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A Passionate Sisterhood: The SisterWives & Daughters of the Lake Poets: Wives, Sisters and Daughters of the Lakeland Poets (Virago classic non-fiction) [Paperback]

Kathleen Jones
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 July 1998 Virago classic non-fiction
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey have become such a literary myth that we are used to looking at the Lake District solely through their eyes. But the story for the women who loved and surrounded them - Dorothy and Mary Wordsworth, Sarah Coleridge and their daughters - was very different. Based on necessity, the extended family-type group they formed was a far cry from the harmonious rustic idyll illustrated by their male counterparts. Kathleen Jones looks at their letters and journals in this illuminating account of their lives - the passionate attachments and jealousies, unwanted pregnancies and children's death, drug addiction and barbaric medical practices.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (2 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860494927
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860494925
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 873,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATHLEEN JONES was born and brought up on a hill farm in Cumbria and now lives with her partner, sculptor Neil Ferber, in a small house in an olive grove in northern Italy while working on another book. She has been writing since she was a child and has published twelve books including seven biographies, a novel and a collection of poetry. She lived for ten years in Africa and the Middle East, where she worked for the Qatar Broadcasting Corporation. Since then she has written extensively for BBC radio and contributed to several television documentaries.

Kathleen was appointed as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in 2007. Her latest biography, 'Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller' was published by Penguin NZ and Edinburgh University Press in 2010. A new 'Readers' Guide' to the life and work of Margaret Forster, called 'Margaret Forster: A Life in Books' is available as an e-book, and a novel 'The Sun's Companion' was published by The Book Mill in 2012. Her latest collection of poetry 'Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21', published by Templar Poetry, won the 2011 Straid Award.

She is best known for her award-winning biographies, but has also published poetry, feature articles and short fiction in a variety of national and international magazines and newspapers. Her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio and on radio networks in Holland, Germany and Spain. She was one of the featured authors in the recent 'Save our Short Story Anthology' compiled by the Arts Council on the internet. As a journalist Kathleen has written articles and reviews for the Independent, the Guardian, the Daily Express, and the TLS, as well as magazines such as SHE and Cosmo.

Kathleen Jones is an enthusiastic blogger, writing an on-line journal 'A Writer's Life' and a book review blog. She is part of the 'Tuesday Poem' group, based in New Zealand. Kathleen regularly leads creative writing workshops for fiction, poetry and life writing. In September each year she also tutors a residential writing course at Peralta in Italy with American novelist Mary-Rose Hayes.

Product Description


Kathleen Jones's interesting study ... enriches our knowledge of the context in which they wrote, and offers some novel interpretations of character (SPECTATOR)

A model of organisation and insight ... lucid, calm and thoughtful (LITERARY REVIEW)

A considerable achievement (THE TIMES)

A highly readable book. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

The lake poets have become such a literary myth that our view of the area and era is deeply entrenched in their legacy. This book tells the story from the other side - the view from their wives, sisters and daughters.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars why not to marry a poet 29 April 2009
By F.A.R
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Who'd be the wife of a great poet? Shakespeare left his and wrote sonnets to a young man instead. Shelley's, abandoned, pregnant and still almost a child herself, drowned herself. Byron preferred to sleep with his sister. Hardy only fell in love with his after her death. This very readable book gives you another side to the stories we all know about the Lake Poets. The poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth is glorious, but they weren't nice to their womenfolk. Wordsworth leaves an abandoned mistress and child in France (maybe given the Revolution he couldn't have married her - but it leaves a nasty taste inthe mouth) Coleridge abandoned his too - the intelligent and educated Sarah Fricker, for another Sarah, whose life he seems to have more or less ruined too. Dorothy of course was famously in love with her brother, but you can't help feeling that an interesting and original mind sacrificed herself on the altar of William-worship. His wife Mary barely seems to have had an independent existence. Then there were the daughters. poor Dora, sent to boarding school at the age of four (four!) for being difficult - then not being allowed to marry until it was almost too late; the gifted Sarah Coleridge - she at least was able to write. But after Coleridge's defection, the family was looked after by the lesser poet Southey. He at least seems to have been nicer to his womenfolk, but he didn't believe in educating them too far.'Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be!' he said to Charlotte Bronte. Of these women, I was most interested in Sarah Fricker Coleride , dismissed as a nothing by Dorothy Wordsworth and of course by Coleridge. But she survived her trials with equanimity and humour, even composing a mad imaginary language which almost anticipates Lewis Carroll. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, Complex and Not to be Missed 21 Jun 2012
By A M Joy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Avril Joy `A Passionate Sisterhood,' is the fascinating story of the women who lived with the Lake Poets - Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth and their complex relationships with both the men and with each other. Inspired by the author's discovery in the archives of Dove Cottage of the largely unpublished journals of Dorothy Wordsworth this is a story previously untold. And what a story!
For biography to work for me I have to trust the biographer and I need to be captivated by the story - both are true of `A Passionate Sisterhood.' Kathleen Jones approaches her subjects with meticulous care, firstly presenting us with the well- ordered facts and chronology and constantly referring to sources in particular Dorothy's Journals, the letters between the women and the poetry. This is no mean feat in itself. And I am in awe of the work that researching and writing a biography of this calibre and breadth entails.
One of the things I particularly like about `A Passionate Sisterhood,' is that although the author leaves us to draw our own conclusions about the women and their often seemingly incestuous relationships we are also allowed to feel her concerns: the ill-treatment of his wife Sarah by Coleridge, Dorothy Wordsworth's unacknowledged skill as a writer - evident in her Journal entries and her contribution to her brother's writing (later denied by him), the sheer hardships of these women's lives....all of these are painted large and give us the hidden story that so fascinated the writer herself.
For me this insight into the lives of the women and the realities of everyday life is what makes the story so captivating from the beginning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Lake Poets had long been a literary set I had never tackled, to my shame. When this book was chosen as a Book Club read I thought I would be able to make up this lack. Instead I feel profoundly grateful that I never fell for Wordsworth (revealed as egocentric), Coleridge (selfish and cowardly) or whoever the other one was. The impact of their great art on the lives of their unfortunate sisters, wives and daughters was largely destructive. Only Southey comes out as a loving father and responsible husband. Kathleen Jones navigates the confusing intermarriages and shared names of this fascinating group of people with assurance, making an easy and enjoyable read out of what could have been a confusing narrative, especially as this is a joint biography. Hard to put down. Besides being confirmed in my distrust of the poetry I learnt a great deal about social history, the strange prevalence of illness in women, the dire effects of laudanum and the amazing distances people habitually walked. What was most harrowing was the repeated losses of children; this was a harrowing chapter which had me in tears. Thoroughly recommended.
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A brilliant exploration of the lives of the wives and daughters of the Lakeland Poets. Kathleen Jones conjures the reality of living with damp walls, smoking chimneys, feckless or self regarding husbands, the early death of much loved children and siblings. Inspiring and heart breaking. And all researched in rich but not obtrusive detail.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the book 1 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book couldn't put it down. Gives a completely new slant to the lives of the Lakeland poets. What a life wives, and daughters had.
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