William and Dorothy Wordsworth: ‘All in Each Other’ review – superbly revealing double portrait

Lucy Newlyn’s fascinating mix of literary criticism and biography celebrates sibling love and the nurturing power of nature

This biographical study is the first to compare the full range of Dorothy Wordsworth’s writings with those of her brother, William. A poet as well as a scholar, Lucy Newlyn proves to be the ideal reader of their works, as well as offering a superbly revealing portrait of the siblings who were joined “in a sacred non-sexual union”. Parted after the death of their mother when Dorothy was only six, they were not reunited until their teenage years. They became inseparable and William referred to her as one of “the two Beings to whom my intellect is most indebted”. She was his muse, the first reader of his poems, an attentive editor, amanuensis, critic and, as William said, “the dear companion of my lonely walk”. But more than this, Newlyn argues, the two were equal partners in writing and their intense love of the Lake District resulted in a “distinctively symbiotic contribution to Romantic environmentalism”. A fascinating mix of literary criticism and biography that celebrates sibling love and the nurturing power of the natural world.

William and Dorothy Wordsworth: ‘All in Each Other’ is published by Oxford. To order a copy for £12.29 (RRP £14.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.


PD Smith

The GuardianTramp

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