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William and Dorothy Wordsworth: 'All in each other' [Hardcover]

Lucy Newlyn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: 19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 Sep 2013
William Wordsworth's creative collaboration with his 'beloved Sister' spanned nearly fifty years, from their first reunion in 1787 until her premature decline in 1835. Rumours of incest have surrounded the siblings since the 19th century, but Lucy Newlyn sees their cohabitation as an expression of deep emotional need, arising from circumstances peculiar to their family history. Born in Cockermouth and parted when Dorothy was six by the death of their mother, the siblings grew up separately and were only reunited four years after their father had died, leaving them destitute. How did their orphaned consciousness shape their understanding of each other? What part did traumatic memories of separation play in their longing for a home? How fully did their re-settlement in the Lake District recompense them for the loss of a shared childhood? Newlyn shows how William and Dorothy's writings - closely intertwined with their regional affiliations - were part of the lifelong work of jointly re-building their family and re-claiming their communal identity. Walking, talking, remembering, and grieving were as important to their companionship as writing; and at every stage of their adult lives they drew nourishment from their immediate surroundings. This is the first book to bring the full range of Dorothy's writings into the foreground alongside her brother's, and to give each sibling the same level of detailed attention. Newlyn explores the symbiotic nature of their creative processes through close reading of journals, letters and poems - sometimes drawing on material that is in manuscript. She uncovers detailed interminglings in their work, approaching these as evidence of their deep affinity. The book offers a spirited rebuttal of the myth that the Romantic writer was a 'solitary genius', and that William Wordsworth was a poet of the 'egotistical sublime' - arguing instead that he was a poet of community, 'carrying everywhere with him relationship and love'. Dorothy is not presented as an undervalued or exploited member of the Wordsworth household, but as the poet's equal in a literary partnership of outstanding importance. Newlyn's book is deeply researched, drawing on a wide range of recent scholarship - not just in Romantic studies, but in psychology, literary theory, anthropology and life-writing. Yet it is a personal book, written with passion by a scholar-poet and intended to be of some practical use and inspirational value to non-specialist readers. Adopting a holistic approach to mental and spiritual health, human relationships, and the environment, Newlyn provides a timely reminder that creativity thrives best in a gift economy.

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William and Dorothy Wordsworth: 'All in each other' + The Poets' Daughters: Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (12 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019969639X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199696390
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


One of the book's most admirable elements is how Newlyn gives equal weight to her subjects' writings... This unparalleled examination of the Wordsworth siblings makes this title an essential addition to English literature collections.Library Journal

It is beautifully written and contains everything an enthusiast of either or both Wordsworths would wish to know about their lives and work; beginners and more advanced readers alike will prosper by it. Would that it had been available to me when I first began to read Wordsworth.Duncan Wu, Literary Review

Nobody interested in the Wordsworths should fail to read the book. Allan Massie, Sunday Telegraph

Newlyn offers a valuable corrective to existing Wordsworth criticism and a moving testimonial to the power of creativity and community. Publishers Weekly

This is an immensely valuable book. --Oxford Times

About the Author

Lucy Newlyn was born in Uganda, grew up in Leeds, and read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She is now Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, and a Fellow of St Edmund Hall. She has published widely on English Romantic Literature, including three books with Oxford University Press, and The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge. Her book Reading Writing and Romanticism: The Anxiety of Reception(O.U.P, 2000) won the British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay prize in 2001. More recently she has been working on the prose writings of Edward Thomas. Together with Guy Cuthbertson she edited Branch-Lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry, as well as England and Wales, a volume in the ongoing OUP edition of Thomas's prose. Married with a daughter and two step-children, Lucy Newlyn lives in Oxford. Ginnel, her first collection of poetry, was published in 2005: she is currently working on her second.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetry and Relationships 22 Oct 2013
This beautifully presented book is the first joint biography of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. But it is more than a biography. Newlyn's study provides an original insight into the intellectual, artistic, and personal interdependencies of the siblings, showing not only how William's poetry was nourished by his sister's experiences, but also how Dorothy, in her later mental illness, was sustained by the sound of that poetry as her family read aloud to her. Perhaps Newlyn's most interesting and important contribution to scholarship is the new neuroscientific detail she provides about the therapeutic effects of reading poetry aloud.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The search for a home 19 Nov 2013
I really enjoyed this book. What I found most compelling was the story it tells about how William and Dorothy dealt with the grief in their lives, turning it into a lifelong commitment to setting up a proper home. Newlyn really captures the sense that home is always something temporary, provisional. As they moved from house to house, making space for William and Mary's growing family, and dealing with the deaths of loved ones, they carried with them the spirit of home. Newlyn doesn't shy away from describing the hardships they faced; at the same time, she describes beautifully how the fragile moments of peace and joy in their lives gave rise to some of the most moving poetry - and prose - in the language. A great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming and insightful 5 Dec 2013
I didn't know much about the Wordsworths when I picked this up, but had visited Dove Cottage in the Lake District where William and Dorothy lived together. As a complete novice, I was delighted to discover a deeply insightful and sympathetic account of an absolutely fascinating relationship and an incredibly moving story. Newlyn expertly teases out the Wordsworths' deep affinity and creative relationship with the woods and paths of Grasmere and beyond. The illustrations were also charming.

Read this is you love the Wordsworths (as I now do), or if you love the Lake District, or poetry, or nature, or just a really good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a beautifully produced and illustrated book and it examines in a painstaking and fascinating way the complex relationship between William and Dorothy Wordsworth. It is all too easy, as others have done, to see their close relationship as incestuous or at best somewhat illicit. This book makes it clear that they had a very close spiritual and emotional bond - probably made all the stronger because of their early separation as young children. It is all too easy to judge the lives of those living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through the lens of the twenty first century. We need to remember that siblings living together even when one of them was married was commonplace.

Close examination of William's poetry and prose and Dorothy's own poetry and prose makes it clear that they sparked ideas off each other and much of the work attributed to William alone could be more accurately described as a joint effort. Many of the surviving notebooks contain entries from both of them and they wrote letters to friends together. Coleridge seems to have regarded Dorothy as an intellectual equal and someone whose help with his own compositions he was far from despising.

I found this book an interesting read. I studied 'Lyrical Ballads' - that famous work of co-operation between Wordsworth and Coleridge at school and enjoyed the poetry of both of them so it was interesting to read more about Wordsworth's life with Dorothy. This is a fascinating study of the poetry and prose of both William and Dorothy as well as their travels in the UK and on the continent with family and friends. The book contains a section of photographic illustrations as well as line drawings resembling woodcuts at the start and end of each chapter. There is an index, a bibliography and comprehensive notes on each chapter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars My dear, dear Sister 19 Jun 2014
By Withnail67 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"...in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister!"

As Tintern Abbey suggests, the familial and literary relationship between William and Dorothy Wordsworth is notoriously difficult to read, and this book does a fine job in decoding it. The book is securely scholarly, and shows a reassuring depth of engagement with sources held at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, but as other reviewers suggest, does provide valuable insights from other disciplines. The theraputic power of rhythmn and verse reminded me of Tony Harrison's Black Daisies For The Bride. The image of Dorothy carrying William and Sarah Hutchinson's wedding ring back from Germany on her own finger still haunts, but thanks to this handsomely produced book, I feel I can read it a little better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and scholarly 1 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author, Lucy Newlyn, is a professor of English at Oxford University so you will not be surprised to hear that this book about William Wordsworth (born 1770) and his younger sister, is very thoroughly researched and supported by fulsome quotations from source material. It seems to be aimed mainly at critics and scholars. It isn't light holiday reading, at least not for most of us (and my degree was in English Lit). "All In Each Other" traces the creative and emotional collaborative relationship between this devoted brother and sister. Newlyn elucidates how Wordsworth's works came into being, based on memories, shared experiences with his sister, emotion recollected in tranquility, the raw unspoiled scenery of the Lake District and the poverty and misery experienced by ordinary people who lived in the area or were passing through. It will help if you are already familiar with Wordsworth's most famous poems such as The Prelude and the Lyrical Ballads (especially Tintern Abbey). Newlyn quotes sufficiently to make her point without patronising us by taking us through an entire poem. There are historical insights too - Newlyn points out that in Wordsworth's day, nostalgia was regarded not as a state of heightened emotion but as a mental illness which required treatment. The problems of the 18th and 19th century are not so far away from our own - huge numbers of people deprived of their livelihood by changes in the economy and forced to live in poverty or to beg. In our day it is fashionable to write poetry or prose that rages about social injustice and demands political change. To Wordsworth the emotion of seeing a beggar or a cripple would be the basis of a poem about fortitude, patient cheer, compassion and the healing power of nature. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely and gentle
I love the Lake District, and up there you cannot fail to notice the influence and lasting impression that Wordsworth - and Beatrix Potter - have had on the area. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Soo Broo
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly titled
A student of Coleridge, especially of his time at Nether Stowey, the Wordsworths have long held a fscination for me. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful double biography, deeply rooted in the original texts.
The exceptionally close relationship between William Wordsworth and Dorothy, his slightly younger sister, has given rise to much speculation. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sensible Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective on the Wordsworths
It would be unreasonable to complain about the fact that we live in an age when so much literature is so easily available; but, it does, for a basically self educated person, such... Read more
Published 3 months ago by K. Petersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and well considered evaluation of the Wordsworth sibling's...
I enjoyed Lucy Newlyn's scholarly investigation of the work of the Wordsworth sibling's William and Dorothy. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Aitken
5.0 out of 5 stars A well wriiten book
For some reason I did not know that much about Dorothy and William Wordsworth until after reading this super book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Birmingham Book Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Arrived quickly
It's not in the condition that I expected as there is a stain running through the first few pages of the book as if something had been spilt on it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gillian Beattie-Smith
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