Gifts inspired by Wordsworth
A Portrait of a Friendship
The Wordsworth Trust's collection comprises over 65,000 items, and includes internationally significant manuscripts, printed books and fine art from 1750 to the present day. It was one of the first to receive the UK government’s 'Designation' status for its national and international importance. Much of it is housed in the Jerwood Centre, which was opened in 2005 by the poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney.
At the heart of the collection is the Wordsworth family archive, which was received by bequest from the Wordsworth grandchildren in 1935. This is the largest collection of the poet’s working papers and letters anywhere in the world, and it is housed in the very place which inspired his greatest poetry. It includes, for example, all surviving drafts of Wordsworth’s great semi-autobiographical work 'The Prelude'. It also includes all the surviving notebooks kept by Dorothy Wordsworth that make up what is now popularly known as the 'Grasmere Journal', a major literary work in its own right.
There are also thousands of other manuscripts, by a wide range of authors. Some, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey, are represented by manuscripts of key works. The significance of some of the manuscripts by less well-known figures is yet to be discovered.
The books too are significant. The library holds near-complete collections of the works of the Romantic writers that were published during their lifetimes. Their physical condition and make-up show how people read the great works of Romanticism as they were first published. Many volumes in the collection were owned by the writers themselves, and are personalised: to lend a book to Coleridge, for example, was to risk it being returned with his annotations. The library also contains one of the leading collections of Lake District guidebooks and histories.
The fine art collection includes many portraits of the poet, his family, and his circle of writers and friends. It also includes one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of watercolours and prints of the Lake District, stretching back over the last 250 years. Major artists featured include J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Girtin and Joseph Wright of Derby; also represented are many of the lesser-known artists who have visited the Lakes in the years following 1750.