William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
• Born in the Lake District (Cumberland county) 1770 • Attends Cambridge University 1787-91 • Lives in Somerset 1797-8; publishes Lyrical Ballads, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1798 • Returns to Lake District with Dorothy and sets up house at Dove Cottage, Grasmere 1799 • Moves to Rydal Mount 1813
Orléans Dieppe Calais Annette Vallon and daughter Anne Caroline Wordswodsth (b. Dec. 1792)
Dove Cottage, Grasmere the Wordsworth’s home 1799 to 1809, now a museum. Recent photo (above) and in 1920 (left)
Rydal Mount, Westmorland Wordsworth’s home from 1813 until death in 1850
Rydal Mount today: a popular tourist destination
William Wordsworth 1770-1850 • Poet of nature and the human affections • Poet of the mind • Poetry celebrated for its healing power, the visionary power of its language, and for its moral philosophy • Poetry explores the imaginative relation between memory and consolation • Poetry expresses the beginnings of modern subjectivity Henry William Pickersgill, 1850 (National Portrait Gallery, London)
Lyrical Ballads , 1798 • Published anonymously • Collaboration between Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge • “experiments” in a variety of forms and genres (not just ballads or lyrics) intended as a “natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents” • uses “language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society” instead of “gaudiness and inane phraseology” of much contemporary poetry • advocates incorporation of democratic principles into poetic practice
Major Concepts for the New Poetry • Scenes to be taken from common life with a colouring of imagination thrown over them • Language of men—no different from the language of prose • Spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, recollected in tranquility • Poetry inspired by nature brings pleasure in acknowledgment of the beauty of the universe
New Definition of a Poet A poet is a “man speaking to men” but with heightened sensibility; not different in kind but in degree Portrait: Benjamin Robert Hayden, 1818
“The Wordsworthian or Egotistical Sublime” Twenty years after Lyrical Ballads, John Keats redefined the poet again: “A Poet…has no Identity—he is continually in for—and filling some other Body” (letter, 1818); According to Keats, Wordsworth is all identity, enamored with himself. For Lord Byron, Wordsworth is simply dull: “Wordsworth sometimes wakes, To show with what complacency he creeps” ( Don Juan, Canto 3, lines 874-5; 1821) Portrait: Benyamin Robert Hayden, 1842
Formal Experimentation: Lyrical Ballads Lyric : a type – or genre - of poem that expresses a state of mind, feeling, mood, or thought
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