William Wordsworth

photo by litmuse

Wordsworth was born on the 7th of April 1770 in a Georgian house now known as Wordsworth House, in the Cumberland town of Cockermouth. John, his father, worked for Sir James Lowther, the owner of the house, as an estate agent. The back garden, which bordered the tranquil River Derwent , was where William played and enjoyed many a boyhood adventure. William had a younger sister Dorothy, two younger brothers Christopher and John and an elder brother Richard.

He spent most of his early childhood in Cockermouth, with occasional trips to Penrith, the home town of his mother. Both William and sister, Dorothy along with Mary Hutchinson, his future wife, attended infants school in Penrith for a year in 1776. When he was 8, Williams mother died in Penrith. When he was 13 his father died and was buried in the All Saints Church Yard in Cockermouth. The present day All Saints church rooms are located on the site of the Cockermouth school which Wordsworth attended as a boy.

Wordsworth attended the Hawkshead Grammar School for 8 years (1779 – 1787), he initially lodged with Ann Tyson at Colthouse, then later with his brothers. William thrived at Hawkshead – the headmaster encouraged him to read and write poetry. While at Hawkshead, he made frequent visits to the countryside, and became inspired by the cycles of the natural world.

He then attended St John’s College Cambridge, although he wasn’t a notable student, he matured in thought and sophistication. He was given a bequest of £900 in 1795 which gave him the means to pursue a literary career.

The Wordsworths stayed in a cottage in Dorset during 1795, where they met Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the years following , William, Dorothy and Coleridge developed a close relationship undertaking a tour of the Lake District together, beginning at Temple Sowerby and ending at Wasdale Head, stopping off in Grasmere. At Grasmere they first saw Dove Cottage, then an empty Coaching Inn named the ‘Dove and Olive Branch’.

At the end of December 1799 William and Dorothy moved to Grasmere, taking up residence in Dove Cottage. Coleridge had earlier moved to Greta Hall in the town of Keswick. Dorothy took up the role of William’s secretary as he dictated his poetry. William married Mary Hutchinson, his childhood sweetheart in 1802 and they had the first their five children. A permanent guest at the cottage was Thomas de Quincey and due to lack of space in 1808, they moved to nearby Allan Bank in Grasmere – a big house that William had dismissed as an eyesore even before construction had finished. They spent two years living at Allan Bank, with friend and poet Coleridge. Then they moved to a cold and damp house, the Old Rectory, opposite St Oswald’s Church. This was where his 2 youngest children died.

They then moved to Rydal Mount in 1813. William and Mary lived here until they died in 1850 and 1859 respectively. Whilst living at Rydal Mount, William became the Official Distributor of Stamps for the county of Westmorland, and was given an office in St Ambleside Church. He published his ‘Guide through the District of the Lakes’ in 1820. Later in 1842 he became the Poet Laureate, and resigned from the position of Stamp Distributor.Wordsworth also helped choose the site of St Mary’s Church, which was built just below Rydal Mount.
In 1850 William caught flu while out on a country walk, he died on 23 April, St George’s day, at the age of 80. Mary who died 9 years later and William, have a simple grave in the churchyard of Grasmere’s St Oswald’s Church. This has become one of the most visited literary shrines in the world.

Source: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence