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William Wordsworth Timeline

How It All Went Down

Apr 7, 1770

William Wordsworth Born

William Wordsworth is born in Cockermouth, in the northwestern English county of Cumberland. He is the second of five children of John and Ann Wordsworth.

Dec 25, 1771

Dorothy Wordsworth Born

The Wordsworths' third child, Dorothy, is born on Christmas Day. She and William grow up to be close friends and literary collaborators.


Mother Dies

Wordsworth's mother Ann Cookson Wordsworth dies.


Moves to Lake District

William Wordsworth is sent to school in Hawkshead, a village in England's Lake District. His sister Dorothy is sent to live with relatives in Yorkshire. The siblings are separated for nine years.


Begins University

Wordsworth enrolls as a member of St. John's College at Cambridge University. He publishes his first piece of writing, a sonnet in The European Magazine.


Graduates from University

Wordsworth receives his bachelor's degree from Cambridge University. In November, he travels to France and is fascinated by the Republican movement. He falls in love with a French woman named Annette Vallon.

Dec 1792

Leaves France before his first daughter is born

Wordsworth runs out of money and is forced to leave France, leaving behind a pregnant Annette Vallon. Vallon later gives birth to the couple's daughter Caroline. When war breaks out in France the following year, Wordsworth is unable to return to his family.


Begins publishing

Wordsworth publishes his first poetry collections, Descriptive Sketches and An Evening Walk.


Moves to Dorset

Wordsworth receives a small inheritance from a friend and sets up house in Dorset, England with his sister Dorothy. He meets fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the two become close friends.


Friendship with Coleridge

Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy move closer to Coleridge. For a year, the two poets are in daily contact with one another, a period that proves to be a vital creative period for both of them. Wordsworth produces the poem "Tintern Abbey," and Coleridge writes "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." They collaborate on a groundbreaking collection of poetry.


Lyrical Ballads Published

Wordsworth and Coleridge publish Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems written in "language really used by men," free of the "gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers."34 The book sparks the Romantic Age of English literature. In a preface to the second edition, Wordsworth warns the audience that they will either love or hate his new style of poetry.


Return to the Lake District

William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy move back to Lake District and settle in the village of Grasmere. Wordsworth lives in Grasmere for the rest of his life. He has begun work on an autobiographical poem about his experience in France. During his life Wordsworth calls the unpublished work the "poem to Coleridge;" it is later known as The Prelude.


Family Matters

William and Dorothy Wordsworth travel to France so that Wordsworth can meet his daughter—Caroline—and make arrangements for her support with Annette Vallon. When he returns to England, Wordsworth marries Mary Hutchinson, a schoolmate and longtime friend.

Jun 18, 1803

Son Born

William and Mary's first child, a son named John, is born.


Daughter Born

The Wordsworths' second child, Dorothy "Dora" Wordsworth, is born. William Wordsworth grows close to Dora. She inspires many of his poems, beginning with "Address to My Infant Daughter."


Prelude Finished; Brother Dies

Wordsworth finishes his "poem to Coleridge" but refuses to publish it until he has completed The Recluse, a long piece for which the "poem to Coleridge" would be a prologue. William's younger brother, 33-year-old John Wordsworth, dies in a shipwreck.


Son Born

The Wordsworths' third child, son Thomas, is born.


Poems in Two Volumes

Wordsworth publishes the collection Poems in Two Volumes. The book contains the poem "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."


Daughter Born; Coleridge Moves In

The Wordsworths' fourth child, daughter Catherine, is born. Samuel Taylor Coleridge moves in with the Wordsworths in September and stays for nearly two years while he lectures and writes sporadically.


Son Born; Coleridge Moves Out

The Wordsworths' fifth and final child, son William, is born. Wordsworth is growing estranged from Coleridge, who is addicted to opium, and feels burdened by his care. When Coleridge moves out of Wordsworth's home in May and learns that Wordsworth warned a mutual friend against taking him in, he is distraught. The men reconcile a few years later but are never as close as they once were.


Loses Children

Tragically, two of Wordsworth's young children die in a single year: six-year-old Thomas and three-year-old Catherine.


The Excursion

Wordsworth publishes The Excursion, which is intended to be the second part of the three-part Recluse. Wordsworth never finishes the other two parts.


Wordsworth Gets a Job

Wordsworth is appointed Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, a civil position that pays him a salary of about 400 pounds per year. The family moves to Rydal Mount, the Grasmere home where he lives out the rest of his life.


Dorothy Gets Sick

Dorothy Wordsworth comes down with a serious illness that renders her an invalid until her death in 1855.


Coleridge Dies

Samuel Taylor Coleridge dies.


Honorary Degree

William Wordsworth receives an honorary degree from Oxford University, to "thunders of applause, repeated over and over."35


Poet Laureate

Wordsworth is named Poet Laureate of England.


Daughter Dies

Wordsworth's daughter Dora dies of tuberculosis at her parents' home. Devastated by her death, Wordsworth stops writing poetry.

Apr 23, 1850

Wordsworth Dies

William Wordsworth dies of pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining around the lungs. He is buried in St. Oswald's Church in Grasmere. A few months after his death, Mary Wordsworth publishes The Prelude, the autobiographical poem now considered to be Wordsworth's masterpiece.

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