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William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (1798)

If you read just one book of Romantic poetry, make it this one. Wordsworth and Coleridge's collaboration (though Wordsworth demanded sole author credit, five of the poems are by Coleridge) was the kick-off to the Romantic era. In his preface to the second edition of the book, Wordsworth sounded off his vision of a new style in poetics, one free of the "gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers."_CITATION36_

Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth: A Life (1989)

Gill's biography is considered to be the definitive word on Wordsworth. A professor at Oxford University, Gill is one of the foremost experts on Wordsworth and deftly weaves together material on his life and work.

Kenneth R. Johnston, The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy (1999)

This biography uncovers the wild side of one of England's most serious poets. Johnston went to such great lengths to retrace his subject's steps—scaling mountains, following walking paths that are now busy highways—that, as one reviewer said, "you have to be thankful for his sake that Wordsworth did not fall off a mountain or drown in a lake."_CITATION37_ At nearly 1,000 pages long, this book is not for the faint of heart.

Frances Wilson, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life (2009)

William's younger sister Dorothy never published anything during her lifetime, but is now regarded as an important player in England's Romantic literary scene. This book focuses on 1800 to 1803, the years she kept the Grasmere Journals. Dorothy kept the detailed chronology of the Wordsworths' lives to provide material for her brother's poetry. To our benefit, her chronology has survived to become one of the finest examples of nature writing.

Adam Sisman, The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge (2007)

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were so closely intertwined in work and life that it makes sense to look at them together. This is a biography of one of the most productive friendships in literary history. Wordsworth was a controlled, disciplined poet; Coleridge was a genius with serious personal problems that hampered his achievements. Both believed that Wordsworth was the more important of the two.

Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions, 1772-1804 (1999) and Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834 (2000)

Holmes won the Whitbread Award for Biography for his staggering achievement in this two-volume look at Coleridge's life. Wordsworth's friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the most fascinating and tragic characters in literature—a genius whose numerous personal flaws proved fatal.

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