Wordsworth

Wordsworth

[wurdz-wurth]
Wordsworth, Charles: see under Wordsworth, Christopher.
Wordsworth, Christopher, 1774-1846, English clergyman, educator, and writer; youngest brother of William Wordsworth. He was master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1820 to 1841. Most noted of his books is Ecclesiastical Biography (6 vol., 1810).

His second son, Charles Wordsworth, 1806-92, became a prelate in Scotland. From 1847 to 1854 he was warden of Trinity College, Glenalmond, Perthshire. In 1853 he was consecrated bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Dunblane. He was deeply interested in reuniting the churches of England and Scotland. His many books include Shakespeare's Knowledge and Use of the Bible (1864).

See his Annals of My Early Life, 1806-46 (1891) and Annals of My Life, 1847-56 (ed. by W. E. Hodgson, 1893).

Christopher Wordsworth, 1807-85, English prelate and scholar, was the youngest son of Christopher Wordsworth. Ordained a priest in 1835, he was headmaster (1836-44) of Harrow and thereafter canon and then archdeacon of Westminster until in 1869 he was consecrated bishop of Lincoln. He wrote Athens and Attica (1836) and other works of classical scholarship, but he is most noted for his editing of the entire Bible, with commentaries—the New Testament (1856-60) and the Old Testament (1864-70).

See biography by J. H. Overton and E. Wordsworth (1888).

Wordsworth, Dorothy: see under Wordsworth, William.
Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850, English poet, b. Cockermouth, Cumberland. One of the great English poets, he was a leader of the romantic movement in England.

Life and Works

In 1791 he graduated from Cambridge and traveled abroad. While in France he fell in love with Annette Vallon, who bore him a daughter, Caroline, in 1792. Although he did not marry her, it seems to have been circumstance rather than lack of affection that separated them. Throughout his life he supported Annette and Caroline as best he could, finally settling a sum of money on them in 1835.

The spirit of the French Revolution had strongly influenced Wordsworth, and he returned (1792) to England imbued with the principles of Rousseau and republicanism. In 1793 were published An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, written in the stylized idiom and vocabulary of the 18th cent. The outbreak of the Reign of Terror prevented Wordsworth's return to France, and after receiving several small legacies, he settled with his sister Dorothy in Dorsetshire. Wordsworth was extraordinarily close to his sister. Throughout his life she was his constant and devoted companion, sharing his poetic vision and helping him with his work.

In Dorsetshire Wordsworth became the intimate friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, probably under his influence, a student of David Hartley's empiricist philosophy. Together the two poets wrote Lyrical Ballads (1798), in which they sought to use the language of ordinary people in poetry; it included Wordsworth's poem "Tintern Abbey." The work introduced romanticism into England and became a manifesto for romantic poets. In 1799 he and his sister moved to the Lake District of England, where they lived the remainder of their lives. A second edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1800), which included a critical essay outlining Wordsworth's poetic principles, in particular his ideas about poetic diction and meter, was unmercifully attacked by critics.

In 1802 Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson, an old school friend; the union was evidently a happy one, and the couple had four children. The Prelude, his long autobiographical poem, was completed in 1805, though it was not published until after his death. His next collection, Poems in Two Volumes (1807), included the well-known "Ode to Duty," the "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," and a number of famous sonnets.

Thereafter, Wordsworth's creative powers diminished. Nonetheless, some notable poems were produced after this date, including The Excursion (1814), "Laodamia" (1815), "White Doe of Rylstone" (1815), Memorials of a Tour of the Continent, 1820 (1822), and "Yarrow Revisited" (1835). In 1842 Wordsworth was given a civil list pension, and the following year, having long since put aside radical sympathies, he was named poet laureate.

Assessment

Wordsworth's personality and poetry were deeply influenced by his love of nature, especially by the sights and scenes of the Lake Country, in which he spent most of his mature life. A profoundly earnest and sincere thinker, he displayed a high seriousness comparable, at times, to Milton's but tempered with tenderness and a love of simplicity.

Wordsworth's earlier work shows the poetic beauty of commonplace things and people as in "Margaret," "Peter Bell," "Michael," and "The Idiot Boy." His use of the language of ordinary speech was heavily criticized, but it helped to rid English poetry of the more artificial conventions of 18th-century diction. Among his other well-known poems are "Lucy" ("She dwelt among the untrodden ways"), "The Solitary Reaper," "Resolution and Independence," "Daffodils," "The Rainbow," and the sonnet "The World Is Too Much with Us."

Although Wordsworth was venerated in the 19th cent., by the early 20th cent. his reputation had declined. He was criticized for the unevenness of his poetry, for his rather marked capacity for bathos, and for his transformation from an open-minded liberal to a cramped conservative. In recent years, however, Wordsworth has again been recognized as a great English poet—a profound, original thinker who created a new poetic tradition.

Bibliography

See his poetical works, ed. by E. de Selincourt and H. Darbishire (5 vol., 1940-49); his prose works, ed. by W. J. B. Owen and J. W. Smyser (3 vol., 1974); correspondence with his sister, ed. by E. de Selincourt (6 vol., 1967-82); biographies by M. Moorman (2 vol., 1965), S. Gill (1984), K. R. Johnston (1999), and J. Barker (rev. ed. 2005); studies by M. Reed (1967), F. E. Halliday (1970), R. Rehder (1981), J. K. Changler (1984), P. Hamilton (1986), A. J. Bewell (1989), and D. Bromwich (1999); G. McMaster, William Wordsworth: A Critical Anthology (1973); A. Sisman, The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge (2007).

Dorothy Wordsworth

Wordsworth's sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, 1771-1855, is known principally for her poems and for her journals, which have proved invaluable for later biographies and studies of the poet. These journals, the first of which was started in 1798, are written in delicate, exquisite diction, and describe the Wordsworth household, friends, and travels. For the last 20 years of her life Dorothy Wordsworth was an invalid, suffering from an obscure illness that made her prematurely senile.

Bibliography

See her journals, ed. by H. Darbishire (2 vol., 1958; rev. ed. 1971, ed. by M. Moorman, repr. 1991); biography by E. de Selincourt (1933); A. M. Ellis, Rebels and Conservatives: Dorothy and William Wordsworth and Their Circle (1967); E. Hardwick, Seduction and Betrayal (1974); F. Wilson, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth (2009).

(born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, Eng.—died April 23, 1850, Rydal Mount, Westmorland) English poet. Orphaned at age 13, Wordsworth attended Cambridge University, but he remained rootless and virtually penniless until 1795, when a legacy made possible a reunion with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. He became friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he wrote Lyrical Ballads (1798), the collection often considered to have launched the English Romantic movement. Wordsworth's contributions include “Tintern Abbey” and many lyrics controversial for their common, everyday language. About 1798 he began writing The Prelude (1850), the epic autobiographical poem that would absorb him intermittently for the next 40 years. His second verse collection, Poems, in Two Volumes (1807), includes many of the rest of his finest works, including “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” His poetry is perhaps most original in its vision of the organic relation between man and the natural world, a vision that culminated in the sweeping metaphor of nature as emblematic of the mind of God. The most memorable poems of his middle and late years were often cast in elegaic mode; few match the best of his earlier works. By the time he became widely appreciated by the critics and the public, his poetry had lost much of its force and his radical politics had yielded to conservatism. In 1843 he became England's poet laureate. He is regarded as the central figure in the initiation of English Romanticism.

Learn more about Wordsworth, William with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, Eng.—died April 23, 1850, Rydal Mount, Westmorland) English poet. Orphaned at age 13, Wordsworth attended Cambridge University, but he remained rootless and virtually penniless until 1795, when a legacy made possible a reunion with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. He became friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he wrote Lyrical Ballads (1798), the collection often considered to have launched the English Romantic movement. Wordsworth's contributions include “Tintern Abbey” and many lyrics controversial for their common, everyday language. About 1798 he began writing The Prelude (1850), the epic autobiographical poem that would absorb him intermittently for the next 40 years. His second verse collection, Poems, in Two Volumes (1807), includes many of the rest of his finest works, including “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” His poetry is perhaps most original in its vision of the organic relation between man and the natural world, a vision that culminated in the sweeping metaphor of nature as emblematic of the mind of God. The most memorable poems of his middle and late years were often cast in elegaic mode; few match the best of his earlier works. By the time he became widely appreciated by the critics and the public, his poetry had lost much of its force and his radical politics had yielded to conservatism. In 1843 he became England's poet laureate. He is regarded as the central figure in the initiation of English Romanticism.

Learn more about Wordsworth, William with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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