June 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Doro is my nickname for Dorothy Wordsworth, whom I’m really fond of. Not only was she waaaay cooler than her dull brother, yep, that Wordsworth, she wrote a travel memoir that is so perfectly in the Picturesque style that it puts Gilpin to shame. Not that he shouldn’t be ashamed anyway, so atrocious is his prose.
I’m always book hunting and recently found this suuuuper cute Oxford University Press 1958 edition of some of her journals. It includes the Grasmere Journals that I’ve mentioned before.
It’s pocket! And mint green! And a super cute picture on the front! It has “Purchased at Wordsworth’s Cottage Grasmere” stamped on the flyleaf. Sweeeet!
I’ll do a little write up about it when I’ve finished reading. Right now I have to get back to Doro’s slanting woods of an unvarying brown and the half dead sound of the near sheep-bell. O Doro!
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
July 3, 2007 § Leave a comment
While Horace Walpole’s taste developed to appreciate the more grandly Gothic and Sublime¹, and Thomas Gray the more neoclassical aesthetics of The Beautiful¹, the nitty gritty of the Picturesque was taken up by William Wordsworth in poetry, William Gilpin in travel essays, Uvedale Price² and Richard Payne Knight³ in appreciation essays and , later in his career, Humphry Repton in landscape design. The popularity of the Picturesque owed much to the rhapsodizing essays of Gilpin, who transplanted the ideal from the paintings of Europe to the countryside of Britain, revolutionizing the pre-existing ideas about tourism and allowing more humble English scenery seekers to experience a tour of the landscape, a hereto aristocratic privilege, without going abroad. Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy Wordsworth was the author of what is considered the quintessential work of Picturesque travel literature, Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland AD 1803 (1874)
Much like the fashion for Gothic novels, the rage the Picturesque, though not unsound in itself, rose to melodramatic and absurd heights, as at Knight’s residence Downton Castle for example, where ‘large fragments of stone were irregularly thrown amongst briers and weeds, to imitate the foreground of a picture’. Austen represents the ideal has having qualities verging on the absurd, in Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, and even as dangerous in Sense and Sensibility, by associating the Picturesque with the exaggerated, emotion-driven and almost deadly sensibilities of Marianne Dashwood.
In Pride and Prejudice Austen touches but lightly on the topic, in a short exercise in ridicule. When Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst oust Elizabeth Bennet from a walk with Darcy by positioning themselves in a way that monopolizes a garden path, Darcy tries to offset their rudeness by inviting her to continue with them regardless. Elizabeth replies ‘You are charmingly group’d, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth’, indicating the enthusiasm for scenic objects grouped in threes by expounders of the ideal. This clever remark hints at the absurdity of Picturesque fastidiousness and casts that aura of silliness onto the trio, leaving the charming group, and the Picturesque, looking somewhat deflated.
¹ A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of The Sublime and Beautiful – Edmund Burke 1757
² Essay on the Picturesque, As Compared With The Sublime and The Beautiful – Uvedale Price 1794
³ An Analytical Inquiry Into the Principles of Taste – Richard Payne Knight 1805