Listening time: 18 minutes.
Dorothy, sister to the poet William Wordsworth, kept journals for a few years around the turn of the 19th century. They are dew-fresh delightful to read, written by a woman who was engaged and mindful before ‘mindfulness’ was in vogue.
Though within a small compass of time and geography, this is full spectrum living. She moves effortlessly from the height of literature – reading Milton and Shakespeare, helping her brother with his poems, writing letters to Coleridge and others, and learning German – to baking, gardening, fetching the post, sewing and mending, ironing and sorting linen, and dealing with headaches.
Dorothy rolls them all up into balls of life-joy and blithely tosses them over the honeysuckle wall of two centuries like a shuttlecock of affirmation and friendship. It feels like reading a letter from someone close, in the detail of whose life you are interested.
Enjoy our podcast audio review, and do take a look at the full text as it includes some illustrated quotations which it would have been too cumbersome to include in the recording.
Dorothy’s exuberance and resilience remind me of another magnificent English woman, who died about the time Dorothy was writing her journals: Mary Delany. If you enjoy our quote-mosaic celebration of these journals, you may also like our review of Mary Delany’s biography, here is the audio version, and here the richly illustrated text version.