The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth


Frances Wilson, author of the acclaimed ‘The Courtesan’s Revenge’, presents a powerful new biography of Wordsworth’s beloved sister, champion and muse. Dorothy’s journals reveal a strange, intangible love between brother and sister, culminating in her collapse at his wedding and eventual insanity.

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SKU: 9780571366231 Category:


The prize-winning biography of Wordsworth’s beloved sister, champion, muse who was at the heart of the Romantic movement in Britain – reissued to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Dorothy’s birth.

‘Genius … Its own kind of heaven.’ New York Times

‘A most beautiful, deep, and humble study of incredibly complex people.’ Oliver Sacks

Dorothy Wordsworth is an enigma. William’s beloved sister was his muse, champion, and most valued reader. She is mythologised as a self-effacing spinster and saintly amanuensis, yet Thomas De Quincey described her as ‘all fire and ardour’.

Dorothy sacrificed a traditional life to share in her brother’s world of words. In her Grasmere Journals, she vividly recorded their intimate life together in the Lake District, marked by a startling freedom from social convention. The tale that unfolds in her brief, electric entries reveals an intense bond between siblings, culminating in Dorothy’s collapse on William’s wedding day – after which the woman who once strode the hills in all weathers retreated inside the house for the last three decades of her life.

In her magisterial biography, Frances Wilson uses the compressed emotion of Dorothy’s journals to evoke the rich interior world of a woman determined to live on her own terms – one who deserves her own place in the history of the Romantic movement.

‘Intelligent and intriguing … A portrait of a peculiar, passionate, yet meticulous woman which is hauntingly strange.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Passion is the keynote of Wilson’s fine biography … Brims with the personality of [an] extraordinary woman … Thrilling.’ Sunday Times

‘This beautiful, wise biography draws Dorothy from her hiding places. She emerges as a passionate figure.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Gripping … Bold, witty, scholarly and speculative.’ Margaret Drabble

Additional information

Weight 0.256 kg
Dimensions 19.8 × 12.9 × 1.9 cm










821.7 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K