The Grasmere Journals | Study Guide

Dorothy Wordsworth

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The Grasmere Journals | Quotes


I resolved to write a journal ... because I shall give William pleasure by it when he comes home again.

Dorothy, Book 1, 1800 (May–July)

Dorothy begins her journal as something to benefit and connect with William. She thinks he will enjoy reading her observations, perhaps finding in them inspiration for poetry as he has in the past. She also wishes to share her experiences from the time they are apart as a way to bridge the gap between them. The journal is designed from the start as a shared document.


Was accompanied by Mrs. Nicholson as far as Rydale. That was very kind, but God be thanked I want not society by a moonlight lake.

Dorothy, Book 1, 1800 (May–July)

Dorothy was an unconventional woman for her day. She not only walked long distances, but she had no qualms about walking alone at night. She felt a deep sense of communion with nature and had no trouble enjoying it in solitude.


The prospect looked so divinely beautiful as I never saw it ... more sacred than ... ever ... and yet more allied to human life.

Dorothy, Book 1, 1800 (August–September)

Struck by the bright sunlight after leaving a shady church for a funeral, Dorothy reflected on the brilliant beauty of her surroundings in this quote. Just prior to leaving the church, Dorothy was "affected by tears" as she stood near the coffin reflecting on the deceased woman's loneliness in death. Then she steps out of the dark church into the bright sunlight and feels the spiritual power of nature. Death—"the prospect"—suddenly became rejuvenating. Nature was imbued with divine significance to Dorothy. The beauty of nature was innately sacred, and she felt it running through all living things.


The colors of the mountains soft and rich ... sheep bleating and in lines and chains and patterns scattered over the mountains.

Dorothy, Book 1, 1800 (October–December)

Dorothy describes her observations of nature with vivid, lyrical prose. She uses her words to make her description of the shapes the sheep make on the mountain rhythmic.


I eased my heart by weeping ... O how many, many reasons I have to be anxious for him.

Dorothy, Book 2, 1801 (October–December)

Distraught over news from Coleridge, Dorothy's tears are evidence of her deep feelings and concern for her intimate friend. As Coleridge's marriage deteriorated, he failed to contribute to a second volume of poetry with William, and his health began to fail with an addiction to opium, Dorothy truly had many causes for worry.


It glanced in the wind like a flying sunshiney shower. It was a tree in shape ... but it was like a spirit of water.

Dorothy, Book 2, 1801 (October–December)

Dorothy's imagination attributes spiritual characteristics to the scenes around her. She likens the tree to a naiad, or water nymph, because of the way the sun, like a shower of water, ripples through its leaves.


We are not half thankful enough that we are ... in the condition ... we are ... This woman's was but a common case.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (January–March)

Raised to be a virtuous woman, Dorothy carried with her a sense of compassion and charity. Upset at how British society tossed away the poor, she was always interested in the stories of the beggars who came to her door, and this woman's story reminded her of just how common such desperation was. It made her thankful for her own condition in contrast.


I will ... be well when he comes back to me ... Here is one of his bitten apples! I can hardly ... throw it into the fire.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (January–March)

When William was gone on a short trip, Dorothy resolved to keep her spirits up. She was strong until she saw a leftover apple he had half-eaten, then she missed him intensely and had reservations about throwing it away.


Daffodils so beautiful ... reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (April–June)

Dorothy's description of a drift of daffodils next to a lake became the basis for William's most famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." He imitated her language of the flowers laughing and dancing.


We sat ... and William with his hand on my shoulder. We were in deep Silence & Love, a blessed hour.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (April–June)

The siblings were unusually close. Dorothy writes of a cherished, quiet moment between the two. They didn't need words to communicate their love for each other.


We walked by the sea-shore almost every evening with Annette and Caroline or William and I alone.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (July–September)

In 1802 William and Dorothy traveled to France to meet William's ex-lover Annette and his daughter Caroline, whom he hadn't seen in nearly 10 years because of a war between their two countries. The siblings spent nearly a month in France on this visit. Dorothy maintained correspondence with Annette for many years.


On Monday, 4th of October 1802, my brother William was married to Mary Hutchinson.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (October–December)

Dorothy's journal gave almost no indication that William was going to marry her best friend Mary. Dorothy states the fact of the marriage very matter-of-factly, yet Dorothy was so upset the day of the wedding that she didn't attend the ceremony. The day marks a turning point in Dorothy's life. Ever after she shares her home with Mary.


I gave him the wedding ring—with how deep a blessing! ... he slipped it again onto my finger and blessed me fervently.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (October–December)

Dorothy crossed out this quotation in her journal, and it was restored in a later published version. With this quote, Dorothy tells of an event on the morning of October 4, 1803, William's wedding day. Before her brother's wedding, Dorothy hands him the ring, which she had slept wearing the night before. The quotation suggests a very intimate and unusual moment between siblings with William slipping the ring onto Dorothy's finger, as if in ceremony. She calls her surrendering of the ring to him a deep blessing, hinting an intense pain within her heart over the marriage. The discovery of the passage containing the quote in the original journal has fueled the suspicion critics hold that there was a much stronger, likely incestuous love between the siblings. However, the slipping of the ring back onto Dorothy's finger may also represent William's promise not to abandon Dorothy in his marriage. She continues to live with William and his family until her death.


Mary and I walked, first upon the hillside, and then in John's Grove ... the first walk I had taken with my sister.

Dorothy, Book 3, 1802 (October–December)

Dorothy, who had no sisters, indicates her acceptance of Mary's changed role in her life after marrying William. The two women seem as close as ever and continue to enjoy time together as before.


I will ... for the future write regularly ... for this my resolution on Tuesday night, January 11th, 1803.

Dorothy, Book 4, 1803

Just days before the final entry in the journal, Dorothy commits to writing more often. For unknown reasons, The Grasmere Journals end in January 1803. People speculate that perhaps Dorothy became too busy caring for Mary and William's children and had no time to write. Dorothy filled the journal with her thoughts about people and nature as well as observations about William's feelings and struggles. Dorothy's choice to abandon the journal may suggest the diaries were a record of the siblings' love for each other, and with William's marriage, that part of life was over. The quote could be read as a promise to herself to carry on and accept the love as lost. However, in her heart, she could not continue on, and she closed the journal forever.

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