A few weeks ago, I and two other interns gave a talk at the Wordsworth Café and Bookshop in Penrith. The talk was titled ‘Love, Loss and Lore: The Letters of the Wordsworth Family’ and was an examination of several letters sent between different members of the family for very different reasons.

We weren’t really sure what to expect as we’d never visited the café before but it was lovely with a small seating area downstairs which was just right for the informal session we had planned. Around 10 people had booked for the evening and they were a lovely and enthusiastic group who were keen to be involved in the activities and discussion.

We began with a short discussion of Wordsworth’s connections to Penrith. His grandparents lived in the town and ran a draper’s shop. When the Wordsworth children were young they often visited with their mother however after their mother’s death Wordsworth was sent away to school and he visited his grandparent’s only in the school holidays.

Dorothy had a deeper connection with the town. She had been sent away to Halifax after her mother’s death but at age 16 she returned to the draper’s shop in Penrith to live once again with her grandparents. Neither William nor Dorothy particularly enjoyed staying with their grandparents but Dorothy has happy memories of the friendships she made in the town. It was here she met Mary Hutchinson, Wordsworth’s future wife and she describes how they would in the evenings when their work was done sneak to each other’s houses to talk over the fire and then would walk the streets of Penrith by moonlight to avoid parting.

We had prepared some facsimile letters of the Wordsworth’s from various periods of their lives. They were folded as they would have been when they were sent and we had sealed some with wax so that people could open them and really get a sense of what it would have been like to receive and ‘crack open’ one of these letters.

 

These letters enabled us to lead the conversation onto some interesting points. We discussed the letters in the context in which they were written and the context of the Wordsworth’s lives but they also enabled us to discuss the nature of postage and letter writing in this period and how the availability of paper and the price of the post affected the physical character of letters, how they looked and how they were folded.

We also talked about the social nature of letter writing, how letters were often written to more than one recipient at a time and were designed to be read aloud. In this way they could convey news and ideas to many people at once and the reading of a letter from friends and family could be part of an evening’s entertainment. It is this that makes Mary Wordsworth exclaim in delight when she receives a letter from her husband addressed solely to her because she has never had a letter to herself before.

One of our letters was particularly emotional and led us on to a discussion about the speed of post and how this could affect the travel of important news. This is the letter from Dorothy to her brother telling him of the death of his daughter, Catherine. Both Wordsworth and Mary were away from home when the child died and Dorothy writes only to her brother because by the time the news would have reached Mary it would be too late for her to come home for the funeral.

After tea and cakes, which were absolutely delicious and very welcome for hungry interns we bought out ink and quills and allowed people to have a go at writing and folding their own letters. This proved extremely popular and even more popular was the sealing of the letters with wax and seals.

The workshop was an excellent way for everyone involved to think about letters in different ways. It is important to look at manuscripts not just for the content contained within the writing but as physical objects. The way the letters look can tell us just as much as what is written within. 

 

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Posted by: robbedlyric | September 23, 2012

Intern Interview with Abi Walton

Name: Abi Walton

Specialisation: Contemporary Literature Programme & Events

Education: B.A. (Hons.) English Lit., Sheffield University

How did you find out about the internship? What made you decide to apply?

My best friend from university, her sister was an intern here about two years ago. I visited whilst she was here and thought that it was an incredibly fun place. I had also heard about the contemporary literature programme here being very well respected.

Was the interview and application process easy?

I loved my interview! I felt that the two day interview process was really useful; it really helped to be able to spend time in Town End and Grasmere. The meal seems daunting at first but it was a real opportunity to be able to talk to members of staff and last year’s interns about what the internship would be like and what they were going on to do. Plus we went down to the pub and got a sense of what was available in the village.

What made you decide to focus on the Contemporary Literature program as your special project?

I had come from a Literature background rather that history or museum studies and throughout my degree had focussed on modern and contemporary poetry and really enjoyed that so focusing on the Literature program gave me the opportunity to continue with that, attending workshops with great poets and developing my own writing. Plus Carola Luther (the Trust’s poet-in-residence) is amazing! She really helps me with my writing.

What sort of projects have you been involved with so far? Tell us more about your day to day work.

The Dorothy Wordsworth Women’s Poetry Festival was wonderful. I had the chance to meet magazine editors, international poets and of course the three laureates. I’ve also been involved with a lot of the admin for the Michael Marks Poetry Awards. I mean there is a lot of administrative work involved with what I do but in return you get to do amazing stuff like go to the award ceremony in London and it’s such a well regarded competition, the judges this year are Alan Jenkins, Carola Luther and Tanya Kirke. Getting to work with people like that is fantastic. I’ve also been involved with the CLORE projects, working with gifted and talented secondary school and 6th form students in poetry workshops.

Do you think the Wordsworth Trust is a good place to train in this sort of Events and Literature management work?

Yes, I do. There are so many opportunities that are available nowhere else and in a place where we are so well looked after. The range of events and audiences are so diverse. You have readings, festivals, workshops, all sorts of things and to be able to live and work in such a beautiful setting!

What are the positives of the internship as a whole? Any negatives?

Positives? Well I have so many new friends and it’s been great to be involved with the local community as well. I’m in the Grasmere Players summer production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. And we get to have amazing adventures, like wild swimming in the Lake!

What do you hope to go on to achieve after this year is over?

Difficult question!! I like to keep on working in the arts, perhaps in literature development or even fundraising as I have previous background in that area. I’d love to continue writing poetry, perhaps even get published!

What has been the biggest highlight of your internship so far?

The Persian Poets Tour with Poetry Translate. It was a privilege to hear the poetry being read out in the poet’s native language and to have the translations alongside.

Posted by: robbedlyric | September 18, 2012

Intern Interview with Helena Sinclair

Name:  Helena Sinclair

Specialisation: Collections

Education:  B.A. (Hons) English Literature, Newcastle University; M.A. Literary Studies, Newcastle University

 

How did you find out about the internship? What made you decide to apply?

When I was in my third year at university we visited the Jerwood Centre (the Wordsworth Trust Collections Centre) for a talk given by the curator Jeff Cowton. I thought it was incredible but I already knew I wanted to do an M.A. so I concentrated on that. Whilst I was studying I visited three more times and just waited for the applications to open.

 

Was the interview and application process easy?

It was daunting but a good way of assessing how people gel with one another. It was also interesting to be taken out of that typical interview situation and to chat. At one point I even discussed the Guardian’s gardening column with Jeff! It was really nice to get a sense of what life here would be like; we went to the pub and met last year’s interns.

 

What made you decide to focus on the Collections program as your special project?

Well, unlike some of the other interns I didn’t really come here to learn about working in a museum, it’s just not what I want to do. I want to continue studying Wordsworth and the Romantics so being able to access the collection not only gives me interesting research topics to investigate but also helps me pursue my academic interests. It’s been very hands-on and I have learned a lot about collections management and conservation.

 

What sort of projects have you been involved with so far? Tell us more about your day to day work.

The main project I’ve been involved in is what we call the ‘Women’s Letter’s Project’ this involved transcribing letters sent between the women of the Wordsworth circle and getting that information onto our Collections website, hopefully making them accessible. We’ve currently done around 500 letters and this will continue to grow. It’s been an interesting project right from the start as it involved assessing what we have in the collection, learning to read and transcribe the letters and using MODES. We even gave a talk on the letters at the Women’s Poetry Festival, people actually paid!

 

Why do you think the Wordsworth Trust is a good place to train in collections management?

They’re just so willing to give you the experiences you want and need. You’re really supported here. If you want to try something new or learn something specific then you are able to do that. Plus the collection is vast and for a Romantic Literature scholar like me, it’s just amazing to be able to get your hands on.  The knowledge that Jeff and Becky have is fantastic. They are excellent role models.

 

The Trust houses 90% of Wordsworth’s surviving, working manuscripts as well as a large collection of first editions of Romantic literature but what is your personal collection highlight?

For me it has to be Emmeline Fisher’s botany book on flowers and mosses. In between the pages she has pressed examples of the different species. You can be looking through and all of a sudden, on the page, is a cutting taken by a young woman in the mid-nineteenth century that she never imagined would last or be seen this many years later. It gives you such a tangible connection to this woman and a sense of her hobby. A combination of that discovery and connection to the past is amazing.

 

What are the positives of the internship as a whole? Any negatives?

In terms of positive I’d say that not only is it a really well designed programme but that you really are treated as a member of staff. You have real responsibilities and it can be very intensive which is good. You feel like you are expanding your knowledge and skills. Also, for me, the opportunity to be a real part of the community has been wonderful. I’ve joined the village Glee Club and the Grasmere Players amateur dramatic society. The chance to be involved in things like that has helped my confidence improve and I hope helped me grow as a person.

The only real negative is the geographical isolation. My tip is to buy good books for the trains! It can also be tough moving back into shared accommodation if you’ve been used to living alone, but you soon get used to it.

 

What do you hope to go on to achieve after this year is over?

I have no immediate plan set in stone. My long term aim is a P.h.D, so if I can write a proposal and get a plan of action together for funding then hopefully I’d be ready to begin around the autumn of 2013. My interest is women writers in the Romantic period and I’ve developed an interest in Quaker authors too.

 

What has been the biggest highlight of your internship so far?

Well, a “work” highlight would be the talk we gave at the Women’s Poetry Festival. I was really scared at first but we got such a great response from the audience. However my extra-curricular highlight, if you will, was the concert the Glee Club gave for the Jubilee. Seeing the W.I. get all misty eyed at our rendition of Jerusalem was surreal but joyous.

Posted by: robbedlyric | July 1, 2012

Intern Interview with Rona Macaulay

Name: Rona Macaulay

Specialisation: Education

Education: M.A. Social Anthropology (Uni. Edinburgh), M.A. Museum Studies (Uni. Leicester, ongoing)

How did you find out about the internship? What made you decide to apply?

I had been on holiday in the Lake District at around the same time as I was working on my dissertation which was set in the National Museum of Scotland. I had realised that working in museums, and in particular museum education was something I wanted to do. So I just googled museum job and Lake District and this was one of the results. I was too late to apply for that year but I kept it in the back of my mind. It just seemed to me the most idyllic place as well as being somewhere which would nurture my skills.

Was the interview and application process easy?

The interview itself was a brilliant way of interviewing because often you give the most insightful answers when you are not in the interview “hotseat”. By giving us a chance to just chat and be ourselves I think that Jeff and Adrian got a better sense of who we were and how the internship would be right for us. I suppose the only downside was that by the time you left you already felt like part of the Trust and I would have been upset if I hadn’t got onto the scheme. Oh, and I left my suitcase on the bus, that was a bad moment!

What made you decide to focus on the Education program as your special project?

Ever since I was around 14 people have been telling me I’d make a good teacher and I’ve always liked working with young people. The day I realised I could teach kids outside of a classroom setting was a revelation! I could engage with kids about my passion for social history and maybe make a difference. I might even get to dress up on occasion!

What sort of projects have you been involved with so far? Tell us more about your day to day work.

I’ve worked with the Readers & Writers workshops that we run for school groups. We take the children round Dove Cottage and encourage them to use all their senses to explore the experience of living in a house like this. Hopefully they then become inspired enough to have a go at writing their own poems. I’ve also been involved with the family activities that we organise for Easter and half-term which this year have included families writing about their holiday’s on a giant wall map of the Lake District and making birthday cards for Wordsworth. One of the other things we’ve been doing has involved teachers. We ran a day-long workshop to develop resources to help children engage more with manuscripts which have included loan boxes and in the future will include online resources. Oh and Museums at Night which was great fun. I dressed up as Dorothy Wordsworth and we had food by candlelight in the Cottage and a treasure hunt for Dorothy’s postbag.

What’s your preferred age group to work with?

I really enjoy working with older primary school children, Years 5 and 6 because they can be extremely enthusiastic. Only the other day a girl around 10 asked me if she could include me in her poem, then she told me she wanted to be a poet and have my job as well! I think that they’re at a key age where you could either inspire them about a subject or ruin it for them so its extra important to make a good impression with them.

 Do you think the Wordsworth Trust is a good place to train in museum education?

Well its one of the few places where you’d get a training bursary to help you out. Often it’s impossible to get the experience you need if the only option is to move to say Central London and attempt to work for free. Plus this is a tailor made program, its structure so that you get the skills you need. I find it particularly challenging, in a good way because the collection is manuscripts  and you really have to push yourself to find ways to engage kids with them. I mean it’s easy to work with kids in say a science museum because there are so many ways for kids to get hands on. This I think is more worthwhile because of the challenge. It forces you to think in different ways which is all good experience.

What are the positives of the internship as a whole? Any negatives?

Positives would be that the internship comes with inbuilt housing, job and circle of friends. You immediately have all the key components. I would have been really worried moving to such a new place and trying to find somewhere to live and people to hang out with but here you are with enough people in the same position as yourself. Also the Trust has been running this internship for long enough that it’s the real deal. It’s all about making sure you get the skills not just them getting free labour. You are treated as a proper staff member here.

In terms of negatives well it is remote and yes it can be tough living with the people you work with. Issues get amplified and it can be like a little Town End bubble.

 

What do you hope to go on to achieve after this year is over?

I’d like to work with a more hands-on collection. I’d love to work in the National Museum in Edinburgh, especially after their refurbishment that would be amazing. I’ve considered maybe Canada and museums that would tie in with my degree. However my focus will always be on working with young people. If I couldn’t get work in a museum I’ve even considered tutoring perhaps.

What has been the biggest highlight of your internship so far?

Well meeting Prince Charles was a definite highlight however in terms of work I think it was back in February when I did my very first Readers & Writers workshop. At the end Catherine Kay [the Trust’s Education Officer] stood up and asked the class to give particular thanks to Rona as it was my first workshop. The class were really positive and all the teachers came up to me afterwards and said that they’d never have guessed that I’d never done one before! It was the proof that I’d made the right choice.

Posted by: robbedlyric | June 24, 2012

Intern Interview with Melissa Mitchell

This is the first in a series of interviews with my fellow Wordsworth Trust interns. Melissa is an English graduate who is focusing on a curatorial role.

 

Name: Melissa Mitchell

Specialisation: Curatorial

Education: B.A. (Hons.) English and Related Literature, University of York

How did you find out about the internship? What made you decide to apply?

I had known about it for about two years before I applied. I was on holiday in the area and the interns that year had a special exhibition that was being advertised however I didn’t decide to apply until my final year of Uni, about six months before I graduated.

 

Was the interview and application process easy?

The process was good. I think it felt like a long time because I’d known about the internship for so long so I felt like I was waiting forever for the applications to open but I felt the process was fair. The interview was good as it gave you a real feel for the life here. It felt like it was a chance for them to choose you but also for you to choose them in a way.

 

What made you decide to focus on a curatorial role?

I felt that it would offer me the most diverse range of projects to be involved in. I would have the chance to work with the collections but also to work on other projects and with other people as well.

 

What sort of projects have you been involved with so far? Tell us more about your day to day work.

Alongside the other two interns focusing on curatorial work I was able to design and install a small exhibition on Wordsworth & Royalty to be displayed in the Jerwood Centre. We were also able to de-install the last fine art exhibition and were heavily involved in the new exhibition despite its being outside curated. I also help arrange loans and items for transportation and other practical work. I am also in charge of collating visitor numbers for the Jerwood Centre.

 

Do you think the Wordsworth Trust is a good place to train in curatorship and museum management? What attracted you over say a larger museum?

Well this internship was a year long, most are only six months and they didn’t require any previous museum experience. It’s an incredibly well respected program as well and they really concentrate on your development. It feels like they care about you and your future career. The benefits also make it a fantastic program, we are provided with accommodation and a small bursary.

 

Do you think that a postgraduate degree in museum studies is a necessity for working in curatorship or collections management?

Yes, it defiantly helps.  Often it’s becoming more of a requirement and I certainly felt a little out of my depth when it came to paperwork and SPECTRUM and MODES. Often I felt like I was starting from scratch when other people had more experience than me and were able to just do it. Having said that however, I feel that experience still outweighs a M.A. I would like to have a postgraduate qualification eventually though.

 

What are the positives of the internship as a whole? Any negatives?

It’s a very good place to be, there’s always lots of things going on. The Trust is extremely well connected in the local area and there’s an opportunity to work elsewhere as well. The collection is a fantastic one. Dove Cottage and the Museum are also great places to work.

 

What do you hope to go on to achieve after this year is over?

I’d like to pursue curatorship and curatorial work. I’d also like to continue to work with manuscripts. I’d ideally like to stay in the Cumbria area as well.

 

What has been the biggest highlight of your internship so far?

Planning and choosing the objects for the Wordsworth & Royalty displays. I was so proud of the displays when they were done.

Posted by: robbedlyric | May 16, 2012

Pen, Paint and Pixels Update

The exhibition was officially opened on 10th May by Nicholas Crane the geographer and presenter of Coast. The exhibition is proving extremely popular with everyone. Read about the opening and the exhibition here.

Further to my earlier post a leaflet is available at the exhibition which gives a few of the Ordinance Survey co-ordinates for the views so that you don’t have to do quite as much work as Mr. Murray in finding the exact viewpoints.

Also available is an app  for iphone and Android smartphones which uses GPS to help you find the positions of the views and shows you the images and exhibition text. You can compare the views and take your own photos.

Anyone can send their photo’s to ppp@wordsworth.org.uk. The best pictures will then be shown in an online gallery.

This exhibition is being overseen by John Murray and is based around his book ‘A Tour of the English Lakes with: Thomas Gray & Joseph Farington RA.’

Thomas Gray, wielder of the titular pen, toured the Lake District in 1769 the journal of which was published publishing house of John Murray, the exhibition curator’s ancestor. Due to the family link Mr. Murray inherited the original 6 notebooks Grey had used on his tours of the country in 1993. The fifth notebook contained the notes for ‘Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire and Yorkshire’. Gray’s tour of the Lakes was extensive, beginning on the 30th September 1769 however the journal notes begin at Keswick on the 6th October 1769. Murray has used several of Gray’s letters to a friend to piece together the intervening days. Reading Grey’s notebooks Murray realised why Gray has long been thought of as the first ‘modern’ travel writer, his observations are filled with wit and warmth and he is acutely observant of the landscape. As a lover of the Lake District himself Murray decided to follow in Gray’s footsteps around the area.

Before doing so he came across a book of engravings of the Lake District landscapes which had been published in 1789. These engravings were based on paintings by Joseph Farington who had visited the Lakes in 1775 and again in 1777. The views he painted were often areas that Gray had visited, though not always and it is possible that he had a copy of Gray’s Journal with him. This volume led to Murray’s decision not to only follow in Gray’s footsteps but as he went to try and find the viewpoints from which Farington had painted and to take photographs of the landscapes as they are now.

It is this combination of words, original paintings and engravings and Murray’s own photographs which make up both the book and the exhibition. The exhibition provides an excellent overview of the book and a chance to see Gray’s original notebook, the text of which is reproduced in Murray’s book.

The book provides an excellent overview of attitudes to landscape in the Romantic period. I was lucky enough to hear Mr. Murray speak on the subject at the Wordsworth Trust Arts & Books festival earlier this year. Prior to the late eighteenth century mountains and mountainous landscapes were just impassable inconveniences to travel which filled observers with terror and fright. As the period progressed this sense of terror became tinged with awe as mountains landscapes became fashionable. Some of Gray’s descriptions of the Lakeland scenery have been criticised for exaggeration but it is important to remember that these landscapes were still filled with danger for the unwary traveller. Gray was also following the fashionable picturesque way of viewing the landscape whereby the combination of imagination and truth, the honest and the pleasing, create a ‘perfect’ landscape.

Farington’s relationship with the picturesque is slightly more complex. As Murray travelled and photographed the landscapes he found the Farington was not prone to picturesque embellishment however his work had also been described by a contemporary as ‘making accurate images of the lakes unnecessary being as [his images] are accurate and beautiful.’ This suggests that Farington was following the picturesque fashion and subtly changing the landscape. Murray however has come to the conclusion that Farington was imposing picturesque foregrounds over topographically accurate mountainous landscapes and that he never tries to match Grey’s dramatic descriptions of tumbling rock falls and precipices. Whether Murray is right in his conclusion is for you to decide as you compare Farington’s images with Murray’s photographs.

It is this ability to compare the landscape as it was, or at least as it was consumed by the eighteenth century viewer and as it is today which is the highlight of the exhibition. In different images we see the impact of roads and building on the landscape, how trees obscure views that were once admired and how a bit of shrubbery can completely change that character of a fell. More interesting is the impact of what has been removed, where once there were small hamlets there are now flat expanses of green. You also get a real sense of the changes enclosure has made on the landscape.

Through the exhibition Murray hopes to inspire us to similar photographic projects – to go out and connect ourselves to the landscape, art and history. Our perceptions, necessity and time all have an impact on how our landscape changes. The exhibition itself is vibrant and different and really comes into its own through the interactive element. There will be a smartphone app available allowing you to go out, match up the landscape with Farington’s images and take your own photographs easily. Personally I would like to see a little more of Gray in the exhibition as he seems a little neglected in favour of the images however this is an exhibition which uses the image to its best advantage. This exhibition speaks to you long after you have left it and headed out into the landscape of the Lake District.

Posted by: robbedlyric | April 22, 2012

Bindman Talk 14 April 2012: “Women, Learning and Lore”

Last Saturday’s Bindman Talk was in association with the University of Newcastle and featured Professor Gary Kelly speaking about ‘Women, Learning and Lore’.

Prof. Kelly is currently based at the University of Alberta. http://www.efs.ualberta.ca/People/Faculty/GaryKelly.aspx.

The talk also saw the launch of the Wordsworth Trust’s Women’s Letters Database, a searchable resource comprising letters in the Trust’s Collection.

The talk was incredibly interesting and I believe Prof. Kelly is writing a book on the subject. He argues that during the Romantic period knowledge became subject to a more rigid hierarchy, separating into ‘learning’ and ‘lore’. These two separate forms of knowledge then became redistributed according to class, age, race and gender. Professor Kelly focuses on the gendering of these knowledges.

‘Learning’ comprised of science and literature, knowledge of the culture and languages of classical antiquity, maths and the natural sciences, whilst ‘lore’ was a body of traditional and popular knowledge usually passed on orally. There were many types of lore ranging from the domestic through to the national lore which defined a country’s self image.

‘Learning’ was masculinised in this period. Women were increasingly denied the scant opportunities they had previously had to access ‘learning’. The term bluestocking which had once celebrated educated and intelligent women became an insult and most men were ‘in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.’ (Samuel Johnson).

It is important to note that unlearned, i.e. not educated in learning did not mean ignorant. Professor Kelly also notes that it is during this period of modernisation ‘lore’ became subjected to ‘learning’. Increasingly traditional knowledge was collected and studied. For example the collection of folklore and folk tales by educated males.

The most interesting section of the talk was when Professor Kelly described the ways in which women might subvert the hierarchy of knowledge in order to express themselves. He likened their ingenuity to that of authors writing in the Soviet Union. Oppression and tyranny forces people to become ingenious and adapt their work accordingly. He identifies 9 ways in which women in this period could achieve this;

  1. Confrontation, explicitly using masculine discourse.
  2. By using genres and discourse that society permitted to women to express ideas that society didn’t permit them.
  3. Piety (not theology as this was ‘learning’)
  4. Humanitarianism
  5. As Helpers (e.g. as translators of modern languages, cookery books)
  6. Patriotic Feeling.
  7. Social anthropology (writing about ‘childlike’ cultures, e.g. ‘The Wild Irish Girl by Sydney Owenson, 1806)
  8. Downmarket literature, bowdlerising areas usually populated by men.
  9. Novelising.

He then gave some specific examples of women writers working in the period and how they achieved some measure of success. Hester Thrale for example wrote a denunciation of the French Revolution disguised as a book of synonyms, accessing the masculine area of politics via a discussion of language which is organised in a substantially different way to that of Johnson who approached language as a ‘learned male’.

Another example is Elizabeth Hamilton who wrote an epistolary novel ‘Letters of a Hindu Rajah’, in the introduction to her novel she distils a large body of knowledge and effectively defines orientalism.

Professor Kelly’s conclusion was a little rushed and he seemed to trail off however he concluded with the statement that the future of knowledge will be the converging of plebeian knowledge into modern knowledge.

Posted by: robbedlyric | April 8, 2012

Long overdue update; aka the Easter Update!

It has been far too long since I last posted! I’ve been incredibly busy with a number of projects and various exciting things have happened so this is a bit of a catch up post.

First off I’ve been busy finishing a large editing project. The Wordsworth Trust has been helping AgeUK Carlisle and Edenside prepare a series of Wordsworth inspired reminiscence workshops which have been collected together into a pack that can be used by groups all over the country. The workshops are for elderly people and with various age related illnesses such as dementia and are designed to help carers use Wordsworth’s poetry and life at Dove Cottage to stimulate memories in their own lives. AgeUK have run trial workshops and compiled a series of activities whilst the Trust has provided the materials, manuscripts and pictures included in the pack. I have edited and formatted the pack and hopefully it will be printed very shortly!

Also on my current tasks lists is preparing a Chinese language guide for the museum gallery. Hopefully if this is a success we may be able to record a Chinese guide for Dove Cottage. Chinese visitor numbers have been rapidly increasing and it will be very helpful to have a recorded guided tour.

I’ve been involved with preparing various loans to other museums alongside two of my fellow interns, MEM and EB. This has involved condition checking items to be loaned, preparing all the loan documentation and insurance, and packing the objects for transportation. We are also getting ready to change the special exhibition in our gallery.

The current exhibition, A Cumbrian Artist Rediscovered, John Smith 1749-1831 will be closing on the 15th April 2012 and the new special exhibition will be going up to open on 4th May. The new exhibition is very exciting and though it is being externally curated by John Murray there has been and will be lots for us to do. This past week I’ve been running around organising the storage of our current exhibition cases.

Me, MEM and EB have also been in charge of changing the two small display cases in the Jerwood Centre. We went for a theme of Wordsworth & Royalty given the Jubilee celebrations and our royal visit. Currently on display are a Pace Egg decorated with images of Grasmere Church and Rydal Mount and the tune of the National Anthem, Dora Wordsworth’s account of Queen Adelaide’s visit to Rydal Mount in July 1840, an Order of the Indian Empire presented to Wordsworth’s grandson, Emmeline Fisher’s verses of the National Anthem and the writing set presented to her by Queen Victoria. In pride of place in the top case is Wordsworth’s signed Oath of Allegiance which he took when he became Poet Laureate.

These were put on display in order to coincide with our visit from His Royal Highness Prince Charles on 3rdApril. Prince Charles visited Dove Cottage, walked in the garden and went to look at the Jerwood Centre which had not been opened on his last visit here. Some of the staff and one of the interns were selected to talk to the Prince. The intern was not me by the way! I was manning the shop but I did get some good pictures of Prince Charles just after the rain began to pour.

Prince Charles at the Wordsworth Trust

There will be guided tours of the Jerwood Centre, beginning 1st May 2012 at 2.30pm every day except Wednesdays when there will be a Spot of Poetry in garden behind the Museum.

My aim with this blog is to give a wide sense to future interns of the areas they can focus on so be on the lookout for guest posts from my fellow interns who are working on a variety of different projects throughout the museum!

Posted by: robbedlyric | February 15, 2012

William Wilberforce in the Lake District

It’s been an important week for the interns at Dove Cottage. This week all ten of us have successfully taken our first guided tours round the Cottage! Apparently it is unheard of for everyone to have taken a tour so quickly. Well done 2012 Interns!!

Also this week I was lucky enough to help out at one of the very special events held in Dove Cottage. The event “A Morning in Dove Cottage” consists of a talk given by a local expert followed by tea and toast in the Wordsworth’s kitchen. I was there to help set up, pour tea and toast bread on the open fire in the kitchen range but I was also able to listen to the talk by David Matthews on William Wilberforce and his connections to the Lake District and the Wordsworth family.

I have to confess that I knew very little about Wilberforce as a man and still less that he had connections to the Lake District. Wilberforce first visited the Lakes in 1799 with some college friends from Cambridge. They were in search of the picturesque and were some of the very first tourists to find it in the English Lakes. Wilberforce was so struck with the beauty of the Lakes that when, as a young M.P. in the 1780’s, he required a summer retreat in order to relax and improve on his learning, something which he had neglected somewhat at university, he came to the Lake District.

For eight years during the 1780’s he rented his “summer house” Rayrigg Hall on the shores of Windermere. From here he explored the area, often on foot. Like Wordsworth he was a great walker and liked to explore the fells and think on the political questions and causes of the day. He also liked to go boating on Windermere.

It was during this period that Wilberforce first came into contact with one of the Wordsworth family; surprisingly it was Dorothy not William who first made his acquaintance. Wilberforce had been at Cambridge with one of the Wordsworth’s Cookson uncles and in the winter of 1789 he arrived at the home of William Cookson to spend Christmas with his friend’s family. Dorothy was living with the Cookson’s and she and Wilberforce struck up a friendship. Wilberforce was so impressed with Dorothy’s charity to the areas poor that he gave her 10 guineas to distribute as she wished. There was even some talk that Wilberforce might propose. Dorothy, however, was not so sure writing to her friend Jane;

“My heart is perfectly disengaged… Mr. W. would, were he ever to marry, look for a Lady possessed of many more accomplishments than I can boast.”

William Wordsworth did not meet Wilberforce in person until 1815 when a party at George Beaumont’s house bought them together however they may have corresponded prior to this and Wilberforce was amongst those whom Wordsworth and Coleridge sent a presentation copy of the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads to.  The two William’s must have struck up a rapport when they did finally meet for in 1818 the Wilberforce family descended on the Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount for a visit which lasted several months. Despite his failing health Wilberforce was still the life and soul of the party organising boat trips and entertaining friends at dinner parties. Dorothy’s affections for Wilberforce were renewed, she said of him; “though shattered in constitution and feeble in body he is as lively and animated as in the days of his youth.” She was not however impressed with his wife, Barbara, saying she was shy, whiny and self-righteous.

Wilberforce was a man of great energy, during his life he was president or leading member of some sixty nine organisations or causes including the abolition of slavery, penal code and prison reform (alongside Elizabeth Fry), poor relief reform (with Hannah More), the R.S.P.C.A., the Samaritans and the Sierra Leone Company. However he was also a man of sensibility known for his depth of feeling and love of nature. The poet Robert Southey said of him; “I never saw any other man who seemed to enjoy such a perpetual serenity and sunshine of spirit. In conversing with him, you feel assured that there is no guile in him; that if ever there was a good man and happy man on earth, he was one.” He had been known to break off conversations to walk around the garden and on one occasion was left standing, weeping over a pressed flower he had found in his hymn book at church.

The Lake District was a place of deep significance for Wilberforce and he had strong links with the area despite not spending that much time here. I was very impressed with David Matthews talk; he currently lives in Rayrigg House and was extremely knowledgeable about William Wilberforce and his connections to the area. The next “Morning in Dove Cottage” is the 21st February and is about the village of Grasmere at the time the Wordsworth’s lived in the area.

Finally yesterday evening we all (the interns) went to Grasmere Player’s Valentine’s Night held in the Tithe Barn in the village. The night was lovely with romantic and amusing songs and readings. Some of us sang as part of the Glee Club and those of us who didn’t were very impressed. The highlight of the evening was “Baby its Cold Outside”! We all had a great night. Thank you Grasmere Player’s for having us!

Further Reading on Wilberforce

Hague, William, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner (Harper Perennial, 2008)

Piper, John, Amazing grace in the life of William Wilberforce (IVP, 2007)

Amazing Grace (2007)

Wilberforce, William (1823), An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire in behalf of the Negro slaves in the West Indies.

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