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3 September 1800

Listen to Dr Jenn Ashworth of Lancaster University read from Dorothy Wordsworth's journal entry for 3 September 1800.
Wednesday 3rd September. Coleridge Wm & John went from home to go upon Helvellyn with Mr Simpson. They set out after breakfast. I accompanied them up near the Blacksmith’s. A fine coolish morning. I ironed till 1/2 past three—now very hot. I then went to a funeral at John Dawsons. About 10 men & 4 women. Bread cheese & ale— they talked sensibly & cheerfully about common things. The dead person 56 years of age buried by the parish— the coffin was neatly lettered & painted black & covered with a decent cloth.
They set the corpse down at the door & while we stood within the threshold the men with their hats off sang with decent & solemn countenances a verse of a funeral psalm. The corpse was then borne down the hill & they sang till they had got past the Town-end. I was affected to tears while we stood in the house, the coffin lying before me. There were no near kindred, no children. When we got out of the dark house the sun was shining & the prospect looked so divinely beautiful as I never saw it. It seemed more sacred than I had ever seen it, & yet more allied to human life.
The green fields, neighbours of the church yard, were green as possible & with the brightness of the sunshine looked quite Gay. I thought she was going to a quiet spot & I could not help weeping very much. When we came to the bridge they began to sing again & stopped during 4 lines before they entered the church- yard. The priest met us— he did not look as a man ought to do on such an occasion— I had seen him half drunk the day before, in a pot-house. Before we came with the corpse one of the company observed he wondered what sort of cue ‘our Parson would be in.’ NB it was the day after the Fair.
I had not finished ironing till 7 o’clock. The wind was now high & I did not walk—writing my journal now at 8 o clock. Wm & John came home at 10 o clock.

In the next set of steps, you get a sense of the content of Dorothy’s journal writing. Kate Ingle has chosen three sections, where Dorothy describes the people and the landscape of Grasmere.

In this step, you’ll hear novelist and academic, Dr Jenn Ashworth read Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal entry for 3 September 1800.

Try to follow the words written by Dorothy herself. If you find it impossible to follow the manuscript, there is also a transcript of the journal entry attached.

In the entry Dorothy recalls going to a funeral. She describes the event and the way that it affected her. The entry moves from the mundane to offer some profound and deep thoughts, before moving back to the mundane again.

  • As you are reading this entry, think about the effect that the funeral has on Dorothy.
  • Do you understand something of why she feels this way?
  • Does it give you a sense of her as a person?
  • Can you identify her ideas about the relationship between people and place?

A short quiz follows the reading in the next step.

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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