A Blupete Biography Page

Wordsworth's Early Days, Part 1 to the Life & Works of
William Wordsworth

The Wordsworths came from North Country stock. Their father, John, was a lawyer who acted for the Lowther family (Earl of Lonsdale) the predominant Tory power in the region. The family lived at Cockermouth. (See map.) There were five children. Their mother, at the age of only thirty years, in 1778, was to die. Mr. Wordsworth was to find that he could not manage his family and his business all at the same time. Richard and William were sent away to school at Hawkshead; the younger brothers, John and Christopher, were to follow along. Dorothy, the only girl was sent off to her aunt, Elizabeth Threlkald who then resided at Halifax.3

William was to spend nine years at Hawkshead. His experiences there should be compared with those as were experienced by those who were to become his friends; Coleridge and Lamb. They had attended a grammar school in London, known as Christ's Hospital. The discipline at Christ's Hospital, in those days, was ultra-Spartan, the mood monastic. All domestic ties were to be put aside.4 Hawkshead was different. It, unlike Christ's Hospital, provided no accommodations, so, those that traveled afar to attend, were, of necessity, put up by certain of the townspeople.5 As for young Wordsworth, he was brought into the home of Anne Tyson, one of the dames at the school. Wordsworth had fond memories of her, and particularly of those winter nights by the Tyson fireside, as he was to describe in his autobiographical work, The Prelude. There, at Hawkshead, Wordsworth was to enjoy the natural amenities that surrounded him: on Windermere, swimming, fishing, and boating in the summer, skating in the winter; nutting in the hazelwoods; poaching for woodcock; and all those things that a boy might do in such a natural setting and while in his "glad animal days."6

In 1787, undoubtedly because of his uncle's connections -- his Uncle William Cookson being a fellow of St. John's -- Wordsworth came up to Cambridge. He spent three years there, "coming down in 1790, without sitting for his degree."7 During his three years at Cambridge Wordsworth imbibed the revolutionary views of the day; and, as it seems, like all university students, given the chance, ran up bills.

"Like S.T.C. [Coleridge] the undergraduate William ran up bills, including debts to his tutor, but without, it seems, experiencing S.T.C.'s racking qualms of conscience. Like S.T.C., also, William made acquaintance with the contemporary unorthodoxies -- the philosophy of Hartley, the polemics of Godwin and Frend, republicanism, all the current intellectual and political movements agitating the universities. Wordsworth's stance was soon Spinozistic, Necessitarian, republican. But whereas S.T.C., encountering these influences, grappled in struggle with them, weighing new ideas against the old and reasoning his way through the problems with which these new ideas confronted him, reveling in the resultant intellectual tussling (having fun with his mind, he called it), Wordsworth adopted radical intellectual and political stances with the unhesitating enthusiasm of callow provincialism in combination with a lazy mind. Coleridge, the youthful polymath, greeted new ideas as a dolphin greets new waters; plunging, leaping, sparing, drenching himself and then flinging off the glittering drops, then diving again to contend joyously with more and more strenuous depths. Wordsworth, in complete contrast, basked on the surface of ideas which he found already thrown up for him."8


Found this material Helpful?

Peter Landry

Custom Search