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Skip to 0 minutes and 26 seconds Tuesday 24th. A rainy morning. We all were well except that my head ached a little & I took my Breakfast in bed. I read a little of Chaucer, prepared the goose for dinner, & then we all walked out — I was obliged to return for my fur tippet & Spenser it was so cold. We had intended going to Easedale but we shaped our course to Mr Gell’s cottage.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds It was very windy & we heard the wind everywhere about us as we went along the Lane but the walls sheltered us — John Greens house looked pretty under Silver How — as we were going along we were stopped at once, at the distance perhaps of 50 yards from our favourite Birch tree it was yielding to the gusty wind with all its tender twigs, the sun shone upon it & it glanced in the wind like a flying sunshiny shower — it was a tree in shape, with stem & branches but it was like a Spirit of water — The sun went in & it resumed its purplish appearance the twigs still yielding to the wind but not so visibly to us.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds The other Birch trees that were near it looked bright and chearful — but it was a Creature by its own self among them. We could not get into Mr Gells Grounds —the old tree fallen from its undue exaltation above the Gate. A shower came on when we were at Bensons. We went through the wood — it became fair, there was a rainbow which spanned the lake from the Island house to the foot of Bainriggs. The village looked populous & beautiful. Catkins are coming out palm trees budding — the alder with its plum coloured buds. We came home over the stepping stones the Lake was foamy with white waves I saw a solitary butter flower in the wood.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 seconds I found it not easy to get over the stepping stones — reached home at dinner time. Sent Peggy Ashburner some goose. She sent me some honey — with a thousand thanks — ‘alas the gratitude of men has &c’ I went in to set her right about This & sate a while with her.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds She talked about Thomas’s having sold his land — ‘Ay’ says she I said many a time ‘He’s not come fra London to buy our Land however’ then she told me with what pains & industry they had made up their taxes interest &c &c — how they all got up at 5 o clock in the morning to spin & Thomas carded, & that they had paid off a hundred pound of the interest.

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 seconds She said she used to take such pleasure in the cattle & sheep — ‘O how pleased I used to be when they fetched them down, & when I had been a bit poorly I would gang out upon a hill & look ower t’fields & see them & it used to do me so much good you cannot think’ — Molly said to me when I came In ‘poor Body! she’s very ill but one does not know how long she may last. Many a fair face may gang before her.’ We sate by the fire without work for some time then Mary read a poem of Daniell upon Learning. After tea Wm read Spencer now & then a little aloud to us.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 seconds We were making his waistcoat. We had a note from Mrs C, with bad news from poor C very ill. William walked to John’s grove — I went to meet him — moonlight but it rained. I met him before I had got as far as John Batys he had been surprized & terrified by a sudden rushing of winds which seemed to bring earth sky & lake together, as if the whole were going to enclose him in — he was glad that he was in a high Road.

Skip to 4 minutes and 33 seconds In speaking of our walk on Sunday Evening the 22nd November I forgot to notice one most impressive sight — it was the moon & the moonlight seen through hurrying driving clouds immediately behind the Stone man upon the top of the hill on the Forest side. Every tooth and every edge of rock was visible, & the Man stood like a Giant watching from the Roof of a lofty Castle. The hill seemed perpendicular from the darkness below it. It was a sight that I could call to mind at any time it was so distinct.

24 November 1801

In this step, you can listen to novelist and academic, Dr Jenn Ashworth read Dorothy’s journal entry for 24 November 1801 aloud, while following Dorothy’s handwriting. If this is too difficult to read, there is a transcript attached that you can read instead or as well as this.

Dorothy here describes a cold winter’s day and the effect of the weather on the trees outside. When she gets home again, she sends Peggy Ashburner some goose, and Peggy sends her back some honey. This motivates Dorothy to go to see Peggy in person and they talk about people they know and their lives. They refer to Thomas, Peggy’s husband. Their cottage was almost opposite Dove Cottage. At the end of the entry, Dorothy recalls an earlier incident from a few days ago.

While you’re listening to and/or reading this journal entry, think about Dorothy’s response to the natural world.

  • What does it tell you about her? Why does she feel impelled to go to see Peggy?
  • What does Peggy’s tale tell you about life in those times and in the Lake District particularly?

A short quiz follows the reading.

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This video is from the free online course:

William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

Lancaster University