Eminent historian to speak at Ambleside literary lunch

Tickets are still available for a celebration literary lunch in Ambleside at the award-winning Old Stamp House restaurant.

The event will mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils, one of the world’s most famous poems. It will be based in the building where the poet once worked as a civil servant.

The guest speaker is the eminent historian and literary biographer, Juliet Barker, biographer of the Brontes, who has also published two books about Wordsworth.

The event, on Wednesday April 22 – the day before the anniversary of Wordsworth’s death – has been organised by Peter and Marian Elkington, the curators of Rydal Mount, the house near Ambleside where the poet lived for 37 years, and from where he published the final and definitive version of Daffodils in 1815.

Chef Ryan Blackburn, an admirer of Wordsworth’s work, is creating a Cumbrian-themed three course meal for the occasion. It is hoped that literary lunches hosted by Rydal Mount at the Old Stamp House might become regular events.

Bookings for the lunch, which costs £22.50 for three courses with coffee, should be made directly to the restaurant by calling 015394 32775. Numbers are strictly limited and early booking is advisable.

The Old Stamp House is where Wordsworth worked as the Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, from 1813, the year that he and his family moved to Rydal Mount, until he started to earn enough money from his writing.

Peter Elkington said: “We are thrilled that Juliet Barker is joining us for this very special celebration. She will talk about Wordsworth’s life and work, and no one is better placed to reveal the elusive private man behind the public image.”

Daffodils has captured the hearts of poetry lovers across the world. It has been recited simultaneously by 150,000 schoolchildren, won an American TV talent show when read by a young contestant, and translated into many languages. A version in Chinese calligraphy written on a six-foot high scroll was presented to Rydal Mount recently by a lecturer at Shandong Jiaotong University in China.

The poem was set to music in a song, I wandered lonely as a cloud, recorded by American folk glitter queen Judy Polan in 1996.

The poet’s great great great great grandson Christopher Wordsworth said of the appeal of Daffodils: “The poem has deceptively simple language which delivers a profound message.”

The inspiration for the poem came from a walk Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy took through the woods beyond Gowbarrow at Ullswater and came across a “belt” of wild daffodils blowing in the wind from the lake.

Notes :

  • Rydal Mount is still owned by the Wordsworth family and open to visitors daily, with limited opening hours in winter. http://www.rydalmount.co.uk/opening/
  • The house is a treasure trove of Wordsworth memorabilia. The gardens are being restored according to plans made by the poet. Below the house is Dora’s Field , which Wordsworth planted with daffodils in memory of his eldest daughter, who died from tuberculosis in 1847.
  • Juliet Barker is the author of Wordsworth, A Life (2000) and Wordsworth, A Life in Letters (2002). She lives in Yorkshire, and is a former curator and librarian of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and author of a number of books about the Brontes.
  • The Old Stamp House was launched last year by Ryan Blackburn, formerly of Holbeck Ghyll and The Cottage in the Wood, and a Cumbrian Chef of the Year winner. He and his brother Craig source local ingredients from top Cumbrian suppliers
  • Wordsworth wrote several earlier versions of Daffodils but the version we know today is this final one published in 1815.



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