Visits to English Writers’ Homes: Dove Cottage

by drpoppy

View of Lake Grasmere that inspired Wordsworth

This past May, my mother and I took a vacation in England, starting in the Lake District. While enjoying the natural beauty, we also visited several writers’ homes in the area.

The most famous writer’s home in the Lake District, and one of the most famous in the world, is Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived from 1799-1808, producing Dorothy’s Grasmere Journals and William’s most popular and enduring poetry.

On a personal note: I have always had a love-hate relationship with William Wordsworth. His poetry is undeniably beautiful, and he revolutionized poetry at the time, yet he’s so patriarchal, ya know? In any case, for some reason, I have always wanted to see Dove Cottage in person. It just has such an impressive literary history for a little place. Wordsworth wrote much of his best poetry there, Coleridge and De Quincey hung out with him there, and after he left De Quincey took over the lease, and in typical De Quincey fashion, pissed Wordsworth off by being more unconventional than he was, causing them to stop speaking.

I could only take pictures outside of the cottage, which was just as lovely and quaint as I thought it would be.

Dove Cottage from the front

Entrance to Dorothy’s little side garden

View from the top of the garden behind the cottage: you can see for miles!

It’s easy to see how the area inspired these writers; it’s incredibly beautiful, being simultaneously, and paradoxically, dramatic and quaint. The house itself is small, which I expected, but I hadn’t realized until visiting it how many people had lived there at once: at first only William and Dorothy lived there, but in 1802, William married, and his wife had 3  children within the following 4 years. That’s not counting the many overnight stays from poet guests. The house is two floors. The bottom floor is extremely dark, with black floors and very little outside light. The top floor, especially Wordsworth’s study (of course) is relatively light, but the rooms are small and I can’t imagine it didn’t feel cramped. Especially for Dorothy, if you ask me.

My last picture is the closest I came to taking one inside the house. I tried to sneak a picture of what they claimed was De Quincey’s opium scales (!) but I got caught before I could manage it. They’re serious in England about no pictures inside the museums!

looking out to the street from the study