Prominent Sisters: Mary Lamb, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Sarah Disraeli

By Michael Polowetzky | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Grasmere and Beyond

Dove Cottage (also known as Town End), situated in the small and picturesque community of Grasmere, Westmorelandshire, where the Wordsworths settled on 20 December 1799, stood about twenty miles southeast of Cockermouth, their birthplace.42 It was one of several small towns in a region dotted with lakes -- among them, Lake Grasmere not far from the Wordsworth's front door, Windemere to the south, Rydal and Derwent to the north. Dorothy had visited the area once before, in April 1794, while traveling with William and Raisley Calvert. "I walked with my brother at my side," she had written to Jane Pollard at the time,

from Kendal to Grasmere, eighteen miles, and afterwards to Keswick, fifteen miles through the most delightful country that was ever seen. We are now at a farmhouse, about half a mile from Keswick. When I came, I intended to stay for only a few days; but the country is so delightful, and, above all, [I am] so full of enjoyment of my brother's company, that I have determined to stay a few weeks longer.43

Reflecting in later years, Dorothy would insist that the decision she and her brother made to return to this rural region of western England known as the Lake District was instrumental in the creation of some of the most famous British poetry of the nineteenth century.

The first six months of William's stay at Grasmere were not too productive, however. None of the early drafts of the poems he brought with him from Sockburn, like Peter Bell, were completed. He had high expectations for the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, which included such new pieces as Nutting and She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways. He even sent an inscribed review copy to the leader of the Whigs, Charles James Fox. Yet when the collection appeared

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