Literature Study GuidesThe Grasmere JournalsBook 1 1800 August September Summary

The Grasmere Journals | Study Guide

Dorothy Wordsworth

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The Grasmere Journals | Book 1, 1800 (August–September) | Summary

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Summary

William and Coleridge visit Keswick, and while they are gone Dorothy papers William's bedroom. Despite the heat, the three friends enjoy time outside and the earliest produce from the garden, peas. On August 23 William spends all morning "composing." The two go for a walk, and William stops by the roadside to read Dorothy's poems. Late on the evening of August 31, Coleridge stops by the cottage while Dorothy walks in the moonlit garden. William comes down in his dressing gown, and Coleridge reads the two parts of a new poem he had written called "Christabel."

On September 3 Dorothy writes about attending the funeral of a poor woman with no family. Dorothy becomes struck by the brightness of the light as she leaves the dark church. In contrast to the dead, lonely woman, nature seems more sacred than ever to Dorothy, "yet more allied to human life" as well. The scene moves her to tears. She is less impressed with the priest, who she notes seeing somewhat inebriated the day before.

William and Dorothy's brother John lives in the cottage in late summer until he leaves at the end of September. Dorothy is sad, but she notes that he is only going as far as Penrith, so they will likely see him again soon.

Dorothy writes the last page of notes and the preface of Lyrical Ballads, which keep her up until midnight.

Analysis

In this section of the journal, both William and Coleridge read their work to Dorothy, and it begins to become clear that Dorothy played an important role in the creation of their poetry. William and Coleridge valued Dorothy's opinion about their poetry. Coleridge described Dorothy as "watchful in minutest observation of nature—and her taste a perfect electrometer ... at subtlest beauties." She also helps her brother by making copies of his handwritten work.

Dorothy had four brothers. John, who lived at this time with his brother and sister at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, was a sailor, which accounts for his name appearing sporadically in the journal entries. At the end of September, John was departing to captain the Earl of Abergavenny, an East Indiaman merchant vessel, one of the large trade ships that sailed between England and Asia at the time. He later died when the vessel shipwrecked in 1805. Although Dorothy was cordial with all her siblings, she was never as close to them as she was to William, just 20 months her elder.

For Dorothy, and many in the Romantic movement, there was an important connection between nature and the divine. In her description of her experience at the pauper's funeral, Dorothy illustrates her belief in a common tie between the natural and spiritual world, a force that flows through all life. Nature strikes her as more sacred than she has ever felt it to be before in the moment she emerged from the church into the brilliant sunlight. Both Dorothy and her brother find their most spiritual, transcendental experiences in nature.

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