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Wordsworth, Romanticism and the Sublime

John Piersol

on 11 May 2011

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Transcript of Words.worth

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 Early Life Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in the Lake District of northwest England 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, Wordsworth mother Ann died of an illness, possibly pneumonia. After the death of his mother in 1778, his father was inconsolable and sent his children away to be raised by their relatives.

William and his brothers were sent to Hawkshead Grammar School, and Dorothy was sent to live with distant relatives. She and William did not meet again for another nine years

Education and Formative Years 1787 Wordsworth enters St. John’s College, Cambridge, taking his degree in 1791 without distinction.

More important than his studies were his travels through Europe during this time period

A summer walking tour in 1790 brought him to France a year after the fall of Bastille

This was followed by a yearlong stay in France after Cambridge (1791-1792), during which time he became an active supporter during the early, optimistic years of the French Revolution.
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven”
("The Prelude") England’s declaration of War and the beginning of the Reign of Terror in 1793 caused a political crisis of loyalty, and an existential crisis of faith for Wordsworth, as well as for many of his contemporaries By this time Wordsworth had reunited with his sister Dorothy, and the two of them returned to Grasmere Valley in the Lake District, where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Appointed English Poet Laureate in 1843
1798 Lyrical Ballads (with Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

1800 Lyrical Ballads, with other poems

1807 Poems, in Two Volumes

1814 The Excursion

1850 The Prelude (posthumous)
Important Works: Worked on and revised continuously for the last forty years of his life, referring to it variously as “the poem to Coleridge,” “the poem on the growth of my own mind,” and “the poem of my own poetical education” Led Matthew Arnold to declare in 1879 that Wordsworth stood third only to Milton and Shakespeare in English poetry since the Renaissance. “forms and substances…through the turnings intricate of verse,
Present themselves as objects recognized,
In flashes, and with a glory scarce their own”
“Points have we all of us within our souls
Where all stand single; this I feel, and make
Breathings for incommunicable power”
Definition of Poetry - "Lyrical Ballads" 1800 ed. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.
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