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
Maymester in England 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 […]MORE
Maymester in England
A group of English majors is currently abroad in England as part of the Maymester course, Wordsworth in the Lake District. After a week of study at PC, the students traveled to Grasmere, Wordsworth’s home in the picturesque English Lake District. They are working at the Jerwood Centre and the Wordsworth Museum, where most of the poet’s books and manuscripts are stored. This three-credit course offers a unique opportunity to study a writer’s works in the place where he lived, and to visit the exact places he described. Throughout the week, students in the course will be recounting their experiences as part of this blog. We invite you to “go on the journey” with them.
Today, our first full day in Grasmere, we walked to Dove Cottage to meet Jeff Cowton, curator of the Wordsworth Trust. We started with a tour of Dove Cottage to set the mood; it is lovely. We saw many objects that belonged to William, and were able to walk through the garden. It certainly is “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” We also walked through the museum, where we saw not only more objects, but also the work that the trust does with those who suffer memory loss. After this, we went into the library and began our work with manuscripts!
We learned how to handle manuscripts and other museum objects in ways that protect and preserve them. Jeff showed us the oldest surviving letter from Dorothy, as well as many of William’s letters. The amount of manuscripts held at the Trust is incredible. What is even more amazing is that we will be working with these manuscripts and finishing a project that will impact the future visitors of Dove Cottage.
-Patricia Krupinski ’16
After lunch we hiked the hills behind Dove Cottage, often pausing our trek to view Grasmere, glimmering green with sheep spotted pastures and surrounded by steep hills and crags. The sights were breathtaking; and with each breath we took we filled our lungs with sweet fresh air and our minds with inspiration. We saw similar sights that the Wordsworths viewed over 200 years ago, and we felt the same clear-headedness and elevation of spirit that William captured in his poetry. It is no wonder he considered Grasmere a place “Of majesty, and beauty, and repose, a blended holiness of earth and sky.”
We ate dinner in Dove Cottage, in a room where Dorothy could have sat writing her journals and where William would have worked countless times. We even tried seed cake made from a recipe the Wordsworths used. We discussed Dove Cottage’s effects on visitors, learning the dynamics of a museum. All the while, however, we felt the same strong pulls of history and inspiration stirring within us with each bite of seed cake and with each crackle of the coals in the fireplace. It was truly an amazing day.
-Nick Tavares ’16
Maymester in England A group of English majors is currently abroad in England as part of the Maymester course, Wordsworth in the Lake District. After a week of study at PC, the students traveled to Grasmere, Wordsworth’s home in the picturesque English Lake District. They are working at the Jerwood Centre and the Wordsworth Museum, where […]MORE