began to write extensively about his work.

There is no definitive scholarly agreement on whether these poems refer to a specific real women or not, much less the identity of the woman. Some critics have suggested that "Lucy" might represent Mary Hutchinson, a woman Wordsworth married shortly after these poems were written, or his sister Dorothy. A more probable explanation, though, is that Lucy was a fictional character, perhaps inspired by people in Wordsworth's life, but in reality a literary creation rather than an actual historical person.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write7,077 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The identity of the main character in the series of "Lucy poems" attributed to their author, Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), has long been debated by historians. The general concensus is that there was no actual Lucy, and that she was only a

... fictitious or hybrid character. Most critics agree that she is essentially a literary device upon whom he could project, meditate and reflect.

Wordsworth may have also based the poems at least partially on his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855), who maintained a diary of works which were published as the Grasmere Journal after her death. Dorothy lived with her brother (even after William's marriage) for most of her life, and William described her in verse as

My dear, dear Friend;...
Of thy wild eyes
My dear, dear Sister!

There were five Lucy poems, four of which were published in Lyrical Ballads (1800):

  • "Strange fits of passion have I known"
  • "She dwelt among the untrodden ways"
  • "I travelled among unknown men"
  • "Three years she grew in sun and shower"
  • "A slumber did my spirit seal"

check Approved by eNotes Editorial