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The Wordsworths and Letter Writing

In this video, Sharon Ruston and Jeff Cowton look at some the letters written by Dorothy and William Wordsworth held by the Wordsworth Trust.

In this short film, Professor Sharon Ruston speaks to Jeff Cowton MBE, Curator of the Wordsworth Trust, about the importance of letter writing to Dorothy and William Wordsworth.

They look particularly at the manuscript pages of a letter that will be described in greater detail in future steps. This letter – now known as the Christmas Eve letter – was written by William Wordsworth to Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Christmas Eve in 1799.

William describes their journey to and arrival at their first real home together, Dove Cottage in Grasmere. Dorothy is sitting beside him ‘wracked with a toothache’. (The letter is read aloud in step 4.3.)

After watching this video, think about how important letters have been in your own lives. Are there particular letters that you remember vividly? What role did letter writing have in your life and has this role been taken over now by email and social media? Is there something different about the experience of writing and receiving a letter to these forms of communication?

Professor Sharon Ruston is currently co-editing The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy, the early nineteenth-chemist and inventor of the miners’ safety lamp (see link below).

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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