English Literature » William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

Table of content

  1. Biography
  2. Essays
  3. Poems


William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England on April 7, 1770. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was eight—this experience shapes much of his later work. Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School, where his love of poetry was firmly established and, it is believed, he made his first attempts at verse. While he was at Hawkshead, Wordsworth’s father died leaving him and his four siblings orphans. After Hawkshead, Wordsworth studied at St. John’s College in Cambridge and before his final semester, he set out on a walking tour of Europe, an experience that influenced both his poetry and his political sensibilities. While touring Europe, Wordsworth came into contact with the French Revolution. This experience as well as a subsequent period living in France, brought about Wordsworth’s interest and sympathy for the life, troubles, and speech of the “common man.” These issues proved to be of the utmost importance to Wordsworth’s work. Wordsworth’s earliest poetry was published in 1793 in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. While living in France, Wordsworth conceived a daughter, Caroline, out of wedlock; he left France, however, before she was born. In 1802, he returned to France with his sister on a four-week visit to meet Caroline. Later that year, he married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend, and they had five children together. In 1812, while living in Grasmere, two of their children—Catherine and John—died.

Equally important in the poetic life of Wordsworth was his 1795 meeting with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was with Coleridge that Wordsworth published the famous Lyrical Ballads in 1798. While the poems themselves are some of the most influential in Western literature, it is the preface to the second edition that remains one of the most important testaments to a poet’s views on both his craft and his place in the world. In the preface Wordsworth writes on the need for “common speech” within poems and argues against the hierarchy of the period which valued epic poetry above the lyric.

Wordsworth’s most famous work, The Prelude (1850), is considered by many to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. The poem, revised numerous times, chronicles the spiritual life of the poet and marks the birth of a new genre of poetry. Although Wordsworth worked on The Prelude throughout his life, the poem was published posthumously. Wordsworth spent his final years settled at Rydal Mount in England, travelling and continuing his outdoor excursions. Devastated by the death of his daughter Dora in 1847, Wordsworth seemingly lost his will to compose poems. William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount on April 23, 1850, leaving his wife Mary to publish The Prelude three months later.

Essays by William Wordsworth

  1. Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Poems by William Wordsworth

  1. “Why art thou silent! Is thy love a plant”
  2. A Complaint
  3. A Poet! He Hath Put his Heart to School
  4. A Slumber did my Spirit Seal
  5. Character of the Happy Warrior
  6. Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
  7. Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, Painted by Sir George Beaumont
  8. Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg
  9. I Travelled among Unknown Men
  10. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
  11. Influence of Natural Objects in Calling Forth and Strengthening the Imagination in Boyhood and Early Youth
  12. Inside of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge
  13. It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free
  14. It is not to be Thought of
  15. Laodamia
  16. Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798
  17. Lines Written in Early Spring
  18. London, 1802
  19. Most Sweet it is
  20. Mutability
  21. November, 1806
  22. Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room
  23. Nutting
  24. October, 1803
  25. Ode to Duty
  26. Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
  27. On the Departure of Sir Walter Scott from Abbotsford, for Naples
  28. On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic
  29. Resolution and Independence
  30. Scorn not the Sonnet
  31. September, 1819
  32. She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
  33. She Was a Phantom of Delight
  34. Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman
  35. Sonnets from The River Duddon: After-Thought
  36. Surprised by Joy
  37. The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement
  38. The Green Linnet
  39. The Power of Armies is a Visible Thing
  40. The Reverie of Poor Susan
  41. The Simplon Pass
  42. The Solitary Reaper
  43. The Tables Turned
  44. The Thorn
  45. The Virgin
  46. The World Is Too Much With Us
  47. There was a Boy
  48. Three Years She Grew
  49. To a Highland Girl
  50. To a Skylark
  51. To the Cuckoo
  52. We Are Seven
  53. Written in London. September, 1802
  54. Yarrow Revisited
  55. Yarrow Unvisited
  56. Yarrow Visited. September, 1814