Rydal Mount, Cumbria
Rydal Mount

William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland. His father, John, was a lawyer, and he encouraged his five children to pursue learning. When Wordsworth's mother Anne died in 1778, young William was sent to attend grammar school away from home.

Wordsworth's father did not survive his wife by long, and when he died in 1783 the Wordsworth children found themselves living with two uncles who were not best pleased to receive them.

William was sent to Cambridge, and upon graduation he travelled in Europe for a time, but when the money ran out Wordsworth returned home. He published two poems, Descriptive Sketches, and An Evening Walk, which were not well received. However, friends arranged for money to allow him to concentrate on his writing.

At this time Wordsworth met poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the two became firm friends. They collaborated on a volume of Romantic verse called Lyrical Ballads (1798), which was notable for its attempt to use ordinary language in a poetic fashion. Later, Coleridge's drug addiction and erratic behavior put an end to their friendship.
Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage, Grasmere

In 1802 Wordsworth received money owed to his father, and he was financially secure enough to marry Mary Hutchinson, an old childhood friend. Mary, William, and his sister Dorothy lived together in the Lake District village of Grasmere.

William published a two-volume set of his poetry in 1807, and once more it was met by public indifference and scathing reviews (by Lord Byron among others).

Wordsworth's happy home life turned to tragedy when two of his four children died within a year. Shortly thereafter Wordsworth got himself appointed Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, which brought him enough money to continue writing. Although his poems were critically panned, they were gaining a wide popular readership.

In the absence of success for his poems, Wordsworth turned to travel writing. He published a travel guide to the Lake District which proved very popular.

When Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate, died in 1843, Wordsworth was asked to take his place. He initially refused, pleading his advancing age, but was induced by Sir Robert Peel to take the post. He was still Poet Laureate when he died of pleurisy in 1850.

Places to see associated with William Wordsworth:

Dove Cottage/Wordsworth Museum - Wordsworth's home from 1799-1808. It was here that he wrote his best poetry. Grasmere, Cumbria.
Rydal Mount - Wordsworth's home from 1813-1850. Rydal, Ambleside, Cumbria. LA22 9LU.
Wordsworth House, Main St, Cockermouth, CA13 9RX. In this fine georgian house Wordsworth was born in 1770.