William Wordsworth - What happened in July 1807?

Marble bust of William Wordsworth by Sir Francis Chantrey 1820I was intrigued to read in Viscount Beaumont’s School log an entry made by headmaster Harold M Cuthbert on 8 July 1907:

“Holiday in the afternoon owing to Wordsworth Centenary. Children met at 3pm and marched up to the Hall. Wet day.”

But William was born on 7 April 1770, we celebrated his 250th anniversary in April 2020, and he died 23 April 1850. So what was the Centenary?

In July 1807 Wordsworth was staying at Hall Farm in Coleorton as a guest of Sir George and Lady Margaret Beaumont arriving just before Christmas 1806. He was accompanied by his wife Mary, their children John, Dora and Thomas, sister Dorothy and Mary’s sister Sara Hutchinson. He spent the time working on his poems and helping to design the gardens at Coleorton Hall. In April 1807 William’s second major collection of work “Poems in Two Volumes” was published. Lady Margaret Beaumont helped to get the book published and promoted it around her literary contacts in London.

This was a significant event for William in establishing himself as an accepted Romantic poet, though still considered somewhat avant garde at the time. This book included many poems that are well-known to us now.

Perhaps the celebration was of the publication of “Poems in Two Volumes” or of the Wordsworth’s stay at Coleorton during 1807.

Another thread to the 1807 mystery is the entry from the National Portrait Gallery regarding a sketch preparatory to a marble bust being carved by Sir Francis Chantrey (paid for by Sir George Beaumont for £120). The date “1807” is scribbled on the sketch. Chantry made the bust in marble in 1820 (see photo). But maybe the sketch was done earlier? As John Constable’s sketch of Reynolds cenotaph made during his stay at Coleorton Hall in 1823 was finally painted in oils and exhibited at The Royal Academy in 1837.

Interestingly Sir Francis Chantrey and William Wordsworth shared the same birthday; Sir Francis was born on 7 April 1781.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

William Wordsworth, from "The world is too much with us" in Poems in Two Volumes

Read more about William Wordsworth and his time at Coleorton >>

Compiled by: Sandra Dillon, member of the Coleorton Heritage Group; first published in Community Voice magazine April 2024.