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William Wordsworth


William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth in Cumberland in 1770. After graduating from Cambridge he travelled to France to learn French. There he met Annette Vallon and fell in love with her; although he never married her he recognised the daughter she bore him as his own.
His stay in France fired him with enthusiasm for the ideals of the French Revolution, and this alarmed his family who cut off his financial support and ordered him home. Back in England, Wordsworth began to read the works of the radical philosopher William Godwin, who advocated the equality of all men and the superiority of reason as being the only guide to mankind.

The war between France and England was a source of distress to him, which was made all the more acute by the disillusionment of seeing his noble ideals shattered by events. He descrive the anguish and the spiritual struggles of these years in The Prelude, an unfinished philosophical poem which is his spiritual autobiography.
He found comfort in the affection and support of his sister Dorothy, and equally important was his friendship with Coleridge, whom he met in 1797. The two poets became great friends, and their influence on one another was very productive. Together they planned the Lyrical Ballads, a slight volume of poems which appeared in 1798 and stands out as a Landmark in English literature. The preface to the second edition contains the theoretical background, the new poetic theory, and is considered the manifesto of the English Romantic Movement.
After a trip to Germany, Wordswoth settled in Grasmere, in the Lake District, and he spent the rest of his life there, carefully attended by his sister and his wife. The years 1798-1807 were very creative and saw the best of his poetry, collected in Poems in Two Volumes (published in 1807).
Among other poems, they include the famous Ode on Intimations of Immortality, The Solitary Reaper, and I wandered Lonely as a Cloud, just to quote a few of them.
Even if Wordsworth’s inspiration declined after 1807 and he became more and more conservative, his popularity continued to rise, and in 1843 he was appointed Poet Laureate, England’s official poet. Seven years later William Wordsworth died and was buried in the cemetery of Grasmere Church, but a monument was raised to him in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

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