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The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – September 1, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dorothy Mae Ann Wordsworth (1771 1855) was an English author, poet and diarist.

Woof lectures part-time in Literature at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536870
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.7 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Dorothy Wordsworth's journals are an exquisite and delicate record of everyday life with the Wordsworths (Dorothy, William, Mary, his wife, and their close network of friends like Coleridge and Sara Hutchinson). Most interesting are her depictions of the landscapes and her descriptions of the marginalised peoples. Her journals note down destitute figures, a begger woman and her sons, a woman who drowned herself, two beggers, the plodding mail man etc.
Dorothy opens the window to a domesticated William Wordsworth, the Poet, at work in the acts of creation. Sunday Morning [14th of March 1802] reads, "...while we were at Breakfast that is (for I had breakfasted) he, with his Basin of Broth before him untouched and a little plate of Bread and butter he wrote the Poem to a Butterfly! He ate not a morsel, nor put on his stockings but sate with his shirt neck unbuttoned, and his waistcoat open while he did it."
Many literary critics have chosen to see Dorothy Wordsworth as a shadow of her brother, these readers say that Dorothy does not pocess a coherent self and they fault the patriarchal powers for her lack of an active self. I see Dorothy Wordsworth as a delicate, compassionate and kind person with "A Passion for the Particular."* She is, I feel, well aware of her self as a self, and also well aware of other selves as themselves. Her journal is littered with what she does achieves in her daily life.
This journal is a fantastic bedtime read. Her unique and careful narrative style, her emphasis and focus on truthful detail, all these make reading the journal a real pleasure. I only wish I discovered her earlier.
* This phrase is taken from the title of Elizabeth Gunn's book on Dorothy Wordsworth.
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Format: Paperback
---In the Journals Dorothy Wordsworth kept at Grasmere the questions we ask of so many diaries--why and for whom they were written--are answered simply: "To please William." Then without loud announcement, they transcend, page after page, their modest aim. Her journals, like Keats's letters, were the result of a separation-- but this time a separation ended. Dorothy and William had lived apart as young orphans, but a sum left William by a friend enabled them to live together in a frugal but complete independence. In this reunion, and in finding a home, Dorothy seems to have entered into all she wanted; her content at being able to walk with William and their friend Coleridge and to see the variety of the seasons is the source of the calm daylit radiance that suffuses even the simplest sentences of the Journal. She records ungrudgingly the hardships of a northern life--headaches and icy waters--and of course all earthly Edens come to an end: she suffered late in life from both physical and mental illness. But the two years of the Grasmere journals especially are the record of a Franciscan joy in the life daily around us. "Wordsworth's exquisite sister," Coleridge called her, and she earned the epithet.
There have been several good editions of the Grasmere and Alfoxden journals: the current paperback from Oxford is good. If you want to go whole hog for Dorothy, search out Ernest de Selincourt's two-volume complete edition (Macmillan, 1941)--not in print but not that hard to find. There's a good selection of her letters, edited by Alan G. Hill, from Oxford. The biography by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton (DOROTHY WORDSWORTH, Oxford) is out of print but available cheaply secondhand. Still the wisest and most readable selection of Wordsworth's poems is the SELECTED POETRY edited by Mark Van Doren for Modern Library in 1950.

Glenn Shea, from Glenn's Book Notes at www.bookbarnniantic.com
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I love Wordsworth. Discovering his poems at a very early age was one of those rare watershed moments for me, to which anyone possessed of a deep love of reading can relate. It was one of those rare epiphanies when you realise that someone feels the same way that you do and, more to the point, has been able -seemingly effortlessly - to put these deepest feelings that you have never been able to articulate, have well-nigh despaired of articulating, into beautiful language. Discovering Wordsworth came to nothing less than discovering that I was not alone in the world, that I never need be so again as long as I had books.

But this book is not about Wordsworth, as I had hoped, after realising that he was the one figure in my literary pantheon about whom I'd never read a full biography; neither is it about his poetry. It is rather a boring set of journal entries by his sister, Dorothy. Well, that's half the book. The other half consists of Ms. Woof's tedious notes upon these tedious entries, making such things as the location of the Wordsworth privy in relation to Dove Cottage (The Wordsworth House) eminently clear to the reader. Now, should I ever visit the Lake District again via the "Lake District Roundabout" - things have changed a bit in 200 years, I shall know exactly where Wordsworth and sister micturated and defecated - but precious little else.

For pedants only, I should think, for those who can say with a sneer rather than with a sigh:

"Where is it now, the glory and the dream?"
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