“It was a threatening, misty morning, but mild.” This line from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal entry on 15 April 1802 accurately describes the weather this morning as we took the bus into Grasmere. The low-hanging clouds obscured the rolling mountains and covered us in a light, chilly drizzle.
We met Catherine, our tour guide, outside of Dove Cottage, and she led us into the house that siblings Dorothy and William Wordsworth moved into in December of 1799. The first room was the Wordsworths’ dining room, and we were all glad of the warm fire glowing in the fireplace. The dark wood panels and low ceiling teetered on the border between cozy and claustrophobic.
Next, we were shown Dorothy’s bedroom. It had a double washing table with dogwood toothbrushes, a silhouette portrait of Dorothy, and a painting of Mary Wordsworth (William’s wife) in her later years.
Then we were led to the kitchen, which had the coal room, a dry pantry, and a small room for fresh food storage attached. There, Catherine showed us an old sheep’s-fat candle (cheaper than beeswax candles at the time).
Upstairs, we saw William’s prized cuckoo clock above the landing. Sadly, we were all in another room when it chimed at ten o’clock and missed seeing the cuckoo pop in and out, even though we dashed into the hallway to try to catch it. We saw William’s bedroom, the sitting room, and the guest bedroom. The guest bedroom was wallpapered with newspapers. The sitting room had three portraits of William at different stages of his life. Catherine told us that his favorite of the three was the one where he was 48 years old because he thought it made him look like a pirate. His least favorite was the one in which he was 35 years old because he thought it made him look too handsome. We all thought that was a bit of an odd complaint.
We took a brief walk around the back of the house to see the garden and then moved on to the archives, which John talked about in his blog. Then we had some time in the Wordsworth Museum, which was full of interactive displays. We listened to some of his poems on headphones hanging on the walls, tried our hands at writing with a feather quill (our fingers are stained from the attempts), and read many interesting tidbits about the Wordsworths.
It was a sleepy, rainy Sunday, but we all learned a great deal about the Wordsworths and the Romantics. The stunning setting helped to cement the imagery that we had read about in the readings for today, and made for an incredible classroom. Even though we will be excited to go to Oxford tomorrow, we will be a little sad to leave the gorgeous landscapes of the Lake District.