Rhythm and repetition at Dove Cottage

Jessica Fay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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It is well known that William and Dorothy Wordsworth habitually hummed and murmured lines of poetry to themselves and to each other both indoors and while they paced backwards and forwards outside. While this was a lifelong habit for the poet, there are two specific periods at Dove Cottage—the spring and early summer of 1802 and the months following John Wordsworth’s death in 1805—during which the repetition of verses alongside various types of iterative physical activity may be interpreted as an “extra-liturgical” practice performed to induce and support meditation and consolation. In shaping their own “familiar
rhythm[s]”, the Wordsworths are aligned with Jeremy Taylor, whose mid-seventeenth century writings promoted the cultivation of private, individual repetition and ritual. Although William and Dorothy act independently of corporate worship in 1802 and 1805, their habits—in sympathy with Taylor’s teaching—reveal a craving for the kinds of structures William later celebrated in Ecclesiastical Sonnets. Consequently, the apparent disparity between the high-Romantic poet of Dove Cottage and the high-Anglican Tractarian sympathizer of Rydal Mount is shown to be less severe than is often assumed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-95
Number of pages23
JournalPhilological Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018


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