Reading Wordsworth around the world

Celebrities, artists, writers and musicians have joined a project to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth .

They have read Wordsworth’s poems to be viewed and heard throughout the world on a website which has gone beyond the wildest dreams of the organisers, the poet’s descendants.

Wordsworth250 is being led by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet whose family still own the house at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where William lived for most of his life.

The house, which opened to the public for the first time 50 years ago, is currently closed because of the health crisis. The family had planned a series of events there – including the 80th birthday of Christopher’s mother Susan – but decided that celebrations must go ahead in a virtual way.

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The website was featured this week in The Guardian which reports that: “A host of actors and celebrities have jumped at the chance to record their favourite Wordsworth poems to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, with the poet’s descendants now appealing to the public to send in their own readings to help them build a living archive of his writing online.

“Stephen Fry and Brian Cox’s sonorous tones can be heard declaiming William Wordsworth’s The World Is Too Much With Us, Caroline Quentin is reading the Romantic poet’s Lines Written in Early Spring, and William H Macy has taken on his She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways.”

There have been poems set to music and sung; old favourites presented in new – and sometimes startling – ways. Actors such as Tom Conti have joined members of the Wordsworth family; readers old and young have presented their favourites.

The website is www.wordsworth250.com and contributions can be made by members of the public to wordsworth250@gmail.com ; audio or video files can be submitted and can be recorded on a mobile phone. If files are too large to email, they can be sent to the same address using We Transfer.

Christopher said that William’s poems were more relevant today than ever. “He was a pioneer with his views about nature and the environment.

“We launched three poems  with celebrity readings, and we have been overwhelmed by the response. We want to keep this open for everyone, to record their favourite poem and we will keep it on the website for ever. We found that actually everybody rather likes Wordsworth. Not just the daffodils and Westminster Bridge, but a whole load of other things as well.”

 

Join us and read YOUR favourite Wordsworth poem

Stephen Fry is joining descendants of William Wordsworth in reading poetry online in a celebration venture which will be open to everyone.

Anyone who loves Wordsworth is invited to record themselves reading their favourite poem and upload it to a website which is launched today, the 250th anniversary of the poet’s death. The first three poems are live now, beginning with Stephen Fry reading The world is too much with us.

He is followed by Susan Wordsworth Andrew (great great great grand-daughter) reading Afterthought, and Thea Aitchison (great great great great great grand-daughter) reading My heart leaps up.

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The project is being led by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet whose family still own the house at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where William lived for most of his life.

The house, which opened to the public for the first time 50 years ago today, is currently closed because of the health crisis. The family had planned a series of events there – including the 80th birthday of Christopher’s mother Susan – but decided that celebrations must go ahead in a virtual way.

The website is www.wordsworth250.com and contributions can be made by members of the public to wordsworth250@gmail.com ; audio or video files can be submitted and can be taken on a mobile phone. If files are too large to email, they can be sent to the same address using We Transfer.

Christopher said that William’s poems were more relevant today than ever. “He was a pioneer with his views about nature and the environment.

“We are launching the first three poems today with celebrity readings, but we want to open this to everyone, to record their favourite poem and we will keep it on the website for ever.

The Wordsworth family have also postponed the award ceremony for the annual Rydal Mount poetry prize for young people. Entries on the theme of Milestones are currently being read and judged by members of the family and all who took part will be invited to the prizegiving later in the year.

Christopher also highlighted one poem which resonates today:

 

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

 

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

 

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

 

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

 

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

 

 

Stamps to celebrate Wordsworth anniversary

Royal Mail is launching 10 new special stamps on the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth, who was born on 7th April 1770.

They feature Wordsworth himself and other major Romantic poets: William Blake; John Keats; Lord Byron; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Mary Robinson; Percy Bysshe Shelley; Walter Scott; John Clare; and Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Each stamp uses an extract from one of their most popular and enduring works, along with a specially-commissioned illustration by Linda Farquharson that reflects the theme of the poem.

wordsworthy stamp

Said Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great great grandson: “We are hoping these stamps strike a chord with people at this time. It’s another wonderful tribute to the life and work of William Wordsworth and enables us to mark the occasion even though we have had to curtail other celebrations.”

The Wordsworth family had been due to gather at Rydal Mount this week to mark the anniversary. Instead, they are releasing videos and audio recordings of several family members, friends and other poets reading their favourite Wordsworth poems.

The range of stamps can be seen at https://shop.royalmail.com/special-stamp-issues/the-romantic-poets

 

The Rainbow

My heart leaps up when I behold 
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began; 
So is it now I am a man; 
So be it when I shall grow old, 
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

“The World is too much with us”

It is with great sadness that, in line with government decree, we are closing Rydal Mount to visitors. The garden looks at its best in April, May and June and so we will continue to share images of spring at Rydal Mount.
doras daffs
2020 is an important year for William Wordsworth, being the 250th anniversary of his birth, and also important for Rydal Mount, marking the 50th year since the house opening. Although our physical celebrations for April have been disrupted we will not be deflected from celebrating Wordsworth, especially when his message is so relevant to our current day.
wordsworth poets corner wreath
Please keep an eye on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the Blog for more details.
Otherwise we look forward to seeing you at Rydal Mount later in this year, and wish you continued health during these difficult times.
lovely garden and house
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Poetry awards to be held later in year

The descendants of William Wordsworth have postponed the planned award ceremony and prizegiving for young poets in Cumbria.

They have been thrilled with the number – and quality – of poems submitted from schools across the county for this eighth annual event.

Youngsters were asked to write poems on the subject of “Milestones” to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth.

The young poets, their parents and teachers were due to attend an award ceremony at Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s home, in May.

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great great grandson, has written to all who submitted their work to explain that the winners will be announced at a postponed ceremony later in the year. The house has now been closed to the public during the current health crisis.

“We always love welcoming the young writers and their families for the presentation ceremony,” he said. “We are very impressed with the standard of entries sent in this year and we look forward to meeting all the young poets in happier times.”

chris and pupils from furness

Christopher with young poets at a previous award ceremony

A welcome into Wordsworth’s home

Visitors love coming to look around the house and gardens at Rydal Mount.

But this year we have special events planned that will allow you to come and spend time in the house, listen to talks, and even do some work of your own here.

garden in autumn

Next month we launch a series of informative talks and discussions, starting with Muriel Strachan who returns on April 14 returns to talk about Wordsworth’s children. She will explore the lives of his children and how growing up with the Poet as their father shaped his surviving children’s evolution as adults. Her son, Professor John Strachan, will discuss Wordsworth’s Family Memorials – the elegiac verse for the children.

Book here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wordsworths-children-tickets-82987667347

On May 24 we welcome Dr Jessica Fay who will look at the fascinating discourse between William Wordsworth and Sir George Beaumont about aspects of culture and creativity. Wordsworth is more often associated with rural folk and the Lakeland fells than with polite society and picture galleries but he described his friendship with Sir George Beaumont as one of the ‘blessings’ of his life.

Beaumont was an artist, patron, and co-founder of the National Gallery; for almost 25 years, he and Wordsworth exchanged ideas about poetry, painting, exhibitions, the theatre, and gardening. This talk will explore some of the ways they influenced each other and introduce paintings Beaumont produced to accompany Wordsworth’s poetry.

Rydal Mount

The White Doe, by Beaumont, which inspired Wordsworth’s poem

Dr Fay is the editor of The Letters of Sir George and Lady Beaumont to William and Dorothy Wordsworth (2021) and author of Wordsworth’s Monastic Inheritance: Poetry, Place, and the Sense of Community (2018).

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wordsworth-sir-george-beaumont-an-interchange-of-knowledge-delight-tickets-84603580587?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

And for a hands-on experience, workshops in using an unusual photographic technique involving tea and red wine are to be held here at the house. Award-winning photographer Chris Routledge will teach sessions in the process of cyanotype photo printing. And the workshops are open to all, novice and expert camera users.

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Example of cyanotype

The first workshop is on March 28. A second, on May 9, will examine printing and toning. This, says Chris, is for those who want to go beyond blue, and bring other shades to their prints. “We’ll begin by making some test prints before learning how to bleach and tone them using widely available everyday ingredients, including tea and red wine. After some experimenting we shall end the day by producing our own unique finished prints.”

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-cyanotype-prints-tickets-96224228257?ref=estw

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cyanotypes-printing-toning-tickets-96224715715?ref=estw

Later in the year, on September 7, we have a visit from Dr Penny Bradshaw, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Cumbria. Her lecture will consider Victorian poetic responses to Wordsworth immediately following his death, including Matthew Arnold’s Memorial Verses, before offering an account of how later poets – such as W.H. Auden and Norman Nicholson – negotiate with a Wordsworthian perspective, particularly in their own engagement with the Cumbrian landscape.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/posthumous-wordsworth-afterlives-and-second-selves-tickets-84616731923?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

There’s also a new book out shortly, and we are expecting a visit from the author later in the year. Andrew Wordsworth has written Well-Kept Secrets: The Story of William Wordsworth. This uses poetry as a starting point to explore Wordsworth’s many contradictions and his constant struggle to come to terms with them. Watch for announcements about the date of his lecture here.

We are also planning an afternoon on croquet on the lawn later in the summer. But the house and gardens are open seven days a week from April 3 (until then we’re closed Monday and Tuesday) so you can come and look around at your leisure.

A special service at Westminster Abbey

It was a very special day at Westminster Abbey.

With flowers from both Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, a wreath was laid by Susan Andrew, gr-gr-gr granddaughter of William Wordsworth, and her granddaughter Phoebe (great granddaughter x 5) at Wordsworth’s statue in Poets’ Corner.

wordsworth poets corner wreath

Antony Wordsworth gave a fascinating account of what such a legacy means for all descendents of such an eminent forebear aka within the family as, variously “WW”, “The Poet”, and “Great Grandfather William”

Sir Drummond Bone discussed Wordsworth and his importance and value today, particularly in light of the Reimagining Wordsworth project, and then read out Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s moving address about how Wordsworth continues to influence him.

And Simon Bennie, Susan’s son and Phoebe’s father read “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”.

wordsworth family

It was a unique blend of an intimate family occasion, combined with a sense of universal cultural significance, and followed the wonderful experience of the Abbey’s evensong.

the event

Many friends came from Cumbria and elsewhere to made it such a memorable experience.

The wreath was made by our Rydal Mount guide Clara Li-Dunne.

wreath