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William Wordsworth by Britain Unlimited
Romantic poet and poet laureate

 

Portrait of William Wordsworth

When and Where was he Born?

7th April 1770. Cockermouth, Cumbria, England.

Family Background:

William Wordsworth was the second son of John Wordsworth, the Business Agent of Sir James Lowther (later Earl of Lonsdale) and Ann, daughter of William Cookson, a linen draper. Brother to Dorothy Wordsworth.

Education:

Hawkshead Grammar School, Cumbria. St. Johnís College, Cambridge.

Chronology/Biography of WIlliam Wordsworth:

1771: Dorothy Wordsworth, his sister, born at Cockermouth.

Wordsworth Birthplace
Wordsworth Birthplace, Cockermouth, Cumbria
(© Anthony Blagg)

1778: (8th March) Death of his Mother.

1779: Lodges with Hugh and Ann Tyson whilst attending Hawkshead Grammar School.

Hawkshead Grammar School
Hawkshead Grammar School, Cumbria where Wordsworth studied as a boy
(© Anthony Blagg)

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1783: (30th December) Death of his father.

1785: William Wordsworth's first surviving poetry written."Lines Written as a School Exercise at Hawkshead".

1787: (March) Wordsworth's first published poem is included in "The European Magazine", "Sonnet, On Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress".

1788: Composition of "An Evening Walk".

1790: Goes on a walking tour of post revolutionary France and then into Switzerland with Robert Jones.

1791: William Wordsworth spends the early part of the year in London and then returns to France in November. Is influenced by the political scene. Has a love affair with Annette Vallon and she gives birth to a daughter, Caroline. Returns to England in order to find paid employment.

1793: (February) War is declared between England and France and Wordsworth feels an outcast. Goes on a long walking tour although penniless, across Salisbury Plain and into Wales where he sees Tintern Abbey.

1794: Reunited with his sister Dorothy when he stays at Windy Brow in Keswick, Cumbria. (August) Stays at Rampside in Cumbria and sees Peele Castle. Nurses his friend Raisley Calvert who leaves him £900 on his death bed.

1795: William Wordsworth has become a familiar figure in the radical circles in London and is a regular visitor to the house of William Godwin during the Spring. (August meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey for the first time in Bristol. Settles with Dorothy at Racedown in Dorset and begins to write "Salisbury Pain".

1797: Completes his play "The Borderers" and the Wordsworths move to Alfoxton (Alfoxden) House in Somerset so that he can be nearer his great new friend Coleridge and start joint writing projects.

Alfoxden House
Alfoxton House, Holford, Somerset
(© Anthony Blagg)
(Please note this is now a private house and not an hotel)

1798: Completes "The Ruined Cottage" and composes most of the "Lyrical Ballads" jointly with Coleridge. This book is published anonymously and there is much debate over its authorship. He travels to Germany with Dorothy and Coleridge and begins writing verses which will eventually be included in "The Prelude.

1799: William Wordsworth returns to England and moves into Dove Cottage at Grasmere with Dorothy.

1800: Works on poems for the second edition of the "Lyrical Ballads".

1802: (August) Peace between England and France allows Wordsworth to travel to France to see Annette and Caroline. Gets married (See Below)

1803: War breaks out once more and there is a fear of invasion. Birth of his first son John. Goes on a tour of Scotland with Dorothy and Coleridge. On the 17th September the Wordsworths meet Sir Walter Scott and S.T Coleridge, who is ill and decides to journey on by himself.

1804: Completes "Ode: Imitations of Immortality".

1805: His brother John, a sea-captain is drowned on the 5th February as his ship the "Earl of Abergavenny" is hit by a storm. Wordsworth completes "The Prelude".

Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria. Home to the Wordsworth's and later De Quincey.
(© Anthony Blagg)

1806: Spends the winter at Coleorton House in Leicestershire. He read "The Prelude" to Coleridge, now returned from Malta in ill health.

1808: The Wordsworths and Dorothy move into a larger house called Allan Bank at Grasmere.

Allan Bank, Grasmere
Allan Bank, Grasmere opened to the public by the National Trust in 2012
after restoration from a major fire in 2011

(© Anthony Blagg)

1810: Birth of his son William. A misunderstanding leads to a breach with Coleridge which is not healed until 1812.

1811: Deaths of his children Thomas and Catherine. Family move to the rectory, Grasmere.

1813: William Wordsworth becomes distributor of Postage Stamps for Westmoreland which allows him a steady income. Family move to Rydal Mount, overlooking Rydal Water, his home for the rest of his life which, he is never to own in his own right.

Wordsworth Memorial, Grasmere
Memorial Trough to Wordsworth at Town End, Grasmere, Cumbria
(© Anthony Blagg)

1814: Publishes "The Excursion" which is attacked by the reviewers.

1815: Publication of his first collected edition of his poems.

1817: Moves in London Literary circles more frequently and meets John Keats.

1818: The once radical Wordsworth now campaigns in the General Election for the local Tory Lord.

1820: Wordsworth tours Europe again.

1827: Tours the Rhineland in Germany with his favourite Daughter Dora and Coleridge.

1831: Tours Scotland and meets up with Scott again for the last time.

1834: Death of his friend Coleridge.

1836: Tours France and Italy.

1837: All his Sonnets are collected into one edition.

Rydal Mount
Rydal Mount. Final home of Wordsworth
(© Anthony Blagg)

1842: Wordsworth resigns Stamp distributorship. Becomes Poet Laureate on the Death of his and Coleridge's friend Robert Southey.

1843: His reputation as a public figure is now rising and he receives Honorary Doctorates from Oxford and Durham Universities.

1845: All his poems are brought together in one Collected Edition which he edits with immense care.

1849: Wordsworth becomes grief stricken by the death of his beloved daughter Dora.

St Mary's Church, Rydal
St Mary's Church Rydal, where Wordsworth was a churchwarden.
Dora's field, a field planted with Daffodils
in remembrance of his daughter, is nearby

(© Anthony Blagg)

Written Works:

  • 1793: "Descriptive Sketches. "An Evening Walk."
  • 1798: "Lyrical Ballads (With Coleridge).
  • 1800: "Lyrical Ballads" (New Edition) With Coleridge).
  • 1802: "Lyrical Ballads" (Third Edition) (With Coleridge).
  • 1807: "Poems". "Ode to Duty". "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"
  • 1809: "Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain and Portugal as affected by the Convention of Cintra.
  • 1814: "The Excursion, Being a Portion of The Recluse".
  • 1815: "The White Doe of Rylstone".
  • 1816: "A Letter to a Friend of Burns".
  • 1819: "Peter Bell". "The Waggoner".
  • 1820: "The River Duddon". "Vaudracour and Julia."
  • 1822: "Ecclesiastical Sketches". "Memorial of a Tour on the Continent".
  • 1835: "Yarrow Revisited".
  • 1838: "Sonnets".
  • 1843: "Poems Chiefly of Early and Late Years". "The Borderers".
  • 1850: "The Prelude,or Growth of a Poet's Mind."
  • (1851): "Memoirs Dictated by Himself".
  • (1888): "The Recluse".

Marriage:

4th October 1802 to Mary Hutchinson.

When and Where Did he Die?

23rd April 1850. Rydal Mount, Rydal, Cumbria, England.

Age at Death:

80.

Site of Grave:

St. Oswald's Churchyard, Grasmere, Cumbria, England.

Wordsworth's Grave
Wordsworth's Grave, St Oswald's Churchyard,
Grasmere, Cumbria
(© Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

CUMBRIA:

Wordsworth House, Main Street, Cockermouth, CA13 9RX (National Trust.)

Grammar School, Hawkshead has his initials carved in a bench.

Dove Cottage and Museum, Grasmere, LA22 9SH. (Wordsworth Trust.)

Aira Force Waterfall, Ullswater.

Aira Force Waterfall
Aira Force Waterfall, near Ullswater which was visited by Wordsworth and Coleridge several times.
It was near here on the banks of the lake that he was inspired to write his poem about the daffodils.

(© Anthony Blagg)

Allan Bank, Grasmere. (National Trust)

Rydal Mount and Gardens, Ambleside, LA22 9LU (House where Wordsworth lived from 1813 until his death in 1850. Gardens also designed by the Poet).

Dora's Field, field near Rydal Mount planted with daffodils in honour of his daughter.

The Armitt Museum, Ambleside.

Gowbarrow Park, Ullswater, inspiration for the poem "The Daffodils".

Scafell Pike, (climbed in 1818).

Helvellyn (climbed several times).

DORSET:

Lulworth Cove.

LONDON:

National Portrait Gallery.

WALES:

Snowdon (Climbed in 1791).

Further Information:

The Wordsworth Trust
Dove Cottage
Grasmere
LA22 9SH

 

 

William Wordsworth by Britain Unlimited
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