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THE Journals written by Dorothy Wordsworth, and her reminiscences of Tours made with her brother, are more interesting to posterity than her letters.
A few fragments from her Grasmere Journal were included by the late Bishop of Lincoln in the Memoirs of his uncle, published in 1850. The Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland in 1803, were edited in full by the late Principal Shairp in the year 1874 (third edition 1894). In 1889, I included in my Life of William Wordsworth most of the Journal written at Alfoxden, much of that referring to Hamburg, and the greater part of the longer Grasmere Journal. Some extracts from the Journal of a Tour on the Continent made in 1820 (and of a similar one written by Mrs. Wordsworth), as well as short records of subsequent visits to Scotland and to the Isle of Man, were printed in the same volume. None of these, however, were given in their entirety; nor is it desirable now to print them in extenso, except in the case of the Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland in 1803. All the Journals contain numerous trivial details, which bear ample witness to the “plain living and high thinking” of the Wordsworth household—and, in this edition, samples of these details are given—but there is no need to record all the cases in which the sister wrote, “ To-day I mended William's shirts,” or “William gathered sticks,” or “I went in search of eggs," etc. etc. In all cases, however, in which a sentence or paragraph, or several sentences and paragraphs, in the Journals are left out, the omission is indicated by means of asterisks. Nothing is omitted of any literary or biographical value.
Some persons may think that too much has been recorded, others that everything should have been printed. As to this, posterity must judge. I think that many, in future years, will value these Journals, not only as a record of the relations existing between Wordsworth and his sister, his wife her family and his friends, but also as an illustration of the remarkable literary brotherhood and sisterhood of the period.
Coming now to details.
I do not know of any Journal written at Racedown, and I do not think that Dorothy kept one while she and her brother lived in Dorsetshire. In July 1797 they took up their residence at Alfoxden ; but, so far as is known, it was not till the 20th of January 1798 that Dorothy began to write a Journal of her own and her brother's life at that place. It was continued uninterruptedly till Thursday, 22nd May 1798. It gives numerous details as to the visits of Coleridge to Alfoxden, and the Wordsworths' visits to him at NetherStowey, as well as of the circumstances under which several of their poems were composed. Many sentences in the Journal present a curious resemblance to words and phrases which occur in the poems; and there is no doubt that, as brother and sister made use of the same note-book—some of Wordsworth's own verses having been written by him in his sister's journal — the copartnery may have extended to more than the common use of the same MS.
The archaic spellings which occur in this Journal are retained; but inaccuracies —such as Bartelmy for Bartholemew, Crewkshank for Cruikshank—are corrected. In the edition of 1889 the words were printed as written in MS. ; but it is one thing to reproduce the bona fide text of a journal, or the ipsissima verba of a poet, and quite another to reproduce the incorrect spellings of his sister.
From the Journal of the days spent at Hamburg in 1798—when the Wordsworths were on their way to Goslar, and Coleridge to Ratzeburg—only a few extracts are given, dating from 14th September to 3rd October
These explain themselves.
of that year.
Of the Grasmere Journals much more is given, and a great deal that was omitted from the first volume of the Life of Wordsworth in 1889, is now printed. To many readers this will be by far the most interesting section of all Dorothy Wordsworth's writings. It not only contains exquisite descriptions of Grasmere and its district--a most felicitous record of the changes of the seasons and the progress of the year, details as to flower and tree, bird and beast, mountain and lake—but it casts a flood of light on the circumstances under which her brother's poems were composed. It also discloses much as to the doings of the Wordsworth household, of the visits of Coleridge and others, while it vividly illustrates the peasant life of Westmoreland at the beginning of this century. What I have seen of this Journal extends from 14th May to 21st December 1800, and from Toth October 1801 to 16th January 1803 It is here printed in four sections.
When the late Principal Shairp edited the Recollections of a Tour made in Scotland in 1803, he inserted an elaborate and valuable introduction, with a few explanatory and topographical notes. With the consent of Mrs. Shairp, and of the Principal's son, Sheriff J. C. Shairp, many of them are now reproduced, with the initials J. C. S. appended. As some notes were needed at these places, and I could only have slightly varied the statements of fact, it seemed better for the reader, and more respectful to the memory of such a Wordsworthian as the late Principal was, to record them as his. I cordially thank Mrs. Shairp, and her son, for their kindness in this matter. It should be added that Dorothy Wordsworth's archaic spelling of many of the
of places, such as — Lanerk, Ulswater, Strath Eyer, Loch Ketterine, Inversneyde etc., are retained.
These Recollections of the Tour made in Scotland were not all written down at the time during the journey. Many of them were “afterthoughts." The Alfoxden and Grasmere Journals were “diaries," in the sense thatexcept when the contrary is stated—they were written down day by day; but certain portions of the Scottish Journal suggest either that they were entirely written after the return to Grasmere, or were then considerably expanded. I have not seen the original MS. Dorothy transcribed it in full for her friend Mrs. Clarkson, commencing the work in 1803, and finishing it on 31st May 1805 (see p. 329). This transcript I have seen. It is the only one now traceable.
It should be mentioned that Dorothy Wordsworth was often quite incorrect in her dates, both as to the day of the week and the month.
Minute accuracy on these points did not count for much at that time; and very often a mistake in the date of one entry in her Journal brought with it a long series of future errors. The same remark applies to the Grasmere Journal, and to the record of the Continental Tour of 1820.
Many friends and students of Wordsworth regretted the long delay in the publication of the Tour made in Scotland in 1803. In the Recollections of the TableTalk of Samuel Rogers (1856), p. 208, we find the following : “I do indeed regret that Wordsworth has printed only fragments of his sister's journal ; it is most excellent, and ought to have been published entire.” It will always hold a place of honour in itinerary literature. It possesses a singular charm, and has abiding interest, not only as a record of travel, but also as a mirror of Scottish life and character nearly a hundred years ago.