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William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland. He was born 10 years before the Romantic Era. A lot of his poems are influenced by the Romantic Era. Wordsworth was a well known poet in the Romantic Period because he wrote about the love in his life, but he also wrote a lot about death and the way he acted when he was younger.
William’s mother was Ann Wordsworth and his father was John Wordsworth. John Wordsworth was an attorney for Sir James Lowther. Lowther later became somebody that the Wordsworth’s did not like. William’s first eight years of his life were spent going back and forth between living with his grandparents in rooms they had above their linen shop and his father’s mansion in Cockermouth. He went to Dame Birketts School for the infants in Penrith with his sister Dorothy, and Mary Hutchinson, who was the daughter of a tobacco merchant. However, when he was in Cockermouth with his parents he went to Reverend Mr. Gilbanks School. Then he went to Hawkshead School from 1779 to 1787.
William had three brothers: Richard, John, and Christopher. He also had a sister named Dorothy. His mother died in 1778, when William was only eight years old, then his father died in 1783, when he was thirteen. Wordsworth didn’t have many memories of his mother. He once said “O lost too early for the frequent tear.”(pg. 33 in The Hidden Wordsworth) However, he remembers her more than he remembers his father. At age seven was the last time he saw his mother before she died of a decline, which she got after catching a cold and it turned into pnemonia. His mother was more anxious about his future life than she was for the other children.
His poetry later on showed his thoughts and his actions when he was a child. Wordsworth has said ” I was on a stiff, moody, and violent temper.” ( pg.35 in The Hidden Wordworth) He was a child that liked to disobey. As a child, he was very violent towards nature. William and Dorothy became very close as they got older.
His poems “The Sparrows Nest”, which he wrote in 1801, “To the daisy” and “To the Butterfly” are really from Dorothy. It was told that he wanted to kill all the white butterflies because they reminded him of French Soldiers. He wrote “The Sparrows Nest” in Grasmere. He wrote it at the end of a garden at his fathers house. The garden was the childrens favorite playground where the birds built their nest. In the poem he says “Behold, beneath the leafy shade, Those bright blue eggs together laid.” He is talking about the eggs that the birds laid in the nests that they loved. He also talks about his sister when he says about ” She looked at it and seemed to fear it.” He also said that his sister gave him humble cares and delicate fears. He also talks about the butterflies in another poem when he says “A very hunter did I rush, Upon the prey; with legs and springs, I followed on from brake to brush”, but then he talks about Dorothy again when he says ” But she, God love her! Feared to brush / The dust from off its wings”
When he says about being a hunter he is talking about when he used to chase the butterflies around like they were his prey. When he was younger he was violent and moody all the time. He said he loved nature, but everybody knew that he only loved it to destroy it. His mother even doubted whether he would be remarkable in being good or evil. The way he acted could be from the way his life was.
His sister got shipped off to relatives while the boys stayed with their father. They moved around a lot. They tried to make a living in Cockermouth, but it seemed to be too much for John. They then moved to Penrith, but they were not welcome there. Then William and Richard got to Hawkshead School by their grandfather. They would visit Cockermouth every once in awhile, but then after the Christmas of1783 they stopped going altogether.
Most of the passages he wrote was during the time he spent in Cambridge where he describes his experiences. The time he spent there he had no mother, his father was never really around, and his grandparents disapproved of them, so he tried to make the most of it while he was there. In “The Prelude” he talks about his childhood memories and memories he had from school. In the first book of “The Prelude” he talks about his childhood and the thinks that he did. He talks about his boat that was tied to a willow tree that was in the rocky cave where it usually is. He explains how he untied the chains and stepped inside. He talks about the stars and how the sky is grey. He talks about dipping the oars in the water and how it moves through the water like a swan. He also talks about the winter time and how they played games on the ice and he talks about the leafless trees and the orange sky. He explains what is going on so that you can imagine it and picture it in your mind. In book three of “The Prelude” he talks about his life in Cambridge and he also says that Cambridge is the place with the highest truth.
While Richard and William went to Hawkshead they spent most of every year living with a woman named Ann Tyson and her husband. They lived in a house in the center of Hawkshead until 1783. Then again they moved to Green End Cottage, which was located a couple miles east of Hawkshead. She made such an impact on him that he wrote about her by saying “With thoughts unfelt till now I saw her read her bible on the Sunday afternoon, and loved the book when she had dropped asleep and made of it a pillow for her head.” He also talked about her in the poem “Schoolmistress” where he says “If winter ’twere, she to her hearth did cleave, but in her garden found a summer-seat: Sweet melody!” During the eight years he spent with her he fished, he flew kites with his brother, and he hiked a lot. He still disobeyed people while he was there. He would take boats that weren’t his for rides at night.
William was always known to have a serious look about him. They say that even when he laughed he looked serious. He had many friends, but they all either disappointed him or he disappointed them. While at Hawkshead he met a boy that was crippled. They shared a room when they lived with Ann Tyson. They carved their names on the window seat in their room and wrote the year they were there. They had such a good friendship that he wrote about Phillip in the VII book of “The Prelude” when he said “I well remember that among our flock of boys was one, a cripple from the birth”
His best friend’s name was John Fleming who was two years older than him. They used to take evening walks and talk about everything that happened that day. It inspired him to write “An Evening Walk” where he talks about his friendship with John. He also talks about him when he says “Five miles of pleasant wandering-happy time, more dear for this, that one was by my side, a friend then passionately loved” in “The Prelude.”
In 1791, Williams went to France to give Helen Maria Williams a letter from Charlotte Smith. In his “Sonnet on Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress” he talks about the emotions that he got. He said that she cried a lot.
His sister Dorothy wrote letters to her friend Jane Pollard in 1787 talking about how she missed her long lost brothers. She talks about William when she says “My dear William, in truth he was a strange and wayward wight” and she says that the verse of Beatties Minstrel always reminded her of him. She missed her brothers a lot because she had not seen them since she left Halifax.
In the poem “The Village” Wordsworth talks about a man that he met. He calls him the Old Huntsman. He describes the man by saying “He once was chief in all the rustic trade; his steady hand the straitest furrow made.” He also says “A transient pleasure sparkles in his eye.” Wordsworth wrote poems about a girl named Lucy later on. He talks about the death of Lucy, but Lucy is really his sister Dorothy. He imagined that his sister died and he wrote poems about it naming the girl “Lucy”.
During the Christmas vacation in 1784 to 1785 he wrote “His first voluntary verses” where he talks about returning to school after the winter holidays. They were not poems that he saved. However, he put the verses into a poem that was also about his summer vacation that he called “The Pleasures of Change”.
In 1787, He began to write “Spots of time”, which is a poem out of “The Prelude”. He talks about the death of both of his parents. His mother died from catching a cold and it turned into pneumonia. His father died of the same thing because they could not get the cold treated properly. The death of his parents affected him a lot. When they began to live with Ann Tyson they got close to her husband Hugh Tyson. However, in 1784 on February 28th he passed away. The boys then lost another person that was like a father to them. Most of the poems saved that Wordsworth wrote were poems from between 1785 to 1787.
He began writing poems about Mary, which people believe was the girl he went to school with at Penrith. He calls the one poem “And will you leave me thus alone?” where he talks about a ghost that haunts Mary. He says “Be sure her ghost will haunt thy bed, when Mary shall lie low”. He was actually talking about an old friend of Ann Tyson whose name was Mary Rigge. The Wordsworth boy spent some time living with her when Hugh Tyson was ill because Ann couldn’t take care of them when she was dealing with her husband. He heard many stories of things that she went through and those are the things that inspired him to write the poems about her.
Wordsworth graduated from Hawkshead in June of 1787 and returned to Penrith where he spent the summer with his sister Dorothy that he had not seen since the death of his mother. He visited many of the places he used to go with Dorothy and Mary Hutchinson. When it was time for William to head to Cambridge he went back to Hawshead to say goodbye to Ann Tyson.
When William went to St. Johns he believed that he was not right for that place. All of his best friends went to neighboring colleges, but he felt a strange feeling about St. Johns. In book III of “The Prelude” he talks about the first couple days spent at Cambridge. He says “In a world of welcome faces up and down I roved”. Wordsworth did not like the academic courses at Cambridge. He said that what he did there was nonacademic. All they did was go shopping and go to parties.
In June of 1788 while he was on summer vacation we went back to Hawkshead to visit Ann Tyson. He would have went back to Penrith to visit Dorothy, but he did not want to see his uncle Crackanthorpe. In a journal entry he talks about how he rented a horse and rode to Dovedale because it was his vacation and he wanted an adventure. He spent most of the in Hawkshead, so he then went to visit his cousins and Richard, then he went to Penrith because he wanted to be with Dorothy and Mary again. William did not complete college at St. Johns in Cambridge.
In 1790, William went on a walking tour through France. Wordsworth also went to Italy and the Alps. After come home for awhile, he decided he wanted to go back to France. So, he went back to France in 1791 to spend a year. While he was there he met Annette Vallon, who was a surgeon’s daughter. He fell in love with her and they ended up having a daughter which they named Anne Caroline. William wrote a poem in 1804 reflecting their love for each other which he called “Vancouver and Julia”. He talked about their affair, but he tried to hide the affair from his family and friends. However, the poem did not get published until 1820.
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