The Art of Travel

William Wordsworth Character Analysis

An English poet who lived his whole life in the Lake District, Wordsworth transformed the British public’s attitude toward the countryside by arguing that people from the city needed to spend time in nature in order to rediscover the virtues of nature and heal their psychic wounds. He often wrote about phenomena he encountered on his daily walks through his region’s mountains and lakes, and famously subtitled his poems with the precise place where they were conceived in order to preserve the moments of natural beauty he experienced as “spots of time.” While other writers and critics initially lampooned his poetry, by the end of his life Wordsworth was one of Britain’s most esteemed writers; because of his influence, tourists from cities suddenly flooded the Lake District. De Botton contemplates Wordsworth during his own trip to the Lake District in the fifth essay, “On the Country and the City.”

William Wordsworth Quotes in The Art of Travel

The The Art of Travel quotes below are all either spoken by William Wordsworth or refer to William Wordsworth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Art of Travel published in 2002.
Chapter 5 Quotes

What though the radiance which was so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.

Related Characters: William Wordsworth (speaker), Alain de Botton
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
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One of Wordsworth’s poetic ambitions was to induce us to see the many animals living alongside us that we typically ignore, registering them only out of the corner of our eyes and feeling no appreciation for what they are up to and want: shadowy, generic presences such as the bird up on the steeple and the rustling creature in the bush. He invited his readers to abandon their usual perspectives and to consider for a time how the world might look through other eyes, to shuttle between the human and the natural perspective. Why might this be interesting, or even inspiring? Perhaps because unhappiness can stem from having only one perspective to play with.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), William Wordsworth
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 8 Quotes

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. There is an urge to say, “I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.”

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), William Wordsworth, John Ruskin
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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William Wordsworth Character Timeline in The Art of Travel

The timeline below shows where the character William Wordsworth appears in The Art of Travel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: On the Country and the City
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...at their mediocre hotel and wondered about an owl they hear outside the window. William Wordsworth was a crucial impetus for de Botton’s trip; the author read the poet’s Prelude in... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
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Wordsworth was born in 1770 in the Lake District, where he spent his childhood “running wild... (full context)
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The Receptive Self Theme Icon
De Botton excerpts Wordsworth poems about the lively mountains, a sparrow’s nest and a nightingale’s song, behind which he... (full context)
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...his naïve wonder at nature, and others even began parodying his work in literary journals, Wordsworth was not fazed, and continued to hope that his work would brighten the lives of... (full context)
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While Wordsworth did not expect his readers to come around to his side during his lifetime, within... (full context)
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While Wordsworth lamented urban congestion and poverty, his true complaint was “the effect of cities on our... (full context)
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...sight of a cloud overhead, and begins to calm down as he recites part of Wordsworth’s “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” to himself: “… [Nature] can so inform... (full context)
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...through the Welsh Wye Valley with his sister in 1798, after a difficult few years, Wordsworth had a revelation and wrote this famous poem while sitting under a tree. Its subtitle... (full context)
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...of the mass of the oaks,” which represent “ordered complexity” and patience to de Botton. Wordsworth liked to sit beneath trees, and similarly lauded their “patience and dignity,” which he argued... (full context)
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De Botton notes that Wordsworth’s argument relies on the premise that human identity can change “according to whom—and sometimes what—we... (full context)
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To Wordsworth, flowers suggested “humility and meekness” and animals “were paragons of stoicism.” He was inspired by... (full context)
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Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Wordsworth himself wanted people to notice animals more deeply, to “abandon their usual perspective” and see... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
The poet Samuel Coleridge thought Wordsworth’s writings could direct the mind to the novelty in everyday things, awaken people to the... (full context)
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...Botton head back to London and notice the very temporary character of nature’s psychological benefits. Wordsworth would have disagreed, however, as he remarked after a walk in the Italian Alps that... (full context)
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Beside a lake near where de Botton and M. stayed, Wordsworth saw daffodils “dancing in the breeze” and kept them alive as a spot of time,... (full context)