Dorothy Wordsworth 1771-1855
English journal writer, epistler, and poet.
The following entry provides criticism on Wordsworth from 1874 through 1999. For additional information on Wordsworth's life and career, see NCLC, Volume 25.
A prolific writer of journals, poetry, narratives, and letters, Dorothy Wordsworth published few of her works during her lifetime. Since her death, however, nearly all that she wrote has been published. Wordsworth had an ambivalent relationship with her identity as an author, choosing instead to play a supporting role to her famous brother, William. Her reticence and humility notwithstanding, the literary world has recognized her work, and particularly her journals, for their considerable insight into the social, political, and cultural concerns of her community.
Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, England, on December 25, 1771, to John and Ann Cookson Wordsworth. Her early childhood was financially comfortable, as her father earned money and authority as caretaker of the legal affairs of a wealthy landowner, James Lowther. After her mother's early death, however, Wordsworth was sent, at age six, away from her beloved brothers to live with various relatives—some of whom treated her more as a servant than as family—and eventually to boarding school. When she was twelve, her father's death precipitated a monetary crisis that forced Wordsworth to leave boarding school and live with her mother's cousin Elizabeth Threlkeld for a few years, and then with her maternal grandparents. She continued her schooling while with Threlkeld, then was tutored by her uncle, Reverend William Cookson. This provided her with enough of an academic foundation that she could help establish and run (with her uncle's new wife) a small school at her next residence in Forncett. Wordsworth's living situation was finally resolved as she had hoped when she and William set up their own household in Racedown in 1795. Despite the objections of relatives who both doubted their ability to support themselves and predicted considerable social embarrassment, the Wordsworth siblings essentially remained together for the rest of their lives—even when William Wordsworth married and had children. They moved as an extended family in 1797 to Alfoxden, and, in 1799, to Grasmere. With William's wife, Mary, Wordsworth helped to care for the house and for Mary and William's children. She also made a number of significant journeys throughout the ensuing decades, each of which contributed to her famous journals. In 1812, after the death of William's children Catherine and Thomas, the family moved to Rydal Mount, where Wordsworth remained until her death. For about the last ten years of her life, she suffered ill health, both physical and mental, and she died at age eighty-three, five years after her brother's death.
With her brother William and their close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth lived at the center of the literary world of English Romanticism. She wrote her unpublished and privately read (by friends and relatives) journals while William Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote some of the most famous Romantic poetry. Both authors brought Wordsworth's literature to the public eye by making use, sometimes liberally, of her imagery and observations. The Alfoxden Journal, written in 1798 (published in 1958), for example, rich with descriptions of both the natural world and the social world, provided language and metaphor for William Wordsworth's poems “Beggars” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” The Grasmere Journals, compiled from 1800 to 1803 (also first published in 1958), detail the complex relationship between the Wordsworth siblings—including a mutual devotion that has resulted in considerable wonderment and commentary. These journals also contain some very evocative depictions of Wordsworth's conflict and consternation regarding her role as a woman in nineteenth-century England, unmarried in another family's home, and committed to her brother's writing above her own. Critics consider her next key work to be Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, A.D. 1803 (1874), a tour Wordsworth made with William and Coleridge (and without Mary and her children). As was not the case with her journals, Wordsworth wrote this meticulous travel journal for an audience of appreciative friends, though this, too, despite the circulation of five manuscripts, was only published posthumously. Other major texts include George and Sarah Green: A Narrative (written around 1808 and published in 1936), a prose meditation describing her community's response to the death of a local couple in a snowstorm and the orphaning of their eight children. Critics have noted how much the narrative reveals about Wordsworth's involvement with the community, as well as the depth of her philosophical ruminations about the nature of community and social responsibility. Wordsworth also wrote poetry throughout her writing career, often around the theme of childhood—her own and that of her brother's children. Three of those poems—“To my Niece Dorothy, a sleepless Baby,” “An address to a Child in a high wind,” and “The Mother's Return”—were published in a collection of her brother's without her name attached; the rest, around thirty, were published posthumously, nearly a century after her death.
Since the earliest publications of her work, critics have noted their appreciation of Wordsworth's scrupulous attention to detail and her willingness to let that detail evoke broader concerns. Her work is rich with implication rather than overt revelation, but still manages to relate much about her own intellectual, psychological, and emotional development, and, theorists suggest, that of other women in similar situations. Her tendency to include information about women in circumstances other than her own, especially vagrants, many of whom came to her door, has yielded similar insight. Admiration of her unpretentious language, vivid imagery, and musical prose is common to the modern commentary on Wordsworth's work. Since their publication, commentators have scrutinized the relationship between Wordsworth's journals and her brother's poetry, sometimes crediting her as an essential inspiration to his genius. The journals have also offered literary critics and biographers valuable information about William Wordsworth's life and works. In the latter half of the twentieth century, critics have analyzed the journals' relationship to the picturesque and Romantic traditions, arguing for more inquiry into Wordsworth's rhetoric. Critics increasingly read her domestic vignettes as subtle social analyses that explore the role of the individual in his or her various communities. More recently, the journals have led critics to discuss what constitutes a literary text, an author, or an authority, raising questions about the relationship between gender and subjectivity. Throughout, critics remain fascinated by how, despite the scarcity of the first person pronoun in her journals, such a bold portrait of the author emerges from their pages.
Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, A.D. 1803 (journal) 1874
*Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. 2 vols. (journals) 1897; expanded and revised edition, 1941
The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. 6 vols. (letters) 1935-39; revised edition, 1967-93
George and Sarah Green: A Narrative (prose) 1936
The Poetry of Dorothy Wordsworth: Edited from the Journals (poetry) 1940
Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth: The Alfoxden Journal, 1798; The Grasmere Journals, 1800-1803 (journals) 1958; revised edition, 1971
†Dove Cottage: The Wordsworths at Grasmere, 1799-1803 (journal and letters) 1966
‡The Collected Poems of Dorothy Wordsworth (poetry) 1987
*The revised edition contains the most complete version of the Journal of a Tour on the Continent.
†This work includes letters by William Wordsworth.
‡Published as Appendix One of Dorothy Wordsworth and Romanticism.
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SOURCE: “Editor's Literary Record.” Harper's New Monthly Magazine 50 (December 1874): 137.
[In the following excerpted review, the anonymous author assesses Wordsworth's Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland, making special note of the preface written by the journal's editor.]
Not the least interesting part of Dorothy Wordsworth's Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland, a.d. 1803 (G. P. Putnam's Sons) is the preface by the editor, Principal J. C. Shairp. Those readers who recall De Quincey's graphic and gossipy account of Wordsworth and his sister will read with peculiar zest, heightened by this glimpse of the poet's simple life, Principal Shairp's brief biographical sketch; and all who delight to visit personally and familiarly those whom they have learned to love in and through literature will only regret that the visit he permits us to make is so short. Of Dorothy's character we get a very pleasant picture, and rejoice to add her name to the great host of comparatively unknown women whose influence and aid have contributed so much to make the world's great men great. She seems to have kept house for her brother; she was his amanuensis, transcribing his manuscripts for the press; her poetic spirit often suggested the thoughts which he clothed in poetic forms. She lived in and for him, and his marriage did nothing to lessen the sympathy between them. The record of their...
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SOURCE: “Review of Dorothy Wordsworth.” The Literary World (19 February 1887): 54-55.
[In the following review, the anonymous author praises Edmund Lee's biography of Dorothy Wordsworth for its unusually full appreciation of Wordsworth's intellect and personality.]
In the literary annals of later England the name of Dorothy Wordsworth holds an honored place, and yet to the majority of readers she who bore the name has been little more than a gracious satellite shining in the glory of her famous brother. Wordsworth himself spoke of her in no doubtful way, likening her to the spring that went before his steps and strewed his path with flowers. We find, too, affectionate tributes to her fine qualities of mind and heart in the pages of Coleridge and De Quincey. Principal Shairp, as late as 1874, edited passages from her journal recording the experiences of a tour in Scotland made with her brother and Coleridge in 1803, and to this work the editor prefixed a brief memorial of the author. And in the writings of many who have dealt with the so-called lake school and the lake country Dorothy Wordsworth is the subject of suggestive reflection and affectionate remembrance. It has remained for Mr. Edmund Lee, an ardent Wordsworthian, to gather up these scattered threads of biography and weave them together into an agreeable and valuable narrative. He...
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SOURCE: Davis, Robert Con. “The Structure of the Picturesque: Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals.” The Wordsworth Circle 9, no. 1 (winter 1978): 45-49.
[In the following essay, Davis finds that Wordsworth's journals investigate some of the philosophical implications of the picturesque.]
Essentially an eighteenth-century aesthetic, the picturesque was eventually rejected by most Romantic poets. Relying heavily on the picturesque in the Alfoxden-Grasmere journals, Dorothy Wordsworth raised two important questions about its meaning. What does the picturesque say about man and nature, about the phenomenal world? And, why does it collide with Romantic sensibility? While praised for their descriptive power, her journals are regarded usually as embroidery with some small influence on William Wordsworth's poetry; whereas, as nature literature, the journals place man in nature, and in so doing show their own compositional integrity. It is, then, as literary texts in themselves that they probe the picturesque and reveal its structure.
For instance, in the first paragraph of the Alfoxden journal is a striking model of visual ordering in nature that will be repeated throughout both journals:
Alfoxden, 20th January 1798. The green paths down the hillsides are channels for streams. The young wheat is streaked by silver lines of water...
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SOURCE: Liu, Alan. “On the Autobiographical Present: Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journals.” Criticism 26, no. 2 (spring 1984): 115-37.
[In the following essay, Liu asserts that Wordsworth is a master at representing the self as part of its present occupation, a relationship he paraphrases as “I work therefore I am.”]
A genius of the journalistic is Dorothy Wordsworth, who in 1801 became the keeper of William's memorial genius. Writes Dorothy to Coleridge on May 22, 1801:
Poor William! his stomach is in bad plight. We have put aside all the manuscript poems and it is agreed between us that I am not to give them up to him even if he asks for them.1
After William's work on “Home at Grasmere” trailed off in early 1800, and after brother and sister finished sending Lyrical Ballads to the publisher at the end of that year, there was virtually no poetic composition by William until his renewed interest in “The Pedlar” in early 1802. No comparable period in the poet's early career, except those occupied by extensive trips or visits, was quite so empty.2 In this white space of suppressed manuscripts, the labors of poetic memory subsided back into the elemental, gut-comfort of day-by-day existence. And the regulatory muse of the day-by-day was Dorothy, whose Grasmere Journals spoke on...
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SOURCE: McGavran, James Holt, Jr. “Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals: Putting Herself Down.” In The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women's Autobiographical Writings, edited by Shari Benstock, pp. 230-53. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
[In the following essay, portions of which were presented in 1982, McGavran explores William Wordsworth's impact on Dorothy's perceptions and representations, especially of herself.]
The “beauteous forms” of the Wye valley, which William Wordsworth simultaneously describes, remembers, and idealizes for his sister Dorothy in “Tintern Abbey,” enable him through sense, emotion, and thought—blood, heart, and mind (28-29)—to discover the enlarged, powerful self, the “living soul” that can reciprocally “see into the life of things” (46, 49) and subsequently record its vision in poetry. No longer is the external world “a landscape to a blind man's eye” (24); indeed, “All which we behold / Is full of blessings” (133-34), he assures her, thus further emphasizing the crucial importance of perception in his attempts to marry the mind and nature, subject and object, in his writings. Wordsworth realized that his readers, in turn, must see his poems imaginatively if they were to behold the blessings there. Thus he succinctly challenges the reader in “Simon Lee,” “Perhaps a tale you'll make it” (72), while in “Tintern...
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SOURCE: Wolfson, Susan J. “Individual in Community: Dorothy Wordsworth in Conversation with William.” In Romanticism and Feminism, edited by Anne K. Mellor, pp. 139-66. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
[In the following essay, Wolfson asserts that Dorothy Wordsworth's poetry reveals a desire to investigate and, in some cases, reject William Wordsworth's “favored tropes and figures.”]
Dorothy Wordsworth is known primarily as a writer of journals and recollections, and though passages in these works have impressed readers such as Virginia Woolf with “the gift of the poet,” her actual poetry has attracted little critical attention and even less acclaim.1 The usual remark is that it lacks literary merit, especially when compared to that of the other writer and chief poet of the household, William Wordsworth. More recently, her poems have been read as documents revealing the inhibitions of “a literary tradition that depends on and reinforces the masculine orientation of language and of the poet”2—an approach that has renewed interest in her poetry, but sometimes at the expense of confining its significance to that interpretive matrix alone. In this essay I want to suggest how some of Dorothy Wordsworth's poems, and one of her narratives, are not always so restricted, but reveal efforts to test modes of experience and...
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SOURCE: McCormick, Anita Hempill. “‘I shall be beloved—I want no more’: Dorothy Wordsworth's Rhetoric and the Appeal to Feeling in The Grasmere Journals.” Philological Quarterly 69, no. 4 (fall 1990): 471-93.
[In the following essay, McCormick argues for a more complex analysis of Wordsworth's rhetoric in the Grasmere Journals.]
Traditionally the readers of Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, from Virginia Woolf to her recent biographers Robert Gittings and Jo Manton, have seen her writing as transparent and Dorothy as transparently selfless. Such influential scholars as Ernest de Selincourt and Mary Moorman portray Dorothy Wordsworth as an ideally supportive and self-sacrificing sister, utterly devoted to her brother's welfare.1 For such readers her later madness is an inexplicable development in a personality whose traits altered radically and without warning, since according to her nephew by marriage it demonstrated that Dorothy was “all self.”2 Richard Fadem has written that such critics
were made uncomfortable by her insanity, for it implies a nature that was neither as stable nor as perfect as they insist … They contend, therefore, that for over sixty years Dorothy was not only altogether happy but also healthy, leaving us to assume that in hardly more than a few days she disappears without warning through the trap door of...
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SOURCE: Woof, Pamela. “Dorothy Wordsworth and the Pleasures of Recognition: An Approach to the Travel Journals.” The Wordsworth Circle 22, no. 3 (summer 1991): 150-160.
[In the following excerpt, Woof praises Wordsworth's journals for their “humanness” and unique expressions of pleasure.]
Journals we shall have in number sufficient to fill a Lady's bookshelf,—for all, except my Brother, write a Journal.
(MY, II, 625)
So Dorothy Wordsworth to Catherine Clarkson at the beginning of the Continental Tour on July 23, 1820. A shelf-full of Journals! And Wordsworth, though he refrained from a Journal, produced more poems than for the Scottish Recollections of 1803. Further Journals were written in 1822 for the second Scottish Tour. And there were letters; these have an immediacy not quite allowed to the Journals. Here, for instance, is Mary Wordsworth's personal fear when left alone “under a great waterfall amongst the hills … If any one should come near me and I was unable to speak to them [because she couldn't speak German] and if W should be bewildered in the black wood above!” (Letters of Mary Wordsworth, ed. Mary E. Burton  p. 63). This, of course, is omitted from the Journal, as is Dorothy's impatience with Italians, clear from a letter from Milan to Catherine Clarkson: “One of...
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SOURCE: Snyder, William C. “Mother Nature's Other Natures: Landscape in Women's Writing, 1770-1830.” Women's Studies 21, no. 2 (1992): 143-62.
[In the following essay, Snyder contends that the picturesque movement provided particular intellectual opportunity for women artists, Wordsworth among them.]
In the last three decades of the eighteenth century, the merging of two concurrent phenomena—the solidification of picturesque values and the proliferation of women artists—yields an imagery that resists seeing Nature as Mother. Progressive women artists at the end of the century and even through Romanticism tend to limit mothering impulses to human expression, while rendering external Nature as multifaceted and integrative, patterned but not personified. Individualized re-creation of a Nature mystically charged with fertility may have been brilliance of a kind, but as this new sensibility replaced the insistent patriarchism of the neo-classical style, the female was no less marginalized, fit to the role of praiseworthy Mother. Thus, enterprising women artists at the end of the eighteenth century were forced to explore an aesthetic space free from male metaphors of hierarchy—Nature as the great chain of being—or of maternality—Nature as the milk of paradise.1 They drew the self not as individualized against natural and social barriers, but as communalized with other and Nature. Their...
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SOURCE: Woof, Pamela. “Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals and the Engendering of Poetry.” In Wordsworth in Context, edited by Pauline Fletcher and John Murphy, pp. 122-55. Canterbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1992.
[In the following essay, Woof studies the relationships between Dorothy Wordsworth's journals and William Wordsworth's poems.]
The story of how some of Wordsworth's poetry was engendered can be pieced together from Dorothy's Journal, and this will be the subject of the first part of this paper. The second part will be a discussion of some of the characteristics of prose poetry that Dorothy engendered in her own writing. Her accounts of daily life, by no means shaped for artistic effect, nevertheless sometimes attained that effect; her words often surprise us as poetry does with that sudden surge into truth.
The poem “Beggars” was written 13-14 March 1802; its origin lay in an encounter that took place on 27 May 1800, almost two years before. Dorothy recorded on that day:
I walked to Ambleside with letters—met the post before I reached Mr Partridges, one paper, only a letter for Coleridge—I expected a letter from Wm. It was a sweet morning, the ashes in the valleys nearly in full leaf but still to be distinguished, quite bare on the higher grounds. I was warm in returning, &...
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SOURCE: Meiners, Katherine T. “Reading Pain and the Feminine Body in Romantic Writing: The Examples of Dorothy Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge.” The Centennial Review 37, no. 3 (fall 1993): 487-512.
[In the following essay, Meiners considers the role of the experience of suffering in the creation of meaning and selfhood for Romantic writers, including Dorothy Wordsworth.]
Romantic Encounters with illness and pain precipitate crises of intelligibility, moments when intense pain makes a sufferer unintelligible to others as much as to herself. The nineteenth-century witnesses an increased tendency to professionalize such suffering and turn pain into an event to be objectified and co-opted by other intelligibilities, including those of poetry and medicine. This essay will address Romantic understanding as a complex cultural practice greater than the making of literature which is inclined to seek its remedies for human suffering outside the medical disciplines as much as within them.
The experience of suffering pain routinely enters and engages the attention of the Romantic family, and familiar Romantic poems such as “Frost at Midnight” and “Tintern Abbey” may be seen as therapeutic exercises which invoke the Romantic family as the irreducible foundation of human experience and feeling.1 When considering the claims of women writers to the...
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SOURCE: Cole, Lucinda and Richard G. Swartz. “‘Why Should I wish for Words?’: Literacy, Articulation, and the Borders of Literary Culture.” In At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism, edited by Mary A. Favret and Nicola J. Watson, pp. 143-69. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
[In the following excerpt, the authors recognize the role that Wordsworth and other women writers of the eighteenth century played in the struggle to “police, protect, and promote the bounds of literariness itself.”]
LITERACY, GENDER, AND THE WRITING OF CULTURE
Near the end of his life William Wordsworth argued that the humbler ranks of society could not “benefit” from the natural landscapes of the Lake District because “the perception of what has acquired the name of picturesque and romantic scenery is so far from being intuitive, that it can be produced only by a slow and gradual process of culture …” (Guide, 157). Significantly, he does not say that the poor would fail to enjoy the impressive prospects of this area, but that because they lack the ability to “name” what they see, the positive effects of picturesque and romantic (as well as sublime) scenery would be lost on them. Underwriting Wordsworth's comment, then, is first a view of the aesthetic as a carefully refined vocabulary, as a system of classifications...
(The entire section is 9990 words.)
SOURCE: Cook, Kay K. “Immersion.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 10, no. 1 (spring 1995): 66-80.
[In the following essay, Cook claims that Wordsworth's journals constitute autobiography despite the absence of the first person pronoun.]
The following passage from Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere journal captures fragments of a day in early autumn. The year is 1800, and Wordsworth and her brother William have recently moved into Dove Cottage, Grasmere, in the English Lake District:
[September] 14th, Sunday Morning. Made bread. A sore thumb from a cut. A lovely day. Read Boswell in the house in the morning, and after dinner under the bright yellow leaves of the orchard. The pear trees a bright yellow. The apple trees green still. A sweet lovely afternoon.
Two years later, in the spring of 1802, Dorothy and William are still living in Grasmere, but their time alone is about to draw to a close; William will marry Mary Hutchinson in the fall and bring her to Dove Cottage to live with him and Dorothy. Dorothy is still writing of her surroundings, both visual and auditory:
May 6, Thursday. We have put the finishing stroke to our bower, and here we are sitting in the orchard. … The small birds are singing, lambs bleating, cuckow calling, the thrush sings by...
(The entire section is 6357 words.)
SOURCE: Tyler, Lisa. “Big Brother Is Watching You: Dorothy Wordsworth's Alfoxden and Grasmere Journals.” University of Dayton Review 23, no. 2 (spring 1995): 87-98.
[In the following essay, an abbreviated version of which was presented in 1993, Tyler reads Wordsworth absence from her journals as a narrative strategy of self-protection designed to prevent her brother from appropriating her personal observations.]
The chief observation—and critique—that virtually everyone makes regarding Dorothy Wordsworth's journals is that they display an alarming absence of subjectivity. Critics use almost identical terms to describe this quality in the journals: Bruce Bawer notes that “perhaps what is most arresting about them is their utter unself-consciousness” (30); Ernest de Selincourt describes her journals as “entirely without self-consciousness” (78). Margaret Homans notes “Dorothy's tendency to omit a central or prominent self” (Women 73). Richard Fadem comments, “If Dorothy is notable, as every biographer agrees, for her utter selflessness, she is also remarkable for the absence of a clearly discernible self” (17). Robert Gittings and Jo Manton, Dorothy's most recent biographers, add, “The paradox of her unique style is that it is no style. … The acute observation by Dorothy is there, but no Dorothy herself” (77).
Why is Dorothy Wordsworth so mysteriously...
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SOURCE: Easley, Alexis. “Wandering Women: Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journals and the Discourse on Female Vagrancy.” Women's Writing 3, no. 1 (1996): 63-77.
[In the following essay, Easley scrutinizes Wordsworth's ideological relationship to the vagrant women who are frequently mentioned in her journals.]
DOROTHY WORDSWORTH IN CONTEXT
During the time that Dorothy Wordsworth was composing the Grasmere Journals (1800-1803), English society was engaged in a heated debate over what to do about the vagrant poor. Industrialization and enclosure laws had produced a large transient population that traveled from parish to parish, peddling, begging, or looking for work. Like many writers of the period, Dorothy Wordsworth attempted to depict the poverty she saw around her—particularly the many wanderers she encountered on the footpaths and at her doorstep. Many recent critics have praised the sensitivity of these portrayals, claiming that Dorothy Wordsworth presents her observations of the poor as expressions of her sympathy, rather than as a means through which to express her political viewpoints on poverty.1 Wordsworth's views toward the poor are most often described by critics as being outside of prevailing social and moral standards: she is depicted as a sympathetic and charitable friend of the poor, who does not pass moral judgement on the vagrants in...
(The entire section is 7190 words.)
SOURCE: Grob, Alan. “William and Dorothy: A Case Study in the Hermeneutics of Disparagement.” ELH 65, no. 1 (spring 1998): 187-221.
[In the following essay, Grob purports that, at the end of the twentieth century, “adversarial tactics of feminism and the New Historicism” have distorted Wordsworth scholarship.]
Of the convulsive changes that have worked their way through the field of Romantic—and especially Wordsworthian—studies during the postmodernity of the past thirty years, none seems more truly ominous than many critics' virtually wholesale adoption in the past decade of those adversarial presuppositions that now seem to shape and govern almost all undertakings of any real influence in the field. While the term “adversarial” has become a critical commonplace, its meaning self-evident, its pertinence for my purposes derives from a casual remark made by Marjorie Levinson in her plainly seminal Wordsworth's Great Period Poems, her observation that adoption by the New Historicism of feminism's “adversarial tactics” served as a major point of affinity between the two movements, movements which I should add were understood to be essentially disparate when Levinson used the term in 1986 but now clearly are rapidly coalescing.1 As a consequence of the undeniable ascendancy of these critical schools, what has seemingly emerged in Romantic studies, almost by consensus, is...
(The entire section is 15124 words.)
SOURCE: Vlasopolos, Anca. “Texted Selves: Dorothy and William Wordsworth in The Grasmere Journals.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 14, no. 1 (summer 1999): 118-36.
[In the following essay, Vlasopolos considers The Grasmere Journals in the context of late-twentieth-century notions of gender and authorial integrity.]
OFFERING AND TAKING DOROTHY'S TEXTUAL SELF
Anyone undertaking a reading of The Grasmere Journals will be going over much traveled terrain, especially in regard to the relations between Dorothy and William during those crucial years that confirmed Dorothy as William's lifetime companion and William as a poet. To the able and subtle exegeses of Dorothy's Journals, I add late-twentieth-century interrogations about authorial integrity, about resistance to domestication and complicity with it in the construction of gendered textual personae. The Grasmere Journals is the production of an intellectual, audience-driven author who succeeds in creating a textual self so convincing as to have been taken for the “real” Dorothy Wordsworth. In the Journals we see an elaboration of a persona that is different from the Dorothy of the letters, from contemporary accounts of the Dorothy that greeted visitors to Dove Cottage, and no doubt from the way in which she was seen by those mendicants to whom she gave as much as, sometimes more than,...
(The entire section is 8809 words.)
SOURCE: Ehnnen, Jill. “Writing Against, Writing Through: Subjectivity, Vocation, and Authorship in the Work of Dorothy Wordsworth.” South Atlantic Review 64, no. 1 (winter 1999): 72-90.
[In the following essay, Ehnnen considers Dorothy Wordsworth's authority as a writer within the context of the intricate issues of female subjectivity found in the Romantic movement.]
In the past few years I've taught selections from Dorothy Wordsworth's journals to undergraduates several times—both in introductory surveys and in seminars on British Romanticism. This paper is motivated partially by my students' reader responses to Dorothy's work. Each time I assign the texts without introductory statements. And each time, the students' journal entries and class participation invariably present the same thought—a good percentage are convinced, as F. W. Bateson suggested over forty years ago, that an incestuous relationship existed between Dorothy and her brother, William.
Dorothy Wordsworth's Alfoxden and Grasmere journals (1798-1803) pose a problem for readers because her work does not fit late twentieth-century paradigms of sibling relationships or intersubjective power dynamics. In the 1990s' age of empowerment, the students feel, it's not normal for the individuated subject to efface the self. The students want a motivation for Dorothy's selfless devotion to William, and find that...
(The entire section is 6690 words.)
Fadem, Richard. “Dorothy Wordsworth: A View from ‘Tintern Abbey.’” The Wordsworth Circle 9, no. 1 (winter 1978): 17-32.
Focuses on the question of Wordsworth's sanity.
Lee, Edmund. Dorothy Wordsworth; the story of a sister's love. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1887, 226 p.
Provides an early discussion of Wordsworth's life.
Willy, Margaret. “Dorothy Wordsworth.” In Three Women Diarists, pp. 19-31. London: Longmans, Green & Company, 1964.
Comments on Wordsworth's life and writings.
Alexander, Meena. “Dorothy Wordsworth: The Grounds of Writing.” Women's Studies 14, no. 3 (February 1988): 195-210.
Considers the lack of a public sphere for Wordsworth as a writer.
Boden, Helen. “Matrilinear Journalising: Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth's 1829 Continental Tours and the Female Sublime.” Women's Writing 5, no. 3 (1998): 329-52.
Focuses mostly on Mary Wordsworth but also discusses Dorothy Wordsworth's contributions to the “female sublime.”
Homans, Margaret. “Dorothy Wordsworth.” In Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, and Emily Dickinson, pp. 41-103. Princeton: Princeton University Press,...
(The entire section is 509 words.)