9.5.2 William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was born in Cumberland, into an old English family. His childhood was spent in the family home on the River Derwent. However, when he was seven years old, his mother died, and he was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire while his sister Dorothy, who was to become his constant companion in adulthood, was sent to live with relatives. When Wordsworth was thirteen, his father died as well. After grammar school, where he learned Latin, Greek, and mathematics, Wordsworth attended St. John's College, Cambridge. He was an undistinguished student, preferring to study on his own. He had developed a love of the natural world in Lancashire, where he had spent hours roaming over the countryside with friends, gathering nuts and stealing birds' eggs. At Cambridge, he spent his holidays taking walking tours on the continent and discovering the sublime scenery of the Alps.

In 1791, Wordsworth traveled to France. Like other idealistic young men of the time, he had been inspired by the French Revolution and was eager to participate in the creation of a government that embodied the ideals of liberty and equality. In France, he fell in love with Annette Vallon, the daughter of a surgeon, who bore him a daughter, Caroline. He was summoned back to England by disapproving relatives, who cut off advances on his inheritance and forbade him from meeting with Dorothy. Although Wordsworth expressed his intention of marrying Annette and legitimizing their daughter, the declaration of war between England and France make further contact impossible. He was not to see his daughter again until 1802.
In 1793, Wordsworth published two poems, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. Although he was still a republican, associating with radical figures such as William Godwin, Mary Wollestonecraft, and Thomas Paine, he was already becoming disillusioned with the increasing violence in France. In 1795, after receiving a legacy from a friend, he took Dorothy to live with him at Racedown in Dorsetshire. In 1797, Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to visit. This meeting formed the starting point of the two poets' literary collaboration. A few months later, Wordsworth and Dorothy moved to Alfoxden, an estate in Somerset, to be near Coleridge, who was living at Nether Stowey. The following year was spent by Wordsworth and Coleridge in close communion, working on their book of poems, Lyrical Ballads, which was published in 1798. After the lease on Alfoxden expired, Wordsworth and his sister moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and Coleridge settled nearby. In 1800, an expanded edition of Lyrical Ballads was published, with a preface by Wordsworth explaining the poetic philosophy of the two poets. Although Lyrical Ballads was to become one of the most important documents of romanticism, it was not well received by critics, and the public paid it almost no attention.
The years after the publication of Lyrical Ballads were a productive time for Wordsworth, during which he wrote some of his most important poems and formed friendships with figures such as Sir Walter Scott and Thomas De Quincey. In 1802 he visited Caroline and arranged for her support, but never fulfilled his original intention of marrying Annette. Instead, that same year, he married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson, with whom he was to have five children. His second book of poems, Poems in Two Volumes, was published in 1807. In 1810 he became estranged from Coleridge. Although the two poets were to reconcile several years later, they would never again have the close friendship and collaborative relationship that they had once enjoyed. As he grew older, Wordsworth slowly abandoned the radicalism of his youth. In 1813, he accepted the government post of Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland and moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside, where he was to live with his wife and sister for the rest of his life. He also became increasingly popular, publishing numerous books of poetry: The Excursion (1814), The White Doe of Rylstone and Miscellaneous Poems (1815); Peter Bell and The Waggoner (1819); Yarrow Revisited, and Other Poems (1835); and Poems Chiefly of Early and Late Years (1842). In 1842 he received a Civil List pension and resigned as Distributor of Stamps. The following year he succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate. He died at Rydal Mount after the publication of a six-volume edition of his collected poems. The Prelude, an autobiographical account of his poetic development, was published posthumously in 1850.
Wordsworth is not generally considered a poet of the fantastic; many of them express the fantastic nature of reality itself.  When Wordsworth and Coleridge planned their collaboration on Lyrical Ballads, they agreed that Coleridge would write about the romantic and supernatural, while Wordsworth would concentrate on describing scenes of ordinary life. In the preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth wrote that his aim had been to "choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate and describe them, throughout, in a selection of language really used by men." This fidelity to ordinary experience in both language and subject matter remained his poetic goal. Although all of the poems included here contain a reference to the fantastic, in most the fantastic exists only as folktale or superstition. Fishermen claim that fairies have buried the seven sisters of Binnorie on seven islands, and inhabitants of the moor insist that Lucy Gray continues to walk through the countryside, but in both "The Seven Sisters" and "Lucy Gray" the fantastic event appears only as legend. The fairy assistance described in "Song for the Spinning Wheel" is simply an old belief. However, Wordsworth also mourns the passing of an ancient magic, symbolized in "The Faëry Chasm" by dangerous but enchanting fairy music, and in "The world is too much with us; late and soon" by the creatures of classical mythology. Wordsworth manages to locate this magic again, but he does so among the scenes of ordinary life and in the natural world, where it exists as a constant spiritual presence. In Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey he writes of his early wanderings "Wherever nature led,"

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.