Portrait of Dorothy Wordsworth returns to the family home

portrait of Dorothy

A rare portrait of Dorothy Wordsworth as a young woman has been bought by Rydal Mount, her home near Ambleside that she shared with brother William and his wife, Mary.

The unsigned and unattributed miniature was given by Dorothy’s niece Dora to Maria Jewsbury who, at the age of 24, had presented a collection of her poems to William Wordsworth.

It was sold for an undisclosed sum by auctioneers Bonhams of London to members of the Wordsworth family, who still own the house where the poet lived for most of his life. Curator of Rydal Mount, Peter Elkington, said he was thrilled at this acquisition.

“Dorothy lived a long time, and most of the representations of her show her as a placid, middle aged woman. But she was known to be enigmatic in her youth, and the essayist Thomas de Quincy described her wild eyes and impulsive nature. This comes much closer to that notion of her.”

Maria Jewsbury was invited to stay with the Wordsworths at Rydal Mount where she became a great admirer of Dorothy and firm friends with Dora and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s daughter, Sara.

In 1831Maria married a missionary and on departing for India she offered the portrait to Dora – who turned it down because she didn’t like it. Maria died in India in 1833 – of cholera – and the painting was given to Henry Coleridge, Sara’s husband and cousin. It was one of a number of items relating to Coleridge the writer which were sold by Bonhams.

Now it has come home, to hang in the drawing room at Rydal Mount alongside the more famous portrait of Dorothy as a mature woman. Said Peter Elkington: “It’s a really significant addition to our collection and sheds more light on the life and nature of this influential woman.”


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