Gifts inspired by Wordsworth
The Jerwood Centre, adjacent to the Wordsworth Museum, is an award-winning building holding the manuscripts, books and paintings not on show in the museum. It was opened in 2005 by the poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney.
Over 90% of known Wordsworth verse drafts are kept here, along with letters and other important documents, including drafts of Wordsworth’s great work The Prelude, and all of Dorothy Wordsworth’s surviving notebooks, including those that make up what is popularly known as the ‘Grasmere Journal’.
However, the Jerwood Centre holds much more than a single writer’s archive. Here are found manuscripts by thousands of different named authors from all walks of life, and written from around the world. Verse and prose manuscripts by Samuel Taylor Coleridge include two surviving drafts of ‘Ode to Dejection’; a collection of 250 manuscripts by Thomas De Quincey includes the largest surviving manuscript of the Confessions of an English Opium Eater, suitably stained brown (with coffee as it happens, rather than opium). There are letters between the key figures, as well as letters to Wordsworth from new acquaintances and important people of the day. And then there are letters about Wordsworth: we have, for example, a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson in which he describes Wordsworth’s genius. Autograph collections include many surprises: Dr David Livingstone; George Washington; Lord Nelson’s letter telling of the escort of Spanish ships through the Mediterranean in 1804. In all there are some 35,000 manuscripts in the collection, of which only a small percentage have been published.
The books are equally fascinating. They show how people read 200 years ago – books in cheap, stationer’s card covers (interestingly now the most sought after and researched type of cover), or the most expensive leather bindings to suit a particular library’s existing style.
The Jerwood Centre holds fine art too. There are many portraits of the poet, his circle of writers and friends, and of his family; on top of this is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of watercolours and printed images and books of the Lake District stretching back over the past 250 years. Paintings by major artists are featured: JMW Turner, John Constable, Thomas Girtin, as well as many lesser known artists who visited the Lakes in the years following 1750. The Jerwood Centre also holds a great collection of guide books to the area, again from 1750 onwards.
For more information on the Jerwood Centre please click here.