Sunday 29 December 2013

The Life of Dorothy Wordsworth

Dorothy Mae Ann Wordsworth (Cockermouth, CumberlandEngland, 25th December 1771 – Cumberland, England, 25th January 1855)

Dorothy Wordsworth

I missed the birthday of Miss Dorothy Wordsworth in favour of festive greetings but I have been asked on several occasions by salon regulars to feature this estimable lady so today, I shall indulge them!

The daughter of John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, young Dorothy enjoyed some education at Hipperholme Boarding School in her early years and was a bright and enquiring girl. Although she was an orphan by the age of 12 her story is not one of grim servitude and unhappy wanderings. In fact, she and her siblings enjoyed a relatively happy childhood, living with various relatives and undertaking  further lessons with family members. She eventually ended up living with her adored brother, William, at Alfoxden House in Somerset. The brother and sister had precious little money and as Wordsworth tried to eke out a living as a diarist, Dorothy wrote her own travel journals when she and William visited Scotland.Although she had no interest in fame and recognition, Dorothy was happy to assist her more well-known brother in his own work, researching and inspiring his writings.

The siblings spent some time in Germany before taking up residence at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, a home that was the realisation of a lifelong dream of being settled for Dorothy. She adored life in Grasmere and loved her simple existence, walking the countryside around her home and chronicling her life and experiences in the now famous Grasmere Journal. When William married Mary Hutchinson in 1802, Dorothy shared their home  and was devoted to her now extended family, becoming a close friend of her new sister in law.

A serious illness in her late 50s left Dorothy an invalid for the rest of her life and she became a habitual user of opiates, which did her already weakened health no good at all. She sank into senility in her final decade, eventually dying at peacefully at home.

Dorothy left behind a wealth of writing from journals to poems and letters, as well as travelogues cataloguing the trips she and William and his family undertook and, despite her disinterest in fame, she has achieved a considerable critical reputation since her death.


angus smith said...

Ashamed to say , she was the missing Wordsworth for me until I was well into my twenties . An enlightening tale.

Catherine Curzon said...

She does seem to slip through so many nets!