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Dorothy and the Daffodils: Reading

Listen to Dr Jenn Ashworth reads Dorothy Wordsworth's journal entry where she describes seeing the daffodils on her walk with William.
Thursday 15th. It was a threatening misty morning—but mild. We set off after dinner from Eusemere— Mrs Clarkson went a short way with us but turned back. The wind was furious & we thought we must have returned. We first rested in the large Boat-house, then under a furze Bush opposite Mr Clarksons, saw the plough going in the field. The wind seized our breath the Lake was rough. There was a Boat by itself floating in the middle of the Bay below Water Millock— We rested again in the Water Millock lane. The hawthorns are black & green, the birches here & there greenish but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the Twigs.
We got over into a field to avoid some cows— people working, a few primroses by the roadside, woodsorrel flowers, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs C calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up— But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road.
I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the Lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway— We rested again & again.
The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea— Rain came on, we were wet when we reached Luffs but we called in. Luckily all was chearless & gloomy so we faced the storm — we must been wet if we had waited — put on dry clothes at Dobson’s. I was very kindly treated by a young woman, the Landlady looked sour but is her way. She gave us a goodish supper, excellent ham & potatoes. We pay 7/ when we came away. William was sitting by a bright fire when I came downstairs he soon made his way to the Library piled up in a corner of the window.
He brought out a volume of Enfield’s Speaker, another miscellany, & an odd volume of Congreve’s plays. We had a glass of warm rum & water — we enjoyed ourselves & wished for Mary. It rained & blew when we went to bed. NB deer in Gowbarrow park like to skeletons.

In this step you can hear novelist and academic, Dr Jenn Ashworth read Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal entry for the 15 April 1802 aloud. While listening to this, you can follow Dorothy’s manuscript and read her handwriting.

Dorothy’s journal entry begins with a description of the weather, “It was a threatening misty morning—but mild.” William and Dorothy have decided to walk back home after having stayed with their friend, Mrs Clarkson, at her home, called Eusemere, on Ullswater. Catherine Clarkson was the wife of Thomas Clarkson who fought for the abolition of the slave trade. They had built their house on the Lakes because of Thomas’s health problems. The Wordsworths set off after dinner and Mrs Clarkson walks part of the way back with William and Dorothy.

On their walk back they see a ‘long bank’ of daffodils. These are a very common flower in Britain, bright yellow in colour, which bloom each spring. You may know the poem that William Wordsworth wrote about these flowers, and which we’ll hear in future steps, but Dorothy’s journal entry was written two years before William composed his poem.

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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