What William Wordsworth did... and why you should care
William Wordsworth was an English poet, a key figure of Romanticism, and the author of the most famous poem ever written about daffodils. Born in 1770, Wordsworth and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge invented a new style of poetry in which nature and the diction of the common man trumped formal, stylized language. Their seminal 1798 poetry collection, Lyrical Ballads, helped to launch the Romantic era of English literature, in which writers sought to unite the tranquility of nature and the inner emotional world of men. Even in the nineteenth century, Wordsworth felt that the world was "too much with us"—too fast-paced, too noisy, too full of mindless entertainment. He wanted to create poetry that reunited readers with true emotions and feelings. When he wrote about a field of daffodils, he didn't want you just to think about it—he wanted you to feel those flowers, to feel the breeze against your skin and the sense of peace this sight brought to your soul.
Wordsworth was the quintessential figure of Romanticism. He lived in England's scenic Lake District instead of urban London. He wrote poems in his head as he wandered through the hills and moors. He had a few different families during his adult life, some of which were unconventional—a partner and illegitimate daughter in France during the French Revolution, an unorthodox but literary household containing his sister Dorothy and Coleridge, and eventually a wife and five kids. By the time he died in 1850, Wordsworth was so famous that tourists flocked to the Lake District village of Grasmere just to peer in his windows. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that Wordsworth did "more for the sanity of this generation than any other writer."1 The world is with us far more now than it was in the nineteenth century. Maybe your soul—and your sanity—could use a little Wordsworth.