An exhibition at Rydal Mount gives a new insight into the life of Dorothy Wordsworth – in her own bedroom.
Dorothy’s Room is a new installation created for Rydal Mount which uses film, sound and objects brought in from the outside landscape. Dorothy, the sister of William Wordsworth, lived at Rydal Mount with the poet and his wife, Mary. She was an author, poet and diarist herself.
The exhibition, created by Louise Ann Wilson, is part of a project called Women’s Walks to Remember. “With memory I was there” is a new participatory walking-art project that celebrates the walking-lives of Lake District women and collects maps, drawings, objects, photos, films and sounds relating to a significant route that they can no longer walk.
The project is inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s Rydal Journals in which she describes “rural sights and sounds” in vivid detail and recollects the landscape and walks she was no longer able to do.
“In older age Dorothy gradually became house, bedroom and terrace bound, relying on memory to transport herself into the landscape she had once walked,” says Louise Ann.
“It was really radical at that time for a woman to walk in the landscape.”
Dorothy also brought “treasures” into her “quiet” room. The walls were hung with paintings, pots of flowers lined her window ledge, plants grew around her window, which framed the fells she once walked, sunshine and the “sweet sound” of a robin singing entered from the garden. William acknowledged the importance of her influence in some of his poems.
The exhibition has a display of objects and artefacts on the bed, on whose pillows are copied scripts from the journals. There are knitting needles and thimbles, birds’ eggs, feathers, dried flowers and herbs. A repeating film of Dorothy’s landscape is projected onto the bedroom wall.
Louise Ann Wilson has a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from Lancaster Institute of the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University, where she is a visiting lecturer. The title of her thesis is: ‘Emplacing, Re-Imaging and Transforming ‘Missing’ Life-Events: A Feminine Sublime Approach to the Creation of Socially Engaged Scenography in Site-Specific Walking-Performance in Rural Landscapes’.
Rydal Mount curator Peter Elkington said: “This adds an extra dimension because it brings people to see Dorothy in a new light, in the very room where she spent a lot of her time.”
The exhibition runs until August 28 and then moves to the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.
Dorothy Wordsworth: 25 December 1771 – 25 January 1855