William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850

William Wordsworth was a great English poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ushered in the era of Romanticism and influenced the New England Transcendentalists.  He introduced the detailed, original observation of ordinary natural landscapes, held an optimistic, morally elevated tone, emphasized the primacy of even the most socially despised individual, and stressed the need for a philosophical poetry rooted in spontaneous emotion.
He has been written about as follows by Octavius Brooks Frothingham, the first historian of American Transcendentalism.
A . . . serene and beneficent influence proceeded from the poet Wordsworth, whose fame rose along with that of Coleridge, struggled against the same opposition, and obtained even a steadier lustre.  There was a kindred between them which Wordsworth did not acknowledge, but which Coleridge more than suspected and tried to divulge.  One chapter in the first volume of the "Biographia Literaria" and four chapters in the second volume are devoted to the consideration of Wordsworth's poetry, and effort is made, not quite successfully, to bring Wordsworth's psychological faith into sympathy with his own.
Wordsworth's genius has furnished critics with materials for speculation that must be sought in their proper places.  We have no fresh analysis to offer.  That the secret of his power over the ingenuous and believing minds of his age is to be found in the sentiment with which he invested homely scenes and characters is a superficial conjecture.  What led him to invest homely scenes and characters with sentiment, and what made this circumstance interesting to precisely that class of minds?  What, but the same latent idealism that came to deliberate and formal expression in Coleridge, and suggested in the one what was proclaimed by the other?  For Wordsworth was a metaphysician, though he did not clearly suspect it; at least, if he did, he was careful not to betray himself by the usual signs.  The philosophers recognized him and paid to him their acknowledgments. . . .
The ode "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," was a clear reminiscence of Platonism.  This famous poem was the favorite above all other effusions of Wordsworth with the Transcendentalists, who held it to be the highest expression of his genius, and most characteristic of its bent.  Emerson in his last discourse on Immortality, calls it "the best modern essay on the subject."  Many passages in the longer poems attest the transcendental character of the author's faith. . . .
There were others who held and enunciated the new faith that came from Germany, the transfigured protestantism of the land of Luther.  But these three names will suffice to indicate the wealth of England's contribution to the spiritual life of the New World--Coleridge, Carlyle, Wordsworth--the philosopher, the preacher, the poet; the man of thought, the man of letters, the man of imagination.  These embrace all the methods by which the fresh enthusiasm for the soul communicated its power.  These three were everywhere read, and everywhere talked of.  They occupied prominent places in the public eye.  They sank into the shadow only when the faith that glorified them began to decline.