Home at Grasmere

My eyes filled with tears the moment I stepped onto the grounds of Dove Cottage. I don’t think I had ever really imagined that I would be in this place, the home of a poet who has meant so much to me. He’s not a poet I grew up with. I wasn’t introduced to his writing until my first year of graduate school, when I took a course on the Romantic Poets with Marilyn Gaull, Editor of The Wordsworth Circle, at Temple University. In that class, I wrote a long bibliographical essay on The Lyrical Ballads, immersing myself in the poems, the preface, and their critical history. I must have caught Marilyn’s enthusiasm for Wordsworth, for I have been a Wordsworthian ever since.

The cottage itself is absolutely beautiful — perfect, small, warm, intimate — the home that William and his sister Dorothy created for themselves. It’s obviously been lovingly restored by the Wordsworth Trust, and our enthusiastic young guide, Susanna, gave us an excellent–if obviously memorized–tour. She was willing, however, to stop to answer detailed questions. I wanted to know about the paint colors: the main sitting-room (and also Wordsworth’s writing-room), was painted a pale pink; William’s bedroom was blueish green. Were these the original colors I asked? Susanna explained that the Wordsworths had used crushed berries to stain the lime wash, and that, indeed, the paint used now was a reproduction of that older paint and in comparable colors.

We learned that Dorothy walked almost every day (and perhaps several times a day) to the nearby market-town of Ambleside (four miles away), where I went (by bus) to do some laundry and where Jimmy found the library. We heard the chiming of William’s prized cuckoo clock (11 a.m.), and saw the room where Dorothy slept. Later, in the museum, we looked at manuscripts–some pages from the 1805 Prelude, including the passage about the Derwent near Cockermouth, for example, and a letter to a critic who had disliked “The Idiot Boy”–, along with other artifacts and paintings.

I could have spent many many more hours there, and I am hoping to return again one day, perhaps with a research project, so that I might get even closer. I bought one book in the gift shop: Wordsworth’s “Guide to the Lakes,” what Stephen Gill calls in his introduction “a gem of Romantic writing . . . . a prose-poem about light, shapes, and textures, about movement and stillness.” I’m looking forward to reading from it as we continue our way across the fells. Perhaps focusing on Romantic landscape theory will help me to forget the pain in my knees and hips, though I have to admit that ibuprofen (which I hadn’t taken in twenty years, but which I became convinced might be necessary now) is working its magic.

Tomorrow to Patterdale!


8 comments on “Home at Grasmere

  1. Sammy K says:

    JZ This is a lovely accounting of your journey. The pictures are stunning! Keep on keeping on!

    • joycezonana says:

      Thanks Sam! So good to hear from you. It’s a great journey so far, challenging and rewarding. You know I just bought a cheap camera right before leaving, and I’ve just been using it on “automatic,” but so far so good! Stay tuned!

  2. Barney says:

    I remember reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary years ago – fascinating to see things from her viewpoint. They were all tremendous walkers – practically invented walking for pleasure.

  3. staceyhg says:

    Just caught up on your blog (Patrick and I were in Vt for a few days.). Sounds amazing! This entry was my favorite. My father is a big Wordsworth fan and passed that appreciation on to me. I hope the ibuprofen eases your journey. Looking forward to the next entries …

    • joycezonana says:

      Thanks, Stacey! So good to hear from you. I have much more to say about William and Dorothy, but don’t know if I’ll get around to it for a while. Just arrived in Glenridding, near Patterdale, an easier day today!

  4. Kris Lackey says:

    Joyce, All so lovely and so opposite infernal August in Norman. I went to Dove cottage in 1980 but couldn’t afford the 90 pence to go inside. Berry-stained plaster, just like the Navajos’ berry-stained wool. Bound like a roe! Kris

    • joycezonana says:

      Kris — What is it that he says in “Tintern Abbey”? No more bounding for me! But it’s still totally amazing and wonderful. How is Norman? Actually, some of these mountains have been reminding me of the Wichitas. Imagine them green.

  5. Bernardo Pace says:

    Why not add Virginia Woolf’s voice: “Lyrics became epics.” You are here–or were very recently.


    Thus the British Empire came into existence; and thus — for there is no stopping damp; it gets into the inkpot as it gets into the woodwork — sentences swelled, adjectives multiplied, lyrics became epics, and little trifles that had been essays a column long were now encyclopaedias in ten or twenty volumes.

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