The Grasmere Journals | Study Guide

Dorothy Wordsworth

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The Grasmere Journals | Summary



Book 1

Dorothy Wordsworth, living in Dove Cottage in Grasmere, England, resolves to keep a journal while her brother William is away for a short time that he can enjoy reading on his return. She writes of the people she encounters, including a very tall beggar woman who comes to the door. Later, Dorothy sees the woman's sons, who closely resemble the woman. She describes too an elderly man, dressed in ragged clothes, bent nearly double. He tells her he was once a leech gatherer, but they have become too scarce.

Dorothy records her daily activities, including reading, correspondence, acts of charity, and chores. She delights in describing the nature she observes in her nearly daily walks. Only her brother's absence makes time spent outside melancholy. After William's return, their close friends Samuel and Sara Coleridge come to Grasmere to visit. Sara Hutchinson, a childhood friend, also visits Dove Cottage.

Book 2

Mary and Tom Hutchinson visit Grasmere. Tom and Dorothy enjoy a day on horseback with spectacular views. Most of the fall is quite rainy. They travel on foot to visit the Coleridge family in Keswick. Mary comes back with them to Grasmere, and the three enjoy cozy evenings reading and lovely autumn walks. Dorothy and William are increasingly worried for their friend Coleridge, however. His health is poor, and his marriage is strained.

William is hard at work composing poetry. Dorothy helps him revise and copy his work. She notes that Coleridge is not contributing anything to a second volume of Lyrical Ballads.

Book 3

Dorothy and William visit their friends, the Clarksons, in Eusemere. Back in Grasmere, they are visited by a sailor on a journey. Dorothy records his stories of adventure from the sea. She also describes an afternoon walk with William on which they came across a large drift of daffodils along the edge of a lake. The flowers seem to sway happily in the wind.

Outside Dorothy's window in Dove Cottage, she watches the progress of two swallows building a nest. She is alarmed when the nest falls, but the birds persist in building it. They seem resolved to stay in their little nest, much to her delight.

Dorothy and William travel to Yorkshire, then to London and Dover. From Dover they cross to France. In Calais they spend about a month visiting Annette and Caroline before returning to Dover and London. After a month in London, the siblings travel back to the Hutchinsons' in Yorkshire where William weds Mary. The three make their way back to Grasmere to live together in the cottage. Dorothy settles into life with her new sister.

Book 4

Dorothy spends New Year's with the Coleridge family in Keswick. Although she commits to writing in her journal more often, after just a few entries about the cold January weather and their daily activities, the journal ends.

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