Monday, November 25, 2013

Meet William Wordsworth

     William Wordsworth was a true literary pioneer. He defied the conventions of his time by insisting that poetry should express deep feelings about everyday experiences. In the process, he influenced a generation of poets and helped change the course of English poetry.

     Wordsworth was born in England's Lake District, a land of breathtaking scenery. Early in life, he suffered two tragedies, the sudden death of his mother when he was eight, and the death of his father about five years later. The orphaned Wordsworth children were separated. William and his brothers boarded with a couple near the school the boys attended, and their sister, Dorothy, lived with relatives. Though Wordsworth grieved over the loss of his parents, he came to love school, the people of the Lake District, and the land. The passion he developed for poetry, for simple country living, and for the natural world were to influence him for the rest of his life. 
     Wordsworth furthered his education at Cambridge University, graduating at the age of twenty-one. His relatives wanted him to pursue a career in law or the church; he wanted to write or to travel. While visiting France, he became caught up in the spirit of the French Revolution, which he viewed as a struggle for social justice. He also fell in love with a a French woman named Anette Vallon. Though he wanted to stay with her, lack of money forced him to return to England. The next few years were difficult ones for Wordsworth. He felt guilty about leaving Vallon, disillusioned by the increasing violence in France, and disappointed by the poort critical response to his volumes of poetry An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches.
     When Wordsworth was in his mid-twenties, his fortunes changed. He inherited money from a friend, was given a cottage in the Lake District, and was reunited with his sister, who remained his dear friend and confidant for life. With her encouragement and that of his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth began to devote himself to writing poetry. At the age of twenty-eight, his reputation as a leading poet was established with the publication of Lyrical Ballads, a collection that included his poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" and Coleridge's The Rimc of the Ancient Mariner.
     Wordsworth continued to write throughout his long life, which he spent in the Lake District with his sister and his wife, Mary. When he was seventy-three, he was named poet laureate of England. His masterpiece The Prelude, a long autobiographical poem, was published after his death.

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