The guest speaker, Shirley Asquith, delivered a factual talk on Dorothy Wordsworth, an English poet, author and diarist and, the sister of the much more well known poet, William Wordsworth. Some believe that Dorothy, living in the shadow of her brother, never received the recognition she deserved. But she had no ambition to become well known and was happy for her brother to be in the spotlight. Indeed, it is thought that William’s well known poem, “Daffodils”, was somewhat plagiarised and adapted from a journal entry written by Dorothy some two years earlier.
Dorothy was born on Christmas Day 1771 and raised as a young child in Cockermouth in Cumbria. Sadly, her parents died while she was young, so, in 1783, she came to live in Halifax with her auntie, Elizabeth Threlkeld. In later life she documented, “Halifax, a place I have come to call home”.
She attended Mellins, a boarding school, where she was taught, not only the usual “Three R’s”, but also about good morals, literature and nature. This was the same school later attended by Anne Lister, and though 20 years later and in the similar era, neither lady made reference in their journals about the other, and although they were associated with the same people, they did not know each other.
The Halifax Piece Hall was opened on New Years Day 1779. Dorothy often stayed with a very good friend, Mary Pollard, who lived nearby and, from her bedroom window, she could see the comings and goings of the traders
Elizabeth Threlkeld married William Rawson, a partner in Rawson’s Bank, and this opened the door for Dorothy to improve her social connections. She was always very poor and could never afford to buy her own home and William Rawson was very good to her and often gave her books.
After she died in 1855, her journals were published posthumously in 1897. (AB)