1800-1803: The Grasmere Journals

December 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, published in 2008, appears to be another work of excellence from my favorite modern literary biographer, Frances Wilson, whose riveting biography of courtesan, author and master blackmailer Harriette Wilson (no relation) I have mentioned on this site before. Dorothy (1771-1855) was an author, diarist and aide to her brother, poet William Wordsworth.

I haven’t read it yet but based on Margaret Drabble’s review in the Times Literary Supplement (April 23, 2008) I intend to as soon as possible. I strongly recommend reading Margaret Drabble’s review, not only for her insights into Wilson’s work but also because Drabble’s expansion on Wilson’s idea of a connection between Dorothy and Emily Brontë is quite fascinating.

“Wilson confines her analysis largely to the period leading up to the writing of the Grasmere Journals (1800–03) and to the journals themselves, and she brings her story to an end with an emotional climax and a textual crux.”

“She describes the immense walks that Dorothy took, “with mud-encrusted skirts banging against her sturdy legs, her flimsy shoes, her neck and face often wet and cold, her eyes and ears alert to the beauty of every sight” and the disapproving reactions of family and landladies to this bohemian mode of travel. She invokes Miss Bingley’s scorn of Elizabeth Bennet’s three-mile walk to see her sick sister at Netherfield…”

“The Wordsworth walks were more Brontë than Austen, and Wilson uses Emily Brontë as a key to her understanding of brother and sister…”

Quoted from “Poor Dorothy Wordsworth, The Shadow Story of the Wordsworths and Wuthering Heights” by Margaret Drabble from The Times Literary Supplement 23 April, 2008

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland in A.D. 1803 was not published until many years after her death and is now considered a masterpiece of Picturesque travel writing. The text is available to read online or download over at Internet Archive

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