I have just holidayed in the Lake District, and of course I had to visit Dove Cottage, at Grasmere, where I got this book. If you are ever in the area I would strongly advise anyone to make a detour to the place as there is a museum and a guided tour of the cottage.
These journals kept by Dorothy Wordsworth were for private use only and were never meant for publication, so consequently initials are used for people's names in places, as well as there being less punctuation than if it had been meant for a mass audience.
The Grasmere Journals
Dorothy kept these for about three years. She didn't necessarily write in them everyday, and so there are gaps and at times she just writes one entry to cover a period of time. In all the Wordsworth's did spend nine years here and Wordsworth claimed that Dorothy was his eyes and ears. Now known as the 'Golden Decade' this was the period when Wordsworth wrote nearly all his best poetry. These journals have been useful in dating some of Wordsworth's poetry, and seeing his inspiration, but they also provide the minutiae of everyday life, when people were ill, the friends they had in the area, and the characters that they came across, as well as a visit they made to France.
The Alfoxden Journal
This is much shorter that the above, and was written beforehand when the Wordsworth's were staying near Coleridge in Somerset. As above they show the way they lived, and also provide descriptions of the area.
All in all this is a fascinating read that even if you don't really like poetry you will probably enjoy. Dorothy's writing is in places very descriptive and she really brings the people and the areas that she writes about to life. In some cases you feel that you are round your gran's, drinking tea and eating cake as she tells you what she has been up to lately. There is also over a hundred pages of notes which should explain anything that you are unsure of, as well as an introduction, both written by Pamela Woof.
William Wordsworth's poetry is as good as William Shakespeare's drama and, whereas we know next to nothing about the Bard (see Bill Bryson's 'Shakespeare: The World as a Stage' for a lucid account of just how little we do know), we have a much fuller picture of the great Romantic thanks in part to his sister Dorothy, whose collected jottings of day-to-day events this is. English literature attracts more than its fair share of pompous windbags who use great works to show off about how clever and insightful they are but who seem to forget the real world in which the writers lived - the fact that The Prelude, for example, is as much about a backside parked on a chair as it is a powerful imagination roaming over the origin and exercise of a prodigious poetic sensibility. It's also about this: "... we borrowed some bottles for bottling rum. The evening somewhat frosty and grey but very pleasant. I broiled Coleridge a mutton chop which he ate in bed." Editor Pamela Woof has done us all a great service here with something as important in its way as anything knocked out by FR Leavis or any other grandee of the academic critical industry. I'll even forgive DW "bottles" and "bottling" in the same sentence, and I bet that chop was tasty too, Sam.