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William Wordsworth Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

While in Paris in 1792, Wordsworth met John "Walking" Stewart, an English philosopher who had spent the last thirty years trekking on foot from India to Europe. Wordsworth was deeply impressed by Stewart and his philosophies on nature.18

Wordsworth was so popular in his later years that his Grasmere home became a tourist attraction. His wife Mary wrote in 1847, "At this moment, a group of young Tourists are standing before the window (I am writing in the Hall) and Wm reading a newspaper—and on lifting up his head a profound bow greeted him from each."19

As adults, Dorothy and William Wordsworth liked to lie down next to each other outdoors and pretend that they were lying in their graves. Huh.20

A thorn in Wordsworth's side was the critic Francis Jeffrey, who was not a Wordsworth fan. His review of the long 1814 poem The Excursion began simply, "This will never do."21

Both Wordsworth and Coleridge liked to compose poetry in their heads while they walked. According to critic William Hazlitt, a friend of both men, Coleridge preferred to bash his way through brush and fields. Wordsworth always sought a straight gravel path.22

Wordsworth's friends were used to his egocentrism. One biographer tells a story of a dinner at the home of poet Charles Lamb, where Coleridge sat at one end of the table, talking about Wordsworth's poetry, and Wordsworth sat at the other—also talking about his poetry.23

Despite their reputation as a bunch of tortured artists, the Romantics could also get into some trouble. During an 1803 visit to see Wordsworth and Coleridge in the Lake District, critic William Hazlitt was nearly jumped by an angry gang after sexually harassing a woman at a pub (when she refused his come-ons, he lifted her skirt and spanked her—not okay). Coleridge hid him at Wordsworth's house in Grasmere. Hazlitt's reputation was harmed less by the actual incident than by Wordsworth and Coleridge's vicious gossip about it afterwards.24

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