My time in British Literature last year gave me many things. Headaches, stress, and plenty of essays being a few. However, the class also gave me a new appreciation for poets and the words they wrote. One of my favorite memories from my time in that class took place as we were wrapping up the Les Mis rehearsals. My teacher launched into the stories of Romantic era poets, and the lovely William Wordsworth was one of them. Now hold on to your hats, kids, because this is history and poetry and this is where I get nerdy.
His childhood isn't super out of the ordinary for the time period, so here are the rapid fire highlights:
- He was born on April 7th, 1770 in Cumberland.
- Both of his parents died when he was young and because of this he eventually lost touch with his sister, Dorothy, whom he was very close with.
- His uncles helped him go to school, and he eventually went to Cambridge.
Okay, now onto the far more interesting stuff:
In 1790, when he was still a student, Wordsworth took a walking tour (very popular in those days. People would literally just go on walks and stop every so often to stare at nature) through France and parts of Switzerland. Before you say it, yes I know that the French Revolution took place during this time, and no, this is not the last the time he went to France. In fact, he loved being there so much that he returned a year later. It was then that he met Annette Vallon.
They had an affair (Vaudracour and Julia), and Annette gave birth to Anne Caroline. Unfortunately, Wordsworth is forced to return to England because he ran out of money. Because of this, he wasn't there for the birth of his daughter. He saw Dorothy again after many years and they lived together for a while. His financial situation, which had up until then been horrendous, got better after a relative died and left him lots and lots of money (I'm going off of memory here and I can't remember the exact amount).
Now here's the part of this story that I love but also really hate: Since he is now financially in better shape, Wordsworth and his sister travel back to France so he can reconnect with Annette and also work out how he can support Anne Caroline (this is ten years after she was born, by the way). He keeps sending her money as long as he can, but he and Annette come to the realization that they are far too different than they were a decade ago and Wordsworth moves back to England where he marries Mary Hutchinson... *Sigh*.
William Wordsworth died on April 23rd, 1850. He had six children, and published at least fourteen books, though no one knows for sure if there were any more. In his writing he wrote about his life, his troubles, his highs and his lows. If you go through a timeline of his poetry you can see the differences in poem to poem. This is one of the reasons why I love his writing so much. It was honest and dynamic. Equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting. He practically started the Romantic Era with the help of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (don't even get me started...), and in case you were wondering that's probably my favorite era.
This was an unusual post, I know, but every so often I think back on the story of William Wordsworth and get a little obsessive about it. To round things off, here are some of my favorite quotes from him:
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."
"The best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
"... my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils."
"She dwelt among the untrodden ways." (also that whole poem is beautiful)
"The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours."