William, Mary and Dorothy.
When they were in Germany in 1798, Dorothy bought 4 small leather bound notebooks which enclosed the handmade paper. These each had their own protective box. Dorothy chose one of these to be her Journal.
What did she write in her Journal? Why, their daily doings, conversations, what happened in the house and surrounding countryside. Her brother William was going away for awhile, she thought it would be nice for him to read on his return
Dorothy was not a well woman, she recorded her toothaches, she rests a lot, this is when she writes, maybe not every day, weeks could go by between entries When she wrote, she writes fast, little punctuation as she uses dashes.
Everything is worthy of writing down, ironing the bedding, the moss on a stone, what the villagers say as they pass. In the 1700’s there was little transport, if you wanted to go somewhere, you had to walk, miles and miles for quite small purchases, a newspaper for instance or, to post a letter. After walking for awhile, Dorothy would sit on a stone, tree stump or bridge, she would look around her.
Crows, she noted ‘Crows at a little distance from us become white to silver
Paper at that time was so expensive, every little corner was made use of. Not only Dorothy lived in the house but the three poets, William and his wife, Mary and their lodger and friend, Samuel. Paper being at such a premium, all of them used the margins of Dorothy’s journal, even to squeeze a verse in between one of her paragraphs. We are not told whether Mary resented this intrusion.
Did you know that the original of ‘I Wandered Lonely as Cloud’, was written as prose in Mary’s journal, by Mary? Tuesday 15th April 1802. She was out walking with William, she noticed the ‘belt of daffodils nodding in the wind by the side of the lake…..’. When they got home and she had done her household chores, she wrote about them in the journal.
How did William come to write his poem? When Dorothy was ill in bed, he was looking through her journal, looking for empty space, when he saw the entry about Daffodils.
Extract of entry 15th April 1802.
“When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the lake floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had sprung up. But as went along there were more and yet more; and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon the stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. They were here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers a few yards higher up”.
Did you also know that there are two versions of the poem? The first, a three verse poem, William wrote in 1805 and published in 1807. Dissatisfied, William created the second, a four verse version in 1815, It is said, his wife Mary wrote the last verse in both versions. It is interesting to know that In the prose that Dorothy wrote she uses ‘We, in his poems – William uses ‘I’.
Wordsworth would have not written some of his poems without referring to the notes in the journal kept by Dorothy. She was his muse, his inspiration.
All this information I found out while doing a free online course ran by
Futurelearn. They run free online short course learning.
William Wordsworth, Mary Wordsworth (nee Hutchinson), Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Journal keeper: Dorothy Wordsworth.
You can visit Dove Cottage and a Museum in Grasmere, Jerwood all artefacts are kept her. You can find out about them on the internet.