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William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth: Death

In 1813, the Wordsworths moved to a home in Grasmere called Rydal Mount, where William and Mary lived out their lives. William had obtained an official position as the Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, exactly the kind of cushy, bourgeois job that his younger self would have railed against. By this time people were catching on to Wordsworth's new school of poetry, and he had serious fans. "[Y]ear after year increased the number of Mr. Wordsworth's admirers. They were found … chiefly among young men of strong sensibility and meditative minds; and their admiration… was distinguished by its intensity, I might almost say, by its religious fervor,"16 Coleridge wrote. Wordworth's civil salary, combined with the income from his poetry, meant that he had a secure income for the first time in his life.

In 1814, he published The Excursion, a long, moralistic poem intended as the second of the three-part Recluse, of which the "poem to Coleridge" would be the prologue. Wordsworth never finished the other two parts. He continued to write poetry and was lavished with honors—including an honorary degree from Oxford and an appointment as England's Poet Laureate. However, he had achieved his most important poetic triumphs between the years of 1798 and 1807.

In 1829, Dorothy Wordsworth came down with a serious illness that left her an increasingly senile invalid. Coleridge died in 1834. In 1847, Wordsworth's beloved daughter Dora died of tuberculosis at her parents' home. Wordsworth was devastated and seemed to lose his will to write after her death. On 23 April 1850, William Wordsworth died at the age of 80 of pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining around the lungs. A few months after his death, his widow Mary published the "poem to Coleridge," a work now known as The Prelude. This long, autobiographical poem about Wordsworth's spiritual transformation is now considered his masterpiece. It is proof that he knew himself well.

"I had known
Too forcibly, too early in my life,
Visitings of imaginative power
For this to last: I shook the habit off
Entirely and for ever, and again
In Nature's presence stood, as now I stand,
A sensitive being, a creative soul."17

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