Life and Times of William Wordsworth
By: Jonathan Freeman
William Wordsworth, son of John and Ann Cookson Wordsworth, was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland. He had 4 siblings and they remained close throughout their lives, and the support of Dorothy helped William during his long and legendary career. John Wordsworth, William's father, was legal agent to Sir James Lowther, a politician and property owner. Wordsworth's deep love for the natural world was established early. The Wordsworth family seems to have lived in a sort of rural paradise along the Derwent River. William went to the grammar school near Cockermouth Church and Ann Birkett's school at Penrith, the home of his grandparents. The lifelong friendship between Dorothy and William Wordsworth began when they attended school at Penrith. Wordsworth's childhood beside the Derwent and his events going to school at Cockermouth are recalled in various passages of The Prelude and in shorter poems such as the sonnet "Address from the Spirit of Cockermouth Castle."
Though Wordsworth had been writing verses since his days at Hawkshead Grammar School, his poetic career begins with a trip to France and Switzerland. During this period he also formed his early political opinions. These opinions would be extremely changed over the coming years but never completely lost. During 1791 Wordsworth's interest in both poetry and politics gained in sophistication, as his love for the natural world around him grew and his perceptions of the natural and social scenes he encountered.
By this time, his relationship with Annette Vallon had become known to his English relatives, and any further opportunity of entering the Church was foreclosed. In 1794 and 1795 Wordsworth divided his time between London and the Lake Country, at one point telling people that he would rather be in London because cataracts...