William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) is classified by most academics as "a major English Romantic poet". But having now gathered a considerable number of his poems on the site and thought long and hard about such extraordinary poems as Peter Bell, or On the Power of Sound, I have come to the conclusion that William Wordsworth was also a mystic.
Wordsworth's father exposed him to poetry, including that of Milton, Shakespeare and Spenser, when he was young and in 1787 he began attending St John's College, Cambridge, and received his B.A. degree in 1791. Thus poetry was going to be his destiny, but his poetry is full of symbolic and spiritual references.
His driving force was that strange mixture that seems to inform many of the truly creative - love and grief. In November 1791, Wordsworth visited Revolutionary France and became enthralled with the Republican movement. He fell in LOVE with a French woman, Annette Vallon, who in 1792 gave birth to their child, Caroline. Because of lack of money and Britain's tensions with France, he was forced to return alone to England the next year. He supported her and his daughter as best he could in later life, but the war between France and Britain prevented him from seeing Annette and Caroline again for several years.
And the year following his forced separation from his lover and daughter, 1793, saw Wordsworth's first published poetry with the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. He received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert in 1795 so that he could pursue writing poetry. That year, he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. The two poets quickly developed a close friendship and in 1797, Wordsworth and Coleridge produced Lyrical Ballads (1798), an important work in the English Romantic movement.
In it, Wordsworth gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility."
So in this we again see the origin of Wordsworth’s moments of spirituality – emotion, and very high emotion.
It is clear that he was both sensitive and easily upset. He contemplated committing suicide, for example, over his disputes with his grandparents.
From 1795 to 1797, he wrote his only play, The Borderers, but it was rejected by Thomas Harris, theatre manager of Covent Garden. The rebuff was not received lightly. A trip to Germany in the autumn of 1798 produced homesickness. And in the harsh winter of 1798–99, Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy and suffered extreme stress and loneliness. Through this period, many of his poems revolve around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief. It is no accident that the title of a long philosophical poem he planned was The Recluse. It was largely autobiographical, and by 1805 he had completed it, but refused to publish it.
In 1802, a legacy gave him the financial security to enable him to marry. On 4 October, following his visit with Dorothy to France to arrange matters with Annette, Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson. Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary. The following year Mary gave birth to the first of five children. But grief was to follow Wordsworth like a spectre throughout his life. There came the death of his brother John, in 1805, which affected him very strongly. Two of his children, Thomas and Catherine, died in 1812.
By 1820, he enjoyed the success accompanying a reversal in the contemporary critical opinion of his earlier works. But according to some critics his poetry never achieved the high points he achieved via the grief and stress of the earlier years. He was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850. When his daughter, Dora, died in 1847, his production of poetry came to a standstill.
William Wordsworth died from pleurisy on 23 April 1850, and was buried in Grasmere. His widow Mary published his lengthy autobiography then called The Prelude several months after his death, it has since come to be recognised as his masterpiece.
ReferencesWilliam Wordsworth - Complete Works
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- G N M Tyrrell - The Personality of Man – The nature of Wordsworth’s inspiration
- Wordsworth, William - Are yet the fountain light of all our day
- Wordsworth, William - Beneath the concave of an April sky
- Wordsworth, William - By one pervading spirit Of tones and numbers all things are controlled
- Wordsworth, William - By our own spirits are we deified
- Wordsworth, William - Conclusion - Rest, and be not alone, but have thou there
- Wordsworth, William - Elegiac Stanzas - I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile
- Wordsworth, William - from Resolution and Independence
- Wordsworth, William - I am not One who much or oft delight
- Wordsworth, William - If ever happiness hath lodged with man
- Wordsworth, William - Intimations of Immortality - Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
- Wordsworth, William - Intimations of Immortality - Thanks to the human heart by which we live
- Wordsworth, William - Like the voice through earth and sky by the restless cuckoo sent
- Wordsworth, William - Lines at Grasmere
- Wordsworth, William - Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey
- Wordsworth, William - Mid the dark steeps repose the shadowy streams
- Wordsworth, William - Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes
- Wordsworth, William - My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky
- Wordsworth, William - On the Power of Sound
- Wordsworth, William - One impulse from the vernal wood
- Wordsworth, William - Peter Bell
- Wordsworth, William - Prelude - But to my conscious soul I now can say
- Wordsworth, William - Prelude - The eternal silence
- Wordsworth, William - Small service is true service while it lasts
- Wordsworth, William - The appearance, instantaneously disclosed was of a mighty city
- Wordsworth, William - The Excursion - But he had felt the power
- Wordsworth, William - The Excursion - To every Form of being is assigned
- Wordsworth, William - The Excursion - Yet I will praise Thee with impassioned voice
- Wordsworth, William - The Lost Love - She dwelt among the untrodden ways
- Wordsworth, William - The Reverie of Poor Susan
- Wordsworth, William - The Tables
- Wordsworth, William - The Tables turned
- Wordsworth, William - The Wanderer recalls the Past
- Wordsworth, William - Thou dread source
- Wordsworth, William - Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
- Wordsworth, William - To the Daisy