Transcription of Select Views (1810) Letterpress
As detailed in this edition’s introduction (esp. paras. 8–18), the essay now known as William Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes initially appeared as the anonymous letterpress to Select Views of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, a collection of forty-eight sketches of Lake District landscapes by the Reverend Joseph Wilkinson. Marketed primarily to affluent collectors, printed on high-end folio paper, and distributed by leading art publisher Rudolph Ackermann, Select Views was, as Wordsworth remarked in 1820, “an expensive work, and necessarily of limited circulation.”  Though the poet would repeatedly rework his essay over the next quarter century, the 1810 text remained its heart. This is readily seen in our parallel-text comparison, which tracks his extensive changes and additions over the four subsequent editions of the Guide published under his name between 1820 and 1835.
In accepting the Select Views commission, Wordsworth had two distinct assignments. The first, offering a general survey of the Lake District, was fulfilled by his 34-page "introduction" (paras. 1–56 below). The second, describing vistas or landmarks featured in Wilkinson’s sketches, proved considerably more vexing for reasons explained in our introduction (paras. 18–23). Ultimately, the fragmentary “descriptions” Wordsworth submitted ("Section I: Of the Best Time for Visiting the Lakes" [para. 57 below] and the untitled "Section II" [paras. 58–75]) only obliquely reference the Wilkinson drawings that occasioned the series.
The transcription that follows of this “first edition” of Wordsworth’s Guide retains all spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing of the 1810 letterpress, including obvious printer’s errors (e.g., “rood” for “road,” “tress” for “trees,” “assent” for “ascent,” “as top” for “a stop”), variant spellings (especially of place names), and occasional stylistic oddities. Unsurprisingly, typographical mistakes were most frequent in Section II, which had to be rushed to press as a result of Wordsworth’s dilatory submission of his final manuscript pages (see introduction, paras. 19–23).
Our lone editorial addition is paragraph numbers, which we include for convenience in locating and citing specific passages. All page-break markers are hyperlinked to the corresponding page of the 1810 letterpress and use Arabic enumeration rather than the seemingly accidental blend of Roman and Arabic pagination in the original. A fuller account of the commissioning, composition, and serialization of Select Views can be found in our general introduction to this edition and Appendix 1. Readers may also visit our gallery of high-resolution scans of all forty-eight Wilkinson drawings in Select Views and our annotated and illustrated transcription of the final 1835 edition of Wordsworth’s Guide.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THOMAS WALLACE, M.P.
&c. &c. &c.
The busy scenes in which you have been so long and so honourably engaged, have not been able to divert your mind from literature and the arts. You have cultivated a genuine taste for the sublime and beautiful, and for the tranquil pleasures of rural retirement, amid the turbulence of political life; which is apt in minds less happily disposed, to abstract the attention from objects of more humble but more soothing and more elegant pursuit.
With the varied scenes, which are delineated in the present work, you are well acquainted; and to your retentive memory and just discrimination, I can, therefore, with some confidence appeal for the accuracy of the representations. You, dear Sir, have frequently approved and encouraged the efforts of my pencil; and it was your suggestion, which excited the first idea of publishing a selection of my views.
The present Etchings exhibit a faithful resemblance of the original Sketches, and I hope that the Sketches themselves have caught not only the general features, but the animation and the spirit of the scenery of Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire. I was for many years a resident in the most picturesque part of the North. Many of these views are therefore endeared to me by numerous recollections of past times; but I trust that the soft and the smiling, the wild and the rugged features with which they are [Dedication p. 2] blended, will render them interesting to the general beholder, who may not have seen the original landscapes; and in whom they excite no tender and sensitive associations.
In executing the Sketches themselves, I have passed many delightful hours, some of which I have lived over again in preparing the present work for publication. I should disguise my real sentiments, if I did not acknowledge that I am anxious for the success of this expensive undertaking, but whatever may be its reception, I cannot with-hold my grateful acknowledgements to the numerous and respectable list of Subscribers by whom it has been supported, and more particularly to you, whose many acts of kindness and of friendship on this, and on other occasions, have made a deep and lasting impression on the mind of, dear Sir,
Your truly obliged,
and faithful Servant,
1. At Lucerne in Switzerland there existed some years ago, and perhaps does still exist, a model of a large portion of the Alpine country encompassing the lake of the four Cantons. The spectator ascended a little platform and saw Mountains, Lakes, Glaciers, Rivers, Woods, Waterfalls, and Vallies, with their Cottages and every other object which they contained, lying at his feet; all things being represented in their exact proportions and appropriate colours. It may be easily conceived that this exhibition afforded an exquisite delight to the imagination, which was tempted to wander from valley to valley, from mountain to mountain, at will through the deepest recesses of the Alps. But it supplied also a more solid and substantial pleasure; for the sublime and beautiful region, with all its hidden treasures and their relations and bearings to each other, was thereby comprehended and understood at once.
2. Something of this kind (as far as can be performed by words, which must needs be most inadequately) will be attempted in the following introductory pages, with reference to the country which has furnished the subjects of the Drawings now offered to the public, adding to a verbal representation of its permanent features such appearances as are transitory from their dependence upon accidents of season and weather. This, if tolerably executed, will in some instances communicate to the traveller, who has already seen the objects, new information; and will assist him to give to his recollections a more orderly arrangement than his own opportunities of observing may have permitted him to do; while it will be still more useful to the future traveller by directing his attention at once to distinctions in things which, without such previous aid, a length of time only could enable him to discover. And, as must be obvious, this general introduction will combine with the Etchings certain notices of things which, though they may not lie within the province of the pencil, cannot but tend to render its productions more interesting; especially in a case like the present, where a work wishes to recommend itself by a twofold claim, viz. by furnishing pleasing Sketches, and at the same time accurate Portraits of those scenes from which they are taken.
3. To begin then with the main demarkation of the Country, I know not how I can give the reader a more distinct image of this than by requesting him to place himself in imagination upon some given point; let it be the top of either of the [p. 2] mountains of Great Gavel or Scawfell; or rather let him suppose his station to be a cloud hanging midway between the two mountains, at not more than half a mile’s distance from the summit of each, and but a few yards above their highest elevation, he will then see stretched at his feet a number of Vallies, not fewer than nine, diverging from the point, on which he is supposed to stand, like spokes from the nave of a wheel. First he will note, lying to the south east, the Vale of Langdale which will conduct his eye to the long Lake of Winandermere stretching, as appears, nearly to the sea, or rather to the sands of the vast Bay of Morecamb, which here serves for the rim of this imaginary wheel, trace it in a direction from the south east towards the south, and he will next fix his eyes upon the Vale of Coniston running up likewise from the sea, but not (as all the other vallies do) to the station which I have considered as the nave of the wheel; and therefore it may not be inaptly represented as a broken spoke sticking in the rim. Looking forth again, with an inclination towards the west, immediately at our feet lies the Vale of Duddon, in which is no Lake but a copious river winding among fields, rocks, and mountains, and terminating its course in the Sands of Duddon. The fourth valley which we shall next observe, viz. that of Eskdale, is of the same general character as the last, yet beautifully discriminated from it by features which, in the more minute details attached to the several parts of this work, will hereafter be described. Next, almost due west, look down upon and into the deep Valley of Wastdale with its little chapel and half a dozen neat scattered dwellings, a plain of meadow and corn ground intersected with stone walls apparently innumerable, like a large piece of lawless patch-work, or an array of mathematical figures, such as in the ancient schools of geometry might have been sportively and fantastically traced out upon sand. Beyond this little fertile plain lies, within its bed of steep mountains, the long, narrow, stern, and desolate Lake of Wastdale; and beyond this a dusky tract of level ground conducts the eye to the Irish Sea. The several Vales of Ennerdale and Buttermere, with their Lakes, next present themselves; and lastly the Vale of Borrodale, of which that of Keswick is only a continuation, stretching due north, brings us to a point nearly opposite to the Vale of Winandermere with which we began. From this it will appear that the image of a wheel, which I have made use of, and which is thus far exact, is not much more than half complete; but the deficiency on the eastern side may be supplied by the vales of Wytheburn, Ulswater, Hawswater, and the Vale of Grasmere and Rydale; none of these however run up to the central point between Great Gavel and Scawfell. From this, hitherto our central point, take a flight of not more than three or four miles eastward to the ridge of Helvellyn and you will look down upon Wytheburn and St. John’s Vale, which are a branch of the Vale of Keswick, upon Ulswater stretching due east; and not far beyond to the south east, (though from this point not visible) lie the Vale and [p. 3] Lake of Hawswater; and lastly the winding Vale of Grasmere, Rydale, and Ambleside, brings you back to Winandermere, thus completing, though on the eastern side in an irregular manner, the representative figure of the wheel.
4. Such, concisely given, is the general topographical view of the country of the Lakes in the North of England. But it must be observed that the visits of travellers are for the most part confined to the Vales of Coniston, Winandermere with the intermediate country between Ambleside and Keswick, the Vale of Keswick itself, Buttermere, and Ulswater, which are the most easy of access, and indeed from their several characters most likely to repay general curiosity; though each of the other more retired vales, as will appear when we enter into detail in the several numbers of this publication, has its own appropriate beauties—all exquisite in their kind.
5. This Introduction will be confined as much as possible to general remarks. And first, returning to the illustrative figure which has been employed, it may be observed that from the circumference to the centre, that is from the sea or plain country, to the mountains of Great Gavel and Scawfell, there is in the several ridges that enclose these vales, and divide them from each other, I mean in the forms and surfaces, first of the swelling grounds, next of the hills and rocks, and lastly of the mountains, an ascent by almost regular gradation from elegance and richness to the highest point of grandeur. It follows therefore from this, first, that these rocks, hills, and mountains, must present themselves to the view in stages rising above each other, the mountains clustering together towards the central point; and, next, that an observer familiar with the several vales, must, from their various position in relation to the sun, have had before his eyes every possible embellishment of beauty, dignity, and splendour, which light and shadow can bestow upon objects so diversified. For example, in the Vale of Winandermere, if the spectator looks for gentle and lovely scenes, his eye is turned towards the south; if for the grand, towards the north; in the Vale of Keswick, which (as hath been said) lies almost due north of this, it is directly the reverse. Hence, when the sun is setting in summer far to the north west, it is seen by the spectator from the shores or breast of Winandermere resting among the summits of the loftiest mountains, some of which will perhaps be half or wholly hidden by clouds, or by the blaze of light which the orb diffuses around it; and the surface of the lake will reflect before the eye correspondent colours through every variety of beauty, and through all degrees of splendour. In the Vale of Keswick, at the same period, the sun sets over the humbler regions of the landscape, and showers down upon them the radiance which at once veils and glorifies, sending forth, meanwhile, broad streams of rosy, crimson, purple, or golden, light towards the grand mountains in the south and south east, which, thus illuminated, with all their projections and cavities, and with an intermixture of solemn shadows, are seen distinctly through [p. 4] a cool and clear atmosphere. Of course there is as marked a difference between the noontide appearance of these two opposite vales. The bedimming haze that overspreads the south, and the clear atmosphere and determined shadows of the clouds in the north, at the same time of the day, are each seen, in these several vales, with a contrast as striking. The reader perceiving in what degree the intermediate vales will partake of the same variety.
6. I do not indeed know any tract of country in which, within so narrow a compass, may be found an equal variety in the influences of light and shadow upon the grand or gentle features of landscape; and it is owing to the combined circumstances to which I have directed the reader’s attention. From a point between the mountains of Great Gavel and Scawfell, a shepherd would not require more than an hour to descend into any one of eight of the principal vales by which he would be surrounded; and all the others lie (with the exception of Hawswater) but at a small distance. Yet, though thus clustered together, every valley has its distinct and separate character; in some instances as if they had been formed in studied contrast to each other, and in others with the united pleasing differences and resemblances of a sisterly rivalship. This concentration of interest gives to the country a decided superiority over the most attractive districts of Scotland and Wales, especially for the pedestrian traveller. In Scotland and Wales are found undoubtedly individual scenes which in their several kinds cannot be surpassed. But in Scotland particularly what desolate and unimpressive tracts of country almost perpetually intervene! so that the traveller, when he reaches a spot deservedly of great celebrity, is often at a loss to determine how much of his pleasure is owing to excellence inherent in the landscape itself, and how much to an instantaneous recovery from an oppression left upon his spirits by the barrenness and desolation through which he has passed.
7. For the forms of these mountains I refer to the Etchings to which these pages are an Introduction, and from which it will appear that their outlines are endlessly diversified, sweeping easily or boldly in simple majesty, abrupt and precipitous, or soft and elegant. In magnitude and grandeur these mountains are individually inferior to the most celebrated of those in some other parts of this island; but in the combinations which they make, towering above each other, or lifting themselves in ridges like the waves of a tumultuous sea, and in the beauty and variety of their surfaces and their colours, they are surpassed by none.
8. The general surface of the mountains is turf made rich and green by the moisture of the climate. Sometimes the turf, as in the neighbourhood of Newlands, in particular, is little broken, the whole covering being soft and downy pasturage. In other places rocks predominate; the soil is laid bare by torrents and burstings of water from the sides of the mountains in heavy rains; and occasionally their perpendicular sides are seamed by ravines formed also by rains and torrents, [p. 5] which, meeting in angular points, entrench and scar over the surface with numerous figures like the letters W and Y.
9. The Mountains are composed of the stone by mineralogists termed schist, which, as you approach the plain country, gives way to lime-stone; but, schist being the substance of the mountains, the predominant colour of their rocky parts is bluish or of hoary grey—the general tint of the lichens with which the bare stone is encrusted. With this blue and grey colour is frequently intermixed a red tinge proceeding from the iron with which the stone is interveined and the soil in many places impregnated. The iron is the principle of decomposition in these rocks; and hence, when they become pulverized, the elementary particles crumbling down overspread in many places the steep and almost precipitous sides of the mountains with an intermixture of colours like the compound hues of a dove’s neck. When, in the heat of advancing summer, the freshness of the green tint of the herbage has somewhat faded, it is again revived by the appearance of the fern profusely spread every where; and upon this plant more than upon any thing else do the changes, which the seasons make in the colouring of the mountains depend. By the first week in October, the rich green which was preserved through the whole summer by the herbage and by this plant, has usually passed away; its brilliant and various colours of light yellow, orange, and brown, are then in harmony with the autumnal woods; bright yellow or lemon colour, at the base of the mountains, melting gradually through orange to a dark russet brown towards the summits, where the plant being more exposed to the weather, is in a more advanced state of decay. Neither heath nor furze are generally found upon the sides of these mountains, though in some places they are richly adorned by them. We may add, that the mountains are of height sufficient to have the surface towards the summits softened by distance, and to imbibe the finest aerial hues. In common also with other mountains, their apparent forms and colours are perpetually changed by the clouds and vapours which float round them; the effect indeed of mist and haze, in a country of this character, is like that of magic; I have seen six or seven ridges rising above each other, all created in a moment by the vapours upon the side of a mountain, which, in its ordinary appearance, shewed not a projecting point to furnish even a hint for such an operation.
10. I will take this opportunity of observing that they, who have studied the appearances of nature, feel that the superiority, in point of visual interest, of mountainous over other countries—is more strikingly displayed in winter than in summer. This, as must be obvious is partly owing to the forms of the mountains, which of course are not affected by the seasons; but also, in no small degree, to the greater variety which exists in their winter than their summer colouring. This variety is such and so harmoniously preserved, that it leaves little cause of [p. 6] regret when the splendour of autumn is passed away. The coppice woods, upon the sides of the mountains, retain russet leaves; the birch stands conspicuous with its silver stem and puce-coloured twigs; the hollies have come forth to view, with green leaves and scarlet berries, from among the deciduous trees whose summer foliage had concealed them; the ivy is now apparent upon the stems and boughs of the trees, and among the woody rocks. In place of the uniform summer green of the herbage and fern, many rich colours play into each other over the surface of the mountains; turf (whose tints are interchangeably tawny–green, olive, and brown), beds of withered fern, and grey rocks, being harmoniously blended together. The mosses and lichens are never so fresh and flourishing as in winter, if it be not a season of frost; and their minute beauties prodigally adorn the fore-ground. Wherever we turn, we find these productions of nature, to which winter is rather favourable than unkindly, scattered over the walls, banks of earth, rocks, and stones, and upon the trunks of trees, with the intermixture of several species of small fern, now green and fresh; and to the observing passenger their forms and colours are a source of inexhaustible admiration. Add to this the hoar frost and snow with all the varieties which they create, and which volumes would not be sufficient to describe. I will content myself with one instance of the colouring produced by snow, which may not be uninteresting to Painters. It is extracted from the memorandum book of a friend, and for its accuracy I can speak, as I myself was an eye-witness of the appearance. “I observed, says he, “the beautiful effect of the drifted snow upon the mountains, and the perfect tone of colour. From the top of the mountains downward a rich olive was produced by the powdery snow and the grass, which olive was warmed with a little brown, and in this way harmoniously combined, by insensible gradations, with the white. The drifting took away all the monotony of snow; and the whole vale of Grasmere, seen from the terrace walk in Easedale, was as varied, perhaps more so, than even in the pomp of autumn. In the distance was Loughrigg Fell, the basin wall of the lake; this, from the summit downward, was a rich orange-olive; then the lake a bright olive-green, nearly the same tint as the snow-powdered mountain tops and high slopes in Easedale; and lastly the church with its firs, forming the centre of the view. The firs looked magnificent, and carried the eye back to some firs in Brother’s Wood on the left side of the lake (we looking towards Loughrigg). Next to the church with its firs came nine distinguishable hills, six of them with woody sides turned towards us, all of them oak-copses with their bright red leaves and snow-powdered twigs; these hills all distinguishable indeed from the summit downward, but none seen all the way down, so as to give the strongest sense of number with unity; and these hills so variously situated to each other and to the view in general, so variously powdered, some only enough to give the herbage a rich brown tint, one intensely white and [p. 7] lighting up all the others, and yet so placed as in the most inobtrusive manner to harmonize by contrast with a perfect naked, snowless bleak summit in the far distance in the left—the variety of site, of colour, of woodiness, of the situation of the woods, &c. &c. made it not merely number with unity, but intricacy combined that activity of feeling, which intricacy awakens, with the complacency and repose of perfect unity.”
11. Having spoken of the forms, surface, and colour of the mountains, let us descend into the Vallies. Though these have been represented under the general image of the spokes of a wheel, they are for the most part winding; the windings of many being abrupt and intricate. And it may be observed that in one circumstance, the general shape of them all has been determined by that primitive conformation through which so many became receptacles of lakes. For they are not formed, as are most of the celebrated Welch Vallies, by an approximation of the sloping bases of the opposite mountains towards each other, leaving little more between than a channel for the passage of a hasty river; but the bottom of these vallies is, for the most part, a spacious and gently declining area apparently level as the floor of a temple, or the surface of a lake, and beautifully broken in many cases by rocks and hills which rise up like islands from the plain. As the vallies make many windings, these level areas open upon the traveller in succession, divided from each other sometimes by a mutual approximation of the hills leaving only a passage for a river; sometimes by correspondent windings without such approximation; and sometimes by a bold advance of one mountain towards that which is opposite to it. It may here be observed, with propriety, that the several rocks and hills, which I have described as rising up like islands from the level area of the vale, have regulated the choice of the inhabitants in the situation of their dwellings. Where none of these are found and the inclination of the ground is not sufficiently rapid easily to carry off the waters (as in the higher part of Langdale for instance), the houses are not sprinkled over the middle part of the vales but confined to their sides, being placed merely so far up the mountain as to protect them from the floods. But, where these rocks and hills have been scattered over the plain of the vale (as in Grasmere, Seathwaite, Eskdale, &c.) the beauty which they give to the scene is much heightened by a single cottage or clustre of cottages which will be almost always found under them or upon their sides; dryness and shelter having tempted the Dalesmen to fix their habitations there.
12. I shall now say a few words concerning the Lakes of this country. The form of the lake is most perfect when, like Derwent-water and some of the smaller lakes, it least resembles that of a river. I mean, when being looked at from any given point where the whole may be seen at once, the width of it bears such proportion to the length that, however the outline may be diversified by far-shooting bays, it never assumes the shape of a river, and is contemplated with that placid and quiet feel- [p. 8] ing which belongs peculiarly to the lake as a body of still water under the influence of no current, reflecting therefore the clouds, the light, and all the imagery of the sky and surrounding hills, expressing and making visible the changes of the atmosphere, and motion of the lightest breeze, and subject to agitation only from the winds—
13. It must be noticed as a favourable characteristic of the lakes of this country that though several of the largest, such as Winandermere, Ulswater, Hawswater, &c. do, when the whole length of them is commanded from an elevated point, lose somewhat of the peculiar form of the lake and assume the resemblance of a magnificent river; yet, as their shape is winding (particularly that of Ulswater and Hawswater), when the view of the whole is obstructed by those barriers which determine the windings, and the spectator is confined to one reach, the appropriate feeling is revived; and one lake may thus in succession present the essential characteristic of many. Hence I am led to remark that, while the forms of the large lakes have this advantage, it is a circumstance still more favourable to the beauty of the country that the largest of them are small; and that the same valley generally furnishes a succession of lakes, instead of being filled by one. The vallies in North Wales, as hath been observed, are not formed for the reception of lakes; those of Switzerland, Scotland, and this part of the North England, are so formed; but in Switzerland and Scotland the proportion of diffused water is often too great, as at the lake of Geneva for instance, and most of the Scotch lakes. No doubt it sounds magnificent and flatters the imagination to hear at a distance of such expanses of water so many leagues in length and miles in width; and such ample room may be delightful to the fresh water sailor scudding with a lively breeze amid the rapidly shifting scenery. But who ever travelled along the banks of Loch Lomond variegated as the lower part is with islands, without wishing for a speedier termination of the long vista of blank water, for an interposition of green meadows, trees, and cottages, and a sparkling stream to run by his side? in fact, a notion of grandeur, as connected with magnitude, has seduced persons of taste into a general mistake upon this subject. It is much more desirable for the purposes of pleasure that lakes should be numerous, and small or middle sized than large, not only for communication by walks and rides, but for variety and recurrence of similar appearances. To illustrate this only by one instance:—how pleasing is it to have a ready and frequent opportunity of watching at the outlet of a lake, the stream pushing its way among the rocks in lively contrast with the stillness from which it has escaped; and how amusing to compare its noisy and turbulent motions with the [p. 9] gentle playfulness of the breezes, which may be starting up or wandering here and there over the faintly rippled surface of the broad water. I may add, as a general remark upon this subject, that in lakes of great width, the shores cannot be distinctly seen at the same time, and therefore contribute little to mutual illustration and ornament; and if, like the American and Asiatic lakes, the opposite shores are out of sight of each other, then unfortunately the traveller is reminded of a nobler object; he has the blankness of a sea prospect without the same grandeur and accompanying sense of power.
14. So much for the form and size of lakes in general as illustrative of these in particular.—Their size and forms being thus in general terms described, I may add that, from the multitude of brooks and torrents which fall into them, and of internal springs by which they are fed, and which circulate through them like veins, they are truly living lakes, “vivi lacus,” and are thus discriminated from the stagnant and sullen pools frequent among mountains that have been formed by volcanos, and from the shallow meres which are found in flat and fenny countries. The water is also pure and chrystalline; so that, if it were not for the reflections of the incumbent mountains by which it is darkened, a delusion might be felt by a person resting quietly in a boat on the bosom of Winandermere or Derwent-water similar to that which Carver so beautifully describes when he was floating alone in the middle of the lake Erie or Ontario, and could almost have imagined that his boat was suspended in an element as pure as air, or rather that the air and water were one.
15. As to the shores, it will be understood that those of the lakes in this country are endlessly diversified; in some places mountains, that admit of no cultivation, descend abruptly into the water; in others the shore is formed by gently sloping lawns and rich woods, with the interposition of flat and fertile meadows between the margin of the lake and the mountains; in many places they are beautifully edged with a rim of blue gravel; here and there are found, bordering the lake, groves (if I may so call them) of reeds and bulrushes, or water-lilies lifting up the orb of their large leaves to the breeze, if it be stirring, while the white flower is heaving upon the wave.
16. The Islands are neither so numerous, nor so beautiful, as might be expected from the account which I have given of the manner in which the level areas of the vales are so frequently diversified by rocks, hills, and hillocks, scattered over them; nor are they ornamented, as are sometimes the islands of the lakes in Scotland, by the remains of castles or other places of defence, or of monastic edifices. There is however a beautiful cluster of islands at Winandermere; a pair of pleasingly contrasted at Rydale; nor must the solitary green Island of Grasmere be forgotten. In the bosom of each of the lakes of Ennerdale and Devock-water is a single rock which owing to its neighbourhood to the sea, is [p. 10]
17. Having spoken of lakes I must not omit to mention, as a kindred feature of this country, those bodies of still water which are called TARNS. These are found in some of the vallies, and are very numerous upon the mountains. A Tarn in a vale implies, for the most part, that the bed of the vale is not happily formed; that the water of the brooks can neither wholly escape, nor diffuse itself over a large area. Accordingly, in such situations, tarns are often surrounded by a tract of boggy ground which has an unsightly appearance; but this is not always the case, and in the cultivated parts of the country, when the shores of the tarn are determined, it differs only from the lake in being smaller and in belonging mostly to a smaller valley or circular recess. Of this miniature class of lakes Loughrigg Tarn near Grasmere is the most beautiful example. It has its margin of green firm meadows, of rocks and rocky woods, a few reeds here, a little company of water lilies there, with beds of gravel or stone beyond; a tiny stream issuing neither briskly nor sluggishly out of it; but its feeding rills, from the shortness of their course, so small as to be scarcely visible. Five or six cottages are reflected in its peaceful bosom; rocky and barren steeps rise up above the hanging enclosures; and the solemn pikes of Langdale overlook, from a distance, the low cultivated ridge of land that forms the northern boundary of this small, quiet, and fertile domain. The mountain tarns can only be recommended to the notice of the inquisitive traveller who has time to spare. They are difficult of access and naked; yet some of them are, in their permanent forms, very grand; and there are accidents of things which would make the meanest of them interesting. In the first place one of these pools is an acceptable sight to the mountain wanderer, not merely as an incident that diversifies the prospect, but as forming in his mind a spot or conspicuous point to which objects, otherwise disconnected or unsubordinated, may be referred. Some few have a varied outline, with bold heath-clad promontories; and, as they mostly lie at the foot of a steep precipice, the water appears black and sullen; and round the margin, masses of rock are scattered. The feeling of solitude is seldom more strongly and more solemnly impressed than by the side of one of these mountain pools; though desolate and forbidding, it seems a distinct place to repair to, yet where the visitants must be rare, and there can be no disturbance—Water fowl flock hither; and the lonely angler may oftentimes here be seen; but the imagination, not content with this, is tempted to attribute a voluntary power to every change which takes place in such a spot, whether it be the breeze that wanders over the surface of the water, or the splendid lights of evening that rest upon it in the midst of the awful precipices. [p. 11]
18. Though this country is, on one side, bounded by the sea which combines beautifully, from some elevated points of view, with the inland scenery; yet no where are found the grand estuaries which are common in Scotland and Wales: the lakes are such in the strict and usual sense of the word, being all of fresh water; nor have the rivers themselves, from the shortness of their course, time to acquire that body of water necessary to confer upon them much majesty. In fact, while they continue in the mountain and lake country, they are rather large brooks than rivers. The water is perfectly pellucid, through which in many places are seen to a great depth their beds of rock or of blue gravel, which give to the water itself and exquisitely cerulean colour: this is particularly striking in the rivers of Derwent and Duddon which may confidently be compared, such and so various are their beauties, to any two rivers of equal length of course in any country. The number of the torrents and smaller brooks is infinite, with their water-falls and water-breaks; and they need not here be described. I will only observe that, as many, even of the smallest of these rills, have either found or made for themselves recesses in the sides of the mountains or in the vales, they have tempted the primitive inhabitants to settle near them for household accommodation and for shelter; and hence the retirement and seclusion by which these cottages are endeared to the eye of the man of sensibility.
19. The woods consist chiefly of oak, ash, and birch, and here and there (though very rarely) a species of elm, with underwood of hazel, the white and black thorn and hollies; in the moist places alders and willows abound; and yews among the rocks. Formerly the whole country must have been covered with wood to a great height up the mountains; and native Scotch firs (as in the northern parts of Scotland to this day) must have grown in great profusion. But no one of these old inhabitants of the country remains, or perhaps has done for some hundreds of years; beautiful traces, however, of the universal sylvan appearance, which the country formerly had, are yet seen both in the native coppice woods which remain, and which have been protected by enclosures, and also in the forest trees and hollies which, though disappearing fast, are yet scattered over both the enclosed and uninclosed parts of the mountains. The same is expressed by the beauty and intricacy with which the fields and coppice-woods are often intermingled: the plough of the first settlers having followed naturally the veins of richer, dryer, or less stony soil; and thus it has shaped out an intermixture of wood and lawn the grace [p. 12] and wildness of which it would have been impossible for the hand of studied art to produce. Other trees have been introduced within these last fifty years, such as beeches, larches, elms, limes, &c. and plantations of Scotch firs, seldom with advantage, and often with great injury to the appearance of the country: but the sycamore (which I believe was brought into this island from Germany not more than two hundred years ago) has long been the favourite of the cottagers; and, with the Scotch fir, has been chosen to screen their dwellings; and is sometimes found in the fields whither the winds or waters may have carried its seeds.
20. The want which is most felt, however, is that of timber trees. There are few magnificent ones to be found near any of the lakes; and indeed, unless greater care be taken, there will in a short time scarcely be left an oak that would repay the cost of felling. The neighbourhood of Rydale, notwithstanding the havoc which has been made, is yet nobly distinguished; and we have reason to hope, will long continue so. In the woods of Lowther also are found store of the grandest trees, and all the majesty and wildness of the native forest.
21. Among the smaller vegetable ornaments which nature has here provided, must be reckoned the juniper, bilberry, and the broom plant, with which the hills and woods abound, the Dutch myrtle in moist places, and the endless variety of brilliant flowers in the fields and meadows; which, if the agriculture of the country were more carefully attended to, would disappear. Nor can I omit again to notice the lichens and mosses, which, in profusion, beauty, and variety, exceed those of any other country I have seen.
22. Thus far I have chiefly spoken of the features by which Nature has discriminated this country from others. I will now describe in general terms, in what manner it is indebted to the hand of man. What I have to notice on this subject will emanate most easily and perspicuously from a description of the ancient and present inhabitants, their occupations, their condition of life, the distribution of landed property among them, and the tenure by which it is holden.
23. The reader will here suffer me to recall to his mind the description which I have given of the substance and form of these mountains, the shape of the vallies and their position with respect to each other. He will people the vallies with lakes and rivers, the sides and coves of the mountains with pools and torrents; and will bound half of the circle which we have contemplated by the sands of the sea, or by the sea itself. He will conceive that, from the point upon which he before stood he looks down upon this scene before the country had been penetrated by any inhabitants; to vary his sensations and to break in upon their stillness, he will form to himself an image of the tides visiting and revisiting the Friths, the main sea dashing against the bolder shore, the rivers pursuing their course to be lost in the mighty mass of waters. He may see or hear in fancy the winds sweeping over the lakes, [p. 13] or piping with a loud noise among the mountain peaks; and lastly may think of the primœval woods shedding and renewing their leaves with no human eye to notice, or human heart to regret or welcome the change. “When the first settlers entered this region, (says an animated writer) they found it overspread with wood; forest trees, the fir, the oak, the ash, and the birch, had skirted the fells, tufted the hills, and shaded the vallies through centuries of silent solitude; the birds and beasts of prey reigned over the meeker species; and the bellum inter omnia maintained the balance of nature in the empire of beasts.”
24. Such was the state and appearance of this region when the aboriginal colonists of the Celtic tribes were first driven or drawn towards it, and became joint tenants with the wolf, the boar, the wild bull, the red deer and the leigh, a gigantic species of deer which has been long extinct; while the inaccessible crags were occupied by the falcon, the raven, and the eagle. The inner parts were too secluded and of too little value to participate much of the benefit of Roman manners; and though these conquerors encouraged the Britons to the improvement of their lands in the plain country of Furness and Cumberland, they seem to have had little connection with the mountains which were not subservient to the profit they drew from the mines.
25. When the Romans retired from Great Britain, it is well known that these mountain fastnesses furnished a protection to some unsubdued Britons, long after the more accessible and more fertile districts had been seized by the Saxon or Danish invader. A few traces of Roman forts or camps, as at Ambleside and upon Dunmallet, (erected probably to secure a quiet transfer of the ore from the mines) and two or three circles of rude stones attributed to the Druids, are the only visible vestiges, that remain upon the surface of the country, of these ancient occupants; and as the Saxons and Danes, who succeeded to the possession of the villages and hamlets which had been established by the Britons, seem to have confined themselves to the open country,—we may descend at once to times long posterior to the conquest by the Normans when their feudal policy was regularly established. We may easily conceive that these narrow dales and mountain sides, choaked up as they would be with wood, lying out of the way of communication with other parts of the Island, and upon the edge of a hostile kingdom, would have little attraction for the high-born and powerful; especially as the more open parts of the country furnished positions for castles and houses of defence sufficient to repel any of those sudden attacks, which in the then rude state of military knowledge, could be made upon them. Accordingly the more retired regions (and observe it is to these I am now confining myself) must have been neglected or shunned even by the persons whose baronial or seignioral rights extended over them, and left doubtless partly as a place of refuge for outlaws and robbers, and partly granted out for the more settled habi- [p. 14] tation of a few vassals following the employment of shepherds or woodlanders. Hence these lakes and inner vallies are unadorned by any of the remains of ancient grandeur, castles or monastic edifices, which are only found upon the skirts of this country, as Furness Abbey, Calder Abbey, the Priory of Lanercost, Gleaston Castle, the original residence of the Flemings, and the numerous ancient Castles of the Cliffords and the Dacres. On the southern side of these mountains, (especially in that part known by the name of Furness Fells, which is more remote from the borders) the state of society would necessarily be more settled; though it was fashioned not a little, with the rest of this country, by its neighbourhood to a hostile kingdom. We will therefore give a sketch of the œconomy of the Abbots in the distribution of lands among their tenants, as similar plans were doubtless adopted by other Lords, and as the consequences have affected the face of the country materially to the present day, being in fact one of the principal causes which give it such a striking superiority, in beauty and interest over all other parts of the Island.
26. “When the Abbots of Furness,” says an author before cited, “enfranchised their villains, and raised them to the dignity of customary tenants, the lands, which they had cultivated for their lord were divided into whole tenements; each of which, besides the customary annual rent, was charged with the obligation of having in readiness a man completely armed for the king’s service on the borders or elsewhere; each of these whole tenements was again subdivided into four equal parts; each villain had one; and the party tenant contributed his share to the support of the man at arms, and of other burthens. These divisions were not properly distinguished; the land remained mixed; each tenant had a share through all the arable and meadow land, and common of pasture over all the wastes. These sub-tenements were judged sufficient for the support of so many families; and no further division was permitted. These divisions and sub-divisions were convenient at the time for which they were calculated; the land, so parcelled out, was of necessity more attended to; and the industry greater, when more persons were to be supported by the produce of it. The frontier of the kingdom, within which Furness was considered, was in a constant state of attack and defence; more hands therefore were necessary to guard the coast, to repel an invasion from Scotland, or make reprisals on the hostile neighbour. The dividing the lands in such manner as has been shewn, increased the number of inhabitants, and kept them at home till called for; and, the land being mixed, and the several tenants united in equipping the plough, the absence of the fourth man was no prejudice to the cultivation of his land, which was committed to the care of three.
27. While the villains of Low Furness were thus distributed over the land, and employed in agriculture; those of High Furness were charged with the care of flocks and herds, to protect them from the wolves which lurked in the thickets, [p. 15] and in winter to brouze them with the tender sprouts of hollies and ash. This custom was not till lately discontinued in High Furness; and holly trees were carefully preserved for that purpose, when all other wood was cleared off; large tracts of common being so covered with these trees as to have the appearance of a forest of hollies. At the Shepherd’s call the flocks surrounded the holly bush, and received the croppings at his hand which they greedily nibbled up, bleating for more. The Abbots of Furness enfranchised these pastoral vassals, and permitted them to enclose quillets to their houses for which they paid encroachment rent.”—West’s Antiquities of Furness.
28. However desirable for the purposes of defence a numerous population might be, it was not possible to make at once the same numerous allotments among the untilled vallies and upon the sides of the mountains as had been made in the cultivated plains. The enfranchised shepherd or woodlander, having chosen there his place of residence, builds it of sods or of the mountain stone, and with the permission of his lord, encloses, like Robinson Crusoe, a small croft or two immediately at his door for such animals chiefly as he wishes to protect. Others are happy to imitate his example, and avail themselves of the same privileges; and thus population creeps on towards the more secluded parts of the vallies. Chapels, daughters of some distant mother church, are first erected in the more open and fertile vales, as those of Bowness and Grasmere, offsets of Kendal; which again after a period, as the settled population increases, become mother churches to smaller edifices scattered at length almost in every dale throughout the country. The enclosures, formed by the tenantry, are for a long time confined to the home-steads; and the arable and meadow land of the vales is possessed in common field; the several portions being marked out by stones, bushes, or trees; which portions, where the custom has survived, to this day are called Dales, probably from the Belgic word deylen, (to distribute) but while the vale was thus lying open, enclosures seem to have taken place, upon the sides of the mountains; because the land there was not intermixed, and was of little comparative value; and therefore small opposition would be made to its being appropriated by those to whose habitations it was contiguous. Hence the singular appearance which the sides of many of these mountains exhibit, intersected as they are almost to their summit, with stone walls, of which the fences are always formed. When first erected, they must have little disfigured the face of the country; as part of the lines would every where be hidden by the quantity of native wood then remaining; and the lines would also be broken (as they still are) by the rocks which interrupt and vary their course. In the meadows, and in those parts of the lower grounds where the soil has not been sufficiently drained and could not afford a stable foundation, there, when the encreasing value of land and the inconvenience suffered from intermixed plots of ground in common field had induced each in- [p. 16] habitant to enclose his own, they were compelled to make the fences of alders, willows, and other trees. These where the native wood had disappeared, have frequently enriched the vallies with a sylvan appearance; while the intricate intermixture of property has given to the fences a graceful irregularity, which, where large properties are prevalent and large capitals employed in agriculture, is unknown. This sylvan appearance is still further heightened by the number of ash trees which have been planted in rows along the quick fences, and along the walls, for the purpose of brouzing cattle at the approach of winter. The branches are lopped off and strewed upon the pastures; and, when the cattle have stripped them of the leaves, they are used for repairing hedges or for fuel.
29. We have thus seen a numerous body of dalesmen creeping into possession of their home-steads, their little crofts, their mountain enclosures; and finally, the whole vale is visibly divided; except perhaps here and there some marshy ground, which till fully drained, would not repay the trouble of enclosing. But these last partitions do not seem to have been general till long after the pacification of the Borders, by the union of the two crowns; when the cause, which had first determined the distribution of land into such small parcels, had not only ceased,—but likewise a general improvement had taken place in the country, with a correspondent rise in the value of its produce. From the time of the union of the two kingdoms, it is certain that this species of feudal population would rapidly diminish. That it was formerly much more numerous than it is at present, is evident from the multitude of tenements (I do not mean houses, but small divisions of land) which belonged formerly each to its several proprietor, and for which separate fines are paid to the manorial lord at this day. These are often in the proportion of four to one, of the present occupants. “Sir Launcelot Threlkeld who lived in the reign of Henry VII, was wont to say, he had three noble houses, one for pleasure, Crosby in Westmoreland, where he had a park full of deer; one for profit and warmth, wherein to reside in winter, namely, Yanwith nigh Penrith; and the third, Threlkeld (on the edge of the vale of Keswick) well stocked with tenants to go with him to the wars.” But, as I have said, from the union of the two kingdoms this numerous vassalage (their services not being wanted) would rapidly diminish; various tenements would be united in one possessor; and the aboriginal houses, probably little better than hovels, like the kraels of savages or the huts of the Highlanders of Scotland, would many of them fall into decay and wholly disappear, while the place of others was supplied by substantial and comfortable buildings, a majority of which remain to this day scattered over the vallies, and are in many the only dwellings found in them.
30. From the time of the erection of these houses, till within the last forty years, the state of society, though no doubt slowly and gradually improving, underwent [p. 17] no material change. Corn was grown in these vales (through which no carriage road had been made) sufficient upon each estate to furnish bread for each family, and no more: notwithstanding the union of several tenements, the possessions of each inhabitant still being small, in the same field was seen an intermixture of different crops; and the plough was interrupted by little rocks, mostly overgrown with wood, or by spungy places which the Tillers of the soil had neither leisure nor capital to convert into firm land. The storms and moisture of the climate induced them to sprinkle their upland property with outhouses of native stone as places of shelter for their sheep, where in tempestuous weather food was distributed to them. Every family spun from its own flock the wool with which it was clothed; a weaver was here and there found among them; and the rest of their wants were supplied by the produce of the yarn, which they carded and spun in their own houses upon the large wheel, and carried it to market either under their arms, or more frequently on pack-horses, a small train taking their way weekly down the valley or over the mountains to the most commodious town. They had, as I have said, their rural chapel, and of course their Minister, in cloathing or in manner of life in no respect differing from themselves, except on the Sabbath-day; this was the sole distinguished individual among them; every thing else, person and possession, exhibited a perfect equality, a community of Shepherds, and Agriculturalists, proprietors for the most part of the lands which they occupied and cultivated.
31. While the process above detailed was going on, the native Forests must have been every where receding: but trees were planted for the sustenance of the flocks in winter, such was the then rude state of agriculture; and, for the same cause, it was necessary that care should be taken of some part of the growth of the native forest. Accordingly in Queen Elizabeth’s time this was so strongly felt, that a petition was made to the Crown praying “that the Blomaries in high Furness might be abolished on account of the quantity of wood which was consumed in them for the use of the Mines, to the great detriment of the cattle.” But this same cause, about a hundred years after, produced effects directly contrary to those which had been deprecated. The re-establishment, at that period, of furnaces upon a large scale made it the interest of the people to convert the steepest and more stony of the enclosures, sprinkled over with the remains of the native forest, into close woods, which, when cattle and sheep were excluded, rapidly sowed and thickened themselves. I have already directed the Readers attention to the cause by which tufts of wood, pasturage, meadow and arable land with its various produce are intricately intermingled in the same field; and he will now see in like manner how enclosures entirely of wood, and those of cultivated ground, are blended all over the country under a law of similar wildness. [p. 18]
32. An historic detail has thus been given of the manner in which the hand of man has acted upon the surface of the inner regions of the mountainous country, as incorporated with and subservient to the powers and processes of nature. We will now take a view of the same agency acting within narrower bounds for the production of the few works of art and accommodations of life which in so simple a state of society, could be necessary. These are merely habitations of man and coverts for beasts, roads and bridges, and places of worship.
33. And to begin with the Cottages. They are scattered over the vallies, and under the hill sides, and on the rocks; and to this day in the more retired dales, without any intrusion of more assuming buildings,
34. Till within the last forty years there was no communication between any of these vales by carriage roads; all bulky articles were transported on pack-horses. But, owing to the population not being concentrated in villages but scattered, the vallies themselves were intersected as now by innumerable lanes and pathways leading from house to house and from field to field. These lanes where they are fenced by stone walls are mostly bordered with ashes, hazels, wild roses, and beds of tall fern, at their base; while the walls themselves if old, are overspread with mosses, small ferns, wild strawberries, the geranium, and lichens; and, if the wall happens to rest against a bank of earth, it is sometimes almost wholly concealed by a rich facing of stone-fern. It is a great advantage to a traveller or resident, that these numerous lanes and paths, if he be a zealous admirer of nature, will introduce him, nay, will lead him on into all the recesses of the country, so that the hidden treasures of its landscapes will by an ever ready guide be laid open to his eyes.
35. Likewise to the smallness of the several properties is owing the great number of bridges over the brooks and torrents, and the daring and graceful neglect of danger or accommodation with which so many of them are constructed, the rude- [p. 20] ness of the forms of some, and their endless variety. But, when I speak of this rudeness, I must at the same time add that many of these structures are in themselves models of elegance, as if they had been formed upon principles of the most thoughtful architecture. It is to be regretted that these monuments of the skill of our ancestors, and of that happiness of instinct by which consummate beauty was produced, are disappearing fast; but sufficient specimens remain to give a high gratification to the man of genuine taste. Such travellers as may not be accustomed to pay attention to these things will excuse me if I point out the proportion between the span and elevation of the arch, the lightness of the parapet, and the graceful manner in which its curve follows faithfully that of the arch.
36. Upon this subject I have nothing further to notice, except the places of worship, which have mostly a little school-house adjoining. The lowliness of simple elegance of these churches and chapels, a well proportioned oblong with a porch, in some instances a steeple tower, and in others nothing more than a small belfry in which one or two bells hang visibly,—these are objects which, though pleasing in their forms, must necessarily, more than any others in rural scenery, derive their interest from the feelings of piety and reverence for the modest virtues and simple manners of humble life with which they may be contemplated. A man must be very insensible who would not be touched with pleasure at the sight of the Chapel of Buttermere, which by its diminutive size, so strikingly expresses how small must be the congregation there assembled, as it were like one family, and proclaims at the same time to the passenger, in connection with the surrounding mountains, the depth of that seclusion in which the people live which has rendered necessary the building of a separate place of worship for so few. A Patriot, calling to mind the image of the stately fabrics of Canterbury, York, or Westminster, will find a heartfelt satisfaction in presence of this lowly pile, as a monument of the wise institutions of our country, and as evidence of the all-pervading and paternal care of that venerable Establishment of which it is perhaps the humblest daughter.—The edifice is scarcely larger than many of the single stones or fragments of rock which are scattered near it.
37. We have thus far confined our observations on this division of the subject to that part of these Dales which runs far up into the mountains. In addition to such objects as have been hitherto described, it may be mentioned that, as we descend towards the open part of the Vales, we meet with the remains of ancient Parks, and with old mansions of more stately architecture; and it may be observed that to these circumstances the country owes whatever ornament it retains of majestic and full-grown timber, as the remains of the park of the ancient family of the Ratcliffs at Derwent-water, Gowbray-park, and the venerable woods of Rydale. Through the more open part of the vales also are scattered houses of [p. 21] a middle rank between the pastoral cottage and the old hall-residences of the more wealthy estatesman with more spacious domains attached to them.
38. Thus has been given a faithful description, the minuteness of which the Reader will pardon, of the face of this country as it was and had been through centuries till within the last forty years. Towards the head of these Dales was found a perfect Republic of Shepherds and Agriculturists, among whom the plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family, or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour. Two or three cows furnished each family with milk and cheese. The Chapel was the only edifice that presided over these dwellings, the supreme head of this pure Commonwealth; the members of which existed in the midst of a powerful empire, like an ideal society or an organized community whose constitution had been imposed and regulated by the mountains which protected it. Neither Knight nor Squire nor high-born Nobleman was here; but many of these humble sons of the hills had a consciousness that the land, which they walked over and tilled, had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of their name and blood—and venerable was the transition when a curious traveller, descending from the heart of the mountains, had come to some ancient manorial residence in the more open part of the vales, which, with the rights attached to its proprietor, connected the almost visionary mountain Republic which he had been contemplating with the substantial frame of society as existing in the laws and constitution of a mighty empire.
39. Such, as I have said, was the appearance of things till within these last forty years. A practice which by a strange abuse of terms has been denominated ornamental gardening, was at that time, becoming generally prevalent over England. In union with an admiration of this art, and in some instances in opposition to it, had been generated a relish for select parts of natural scenery; and Travellers, instead of confining their observations to Towns, Manufactures, or Mines, began (a thing till then unheard of) to wander over the Island in search of sequestered spots which they might have accidentally learnt were distinguished for the sublimity and beauty of the forms of nature there to be seen. Dr. Brown the celebrated author of the “Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times,” &c. published a letter to a friend in which the attractions of the Vale of Keswick were delineated with a powerful pencil and the feeling of a genuine enthusiast. Gray, the Poet followed; and the report, which he gave, was circulated among his friends. He died soon after his forlorn and melancholy pilgrimage to the Vale of Keswick; and the record which he left behind him of what he had seen and felt in this journey excited that pensive interest with which the human mind is ever disposed to listen to the farewell words of a man of genius. The journal of Gray feelingly recorded the manner in which the gloom of ill health and low spirits had been irradiated by objects most beautiful and sublime which the Author’s [p. 22] powers of mind enabled him to describe with distinctness and unaffected simplicity. The Vale of Grasmere is thus happily discriminated at the close of his description.—“Not a single red tile, no gentleman’s flaring house or garden walls, break in upon the repose of this little unsuspected paradise; but all is peace, rusticity, and happy poverty, in its neatest and most becoming attire.”
40. What is here so justly said of Grasmere applied almost equally to all its sister vales. It was well for the undisturbed pleasure of the Poet’s mind that he had no forebodings of what was so soon after to take place; and it might have been hoped that these words, at once the dictate of a sympathetic heart, a pure imagination, and a genuine taste, would almost of themselves have preserved the ancient franchises of this and other kindred mountain retirements from trespass or intrusion, or (shall I dare to say?) would have secured scenes so consecrated from profanation. The Lakes had now become celebrated; the mania of ornamental gardening and prospect hunting had spread wide; visitors flocked hither from all parts of the Island; the fancies of some of these were so strongly smitten that they became settlers; and numerous violations soon ensued.
41. This beautiful country has, in a great variety of instances, suffered from the spirit of tasteless and capricious innovation. No one can now travel through the more frequented tracts, without finding at almost every turn the venerable and pure simplicity of nature vitiated by some act of inconsiderate and impertinent art; without being offended by an introduction of discordant objects, disturbing every where that peaceful harmony of form and colour which had been through a long lapse of ages most happily preserved.
42. All gross transgressions of this kind in matters of taste originate in a feeling natural and honourable to the human mind, viz., the pleasure which we receive from distinct ideas and from the perception of order, regularity, and contrivance. Now unpractised minds receive these impressions only from objects between which there exists eternally a strong demarkation; hence the pleasure with which such minds are smitten by formality and harsh contrast. But I would beg of those who, under the control of this craving for distinct ideas, are hastily setting about the production of food by which it may be gratified, to temper their impatience, to look carefully about them, to observe and to watch; and they will find gradually growing within them a sense by which they will be enabled to perceive in a country so lavishly gifted by nature an ever-renewing variety of forms which will be marked out with a precision that will satisfy their desires. Moreover, a new habit of pleasure will be forming in the mind the opposite of this, viz., a habit arising out of the perception of the fine gradations by which in nature one thing passes away into another, and the boundaries that constitute individuality disappear in one instance only to be renewed in another under a more alluring form. My meaning will at once be obvious to those who remember the hill of Dunmallet at the foot of [p. 23] Ulswater divided into different portions, as it once was by avenues of fir trees with a green and almost perpendicular lane descending down the steep hill through each avenue; who can recall to mind the delight with which they might as children have looked at this quaint appearance; and are enabled to contrast that remembrance with the pleasure which the more practiced eye of mature age would create for itself from the image of the same hill overgrown with self-planted wood, each tree springing up in the situation best suited to its kind, and with that shape which the same situation constrained or suffered it to take. What endless melting and playing into each other of forms and colours does the one offer to a mind at once attentive and active; and how insipid and lifeless, compared with it, appear those parts of its former exhibition with which a child, a peasant perhaps, or a citizen unfamiliar with natural imagery, would have been most delighted! I cannot however omit observing that the disfigurement, which this country has undergone has not proceeded wholly from those common feelings of human nature which have been referred to as the primary sources of bad taste in rural scenery; another cause must be added, which has chiefly shewn itself in its effect upon buildings. I mean a constraint or warping of the natural mind arising out of a sense that, this country being an object of general admiration, every new house would be looked at and commented upon either for approbation or censure. Hence all the deformity and ungracefulness which ever pursue the steps of constraint or affectation. Men, who in Leicestershire or Northamptonshire would probably have built a modest dwelling like those of their sensible neighbours, have been turned out of their course; and acting a part, no wonder if, having had little experience, they act it ill. Moreover, the craving for prospect which is immoderate, particularly in new settlers, has rendered it impossible that buildings, whatever might have been their architecture, should in most instances be ornamental to the landscape; starting, as they do on the summits of naked hills in staring contrast to the snugness and privacy of the ancient houses.
43. I do not condemn in any man a desire that his residence and possessions should draw upon them the approbation of the judicious; nor do I censure attempts to decorate them for that purpose. I rather applaud both the one and the other; and would shew in what manner the end may be best attained. The rule is simple; with respect to grounds,—work, where you can, in the spirit of nature with an invisible hand of art. Planting, and a removal of wood, may thus and thus only be carried on with good effect; and the like may be said of building, if antiquity which may be stiled the copartner and sister of nature, be not denied the respect to which she is entitled. I have already spoken of the beautiful forms of the ancient mansions of this country, and of the happy manner in which they harmonize with the forms of nature. Why cannot these be taken as a model and modern internal convenience be confined within their external grace and dignity? But, [p. 24] should expense to be avoided or difficulties to be overcome prevent a close adherence to this model, still it might be followed to a certain degree in the style of architecture and in the choice of situation, if the craving for prospect were mitigated by those considerations of comfort, shelter, and convenience, which used to be chiefly sought after. But should an aversion to old fashions unfortunately exist accompanied with a desire to transplant into the cold and stormy North, the elegancies of a villa formed upon a model taken from countries with a milder climate, I will adduce a passage from an English Poet, the divine Spenser, which will shew in what manner such a plan may be realized without injury to the native beauty of these scenes.
44. I have been treating of the erection of houses or mansions suited to a grand and beautiful region; and I have laid it down as a position that they should be “not obvious, nor obtrusive, but retired;” and the reasons for this, though they have been little adverted to, are evident. Mountainous countries more frequently and forcibly than others, remind us of the power of the elements as it is exhibited in winds, snows, and torrents, and accordingly make the notion of exposure very unpleasing; while shelter and comfort are in proportion necessary and acceptable. Far-winding vallies, which are difficult of access, and our feelings of simplicity which are habitually connected with mountain retirements, prompt us to turn from ostentation as a thing there eminently unnatural and out of place. A mansion amid such scenes can never have sufficient dignity or interest to become principal in the landscape and render the mountains, lakes, or torrents, by which it may be surrounded, a subordinate part of the view; nor are the grand features of nature to be absorbed by the puny efforts of human art. It is, I grant, easy to conceive that an ancient castellated mansion hanging over a precipice or raised upon an island or the peninsula of a lake, like that of Kilchurn Castle near Loch [p. 25] Awe, may not want, whether deserted or inhabited, that majesty which shall enable it to preside for a moment in the spectator’s thoughts over the high mountains among which it is embosomed; but its titles are from antiquity—a power which is readily submitted to upon occasions as the viceregent of Nature; it is respected as having owed its existence to the necessity of things—as a monument of security in times of disturbance and danger long passed away—as a record of the pomp and violence of passion, and a symbol of the wisdom of law—it bears a countenance of authority which is not impaired by decay. These honours render it worthy of its situation; and to which of these honours can a modern edifice pretend? Obtruding itself in rivalry with the grandeur of Nature, it only displays the presumption and caprice of its individual founder, or the class to which he belongs. But, in a flat or merely undulating country, a Gentleman’s Mansion may with propriety become a principal feature in the landscape; and, itself being a work of art, works and traces of artificial ornament may without censure be extended around it, as they will be referred to the common centre, the house; the right of which to impress within certain limits a character of obvious ornament will not be denied, where there are no conspicuous or commanding forms of Nature to dispute it or set it aside. Now to a want of the perception of this difference, and to the causes before assigned, may chiefly be attributed the disfigurement which the Country of the Lakes has undergone from persons who may have built, demolished, and planted, with full confidence that every change and addition was or would become an improvement.
45. The principle which ought to determine the position, apparent size, and architecture of a house, viz., that it should be so constructed, and (if large) so much of it hidden, as to admit of its being gently incorporated with the scenery of Nature—should also determine its colour. Sir Joshua Reynolds used to say “if you would fix upon the best colour for your house, turn up a stone, or pluck up a handful of grass by the roots, and see what is the colour of the soil where the house is to stand, and let that be your choice.” Of course the precept, given in conversation, could not have been meant to be taken literally. For example in Low Furness, where the soil from its strong impregnation with iron is universally of a deep red, if this rule were strictly followed, the house also must be of a glaring red; in other places it must be of a sullen black; which would only be adding annoyance to annoyance. The rule however, as a general guide, is good; and in agricultural districts where large tracts of soil are laid bare by the plough, particularly if (the face of the country being undulating) they are held up to view, this rule, though not to be implicitly adhered to, should never be lost sight of, that is, the colour of the house ought, if possible, to have a cast or shade of the colour of the soil. The principle is that the house must harmonize with the surrounding landscape; accordingly, in mountainous countries, with still more confi- [p. 26] dence may it be said, “look at the rocks and those parts of the mountains where the soil is visible, and they will furnish a safe general direction.” Nevertheless, it will often happen that the rocks may bear so large a proportion to the rest of the landscape, and may be of such a tone of colour that the rule may not even here admit of being implicitly followed. For instance, the chief defect in the colouring of the Country of the Lakes (which is most strongly felt in the summer season) is an over-prevalence of a bluish tint, which the green of the herbage, the fern, and the woods, does not sufficiently counteract. This blue tint proceeds from the diffused water, and still more from the rocks which the reader will remember are generally of this colour. If a house therefore should stand where this defect prevails, I have no hesitation in saying that the colour of the neighbouring rocks would not be the best that could be chosen. A tint ought to be introduced approaching nearer to those which, in the technical language of painters, are called warm: this, if happily selected, would not disturb, but would animate the landscape. How often do we see this exemplified upon a small scale by the native cottages, in cases where the glare of white wash has been subdued by time and enriched by weather-stains. No harshness is then seen; but one of these cottages thus coloured, will often form a central point to a landscape by which the whole shall be connected, and the influence of pleasure diffused over all the objects of which the picture is composed. Where however the cold blue tint of the rocks is animated by hues of the iron tinge, the colour cannot be too closely imitated; and it will be produced of itself by the stones hewn from the adjoining quarry, and by the mortar which may be tempered with the most gravelly part of the soil. But, should the mason object to this, as they will do, and insist upon the mortar being tempered by blue gravel from the bed of the river, and say that the house must be rough-cast, otherwise it cannot be kept dry, then the builder of taste will set about contriving such means as may enable him to come the nearest to the effect aimed at.
46. The supposed necessity of rough-cast to keep out rain in houses not built of hewn stone or brick, has tended greatly to injure English landscape, and the neighbourhood of these Lakes especially, by furnishing such an apt occasion for whitening buildings. I will therefore say a few words upon this subject; because many persons, not deficient in taste, are admirers of this colour for rural residences. The reasons are manifold; first, as is obvious, the air of cleanliness and neatness which is thus given not only to an individual house, but, where the practice is general, to the whole face of the country; which moral associations are so powerful that, in the minds of many, they take place of every other relating to such objects. But what has been already said upon the subject of cottages must have convinced men of feeling and imagination, that a human habitation of the humblest class may be rendered more deeply interesting to the affections, and far more pleasing to the [p. 27] eye, by other influences than by a sprightly tone of colour spread over its outside. I do not however mean to deny that a small white building, embowered in trees, may in some situations be a delightful and animating object—in no way injurious to the landscape; but this only where it sparkles from the midst of a thick shade, and in rare and solitary instances; especially if the country be in itself rich and pleasing and full of grand forms. On the sides of bleak and desolate moors, one is indeed thankful for the sight of white Cottages and white houses plentifully scattered, where without these perhaps every thing would be chearless: this is said however with hesitation, and in the sleep of some of the higher faculties of the mind. But I have certainly seen such buildings glittering at sunrise and in wandering lights with no common pleasure. The continental Traveller also will remember that the Convents hanging from the rocks of the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, or among the Appenines or the Mountains of Spain, are not looked at with less complacency when, as is often the case, they happen to be of a brilliant white. But this is perhaps owing, in no small degree, to the contrast of that lively colour with the feeling of gloom associated with monastic life, and to the general want of rural residences of smiling and attractive appearance in those countries.
47. The objections to white as a colour in large spots or masses in landscape, especially in a mountainous country, are insurmountable. In nature it is scarcely ever found but in small objects, such as flowers; or in those which are transitory, as the clouds, foam of rivers, and snow. Mr. Gilpin, who notices this, has also recorded the just remark of Mr. Locke of N—— that white destroys the gradations of distance, and therefore an object of pure white can scarcely ever be managed with good effect in landscape painting. Five or six white houses, scattered over a valley, by their obtrusiveness dot the surface and divide it into triangles or other mathematical figures which haunt the eye and disturb that repose which might otherwise be perfect. I have seen a single white house materially impair the majesty of a mountain, cutting away by a harsh separation the whole of the base below the point on which the house stood. Thus was the apparent size of the mountain reduced not by the interposition of another object in a manner to call forth the imagination, which will give more than the eye loses; but what had been abstracted in this case was left visible; and the mountain appeared to take its beginning or to rise from the line of the house instead of its own natural base. But, if I may express my own individual feeling, it is after sunset at the coming on of twilight that white objects are most to be complained of. The solemnity and quietness of nature at that time is always marred and often destroyed by them. When the ground is covered with snow, they are inoffensive; and in moonshine they are always pleasing—it is a tone of light with which they accord; and the dimness of the scene is enlivened by an object at once conspicuous and chearful. I will con- [p. 28] clude this subject with noticing that the cold slaty colour, which many persons who have heard the white condemned have adopted in its stead, must be disapproved of for the reason already given. The flaring yellow runs into the opposite extreme, and is still more censurable. Upon the whole, the safest colour for general use is something between a cream and a dust colour commonly called stone-colour—there are among the Lakes examples of this which need not be pointed out.
48. The principle which we have taken for our guide, viz., that the house should be so formed and of such apparent size and colour as to admit of its being gently incorporated with the scenery of nature, should also be applied to the management of the grounds and plantations, and is here more urgently needed; for it is from abuses in this department, far more even than from the introduction of exotics in architecture, (if the phrase may be used) that this country has suffered. Larch and fir plantations have been spread every where, not merely with a view to profit, but in many instances for the sake of ornament. To those who plant for profit, and are thrusting every other tree out of the way to make room for their favourite the Larch, I would utter first a regret that they should have selected these lovely vales for their vegetable manufactory, when there is so much barren and irreclaimable land in other parts of the Island which might have been had for this purpose at a far cheaper rate. And I will also beg leave to represent to them that they ought not to be carried away by flattering promises from the speedy growth of this tree; because, in rich soils and sheltered situations, the wood, though it thrives fast, is full of sap, and of little value, and is likewise very subject to ravage from the attacks of insects and from blight. Accordingly in Scotland, where planting is much better understood, and carried on upon an incomparably larger scale than among us, good soil and sheltered situations are appropriated to the oak, the ash, and other native deciduous trees; and the larch is now generally confined to barren and exposed ground. There the plant, which is a hardy one, is of slower growth; much less liable to the injuries which I have mentioned; and the timber is of better quality. But there are many whose circumstances permit them, and whose taste leads them, to plant with little regard to profit; and others less wealthy who have such a lively feeling of the native beauty of these scenes, that they are laudably not unwilling to make some sacrifices to heighten it. Both these classes of persons I would entreat to enquire of themselves wherein that beauty which they admire consists. They would then see that, after the feeling has been gratified which prompts us to gather round our dwelling a few flowers and shrubs which, from the circumstance of their not being native, may, by their very looks, remind us that they owe their existence to our hands and their prosperity to our care, they will see that, after this natural desire has been provided for, [p. 29] the course of all beyond has been predetermined by the spirit of the place. Before I proceed with this subject, I will prepare my way with a remark of general application by reminding those, who are not satisfied with the restraint thus laid upon them, that they are liable to a charge of inconsistency when they are so eager to change the face of that country, the native attractions of which by the art of erecting their habitations in it they have emphatically and conspicuously acknowledged. And surely there is not in this country a single spot that would not have, if well managed, sufficient dignity to support itself unaided by the productions of other climates or by elaborate decorations which might be becoming elsewhere.
49. But to return; having adverted to the considerations which justify the introduction of a few exotic plants, provided they be confined almost to the doors of the house, we may add, that a transition should be contrived without abruptness from these foreigners to the rest of the shrubs, which ought to be of the kinds scattered by nature through the woods—holly, broom, wild rose, elder, dogberry, white and black thorn, &c., either these only, or such as are carefully selected in consequence of their uniting in form, and harmonizing in colour with them, especially, with respect to colour, when the tints are most diversified, as in autumn and spring. The various sorts of fruit and blossom-bearing trees usually found in orchards, to which may be added those of the woods; the wilding, black cherry tree, and wild cluster cherry (here called heck-berry) may be happily admitted as an intermediate link between the shrubs and the forest trees; which last ought almost entirely to be such as are natives of the country, oak, ash, birch, mountain ash, &c. &c. Of the birch, one of the most beautiful of the native trees, it may be noticed, that, in dry and rocky situations, it outstrips even the larch which many persons are tempted to plant merely on account of the speed of its growth. Sycamore, and the Scotch fir (which, when it has room to spread out its arms, is a noble tree) may be placed with advantage near the house; for, from their massiveness, they unite well with buildings, and in some situations with rocks also; having in their forms and apparent substances, the effect of something intermediate betwixt the immovableness and solidity of stone and the sprays and foliage of the lighter trees. If these general rules be just, what shall we say to whole acres of artificial shrubbery and exotic trees among rocks and dashing torrents with their own wild wood in sight—where we have the whole contents of the nursery-man’s catalogue jumbled together—colour at war with colour, and form with form—among the most peaceful subjects of nature’s kingdom every where discord, distraction, and bewilderment! But this deformity, bad as it is, is not so obtrusive as the small patches and large tracts of larch plantations which are over-running the hill-sides. To justify our condemnation of these, let us again recur to nature. The process by which she forms woods and forests, is as follows. Seeds are scattered [p. 30] indiscriminately by winds, brought by waters, and dropped by birds. They perish or produce, according as the soil upon which they fall is suited to them; and under the same dependence the seedling or sucker, if not cropped by animals, thrives, and the tree grows, sometimes single, taking its own shape without constraint, but for the most part being compelled to conform itself to some law imposed upon it by its neighbours. From low and sheltered places vegetation travels upwards to the more exposed; and the young plants are protected, and to a certain degree fashioned, by those which have preceded them. The continuous mass of foliage which would thus be produced is broken by rocks or by glades or open places where the brouzing of animals has prevented the growth of wood. As vegetation ascends, the winds begin also to bear their part in moulding the forms of the trees; but, thus mutually protected, trees, though not of the hardiest kind, are enabled to climb high up the mountains. Gradually however, by the nature of the ground and by increasing exposure, as top is put to their ascent; the hardy trees only are left; these also, by little and little, give way; and a wild and irregular boundary is established, which, while it is graceful in its outline, is never contemplated without some feeling more or less distinct of the powers of nature by which it has been imposed.
50. Contrast the liberty and law under which this is carried on, as a joint work of nature and time, with the disheartening necessities, restrictions, and disadvantages, under which the artificial planter must proceed, even he whom long observation and fine feeling have best qualified to tread in the path of nature. In the first place his trees, however well chosen and adapted to their several situations, must generally all start at the same time; and this circumstance would of itself prevent that fine connection of parts, that sympathy and organization, if I may so express myself, which pervades the whole of a natural wood, and which appears to the eye in its single trees, its masses of foliage, and their various colours when they are held up to view on the side of a mountain; or, when spread over a valley, they are looked down upon from an eminence. It is then impossible under any circumstances for the artificial planter to rival the beauty of nature. But a moment’s thought will shew that, if ten thousand of this spiky tree, the larch, are stuck in at once upon the side of a hill, they can grow up into nothing but deformity; that, while they are suffered to stand, an absolute and insurmountable obstacle will prevent the realization of any of those appearances which we have described as the chief cause of the beauty of a natural wood.
51. It must be acknowledged that the larch, till it has outgrown the size of a shrub, has, when looked at singly, some elegance in its form and appearance, especially in spring when decorated by the pink tassels of its blossoms; but as a tree, it is less than any other pleasing; its branches (for boughs it has none) have no variety in the youth of the tree, and little dignity even when it attains its full growth; [p. 31] leaves it cannot be said to have; consequently neither affords shade, nor shelter. In spring it becomes green long before the native trees; and its green is so peculiar and vivid, that, finding nothing to harmonize with it, it makes a speck and deformity in the landscape. In summer when all other trees are in their pride, it is of a dingy lifeless hue, and in winter appears absolutely dead. In this respect it is lamentably distinguished from every other tree of the forest. If an attempt be made to mingle thickets, or a certain proportion of other forest trees, with the larch,—its horizontal branches intolerantly cut them down as with a scythe or force them to spindle up to keep pace with it. The spike, in which it terminates, renders it impossible, when it is planted in numbers, that the several trees should ever blend together so as to form a mass or masses of wood. Add thousands to tens of thousands, and the appearance is still the same—a collection of separate individual trees which obstinately present themselves as such; and, from whatever point they are looked at, if but seen, may be counted upon the fingers. Sunshine or shadow has little power to adorn the surface of such a wood; and the trees not carrying up their heads, the wind produces among them no majestic undulations. It is indeed, true that, in countries where the larch is a native, and where without interruption it may sweep from valley to valley and from hill to hill, a sublime image may be produced by such a forest in the same manner as by one composed of any other single tree to the spreading of which no limits can be assigned. For sublimity will never be wanting, where the sense of innumerable multitude is lost in, and alternates with, that of intense unity; and to the ready perception of this effect similarity and almost identity of individual form and monotony of colour contribute. But this feeling is confined to the native immeasurable forest; no artificial plantation can give it.
52. The foregoing observations will, I hope, (as nothing has been condemned or recommended without a substantial reason) have some influence upon those who plant for ornament mainly. To those, who plant for profit, I have already spoken. Let me then entreat that the native deciduous trees may be left in complete possession of the lower ground; and that plantations of larch, if introduced at all, may be confined to the higher and more barren tracts. Interposition of rocks would there break the dreary uniformity of which we have been complaining; and the winds would take hold of the trees, and imprint upon their shapes a wildness congenial to their situation.
53. Having determined what kinds of trees must be wholly rejected, or at least very sparingly used by those who are unwilling to disfigure the country; and having shewn what kinds ought to be chosen; I should have given, if I had not already overstepped my limits, a few practical rules for the manner in which trees ought to be disposed in planting. But to this subject I should attach little importance, if I could succeed in banishing such trees as introduce deformity, and could prevail [p. 32] upon the Proprietor to confine himself either to those which form the native woods, or to such as accord with them. This is indeed the main point; for, much as these scenes have been injured by what has been taken from them—buildings, trees and woods, either through negligence, necessity, avarice, or caprice—it is not these removals, but the harsh additions that have been made, which are the worst grievance—a standing and unavoidable annoyance. Often have I felt this distinction with mingled satisfaction and regret; for if no positive deformity or discordance be substituted or superinduced, such is the benignity of nature that, take away from her beauty after beauty and ornament after ornament, her appearance cannot be lastingly marred;—the scars, if any be left, will gradually disappear before a healing spirit; and what remains will still be soothing and pleasing.—“Many hearts;” says a living Poet speaking of a noble wood which had been felled in an interesting situation;
54. There are few ancient woods left in this part of England upon which such indiscriminate ravage could now be committed. But out of the numerous copses fine woods might in time be raised, probably without any sacrifice of profit, by leaving at the periodical fellings a due proportion of the healthiest trees to grow up into timber.—This plan has fortunately, in many instances, been adopted; and they, who have set the example, are entitled to the thanks of all persons of taste. As to the management of planting with reasonable attention to ornament, let the images of nature be your guide, and the whole secret lurks in a few words; thickets or underwoods—single trees—trees clustered or in groups—groves—unbroken woods, but with varied masses of foliage—glades—invisible or winding boundaries—in rocky districts a seemly proportion of rock left wholly bare, and other parts half hidden—disagreeable objects concealed, and formal lines broken—trees climbing up to the horizon, and in some places ascending from its sharp edge in which they are rooted, with the whole body of the tree appearing to stand in the clear sky—in other parts woods surmounted by rocks utterly bare and naked, which add to the sense of height as if vegetation could not thither be carried, and impress a feeling of duration, power of resistance, and security from change.
55. I have been induced to speak thus at length with a wish to preserve the native beauty of this delightful district, because still farther changes in its appearance must inevitably follow, from the change of inhabitants and owners which is rapidly [p. 33] taking place.—About the same time that strangers began to be attracted to the country, and to feel a wish to settle in it, the difficulty, which would have stood in the way of their procuring situations, was lessened by an unfortunate alteration in the circumstances of the native Peasantry, proceeding from a cause which then began to operate, and is now felt in every house. The family of each man, whether estatesman or farmer, formerly had a twofold support; first, the produce of his lands and flocks; and secondly the profit which was drawn from the employment of the women and children, as manufacturers; spinning their own wool in their own houses (which was done chiefly in the winter season) and carrying it to market for sale. Hence, however numerous the children, the income of the family kept pace with its increase. But, by the invention and universal application of machinery, this second resource has been almost wholly cut off; the gains being so far reduced, as not to be sought after but by a few aged persons disabled from other employment. Doubtless the invention of machinery has not been to these people a pure loss; for the profits arising from home-manufactures operated as a strong temptation to choose that mode of labour in neglect of husbandry. They also participate in the general benefit which the Island has derived from the increased value of the produce of land, brought about by the establishment of manufactories, and in the consequent quickening of agricultural industry. But this is far from making them amends; and now, that home-manufactures are nearly done away, though the women and children might at many seasons of the year employ themselves with advantage in the fields beyond what they are accustomed to do, yet still all possible exertion in this way cannot be rationally expected from persons whose agricultural knowledge is so confined, and above all where there must necessarily be so small a capital. The consequence, then, is—that, farmers being no longer able to maintain themselves upon small farms, several are united into one, and the buildings go to decay or are destroyed; and that the lands of the estatesmen being mortgaged and the owners constrained to part with them, they fall into the hands of wealthy purchasers, who in like manner unite and consolidate; and if they wish to become residents, erect new mansions out of the ruins of the ancient cottages whose little enclosures, with all the wild graces which grew out of them and around them, disappear. The feudal tenure of these estates has indeed done something towards checking this influx of new settlers; but so strong is the inclination that these galling restraints are endured; and it is probable that in a few years the country of the Lakes will fall almost entirely into the possession of Gentry, either strangers or natives. It is then much to be wished, that a better taste should prevail among these new proprietors; and, as they cannot be expected to leave things to themselves, that skill and knowledge should prevent unnecessary deviations from that path of simplicity and beauty in which, without design and unconsciously, their humble predecessors have moved. In this wish the author will be [p. 34] joined by persons of pure taste throughout the whole Island, who by their visits, often repeated, to the Lakes to the North of England, testify that they deem the district a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.
56. The Writer may now express a hope that the end, which was proposed in the commencement of this Introduction, has not been wholly unattained; and that there is no impropriety in connecting these latter remarks with the Etchings now offered to the public. For it is certain that, if the evil complained of should continue to spread, these Vales, notwithstanding their lakes, rivers, torrents, and surrounding rocks and mountains, will lose their chief recommendation for the eye of the painter and the man of imagination and feeling. And, upon the present occasion, the Artist is bound to acknowledge that, if the fruit of his labours have any value, it is owing entirely to the models which he has had before him, in a country which retained till lately an appearance unimpaired of Man and Nature animated, as it were, by one spirit for the production of beauty, grace, and grandeur.
OF THE BEST TIME FOR VISITING THE LAKES.
57. In the Introduction to this Work a survey has been given of the face of the country, in which our English Lakes are situated which will not perhaps prove unserviceable even to Natives and Residents, however well acquainted with its appearance; as it will probably direct their attention to some objects which they have overlooked, and will exhibit others under relations of which they have been unconscious. I will now address myself more particularly to the Stranger and the Traveller; and, without attempting to give a formal Tour through the country, and without binding myself servilely to accompany the Etchings, I will attach to the Work such directions, descriptions, and remarks, as I hope will confer an additional interest upon the Views, and will also be of use to a person preparing for a first visit to these scenes, and during his progress through them.—To begin then with the time which he ought to choose;—Mr. West recommends the interval from the beginning of June to the end of August; and the two latter months, being a season of vacation and leisure, are those which are generally selected; but they are by no means the best; for the disadvantages belonging to them are many and great. The principal are, the monotonous green of the Mountains and of the Woods, and the embrowned colour of the grass in the Vallies. This however is variegated and enlivened after hay-making begins, which is much later than in the southern parts of the Island. An objection which will be more strongly felt, is rainy weather, which often sets in at this period with a vigour, and continues with a perseverance, that may remind the disappointed and dejected Traveller of the wet season between the Tropics; or of those deluges of rain which fall among the Abyssinian Mountains for the annual supply of the Nile. Hence, as a very large majority of strangers visit the Lakes at this season, the country labours under the ill repute of being scarcely ever free from rain.—The months of September and October, (particularly October) are generally attended with much finer weather; and the scenery is then, beyond comparison, more diversified, more splendid and beautiful; but, on the other hand, short days prevent long excursions, and sharp and chill gales are unfavorable to parties of pleasure out of doors. Nevertheless the beauty of this country in Autumn so far surpasses that of Midsummer, that to the sincere admirer of Nature, who is in good health and spirits and at liberty to make a choice, the six weeks following the first of September may be recommended in preference to July and August.—For there is no inconvenience arising from the Season which to such a person would not be amply recompensed by the Autumnal appearance of any of the more retired Vallies, into which discordant plantations and unsuitable buildings have not yet found entrance.—In such spots at this season, there is an admirable and affecting compass and proportion of natural harmony in form and colour, through the whole scale of objects; in the tender green of the after-grass upon the meadows interspersed with islands of grey or mossy rocks crowned by shrubs and trees; in the irregular inclosures of standing corn or stubble-fields in like manner broken; in the mountain-sides glowing with fern of divers colours; in the calm blue Lakes or River-pools; and in the foliage of the trees through all the tints of Autumn, from the pale and brilliant yellow of the birch and ash to the deep greens of the unfaded oak and the alder, and of the ivy upon the rocks, the trees, and the cottages. Yet as most travellers are either stinted or stint themselves for time, I would recommend the space between the middle or last week in May and the middle or last week of June as affording the best combination of long days, fine weather, and variety of impressions. Few of the native trees are indeed then in full leaf, but for whatever may be wanting in depth of shade, far more than an equivalent will be found in the diversity of foliage, in the blossoms of the fruit- and berry-bearing Trees which abound in the woods, and in the golden flowers of the broom and other shrubs, with which many of the copses are variegated. In those woods, also, and on those mountain-sides which have a northern aspect, and in the deep dells, many of the earlier spring-flowers still linger; while the open and sunny places are stocked with the flowers of approaching summer. And, besides, is not an exquisite pleasure still untasted by him who has not heard the [p. 36] choir of Linnets and Thrushes chaunting their love-songs in the copses, woods, and hedge-rows, of a mountainous country; safe from the birds of prey, which build in the inaccessible crags, and are at all hours seen or heard wheeling about in the air? The number of those formidable Creatures is the cause why in the narrow vallies there are no sky-larks; as the Destroyer would be enabled to dart upon them from the near and surrounding crags, before they could descend to their ground nests, for protection. Neither are Nightingales here to be heard; but almost all the other tribes of our English warblers are numerous; and their notes, when listened to by the side of broad still waters, or when heard in unison with the murmuring of mountain brooks, have much more power over the heart, and the imagination than in other places.—There is also an imaginative influence in the voice of the Cuckoo, when that voice has taken possession of a deep mountain Valley, which is very different from any thing which can be excited by the same sound in a flat country. Nor must I omit a circumstance which here renders the close of Spring especially interesting; I mean the practice of bringing down the Ewes from the Mountains, to yean in the Vallies and enclosed grounds.—The springing herbage being thus cropped, that first tender and emerald green of the season, which would otherwise last little more than a fortnight, is prolonged in the pastures and meadows for many weeks; while they are farther enlivened by the multitude of lambs bleating and skipping about; which, as they gather strength, are turned out upon the open mountains, and with their slender limbs, their snow white colour, and their wild and light motions, beautifully accord or contrast with the lawns and rocks, upon and among which they must now begin to seek their food. But, what is of most consequence, the Traveller at this season would be almost sure of having fine weather.—The opinion which I have given concerning the comparative advantages of the different times for visiting these Lakes, is founded upon a long acquaintance with the Country, and an intimate knowledge of its appearance at all seasons. But, I am aware that few of those, who may be satisfied with the reasons, by which this opinion is supported, will be able to profit from what has been said; as the time and manner of an excursion of this kind are mostly regulated by circumstances which prevent an entire freedom of choice. It will therefore be more pleasant to me to observe that, though the months of July and August are liable to the objections which have been mentioned, yet it not unfrequently happens that the weather, at this time, is not more wet or stormy than they, who are really capable of enjoying the sublime forms of Nature in their height of sublimity, would desire. For no Traveller, provided he is in good health and with any command of time, would have a just privilege to visit such scenes, if he could grudge the price of a little confinement among them or interruption in his journey from the sight or sound of a storm coming-on or clearing-away; and he would congratulate himself upon the bold bursts of sunshine, the descending vapours, and wandering lights and shadows, the invigorated torrents and water-falls, with which broken weather, in a mountainous region, is accompanied.—At such a time the monotony of midsummer colouring, and the want of variety caused by this, and by the glaring atmosphere of long, cloudless and hot days, is wholly removed.
58. It is obvious that the point, from which a Stranger should begin this Tour, and the order in which it will be convenient to him to see the different Vales will depend upon this circumstance; viz: from what quarter of the Island he comes. If from Scotland, or by the way of Stainmoor, it will suit him to start from Penrith, taking the scenery of Lowther in his way to Hawes-water. He will next visit Ullswater, &c. reversing the order which I shall point out as being in itself the best. Mr. West has judiciously directed those to whom it is convenient to proceed from Lancaster over the sands to take Furness Abbey in their way, if so inclined; and then to advance by the Lake of Coniston. This is unquestionably the most favourable approach. The beautiful Lake of Coniston will thus be traced upwards from its outlet, the only way in which it can be seen, for the first time, without an entire yielding up of its most delightful appearances. And further, the Stranger, from the moment he sets his foot upon the Sands, seems to leave the turmoil and the traffic of the world behind him; and crossing the majestic Plain from which the Sea has retired, he beholds, rising apparently from its base, that cluster of Mountains, among the recesses of which he is going to wander, and into which, by the Vale of Coniston, he is gradually and peacefully introduced. The Lake and Vale of Coniston, approached in this manner, improve in appearance with every step. And I may here make this general remark, which, indeed the Reader may have deduced from the representation of the Country, given in the Introduction, that, wherever it is possible, these Lakes and Vallies should be approached from the foot; otherwise most things will come upon the Spectator to great disadvantage. This general rule applies, though not with equal force to all the Lakes, with the single exception of Lowes-water, which, lying in a direction opposite to the rest, has its most favourable aspects determined accordingly.
59. At the head of Coniston close to the water side is a small and comfortable Inn, which I would advise the Traveller, who is not part of a large company, and who does not look for a parade of accommodation, to make his head-quarters for two days. The first of these days, if the weather permit, may be agreeably passed in an excursion to the Vale of Duddon, or Donnerdale, as part of it is called, and which name may with propriety be given to the whole. It lies over the high hill which bounds the Vale of Coniston on the West. This Valley is very rarely visited; but I recommend it with confidence to the notice of the Traveller of taste and feeling. It will be best approached by a road, ascending from near the church of Coniston, which leads to that part of Donnerdale called Seathwaite. The road is so long and steep that the Traveller will be obliged to lead his horse a considerable part of it. The ascent and descent cannot I think be less than five miles; but, nothing can be found more beautiful than the scene, into which he will be received at the bottom of the hill on the other side. This little circular Valley is a collateral compartment of the long winding Vale, through which flows the stream of Duddon; and its Brook finds its way to the River. Advancing, you will come to the lowly Chapel of Seathwaite, and a field or two beyond, is a Farm-house, where, though there be no sign-board, or outward mark of an Inn, the Traveller who can content himself with homely diet may be accommodated.—Having satisfied himself with strolling about Seathwaite, he will proceed down Donnerdale to Ulpha Kirk; and from this Church-yard he will have as grand a combination of mountain lines and forms as perhaps this country furnishes. The whole scene is inspirited by the sound and sight of the River rolling immediately below the steep ground upon the top of which the Church stands. From Ulpha Kirk proceed down the Vale towards Broughton. The same character of mingled wildness and cultivation is still preserved. Rocky grounds, which must for ever forbid the entrance of the plough, here and there, interrupt the cultivation; and in part or wholly fill up the bottom or sides of the Vale.—This beautiful Vale does not gradually disappear in a flat Plain, but terminates abruptly in a prospect of the Sands of Duddon, and of the Irish Sea. These are seen in conjunction with its River, and deep recesses of wood. On this account, and for the sake of descending upon Seathwaite so advantageously, I have [p. 38] recommended in opposition to the general rule, that it should be approached from the upper part, rather than from its outlet. From Broughton return to Coniston by the nearest road. The morning of the next day may be employed in sailing upon, and looking about the higher part of the Lake, and in strolling upon its Banks; and the other half in an excursion to the Valley of Yewdale (a branch of the Vale of Coniston) and round the sequestered Valley of Tilberthwaite, which may be considered as a remoter apartment of the Valley of Yewdale. This excursion may be about five miles, and may be taken either on foot or horse-back; but not in a carriage. From the Valley of Yewdale having mounted to that of Tilberthwaite, with the Brook upon the right hand, pursue the road till it leads to the furthest of two Cottages; there, ask the way through the fields to an house called Holm-ground. If, on horse-back, alight there; and from a rocky and woody hill, behind the house you will look down upon this wild, beautiful, and singularly secluded Valley. From Holm-ground return to the Inn at Coniston. Next day proceed to Hawkshead; and thence by the side of Estwaite looking back a little while after the road has left the Lake side upon a fine view (which will be found among these Etchings) of the Lake of Estwaite. Thence, through the two Villages of Sawrey, you come to the Ferry-house upon Windermere where are good accommodations for the night.
60. The Tourist has now reached Windermere, and has been introduced in his road to some sequestered spots not exemplified in these Etchings, but, which, if he wishes to have a complete knowledge of the various features of this Country, he will be glad to have visited. Every thing that is of consequence has been taken in its best order, except that the first burst of the Vale of Windermere, though very interesting from this approach, is much inferior to that which would have come upon him had he descended by the road from Kendal. Before the Traveller, whom I have thus far accompanied, enters the Peninsula, at the extremity of which the Ferry House stands, it will be adviseable to ascend to a Pleasure-house belonging to J.C. Curwen, Esq. which he will see upon the side of the rocks on his left hand.—There is a gate, and a person, attending at a little Lodge, or Cot adjoining, who will conduct him. From this point he will look down upon the cluster of Islands in the central part of the Lake, upon Bowness, Rayrigg, and the Mountains of Troutbeck; and will have a prospect of the lower division of this expanse of water to its extremity. The upper part is hidden. The Pleasure house is happily situated, and is well in its kind, but, without intending any harsh reflections on the contriver, from whom it was purchased by its present Proprietor, it may be said that he, who remembers the spot on which this building stands, and the immediate surrounding grounds as they were less than thirty years ago, will sigh for the coming of that day when Art, through every rank of society, shall be taught to have more reverence for Nature. This scene is, in its natural constitution, far too beautiful to require any exotic or obtrusive embellishments, either of planting or architecture. With Winandermere a large majority of Visitants begin this Tour. The ordinary course is from Kendal, by the nearest road to Bowness; but I would recommend it to all persons, whatever may be their mode of conveyance, or however large their party, when they shall have reached the Turnpike-house, about a mile beyond Kendal, not to take, as is commonly done, the road which leads directly to Bowness; but that through Stavely; inasmuch as the break of prospect from Orrest-head, where the road brings you to the first sight of Windermere, in itself one of the finest things in the Tour, is much grander than as it appears from the other road. This for two reasons; first, that you are between two and three miles nearer the sublime mountains and large expanse of water at the head of the Lake; and secondly that the new houses and plantations, and the number of trim and artificial objects with which the neighbourhood of Bowness is crouded, are so far removed from this point, as not to be individually offensive, as they melt into the general mass of the Landscape. At the bottom of the hill, you find a Guide-post; and, turning, abruptly to the left, will immediately come in sight of the same general prospect which has been seen above, from a point, which, as it is comparatively low, necessarily changes the character of the scene. Thence on, through the close woods of Rayrigg, to the bustling Inn of Bowness.
61. I will not call upon the Reader to waste his time upon descriptions of things, which every one makes a point of seeing, and of such as lie open to the notice of the most inattentive Traveller. This, with respect to a country now so well known, would be useless in itself; and would be especially improper in a publication of this kind, the main purport of which is, to exhibit scenes which lie apart from the beaten course of observation.—Accordingly I shall chiefly expatiate upon those retired spots, which have furnished subjects for the majority of these Etchings, or upon others of the same character; and when I treat of the more frequent scenes, I shall attempt little more than to point out [p. 39] qualities by which they are characterized, which may easily escape the notice of the cursory Spectator. The appearance of the neighbourhood of Bowness, within the last five and thirty years, has undergone many changes, and most of these for the worse, for want of due attention to those principles of taste, and those rules for planting and building in a country of this kind, which have been discussed at large in the Introduction. The Islands of Windermere are beautifully shaped and intermingled. Upon the largest are a few fine old trees; but a great part of this delightful spot, when it first fell into the Improver’s hand, was struck over with trees that are here out of place; and, had the present public-spirited Proprietor sufficient leisure amidst his important avocations to examine the principles which have been enforced in these pages, he would probably be induced to weed these foreigners out by little and little, and introduce more appropriate trees in their stead; such as would be pleasing to look at in their youth, and in maturity and old age might succeed to those venerable natives which the axe has spared. The embankment also, which has been raised round this Island for the sake of preserving the land, could only, it should seem, have been necessary in a few exposed points; and the artificial appearance which this has given to the whole spot is much to be regretted; not to speak of the infinite varieties of minute beauty which it must have destroyed. Could not the margin of this noble Island be given back to Nature? Winds and Waves work with a careless and graceful hand; and any thing which they take away would be amply compensated by the additional spirit, dignity and loveliness which these agents and the other powers of Nature would soon communicate to what was left behind.
62. Windermere ought to be seen both from its shores and from its surface. None of the other Lakes unfold so many fresh beauties to him who sails upon them. This is owing to its greater size, to its Islands, and to a circumstance in which this Lake differs from all the rest, viz. that of having two Vales at its head, with their accompanying mountains of nearly equal dignity. Nor can the whole grandeur of these two terminations be seen at the same time from any one point, except from the bosom of the Lake. The Islands may be explored at any time of the day; but one bright unruffled evening at least, must, if possible, be set apart for the splendour, the stillness and solemnity of a three hours voyage upon the higher division of the Lake, not omitting, towards the end of the excursion, to quit the expanse of water, and peep into the close and calm River at the head; which, in its quiet character, at such a time, appears rather like an overflow of the peaceful Lake itself than to have any more immediate connection with the rough mountains from which it has descended, or the turbulent Torrents of which it is composed. Many persons content themselves with what they see of Windermere in their progress in a boat from Bowness to the head of the Lake, walking thence to Ambleside; but this is doing things by halves. The whole road from Bowness is rich in diversity of pleasing or grand scenery; there is scarcely a field on the road side which, if it were entered, would not give to the Landscape some additional charm. Low-wood Inn, a mile from the head of Windermere is a pleasant halting-place; and the fields above it, and the lane which leads to the Troutbeck, present beautiful views towards each extremity of the Lake. From this place, and still more conveniently from Ambleside, rides on horse-back or in carriages may be taken in almost every direction, and the interesting walks are inexhaustible.
63. This Town or Market-village was formerly perhaps more rich in picturesque beauty, arising from a combination of rustic architecture and natural scenery than any small Town or Village in Great Britain. Many of the ancient buildings with their porches, projections, round chimnies and galleries have been displaced to make way for the docked, featureless, and memberless edifices of modern architecture; which look as if fresh brought upon wheels from the Foundry, where they had been cast. Yet this Town, if carefully noticed, will still be found to retain such store of picturesque materials as will secure the praise of what it once was from any suspicion of partiality. The Brook, which divides the Town ought to be explored along its channel; if the state of the stream will permit. Below the Bridge is a Mill, and also an old Summer-house, with other old buildings, ivied Trunks of Trees, and mossy Stones, which have furnished subjects for many a picture; and above the Bridge, though there are no Buildings, every step is interesting till the curious Traveller is stopped by the huge breastwork of Stock-gill Force. Within a quarter of a mile of Ambleside is a scene called the Nook, which deserves to be explored. It is to be found in Scandle Gill, the channel of the first Brook that comes down Scandle Fell to the North of Ambleside. I need not describe the scene; its prin- [p. 40] cipal feature is a Bridge thrown over the Torrent. From this Bridge I wish it were in my power to recommend it to the Traveller to proceed northwards, along the slope of the hill-side, till he reaches the Park of Rydale; but this would be a trespass; for there is no path, and high and envious stone walls interpose. We must therefore give up the best approach to some of the most glorious scenes in the world; this may be yet said, though not without painful regret for the havoc which has been made among them. Some hundreds of oaks are gone,
64. Of places at a distance from Ambleside, but commodiously visited from that Village, Coniston may be first mentioned; though this Lake as I said before, will thus be approached to great disadvantage.—Next comes Great Langdale, a Vale which should on no account be missed by him who has a true enjoyment of grand separate Forms composing a sublime Unity, austere but reconciled and rendered attractive to the affections by the deep serenity that is spread over every thing. There is no good carriage road through this Vale; nor ought that to be regretted; for it would impair its solemnity; but the road is tolerable for about the distance of three miles from Ambleside, namely along the Vale of Brathay, and above the western banks of Loughrigg Tarn, and still further, to the entrance of Langdale itself; but the small and peaceful Valley of Loughrigg is seen to much greater advantage from the eastern side. When therefore you have quitted the River Brathay enquire at the first house for the foot road, which will conduct you round the lower extremity of the Tarn, and so on to its head, where, at a little distance from the Tarn the path again leads to the publick road and about a mile further conducts you to Langdale Chapel.—A little way beyond this sequestered and simple place of worship is a narrow passage on the right leading into a slate-quarry which has been finely excavated. Pursuing this road a few hundred yards further, you come in view of the noblest reach of this Vale, which I shall not attempt to describe. Under the Precipice adjoining to the Pikes lies invisibly Stickle Tarn, and thence descends a conspicuous Torrent down the breast of the Mountain. Near this Torrent is Dungeon Gill Force, which cannot be found without a Guide, who may be taken up at one of the Cottages at the foot of the Mountain.
65. The two hours before sun-set are the most favourable time of the day for seeing the lower division of Wytheburne Lake, but it is advisable to choose the earlier part of this time, in order that the Traveller may be enabled to descend into the Vale of Keswick while the sun-beams are upon it. That this first impression of that Vale should be received under the most favourable circumstances, is very desirable; and therefore I do not recommend, as I should otherwise have done, that the Traveller, who has been guided by my directions thus far, should lengthen his journey to Keswick still further, and follow the stream that issues out of Wytheburn Lake till it enters St. John’s Vale, which he may do if he be on foot, keeping to the side of it almost all the way; and, if on horseback, he may return to it by a small circuit, after having crossed Shoulthwaite Moss. I should have directed the Traveller in this case to proceed a mile and a half down St. John’s Vale, and then to cross Naddle Fell, by St. John’s Chapel, which would bring him into the road between Ambleside and Keswick, something better than two miles short of the latter place. This may easily be done, taking the lower division of Wytheburn earlier in the afternoon than the time which I have recommended as the best.
66. We have now reached Keswick. I shall not attempt a general description of this celebrated Vale, because this has already been admirably performed by Dr. Brown, and by the Poet Gray; and the place is at this time very generally known. As the Views in this work have been taken almost exclusively from retired spots in the Ghylls, or Gills, and smaller Vallies that branch off from the trunk of the Vale, it will be more appropriate to this publication, and will better suit its narrow limits, to say a few words upon them. And to begin with one of the smallest, Applethwaite (for Views of which see Nos. 22, 23, and 24). This is a hamlet of six or seven houses, hidden in a small recess at the foot of Skiddaw, and adorned by a little Brook, which, having descended from a great height in a silver line down the steep blue side of the Mountain, trickles past the doors of the Cottages. This concealed spot is very interesting as you approach from the bottom, with your face towards the green and blue mass of Skiddaw; and is not less pleasing when, having advanced by a gentle slope for some space, you turn your head and look out from this chink or fissure, which is sprinkled with little orchards and trees, and behold the whole splendour of the upper and middle part of the Vale of Keswick, with its Lakes and Mountains spread before your eyes. A small Spinning-mill has lately been erected here, and some of the old Cottages, with their picturesque appendages, are fallen into decay. This is to be regretted; for, these blemishes excepted, the scene is a rare and almost singular combination of minute and sequestered beauty, with splendid and extensive prospects. On the opposite side of the Vale of Keswick lie the Valley of Newlands, and the Village of Braithwaite, with its stream descending from a cove of the Mountain. From both these spots I have given Views, from which an idea of their features may be collected. Braithwaite lies at the foot of Whenlater, in the road to Lorton and Cockermouth; and through Newlands passes the nearest road to Buttermere. Returning to the eastern side of the Vale of Keswick, we find the narrow and retired Valley of Watenlath, enclosed on each side and at the head by craggy Mountains. In the Mountains at the head, the stream rises, which forms the Cascade of Lodore. This, after flowing a short way through a pastoral tract, falls into a small Lake or Tarn, which lies midway in the long Valley of Watenlath. At the point where the stream issues out of the Tarn, is a beautiful Bridge of one arch, and close beside the Bridge is a little Hamlet, a cluster of grey Cottages. There are no other dwellings in the Valley; and a more secluded spot than this Hamlet cannot well be conceived; yet ascend a very little up the hill above it, and you have a most magnificent prospect of the Vale of Keswick, as far as Skiddaw; and, pursuing the Valley of Watenlath to its head, if you look back, the view of the little Valley itself, with its Lake, Bridge, and Cottages, is combined with that of the majestic Vale beyond, so that each seems to be a part of the other. But the most considerable of the Dales which communicate with the Vale of Keswick by the Rivers which flow through them, are Borrowdale and St. John’s. Of St. John’s we have already spoken; and Borrowdale is in fact the head of the Vale of Keswick. It would be an [p. 42] endless task to attempt, by verbal descriptions, to guide the traveller among the infinite variety of beautiful or interesting objects which are found in the different reaches of the broad Valley itself, nor less so to attempt to lead him through its little recesses, its nooks, and tributary glens. I must content myself with saying, that this Valley surpasses all the others in variety. Rocks and Woods are intermingled on the hill-sides with profuse wildness; and on the plain below (for the area of the Valley, through all its windings is generally a level plain, out of which the Mountains rise as from their base,) the single Cottages and clusters of Houses are numerous; not glaringly spread before the eye, but unobtrusive as the rocks themselves, and mostly coloured like them. There is scarcely a Cottage that has not its own tuft of trees. The Yew-tree has been a favourite with the former Inhabitants of Borrowdale; for many fine old Yew-trees yet remain near the Cottages, probably first planted for an ornament to their gardens, and now preserved as a shelter, and for the sake of their venerable appearance. But the noblest Yew-trees to be found here, are a cluster of three, with a fourth a little detached, which do not stand in connection with any houses; they are in that part of Borrowdale which is called Seathwaite, immediately under the entrance into the Lead-mines. Nothing of the kind can be conceived more solemn and impressive than the small gloomy grove formed by these trees.
67. The lower part of the Vale of Keswick is occupied by the Lake of Bassenthwaite; and he who coasts its western shore, will be well and variously recompensed; and in particular by the appearance of Skiddaw, rising immediately from the opposite side of the Lake. Following this road, we cross the lower extremity of Embleton Vale. Embleton may be mentioned as the last of the Vallies collateral to the main Vale of Keswick. It unfolds on the west, near the foot of Bassenthwaite Lake, a scene of humble and gentle character; but deriving animated beauty from the Lake, and striking majesty from the Mountain of Skiddaw, which is on this side broken and rugged, and of an aspect which is forcibly contrasted with that with which it looks upon Derwent Lake. The view of the whole vista of the Vale of Keswick from Armathwaite and Ouze Bridge is magnificent; and the scenes upon the River Derwent, as far as the grand ruins of Cockermouth Castle, are soft and varied, and well worthy of the notice of the Pedestrian, who has leisure to go in search of them.
68. From the Vale of Keswick, of which there is no need to say any thing more, the Tourist usually proceeds to Buttermere, to which there are three roads; the one through part of Borrowdale, which brings him down into the Vale of Buttermere, at its head; but Borrowdale I suppose to have been already explored, a strong reason against choosing this approach. Yet in justice to this road I must add, that the descent into Gatesgarth, immediately under Honister Crag, causes one of the sublimest impressions which this country can produce. The second road leads through Newlands. The descent into Buttermere by this way is solitary and grand; but the Vale of Newlands itself I suppose also to have been visited in the Tour round the Lake of Keswick (which no person of taste ought to omit), or in other rambles. It follows, then, that the third is the road which I would recommend, namely, the carriage road, which leads over Whinlater, through part of the Vale of Lorton, to the outlet of Crummock-water. Here was formerly an inn, kept at a house called Scale Hill, an accommodation which I believe no longer exists. It would, however, be ill-judged not to turn aside to Scale Hill; the carriage or horses might be sent forward by the high-road, and ordered to wait till the Traveller rejoined them by the footpath, which leads through the woods along the side of Crummock. This path presents noble scenes, looking up the Lake towards Buttermere. If the Traveller be desirous of visiting Lowes-water, instead of proceeding directly along this path, he must cross the Bridge over the Cocker, near Scale Hill, to which he must return after a walk or ride of three or four miles. I am not sure that the circuit of this Lake can be made on horseback; but every path and field in the neighbourhood would well repay the active exertions of the Pedestrian. Nor will the most hasty Visitant fail to notice with pleasure, that community of attractive and substantial houses which are dispersed over the fertile inclosures at the foot of those rugged Mountains, and form a most impressive contrast with the humble and rude dwellings which are usually found at the head of these far-winding Dales. It must be mentioned also, that there is scarcely any thing finer than the view from a boat in the centre of Crummock-water. The scene is deep, and solemn, and lonely; and in no other spot is the majesty of the Mountains so irresistibly felt as an omnipresence, or so passively submitted to as a spirit incumbent upon the imagination. Near the head of Crummock-water, on the right, is Scale Force, a Waterfal worthy of being visited, both for its own sake, and for the sublime View across the Lake, looking back in your ascent towards the Chasm. The Fall is perpendicular from an immense height, a slender stream faintly illuminating a gloomy fissure. This spot is never seen to a more advantage than when it happens, that, while you are looking up [p. 43] through the Chasm towards the summit of the lofty Waterfal, large fleecy clouds, of dazzling brightness, suddenly ascend into view, and disappear silently upon the wind. The Village of Buttermere lies a mile and a half higher up the Vale, and of the intermediate country I have nothing to say. It would be advisable, if time permit, that you should go as far up the Vale as Honister Crag; and if in horseback, or on foot, you may return to Keswick by Newlands.
69. The rest of the scenes in this part of the country of which I have given views, namely, those of Ennerdale and Westdale, cannot, without a good deal of trouble, be approached in a carriage. For Foot-travellers, and for those who are not afraid of leading their horses through difficult ways, there is a road from Buttermere directly over the mountains to Ennerdale; there is also another road from the head of Buttermere to the head of Westdale, without going into Borrowdale; but both Ennerdale and Westdale are best seen by making a considerable circuit; namely, by retracing our steps to Scale Hill, and thence by Lowes-water and Lamplugh to Ennerdale. The first burst of Ennerdale from an eminence is very noble, and the mind is more alive to the impression, because we have quitted for a while the heart of the mountains, and been led through a tamer country. Ennerdale is bold and savage in its general aspect, though not destitute, towards the higher part of the Lake, of fertile and beautiful spots. From Ennerdale-Bridge to Calder-Bridge, the road leads over Cold Fell. The distance is six miles, a desolate tract, with the exception of the last half mile, through a narrow and well-wooded Valley, in which is a small, but beautiful fragment of Calder Abbey. The village lying close to Calder-Bridge has good inns, and the bed of the River about the Bridge is rocky and spirited. We are here in a plain country near to the sea, and therefore better prepared to enjoy the mountain sublimities of Westdale, which soon begin to shew themselves, and grow upon us at every step, till we reach the margin of the Lake. This Water (for the Lakes are generally called Waters by the country people) is not so much as four miles in length, and becomes very narrow for the space of half a mile towards its outlet. On one side it is bordered by a continued straight line of high and almost perpendicular steeps, rising immediately from the Lake, without any bays or indentings. This is a very striking feature; for these steeps, or screes (as places of this kind are named), are not more distinguished by their height and extent, than by the beautiful colours with which the pulverized rock, for ever crumbling down their sides, overspreads them. The surface has the apparent softness of the dove’s neck, and (as was before mentioned, in reference to spots of this kind,) resembles a dove’s neck strongly in its hues, and in the manner in which they are intermingled. On the other side, Wast-water is bordered by knotty and projecting rocky mountains, which, retiring in one place, admit the interposition of a few green fields between them and the Lake, with a solitary farmhouse. From the termination of the Screes rises Scaw Fell, deemed higher than Skiddaw, or Helvellyn, or any of the Mountains. The summit, as seen from Westdale, is bold and abrupt, and if you should quit the Valley and ascend towards it, it appears, from the Cove beneath, like the shattered walls or towers of an enormous edifice. Upon the summit of one of those towers is a fragment of rock that looks like an eagle, or a large owl, on that commanding eminence, stationary through all seasons. The Views which I have given are from the shore about the middle of Wast-water, from a point where the Vale appears to be terminated by three large conical Mountains, Yewbarrow on the left, Great Gavel in the centre, and Lingmoor on the right. About two miles further is the Division of West-dale Head, with its lowly Chapel. This place formerly consisted of twenty tenements. It is now reduced to six. This Valley has been described in the Introduction, as seen from the summit of Great Gavel; but the Traveller will be pleased with a nearer view of these pastoral dwellings, which in the inside are as comfortable as their outside is beautiful and picturesque. A hospitable people live here, and do not repine at the distance and the barriers which separate them from the noisy world. Give them more sunshine and a richer soil, and they would have little to complain of. The Stranger will observe here and elsewhere large heaps of stones, like Sepulchral Barrows, which have been collected from the fields and thrown together by the labours of many generations. From the summits either of Great Gavel, or Scaw Fell, there are sublime prospects. Great Gavel may be proud of the Vallies which it looks down into, and Scaw Fell of the dark multitudinous Mountains, rising ridge above ridge, which it commands on the one side, and of the extent of sea and sand spreading in a level plain on the other. The ascent of Scaw Fell is easy, that of Great Gavel laborious. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of adding, that on the highest point of Great Gavel is a small triangular receptacle of water in a rock. It is not a spring; yet the shepherds say that it is never dry: certainly when I was there, during a season of drought, it was well supplied with water. Here the Traveller may slake his thirst plenteously with a pure and celestial beverage; for it appears that this cup or bason has no other [p. 44] feeder than the dews of heaven, the showers, the vapours, the hoar frost, and the spotless snow. From Wastdale return to Keswick by Stye-Head and Borrowdale. Take a look backwards upon Wastdale, from the last point where it is visible. The long strait vista of the Vale, and the sea beyond, apparent between the Mountains, form a grand whole. A few steps further bring you to Stye-Head Tarn (for which see No. 43). By the side of the Tarn, an eagle (I believe of the ospray species) was killed last spring. Though large, it was very light, and seemed exhausted by hunger. The stream which flows into this Tarn comes from another, called Sprinkling Tarn, famous among anglers for the finest trouts in the country. In rainy seasons there is a magnificent waterfal formed by the stream which issues from Stye-Head Tarn. You have it on your left as you descend into Seathwaite division of Rovendale. About a mile further down upon the left is that cluster of yew-tress recommended to notice; thence through a succession of magnificent scenes to Keswick.
70. It remains that we should speak of Ullswater. There are two roads by which this Lake may be visited from Keswick. That which is adapted for Travellers on horseback, or on foot, crosses the lower part of St. John’s Vale, and brings you down through the Valley and scattered Village of Matterdale into Gowbarrow Park, unfolding at once a magnificent view of the two higher reaches of the Lake. Airey Force thunders down the Ghyll, or Gill, on the left, at a small distance from the road; but you are separated from it by the Park-wall. In a carriage, Ullswater is best approached from Penrith. A mile and a half brings you to the winding Vale of Emont, and the prospects increase in interest till you reach Patterdale; but the first four miles along Ullswater by this road are comparatively tame, and in order to see the lower part of the Lake to advantage, it is absolutely necessary to go round by Poolly-Bridge, and to ride at least three miles along the Westmoreland side of the Water, towards Martindale. The Views from this quarter, especially if you ascend from the road into the fields, are magnificent; yet I only mention this that the transient Traveller may know what exists; for it will be very inconvenient for him to go in search of them. The person who takes this course of three or four miles, which I am now recommending, on foot, should take care to have a boat in readiness at the end of his walk, to carry him right across to the Cumberland side, along which he may pursue his way upwards to Patterdale.
71. Having conducted the Traveller hither, I shall treat no further of the body of this celebrated Vale; but, for the same reasons which governed me when I was speaking of Keswick, I shall confine myself to the Glens and Vallies which branch off from it.
72. At Dalemain, about three miles from Penrith, a Stream is crossed, called Dacre, which, rising in the moorish country about Penruddock, flows down a soft sequestered Valley, passing by the ancient mansions of Hutton John and Dacre Castle. The former is pleasantly situated, though of a character somewhat gloomy and monastic; and from some of the fields near Dalemain, Dacre Castle, backed by the jagged summit of Saddleback, and with the Valley and Stream in front of it, forms a grand picture. There is no other stream that conducts us to any glen or valley worthy of being mentioned, till you reach the one which leads you up to Airey Force, and then into Matterdale, before spoken of. Matterdale, though a wild and interesting spot, has no peculiar features that would make it worth the Stranger’s while to go in search of them; but in Gowbarrow Park the lover of Nature might wish to linger for hours. Here is a powerful Brook, which dashes among rocks through a deep glen, hung on every side with a rich and happy intermixture of native wood; here are beds of luxuriant fern, aged hawthorns, and hollies decked with honeysuckles; and fallow-deer glancing and bounding over the lawns and through the thickets. These are the attractions of the retired views, or constitute a fore-ground to ever-varying pictures of the majestic Lake, forced to take a winding course by bold promontories, and environed by mountains of sublime form, towering above each other. Having passed under a plantation of larches, we reach, at the outlet of Gowbarrow Park, a third Stream, which flows through a little recess called Glencoin, in which lurks a single house, yet visible from the road. Let the Artist and leisurely Traveller turn aside to it for the buildings, and the objects around them are both romantic and exquisitely picturesque. Having passed under the steeps of Styebarrow Crag, and the remains of its native woods, you cross, at Glenridding-Bridge, a fourth Stream, which, if followed up, would lead to Red Tarn and the recesses of Helvellyn. The opening on the side of Ullswater Vale, down which the Stream flows, is adorned with fertile fields, cottages, and natural groves, which agreeably coalesce with the transverse views of the Lake; and the Stream, if followed up after the enclosures are left behind, will lead along bold water-breaks and waterfals to a silent Tarn in the recesses of Helvellyn. This desolate spot was formerly haunted by eagles, that built in the precipice which forms its western barrier. These birds used to wheel and hover round the head of the solitary angler. It also now derives a melancholy interest from the [p. 45] fate of a young man, a stranger, who perished here a few years ago, by falling down the rocks in his attempt to cross over to Grasmere. His remains were discovered by means of a faithful dog, which had lingered here for the space of three months, self supported, and probably retaining to the last an attachment to the skeleton of its dead master. But to return to the road which we have left in the main Vale of Ullswater.—At the head of the Lake (being now in Patterdale) we cross a fifth Stream, Grisdale Beck; this conducts through a woody steep, where may be seen some unusually large ancient hollies, up to the level area of the Valley of Grisdale; hence there is a path for Foot-travellers, and along which a horse may be led, but not without difficulty, to Grasmere. I know not any where a more sublime combination of mountain forms than those which appear in front, as we ascend along the bed of this Valley; and the impression increases with every step till the path grows steep; and as we climb almost immediately under the projecting masses of Helvellyn, the mind is overcome with a sensation, which in some would amount to personal fear, and cannot but be awful even to those who are most familiar with the images of duration, and power, and other kindred influences, by which mountainous countries controul or exalt the imaginations of men. It is not uninteresting to know, that in the last house but one of this Valley, separated, as it might seem, from all the ambition and troubles of the world, from its wars and commotions, was born the youth, who, in Spain, took prisoner the Colonel of the Imperial Guard of Buonaparte. This favourite of the tyrant fled from the assault of our British mountaineer with his two attendants, who escaped; but he himself was not so fortunate. Having retraced the banks of this stream to Patterdale, and pursued our way up the main Dale, the next considerable stream which we cross, would, if ascended in the same manner, conduct us into Deepdale, the character of which Valley may be conjectured by its name. It is terminated by a cove, a craggy and gloomy abyss, with precipitous sides; a faithful receptacle of the snows, which are carried into it, by the west wind, from the summit of Fairfield. Lastly, having gone along the western side of Brothers-water and passed Hartsop Hall, we are brought soon after to a stream which issues from a cove richly decorated with native wood. This spot is, I believe, never explored by Travellers; but whether from these sylvan and rocky recesses you look back on the gleaming surface of Brothers-water, or forward to the precipitous sides and lofty ridges of the mountains, you will be equally pleased with the beauty, the grandeur, and the wildness of the scenery.
73. We have thus noticed no less than seven Glens, or Vallies, which branch off from the western side of the long Vale which we have been ascending. The opposite side has only two streams of any importance, one of which flows by the Village of Hartsop, near the foot of Brothers-water, and the other, coming down Martindale, enters Ullswater at Sandwyke, opposite to Gowbarrow Park. Of Martindale I shall say a few words, but I must first return to our head-quarters at the Village of Patterdale. No persons, but such as come to this place merely to pass through it, should fail to walk a mile and a half down the side of the Lake opposite to that on which the high-road lies; they should proceed beyond the point where the inclosures terminate. I have already had too frequent reason to lament the changes which have been made in the face of this country; and scarcely any where has a more grievous loss been sustained than upon the Farm of Blowick, the only enclosed land which on this side borders the higher part of the Lake. The axe has indiscriminately levelled a rich wood of birches and oaks, which, two or three years ago, varied this favoured spot into a thousand pictures. It has yet its land-locked bays and promontories; but now those beautiful woods are gone, which clothed its lawns and perfected its seclusion. Who, then, will not regret that those scenes, which might formerly have been compared to an inexhaustible volume, are now spread before the eye in a single sheet, magnificent indeed, but seemingly perused in a moment? From Blowick, a narrow tract, by which a horse may be led, but with difficulty, conducts along the cragged side of Place Fell, richly adorned with juniper, and sprinkled over with birches, to the Village of Sandwyke; a few straggling houses, which, with the small estates attached to them, occupy an opening opposite to Lyulph’s Tower and Gowbarrow Park. This stream flows down Martindale, a Valley deficient in richness, but interesting from its seclusion. In Vales of this character the general want of wood gives a peculiar interest to the scattered cottages, embowered in sycamores; and few of the Mountain Chapels are more striking than this of Martindale, standing as it does in the centre of the Valley, with one dark yew-tree, and enclosed by “a bare ring of mossy wall.” The name of Boardale, a bare, deep, and houseless Valley, which communicates with Martindale, shews that the wild swine were once numerous in that nook; and Martindale Forest is yet one of the few spots in England ranged over by red deer. These are the descendants of the aboriginal herds. In Martindale, the road loses sight of the Lake, and leads over a steep hill, [p. 46] bringing you again into view of Ullswater. Its lowest reach, four miles in length, is before you; and the View is terminated by the long ridge of Cross Fell at a distance. Immediately under the eye is a deep-indented bay, with a plot of fertile land by the side of it, traversed by a small brook, and rendered cheerful by two or three substantial houses of a more ornamental and shewy appearance than is usual in these wild spots. Poolly-Bridge, at the foot of the Lake, to which we have again returned, has a good inn; and from this place Hawes-water, which has furnished me with the subject of an Etching, may be conveniently visited. Of Hawes-water I shall only say, that it is a lesser Ullswater, with this advantage, that it remains undefiled by the intrusion of bad taste.
74. Lowther Castle is about four miles from Poolly-Bridge, and if during this Tour the Stranger has complained, as he will have reason to do, of a want of majestic trees, he may be abundantly recompensed for his loss in the far-spreading woods which surround that mansion.
75. I must now express my hope, that the Reader of the foregoing pages will not blame me for having led him through unfrequented paths so much out of the common road. In this I have acted in conformity to the spirit of the Etchings, which are chiefly taken from sequestered scenes; and these must become every day more attractive in the eyes of the man of taste, unless juster notions and more appropriate feelings should find their way into the minds of those who, either from vanity, want of judgment, or some other cause, are rapidly taking away the native beauties of such parts of this Country as are most frequented, or most easy of access; and who are disguising the Vales, and the Borders of the Lakes, by an accumulation of unsightly buildings and discordant objects.
Harrison & Rutter, Printers, 373, Strand.