Title: The Grasmere Journals
Author: Dorothy Wordsworth
Blurb: ‘I went &sate with W & walked backwards & forwards in the Orchard till dinner time – he read me his poem. I broiled Beefsteaks.’
Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals are a unique record of her life with her brother William, at time time when he was at the height of his poetic powers. Invaluable for the insight they give into the daily life of the poet and his friendship with Coleridge, they are also remarkable for their spontaneity and immediacy, and for the vivid descriptions of people, places, and incidents that inspired some of Wordsworth’s best-loved poems.
The Grasmere Journal was begun at Dove Cottage in May 1800 and kept for three years. Dorothy notes the walks and the weather, the friends, country neighbours and beggars on the road; she sets down accounts of the garden, of Wordsworth’s marriage, their concern for Coleridge, the composition of poetry.
How I came to own it: I bought this from Gower St. Waterstone’s after we decided to read it for book group.
What I thought: Two things in particular struck me about this journal. The first was the lack of introspection. Dorothy’s gaze is fixed firmly on the outside world, on nature and on other people. The second is the contrast between the mundane details recorded, quite unconcerned in the lack of interest – “It rained today,” that sort of thing – with the flashes of brilliant poetic, evocative description that recreates her world so vividly. The two, side by side, combined with the divisive nature of a series of short, daily journal entries, made the book very difficult to ‘get into’ and I struggled to keep attention.
How I’m doing: 41 to go.