On our last day in Grasmere, students quickly finished up their online exhibition, linking the writings of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and images of their manuscripts with photographs and drawings of the places they describe. Their intention was to assemble something that the Trust would find useful for its outreach program to seniors with memory loss. Then came the test: how would it be received? They had an exacting audience: Jeff Cowton, Curator of the Wordworth Trust, and Gillian Dow, head of research at Chawton House Library, the center of Jane Austen studies. I was impressed with the clarity of their presentation, and the sophistication of the project—and so were Cowton and Dow. It was a triumph.
Triumphs deserve rewards, so Jeff brought out some of the Trust’s greatest treasures for us to hold and admire. The earliest complete manuscripts of The Prelude, Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic, a beautiful Lake District watercolor by J.M.W. Turner, a first edition of Lyrical Ballads which we passed around while reading Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and, for Konner Jebb, a first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and a recitation of the moment of the monster’s creation.
After lunch and souvenirs at the sheep shop, we headed north to Keswick for our last excursion. First stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle, a Stonehenge in miniature, ringed by Skiddaw, Blencathra, and Helvellyn, three towering Lake District mountains. Next, Jeff drove us through the village of Keswick and, ever so gingerly, along a narrow road around Derwentwater. Try doing hairpins in a minibus! We stopped at Brandelhow Woods for dramatic views of the mountains and the lake. The poet Gray called Derwentwater “the Vale of Elysium,” and we could all see why.
The day ended with rest in the Dove Cottage gardens and another meal in Wordsworth’s home: salads and cold meat pies, and plenty of laughter and memories. It was a fitting end to a perfect week.
Sometimes, teaching is simply sharing a gift. 30 years ago, I was given the gift of Wordsworth’s lakes by the late Stephen Parrish of Cornell. Last week, I was able to pass that gift on to eight PC students—John Connolly, Branan Durbin, Kris Gianquitti, Konnor Jebb, Abby Johnston, Patricia Krupinski, Brendan Murphy, and Nick Tavares. I have never felt more privileged.
–Dr. Bruce Graver