William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, England, on April 7, 1770, the son of John and Ann Wordsworth. He had an elder brother, Richard, a younger sister, Dorothy, and two younger brothers, John and Christopher. His mother died when William was eight, and he and his brothers were separated from their sister to be reared by grandparents. William’s father died when William was thirteen. William first began writing poetry soon after.
When he was seventeen, Wordsworth entered Cambridge and was graduated in 1791. While at the university, he went with a friend on a walking tour of France during the beginnings of its revolution. After leaving the university, he returned to France, where he found himself in the midst of bloody violence in 1792. He met and planned to marry Annette Vallon, but he was forced to return to England and could not marry her, although the relationship produced a daughter.
Uncertain of his future, distraught over events in France, and heartsick about his separation from Annette, he went on a walking tour of Wales in 1793 and then joyfully reunited with his sister, Dorothy, and made plans to settle with her until he could marry Annette. Meanwhile, he met the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797 in Dorset. By now, Wordsworth believed that his destiny was to become a poet, and he was encouraged by Dorothy and Coleridge. To finance a trip to Germany, Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote their famous collection of poems, Lyrical Ballads, in 1798. One of the poems, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” was composed after a walking trip that Wordsworth took with Dorothy to visit the ruins of a famous abbey on the Welsh border.
In 1798 and 1799, the two poets and Dorothy went to Germany, but Wordsworth and his sister returned shortly afterward to England, leaving Coleridge behind. Wordsworth wrote more poems, which would be included in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1800, and he composed his prose essay on his theory of poetry as a preface for the collection. He also began to write long sections in blank verse of his autobiographical poem, to be called The Prelude: Or, The Growth of a Poet’s Mind (1850), which he had probably begun in Germany. When Coleridge returned to England, he often visited William and Dorothy and soon moved to live near them in the Lake District of north England, where Wordsworth was born.
By this time, Wordsworth and Annette were no longer interested in marrying, and he married Mary Hutchinson in...
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