The ‘Rock of Names’

Page 1

by Ian O. Brodie

Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere and that of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived for a time in Keswick., This small rocky outcrop above the eastern lake shore of Thirlmere, alongside the old turnpike road, marked a not infrequent meeting place for the friends, and is marked by their initials:

W. W.

M. H.

D. W.

S. T. C.

       J. W.

S. H.

 

 

The names are, of course, William Wordsworth, Mary Hutchinson, Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Wordsworth, and Sara Hutchinson. The obvious omission is Coleridge’s wife, also named Sara.

Painting of the Rock by Harry Goodwin. Courtesy of the Trustees of Dove Cottage.

 

So how did this slab of roadside rock come into being?

It’s possible the carving took place over a period of time, starting in 1802. On May 4th 1802, Dorothy noted, ‘We parted from Coleridge at Sara’s Crag after having looked at the Letters which C. carved in the morning. I kissed them all. Wm deepened the T with C.’s penknife.’ Around the same time Coleridge himself wrote ‘Cut out my name & Dorothy’s over the S.H. at Sara’s Rock.’

In other words, the first initials to be cut were those of Sara Hutchinson and were the work of Coleridge. Sara was his unrequited love and he inscribed her initials just as people have done on trees for hundreds of years. It also explains why the group always called the crag ‘Sara’s Crag’ or ‘Sara’s Rock’ – it only started to be referred to as the Rock of Names later in the nineteenth century. The friends had already carved their names before: in April 1801 William wrote to his future wife, Mary Hutchinson, ‘You will recollect that there is a gate just across the road, directly opposite the fir grove; this gate was always a favourite station of ours; we love it far more now on Sara’s account. You know that it commands a beautiful prospect; Sara carved her cypher upon one of the bars, and we call it her gate. We will find out another place for your cypher, but you must come and fix upon the place yourself. How we long to see you, my dear Mary.’

Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a founder of the Wordsworth Society, discussed the Rock in his Literary Associations of the English Lakes of 1894. He noted how hard the volcanic rock was, and commented, “For they were all poets who wrought their initials painfully upon the hard volcanic ash, and graved upon the rock’s smooth breast ‘letters / That once seemed only to express/ Love that was love in idleness’ (the lines are a reference to Wordsworth’s poem ‘The Waggoner’).

Dorothy’s journal has several references to the Rock, and as already noted, William referred to it in his original draft of ‘The Waggoner’:

We worked until the Initials took
Shapes that defied a scornful look. –
Long as for us a genial feeling
Survives, or one in need of healing,
The power, dear Rock, around thee cast,
Thy monumental power, shall last
For Me and Mine! O thought of pain,
That would impair it or profane!
Take all in kindness then, as said
With a staid heart but playful head;
And fail not thou, loved Rock! to keep
Thy charge when we are laid asleep.

Wordsworth recognised that the initials would still remain when he had departed the earth. And they survived thus for the following half-century, protected only by the slow growth of algae, lichens and moss, which as Professor William Knight noted in his The English Lake District as interpreted in the poems of Wordsworth (1878), “secured it from observation, even from the highway.”

However, in the mid-1870s, the city of Manchester drew up plans for a new reservoir at Thirlmere, and a bill was put before parliament. There were several objections to the plan, however, notably from Wordsworth’s son, William, who argued that new reservoir would literally submerge the Rock of Names. However, Cumbrian author John Wilson argued that the carvings weren’t the work of the poets at all, but rather of an eccentric local called John Longmire, whose hobby was stonecutting.

 

Water engineer G. H. Hill’s plan for the scheme

 

There were certainly similarities between the carvings on the Rock and known examples of Longmire’s work, and one plausible theory is that Longmire augmented and deepened the original carvings, perhaps adding a more ‘professional’ Roman lettered finish.

 

Herbert Bell’s photograph of the rock and lettering c1880. Courtesy of the Armitt Library Trustees.

 

What happened to the rock when Manchester constructed Thirlmere reservoir?

The Manchester Corporation Act was passed in 1879, and the Manchester Water Works committee eventually started construction of the Thirlmere dam in 1890. By this time Canon Rawnsley and his wife were at the heart of the campaign to stop Manchester from destroying the Rock.

 

Picture of the Thirlmere dam opening ceremony with Canon Rawnsley, who said the prayers, on the extreme left hand side. Picture courtesy of United Utilities.

 

Nor were the Rawnsleys the only people involved: there had been huge public interest during the parliamentary debate about the Thirlmere scheme, and people were now aware of the Rock’s existence as they had never been before. As a result, Manchester City Council reluctantly gave permission to the Cockermouth-based Wordsworth Institute to remove the rock. As Alderman Harwood wrote, “The fragments containing the initials were preserved, and have been built into a cairn on the solid base of mountain stone, at a point above the new road diversion, in a line with the rock from which they were taken. This was carried out by persons in the neighbourhood.” The local ‘persons’ in question included the Rawnsleys. As the Canon later noted, “The cairn, carefully built, contains only the fragments of certain letters, which are all that we are able to save from the cruel blasting powder of the contractors who wished to quarry the “Rock of Names” for material to make the water-dam.”

 

The Rawnsley cairn: photo courtesy of Geoff Darrall.

The photograph confirms that only parts of the lettering to have survived intact.

 

How did the rock fragments leave Thirlmere and come to Grasmere and to be ‘reassembled’ behind the Museum?

In 1984 the cairn’s fragments were ‘spirited’ away to Grasmere. This was a combined effort by the then chairman of the Wordsworth Trust, Jonathan Wordsworth, and Lakeland hotelier Michael Berry, who funded the operation. He told the BBC in 1984 that he’d been inspired to ‘save’ the Rock by reading about it in Dorothy’s Journals. The removal took place with the agreement of the North West Water Authority, who by then owned the Thirlmere site. The fragments were restored and reassembled on a wall above the Wordsworth Trust museum.

 

What do we see today?

The question which must now be asked is how much of the Rock we see today was actually the work of Wordsworth and Coleridge? Can the panel above Dove Cottage really be the fragments blasted by dynamite by Manchester’s contractors?

The work of breaking up Rawnsley’s cairn was attended by the press and a BBC North-West film team. It shows the contractor using a crowbar and lump hammer to break up the cairn. The fragments were then taken to a stonemasons in Bowness, where the blocks containing the initials were cut into two-inch pieces, laid out in their original order and bonded into one piece. The whole face was then sand-blasted to obtain the uniform appearance we see on site in Grasmere.

Brian Johnson, Michael Berry and Dr Robert Woof at the unveiling ceremony of Sara’s Rock.

 

All that remains on the original site, just above the A591 at Thirlmere, is a plaque placed close to where the Rock of Names and the ‘cairn’ used to stand. This is at Grid Reference NY320153.

Perhaps the BBC chose a most appropriate title for their 1984 film about the restoration of the Rock: ‘A Marvellous Piece of Illogical English History’. Whatever the current shape and form of Sara’s Rock we see toda,y it seems William’s wish is being met:

And fail not thou, loved Rock! to keep
Thy charge when we are laid asleep.

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

Page 1

by Rachael Tarrant

 

A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as an object that it is forbidden to touch, let alone open. What wonder could await us in this jade box? To my surprise, and rush of pleasure, the box is opened to reveal something apparently far less grandiose: a red leather travel notebook. Its cover is not simply ‘red’: it is rather a variegated motley of hues, a base rose colour overcome with deep patches of cherry, even shades of mahogany. This patchwork of colour; the book’s rough edges; the white wrinkles creasing its folding flap and webbing across intermittent areas of the cover combine to create the impression of a well-worn, weather-beaten journal. This travel notebook, we are informed, belonged to William Wordsworth. It contains fragments of verse written between 1797 and 1800.

 

Its cover immediately evokes outside space, just as the nature of the object’s materiality as a travel journal implies that the ideas and thoughts recorded within it have been inspired by the outside world. Having studied William’s poetry for several years now, I am well-versed in his great love of nature; I was thus struck by the idea of William wandering outside with this notebook by his side, ready to jot down poetic musings. Indeed, Rebecca Solnit asserts that “walking was [Wordsworth’s] means of composition. Most of his poems seem to have been composed while he walked and spoke aloud, to a companion or to himself” (Solnit, p 113). The outside form of the travel notebook seems to testify to the common conception of William, and, more generally, of the Romantic Poet, as the dreaming, solitary male musing in nature. Moreover, by considering this object in tandem with Solnit’s work, and Robin Jarvis’s 1997 study of the rise of pedestrianism in the Romantic period, one can understand William’s walking as part of a larger, radical move to explore the environment on foot.

Jarvis explains that walking had been traditionally associated with poverty, unrespectability and possible criminal intent. Though attitudes were to change during the first few decades of the nineteenth century, the increasing number of people choosing to travel on foot across the 1780s-90s were met with considerable prejudice. Jarvis thus sees an element of ‘deliberate social non-conformism, of oppositionality’, and a desire to pave one’s ‘own ideological space’ in the actions of late 18th century walkers. Elsewhere I have argued for William’s active rebellion against the forces of modernisation dominant in his society, seeing The Excursion, in particular, as William’s poetic endeavour to offer an alternative social vision. William thus seems to fit in with Jarvis’s model extremely well, and it is intriguing to consider walking as an intrinsic part of William’s method of conceptualising. My previous reflection on the “slow, ponderous pace of Wordsworth’s The Excursion” (Tarrant, p 5) takes on new meaning upon reading Solnit’s claim that William’s “steps seem to have beat out a steady rhythm for the poetry, like the metronome of a composer” (Solnit, p 114). Comforted by the rhythm of his feet through environmental space, William apparently felt best able to access his ‘own ideological space’ and compose unique poetry.

 

As a fellow student tentatively turns the leaves of the travel notebook, however, this idea of William as a solitary figure musing in nature is at once complicated. Within its scarlet cover lies the penmanship of many hands. Curator Jeff Cowton explains that the first hand is Dorothy Wordsworth’s, inking a fair copy of Samuel Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’. After several pages, and only part ways through ‘Christabel’, Dorothy’s handwriting stops. Abruptly, we are greeted with scribbled drafts and fragments penned by William. Jeff alerts us to the pin holes piercing these pages, indicating that this section was once stitched up. Following on from this, Mary Wordsworth’s hand resumes the work of inking ‘Christabel’. The inside of the travel book thus represents a meeting place for many voices. The space it evokes becomes one of domesticity, of talking and collaboration. The individual voices ring out in tangible, discernible styles, seen in the varying shapes and slants of the different handwriting and the blots of ink embodying different pressure and grasps. One page catches my eye in particular. An otherwise ordinary page with lines of neatly written poetry beginning half way down it; the page is made notable by a mesh of wild lines scribbled in circular motion, its focused web subsuming a third of the page, with looser, thinner lines sprawling off the edges. Jeff suggests this is the work of the Wordsworth children, gleefully drawing on the left-out notebook. In my mind the picture shifts; William’s solitary musings are rejoined with a chorus of other voices. The voices of his loved ones aid and inspire his creativity: he carries these voices with him as he wanders, composing drafts afoot, and he returns to them to “write the result down later” (Solnit p 113).

 

As a signifier of collaborative space, the inside of the travel notebook upsets the dominant conception of William as a solitary, self-obsessed figure. As Solnit quotes, William’s contemporaries recognised his focus on the self, with essayist William Hazlitt claiming “he sees nothing but himself and the universe”. Solnit echoes this view, over 150 years on, remarking that William’s “seems a remarkably impersonal life, since he remains reticent on his personal relationships” (p 106). Yet, this faded crimson notebook seems to testify to the importance of personal relationships to William, connecting him to a culture of community, sociability and collaboration. The incorporation of Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’ within William’s notebook further contributes to this conception of the importance of collaboration to William’s creative process. It seems likely that William flicked over Coleridge’s lines whilst musing upon his own. Coleridge’s verse hugs William’s ‘work towards’ famous titles like ‘The Prelude’ and ‘The Ruined Cottage’; I wonder: what might be gained from reading these poems in dialogue with ‘Christabel’ – in replica of their first formation? The placement of William’s drafts, encircled by Coleridge’s completed text, tangibly evokes the idea that poetry has no finite end, even when published. Coleridge’s verse, enmeshed in this space of literary creation, becomes part of the creative process once again. It sparks ideas in another creator’s mind, illustrating that spaces are never singularly marked off, but are always overlapping.

 

This object appeals to me in a way that even the unanimously revered first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads did not. Seeing and handling this object is so unlike the way I typically encounter Romantic period texts. Whether this is through an anthology or a website online, I normally blindly accept the text’s materiality, anaesthetised through repeated encounters with an authoritative presentation – standardized fonts; exact, uniform line spaces; each pristine word confidently declaring its aptitude to stand in the final, publicised version of that text. In contrast, the material presence of Wordsworth’s travel notebook is impossible to ignore. The human, living body, with its actively processing mind, positively leaps off every page. It is a place of testing and mistakes: countless words are scored out with varying degrees of vigour and thickness of line, replaced with better phrases which squeeze in between the lines above and below. It is a place for Dorothy Wordsworth to test her pen, writing ‘amen’ five times horizontally across a particularly intriguing page.

 

Far from making this page unusable, William’s handwriting accompanies Dorothy’s: his poetic attempts fill the page, writing right up to, and around, Dorothy’s testing. Leafing through the notebook, we also see that several pages have been cut out with a knife, perhaps to be transferred elsewhere. These details contribute to the look and feel of the object as a kind of hodgepodge or patchwork, a place of creativity in action. It offers a rare glimpse into those half-formed first thoughts and inner musings that lie behind the finalised versions of William’s poems. To see William’s drafts is to glimpse at the person behind the idolised figure – a man drawn, perhaps, to the colour red, surrounded and inspired by family, friends and his partner.

The relaxed, even rough, treatment of the travel notebook by the Wordsworths strikes a dramatic, almost amusing, contrast with our student group’s gentle, careful handling of the same. This item, having withstood violent scribbles and even the sharp blade of a knife, is now gingerly cradled by hands that apply the lightest touch to turning its pages. The passing of 200 years, and the reputation of its owners, has ensured the notebook’s status as an object of preservation. Quick musings and jotted-down thoughts become treasured inscriptions on a sacred text. I find myself wondering what William would think of this – of a group of students pouring over and dissecting his mistakes and drafts. It feels like an invasion of private space; this was not a text designed in mind for the public eye. Yet, it is for this very reason that the notebook has made such an impression on me – it evokes the human and imperfect, the work-in-progress rather than the finished product. It is, in fact, somewhat reassuring to see the author of so many magnificent works struggle at times to find the exact words he requires. It has been an encouraging thought whilst composing this paper: to imagine myself sharing in that experimental space of the red leather notebook.

 

Bibliography
Cowton, Jeff and Simon Bainbridge. 28 August 2015. ‘Why did William Wordsworth cut pages out of his notebooks?’

Garvis, Robin. 1997. Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel (Great Britain: Macmillan)

Solnit, Rebecca. 2001. Wanderlust: A History of Walking (London: Verso)

Tarrant, Rachael. 2o19. ‘The Impulse to Intervene: Tempering Accelerated Modernisation in Anna Laetitia Barbauld and William Wordsworth’, (unpublished postgraduate essay for the University of Glasgow), pp. 1-11

 

Rachael Tarrant holds a first-class honours degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow. Rachael is currently pursuing her studies into the literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, and is especially fascinated by poetry and poetics. Compelling close-readings in particular bring her genuine joy and excitement, as does spending time with her boyfriend, friends, family and cats.

 

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

The winners of the 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

Page 1

We had another wonderful set of entries this year, on the subject of ‘The child is father of the man’.  We’d like to thank Fiona Sampson, the poet and acclaimed author of The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein, for being this year’s judge, and for very kindly donating two copies of her book to the winner and runner-up.
Sampson
 
The winning poem is by Gerald Schwartz. Fiona said: “This poem comes up fresh each time, no matter how often you reread it. It’s direct and yet mysterious, a moment in time and yet a whole lifetime of such moments. I love its intimate feel: like seeing in the dark.”
Early Photo

I’ve hung a photo of myself
At age seven in a metal frame
In the kitchen so I
Can see me in the dark
When and where I make
My pre-dawn coffee.
Then as now the same
But different, as my life
Trickles down the same
Dark and silver nerve
Of a station I don’t understand
But will always remind me
With its mystery, its living map
Long after I have lost
My mobile phone, reminding me
With that pulsar of identity
Where I am still free to go.

 
The runner-up is by Alison Carter, who was last year’s winner. Fiona said of this poem, “This very human, narrative poem leaves lots unsaid – which is just what we want from a story that lest us step into it. What’s special about this day? Is the man in the poem digging a grave for his father? Or just missing him? We don’t need to know: we can fill the poem with our own meanings.”
Digging to Australia

He learned lots of things
working the garden with Dad:
that a spadeful of soil
contains more living organisms
than there are people on the planet.

He knew the biscuit snap
of an ancient pot from a bit
of brick, that their soil
had ‘Good tilth’, the lovely word
light between tongue and teeth.

A Job shared was a job halved,
but that day he worked alone,
watched his knuckles whiten
on the warm wood of the grip,
swung onto the blade’s shoulder,

tucked his head deep into his chest
like a sleeping bird and dug.
Last night’s row worried his ears,
as he drove through surface litter,
the pale gulp of the clays below.

Once, he believed he could dig
down to Australia, but today
rasping metal strikes unbroken
rock, describing the weight
of all that is now ungovernable.

Congratulations to Gerald and Alison and thank you again to everyone who entered. We’ll be back next year!

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

Reimagining the Wordsworths II: Poetry and Diaries

Page 1

by Hannah Piercy
 
The 5th June 2017 was not so much ‘a fine showery morning’, as Dorothy Wordsworth says of the 5th June 1802 in her diaries, but one of those days when being outside for a few minutes can get you soaked to the bone – so a typical rainy day in the Lake District, some might say! I grew up in the Lakes, not so many miles away from Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where the Wordsworths lived for almost nine years. And as a secondary school pupil, I attended Keswick School, so there was a special pleasure for me in meeting some of the current year ten students of Keswick School to workshop some creative and critical ideas about the poetry, diaries, and lives of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
DC 4
To create a manageable plan for workshopping William and Dorothy’s work in less than five hours, we had decided on a shortlist of poems and diary entries to discuss and record with the students during the day. We ran four sessions, discussing and trying out creative exercises based upon one of William’s poems and one of Dorothy’s diary entries in each session. Some of the texts we chose, like I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, were obvious choices, but some, like The Tables Turned, perhaps seem less obvious. We chose to pair The Tables Turned with Dorothy’s diary entry for 15th April 1798 (written before the Wordsworths moved to Grasmere, when they were living in Alfoxden house, Somerset). The Tables Turned implores its addressee to ‘quit your books’ and ‘Come forth into the light of things, / Let Nature be your teacher’, while Dorothy’s diary discusses how ‘Nature was very successfully striving to make beautiful what art had deformed – ruins, hermitages etc’, and notes that ‘Happily we cannot shape the huge hills, or carve out the valleys according to our fancy.’ We wanted, then, to ask the students to think about how we perceive nature today, and to invite them to compose their own poems in response to the themes and issues raised by Dorothy and William’s writing.
 

 
 
As we read over the poems composed by the students, it was fascinating to see how many of them – the majority of the group, in fact – had fixated on the idea of more modern distractions from nature, and in particular, the role of smartphones in quite literally ‘filtering’ nature for us. While William’s poem admonishes its addressee to abandon books and ‘hear the woodland linnet’, the year ten pupils from Keswick School used their poems as a chance to reflect on the need to abandon their phones and enjoy nature in its own right. Natalie Williams’s poem, for example, expressed a poignant call for us to
 

Zoom in on a picture but know
in the real world nature has
a higher resolution than any screen.

Look up to the trees, to the branches and leaves.
Notice the veins that weave
across the surface like a thread,
unravelling like a map to the road ahead.

 
 
Some of the poems were forthright celebrations of nature and its constancy in our changing world, aligning closely with the sentiments of the Wordsworths – as Chloe Mackay wrote,

Year by year the fieldmice breed,
 
and green shoots sprout from every seed,
After all this trouble the birds still sing
Oh nature! what a marvellous thing.

field-mouse

It was fantastic to see this group of pupils enjoying and thinking carefully about their engagement with nature through the poetry and diaries of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Our hope is that that is what these soundpieces of young people reading and discussing the work of the Wordsworths, and the enjoyment of nature, will encourage, along with the Wordsworth Trust’s work on Reimagining Wordsworth more broadly. In the accompanying soundpiece to this post, you can hear the students’ voices overlaid into a chorus, with the sound of a river bubbling in the background, an apt accompaniment to a poem that celebrates the importance of nature. Young people today can still get a lot out of both poetry and nature, as illustrated by the poems these year ten students produced at the Wordsworth Trust. It is with one of these poems that I will end, written by Elspeth Leslie, and again dealing with the intersection of nature and technology:
 

Eyes fixated on a glaring screen
human turning into robots,     
surviving on wifi and phone signal,
they come alive as their
battery dies.

If you only looked up just
long enough to see the
mesmerising beauty of shimmering
lakes and the staggering
beauty of the mountains
rising, breathtakingly from
the ground.

The moment ends as the
addictive phone looms
up from the pocket and
snaps the ‘insta worthy’
shot. #beautifulview.

 You can read more about the project and hear the first instalment of the sound pieces here . Keep an eye out for part three, coming soon!
 
Thanks go to the following people, without whom this project would not have been possible: Lucy Stone, Michael Rossington, Sarah Rylance and Evie Hill (Newcastle University), Jeff Cowton, Bernadette Calvey, Melissa Mitchell, and Susan Allen (Wordsworth Trust), Tracey Messenger, Helen Robinson, and the Students of Keswick School, Deirdre Wildy (Queen’s University Belfast), Robert Macfarlane, sound artists Conor Caldwell (Queen’s University Belfast) and Danny Diamond, and project leaders Jemima Short and Kate Sweeney.

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

The 2018 Wordsworth birthday poem competition

Page 1

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know we run a poetry competition for Wordsworth’s birthday every year. You can read the winning poems from 2017 here.
This year’s theme is ‘The child is father of the man’ – a reference to the famous phrase in Wordsworth’s poem ‘My heart leaps up’, and is a reference to the fact that childhood experiences shape our later lives:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

 We’re inviting short unpublished poems on this theme – either about the idea in general, or a particular example in your own life, or that you have observed. The poems must be no longer than 140 words (words, not characters). You can also submit up to three poems. Entries must be in by 4pm on March 30th.
We are delighted that celebrated writer and poet Fiona Sampson will be judging the competition this year. She is the author of the acclaimed new biography In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl who Wrote Frankenstein (you can read Fiona’s blog for us here).
She has also kindly donated copies of the book for the winner and runner-up.
Sampson
Send your entries to Catherine Harland, C.Harland@wordsworth.org.uk, by 4pm on Friday 30th March. The winners will be announced on William’s birthday, April 7th.
Good luck!

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

Join us in the Big Wordsworth Bonanza

Page 1

by Jenny Uglow
I know it’s almost three years away – or only three years away – but 7 April 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth, and the Wordsworth Trust want to celebrate it in style. There will be conferences, parties, walks on fells, radio and television programmes readings among daffodils, on Westminster Bridge – and wherever you can think of. We’ve even got hopes of ‘Romantics’ stamps, though nothing may come of this! So this is an invitation to all Wordsworth fans, and everyone interested in the Romantics, to join in looking ahead, planning, getting together with ideas world-wide.
RIww 2
 
No one ‘owns’ a great poet, and the Wordsworth Trust (where I’m a Trustee) is far from being the only group who want to mark this anniversary. However, it seemed a good idea to post something to tell you what we’re thinking. A small team has gathered, co-ordinated by Simon Bainbridge of Lancaster University, and including the Wordsworth family, the Wordsworth Trust, the team at Rydal Mount and the National Trust, who run Wordsworth’s House in Cockermouth. In time, there will be a separate website for Wordsworth 250, which will publicise all the events. Your ideas are welcome!
RIWW
In Grasmere itself, the Wordsworth Trust has plans to enhance the site at Town End, with Dove Cottage at its heart. In a project called ‘Reimagining Wordsworth’, the Trust will re-design the Wordsworth Museum for the first time in over thirty years, refurbishing its galleries to show Wordsworth’s manuscripts in fresh and exciting ways. Visitors will ‘step back in time’, and see Dove Cottage as the Wordsworths would have known it, and new research will mean that Dove Cottage garden, which William and Dorothy loved, has the right plants for the date. Parts of the site will be opened up, so that we can enjoy the green spaces and the views, and there will be new opportunities for children to play, and for visitors to rest and look – and write. Wordsworth’s poetry will come to life for the 21st century.
RIWW 3
This is a huge venture, and it should be a joyous transformation.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has committed £4 million to the project, but to unlock this funding, the Wordsworth Trust must raise a further £1 million by March 2018. We are planning Wordsworth and poetry-themed auctions in 2018 and 2019, but our urgent need now is to meet this target. You can find out more about the project and how to support it by visiting the new Reimagining Wordsworth website.
In short – forgetting money for the moment – this is a really exciting time for all Wordsworth fans, the start of great things. Do please get involved – we would love to hear from you.
 
Jenny Uglow’s latest book is In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815. She is a Trustee of the Wordsworth Trust.Jenny Uglow
 
 

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

Discovering Mary Wordsworth through her letters

Page 1

by Nicole Jacobsen
As an intern primarily focused on the curatorial aspects of the Wordsworth Trust, I have the opportunity to work hands-on with many of the Trust’s manuscripts. During the past two months, I have been involved in a project to locate and transcribe all of Mary Wordsworth’s unpublished letters in our collection. The Jerwood Centre’s collection includes over 500 of her manuscripts, so the search has been quite a treasure hunt. I feel much better acquainted with Mary, her life, and personality after having read through and carefully copied over the writing of many of these letters.

Portrait of Mary Wordsworth, Margaret Gillies, 1839. (On display in Dove Cottage.)

Portrait of Mary Wordsworth, Margaret Gillies, 1839. (On display in Dove Cottage.)


In the context of writings about the Wordsworth family, Mary often seems like a secondary character, someone who happened upon the literary genius of William and the passionate perceptiveness of Dorothy and never made a name for herself outside of her husband’s fame. In reading her letters, however, it becomes quite apparent that though her ambition was not to become a well-known figure in the poetic circles of the day, she succeeded as a self-sufficient and capable woman who always kept her family as her first priority.
Mary’s letters reveal much about her concerns and preoccupations. When writing to William, a tender affection and feeling of partnership shines through her even scrawl. Because she only wrote to him while he was away, her longing and the pain of separation is a major theme of these letters. Her willingness to sacrifice for the good of others is evident when she gives William permission to extend his journey: ‘particularly if your keeping to your time is to cost much pain to others, give it up for a short while longer.’ She often writes with tenderness about her children and her concerns for them, this motherly instinct extending to the last decade of her life, when she continues to ask after her grandchildren and influence the family relationships as a whole.
In order to complete a transcription, I first have to locate the letters which haven’t been transcribed, take care while handling them, and then meticulously read over the sometimes quite minuscule handwriting. In order to save on postage, words are crammed in wherever possible, often written in different directions on the same sheet of paper. After the first few letters, I started to notice patterns in her script which helped me decipher the trickier words.
An example of one of Mary’s letters—this one was easier to read than most.

An example of one of Mary’s letters—this one was easier to read than most.


One of the hardest aspects of letter transcription is making out smudged or otherwise difficult-to-read words on the page. As a twenty-first century American student, I live in a completely different frame of reference to Mary’s world in rural England more than two hundred years ago. Context clues are essential in discovering her intended meaning, but sometimes they aren’t enough. I often search several iterations of place names before stumbling across the Lake District landmark referred to in the letters.
For certain phrases, I will confirm my supposed reading through an internet search, sometimes discovering more information that adds richness to my understanding of Mary’s writing and relationships. For example, I recently came across a phrase that I read as ‘Castle of Indolence,’ certainly a dramatic way to refer to the family home! Context clues—her reference to Rydal Mount as ‘Idle Mount,’ and a self-mocking manner that seemed to highlight her insecurities about the lack of recent productivity coming from the poet’s household—made the phrase seem pertinent, but I looked up the phrase to be sure.
A letter from Mary to John Kenyon, the first to feature the phrases ‘Idle Mount’ and ‘Castle of Indolence.’

A letter from Mary to John Kenyon, the first to feature the phrases ‘Idle Mount’ and ‘Castle of Indolence.’


It turns out that Castle of Indolence was a poem published in 1748 by the Scottish poet James Thomson. In 1802, William published a poem entitled ‘Stanzas written in my Pocket-Copy of Thomson’s Castle of Indolence,’ confirming that the James Thomson and his poem must have been household names for the Wordsworths.
An edition of Castle of Indolence contemporary to the Wordsworths.

An edition of Castle of Indolence contemporary to the Wordsworths.


Discoveries like these fill out an image of Mary as a well-read and knowledgeable woman, able to keep up with her husband’s written work and often serving as his amanuensis—a literary assistant or scribe. Though Mary certainly valued learning and education, she also recognised the importance of balance. In a letter to her grandson Johnnie, she writes, ‘All work & no play makes – You know the Proverb – Besides I fear your too close confinement to your books may tell upon your health.’  The letters reveal a lighter side of Mary than what is portrayed in any of the stern portraits of her. In contrast to the passion and strong emotions of Dorothy, her wit and tenderness set her apart and give her personality that Wordsworth biographies often don’t explore with much depth.
Portrait of William and Mary Wordsworth, Margaret Gillies, 1839. (Replica on display in Dove Cottage.)

Portrait of William and Mary Wordsworth, Margaret Gillies, 1839. (Replica on display in Dove Cottage.)


I have enjoyed getting to know Mary Wordsworth as more than just William’s wife—her letters are a great resource to gain insight into her personality and individuality. It’s uncommon to be able to read intimate communications between close friends, and having access to the letters in the Wordsworth Trust collection is a valuable resource. Imagining what my own correspondence would reveal about my personality and character is a little daunting, but as I read and transcribe, I feel like Mary is allowing me a little glimpse into her mind and heart through the words on the page.
Letters on display in the Jerwood Centre

Letters on display in the Jerwood Centre


The letters that have been transcribed as part of this project are available to search and read at http://collections.wordsworth.org.uk/wtweb/home.asp?page=Letters%20search%20home and the books and letters pictured throughout the post are currently on display in the Jerwood Centre.
 
19429791_10212236809651857_7443609467718592027_nNicole Jacobsen is an intern from Brigham Young University (Utah), a native of California who is living and working in Grasmere for three months. As an intern, she works with the Trust’s main collections, as well as providing visitor services in Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum and the shop. She is pursuing a double major (joint honours) in English Literature and French Studies.

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

Sounds of Wordsworth

Page 1

by Steven Matthews and Paul Whitty 
Steven Matthews, poet, and Paul Whitty, composer, share some insight into their exhibition ‘Sounds of Wordsworth’, which was on display at the Wordsworth Trust throughout June 2017.

Paul Whitty and Steven Matthews

Paul Whitty and Steven Matthews


This exhibition presented work from an on-going and evolving project to ‘map’ sounds in the landscape, as they continue at the sites where we know that Wordsworth was inspired to write poems. The shapes of the hills and mountains on the skyline in the Lake District continue to be very close to those which Wordsworth saw; similarly, the environmental sounds in the places he loved bear some proximity to the sounds he heard – sounds then registered in his poetry.
20170615_094056-01

Wordsworth sounds in the exhibition


The items included in the exhibition concentrated on the sounds of the rivers and streams around Grasmere with which Wordsworth was familiar. This booklet provides some reflection by the composer Paul Whitty, upon the experience of capturing these sounds at particular Wordsworthian locations. Part of our project is for both Paul and the poet Steven Matthews to create new work from their engagement with Wordsworth, sound, and the Lake District. The booklet also contains reflection upon Steven’s sequence made in response to Wordsworth, ‘The Stepping-Stones’.
If you would like to source some of the Exhibition materials you can do so via the following links…
Two of the films referred to in Paul’s and Steven’s pieces below can be accessed:
Duddon Valley, ‘The Stepping-Stones’:

Easedale:

A free-to-access Aporee sound map has been established for the project, which includes sounds not included in the Exhibition:
http://aporee.org/maps/projects/wordsworth
This website will be updated in future, with material from other important places relating to Wordsworth and sound.
 


 
Paul Whitty
Listening to the sounds of the Wordsworth’s rural everyday
Investigating everyday or quotidian sound has been an important part of my engagement with the sounding world since I began exploring ways in which it was possible to document everyday sounds through the Sound Diaries project – a long-term collaboration with artist Felicity Ford.
As part of this project I have explored the sounds of my kitchen; the sounding life of vending machines, airport luggage carousels and escalators. More recently I have been investigating the sounds of grassroots football and a field in the parish of Netherexe in Devon.
When Steven Matthews invited me to collaborate with him on a project exploring the soundscapes of the Wordsworth’s I was immediately fascinated at the prospect. On our first visit to Grasmere I spent time in the garden of Dove Cottage trying to capture the unique sounds of that space – as you would imagine many of the sounds that I heard were of the contemporary world – tyres on asphalt, mobile phones and the vibrations of passing air traffic. However, when we re-traced Wordsworth’s steps on the short walk to Easedale Tarn and as we left the world of the internal combustion engine behind there was a palpable sense of walking into a past soundscape – of walking into the soundscape of the Wordsworth’s.
 
The wind at Easedale Tarn
Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn


As part of this project I have so far visited Easedale Tarn on two occasions. On the first occasion the wind was creating ripples on the surface of the Tarn and these ripples made a delicate snapping sound as they came into contact with the rocks and pebbles on the shore. I made a recording of this with a hydrophone – an underwater microphone – and an ambient microphone so that I could capture, simultaneously, the uderwater sounds of the rippling surface of the Tarn and the calls of sheep on the surrounding hillside. On our second visit it was blustery and there was a storm approaching from the North. I could hear the fronds of some of the longer grasses brushing and tapping against each other in the wind and so I attached two small contact microphones to two grass stems and recorded the sound of the wind rushing through the grass.
 
Tumultuous waters at Greenhead Gill
Greenhead Gill

Greenhead Gill


The resounding tumult of the waters at Greenhead Gill creates a palpable physical space with a clearly defined boundary – defined by the presence and absence of the white noise of the fast moving waters. Standing on the edge of that boundary the listener is still aware of the sound of traffic on the A591 in the valley below and of sheep calling to each other across the hillside but once the threshold has been crossed all sound is set in relief against the relentless white noise of the waters. Stepping closer to the water I can hear a complexity in the sound. The ear seeks out the individual sounding moments that when combined create this resounding valley of noise. The composer Gyorgy Ligeti imagined and composed a music of micropolyphony in which each instrument in the orchestra sounded an individual part thereby creating a cloud of sounding activity. As you head further up the valley the micropolyphony of the rushing water becomes ever denser and more complex. I wonder if I could stay in this place for as long as it took to index every possible sounding event caused by water on stone. I make a series of recordings – some up close to an individual sounding event and others seeking to capture the resonance of the site.
 
Lost in the Duddon Valley
The Duddon Valley will not give up its secrets easily. It seems that the path we are seeking to follow has been washed away or covered by fallen trees. I listen to the water as it is channeled between the sheer granite of a gorge. I hear the wind in the trees as we move away from the river. The forest around us deadens the sound and silence becomes palapable – the air is still – vibration has ceased. We walk again towards the river through a landscape of felled trees. We find stepping stones thrown here by a storm perhaps or a surge upstream. I listen to the sound of the riverbank as grasses become sound-making objects activated by the wind and perhaps if I put my ear close enough I can hear the sound of water being absorbed by the moss that thrives and coats the rocks above the water line.
 
To find out more you can visit:
www.sound-diaries.co.uk
www.sonicartresearch.co.uk
 
Paul Whitty is a founder member of the SARU (Sonic Art Research Unit) at Oxford Brookes University who have generously supported the production of this exhibition.


 
Steven Matthews
 

 THE STEPPING-STONES

The water is wide, I cannot get o’er

I

STEP: weight moving

            forward two

feet evenly down

left arm

            out-arced

                        right out

like a bird

wild on the wing

a mind fulcrums:

the sky, the hills, the

            rushing speaking waters

the body offering from

            itself poised piercing into

                        hollow space

II

STEP: right knee bent,

            left foot held in air

trying to reach ahead

the interspace spanned

            left to right

foot joined

the body flirts

            with motion

with shrill space

            forward backward

backward forward

            still moves

air’s kiss over

            the thrilling clamouring

III

STEP: the mechanism exposed

hammers to pluck

strings

hitting

wood

as they articulate

            these blasted

remaining forms

don’t say intervals

don’t do transitions

don’t move me through space so

            I can’t see the bottom

here forever

            no Delian diver

IV

STEP: the next interspace greater,

            the arms raised higher

the whole body from the ground

                        leaps still gliding

            until the next rock

gives itself to the forefoot

the boy toddles towards

                        the zone of stones

and takes his leave

of surety

the old man totters,

arcing his stick across

the vocal torrential space

            and onto the far bank

V

STEP: step step

            the arms smooth bows

eyes held at

            the near stones tick tack

                        toe to

the bank

clatter-roll of stone into

chalked square

            hop-as-high-

as-you-can

and bob-a-foot

and boys,

girls singing-clapping

Bye Baby Bunting

VI

STEP: as you step, pause,

            step, pause,

eyes ahead,

            arms as wings

finding your

direct way

            what you do not look to

is the future arriving

            back to you

from the other bank

waters chanting athwart,

            your future

before you set out

            from your past

REFLECTIONS ON ‘THE STEPPING-STONES’
My six 14 line poems present a set of variations on the theme of Wordsworth’s 34 poems known as the ‘River Duddon Sonnets’. In particular, they respond to Wordsworth’s two sonnets in that sequence, themselves about stepping-stones which cross that river.
Wordsworth’s two ‘stepping-stones’ poems, like the rest of his sequence, meditate upon the course of our lives, from childhood to old age. The second poem enacts a kind of courting ritual dance. We watch two lovers playing back and forth, as they offer and withdraw their hands to their partner between the stones. These two Wordsworth sonnets, in other words, think about the passage across the river as a kind of passage through lived time. We are given a sense of these events happening in a specific place, with its specific sounds and sights, in words that suggest often a mixture of the two senses. The Duddon is ‘loud’, ‘fierce’, ‘wild’ ‘dizzy’; we hear ‘utterances’, the noise of a ‘clap’.
In fact, a key aspect of the ‘River Duddon Sonnets’ is how their liveliness – the energy of the river and so of the poems – depends on sound. There are roughly 60 ‘sound words’ in the 34 poems, and part of the way Wordsworth connects the poems, beyond their repeated pentameter rhyming form, is through the recurrence of the same ‘sound word’ from poem to poem. ‘Blast’, ‘hum’ roar’, ‘chant’, ‘voice’, even ‘silence’, come back across the sequence.
My variation on the Wordsworth sonnets absorbs some of these words about the Duddon, as well as other words spurred in him by this special place. But it also responds to the fact that our contemporary sense of time is very different from his. His swirling but regular rhymed lines reflect the continuity and brevity of life. Our sense of time is more complex and precarious and vulnerable, and my poems, although they retain the ’14 line’ structure of Wordsworth’s, also include that idea of the uncertainty we now all feel in time and across our lives.
Poetry itself plays variations with time and timing. Poetry can slow the world down, accelerate it. My idea is that stepping-stones, where we feel exposed, in danger of toppling, unclear as to the strength of our foot-hold, offer a good image (as they did differently to Wordsworth), for our relation to the world. Everything is slowed, we become more aware of our movements, of the need to balance, of the physical forces in the world which both support us, but threaten to tip us over.
When writing the 6 poems, I had in mind those sequences of photos of people moving, by the nineteenth-century Anglo-American photographer Eadward Muybridge. These are photo sequences where we watch, as, from frame to frame, slight progression is mapped. In fact Muybridge has a sequence of 36 pictures showing a model ‘Jumping from stone to stone across a brook’. When writing these poems, and thinking about movement in time, I also had in mind recent science, which has altered our perception of who we are: the idea that any movement, even that of a thrown ball, always has its destination ‘in mind’. Objects, atoms, like humans, have a destination as they move, their future is already paradoxically a part of their past.
My variations on Wordsworth’s sonnets are aimed, then, to lay bare these issues, to expose the mechanisms within and behind our stepping across our lives. They also take into themselves a further aspect of Wordsworth’s poetic ideas. In Book One of his autobiographical epic, The Prelude, the poet tells how his inspiration to write is derived from the sounds of the river he heard as a young child, and how those sounds ‘loved | To blend…with my nurse’s song.’ These new poems in response to Wordsworth take up that strain, themselves blending lines from lullabies which Wordsworth’s nurse might well have sung him into their texture.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who famously told us that we could not step into the same river twice, was also famously cryptic. When Socrates was handed the work of Heraclitus he said that ‘it would take a Delian diver to get to the bottom of it’ – divers from Delos being well known for their risk-taking and underwater stamina. These new poems try to take on the enigmas we are faced with, drawing on Wordsworth’s inspiration to do so.
 
Steven Matthews is a poet, and Professor in English Literature at the University of Reading. 

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

The 2017 Wordsworth birthday poetry competition

Page 1

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll remember we ran a poetry competition for Wordsworth’s birthday last year. It was a great success, and you can read the winning poems here.
In fact, it was such a great success we’re doing it again!

So how does it work?
This year’s theme is ‘Spots of time’ – a reference to the famous phrase in The Prelude where Wordsworth talks about moments of special intensity that live in the memory and shape our lives.

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence – depressed 
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse – our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired.

We’re inviting short unpublished poems on this theme – either about the idea of ‘spots of time’ in general, or a particular example in your own life, or that you have observed. As this is a Twitter-inspired competition, the poems must be no longer than 140 words (definitely words, not characters). You can also submit up to three poems.
We are delighted that celebrated author, critic and historian, Jenny Uglow, who is also a Wordsworth Trust trustee, will be judging the competition this year. There will be book prizes for the winner and runner-up:

Byrons Women

Alex Larman’s acclaimed book Byron’s Women, described by the Guardian as “no ordinary biography” and by the Times as “a radical questioning of the conventional swashbuckling Byronic stance”.

DeQ
And Frances Wilson’s Guilty Thing: The life of Thomas De Quincey, which is a dynamic and unique biography of the most mysterious member of the Wordsworth circle and the last of the Romantics.

Many thanks to Alex and to Bloomsbury for the copies of the books.
Send your entries to Catherine Harland, C.Harland@wordsworth.org.uk, by Tuesday 4th April. Thank you, Catherine, for handling the emails.

Good luck!

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More

Women of Worth

Page 1

by Corinne Bird
When the opportunity arose to create an exhibition in the Jerwood Centre in honour of International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March, I was thrilled. As a Women’s Studies minor, I love learning about, and helping others learn about, women whom history has forgotten. In my Women’s Studies classes, we learn that history often chooses to ignore the contributions that many women have made to society. Recent efforts to recognise these women are extremely important in helping modern women gain the respect they deserve for their intellects, talents, and contributions to society.
As my co-curators (Poppy and Katherine, Collections Trainees) and I searched the Wordsworth Trust archives for women to highlight, we came across a book entitled Women of Worth: A Book for Girls. Published anonymously in 1863, it contains a series of biographies of a wide range of exemplary women. The book seemed perfect, with an empowering message in big, bold letters on its front cover. Yet, upon further inspection, we discovered that many of the women were featured for their meek attitude and willingness to help their husband succeed. Therefore, we decided to use this book as the centrepiece of our display, but, instead, highlight relatively unknown women for their contributions to the world of literature and art, seeking to recognise the women whom history has forgotten.

7.TheCurators

The Curators: Katherine, Poppy and Corinne


There were many contenders in the Trust’s collection —poets, writers, artists, playwrights, reformers, sculptors, photographers across time. It was tough to choose from among all these incredible women! It was also difficult to select artefacts for display that would tell their story, and help people connect to them. After much deliberation, we decided on women whose lives and related objects tell the story of talented women who defied societal expectations. To find out more about these ‘women of worth’, please read on…
 
Anna Laetitia Barbauld
Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) was a respected literary figure during her day. However, she eventually lost her status among her peers because her poem, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812), criticised the Napoleonic War.
Society felt that a woman did not have a right to criticise the actions of her country. Barbauld’s outspokenness was an uncommon characteristic of a woman, so society shunned her, and she disappeared from literary history. Lucy Aikin, Barbauld’s niece, published a collection of Barbauld’s poems and, in the memoir, called her a “conscientious patriot” in an attempt to stop the critics. In the late twentieth century, feminist critics rediscovered Barbauld, and she is slowly regaining the recognition that she deserves as a leading Romantic writer.
The Works of Anna Letitia Barbauld

The Works of Anna Letitia Barbauld


 
Lady Beresford and Emily Genevieve
Lady Beresford and Emily Genevieve are two talented artists who, like many others, have sadly become lost in history. We felt compelled to feature these two women; their paintings of the local landscape reminded us of the beauty outside our front door in Grasmere.
Records reveal that Lady Beresford, born Harriet Schutz (1788-1860), was married to prominent soldier and politician, Lord George Beresford; however, she fled from the unhappy marriage and devoted herself to painting. She studied under esteemed English watercolour painters William Payne and John Varley yet she is rarely studied in her own right.
There does not appear to be any biographical information for Emily Genevieve. The drawings on display suggest that these two artists had a strong connection to the landscape of the Lake District. Genevieve’s drawing highlights the power and rhythm of the natural world, whilst Lady Beresford’s watercolour depicts the rich colours and serenity of the local environment. The works of Lady Beresford and Emily Genevieve offer us glimpses of the talented women behind them, but we know of their personal lives.

Lady Beresford, Rydal Water, undated (c.1820s)


 
Sara Coleridge
Although she is perhaps more well-known than the other women, Sara Coleridge is often only recognised for being the daughter of the great Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However, Sara was an extremely talented scholar, writer, and translator who deserves to be celebrated in her own right.
In 1837, Sara published Phantasmion, a fairy tale and early example of fantasy literature that is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien. Furthermore, Sara was proficient in six languages: she published translations of Dobrizhoffer, which earned her £113—an impressive sum for any profession at that time. When discussing his sister, Hartley Coleridge stated, “. . . she inherited more of her father, than either of [her brothers]; and that not only in the amount but in the quality of her powers.”
We chose to feature Sara because we are always looking for new ways to shine a light upon the inner lives of the women of the Wordsworth circle—a circle that is very much preoccupied with the achievements and the legacy of men, while the women, like Sara Coleridge, stand silently brilliant in the background.
5.SaraColeridgePhantasmion

Page of Phantasmion by Sara Coleridge


 
International Women’s Day is a great occasion that helps us celebrate the contributions of women, but this should not take place once a year. We should constantly search for women who have gone unnoticed and give them the recognition that they deserve. Working on this project has helped me gain a better appreciation for the women who defied societal expectation, and I have come to the realisation that celebrating past women’s accomplishments makes modern accomplishments possible.
If you are interested in learning more about more ‘women of worth’, follow @WordsworthTrust on Twitter to learn more about the women in the Wordsworth Trust collection. You can also use our online collections search to read transcriptions of a vast selection of womens’ letters from our archive (http://collections.wordsworth.org.uk/wtweb/home.asp?page=Letters%20search%20home).
8.CorinneBird
Corinne Bird is an Intern from Brigham Young University (Utah), who is living and working in Grasmere for three months. Currently, she is majoring in history with minors in political science and women’s studies.

09.07.2019

‘Echo and allusion’: Tennyson and Wordsworth

by Jayne Thomas   In his 1879 essay on Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold maintains that by the publication of Tennyson’s 1842 Poems ‘the ear and applause of the great body of poetry-readers’ turn decisively toward Tennyson and away from Wordsworth, a transition of which Wordsworth himself was perhaps aware. Aubrey de Vere records a meeting between […]

Read More
16.06.2019

Childhood, Nature, Light and Sound:
Wordsworth and Mahler

by Fred Blick There is a rewarding connection between William Wordsworth’s literary work and Gustav Mahler’s musical compositions. They were both important exponents of Romanticism. Romantic artists throughout the nineteenth century were identifiable as being concerned with the pleasures, fears and pains of individuals and their relationship with Nature. I intend to show that the […]

Read More
21.05.2019

The ‘Rock of Names’

by Ian O. Brodie Behind and above the Museum at William Wordsworth’s Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, we find the celebrated, perhaps even infamous, Rock of Names, also known as ‘Sara’s Rock’. This reconstructed slab of a Lakeland volcanic outcrop used to be found, in situ, around half-way between the homes of the Wordsworths in Grasmere […]

Read More
24.04.2019

John Keats and his Publishers

by Colin Silver   There is a degree of scholarly consensus around the notion that John Keats had his first book of poems – Poems 1817 – published ‘on commission’. In today’s terms we would say the book was self-published, that Keats personally paid for all of the work involved in its production and marketing. […]

Read More
30.03.2019

A wander through Wordsworth’s ‘Christabel’ notebook

by Rachael Tarrant   A jade-coloured rectangular box is laid delicately and ceremoniously on the table; hidden inside lies another treasure of the Wordsworth Trust. Our little group – enthused students of Romanticism – have already been shown a first-edition copy of the Lyrical Ballads – ‘shown’ because the book is considered so valuable as […]

Read More
05.03.2019

Chasing Coleridge

by Mark Patterson It was after 12 noon on 1st August 1802 that Samuel Taylor Coleridge closed the front door of his home, Greta Hall in Keswick, and set off to walk to Buttermere and then Ennerdale, 16 miles to the west. This was the first stage of his planned nine-day walking tour of the […]

Read More
23.02.2019

When did John Keats die?

by Ian Reynolds   The poet John Keats died in Rome aged twenty-five. Most scholars and biographers record that he died at around 11 pm on Friday, February 23rd, 1821, but his gravestone records the date as February 24th. (1)  So which is true? This post will seek to find the answer, and explore how […]

Read More
09.02.2019

Setting William Blake to music

by Joseph Andrew Thompson My introduction to William Blake came through a copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience, lent to me by a high-school friend. Over the course of a few weeks, I read it through and through, enchanted by its elegant simplicity. Visually, it had the magic of a book of fairy tales, […]

Read More
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