Wordsworth biographer star of literary lunch

lit lunch team photo

Tributes to William Wordsworth, the poet and the man, were paid at a celebration literary lunch in Ambleside.

The curators of Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount, Peter and Marian Elkington, hosted the lunch at the Old Stamp House restaurant, the third and final event to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Daffodils.

Chef Ryan Blackburn and his brother Craig, who own the restaurant in the building where Wordsworth worked as a civil servant, the Distributor of Stamps, created a Cumbrian-themed menu for the occasion.

The guest speaker, the eminent historian and biographer Juliet Barker, who has written two books about Wordsworth, spoke of her affection for Rydal Mount: “I get the strong sense that this was the home that was most important to Wordsworth,  that he and his family loved. It is the most wonderful place.”

Her talk focused on the two versions of Daffodils, the longer and definitive one being that published from Rydal Mount in 1815. She said: “I think it is one of the most important and evocative poems Wordsworth ever wrote. It encapsulates Wordsworth’s great idea about what he thought poetry was, ‘the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ and, like all his work, it was meant to be read aloud.

“It epitomises for me everything that Wordsworth the poet and the man was about.” She countered the critics who have tried to imply that the poem was Dorothy’s work.

“Though he and Dorothy saw the daffodils together, and she recorded the event in her journal, he wrote her out of the account with ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’. Dorothy’s journal was an aide memoire, but he makes the poem his own. She was his eyes and ears but it was not a poem Dorothy could have written. She doesn’t have the depth that Wordsworth brings to the poem.”

There were two lines in the final version, however, that Wordsworth did acknowledge were written by his wife, Mary:

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

“That was the only time he ever said that someone else wrote any of his lines,” said Ms Barker.

Among the guests at the lunch was the artist Hideyuki Sobue whose new portrait of Wordsworth was unveiled at Rydal Mount earlier this month. Curator Peter Elkington said that he hoped the literary lunch would be the first in a series hosted by Rydal Mount at the Old Stamp House.

Pictured are guests at the lunch, from left to right: Vicky Robinson, Peter Elkington, Juliet Barker, Mary-Anne Elkington, Marian Elkington, James Barker and Mike Robinson

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