Auctions | October 17, 2013

Rare Portrait of Young Dorothy Wordsworth at Bonhams

One of the very few representations of Dorothy Wordsworth as a young woman is to be sold at Bonhams sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs in London on 12 November. It is estimated at £5,000-10,000.

The unsigned and unattributed miniature was given by Dorothy’s niece Dora to Maria Jewsbury who, at the age of 24, had presented a collection of her poems to William Wordsworth. On the strength of this, Maria was invited to stay with the Wordsworths at Rydal Mount where she became a great admirer of Dorothy and firm friends with Dora and Coleridge’s daughter Sara.

In 1831 Maria married a missionary. Just before her departure for India (where cholera struck her soon after arriving) she offered the portrait to Dora who turned it down on the grounds that she did not like it.  The painting was then given to Henry Coleridge—Sara’s husband and cousin—who lived in Hampstead. By this route it entered the Coleridge family and is one of a significant collection of items relating to the poet in this sale.

Bonhams specialist, Simon Roberts said, “Dorothy Wordsworth lived a long time and most of the representations we have show her as a placid middle aged woman. Yet she was famously enigmatic in her youth and this portrait perhaps comes close to capturing what the essayist Thomas de Quincy described as her wild eyes and impulsive nature.”