Dorothy Wordsworth

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How would one analyze the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth in a two-page journal entry?

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A topic you might choose for your own journal entry about Dorothy Wordsworth's journal is the author's attitude to the many beggars she encounters. Given that the Wordsworths had a relatively comfortable and tranquil life at Grasmere, and in the other places where they stayed, this is the main form of hardship that encroached on their lives. The following extracts provide plentiful material for analysis, and there are several others you might include.

Monday 9th June 1800. ... In the evening I stuck peas, watered the garden, and planted brocoli. Did not walk, for it was very cold. A poor girl called to beg, who had no work, and was going in search of it to Kendal. She slept in Mr. Benson's ... and went off after breakfast in the morning with 7d. and a letter to the Mayor of Kendal.

This extract shows how much a matter of routine it was for beggars to come to the door of the Wordsworths' cottage. However, the record of the girl's treatment also suggests that the community came together to help these beggars. This is clear not only from the fact that Mr. Benson helped her, but from Dorothy Wordsworth's detailed knowledge of the circumstances.

Tuesday 10th June 1800. ... A very tall woman, tall much beyond the measure of tall women, called at the door. She had on a very long brown cloak and a very white cap, without bonnet. Her face was excessively brown, but it had plainly once been fair. She led a little bare-footed child about two years old by the hand, and said her husband, who was a tinker, was gone before with the other children. I gave her a piece of bread. Afterwards on my way to Ambleside, beside the bridge at Rydale, I saw her husband sitting by the roadside, his two asses feeding beside him, and the two young children at play upon the grass. The man did not beg. I passed on and about a quarter of a mile further I saw two boys before me, one about 10, the other about 8 years old, at play chasing a butterfly. They were wild figures, not very ragged, but without shoes and stockings. The hat of the elder was wreathed round with yellow flowers, the younger whose hat was only a rimless crown, had stuck it round with laurel leaves. They continued at play till I drew very near, and then they addressed me with the begging cant and the whining voice of sorrow. I said "I served your mother this morning." (The boys were so like the woman who had called at ... that I could not be mistaken.) "O!" says the elder, "you could not serve my mother for she's dead, and my father's on at the next town—he's a potter." I persisted in my assertion, and that I would give them nothing.

This passage comes from the very next day and is part of one of the longer entries in the diary. It shows how large families lived by begging, with the children learning to beg from their parents, as if it were a trade. Wordsworth is prepared to help the mother who comes to her door but then feels she has done as much as she needs to do for this particular family. Though she refuses to give the boy anything and notes that he is lying, she does not reproach him for doing so. The section shows how Wordsworth was prepared to be charitable, both financially and intellectually, but felt obliged to set clear limits on both forms of charity.

Friday 3rd October 1800. ... His trade was to gather leeches, but now leeches were scarce, and he had not strength for it. He lived by begging, and was making his way to Carlisle, where he should buy a few godly books to sell. He said leeches were very scarce, partly owing to this dry season, but many years they have been scarce. He supposed it owing to their being much sought after, that they did not breed fast, and were of slow growth. Leeches were formerly 2s. 6d. per 100; they are now 30s. He had been hurt in driving a cart, his leg broken, his body driven over, his skull fractured. He felt no pain till he recovered from his first insensibility.

This concerns a man who has been forced by a series of misfortunes to take up begging. The detail in the entry (from which this is only an extract) shows that Wordsworth spoke to him at some length and inquired into his circumstances and background. She recounts the facts with almost journalistic precision and impartiality. A similar approach can be observed in the following extract, from an entry made over a year later:

Tuesday 22nd December 1801. ... As we came up the White Moss, we met an old man, who I saw was a beggar by his two bags hanging over his shoulder; but, from half laziness, half indifference, and wanting to try him, if he would speak, I let him pass. He said nothing, and my heart smote me. I turned back, and said, "You are begging?" "Ay," says he. I gave him something. William, judging from his appearance, joined in, "I suppose you were a sailor?" "Ay," he replied, "I have been 57 years at sea, 12 of them on board a man-of-war under Sir Hugh Palmer." "Why have you not a pension?" "I have no pension, but I could have got into Greenwich hospital, but all my officers are dead." He was 75 years of age, had a freshish colour in his cheeks, grey hair, a decent hat with a binding round the edge, the hat worn brown and glossy, his shoes were small thin shoes low in the quarters, pretty good. They had belonged to a gentleman.

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Write a two-page journal entry about the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. Be sure to include quotes or references to the parts of the journals that you refer to. Make sure you are analyzing the text and do not summarize.

A two-page journal entry about Dorothy Wordsworth's journal could unfold in several directions, so you could journal about her literary devices, quotidian events, or even how her journal relates to social media.

Your journal entry might note how Wordsworth includes literary devices in her journal, which arguably helps make it a literary document. One device you could discuss is imagery. Wordsworth vividly describes nature in many entries. For the September 12, 1800, entry, she writes, "The fern of the mountains now spreads yellow veins among the trees." On October 10, 1800, she notes the "yellow autumnal hills wrapped in sunshine." Perhaps the detailed descriptions make Wordsworth's journal intriguing. She also uses repetition, as in "A very fine ..." Maybe your journal entry could discuss how the repetition creates rhythm or familiarity.

Your journal entry might also broach the quotidian details—from the weather to what she ate to what was up with her poet brother, William Wordsworth. Perhaps you could journal on how these everyday activities engage or interest the reader.

Finally, you could consider journaling about how Wordsworth's journal links to social media. For example, if Wordsworth had access to social media, she could have taken a picture of "Jupiter over the hilltops" and posted it to one of her accounts. Instead, she documents it privately in writing. Think about how Wordsworth's journal would look on social media. Maybe you could journal about how social media and journaling help a person record and document their life.

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