Special Collections and Rare Books is pleased to announce a new exhibit on the "Women of the Wordsworth Collection" curated by Kate Moffatt, an MA student in the Department of English. Located on the third floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library until August 31, 2018, the exhibit was developed through in-depth research and analysis of the Library's William Wordsworth Collection undertaken by Moffatt during a Directed Study in Special Collections and Rare Books.
Introduction to the "Women of the Wordsworth Collection"
The Wordsworth Collection in Special Collections and Rare Books at the SFU Library contains an extensive collection of William Wordsworth’s works – which is to be expected from a collection titled “The Wordsworth Collection.” What is less expected, however, but no less valuable, is the collection’s inclusion of many women writers published during the late Romantic and early Victorian period. This exhibit seeks to introduce you to a few of these women – to both showcase their works and provide the opportunity to appreciate authors whose gender often affected the critical attention they received.
William Wordsworth (1770–1850) was a famed Romantic poet most well-known for Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poetry he published with his friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He lived in the Lake District in Northern England for much of his life, and is widely associated with the area due to his extensive writing on the subject of nature (much of which he observed on daily walks through the area).
The women in the collection are all related to Wordsworth in some form or another: they are contemporaries from the period, such as Ann Radcliffe; authors of the Lake District, such as Harriet Martineau; or related to Wordsworth himself, as is the case with Dorothy and Dora Wordsworth. But each of these women – along with the others in this exhibit: Helen Maria Williams, Elizabeth Lynn Linton, and Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington – carry value beyond their reflection of, or relation to, Wordsworth and his works.
Dorothy Wordsworth’s observations of nature in her posthumously published journals compare to (and occasionally inspired) Wordsworth’s; Dora Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams, and Ann Radcliffe wrote and published journals of their travels through various parts of Europe; the Countess of Blessington published extensively, both travel narratives and novels, as a means of income; and Elizabeth Lynn Linton and Harriet Martineau, both female journalists at various points in their careers, wrote works describing the walking tours of the Lake District and its mountains. Their talents as varied as their lives, these women make up only a small portion of the women writers in the Wordsworth Collection.
This exhibit hopes to introduce you to who these particular women were and prompt, perhaps, a curiosity about the many other accomplished women in both the Collection and the period.
Reflections of the Curator
"Working with the Wordsworth Collection to create this exhibit has been a bit of a dream - I've been studying Dorothy Wordsworth since my undergrad, and women's authorship has always been a focus of mine. There are more than 70 works by women in the Wordsworth Collection, despite its focus on the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and this exhibit allowed me to really showcase a few of them. It's been a neat experience, working in Special Collections - there's something very magical about touching and working with physical copies of texts that existed when your favourite authors did." -- Kate Moffatt