In BBC 4's Monday morning book peddling programme , Start the Week , Andrew Marr interviewed Francis Wilson whose book about William's sister, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth is published by Faber and Faber.(£18.99, pp286 Amazon ) This is essentially an extended psychobabble review of Dorothy's 4 small notebooks - The Grasmere Journals produced in the period between December 1799 and October 1802, when Dorothy and William lived together at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and which end with William's marriage.
Childhood playmates, William and Dorothy were separated on the death of their mother, when William was 8 and Dorothy 7, their father died 5 years later. Dorothy was despatched to Halifax to be raised by her second cousin, Elizabeth Threkald.
The siblings had a happy and successful menage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Dorset about which much has been written. Their later idyll in Grasmere, documented sketchily in her journal ended in (to Dorothy) her brother's unwelcome marriage - which she refused to attend.
(Melo) dramatically she threw herself on her brother on his return to the cottage after the wedding , and it was she not his wife who was carried over the threshold. The wedding ring (some Wordsworthian has it yet) was made a Brussels and was said to have been obtained when the pair went to meet his French mistress, Annette Vallon, mother of his child.
Dutifully however Dorothy joined the happy couple on their honeymoon and continued to live with them at Dove Cottage and later at Rydal Mount. She descended eventually into madness and spent the last two decades of her life Dorothy ended her days on the top floor of her brother's house, scratching her nurses and 'making a nondescript sound more shrill than the cry of a partridge or a turkey' or simply amused by swilling water round a bowl.
The book's blurb has it that ..."The tale that unfolds through her brief, lyrical entries reveals a strange, intangible love between brother and sister" . However Marr, in questioning Francis , gave the tale a very tangible dimension.....
ANDREW MARR : This is an incestuous relationship between brother and sister ?
FRANCIS WILSON : Well Yes ! But it's a much more complicated relationship than that .
More complicated for Fuck's sake! William sodomized her ? Introduced farmyard animals into the bedroom ? Used some antique sex toys to freshen things up ? She tied him up and used him as a toilet ? Anyway you could here Francis smile as the tills started ringing in Waterstone's.
According to some reviewers Mrs W is said to have joined in the frolics to make it a merry threesome. Who knows ? Who cares ? Probably faber & Faber and Francis Wilson's anxious bank manager.
The beautiful and haunting Rachel McKinney is a Californian by way of childhood days in Chile, Mexico, and Arizona and an adult life on the stage in New York and stars as Dorothy Worsdworth in Roan Productions film Grasmere.
The Grasmere Journals text is available at Amazon.