Journal by Dorothy Wordsworth

This journal is an account of a weeklong journey that Dorothy and William Wordsworth took around Ullswater, the second largest lake in the English Lake District, in early November 1805. Though it is short—only sixteen pages—it encompasses a great deal. Wordsworth (in this introduction, “Wordsworth” refers to Dorothy) describes the landscape, the flora and fauna, and the seasonal changes with the sensitivity that characterizes her nature writing generally; she recounts local stories and customs; she notes distant events (the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, the death of Admiral Nelson), and the poverty and suffering close to home; and she writes powerfully of the memories that the different places they visit hold for her. This was not a journey in unfamiliar territory; the siblings stayed with and were accompanied by friends on their walks throughout the week, and they were traveling through terrain that they knew well.
The Morgan manuscript was not created while the Wordsworths were traveling. Though organized as a day-by-day account, it is in fact a reconstruction of the events of the week. There is an earlier version of the text at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, but that too was composed after the fact. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Grasmere manuscript was created not long after the trip itself, and the Morgan manuscript, though it cannot be dated precisely, was probably created soon after that. The Morgan manuscript is a clean, revised version of the text that Wordsworth appears to have made for Lady Margaret Beaumont, with whom she also corresponded during the trip. Sir George Howland and Lady Margaret Beaumont were friends and patrons of the Wordsworths as well as numerous other writers and artists of the period, among them Samuel Taylor Coleridge (mentioned in the text). This journal is part of a large collection of letters and manuscripts addressed to the Beaumonts, a collection purchased by the Morgan in 1959 and cataloged as MA 1581.1-297.

The blue paper wrapper in which the journal is enclosed was probably added by a later owner, not by Wordsworth. The words that appear on the first page, “a mountainous ramble / by D Wordsworth / sister to the poet,” are most likely in Lady Beaumont’s hand. In addition, the dating in the account is off by one day; the Wordsworths left Grasmere on November 6th, not the 7th, and this error carries through the text.

William Wordsworth incorporated his sister’s account, in a slightly altered form, in the 1823 edition of his Guide to the Lakes. A significant portion of the text first appeared under Dorothy Wordsworth’s name in 1883, in Transactions of the Wordsworth Society, edited by William Angus Knight. Knight then included it in his Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (Macmillan & Co.,1897). This remained the established text until Ernest de Sélincourt’s edition in his Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (Macmillan & Co., 1941), which supplemented Knight’s version of the text with readings from the Grasmere manuscript. An annotated transcription of the journal is forthcoming on the website Romantic Circles as part of a new scholarly edition of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Lake District writings, edited by Michelle Levy, Nicholas Mason, and Paul Westover. The transcription that accompanies this digital facsimile was prepared by Conor Hilton, Nicholas Mason, and Paul Westover of Brigham Young University, and it is used with the editors’ permission.

Introduction by Sal Robinson, Assistant Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, 2020.

Dorothy Wordsworth
Journal by Dorothy Wordsworth, 1805 November : autograph manuscript
Purchased from Benjamin Ifor Evans, 1954
MA 1581.233

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