- Wordsworth’s parents were John Wordsworth, a legal agent for James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and Collector of Customs at Whitehaven, and his wife, Ann Cookson.
- John, at the age of 26, married Ann, 18, in 1766.William’s mother died when he was 7 years old and he became an orphan at the age of 13 years.
- Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, the second of five children.Wordsworth’s father, although rarely present, did teach him poetry, including that of Milton, Shakespeare, and Spenser, in addition to allowing his son to rely on his father’s library.
- In March 1778, Ann died of an illness, possibly pneumonia, at Penrith. After the death of his mother in 1778, his father was inconsolable and sent his children away to be raised by their relatives.
- At Penrith, Wordsworth was sent to a school for the children of upper-class families. Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the Spectator, but little else.
- His discontent with his familial situation provoked Wordsworth to spend his time wandering away from his home, an action Wordsworth relates as uniting a childish imagination with both nature and mankind in The Prelude.
- Besides the local surroundings, Wordsworth was educated at the Hawkshead Grammar School, which had a reputation for scholarship and preparation for University entrance.
- Hawkshead School had a strong relationship with St.John’s College at Cambridge University and, in October 1787, Wordsworth became an undergraduate there.
- It was under Coleridge’s support that Wordsworth was encouraged to write poetry intended to rival Milton. Afterwards Wordsworth continued to write even without the support of Coleridge’s company, and from October 1798 to February 1799 Wordsworth began writing the “Matthew” poems along with the “Lucy” poems and other poems.
- These poems express the frustration and anxiety that Wordsworth was feeling. In particular, it is possible that the “Lucy” poems allowed Wordsworth to vent his frustration with his sister, and that they contain the subconscious desire for his sister to die.
- The year 1793 saw the first publication of poems by Wordsworth, in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. In 1795 he received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert and became able to pursue a career as a poet.
- Together Wordsworth and Coleridge (with insights from Dorothy) produced Lyrical Ballads (1798), an important work in the English Romantic movement.
- The volume gave neither Wordsworth’s nor Coleridge’s name as author. One of Wordsworth’s most famous poems, “Tintern Abbey”, was published in this collection, along with Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. The second edition, published in 1800, had only Wordsworth listed as the author, and included a preface to the poems. It was augmented significantly in the next edition, published in 1802.
- Between 1795–97, Wordsworth wrote his only play, The Borderers, a verse tragedy set during the reign of King Henry III of England, when Englishmen in the North Country came into conflict with Scottish rovers.
- Wordsworth, Dorothy and Coleridge travelled to Germany in the autumn of 1798. While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the journey, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness.
- Throughout this period many of Wordsworth’s poems revolved around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.
- Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call The Recluse.
- In 1804 he began expanding this autobiographical work, having decided to make it a prologue rather than an appendix.
- He completed this work, now generally referred to as the first version of The Prelude, in 1805.The death of his brother John, also in 1805, affected him strongly and may have influenced his decisions about these works.
- In 1807 Wordsworth published Poems, in Two Volumes, including “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”.
- In 1810, Wordsworth and Coleridge were estranged over the latter’s opium addiction, and in 1812, his son Thomas died at the age of 6, six months after the death of 3-year-old Catherine.
- In 1814 Wordsworth published The Excursion as the second part of the three-part work The Recluse, even though he had not completed the first part or the third part, and never did.
- In 1838, Wordsworth received an honorary doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Durham and the following year he was awarded the same honorary degree by the University of Oxford.
- The sudden death of his daughter Dora in 1847 at age 42 was difficult for the aging poet to take and in his depression, he completely gave up writing new material.
- William Wordsworth died at home at Rydal Mount from an aggravated case of pleurisy on 23 April 1850,and was buried at St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere.