Words by the Water

On Monday we went up to the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick to hear Lucy Newlyn and Katie Waldegrave speak about their recent books about some of the key characters in the Wordsworth circle.

The talks were part of the Words by the Water Literary Festival. Lucy Newlyn's book about Dorothy and William Wordsworth  - All in Each Other - and Katie Waldegrave's book about Coleridge and Wordsworth's daughters Sara and Dora - The Poets' Daughters - explore the lives of these important members of the Romantic poets' circle. Both events were really good and an excellent contrast.

Lucy Newlyn is an Oxford professor with years of academic research under her belt. Her book explores William and Dorothy's "creative collaboration". She demonstrates how the creation of memory and loss were of great significance to the brother and sister and how Dorothy's writings inspired much of William's poetry by creating a shared bank of memories on which they were both able to draw.

William Wordsworth’s creative collaboration with his ‘beloved Sister’ spanned nearly fifty years. Rumours of incest have surrounded the siblings since the nineteenth century, but Lucy Newlyn sees their cohabitation as an expression of deep emotional need, arising from circumstances peculiar to their family history.

By contrast, Katie Waldegrave is an enthusiast whose specialist subject is history rather than literature. She brought huge enthusiasm to her talk about Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge, and gave a fascinating insight into the craft of the writer and her research methodology.

Both talks were really interesting and informative, they were so different, reminding the audience of the many different approaches to writing and research. Both writers gave fascinating insights into important members of  literary families.

We left the theatre and drove home, stopping off in Grasmere for a quick mooch around Sam Read's Bookshop and, finally, at Dora's Field in Rydal. The daffodils are just starting to bloom and it was very beautiful and peaceful. I could almost feel that Dora Wordsworth was with us.