Portrait of William Wordsworth, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1842
1804 - Napoleon proclaimed Emperor in France
1805 - Wordsworth completes the twelve-book Prelude; Battle of Trafalgar
The Prelude, generally considered to be Wordsworth’s magnum opus, was first completed in 1805 yet different versions were to follow for the rest of the poet’s life. The poem was not published until three months after Wordsworth’s death, and although he always referred to it as ‘the poem on the growth of my own mind’ it was finally named by his wife, Mary. The work is particularly significant in the Romantic canon because of its focus on childhood experience and development, a theme dear to the Romantics.
Also in this year Britain achieved a decisive victory over the French and Spanish in the naval battle of the century, the Battle of Trafalgar. Despite the British fleet being greatly outnumbered by French and Spanish ships, Nelson led the British Royal Navy to total victory, destroying 22 enemy ships without the loss of a single British vessel. The ensuing upsurge in British patriotic sentiment encouraged Wordsworth to write ‘In Britain is one breath’ in his sonnet "To the Men of Kent".
1807 - Abolition of slave-trading in British ships; Wordsworth publishes Poems in Two Volumes