Wordsworth was born in 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria. His idyllic childhood was overshadowed by the death of both parents, his mother in 1778 and his father in 1783. After studying at St John's College, Cambridge, he travelled through France during the time of Revolution and was greatly influenced by the drive for political justice. At this time, he fathered a daughter with Annette Vallon in Blois. He was horrified on his return in 1793 that England had declared war on France, leaving him estranged from his new family and disheartened. Reunited with his sister Dorothy, the Wordsworths set up home in Alfoxden, Somerset, in 1796, and the following year, they welcomed Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a guest, which marked the beginning of a prolific pairing of poetic and political minds. As a result, the Lyrical Ballads were published in 1798, now widely regarded as the cornerstone of Romanticism. Settling in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, in 1799, Wordsworth began composing The Prelude, an extended poem, in his words, "containing views of Man, Nature, and Society."
Wordsworth shared the general romantic notion that personal experience is the only way to gain living knowledge. The purpose of The Prelude was to recapture and interpret, with detailed thoroughness, the whole range of experiences that had contributed to the shaping of his own mind. Wordsworth refrained from publishing the poem in his lifetime, revising it continuously. Most important and, perhaps, most to be regretted, the poet also tried to give a more orthodox tinge to his early mystical faith in nature.
Burkett, Andrew. "Wordsworthian Chance." Writes Burkett, "First-generation Romantic poets generally hold a deeply rooted faith in the notion of the limitless nature of possibility, and in reaction to Enlightenment determinism, several of these poets strive for an understanding and representation of nature that is divorced from Enlightenment notions of causality. This essay specifically explores William Wordsworth's poetic denunciation of such deterministic accounts of causality through an investigation of [ The Prelude ]." Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 54 (2009).