Saturday, 10 January 2009


Dove Cottage was a home to William Wordsworth for just under a decade. Here he lived with his sister Dorothy, and later was joined by his wife Mary Hutchinson and their children. Wordsworth and his sister moved here in on December 20th 1799. This was around the same time of year that I visited the museum for my interview, and the view from our century was of the Cumbrian landscape quilted in snow. The lakes as black as pupils, holding the image of the white peaks all the more clearly. Under the climate of Europe's Little Ice Age we can assume that such sights greeted the siblings on their arrival. Then the house, previously the Dove and Olive inn, would have looked out over the mere itself as our terraces a future obstruction. When they took up their tenancy the building had been unoccupied since the inn had closed for business in the early 1790s. I wonder if someone had kindly gone in to make a fire before their arrival, so the flagstones should not be as unwelcomingly cold. I think for all the Romantic feeling in the world it is perhaps hard to fall in love with a house if it does not give some relief from the harsh natural world it is set within.

I had been to the cottage once before, and the memory had belied how small the place is. The rooms are not cramped--most citizens of the country at the time would surely have considered their proportions palatial--but they are not large, and the ceilings are low (which makes me feel of a normal stature for once). In that first experience my mind had adhered to peculiar historical facts, most insistently that tea was locked in a caddy while opium was less well guarded. On the subject of opium, Thomas de Quincey, author of the Confessions of an English Opium Eater, stayed with Wordsworth and loved the cottage so much that he took up the tenancy after the family left. De Quincey was far form being their only guest, and it seems one of the reasons for the Wordsworths left was apparently the lack of space, friends--among them many famous figures of their day--sleeping on the flagstone floor. However, such numbers pale in comparison to the present day; Dove Cottage now sees approximately 70 000 visitors a year.

It is less than a fortnight until I am resident in Grasmere. I will be part of a year-long internship programme at the Wordsworth Trust with nine others. At this stage I'm excited and totally unorganised for the move. As interns we will be working at Dove Cottage and the museum there, living just across the road in the terraced houses that make up most of Grasmere's beautifully monikered 'Town End'.

This blog will be about a multitude of things, including the conservation and heritage work I will be getting an education in. It will also be a space for writing about the Romantics, both those who made this place famous and those connected to them (and they are mostly connected, Romantic writing is about and of a community), and about contemporary poetry, which also has its place in the Wordsworth Trust.

It's this complementarity of Romantic and contemporary poetry that has brought me to the Wordsworth Trust. I hope you enjoy reading this journal.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Emily,

    Looking forward to seeing how this develops! Also hope you post some poems from Grasmere...