The hidden life of Dorothy Wordsworth
by Polly Atkin
DOROTHY WORDSWORTH is well known as the author of the Alfoxden and Grasmere Journals (1798–1803) and as the sister of the poet William Wordsworth. She is widely praised for her nature writing and is often remembered as a woman of great physical vitality. Less well known, however, is that Dorothy became seriously ill in 1829 and was mostly housebound for the last twenty years of her life.
Her personal letters and unpublished journals from this time paint a portrait of a compassionate and creative woman who made her sickroom into a garden for herself and her pet robin and who finally grew to call herself a poet. They also reveal how vital Dorothy was to her brother’s success, and the closeness they shared as siblings. By re-examining her life through the perspective of her illness, this biography allows Dorothy Wordsworth to step out from her brother’s shadow and back into her own life story.