William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s Correspondence

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by Joseph Graham

Upon receiving the invitation to interview for this project, one which as a lover of all thing’s Romantic poetry related, I was thrilled to potentially undertake, I took a trip to Coleorton hall the residence of George and Lady Beaumont around whom the project centred. Being from Leicestershire, the hall was only a twenty-minute drive, and yet I knew nothing of the hall, or the Beaumont family who resided there. The visit proved, as the entire project would, incredibly rewarding.

Looking back on the project, I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to have been able to delve into an area of Wordsworth’s life previously disregarded as trivial, in such a strikingly intimate manner. The majority of my research was in transcribing and cross-referencing Dr Fay’s previous transcriptions of the correspondence of George and Lady Beaumont and the Wordsworths, an exercise in patience and diligence whilst also being deeply fascinating. The letters contain a palimpsest of interesting content; the array of names dropped casually into conversation as if listing the most trivial of subjects, contained luminaries from across the visual and literary arts; Reynolds, Southey, Walter Scott, Byron, Coleridge. Historically seismic events unfolded before me such as descriptions of wandering the scarred fields of a post-Waterloo Belgium, as well as accounts of the character of Nelson after his victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar. These letters truly shade in the edges of historical events previously taken as a given to me, opaque and calcified as part of history; as L.P Hartley said, the past is a foreign country. These letters, and my opportunity to interact with them brought history, a history I formerly was interested in, all the more into rounded perspective.

Yet aside from these first-hand accounts of momentous historical events, it was the minutiae of the deep friendship the Beaumonts and Wordsworths that were all the more precious to me. George’s idiosyncratic obsession with his health; in depth conversation of the proper manner in which to cultivate a garden; complaints of Coleridge’s temperamentality and his divorce; Beaumont’s searing critiques of art; that combined to make the lofty name of Wordsworth a little more human.  I had the opportunity to transcribe from the original correspondence which Dr Fay had not yet transcribed, and this was a fascinating challenge, one which has given me keen insight into academic research. Movingly, the last letter I transcribed was the announcement of the death of George Beaumont, who founded the National Gallery, from his loving wife to the Wordsworths, and it felt like an emotionally poignant conclusion to my research.

The scholarship scheme afforded me both an opportunity to engage in research I had a prior passion for which has only been multiplied, and a better understanding of the research and skills required to conduct academic research, which has been equally rewarding. I had the task of checking through Dr Fay’s extensive bibliography, which though intensive, offered insight into the levels of commitment required in academic research.  My interest in post graduate research has increased tremendously and I would like to thank Dr Fay for her encouragement in my research and the manner in which she made it feel like a collaborative effort, aiming towards a common goal. I would recommend the scheme with the highest enthusiasm to any student, as my skills, knowledge, and appreciation of academic research have increased directly as a result of taking part.

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