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[WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born April 7, 1770, at Cockermouth, a town on the edge of the Cumberland highlands. His father was agent to Lord Lowther, and came of an old north country stock. Both father and mother died in his boyhood; his mother first, his father when he was fourteen. He went to school in the neighbourhood, at Hawkshead, and his school days were days of much liberty, both in playing and reading. In October 1787 he went to St. John's College, Cambridge. But he made no mark at the university, and in January 1791 he took his degree and left Cambridge. Like many of his generation he was filled with enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and after taking his degree he resided for more than a year in France. The Reign of Terror drove him home again; he came to London, unsettled in his plans; he was in Dorsetshire (1796), then at Alfoxden in the Somersetshire Quantocks, where he saw much of S. T. Coleridge. In 1793 he published a volume of poems, and in 1798 appeared, at Bristol, the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads, intended to be a joint work of Coleridge and Wordsworth, but to which Coleridge only contributed The Ancient Mariner, and two or three other pieces. The two friends went to Germany at the end of 1798, and Wordsworth, with his sister, spent the winter at Goslar. When he returned to England, he also returned for good to his own northern mountains and lakes. He settled, with his sister, near Grasmere, meaning to give himself to poetical composition as the business of his life, and in 1800 published the second volume of the Lyrical Ballads. In 1802 he married Mary Hutchinson, and finally fixed his home in the lakes, though it was not till several years afterwards (1813) that he took up his abode in the place henceforth connected with his name, Rydal Mount. During all the early part of the century he was very busy. Besides shorter pieces, suggested by the incidents or feelings of the day, he was at work from 1799 to 1805 on a poem, The Prelude, describing the history and growth of his own mind, and intended to be an introduction to the greater philosophical poem which he was already meditating, The Recluse in part, and only in part, realised in The Excursion. The Excursion was published in 1814. Composition took many shapes in the various collections published by Wordsworth, from the Lyrical Ballads in 1800 down to his death. But especially his poetical efforts took the shape of the sonnet. Large collections VOL. IV.


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