First Steps | A Scottish Tour


Dorothy Wordsworth

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Tonight, we’ll read the opening to “Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803”, a travel memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth. This episode originally aired in 2020.

Wordsworth’s six-week, 663-mile journey through the Scottish Highlands with her brother William Wordsworth and mutual friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge has been called a masterpiece and one of the best Scottish travel writings during a century which saw hundreds of such examples.

Dorothy wrote Recollections for family and friends and never saw it published in her lifetime. The three travelers were important authors in the burgeoning Romanticism movement and thus the trip itinerary was in part a literary pilgrimage to the places associated with Scottish figures significant to Romanticists.

Dorothy's descriptions and judgments of the countryside and landscapes were a mixture of her own personal aesthetics and the in-fashion aesthetics of the sublime, beautiful and picturesque—in fact, Recollections is considered today a classic of picturesque travel writing. Venturing to Scotland in 1803 was not an easy trip and the thirty-year-old Dorothy would experience much of the rougher nature of Scottish life: a depopulated rural land due to industrialization and emigration, along with rough roads, coarse lodgings and sometimes meager food.