William Wordsworth – Romantic Lake District poet

William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and became one of the major English Romantic poets of his time. Wordsworth wrote many of his most famous works while living in the Lake District.

One of five children, William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria. His father taught him the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton and Spenser, which gave him an early interest in writing. After the death of his mother in 1778, Wordsworth was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School in Cumbria, while his sister Dorothy (to whom he was close all his life) was sent to Yorkshire to live with relatives.

In November, 1791 Wordsworth travelled to France and fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon with whom he had a daughter, Caroline. He returned alone to England when lack of money and Britain´s tensions with France made it almost impossible to stay. He continued to support his daughter in later life although he did not see Annette or Caroline for several years when France and Britain were at war.

In 1798 Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, produced Lyrical Ballads which was an important work in the English Romantic movement. Shortly afterwards Wordsworth moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere with his sister, Dorothy. Fellow poet, Robert Southey lived nearby, and Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey became known as the ´Lakes Poets.´

In 1802 Wordsworth married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson. His sister Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary, who had 5 children, two of whom died before William and Mary.

His 'Daffodils' poem, written in 1804 and beginning “I wandered lonely as a cloud” is the quintessential Lake District poem. Wordsworth moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere in 1799 and then Rydal Mount in 1813. Both houses are still open to the public and attract visitors from all over the world.

Dove Cottage is situated in the heart of the Lake District and is the place where Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest poetry. His sister Dorothy kept her equally famous ´Grasmere Journal´ at Dove cottage, which is still on display in the museum. William found Dove Cottage by accident as he was out walking with his brother John and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He moved in with his sister, Dorothy just a few weeks later.

Little has changed in the house since the family lived there, and visitors can still see the dark panelled rooms, coal fires and the family´s belongings which remain intact. The garden is where Wordsworth and his sister planted vegetables and flowers and where he was most inspired to write.

Wordsworth moved to Rydal Mount, between Ambleside and Grasmere, in 1813. The house commands spectacular views of Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells and it was here that Wordsworth wrote many of his poems and revised many of his earlier works, including the famous ´Daffodils.´

William Wordsworth died of pleurisy in April, 1850 at the age of 80 and was buried at St. Oswald´s Church in Grasmere. His widow Mary published his autobiographical ´poem to Coleridge´ as ´The Prelude´ just a few months after his death. Little did she know at the time, but the poem came to be recognised as a masterpiece in later years.