In 1778, Dorothy Wordsworth’s mother died, and the six-year-old Dorothy was sent to live with extended family. She never returned to the family home, and it was not until adolescence that Dorothy became reacquainted with her brother William. The two formed an intense and passionate emotional bond. By 1794 they were living together from that time would rarely be physically separated for more than a few weeks at a time, for the rest of their lives.
Written in the voice of Dorothy, Beloved traces the progression of their relationship, from the ecstatic infatuation of youth onwards, drawing upon Dorothy’s diaries and letters as well as the recollections of friends and family members and literary and biographical scholarship.
‘In this beautifully poised poetry collection, Beloved, Penelope Layland brings Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855) to life. In these extraordinary works we hear one of the nineteenth century’s most noteworthy figures speaking about her intimate feelings and experiences in poems that are historically accurate, profoundly salutary, absolutely contemporary and wonderfully beguiling.’
‘The best way to get to the depths of fertile soil is to dig with simple tools, and this is what I admire most about Beloved. Layland uses intermittent rhyme and draws from birds’ flit and cow bellows to get to the heart of an epic sibling love. Her translation of Dorothy Wordsworth’s archives into a series of subtly perceptive homages to English Romanticism is stylistically spot-on. This is a careful poet who clearly understands her subject.’