Hutchinson, £25 Order at a discount from the The Independent Bookshop

Book review: The Poets' Daughters, By Katie Waldegrave

Talented, spirited, the Lake Poets' offspring had mountains of their own to climb

Katie Waldegrave could have shown Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge as mere casualties of their respective fathers' possessiveness and neglect: she has plenty of material. But her parallel lives are about affinity and love as much as bad parenting.

Get this book at the discounted rate of £18 from The Independent Bookshop or call 0843 0600 030

 

The Lake Poets favoured romantic wildness, and the gang of little Wordsworths, Coleridges and Southeys waded up the Grasmere watercourses and harassed neighbours unsupervised. In many ways they had a blissful dawn to be alive in, despite the usual long illnesses and shocking deaths of siblings.

All children inherit old jealousies and alliances; theirs were especially sharp and public. The girls might attract the attention of Social Services now. Dora, getting a bit too wild at nine, was sent off to boarding school by her Aunt Dorothy on an outside seat of the coach in the care of two drunken sailors. Wordsworth's sister seems to have disliked her niece, who would displace her.

But Laureate Robert Southey and deserted Mrs Coleridge (he and Coleridge had married sisters) made sure the children at Keswick had some stability and academic education in Latin and Italian as well as "accomplishments". When apart, Sara and Dora corresponded: a "vile Doro, your base neglect of me is intolerable" would get a quick reply back across the mountain.

In Dora's early teens her father's eyesight was failing and he began to make her his amanuensis in the image of Milton's daughters, though he already had a wife and sister in that role. He disliked the physical act of writing and composed aloud. Without secretarial backup, much might have been lost. Was Dora's work a privilege or a trap? Waldegrave traces the lifelong ambiguity and its impact on her health. Wordsworth opposed the only marriage she wanted, capitulating with ill grace when she was 36 - though her husband continued to venerate him.

Coleridge left when Sara was a baby, returned in her childhood to admire her beauty and intelligence, then disappeared in her teens. Wordsworth became her substitute father. At 20 she went to London to rediscover the real one, but the Sage of Highgate was too damaged by opium for family relationships. Perhaps inevitably, both women married "in", Sara to a cousin also devoted to his father-in -law.

The Poets' Daughters lacks the intensity of Frances Wilson's The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, but its scope is wider. Waldegrave traces the literary genetics: the daughters were like the fathers in mind as well as looks. Wordsworth's Lakes reappear in Dora's lyrical evocations of Portuguese scenery, published as A Guide to Portugal against her parents' wishes. "Cerulean" or bluestocking Sara published her translation from the Latin of a learned work on Paraguay at 18. Her magical poem "Phantasmion" creates surreal land and seascapes like Coleridge's.

Both women's lives were darkened by depression, eating disorders and, in Sara's case, the deaths of three babies and many miscarriages. She too relied on opium. But writing revived her. As a widow she engaged in the theological battles of the mid-19th century and brilliantly edited her father's unpublished work, refusing to suppress material the Victorians would find shocking. "She shines with a light of her own," she wrote of Dora, "not merely with a portion of parental radiance". The praise applies equally to herself. Unlike their touchy fathers, they stayed friends all their lives.

Loraine Fletcher's 'Print/Capture: a memoir' is available via Amazon

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf