On Dove Cottage

1 The Wordsworth Trust.


At age fourteen, Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859) read a manuscript of a Wordsworth poem from Lyrical Ballads and his life was transformed. Eight years later he visited Wordsworth’s Grasmere home of Dove Cottage, becoming its tenant two years after that. In the years there which followed, De Quincey developed a strong addiction to opium and wrote of his experiences in Confessions of an English Opium Easter, a best-selling book published in 1822. This video discusses the background to this work, featuring the author’s opium scales and manuscript.


Jeff Cowton was born in Alnwick in 1959 and graduated with a degree in Modern History from University of Leeds, taking up a temporary post as a guide at the Wordsworths’ Dove Cottage, Grasmere, a year later. In 1983, he became the Librarian, hosted several of the world’s greatest scholars, and accompanied eighty of the Wordsworth Trust’s treasures on a tour of America. After completing his professional qualification (Associate Museums Association), he was appointed Curator, and alongside this work, led the way for the museum to become the first to offer a modern apprenticeship in cultural heritage. In the early 2000s, Jeff oversaw the bringing of the collections together under one roof in a new library and research centre, the Jerwood Centre. More recently, he led the reinterpretation of Dove Cottage and the new museum at Wordsworth Grasmere. The volunteer/internship programme Jeff developed has inspired hundreds of young people to follow in his footsteps. In recognition of his lifelong service to the Wordsworth Trust and his outstanding contribution to the wider museum sector, he was awarded an MBE in 2010.

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