Wordsworth on the rise

In the garden at Dove Cottage, Grasmere – Wordsworth’s humble, rented abode where we were told Coleridge would walk over from Keswick, arriving at midnight, at which point Dorothy Wordsworth would rustle up a quick fried steak in the kitchen. All I remember from a look at her journal long ago was that she seemed to go about ‘washing her head’ a lot. However, I’m happy to hear that there’s now a growing narrative around her in which she’s gaining perhaps a hint of Plath-like tragedy. Despite this, I’m unable to shake an image of a slightly put-upon seventies-era Coronation Street character, with toothache.

I might not have remembered this that well, but I think these were decorated by one of Wordsworth’s servants. The finest decorated eggs I’ve ever seen…

Despite the recent image of Wordsworth as counter-culture beatnik type, a visit to his homes suggests a more conventional merging with the mainstream. There was a steady rise from the humble cottage to Allen Bank, a newly-built villa-style property across the water, and then on to the ‘rather lovely’ Rydall Mount, where it seems he rested on his laurels. So a literal clamber up the bank to the summit, with a Government post at £400 a year on the way.

Allen Bank is now open and the National Trust are presenting it as salvaged from a recent fire, welcoming everyone with cups of tea and inviting them to choose wallpaper and fabric for stripped and prepared rooms. There are lots of great little Post-it notes with suggestions, and also some wonderful pomposity in the additions from characters who sign their contributions ‘RIBA’ (Royal Institute of British Architects). Presumably this is so that we will all realise the weight of their considerations: Maureen from Scarborough and the others will just have to get back in their place and realise on a later visit that their comments are simply the work of domestic novices.

The view from the window above was a favourite of Dorothy Wordsworth’s apparently – she called it a ‘paradise on earth’ or something similar. That didn’t convince me she was a 19th-century Plath either.

These last two images are from a chapel in the grounds of Allen Bank. The Magic Lantern Cinema and Restaurant sounds fantastic. I hope it was housed in the chapel – a couple of wine glasses in the ruins suggest so. Perhaps it was a cross between chicken-in-a-basket and Cinema Paradiso. It won’t be a ruin for long as the chapel is a candidate for restoration fairly soon. I love the chickenwire and the lamenting character in the window though…

Wordsworth and the Frozen River

We hissed along the polished ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures – the resounding horn,
The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle; with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud.

This magical sculpture is from the Wordsworth museum at Dove Cottage, Grasmere. You can gaze into it and let frost patterns unfurl in your mind: the apple seller frozen in the Thames from Orlando, or the cutting out of little lines in the ice from The Ninth Wave

There’s also a great example of an interactive display at the museum which uses spots of light to animate the spots of time. Few things beat the magic of hearing and anticipating every word of a poem you learnt at school, thought forgotten, taking you back, back, further into time – then, now and in the present…

The description from the sculpture is below. As ever, click the images to get a better view.