William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850

portrait of William Wordsworth
Oil on canvas by Benjamin Robert Haydon (1842)

Born: 7 April 1770, Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, England, UK
Died: 23 April 1850, Cumberland, England, UK

Wordsworth was taught to read by his mother and was exposed to poetry by his normally-distant father. His formal education started after his mother died when he was eight, but that education was narrow and inconsistent until he entered St John's College, Cambridge in 1787, the same year his first sonnet was published. He took long walks in the Lake District and visited France at twenty, becoming enthralled both by the revolutionary movement and a French girl who bore his child in 1792. Because of tensions between the two countries he did not return to France for years at a stretch, although he did make some support provisions for them ten years later. He and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads in 1798, starting the English Romantic movement. Neither authors' name appeared on the book. In 1802 his late father's former employer finally satisfied an old debt, allowing Wordsworth to marry Mary Hutchinson, a friend from childhood. They had five children. His work was popular and he was given two honorary doctoral degrees and in 1942 was granted a civil list pension of 400 pounds per annum. The next year, following the death of Robert Southey, he was offered the position of Poet Laureate which he declined, citing his age (73). The PM, Robert Peel, assured him that "nothing will be required of you". He held them to it, he is the only Poet Laureate of England to have produced not a single verse of official poetry. His death resulted from a re-aggravated case of pleurisy. Later that year his wife published The Prelude, originally completed in 1805. Although it was not particularly successful at the time, it is now seen as his masterwork.

Biography from Wikipedia and Authors' Calendar

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