Front Page Titles (by Subject) 31.: Walking Tour of Yorkshire and the Lake District JULY-AUGUST 1831 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
31.: Walking Tour of Yorkshire and the Lake District JULY-AUGUST 1831 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Walking Tour of Yorkshire and the Lake District
MS, Bodleian Library, MS Don.d.26. The entries are undated, but external evidence, including the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth and Henry Cole (1808-82), yet another of Mill’s close friends at this time, makes it almost certain that Mill reached Leeds from London on 8 July, and ended the tour at Kendal on 8 August. The inferred dates are added in square brackets. Mill’s companion was Horace Grant, who had accompanied Mill on his earlier walking tours (see Nos. 29 and 30). They were joined on 30 July at the Queen’s Head Inn in Keswick by Henry Cole. Cole’s diary (MS, Victoria and Albert Museum) of his part of the tour supplies information that adds to Mill’s account; extracts are given in footnotes. Mill also gave Cole guiding instructions for his continuation of his tour after Mill and Grant left him; these (also in the Victoria and Albert) are given in the concluding footnote. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
[8 July, 1831]
It would be useless to attempt describing even the general features of a country which was seen only through the windows of a mail coach. I was able to obtain a place on the outside for an hour or two, during which I could perceive that the north of England very much resembles any other country of gentle slopes, covered with corn and pasture, and in which a very slight elevation enables you to see for many miles round. It is not destitute of wood; but there is nowhere enough, either of timber or even of coppice, to give a character to the landscape, except for very short distances. When you enter Yorkshire, you are in a country of higher hills, and deeper valleys; but the hills are in ridges, which rise and decline gradually, and usually support more or less of that most insipid of all natural objects, table land. Here, too, you cannot see very far in any direction without seeing smoke; and the towns, which are usually, when seen from a distance, especially from an eminence, the finest points in a landscape, were here nothing but foci of black smoke poured forth from lofty chimnies rising like the masts of the ships in a well-filled dock. The towns, indeed, when you passed through them, were well worth seeing. I had never before seen a town three fourths of which consisted of manufactories, built in a stile half way between a barrack and gaol. All the remainder of every town seemed to consist of little ill-looking houses of artisans, with a few shops—few at least when compared with the towns of equal size in the south of England. And every object was blackened with smoke beyond what can be conceived by a person who has seen only London: with the difference that in London the smoke is visible chiefly as one indivisible mass of cloud or haze, but in these manufacturing places you could discern each separate volcano boiling forth its odious contents, which continued distinguishable from the rest for a considerable space. Nor was the town only infected by this plague; the whole of the environs were thickly sown with manufactories, each of which contributed its share towards darkening the sky and giving noisomeness to the breath which you inhale. There is generally in each town a quarter in which the houses are better looking and are occupied apparently by the manufacturers, professional people, and so forth: they usually have the good taste to chuse the upper part of the town (for these towns are mostly upon a hill) but they cannot prevent the smoke from reaching them and deforming their houses whether built of brick, as at Nottingham, or of stone as in some of the Yorkshire towns. The only fine objects in these places are the churches. In most of the towns there is one lofty edifice, built in the cathedral style, and considerably ornamented, but with the ornaments kept in due subordination to the general plan of the building which is simple. The taste of the neighbouring architects seems to have been early formed on good models. The manufacturing towns which we passed through were Nottingham, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Barnsley, Wakefield, and finally Leeds. The general description already given will serve for them all; the differences, whether in degree or in kind, are inconsiderable: but as Leeds is the largest, and as the effect of its sooty atmosphere was aided by rather a thick haze which met us there (the air having till then been delightfully clear) it was there that we were enabled to study, under most favorable circumstances, the effect, pictorially considered, of that imposing feature in a landscape, darkness.
Having determined to take Bolton Priory and its beautiful neighbourhood in our way to the Lakes, we were desirous of taking the stage coach which goes into Craven through Otley and up Wharfedale, but as this did not set off till the afternoon, we chose to go in the morning by the other road, to Steeton, which is the nearest point on that road to the place of our destination. Before we were well out of the smoke of Leeds and its environs, we came unawares upon a celebrated ruin, Kirkstall Abbey. There is nothing striking in the situation; as a mere ruin it seemed fine, but the coach carried us past it too rapidly to enable us to judge of any thing but the first appearance. We proceeded up the valley of the Aire, and entered among hills which gradually increased in height, and were tolerably steep, but made little figure in the landscape; partly because there was nothing picturesque in their forms, and partly perhaps because the valley was too wide in proportion to the height of the hills. Still, we felt that we were approaching to a mountainous country, and the details were frequently pretty. We passed through three more manufacturing towns; Bradford, Bingley, and Keighley: all these are of stone, a coarse-grained sandstone, the millstone grit of geologists, a most serviceable material certainly, since of it are made houses, roofs, the inclosures of the fields, and the pavement of the streets. I cannot compliment it with the possession of beauty proportional to the multitude of its uses: it is like many men and women homely without being rustic: it takes away the charm from the idea of a stone house, just as the baby-house rocks at Tunbridge Wells robbed my imagination of a rich fund of enjoyment,1 by breaking the association which made me never look at a drawing of a rock without fancying myself in the midst of lofty mountains. I have a special spite against this millstone grit. Not one of the hills, so far as I could see, which were composed of it, was bold and precipitous in form, or had the air of anything much above an overgrown molehill: to see even ledges of rock, or projecting masses jutting out of a hill side, we had to wait till we came into the limestone country. It is a great quality in a mountain as in a woman, to carry herself well and to seem conscious of her whole height. These mountains, for some of them might have claimed that rank if mere elevation could give it, seemed to lie on their backs; stretched out at their lazy length, with their heads barely higher than a long ugly ridge. Still this was far from an unpleasant journey, and the smaller manufacturing places had an uncouth air, and afforded a contrast to the surrounding scenery, which was not without its effect upon the imagination. At the little village of Steeton we left the coach, as we had intended, and crossed over from the valley of the Aire to that of the Wharfe. This we did by a long steep road, winding over the corner of a long ridge called Rumble Moor. I say a ridge, but that which takes up the whole space between these two valleys should rather be called two ridges, supporting between them a dark, bleak, barren moorland. From the highest point of this road, we saw over into Wharfedale, where the first object that struck us was a high prominent hill, called Beamsley Haugh, which forms the eastern boundary of the valley to a considerable distance, and is the most like a mountain of any elevation we had seen or afterwards saw in this part of Craven. It had something like a peaked top, and did not seem afraid to shew it, but overtopped and overlooked the adjacent hills with an air of dignity. We descended into Wharfedale, and, by a very pretty rural lane among fields and trees, reached Bolton Bridge where we put up at an excellent inn, kept by excellent people, whom every person who likes to forget that he pays for his entertainment, should make a point of visiting.
In order to understand and feel what Wharfedale is, it is necessary to forget what is at the top of the hills which form it, and to consider them merely as the walls of a valley. Let the visitor beware of climbing any of the hills. He will find nothing but bleakness and barrenness there, and will see nothing but bleakness and barrenness all around: for the meadows, the woods, the winding hill sides, which are the charm of the valley when you are in it, appear insignificant to one who looks down upon them from above, and are then but a speck of fertility in an extensive waste, the desolate aspect of which is for the most part unredeemed by anything imposing in form.
The lower part of the valley is closed, (as every fine valley should be closed by something) by the above-mentioned Rumble Moor, which looks dark and steep, and affords great variety of shade according to the position of the sun. Looking towards it, you are overtopped to the left by Beamsley Haugh, with its sharp bold summit: to the right the hills are tamer in themselves, but the lower part of them is clothed with wood over which you see the green summits. If you now turn round, you see before you the eminences which bound the valley gradually approaching to each other, but in proportion as it narrows it becomes winding so that you cannot without ascending some of the smaller eminences, see far into the narrow part of the valley. At the entrance there is a kind of natural amphitheatre, in which is situated the noble ruin called Bolton Abbey, or more properly Bolton Priory, equally beautiful in itself and in its situation.
The Wharfe, a mountain stream which rushes impetuously over a bed filled with large masses of rock rounded by the waters, here winds round the base of a precipitous declivity, of almost a pink colour, concave towards the river, and down which a rivulet falls from a considerable height into the stream. The river may be crossed here when the water is low, by about twenty blocks of stone arranged as stepping stones. On the other side, or within the folds of the river, is a rich meadow scattered here and there with stately trees, chiefly ash, sometimes in groups and sometimes single. In this meadow, at about fifty or sixty feet from the river, stands the Priory: the extremity of the nave pointing to the cliff, and stream. Behind the ruin, is another woody bank, sufficiently high to shut out all the rest of the world, and give a feeling of the most complete seclusion. Above, the hills approach nearer and nearer till they almost meet, and both sides become more and more wooded; the lofty summits on the right shewing themselves as a prominent part of every view until the woods become too thick and lofty to allow them to be visible. This is the position of the Abbey: but it is itself so prominent an object in all the finest views that for this reason if for no other it would require a description. Fortunately it is easily described. Fancy a long Gothic cathedral of the simplest kind, with nothing but the roof taken off; all the arches which contained the windows being perfect; even the tracery, in many of them, little or not at all injured; and the arch of the window at the farther extremity (that next the river) towering above the rest, and shewing exactly what was the height of the roof: one little turret-like ornament remaining on the right hand of this lofty arch, but the corresponding one on the other side being wanting. The top of the wall on which the roof rested is covered with brown grass and other weeds; some of the external buttresses are overgrown with ivy, but the ruin is not hidden in it as is often the case. In the interior of this part nothing seems wanting except the stone pillars carved in the wall, the tops of which only are remaining. On the other side of the cross aisle, (of which there are considerable remains) the ruin has been newly roofed, and is now used as a church. We did not see the inside of this, but looked in at the entrance, which is at the extremity furthest from the river. There is a double front; the inner one could be seen, through the open doorway of the outer. Both are fine, but the carving of the interior one is extremely delicate and in the most perfect preservation: it is well delineated in Davis’s lithographic Views of Bolton Abbey.2 The old gateway (a separate building) has been enlarged into a habitable house, and is used as a hunting box by the Duke of Devonshire,3 to whom the Abbey and the adjacent woods (Bolton Park, as it is very inappropriately termed) belong. Near the ruin are two very pretty cottages, having an air of rustic seclusion, with their faces, however, very judiciously averted from the ruin, which would suffer in appearance from the proximity, and from which they are shut out by trees. One of them is the vicarage; the other is used by friends of the Duke who come here to hunt or shoot.
It is impossible by any description, to give a just idea of the immense variety of aspects, under which the ruin and its surrounding trees are seen from different points in the adjacent woody hills on both sides, with striking and ever varying effect. The present, or some former proprietor of the woods, has selected, with singular judgment and taste, all the most striking points of view, has kept the trees from growing up in front so as to hide the prospect, and has placed seats, of the most artless and unobtrusive kind, at every place where the passer-by would desire to halt for a few moments and look about him. This remark applies not only to the woods immediately round the Abbey, but to the higher and narrower parts of the valley of the Wharfe.
The stream rushes down between two high and moor-like eminences, one of which, called Barden Fell, appears to close the valley at that end. It then enters a narrow glen, clothed with thick woods on both sides, and leaving little space at the bottom beyond what is occupied by the bed of the river. This bed, of which the greater part is now empty from the dryness of the season, is filled with masses and slabs of sandstone rocks, which sometimes stand out as eminences far above the present level of the river, and many of them must when it is higher be insulated by its waters. In tumbling over these rocks the Wharfe forms miniature cascades, and every imaginable form of rapids; and there is one spot, perhaps the most sequestered, and the most completely closed in with woods and rocks, of them all, in which the stream flows rapidly down in a sort of trough, four or five feet wide, which it has (apparently) cut for itself to a considerable depth in the very substance of the rock. At several points in this space, it would be easy to jump over the river: from which circumstance the spot has derived the name of the Strid. It is related, that the catastrophe of a youth, the last scion of the family to whom this property belonged, and who lost his life by attempting to jump the Strid with a greyhound in a leash, was the circumstance which led to the foundation of Bolton Priory, or, at least, its removal to this spot. Wordsworth has made this legend the subject of one of his smaller poems; and Rogers has commemorated it in his.4 It is also alluded to in Wordsworth’s “White Doe of Rylstone,”5 the scene of which is laid in this neighbourhood. Rylstone is a small place higher up the valley, at the foot of Barden Fell, which is also known by the name of Rylstone Fell.
As the valley or glen winds round and round between its woody sides, the paths which are judiciously cut through the wood along the sides of the hills afford an immense variety of views; some extremely confined and secluded, nothing being seen except part of the opposite hill and wood, and the bed of the torrent below: others allowing a sight of a considerable portion of the valley, closed by so much of the great eminence, Barden Fell, as the intervening woody hill would suffer to be visible. In these last, or larger views, a prominent object is Barden Tower, the ruin of a building as little like a tower as can well be conceived, which was formerly the residence of various noble personages chiefly Cliffords, and among others, of the celebrated Anne countess of Pembroke:6 parts of it I believe are still habitable; it is visible from a great distance, if you are high enough; it is seated at the foot of Barden Fell, just where the wood ends and the moor begins, and marks, as it were, the boundary between verdure and desolation. The woods themselves would not be without great beauty, even if the surrounding scenery were in no way remarkable. They have the beauty which uneven rocky declivities planted with wood cannot fail to possess. The rocks occasionally assume picturesque forms, and one in particular which stands close to the path bears a close resemblance to a ruined turret and we at first imagined it to be one. Paths and drives are cut through various parts of the wood: but we kept that which immediately overhangs the torrent, and from which branches off to every point on the water’s edge, which is in any peculiar degree remarkable. I have spoken principally of the right bank of the stream, that on which Barden Tower and the Priory stand. On the other side the paths are all at a considerably greater elevation, and the river is rarely visible from them, at least in the narrow part of the valley. A beautiful path on this side the river leads up Posforth Ghyll. Ghyll is the name given in this country to a narrow ravine in the side of a mountain. Both sides of this gorge are thickly wooded. In one place the brook, or mountain stream, falls over an amphitheatre of rock and forms a pretty, though not a very lofty waterfall, which people usually go to see. With the rustic bridge immediately below, it certainly forms a pretty object for the painter. The higher part of this ghyll, above the waterfall, is called the Valley of Desolation, from the barren, uninviting aspect of the moor, no longer wooded, which it intersects and in which it is finally lost. We did not track the stream up this valley, but contented ourselves with looking down upon it from one of the heights which command both the ravine and the vale. In this desolate tract which still forms part of what is called Bolton Park, we were told (for we did not see it) that the indigenous red deer of the country still survives; though now appropriated, and cooped up within inclosures. There are other ghylls, or gorges, mostly clothed with wood, and which, with the brooks they contain and by which probably they were originally hollowed out, debouche into the valley of the Wharfe. All these seem pretty; one of them, near Bolton Bridge, on the left bank of the river, we ascended for some distance and were much pleased with.
The trees of Wharfedale are chiefly the ash, which abounds and is most healthy and luxuriant; the oak; some sycamores (planted); and the wych elm, which is here very abundant and fine, growing in all situations, and giving to the banks and roadsides a peculiar character by its large and luxuriant foliage. There is some birch in the woods of the narrow valley. A remarkable feature in the country is the immense abundance and luxuriance of the wild roses, of which there are some rather uncommon species; this however we observed throughout Yorkshire; but what we saw nowhere except in Wharfedale was the profusion of honeysuckle, which grows every where, sometimes climbing to the tops of very high trees, sometimes gracefully clustering round bushes or near the stone inclosures, and covered with flowers which, especially in the evening, positively perfume the air.
Having staid at Bolton the remainder of the day on which we arrived, and the whole of the succeeding day and night, we crossed the country the day after to Skipton to meet the same coach by which we had come from Leeds. At Skipton we saw the exterior of the castle; which is kept in repair, and inhabited. As far as a castle, and an abbey, can resemble, its stile reminded me of Ford Abbey.7 These places strike the imagination more (mine at least) when inhabited, than they do when in ruins; the notion of living in a building a thousand years old, and built externally and internally as they built in those days, heightens and vivifies one’s conceptions of the peculiarities of the place. This castle is no sham antique, it was evidently built for defence, and the parts which I think must have been added after the mode of warfare which made a private house defensible had ceased, are in good keeping with the rest. The building bulges out into two noble semicircular towers, and the remainder of the front projects forward at short intervals into a series of angles, and is terminated by a kind of small wing. On the other side of the cylindrical projections is another small wing, not separated from the towers by an intervening line of front: but this seems to be uninhabited; the stone steps up to it have an untrodden air, being overgrown with weeds. The whole is not more than one story high. The gateway, also old, has been much repaired, though in the same stile, and the word Desormais is cut out, or built in stone, over it: you see light between the letters. What was once the court yard is now a very pretty grass plot, overlooking the town and the surrounding country.—We here met our coach, and proceeded through Craven to Kendal. From Airedale where we were, we first crossed over into Ribblesdale and then into the district through which the rivers Wenning, Greta, and Lune, issue from the mountains. We can hardly be said to have been among the mountains of Craven, (though we crossed some considerable eminences); but we certainly passed under their bases, having several of the highest of them very near to us on the right. They disappointed me much. They possess neither grandeur, nor beauty. Even Ingleborough, the highest of them can only be called a high hill, not a mountain. There is little of sharpness or boldness in their outline: their summits rise so little above the rest of the ridge, and are thrown so far apart by its immense length and breadth, that each hill seems a separate mass; they are never clustered, nor crowded together, as in a really mountainous country. At Settle, the entrance into Ribblesdale, we came upon limestone, which afforded us some precipitous hill sides, and ledges of rock; but the upper part of the hills was still composed of the millstone grit, and had the tameness which belongs to it. Not being able to consider this district in the light of mountains, we could not help looking at it in the light of moor: and as such, connecting it with the unpleasant notions of cold, wet, barrenness, sameness, long tiresome journeys and losing our way. But if the view towards the mountains was uninteresting, that towards the plains was far worse. The descending ranges which formed the valleys of the different rivers, expand at the foot of the hills into the tamest openings that you can possibly conceive: two lines of eminences, never at the best remarkably bold, and now not even high, spread out their arms, and embrace a little plain, cultivated indeed, but seeming to have been but lately redeemed from moorland, retaining its pristine air and character of barrenness, and sloping up and down and round about in every possible form of insipidity but none of beauty or even prettiness. As we were passing Ingleborough it began to rain violently, and for the remainder of the journey we saw little or nothing. We could however perceive that after leaving Craven, the country remained hilly and became much prettier; the eminences being not much less lofty, rather bolder in form, and the country intermixed among them being far more richly cultivated and wooded. We slept at Kendal which is a long, rather cheerful looking town, and started on foot the next morning for the banks of Windermere.
We took the direction of Bowness, a little village on the east bank of the lake, and about the middle of it. Our road passed over gentle, and tolerably well wooded declivities, frequently allowing a view into a broad valley on the right hand, the valley of the Kent, or Kendal river: bounded again, on the further side, by the low, but gradually heightening mountains of Kentdale and Long Sleddale. At other times, we saw down to the left between heathy and craggy hills, towards the mouth of the same river. The stone inclosures began to be clothed with mosses, and mountain plants, but in no great variety: and the limestone rock, alternating with clay-slate frequently shewed itself in slabs and pointed masses on both sides of the road. At length, after winding up a gentle woody ascent, we caught a first view of the mountains of Coniston and Langdale: and from this moment we felt that we were at length in a real mountainous country. Two or three bold high pointed mountains overlapping one another with broad bases, commenced the chain on the left; to the right of these we beheld a perfect sea of mountains, crowded together, yet distinctly individualized, resembling some of the panoramic views of the Alps; all deeply shaded, and from the position of the sun and the character of the fine light in which we saw them, wearing that peculiar cloud-like appearance which makes it so difficult, in looking at distant mountains, to believe that they belong to this earth. More bold, peak-like, and precipitous than the rest, stood out the twin mountains called the Langdale Pikes, the outline of which, extremely sharp and abrupt, and their position, which made us see them distinctly separated from the mountains that seemed nearest to them, rendered them the most commanding objects in a prospect which contained several elevations higher than they. Nothing can be more various than the aspect of these mountains as seen from different points. Their bases are united; the lower of the summits, which as usually seen, appears on the left, is a real peak, that is a sharp triangular summit descending rapidly on both sides. The higher of the two is not a perfect peak, being broader, and looking as if the extreme top had been cut off; and it declines suddenly indeed—not however to the valley at once, but to a ridge of considerable height and some length. From the form of these two mountains, they sometimes seem to bend over into the valley; at times the remoter and more perfect peak seems double: from other points they look like two lions couchant, side by side, the two peaks being the heads, the ridge of the higher mountain seeming the body of the nearer animal and being supposed to hide that of the more distant: from other situations you fancy them elephants, and you positively imagine that you distinguish their tusks: and I have seen them when the nearer, and higher summit appeared of itself like a lion, but a lion coiled up. These however were subsequent discoveries. From the Kendal road they seemed nothing but two peaks, and noble ones of their kind; and as every fine prospect should have some points more conspicuous than others, these were the most conspicuous. We did not yet see the lake: but by going in at a gate to the right and ascending a little above the road we caught a first view of a very small portion of it, which then appeared dingy brown; but we saw it of at least twenty colours before the day was at an end. Our journey now lay down hill; we were descending into the valley of the lake, and before we had gone far, a turn of the road brought into view its finest part. The bold lofty mountains of Coniston, which overtopped every thing intervening, formed the background of the landscape: but in front of these, and strikingly contrasted with them, was a high ridge or bank richly wooded with thick plantations, which rose immediately from the margin of the lake. The space between these and the hill on which we were was completely filled up by the beautiful Windermere, or Winandermere, which stretched itself out to right and left, further than we could see; terminated to the right, by the noble mountains of Langdale; embosomed in hills which in any other district would have been thought bold and striking, but which here, by their verdure and repose, set off the more sublime scenery of the high mountains, which in turn added a new charm to their graceful elegance. The lake, at the first glance, but at the first glance only, disappointed me in point of width. Seen from above, it looked like a magnificent river. Its length is certainly more remarkable than its breadth, and the point at which we first saw it, was the narrowest point. Yet on descending lower down, when the view threw off its map-like and bird’s eye character, the distinctness with which we could discern the outlines of the beautiful objects on the opposite bank of the lake, seemed to us an advantage in point of beauty which we should have grudged to sacrifice for the effect of a more imposing width. Lower down, and (still more) higher up, the lake widens, as it follows the graceful sinuosities of the valley. Beautiful bays and recesses, and numerous headlands projecting from the shore, deprive it of its river-like appearance and make it look like what it really is, one of the finest of lakes. Bowness is a pretty little village close to the bank, containing a large and well-appointed inn (where we put up for the night) and several cottages surrounded with little gardens full of beautiful flowers: this does not appear to be common in these parts, and we afterwards learnt from Miss Wordsworth8 that it was all the work of one lady,9 who had not only introduced this taste into the village but had inspired the people of the neighbourhood with such a respect for it that they never meddle with a single flower, though they might easily pluck them as they pass: a forbearance, which has not always been observed where the taste for flowers is new. We passed the evening in sauntering about the margin of the lake, bathing ourselves in the quiet enjoyment which tranquil water, but above all a large mass of tranquil water in the midst of mountains, always pours over the mind. At a point about the middle of the lake, a little below Bowness, where it is narrowed by a promontory on the east bank which projects far into the water, that promontory is connected by a ferry with the opposite side of the lake. We had been advised to cross the ferry, and see the woods and the Station House, a little building erected by Mr. Curwen10 on the further side of the lake and commanding a beautiful prospect. This we should have done, but a haze coming over the Langdale mountains, we resolved to wait till the morrow for a finer view: the morrow came and with it a much thicker haze, so that the mountains at the head of the lake were for a time completely invisible: and not thinking it worth while to lose a day in waiting for a single view, we resolved to proceed onward. Both in the evening and morning, however, but especially in the evening, the home views of the lake with its wooded islands, which most abound in this part of it, and the rich green of the opposite woody banks which in any other neighbourhood might have passed for high hills, sufficed for our enjoyment. We desired no more; and could have staid here a week with pleasure under the certainty of seeing this, and nothing but this, every day.
The road from Bowness to Ambleside lies, not on the margin of the lake, which is in a great measure taken up by a succession of little parks and pleasure grounds; but a little way up the adjacent hill, commanding occasional fine views of the lake and opposite mountains, but more frequently traversing woods, or coppices. The banks of Windermere are extremely well wooded, but mostly with planted wood: on the further side, it seems to be chiefly fir: on the near side, the sycamore, not an indigenous tree, and also the Scotch fir, so often occur in the woods which would otherwise seem to be native, as to excite suspicion that the whole wood is an artificial plantation. Yet it is said, and is probable, that formerly the banks of all the Lakes were thickly clothed with indigenous timber trees.—About a mile, or somewhat more, from Bowness, we left the road by a gate on the left which opens upon Rayrigg bank, a little green eminence immediately overlooking the lake, and commanding a fine view both upward and downward. The haze was now sufficiently cleared off the mountains, to enable us to see them tolerably well. The lake, in that direction, appeared a broad sheet of water, while to the south we were struck by the air of perfect flatness and smoothness, which a valley completely filled by a lake, necessarily possesses, and which contrast so finely with the hills which rise immediately from the water’s edge. These hills grow less elevated, and of a less marked character as they approach the foot of the lake, but they are all graceful, and lofty enough not to appear insignificant even in such noble company. At the extremity, or what seems such (for in reality the lake makes another and final bend as it passes this point) the valley seemed to be closed by a roundish hill, with something on the top of it which was probably one of those piles of stones, not uncommonly erected on the summits of these mountains, and known in the dialect of the country by the term Man. Whatever it was, no one could have resisted the temptation of imagining it to be the abode of some unfortunate being, placed as sentinel at the entrance of the mountain scenery; condemned eternally to view the fair prospect to which he might never approach nearer, and overlooking nothing on the opposite side but a dull and tame flat. Having proceeded two or three miles further, and crossed the little stream called the Troutbeck, which runs down from a steep ravine on the right, and falls into the lake, we diverged from the road a little before reaching Low-wood Inn, to ascend a steep lane which crosses a portion of the base of the adjoining eminence, into the same ravine. As we ascended, we gradually attained the most glorious view of the mountains at the head of Windermere, which we had yet enjoyed, or which can be had from any other point. The haze had now entirely cleared off, and the bright sunshine in a cloudy sky, which afforded constantly varying lights, produced effects which a painter would vainly strive to imitate, and which no one, who has not seen a mountainous country, can conceive. When the sky is favorable, the view is never the same for two minutes together. Sometimes the whole were confounded in one delicate grey tint, far softer than any even of our best landscape painters ever succeeds in producing. At other times gleams of sunshine illuminated the side of a mountain, and brought out the light green colour of the fern with which it was clothed. At times some of the mountains were in so deep a shade, that no part of their contour was distinguishable except the broadly marked lines and angles of the summit, while others were brought into bold relief by the sunshine on one side of them, and their own shadow enveloping the other. We were now near enough to discern each separate mountain: the cluster or group which I compared to a sea, was now resolved into its separate waves: we saw the lower and greener mountains in front, the higher and darker ones gradually rising behind them, and finally the loftier summits forming the background of the whole. The Langdale pikes still maintained their preeminence over the rest, by their abrupt bold ascent, their sharp summits, their distincter outline and the greater variety of light and shadow, arising from their shape. Clouds were continually skimming over the whole group, and sometimes one, sometimes another, had his head for a short time capped with mist and concealed. Below was the upper end of Windermere, skirted with green meadows and plantations and closed by the village of Clappersgate, an appendage of Ambleside. To our right, on the same side of the lake, was a green mountain with a sharpish top covered with fern and well furnished with wood. After we had climbed some distance higher, we came out upon a sort of terrace, high enough to clear all the intervening high ground; and here how different yet how splendid a view met our eyes. We now could not see a single high mountain, but in lieu of it the whole length of Windermere lay beneath our feet, quite down to the foot, or at least beyond the last bend: there it lay with all its gentle, graceful windings, flowing round its numerous islands, and embosomed in the cheerful, happylooking green hills forming the basin or valley which contains it. We at once recognized the view of Windermere which we had oftenest seen in paintings. And indeed the great length of the lake, and of the vista of hills by which it was inclosed, every part of it being nevertheless visible from the extreme gentleness of its windings, affords effects of perspective most valuable to a painter, both for their effect and the facility of imitating them.—We proceeded still a little further, and descended sufficiently far towards the village of Troutbeck, to perceive the general character of Troutbeck vale; it rises rapidly and is lined on the further side by bare steep eminences with well defined summits rapidly succeeding one another, and on the whole it well represents on a small scale, some of the valleys of the Pyrenees. We were afterwards told by Miss Wordsworth, that we should have descended quite into the valley and seen more of it. However, we returned by the same road, and stopt to dine at Low-wood Inn. This is the only inn of the whole Lake district (Coniston excepted) which looks out directly upon the water: there is only a road between, and two or three straight tall firs which divide the prospect. The lake is here broad, but has somewhat more of a confined and inland appearance from our being so near its head. The view of the mountains is substantially the same as that from the lane above with only the disadvantage of a lower position. Here, as elsewhere, we were struck with the variety of colour given to the lake at different times, and to different parts of the lake at the same time, by the state of the sky, the reflection of the adjoining objects, and the wind. We did not see Windermere in the state of glassy smoothness in which these lakes are sometimes seen, reflecting the mountains with so mirror-like a purity that it is difficult to know where the object ends and the image begins. But we saw it alternately of a deep lead colour; a beautiful iron-grey; a lightish blue; a glittering white sparkling with the rays of the sun; alternate streaks of brown and white; and not unfrequently, in spite of its beautiful clearness and transparency, a dingy mud-colour, from the reflection of dingy clouds, unalloyed by any illumination derived directly from the sun. From Low-wood it is not more than a mile to the end of the lake. Ambleside is a little further on, immediately under the foot of the low range of scars, or precipitous rocky eminences, which front the lofty mountains. One of the loftiest, however, though not the boldest (Kirkstone) touches the town. The two mountain streams which feed Windermere, the Brathay and the Rotha, run down, the first from Langdale, which lies to the west; the other from Grasmere and Rydal, by a narrow valley which winds exceedingly, but the immediate direction of which, reckoning from the head of Windermere, is to the east. Ambleside lies in this valley, not far from its entrance. After leaving the head of the lake, you must turn to the right, and doubling the pointed mountain already mentioned, you come in front of Kirkstone, find yourself for the first time in a narrow vale, and see immediately above you to the left the range of scars, which though low, have a most wild and mountain-like character, being mere masses of rock standing erect, and half made up of crags with bushes growing out of their clefts.
We took up our quarters at the Salutation Inn at Ambleside, intending to stay there for several days, as it is the most convenient centre for making excursions to the whole southern part of this mountain region. Here I found an acquaintance, Mr. Madge, the Unitarian clergyman,11 who had arrived at Ambleside the very same day.
The next morning we set out on an excursion to the head of Coniston water, a lake about two thirds the size of Windermere, and running parallel to it at a distance of a few miles. We followed for a short way the course of the Brathay, which runs down from Langdale to the head of Windermere; but soon diverged, and took a shady lane which crosses the moderately high ground, that bounds this valley on the south side, at its commencement. These eminences are rocky, but not high and bold enough to make amends for their bareness; they however command some good views of Windermere head, and the mountains behind Ambleside. Through the pass at the head of Grasmere vale, we even discerned one of the shoulders of Skiddaw. Having reached the summit of this little range, we passed to the left the little lake of Easthwaite,12 with the small old town of Hawkshead at its upper end. This lake runs parallel to Windermere, from which it is separated by a single range of hills. It is of moderate size, but would be highly prized in any other neighbourhood; and the hills which form its basin, though here somewhat tame, would elsewhere be thought fine; it is true that elsewhere much greater advantage would be taken of their capabilities; they would be laid out in parks, and planted down to the water’s edge: this would give them the sort of beauty of which they are capable, for their forms do not admit of grandeur. Pursuing our route, we crossed the line of high ground which separates the basin of Easthwaite from that of Coniston lake, and presently caught a view of the mountains at the head of Coniston, as we had seen them (though at a greater distance) from Bowness, over Windermere; but when the road with much winding, at last descended to the other side of the hill, and immediately overlooked the upper end of Coniston water, we then came upon a view to which, for grandeur and wildness, we had yet seen no parallel in our journey. Placed at a moderate height on the hills which bound the lake on its east side, we looked across the water, which at this short distance from its head is not very wide, and beheld facing us, two of the loftiest mountains, Coniston Fell (often called the Old Man) 2577 feet in height, and its neighbour Wetherlam, whose base, for some distance, overlapped that of the former mountain. In a hollow in the left side of Coniston Fell, a torrent rushed down the almost precipitous steep into the lake. A winding ghyll, or steep narrow ravine, ascended between Coniston Fell and Weatherlam; this also contains a torrent, which seemed to tumble over the rocks, making various waterfalls. No mountains of equal height closed up the valley at the water’s head; but a line of rocky eminences (between which and Weatherlam runs a little narrow dell) crossed from one side to the other; fronted by two beautiful round hills slanting obliquely across the valley, covered with verdure, the one completely planted over, the other laid out in a pleasing intermixture of park-like meadow and trees, being in fact an appendage to a pretty little residence placed within a stone’s throw of the lake. Between the last mentioned hill and the place where we stood, the head of the vale was filled up with some fine waving ground, richly covered with pasture and corn fields (almost wholly oats—for we saw little other grain in all this country). The bareness of the mountains required to be relieved by richness of verdure in the valleys, and I nowhere saw so fine a combination of the two as at Coniston Vale-head. On the other side of the water, immediately under the high mountains, stood the pretty village of Coniston. The view down the lake, though beautiful, was inferior to the views on Windermere. The lake lies too regularly between its banks: unlike Windermere, which, without ever changing its general direction, contrives to produce all the effect of the most graceful windings. The hills, too, which surround Coniston water towards its lower end, are lower and less interesting than those about Windermere. The lake was smoother, at least towards its head, I suppose from being more shut in by high mountains in that part. It afforded some tolerable reflexions of the fields and trees immediately bordering on it. From the light by which we happened to see this lake, it seemed of a much deeper blue than Windermere, though in parts it seemed almost yellow from some accidental reflexion. We did not proceed far down the valley towards the foot of the lake, but sat down at the water’s edge to look at the mountains, and hear the waves (for the wind had meanwhile risen) dash against the shore. This may seem too strong an expression, but I have seen waves, particularly in Windermere lake, rolling in long lines of surf, exactly similar to breakers in miniature, and with a sound bearing some distant resemblance to the breaking of the sea on the shore. We stopped at a little inn at the head of the lake, to take shelter from a thunderstorm. When the storm was over and when we had dined, we took our leave of Coniston water and crossing the green hills which give so rich an appearance to the vale-head, entered the narrow dale, which separates the great Weatherlam from the rocky eminences fronting the water-head. This little valley is called Yewdale: there may have been many yews in it formerly, but we could not see one at present. I have since learned, however, that there are some. The little river which is the principal feeder of Coniston lake, runs down this vale. Like all the other brooks, it was now full, from the rain of the previous night and the storm of today. Lower Yewdale is rich with verdure: Weatherlam overtops it to the left; to the right the eminences which bound it are not high, but in front it is very soon stopt by something, which you may term rock, crag, scar, or mountain, it is all four at once: it is a mass of rock, rising up by itself to a considerable height (though far inferior to Weatherlam) and of which the massiveness and the fantastically uneven summit, rising into points and knobs, gives it some resemblance to a castle. Between this and Weatherlam, at a considerably greater elevation, lies Upper Yewdale, a far narrower dell, not flat at the bottom like the other, but keeled like a boat, with the brook running impetuously in the bottom, and water rushing from all the hollows of all the hills to join it: a complete Alpine valley. Here too for the first time we saw some alpine plants, particularly the bright yellow Saxifrage, one of the most beautiful of our mountain plants whose golden flowers grow in tufts up the moist sides of this dell. Beyond the little hamlet of Tilberthwaite, this beautifully wild glen rises into a mountain pass: at the highest point in the pass, and on the sides of the adjacent mountains are some slate quarries, which appear to be now deserted, but must formerly have been worked to a considerable extent. The pass contains much boggy ground, which is completely covered with that delightful shrub, the sweet gale, also called the Dutch myrtle, from its myrtle like appearance and smell: here and in Langdale, whole acres are covered with it, and the air is perfumed by it to a great distance. Mixed with its little bushes, a more delicate plant the Lancashire bog asphodel raises its bright yellow spikes. We descended among moist woods into Little Langdale, and found ourselves again on the banks of the Brathay: the course of which we followed, though at some height above it, in proceeding down the valley to Ambleside. Though it was now too nearly dark to discern minute objects with distinctness, the mountains before us which were the continuation of the range of scars immediately behind Ambleside, were rendered more imposing by the apparent loftiness which they derived from the imperfect light: behind them the Langdale Pikes reared their majestic heads: and we were astonished to perceive how brightly and sharply, even at ten in the evening, in this northern country the outlines of the mountains, delineated themselves against the sky. The Brathay, now full to the very brim, and in one part of its course, extremely smooth, afforded even at that late hour a most distinct and beautiful reflexion of the line of mountains and the sky. The evening star, immediately over the summit of a mountain far to the west, had the appearance of a small bright yellow flower growing out of the mountain-top. We passed on the left, below us, the little lake called Elter Water, at the junction of Great and Little Langdale, and passing along the side of a well wooded line of hills, arrived at Ambleside rather late in the evening.
I omitted to mention in the proper place, that before setting out for Coniston, we climbed the hill above Ambleside to see the waterfall called Stock-ghyll Force. The mountain, already more than once mentioned, at the foot of which on the north side Ambleside stands, and which I find is named Wansfell Pike, is separated from the adjacent mountain of Kirkstone (with which it is connected by a ridge) by a steep narrow ravine, called in the language of the country a ghyll. This ghyll like all other ghylls has its torrent, or beck (German, bach) and this beck like all other becks has its waterfalls or forces, but where waterfalls are common, people only go to see the finest, of which this is one. The ravine is thickly wooded, as is usual in the neighbourhood of Windermere but unusual among most of the other lakes. The falls are of considerable height, and their beauty is greatly increased by their being completely shut in by trees.
We had abstained from calling on Mr. Wordsworth immediately on our arrival, having learnt from Mr. Madge that he was absent from home. Having reason to believe however that he might now have returned, we set out for Rydal Mount the day after our excursion to Coniston. Leaving Ambleside and turning your face towards the north east, you are in a sort of narrow basin, filled with rich meadows now newly mown, and interspersed with trees. To your right, this basin is formed by Long Wansfell Pike, succeeded by Kirkstone on your left, by the line of scars already mentioned, of which the nearest is Loughrigg, more remarkable for its boldness than its height, backed by Knab Scar,13 a more considerable eminence. Directly in front, and filling up the whole interval between Knab Scar and the high but rounded Kirkstone, is the lofty Fairfield, looking like several mountains in one; it would appear to bar up the valley, rendering further progress impossible did it not seem to be intersected by two long deep glens; these, however, are in reality mere ghylls, scooped out in the mountain itself, and the real egress from the valley lies where no one would expect it, sharp round to the left between the mountains Knab Scar and Loughrigg. This is the narrow outlet of the vale of Grasmere: through this the Rotha,14 a beautiful mountain stream, issues into the basin of Ambleside and runs down to lose itself in Windermere, almost washing, as it passes, several ornamented cottages of great beauty, surrounded by their little flower-gardens, along the foot of Loughrigg. At the opening of the narrow outlet, and along the base of Knab Scar and Fairfield, are the house and woody park of Lady Fleming, widow of the late Sir Michael le Fleming.15 Exactly in the outlet lies the valley of Rydal, composed in great part of cottage residences ornamented with great taste: passing through a kind of strait, along the banks of the Rotha, you enter the valley, which expands immediately into a narrow basin, containing the little lake of Rydal, or Rydal-water out of which the Rotha flows. It is surrounded by craggy mountains, though of no great elevation; they are tolerably well wooded, though not so well as the banks of Windermere: and the cluster of tasteful cottages at its entrance gives it an air of snugness and comfort highly pleasing. I have always observed that as in the bustling neighbourhood of a city we always seek for the appearance of the completest solitude, so on the other hand nothing is more pleasing to us in the midst of a wild, than some slight admixture of the signs of human life, and human enjoyment. Overlooking the opening; placed a little way up the base of Knab Scar, and commanding, from different points, a view both of Rydal and Windermere, lies Mr. Wordsworth’s cottage and grounds. I called there with Mr. Madge: he had not returned; but we saw his sister, Miss Wordsworth, and his wife’s sister, Miss Hutchinson,16 two elderly maiden ladies, with whom we had some conversation and of whom I formed a very favorable opinion. Miss Wordsworth is the sister so often alluded to, and with so strong an affection, in his poetry, and is also the author of three little poems published in his works, and ascribed to a “female friend.”17 He calls her in his verses, his sister Emmeline:18 but this is euphoniae gratia, her real name being Dorothy. His daughter,19 of whom Mr. Madge spoke very favorably, and whom I afterwards saw on my way back from Keswick and Patterdale was christened Dorothy after the example of her aunt, but is called Dora. It is not surprising that people should resort to twists and devices to evade so unpoetical a name. Yet perhaps a poet, if he durst, might succeed in rendering it interesting, since there is nothing unmelodious in the name itself, and in the original Greek it is extremely fine. It sounds trivial only because it is a name rarely worn by any person above the degree of a cookmaid. But why not?
The day, which had threatened rain from the first, became so decidedly unfavorable, that we were not disposed to walk much further, but went to see the waterfalls at Lady Fleming’s. A waterfall, in itself gives me little pleasure: I value it only as one of the incidents of a mountain torrent, which as it bounces down over huge fragments of rock, must make numbers of little falls, and now and then precipitating itself over a crag, produces one of the cascades that people go to see. But the beck, or torrent, which makes the Rydal falls, is the finest specimen of its kind which I ever saw. The bed, or trough down which it rushes, seems as if it had been chiselled several feet deep in the living rock: the sides of the ghyll are green, and richly wooded, but over the stream the rock is laid bare, and shews itself in crags above, and slabs and fragments below, superior in wildness to every thing I have seen of this class. The falls are only, in a stream of this character, like the most most brilliant passages in a fine piece of music. The stream is all waterfalls. We had gone to Rydal by the field-path; we returned by the road: they are on opposite sides of the basin, and I hardly know which is the finest.
The weather prevented any further walking this day except a run in the evening a little way up the steep road which leads over Kirkstone to Ulleswater20 and Penrith. The succeeding day, which was exceedingly fine, we devoted to Langdale.
Langdale divides itself at about two miles from its commencement into two forks, called Great and Little Langdale, the becks of which meet in a little lake called Elter Water out of which flows the river Brathay. We walked up Little Langdale exactly reversing the course by which we returned two evenings before from Coniston and Yewdale. The rains had swelled the Brathay, and it was now a fine mountain stream; one of the peculiarities of this country is that the rivers and brooks are only swelled by the rains, without being rendered turbid, the water coming over the living rock instead of mouldering heath and bog-earth. The banks of the Brathay were full; no part of the stony bed was visible, except the larger fragments of rock, some bare, some carpeted with moss, round which the river played and over parts of which it continually fell. But no river is so changeable in its character, as a mountain stream. Below, and for a considerable space, it was rocky, foaming, and impetuous; above, for an equal distance, it was smooth as glass: its banks assumed a character suitable to its own diversities; below, it was overhung and sometimes almost hidden by bushes and trees; above, it washed and seemed on the point of overflowing open and verdant meadows. The eminences on the left, though not very high, were steep, and woody: the road winds through the woods, allowing occasional views, but we found a field path which more continuously overlooked the vale. Whole acres of wet ground are here covered with the Dutch myrtle, which diffuses its fragrance widely through the air. We crossed the Brathay at Colwith bridge, a little above which, concealed among trees, is a pretty waterfall; it is audible from the road, but not visible, you descend to it by a shady path. Instead of a fall, I should have called it a series of falls, in various directions, some of them lateral; some high, others low, connected by rapids; this description applies to most of the waterfalls made by these mountain torrents. We soon passed, on the left, the way over from Coniston by Yewdale, and winding up the side of the hill on the right, saw below us a piece of water called Little Langdale Tarn. The proper meaning of Tarn, is a piece of water contained in a hollow, high up the sides of a mountain: such small tarns have peculiar, and characteristic features, unlike any other lakes or ponds: but here all ponds which are not large enough to be called lakes, seem to receive the name of tarns, although, like the one in question, they be reedy, fen-like, and low in a valley. We were now drawing near to a pass in the high mountains. To the left we had Weatherlam, and its neighbour Fairfield (not the same Fairfield which I mentioned as being near Ambleside); and directly before us, the high irregular mountain or rather range, called Wrynose, the point of which is visible from Mr. Wordsworth’s terrace, and over which an old packhorse road winds slowly and heavily towards Whitehaven. Presently we perceived on our right the pass which was to lead us from the head of Little to that of Great Langdale: but before entering into it we ascended high enough on the face of Wrynose, to perceive the shape of the mountain, the length, and character of the inlets into it from the valley, and the torrents rushing down their channelled sides. By scrambling over rocks and the beds of brooks, we regained the pass, from which these bare treeless mountains, green with fern to a great height, but shewing little else save rock, had a very wild appearance. The pass is not very long, but it widens and descends in the middle, and incloses a little narrow vale, mostly too wet to be cultivated but containing one or two old, cottages and two or three patches of cultivation. Here also is another pond, called Blea Tarn; but neither is this properly a Tarn, being in the hollow between two mountains, not in the bosom of one. This wild place is that selected by Wordsworth, in the Excursion, as the dwelling-place of his Solitary;21 and every thing combines to fit it for such a purpose, except some small groves of young larch which false taste has planted on both sides of the dell. The country is filled with these ugly plantations, intended no doubt to alleviate the desert-like appearance given to many of these mountains by their extreme bareness; but no tree can be so ill fitted for this purpose as the larch, which is formal, pale-coloured, has no boughs, and but little foliage. I cannot remember any one spot where these plantations have been laid out with taste, nor have I found that they any where improved the landscape, except where the shade being thrown directly upon them, lent to them a depth of colour which they possess not of themselves. These perverse improvers might have taken a lesson from the sycamore; there are a few of these trees in every valley, and though it never was a favorite with me, I have taken a fancy to it from the extreme richness of its deep green foliage, a quality precious in these valleys because they possess it not in any other tree. Oaks there are few or none except in the state of coppice; I have seen no fine oaks except a few (very fine ones certainly) in Lady Fleming’s grounds. The ash is indigenous here, but generally pollarded, and seldom very fine: besides, this tree never has many leaves in proportion to its wood, nor is their colour bright. Beeches there are none, and scarcely any elms. The sycamore therefore is the great vegetable ornament of these vales: it is almost the only tree which is allowed to grow high and to conceive how necessary it is, it must be seen growing in these situations.—In descending the pass, we came upon a scene wholly unlike any other we had yet beheld. We were now at the head of Great Langdale, and we might have fancied ourselves at the wall of the world: huge mountains rose in front, we might walk up to them, but there we needs must stop. The valley is closed by Bow Fell, one of the highest mountains in the country. It is scooped out into natural amphitheatres, and its bare sides displayed every torrent and every waterfall glittering in the sun. The valley which remains perfectly flat up to the very foot of the mountains which terminate it, sent up still another arm in front of us, between the furthest point of Bow Fell and the Langdale Pikes. This also was soon stopped by precipitous heights, out of which must issue somewhere, I could not see where, the brook which forms the principal source of the river Brathay, and which even so high up as this, is considerable. The Pikes, as seen from the pass, appeared with their accustomed magnificence, but when we reached the bottom, they seemed a confused mass of rock, the general outline being lost in the proximity, and in the multitude, of the details, and each Pike having immediately before it, a lower summit, not high enough, nor standing out sufficiently from the mass of the mountain, to be visible at a distance. Between the two Pikes is a deep and narrow ravine, or rather groove, called Dungeon-Ghyll: in this is a waterfall, to see which we ascended the green turfy sides of the mountain, covered with fern. The rocks forming the sides of the ghyll approach in one place so near together and are so perpendicular, that if you were standing between them you could see as little of the sky as if you were at the bottom of a well: hence the name, Dungeon-Ghyll. At the further end of this narrow pass it is crossed by a rock as high and as perpendicular as its sides; over which in consequence the torrent precipitates itself into the bottom of the dungeon. If you are on the height above, it seems to fall to an indefinite depth; your eye follows it very far and then loses it. You can see the whole fall from below, by looking in at the bottom of the pass. A mass of rock has by some accident lodged itself between the two walls of rock, somewhat below the top of the fall, and forms a natural bridge. Higher up the mountain there are two or three other falls, all of them pretty; and there are others in the hollows of the very next mountain, and so on through the whole country. Descending Great Langdale, we passed some slate quarries which are in full activity, and which explained to us the appearances we saw, of some considerable population. The houses of the peasantry in these valleys are not pleasing. There seems to be much of the reality of comfort about them, but there is little of the appearance. They have none of the flowers round about them, or the creepers on the walls, which are so general in the south of England; there is little neatness about the outsides, which are coated with an ugly whitewash, to hide the rough stones with which they are built. I should like their houses much better if they would but leave them as they leave their barns. These are built of the same material, but there is no attempt to hide it; and the masses of solid slate, some blue, some red with iron, intermixed with masses of the greenstone, or trachytic amygdaloid of the country, have a singular, and not unpleasing effect. To see these villages to advantage, you must look down upon them from above. There, the whitewashed sides are so foreshortened as not to be conspicuous, while you have a full view of the cheerful slate roofs and the little, square, unpretending, yet not ungraceful chimnies.—We passed Elter Water, which was now on our right; it seems green and reedy, and like a swamp: it is not much more interesting than a pond. But the Brathay, running out of it, which was still as clear and smooth as glass, made ample amends. The road being here lifted considerably above it, allowed us to embrace at one view its graceful windings to a considerable distance. We also had full enjoyment of the woody sides of the opposite hills. Soon after, in a little dell to the left, between us and the mountain Loughrigg, we perceived Loughrigg Tarn. Even this does not come within the proper idea of a tarn, but it has much of the beauty not of a tarn but of a little lake: its form and situation are pretty; there is some wood on its banks, and its smooth surface reflected the image of the mountain beyond with the minutest accuracy and in all the colours of nature. Were it not for the inverted trees, we should never have suspected that what we saw was water, instead of the continuation of the green hill-side.—We kept the left bank of the Brathay all the rest of the way, and arrived at Ambleside without seeing anything further worthy of notice.
The next day we walked to Grasmere. We might have taken the road by Rydal-water, directly up the valley, avoiding all hills, but we preferred to reverse the road by which we returned from Langdale the day before, and we struck off a little beyond Loughrigg Tarn, into one of the roads which lead across (or through passes in) the range of heights which separates Great Langdale from the vale of Grasmere. The distance is not great, and we soon arrived at a point which commanded the valley and the lake. We were less struck by them, at the first view, than we expected; and on the whole this lake and valley, though fine, seem to me to be surpassed by many spots among these mountains. The vale in which Grasmere is situated is a roundish basin: the mountains forming it are but of second-rate magnitude, but are green to the top with fern, and partly with coppice, of which there is more, in proportion to the extent, than in any other place we had come to except the banks of Windermere. The eminences on the east side are, I think, the highest, and are intersected by two long steep ghylls, one of them finely bent: this I believe is Green-head Ghyll, so finely described by Wordsworth in the poem of “Michael.”22 A bent ghyll is much finer than any other: a ghyll which descends at once from the top to the bottom of the mountain is a mere channel cut in its sides, but if it runs up into the mountain laterally, then alters its direction, and reaches the peak or ridge after two or three more turnings, it forms elbows overlapping one another; projecting angles, which break the uniformity of the hill-side; and the ghyll being seen laterally, is always covered by one of its walls, so that you cannot see into it, but merely see a hollow, which you may suppose to be of any depth you please. It is also a great advantage if the ghyll instead of growing narrower as it ascends the mountain, grows wider, and opens into a kind of circular hollow scooped out of the mountainside, resembling the amphitheatre of mountains which terminates a broad valley. This is the case with many of the finest ghylls in these mountains, and renders the mountains themselves much more striking, when seen from any place whence you can command their entire height. When ever you read of a high mountain as seen directly in front, from its base or from an opposite hill, you are safe in imagining that some considerable part of its top is scooped out into one of these hollows, out of which a torrent runs and forces its way down the rocky sides, making either a mere channel or a deep ghyll.—The entrance into Grasmere vale from Rydal is completely closed up and concealed, being lateral, like the outlet from Rydal into the valley of Ambleside. The lake would therefore appear completely enclosed in mountains, were it not that a broad and visible outlet is formed at the north-east corner, by a low pass which leads to the opposite, or Keswick side of the mountains, down the vale of St. John’s. This is somewhat unfortunate for the picturesque effect of Grasmere lake. This, like the other lakes, has several islands, one of them of larger size than common, and less wooded: there is however a handsome clump of Scotch firs upon it, a tree which is as ornamental here as the larch is the reverse. In the valleys there frequently rise little roundish knolls, on many of which, clusters of five or six firs have been planted with considerable picturesque effect: this tree has boughs, which most of the fir tribe have not; its blue, or purple tint at this season, harmonizes well with the mountain scenery, and the bark is here of that peculiar red, which is often given to it in paintings but which I have not generally found it to wear in nature, at least not so finely as in this district.—At the head of the lake is the little village of Grasmere; the church was open, the day being Sunday, and rushing-day, as I believe it is called, that is, the day for laying fresh rushes on the floor of the church: it is very small, and by far the most rustic and unsophisticated building of its kind I ever saw. The roof consists of naked slates, whitewashed internally, but shewing all the junctures; and nothing else except the old bare rafters. There is a sort of a wall which divides the church, or part of it, down the middle, but this wall does not reach to the roof, it reaches only to the principal cross rafters, and supports them. There are only one or two pews, and those of the simplest and most unpretending kind: in lieu of others, rows of benches, are placed down both sides of the church, with rushes (fresh ones) under them instead of a carpet; and the pulpit was not more ostentatious than the other apparatus of the place. Every thing however that admitted of it was hung with bouquets and festoons of fresh flowers, intermixed with some quaint bunches of feathers; the rustic character of these ornaments harmonized as much as their gaudy colours contrasted, with the homely appearance of the building and its paraphernalia. In the little room containing the clergyman’s23 pontificals, (which they perhaps presume to call a vestry-room) were a (I suppose I might say the) bible and prayer-book, both of them I should think the first edition: the bible was in black letter, published in 1617,24 and I suppose no other has been used in this church from that time. In the church-yard, washed by the brook which feeds Grasmere lake, are the graves of two of Wordsworth’s children who died young.25 There is a little school-house at the further gate of the church-yard; this also was open, but contained nothing except two or three boys’ hats, and sundry copies of Mrs. Trimmer’s abridgment of the New Testament.26 —The head of the little lake is separated from the mountains which bound the vale on that side, by a space considerable for the size of the valley, of fields and trees: this, together with the green banks and the green fern and coppice on the sides of the hills, gives to this valley a more verdant appearance than is usual here, from which, no doubt, the lake and village derived their name.—The only mountain at the head of Grasmere which is remarkable in form, or stands strikingly individualized, is a pyramidal eminence, called Helm-Crag: green to the top, or rather greenish—for that is the utmost you can ever say of the Westmoreland mountains, the Cumberland ones are far greener. At the top of this height, but more distinctly visible from the pass into St. John’s vale, are some curious rocks, which I likened first to a monkey feeding her cub, next to a bear devouring some small animal: I found by looking afterwards into a guide-book, that I was not singular in finding odd resemblances for this cluster of rocks, and that my two comparisons, which seem so unlike one another, were but a type of the diversity of the images which the objects have suggested to different observers. “Mr. Gray” says the guide-book (meaning the poet Gray) “likens it to ‘some gigantic building demolished’; Mr. West to ‘a mass of antediluvian ruins’; Mr. Green to the figures of a ‘lion and a lamb’; and Mr. Wordsworth to an ‘astrologer and old woman’; and the traveller” (adds the author of the guide-book, venturing to swell from the stores of his own fancy, the list of odd similies) “who views it from Dunmail Raise, may think that a mortar elevated for throwing shells into the valley, would be no unapt comparison.”27
To the left of Helm Crag, the principal feeder of Grasmere-water issues out of a winding valley called Easedale, the opening into which, as seen from Grasmerevale, is nearly covered by hills. It is a sort of Langdale on a smaller scale. There is a neat little house built at the corner of a hill, in a situation something like that of Mr. Wordsworth’s cottage, commanding both Grasmere and Easedale:28 I have since learned that this was once occupied by Wordsworth: from a road belonging to this house, you have an excellent view into the little mountain valley, and can see to great advantage the knobbed and rocky eminences forming the boundary of the valley on the left hand. These look as if knots of rock had been dropped all over their sides. The valley at first is green with fields and trees; higher up it becomes bare and wild, and is soon closed by mountains furrowed with torrents. We walked up it till we could see the end, then returned by the further bank of Grasmere lake, along which passes the road from Keswick to Ambleside. The lake appears finest from this bank, where as you are not lifted very high above it, you are not made so sensible of its small extent. We returned to Ambleside by Rydal water, and the field path along the banks of the Rotha. In the evening we walked to the banks of Windermere, passed Low-wood, ascended Troutbeck lane, and again enjoyed, in the twilight, the view down the lake: in the opposite direction, the mountains were too much hid in clouds to shew us much of their beauty. We this time descended by Miss Wordsworth’s advice, to the long straggling village of Troutbeck, in which are several substantial-looking houses: but here too the heads of the mountains were involved in clouds and we saw little more of Troutbeck vale than we had seen previously.
The next day we shifted our quarters, and proceeded to Keswick. Our route lay by the side of Rydal and Grasmere lakes: in passing I called upon Miss Wordsworth, and saw her: Mr. Wordsworth had not yet returned; but I afterwards met him on the road, by the side of Thirlmere lake: he was on the top of a stage coach, I was on foot, but he stopped the coach and we exchanged a few words: he asked me to call upon him in returning.—We kept the high road, which is perhaps the most beautiful in England; and issued out of the vale of Grasmere by the low broad pass which I mentioned in describing that lake. The head of the pass, or the parting of the waters, is marked by a heap of stones called Dunmail Raise, supposed to be the cairn of Dunmail the last king of Cumberland, who is said to have been defeated and slain at this place by one of the kings of the Anglo-Saxons.29 A wall which crosses the cairn here separates Westmoreland from Cumberland, and the vale terminating in Windermere from that which issues into the plain by Bassenthwaite lake. This point, and the whole of the road from Rydal to Keswick, are familiar to those who are acquainted with Wordsworth’s poem of “The Waggoner.”
To understand the face of the country one should bear in mind the comparison so aptly employed by Mr. Wordsworth in his little work published separately as a description of the lakes.30 There is in the centre of this mountainous region a cluster or knot of very high mountains, consisting of Sca or Scaw Fell, Great Gable, Bow Fell, and one or two others: this may be considered as the nave or centre of a wheel, and the valleys, most of which terminate at this point, may be regarded as the spokes; due allowance being made for their not being absolutely straight. Langdale, which afterwards is prolonged into the valley of Windermere, is the first spoke; turning round towards the west, we come first to Coniston Vale, which as it does not quite reach to the nave, may be considered as a broken spoke; further on, Donnerdale, Eskdale, Wastdale, Ennerdale, and the vale of Buttermere and Crummock, are perfect spokes; as well as Borrowdale which runs due north, opening upon the beautiful Derwentwater or Keswick lake, and closed by the majestic Skiddaw, who stands apart, wholly unconnected with the general plan of the other mountains. In like manner, Legberthwaite dale, or the vale of St. John’s, is closed to the north by Blencathra, otherwise called Saddleback, which though separated by a deep ravine, is a sort of continuation of Skiddaw. At the foot of Saddleback, St. John’s vale turns off to the west, debouches into the basin of Keswick lake, and from thence issues out into the plain by Bassenthwaite, at the opening between Skiddaw and the mountains of Newlands and Buttermere. St. John’s vale does not run up quite to the nave of the wheel, but meets Grasmere vale, its counterpart on the south side, at the pass of Dunmail Raise. There is yet another valley to the east, Patterdale, which contains Ulleswater; this terminates still further from the centre, so that on the whole the resemblance to a wheel is by no means so perfect on the east side of the mountains as on the west.
From the top of the pass we came immediately in sight of Thirlmere, or Leathes Water; a narrow, winding lake out of which, bare, and almost precipitous mountains rise almost at once, leaving a very narrow margin, enlarged however by numerous long headlands, partially clothed with trees. Though we first saw this beautiful lake at its head, we were no losers, as, unlike most of the lakes, it is best seen from upwards, becoming as it descends inclosed in higher mountains, and terminated not by an opening into the plain, but by the lofty Saddleback, concealed from us as yet by intermediate eminences, although we saw, through a pass in the western range, one of the beautiful shoulders of Skiddaw, thus shaped. The mountains which form the western boundary of the vale became more and more precipitous, and finally took the form of a black perpendicular cliff called Raven Crag. (Crag, in this country, means any perpendicular rock.) On the right, the mountains above us were perfectly bare and rocky; every part of the torrents which furrowed their sides was therefore fully visible. These mountains form part of the base of the great Helvellyn, the summits of which were concealed from us by proximity and also by clouds. The day was rainy; scarcely half an hour was free from rain, but as the views in this valley are not extensive, our enjoyment of them was very little impaired by the rain, which generally was rather a drizzle than any thing like a heavy shower.—The road was lifted somewhat above the lake, and afforded beautiful views of it and of the opposite mountains, but on the whole the road naturally descended with the valley; until we came to a point nearly opposite to Armboth, where the lake either contracts to a strait or is divided by an isthmus, and forms two lakes, an upper and a lower one. The road here diverges from the lake, and ascends one of the lateral eminences, from which, on looking back, we had a noble view of a precipitous crag on the other side, with a torrent pouring down it. Having crossed this eminence we unexpectedly perceived before us another line of low mountains rising up in the middle of the valley and dividing it into two parts: that to the left contained the lower half of Thirlmere, and was invisible to us: the other, called more emphatically the vale of St. John’s, or Legberthwaite dale is extremely narrow; bounded on the east by the long steep range which has collectively received the name of Helvellyn; on the west by the lower range of mountains just mentioned, and closed up to the north by Saddleback, or Blencathara,31 a mountain vastly superior both in beauty and apparent elevation, to any which we had seen. The line of its summit, as seen from this point, consists or appears to consist of two beautiful curve lines, like small segments of very great circles, with the concave side turned towards us, and ending in three sharp points. The ridge, thus formed, had the appearance of being so narrow and angular, that it would be impossible to walk upon it. This we supposed to be an ocular deception but it was irresistible. To the concavity of the two circular arcs, answer corresponding hollows scooped out in the body of the mountain; and these beautiful hollows are bounded by three long turfy arms or sloping lines thrown forward into the vale. The mountain was happily free from clouds; and we had a gleam of sunshine, which lighted up some of the adjacent objects, leaving Blencathara in a deep purple shade. The effect of this noble mountain seen at the end of a deep hollow dale, cannot easily be described. The foreground was well calculated to set it off. The first of the range of intermediate mountains, a conical eminence which must, from its position and character, be that known to readers of Wordsworth by the name of Great How,32 is wooded almost to the summit, with indigenous wood, the rocky sides peeping out only where they were so completely perpendicular, that trees would not grow upon them: resembling, therefore, in every respect, what I have been told is the general character of the rocky sides of Dovedale. Beyond this, another bulky mountain rises steeply from the narrow vale. Raven Crag, on the other side of Thirlmere, peered occasionally over the intervening heights, and nearly opposite to it, on the Helvellyn side, another I was about to say a finer crag (called Green Crag, or the Enchanted Castle of St. John’s) stood out boldly from the mountain side. The waters of Thirlmere discharge themselves through this narrow vale, by the river Greta (now a classical name),33 which flows through the gap between Great How and the next mountain of its series, and flows down, more quietly than could be expected, but at a great depth below the road, into the glen. The road does precisely the reverse, it crosses, by the same pass, from St. John’s vale to the other valley, which, as to its direction, seems a continuation of the vale of Thirlmere, though on a considerably higher level; at this point it is filled with a bog, covered with the Dutch myrtle and called Shoulthwaite moss. When we had proceeded for some space along the road which crosses this moss, we obtained gradually a full view of Skiddaw; which we at once admitted to be a mountain of a character immensely above all which we had seen on the opposite side of the mountainous country. Skiddaw, though on a scale of comparative minuteness, reminded me of the conception I had formed of Aetna, from its extensive base, its insulated position, and the descending arms which it stretches out into the plain. It consists mainly of two high roundish summits, not far from each other, and two long shoulders which sink at once to a considerable depth below the summits, but are still of a great height, and stretch out on the right and left to a very great distance. Towards the valley in front, the descent on the contrary is rapid, though not by crags but long turfy slopes, separated by ravines chiselled out as deeply, and with the same nicety, as those of Blencathara. We could not take off our eyes from these two mountains. Dwelling apart from the rest and towering above them, Skiddaw seems the king and Blencathara the queen of this mountain region. Justice is hardly done to the beauty of this last mountain; for when it is seen from Keswick, the lateral view hides entirely the character of the beautiful ridge, and hollow sides, and makes it seem an insignificant appendage to Skiddaw. From this spot, however, we were unable to decide which of them was the finest. From Blencathara we learned, how very slight a deviation from a straight line is sufficient, under some circumstances, to give boldness and impressiveness to the long ridge of an eminence. Skiddaw, again, satisfied us, that the most gentle and elegant of mountains,—totally destitute of cliffs, or bare rocks, and meeting the plain with grassy slopes like those of a chalk hill, might yet give a stronger impression of magnitude and grandeur, than any of the others, even those which surpass it in height. This we ascribed, partly to its insulated position; partly to the large space it covers, being nevertheless itself commanded and towered over by its own summits; but most to this, that it consists of a very small number of features, each of which may therefore be in itself broad and conspicuous, and which are boldly and decisively marked out. Its outline might be correctly conveyed by a much smaller number of lines than even the little mountains near Ambleside; and this is eminently favorable to imposingness of effect as we see in a Greek temple.—Turning our eyes backwards, we could now see the highest point of Helvellyn, at last freed from clouds. This mountain at least this side of it, is in every respect the opposite of Skiddaw: its highest summits are only a little higher than those of a whole row of mountains connected at the base, which together bear the name of Helvellyn: its forms are neither graceful nor dignified, it never takes credit for its whole height, and is chiefly conspicuous because it seems to turn its back to you, and its highest points, which are curiously notched or indented, seem to be peering over at something on its opposite side. We passed on, gaining a better view of Skiddaw and losing the fine one of Blencathara every instant. We soon found that the waters of this valley run out not towards Thirlmere nor St. John’s but towards Skiddaw and Blencathara, so that the vale may be considered as a tributary of that which separates those two mountains from the others. The lower part of the valley is green, and richly cultivated. The road winds over the heights on the left hand and presently when we began to descend the glorious vale of Keswick burst at once upon our sight.
We looked down upon this splendid valley from a hill named Castlerigg. Close under our feet, though a little to the left, was the lake of Derwentwater, completely inclosed in a basin of high mountains. It washed their bases on every side except that of Skiddaw, from which it was separated by a considerable extent of wavy green fields, among which the little town of Keswick shewed its cheerful blue roofs. Beyond Skiddaw, and in the opening between it and the mountains on the further side of the valley, was the commencement of another lake, that of Bassenthwaite. Looking next across the valley, we beheld mountain rise behind mountain, so thickly sown and in such forms that I can only compare them to waves in a tempestuous sea. Turning now towards the left, and looking up the lake, we saw the opening into Borrowdale, almost closed by a black fir-clad rock, named, and appropriately named, Castle Crag: it seemed impossible to imagine any greater opening there than a narrow gorge; the high mountains at the head of Borrowdale were so veiled in clouds that we could not see more than their bases, and it seemed as if something dark and dismal opposed all attempt to penetrate further in that direction. The heights on the side where we were, rose immediately into a high cliff called Walla or Wallow Crag; and formed little else but a series of crags from that point to the head of the lake. The banks on all sides, and even the mountains to a certain height, were thickly wooded, (a sight very uncommon in this country), and numerous islands, completely cloathed with trees, were spread over the surface of the lake. This magnificent prospect was closed at the extremity by Skiddaw. We descended to Keswick; and having taken up our quarters there, we strolled down to Friar’s Crag, a promontory covered with trees, looking out across the lake to the mountains beyond, and the path to which, is the public walk of the town. At Keswick we again encountered Mr. Madge.
The next morning we again strolled out before breakfast to Friar’s Crag, from which, and from a field adjoining, we had delightful views of the lake; and crossed from thence to a higher eminence named Castle-head Hill, which in fact would be an excellent situation for a castle, and from which you see the whole lake spread out under your feet, with the circumjacent mountains. We now distinguished, on the western side of the lake, the high Grisedale Pike with its two summits; one greatly above the other, and its long arm stretched out towards Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw; Causey Pike, shaped like a small paper copy of the former; Catbells, a little mountain, green to the top, immediately overhanging the lake, and consisting of a ridge folding itself once round and terminating in the last of two bell-shaped eminences; High Stile, and the other mountains of Buttermere and Crummock beyond these and overtopping them; and Manesty Crags, walling in the lake towards its head. To the left, not far from the extremity of the lake, we could partly see the great waterfall of Lowdore, pouring down the chasm between two perpendicular cliffs of immense height. After breakfasting at Keswick, we attempted to reach Lowdore by the road along the east side of the lake, but the weather settled into steady rain, and forced us to return. We went to see Mr. Crosthwaite’s Museum,34 where among many soi-disant curiosities, all that interested us were a number of very fine specimens of the minerals and rocks of the country. In the evening we took advantage of a short interval between the showers, to walk down the town to Crossthwaite church, the parish church of Keswick, and standing a little way from it: there is an engraving of this spot in Southey’s Colloquies:35 the church, though ugly in itself, and covered with the disagreeable whitewash of the country, is prettier than most that we had recently seen. Although the head of Skiddaw was covered with clouds just upon the point of discharging their moisture he was still magnificent, and we were much struck with the deep purple colour, under this light, of the neatly chiselled and almost bare interior of the ravines or hollows which are scooped out of his sides. The evening was thoroughly rainy, and we could go no further. The Greta, which runs at the foot of the town to join the Derwent just issuing from the lake, was swelled with the rains, and, unlike the Ambleside rivers, considerably discoloured. There seems indeed to be about Keswick, and especially in the interval between the two lakes, a considerable extent of alluvial soil.
The next day was on the whole rainy, but not so much so as to prevent short walks. We went from Keswick to a village called Ormathwaite, close to the foot of Skiddaw: from the front of a gentleman’s house close to the hamlet, and from a road which runs along the side of the mountain at a slight elevation above the valley, we had several admirable views of the lake and mountains; and we were sometimes surprised to find how great a variety in the view was made by a very trifling change in our position. The highest mountains of Borrowdale, Scawfell and Great Gable, were still, however, concealed from us by clouds. After returning from this little walk, Mr. Madge and I called upon Mr. Southey, which we had not done sooner because we were aware that he had not returned from an excursion to Ulleswater. We were both of us acquainted with him, though but slightly. He received us very kindly, conversed with us for some time very agreeably, and invited us to tea the same evening: we accepted his invitation, and spent the evening very pleasantly. His house is close to the town, and lifted a little above it, though at the lower end. It looks up the lake, like all the gentlemen’s houses hereabouts; though it does not command quite the best view. The rooms are filled with books, and the appearance of the house is like the conversation of the man, which is an admirable mixture of the book-student, the man of elegance and taste, and the man of the world.—Between our two visits to Southey, we took advantage of an interval of fine weather to circumnavigate the lake. It was very high from the late rains; and we readily believed what the boatman told us, that it had risen four feet in the two preceding days. It also covered a considerably greater surface than before, having encroached upon its grassy banks wherever there was room for it to spread itself out. It is an indispensable part of viewing this country to go upon Derwent Lake: the face of the lake affords the finest positions for seeing in perfection, the mountains which immediately surround it; and you obtain a juster notion of its own magnitude, for without experience it is impossible to imagine how falsely one estimates distance and size in mountainous countries: the objects being all magnified in nearly an equal proportion, no one of them affords a scale to measure the greatness of the others. When I first saw Windermere I could by no means persuade myself that in some places it is a mile across; and I could as little conceive that Keswick Lake is in length three miles and in breadth a mile and a half; but I easily believed it after going on the water, for I found that an island, which from the Lowdore side appeared almost close to the opposite shore, was really near the middle of the lake.—The right bank as you ascend towards the water-head, is thickly clothed with the fine woods belonging to the late Lord William Gordon;36 these fill up the small space between the lake and the mountains, and cover some promontories which project finely into the water, inclosing delightful little bays. On the other side, Walla Crag and other crags the continuation of it, mostly well wooded at the base and to a considerable height, except where they are completely perpendicular; formed the boundary of the vale. One of the islands, near the bottom of the lake, belongs to General Peachy, lately member of parliament for Taunton;37 it is, like the other islands, covered with trees, but it also contains a house, his only country residence: it seems prettily laid out and ornamented. We landed at Lowdore, which is not a waterfall, but a cataract, and perhaps the most striking single object in the vale of Keswick. It lies between two cliffs of immense height; the one, which bears a striking resemblance to a ruined castle upon a rock, is affirmed to be near 500 feet high, and may possibly be so: the other is nearly, if not quite, as high: both are wooded at the top, and on the sides wherever trees will grow, that is to say in the clefts, for the rock itself is completely perpendicular. The narrow ravine between the two cliffs is also thickly wooded, and immense blocks of stone are scattered all over it; these have evidently fallen from the cliffs, either dislodged by tempests or frost, or by the torrent gradually undermining more and more. In the ravine a brook almost amounting (after the rain) to a small mountain river, tumbles down from a height of, it is said, 360 feet, but of this not more than one-half is visible from below: it does not form one fall, but many, its channel being broad and heaped up with blocks of stone, over which the water precipitates itself; there are many streams falling like one. In our way back we saw what is called the Floating Island, which appears at considerable intervals and is now visible. It does not change its position (it is said however that there is a real floating island on Esthwaite Water); it only rises occasionally to the surface, and sinks again, without any visible cause: it seems a kind of bog, barely above the level of the water and covered with the vegetation that grows in the shallow parts of the lake. It is ascertained that what keeps the island afloat is gas, generated probably by peat at the bottom of the lake. Professor Sedgwick38 let out some of the gas by making a hole in the island, which immediately sunk several inches, with him upon it. His theory, as we learned from Southey, is that a brook which runs into the lake just opposite to the island (it is not far from the shore) penetrates between the peat, and the clay which is below it, and prevents the peat from adhering to the clay, so that it is easily blown up by the gas which is generated in its own substance.—Although the evening had every appearance of being fine when we set out on the water, we did not get back to Keswick without being caught in a shower; an example of the uncertainty of the climate of these mountains; the ordinary English climate is steadiness itself in comparison.
The next day we set out from Keswick with a full determination to explore Borrowdale, but were again driven back by the rain: less from fear of getting wet, than apprehension of not being able to see. In the interval between two showers (in which interval you are to include one intermediate shower) we went to see a Druidical circle of stones, on a point of Castlerigg Hill a little to the right of the old Penrith road, about a mile and a half from Keswick, commanding a fine view of Skiddaw and Saddleback, of Helvellyn and the intermediate mountains across Shoulthwaite Moss, and of the tops of the mountains of Newlands on the other side of Derwent Lake. The stones, which are placed on end, and some of which are about the height of a man, form a complete circuit, though not a correct circle; and there is a much smaller circle touching the larger one internally, which was a possibly a kind of sanctum sanctorum, a place distinguished in holiness above the rest. The road to this place, (as well as to Penrith) lies along the foot of Skiddaw, or rather of Latrigg, which Gray, the poet, called Skiddaw’s cub;39 this mountain is apparently about 800 or 900 feet high, that is, about the height of Leith Hill, but really two or three hundred feet more, and seems to lie under the feet of Skiddaw, or to grow out of it, as is the fact, for it is a sort of excresence, connected at the base with the greater mountain. It is rounded in its forms, almost like a chalk hill; it is also artificially planted, and (an exception to the general rule) with real taste: woods, corn fields and bare turf or brown heath, are in this instance mixed with very agreeable effect. At the foot of it, and between it and the road, the Greta runs with its usual violence, on its way from St. John’s vale to Keswick: it was now much swelled with the rain, but, in this place at least, was clear. Its bed is large, and strewed with lumps of rock probably brought down from the foot of Helvellyn: it foams over these lumps or turns round them, in a manner which reminded me much of the Adour near Bagnères de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees, a river which this resembles more than any other of the mountain streams about Ambleside or Keswick.—The afternoon proving fine, we walked through some rich meadows on the banks of the Derwent, which carries the waters of Keswick lake into Bassenthwaite, in a stream of no contemptible rapidity and depth. The occasional, and even habitual violence of this stream is attested by the labour and expence, with which whole rows of little breakwaters have been constructed at every one of its numerous windings, to prevent it from changing its bed by cutting through and carrying off the alluvial soil on the bank against which the current sets. We crossed the river to the pretty cheerful village of Portingscale,40 and took the road up the west side of the lake, but soon quitted it to enter Lord or rather Lady William Gordon’s woods.41 In these there are a variety of tall trees of various kinds, which not being common in this country, were the more agreeable: there are many walks cut out in the woods, all very pretty, but rarely allowing more than a momentary glimpse of the surrounding scenery, until we arrive at the house. This is almost deserted by its owner, who has never visited it since she was a widow: accordingly all other persons may go all round it and enjoy every one of the beautiful views which are abundant and various in its immediate neighbourhood. It stands fronting the lake, at the bottom of a little bay, formed by two richly wooded promontories: and the lake may be enjoyed in perfection either from the terrace walk in front of the house, or from various points of view selected with great taste on the shore of the promontories. The objects seen across the Lake have been already described. The noise of the Lodore falls may be distinctly heard, though this is the broadest part of the lake and though they are far from directly opposite: we heard it so loud as to mix with all other sounds, forming a deep, sonorous, though low, accompaniment to the ripple of the lake, which ever and anon drowned the more distant sound in its nearer, though comparatively insignificant, noise.—This day my friend Henry Taylor, of the Colonial Office,42 an intimate friend of Southey’s and to whom I am indebted for the little acquaintance I have both with him and with Wordsworth, arrived at Keswick, to stay there about the same length of time as ourselves. Mr. Southey had told me that he was coming, but did not expect him so soon. His father with whom I was not previously acquainted, accompanied him.
The next day we set out (that is, my companion and myself—Mr. Madge returning to Ambleside) with a firm resolution to see Borrowdale, whether it rained or not. And we were rewarded, for although we got wet more than once in our way to Borrowdale, we had scarcely entered the valley when the wind, which had been south-west, shifted to a few points north of west, and the weather completely changed. The shower from which we took shelter under the Bowder Stone was the last shower of the rainy weather. This stone is an enormous mass of rock, the largest of many which have fallen, in the course of ages, from the crags by which the narrow entrance into Borrowdale is hemmed in, and almost closed up. The mass has accidentally fallen in such a manner as to rest upon a very narrow base, slanting upwards like the inside of a roof on both sides; but it does not vibrate, like some other stones in similar situations. The valley in this place, which would be very narrow at any rate, is still further narrowed by Castle Crag, already mentioned as forming part of all views of Derwent Lake from the neighbourhood of Keswick; and two or three other rocky heights, most of them more or less wooded, which seem designed to block up the valley and among which the river or brook which feeds the lake, finds its way not without apparent difficulty, at a very great depth below the road, forming a striking picture. This is certainly the finest part of Borrowdale. When we descended into the open and broad part of the valley, we found it rather less striking than I expected. Like all the other valleys it is a narrow plain, flat to the very edge of the mountains: it is green and rich, and was now soaked with wet; the road in some places being overflowed. The brooks, and especially the main stream, or river, were now very full, and beautiful. They are crossed by numerous bridges, built of lumps of slate put upon their ends; these have a highly picturesque effect; which indeed may be said of all the bridges over these mountain streams. The valley winds, and has two or three reaches, as they would be called in a river. Between the villages of Rossthwaite and Seatoller, it divides itself into two forks, nearly equal in breadth; both appear interesting; the shortest we passed on the left, and took the longest, which retains the name of Borrowdale; at Seatoller, this branch turns round to the left, having on the right the pass of Gatesgarth, leading to Buttermere vale. This is now the final reach, terminated by one of the bases of Scaw Fell, and bounded to the right and left by Gable and Bow Fell; yet we did not seem to be among very high mountains; the tops of some of them were hid, and others were foreshortened: the head of Great Langdale is finer. The mountains are here clothed in many places with turf and fern, and in others with trees, but the upper parts are universally craggy and bare. We went as far as Seathwaite, the last village, near which are the celebrated black-lead mines of Borrowdale: the entrance to them is at a considerable elevation, in the sides of the mountain on the right. Not far from thence, though lower down, among other trees, are the Borrowdale yew-trees celebrated by Wordsworth:43 these, and the single yew in Lorton vale mentioned by him in the same little poem, are, I suspect, the only fine yew-trees in the whole country of the Lakes, and on the whole, any trees of the kind, indeed any indigenous trees of great or even moderate size, are wonderfully uncommon here. The country of yews is not Cumberland, but the Dorking Chalk hills.—There is a pass over a very high part of the mountains, at the very end of Borrowdale, called the Sty-head, and leading into Wastdale: we did not climb up to it, but approached very near to its foot, and then returned to Keswick by the way by which we came.—In the evening we walked once more to Castlerigg Hill.
The next day was one of the finest of the season, and we resolved to employ it in ascending Skiddaw. This we easily accomplished without a guide, by the aid of the directions given in Otley’s Description of the Lakes:44 indeed this mountain both is, and appears, very easy of ascent, and we might have climbed it in any of several other directions. The sides, where they are sufficiently sloping (which is the case every where except in the hollows) are covered with the richest and greenest sward: it is only near the top that the bare rocks, or rather fragments of slate, begin to peep out, and even there the intermixture of vegetation is generally sufficient to render the bareness imperceptible from below. I have already given a general idea of the form of this mountain. I mentioned that it has two summits, visible from Keswick: they are separated by not a very deep ravine; the highest of them forms the lower extremity of a short, slightly ascending ridge, of which consequently, the opposite end is the extreme summit of the mountain, and is not visible from Keswick, though it is from Newlands and the mountains adjacent. This highest point was one of the stations for the Trigonometrical Survey,45 and a pole raised on that occasion five years ago still remains, as well as a cabin of loose stones, probably constructed about the same time as a shelter to the operators. As we ascended, we gradually left below us, first Latrigg, which our path began by winding round; then Catbells, Causey Pike, Castlerigg Fell, and all the mountains immediately surrounding the lake; at last even Grisedale Pike, which for a long time seemed to tower above us; but Scaw Fell, Great Gable, and the other high mountains in the centre of the wheel,46 rose more and more as we rose; and we did not seem to overtop the Helvellyn range, the whole length of which we could now see, together with the mountains of Grasmere and Ambleside, beyond, which seemed mere hillocks. Black Combe, a mountain joining the sea, at a great distance from the other high mountains, and which commands the most extensive view in England, according to Colonel Mudge who had an ample range of comparison,47 was also seen over one of the passes among the high summits; and the Coniston mountains were visible, though, to us, not very accurately distinguishable. There were no clouds today on the high mountains, so that we saw them in all their glory. Derwent Lake seemed dwindled to a mere pond. Turning now the opposite way, we saw at the foot of Skiddaw, and of Saddleback (now considerably below us) a small number of lower elevations, green to the tops, and separated by a large tract of turfy sloping moors, of a cheerful character, not of the sombre cast of the Yorkshire moors; beyond these an immense plain, bounded on one side by the hills of Northumberland and Durham, a long range in the middle of which Cross Fell raised its dome-like summit; to the north there was no boundary but the haze of the distant horizon: to the west and north west, the sea, with the Scottish coast sloping away to an immense distance beyond the narrow seas, forming broad bays and long projecting headlands. The atmosphere was not very clear when we were on the extreme summit; but we descended by a part of the mountain called Ullock, of much inferior elevation, from which, the air having greatly cleared, we saw the hills of Kirkcudbright rising one behind another with the greatest distinctness, the opening of Wigton bay, and the Mull of Galloway protruding its great length into the waters; then the open sea, and beyond that the Isle of Man, with its high hills and a long promontory stretching out towards Scotland. Between us and the coast was the town of Cockermouth, and further north were several other towns which we were not quite certain that we could recognize from their position, but we thought that Carlisle was one of them; to the east we distinctly saw Penrith and something looking like a large castle due south of it. The country to the north seemed well watered, but very flat, until, to the north-east, the eye reached the Cheviot Hills. To the south we saw the estuary of the Kent near Milnthorp, which has probably been mistaken for Windermere by those who have professed to see that lake from Skiddaw: they both lie in the same direction but Windermere is concealed by mountains.
We were so little fatigued by this excursion (though we descended by a much rougher, and steeper line, quite off the regular paths) that we took another long walk the same evening: across Shoulthwaite Moss to the bridge of the Greta, at the foot of Great How, and then down St. John’s Vale. We were obliged to ford the Greta to avoid a circuit, (the stepping stones being now under water) and we found the road completely flooded in several places; it lies close to the river, and seems even worse than the ordinary mountain roads, although it lies at the bottom of the valley. This is the narrowest vale of all: the Helvellyn range on one side, is separated by a very narrow space from a lower, but precipitous mountain on the other, which at one point even projects beyond its natural line on purpose to hem in the valley. In front, we had the fine view of Saddleback which I first described. As we approach Saddleback the valley widens and becomes more common-place in its features: at last you meet the Penrith road, which conducts you to Keswick along the Greta at the foot of Latrigg, as already mentioned.
The next day, being somewhat tired, we abridged our excursion, and contented ourselves with ascending Causey Pike, a mountain with two summits, one of them greatly above the other, at an hour’s walk from Keswick, west of the lake, and adjacent to the valley of Newlands. This green and richly cultivated valley runs up like the vale of Keswick, from the base of Skiddaw, but in a slightly different direction; south-west instead of south: it is separated from Keswick vale by the mountains Catbells, Hindsgarth,48 and others, and stretches for a length of seven or eight miles, to meet the valley of Buttermere, from which it is only separated by a low pass. We crossed this valley by field paths, and tempted by the small apparent elevation of the mountain, ascended it without making any enquiry about the easiest way up; but this we had reason to repent, as we had an hour and a half of very hard climbing, first over green turf, then among heath, and lastly among the clefts of the rocks, to reach the highest summit. A deep ravine or ghyll separates the mountain from an almost precipitous height, north of it, consisting of what in this district is called Screes, that is, small fragments of stone lying on the steepest elevation on which they can remain, and dislodged at once by any attempt to tread on them. From the top, we saw nearly the same objects as from Skiddaw, except those which Skiddaw itself intercepted from us; and we had, in addition, a nearer and better view of the red sienitic mountains of Buttermere; High Stile, Red Pike, and Grasmoor with its long line of summits of which the highest is or seems a broad segment of a hemisphere. It is sometimes said, that the best views of mountains are from the valleys: this is true when you are in the midst of the highest mountains, and we so found it afterwards: but at Keswick, where the high mountains are at a considerable distance, they can only be viewed to advantage from high places, for there alone are they sufficiently conspicuous, and seem to tower above the lower elevations in front.—This day I dined with Taylor: his mother, and a cousin of his,49 apparently a clever, sensible woman, had joined him, and Mr. Southey with part of his family came in the evening.
The weather being now completely settled, we left Keswick for a three days excursion to Buttermere and Wastwater. There are two roads to Buttermere from Keswick; one of nine miles, by the vale of Newlands, passable for wheels all the way; the other a horse path merely, of fourteen miles, by Borrowdale and the pass of Gatesgarth, under Honistar Crag.—We took the latter route, lengthening it still further by a circuitous entry into Borrowdale. We turned to the left from the banks of Derwent Lake just before passing Mr. Pocklington’s house (Barrow House) on the way to Lodore;50 and ascended into a sort of pass, or elevated narrow vale, running parallel with, and above, the valley of Keswick Lake, and occasionally affording fine views of it. The rocks on both sides are wild and craggy, and the space between them is filled up by a considerable quantity of coppice wood. This pleased us much more than any part of Borrowdale except the entrance, which from the marks of ruin and destruction that it exhibits, is grander than any defile in the whole district. After a time this woody and elevated gorge conducted us into a valley of some depth along which the stream, which forms the cataract of Lodoar,51 flows on towards its destination. The valley is here more commonplace; green at the bottom and bare on the mountain-sides like Borrowdale. We followed it up to the village of Watendlath; here it flows through a tarn, which, however, like all the others which we had hitherto seen, was a tarn only in name; in reality a reedy pond, bordered by a swamp. Higher up the stream there is another tarn which may possibly deserve a better character, and a little further on are the sources of this little river, in the fells which separate Borrowdale from Legberthwaite vale. We however saw nothing of all this, as our path here crossed over the fell on the contrary side, and descended through a thick coppice into Borrowdale, of which we had a fuller, and a more interesting view from this eminence than from any other point. The place at which we entered the valley was not far beyond the Bowder Stone, and considerably short of Rossthwaite, the first village. We were now on known ground: we left the eastern fork of the valley, with its village and little chapel of Stonethwaite, on our left hand, and when we reached Seatoller, began to ascend the high and steep pass, which connects Borrowdale with the head of Buttermere vale. We followed the course of the brook, (or beck as the people of this country would call it,) which is to be found in every valley, pass, or ghyll, and of course indicates its lowest line. As we ascended, the mountains which bounded the pass became drearier and drearier; on looking back, we had lost sight of the green bottom of Borrowdale, and saw only the dreary tops of the fells on its further side, and the still more dreary summits of the Helvellyn range over them. The prospect on the whole was one of mere desolation, enlivened only by the rapids and continual miniature waterfalls of the little brook, and by the sheep who wandered and found a tolerable subsistence on the moors. But we had scarcely reached the top of the pass, when, by a sudden turn, the majestic Honistar Crag came in sight; a cliff almost eight-hundred feet in height, nearly or entirely perpendicular, under which as under a wall, the mountain path descends to the hamlet of Gatesgarth: in the bottom of course is a foaming brook; on the other side another cliff, less bold but nearly as high; and enormous blocks of stone, which have fallen from one or the other cliff, are scattered through the narrow glen. The extremity of Honistar Crag joins to the head of Buttermere water, along the bank of which we proceeded to the village of Buttermere, lying at the foot of the lake bearing the same name, between it and a larger lake named Crummock water, which fills the lower part of the vale.
The scenery of this valley is infinitely more striking, and makes a deeper impression of that kind, which lofty and precipitous mountains are peculiarly fitted to give, than any other part of the mountainous country that we had yet seen, though even this, perhaps, was excelled by what we saw afterwards. The breadth of the valley is barely sufficient to hold the two lakes: on the eastern side, or the right hand in descending from the vale-head, it is only here and there that there is room for any thing but the road between the lake and the mountains: on this side however the ascent of the mountains themselves is not, in all parts, alike abrupt and sudden: but all along the western side of the valley, mountains nearly as lofty as Skiddaw and Saddleback and far steeper in most parts, grow up, like a tree, out of the lake itself; not leaving room for even a path; and no doubt, they continue to descend as precipitously to an immense depth under the water. These mountains are, in most lights, of a strong red colour, arising from a rock of a sienitic character, sometimes called granite, of which they are chiefly composed and the basis of which is red felspar. The most remarkable summits in this line of mountains, (all of which are connected at the base) are High Crag, High Stile, and Red Pike. Between High Stile and Red Pike you can plainly see (inclosed by two ridges connecting, by fine waving lines, the lofty summits) a conical hollow, containing a considerable tarn known by the name of Bleaberry Tarn. The brook which carries off the water of the tarn, thunders down the wall of rock which supports alike the craggy tops and the recess between them: it falls into the lake underneath, and the little hollow which it has cut for itself in its passage down, is called in the neighbourhood, from the frothy appearance of the falling water, Sour-milk Ghyll. These mountains are individualized by the marked diversity of their summits: two of them have high craggy tops, while Red Pike is, as the name imports, peaked, but the peak predominates over the ridge only as the head over the shoulders. Between these and the mountain Melbreak,52 which forms the western boundary of the lower, and larger lake, there is a ghyll with a wider opening, and a considerable recess, but Melbreak, again, immediately overhangs the lake: it is a long, ridge-like mountain but its summit does seem a ridge, and not a flat piece of table land, and it rises precipitously like its nearest neighbours. On the other side, Crummock lake is nobly hemmed in and surmounted by the extreme points of Grasmoor, and its dependencies: Grasmoor, the loftiest of the north-western mountains, consisting of a long line of mountain with huge broad summits; mostly segments of circles, interspersed or alternated with pikes; and joining on so closely to other lines of mountain-top, that they seem part of itself: from the heights about Keswick, this mountain with its broad imposing front, is seen overtopping the pointed summits of Grisedale Pike, Causey Pike, and all the neighbouring eminences, and eclipsing even the other Buttermere mountains: as seen from nearer its foot, it appears, like these last, of a bright red, and its sides seem to consist of red screes, in most places hardly possible to be climbed.—If we now turn our face to the head of Buttermere vale, we find it closed by Honistar Crag, which in height almost rivals the mountains which bound the west side of the vale; it is here seen in profile, but is still wonderfully bold and grand; it presents towards the vale, something like one of the faces of a triangular pyramid, greatly truncated at one of the angles of its base. The opening of Gatesgarth pass is rather too much seen, and is rather too low; this, in some of the views, though not in all, prevents the vale from appearing so completely closed up, at its head, as would be desirable. Between Honistar Crag and the mountains High Crag and High Stile, the space is completely filled by a precipitous knotty eminence called Hay Stacks, from an imaginary resemblance between the rocks forming its summit and the hay-stacks of the country which in shape are most like the corn-ricks of the south of England. Between Hay Stacks and Honistar Crag there is a cove, coomb, or scooped out hollow, over which goes or seems to go, an alpine path, but the opening is not sufficient to break the continuity.
Such are the outlines of this delightful valley; which, as it lies pent up in its den of mountains, gives for the first time in our present journey, a feeling of perfect separation from the world and all its concerns; while the rich meadows, with two or three fine fields of corn and a considerable mixture of trees, which fill the short space of dry land between the two lakes of Buttermere and Crummock superadd to the feeling of seclusion, that of life and rural enjoyment, and render the spot one of those, among all I ever saw, which excited in the imagination the most vivid sense of the delight of living there for one’s whole life. Through these fields a little river flows out of the upper lake into the lower; and this is not a foaming mountain torrent, roaring boisterously over a rocky bed; it is of another and a more engaging character; its bed consists of fragments of rock pounded so fine, as not sensibly to agitate its surface, and over this bed it rushes with arrowy swiftness, yet with that deep repose and silence which excites far stronger feeling of power, than is raised by a noisy torrent. Not a breath of wind disturbed the surface of the water; but the centre of the current, the point where the stream was swiftest, might be traced along its course by a faint undulation, the effect of its extreme rapidity. Near where it issues into Crummock lake, two little knolls composed of rock and covered with wood, the one a peninsula, the other an island, afford a beautiful prospect of the lake.
Notwithstanding the suddenness with which the mountains rise out of the water, neither of the lakes is destitute of those projecting headlands which are so great an ornament of the lake scenery of these parts. Such promontories are sometimes formed by a turn in the mountain itself; and every brook which flows into the water carries down the materials from which a great or small projecting point is gradually produced, and the margin of the lakes diversified by capes and land-locked bays. One of the largest promontories, on the east side of Buttermere water, is occupied by a pretty little residence shut in by trees; and to avoid this the road from Gatesgarth makes a sudden turn to the right, which exhibits through a vista of trees, a high mountain directly in front and towering immediately over the traveller’s head before he dreams of its existence.
Buttermere itself is a very small village, with a church which might hold four inside, and ten out, if churches were licensed to carry passengers to heaven in this latter method. Not to exaggerate its smallness, it is about the size of a large omnibus: and the parson, I understand wears the dress and speaks the dialect of a Cumberland farmer, as he is.53 The houses in the village wear an appearance of comfort and comparative affluence; but this is not peculiar to them, it is the general character of the habitations of the peasantry in these mountains. No traces of penury have shewn themselves to us anywhere.
The following morning we set off for Wastdale by a wild rough path through the passes of the mountains. We walked to the head of Buttermere water, and there ascended the mountain ridge on our right to a narrow pass on a great elevation, called Scarf Gap, between the mountains called Hay Stacks and High Crag. We frequently turned round to look down upon Buttermere Vale and its adjacent mountains: the view had nothing of that desolation which struck us so forcibly in the backward view from the ascent to Gatesgarth pass: the mountains were very nearly as bare, but their forms were so much grander that their bareness no longer suggested unpleasing ideas. From the top of the pass, however, the forward view was still more striking. Below us lay the narrow vale of Ennerdale, bounded on the opposite side by three immense mountains, Great Gable, Kirkfell, and the Pillar: about the middle of this last enormous pile of rock, a projecting cliff, from which the mountain derives its name, and the summit of which, until a few years ago, was deemed inaccessible, stood out magnificently. The head of the valley is formed by lofty summits and steep craggy sides, forming an impenetrable barrier. Not a human being nor a habitation was visible; the rapid mountain stream called the Leesa alone divided, with a few straggling sheep, the possession of this wild, uncultivated, but not uncheerful valley, down the middle of which it curled in and out with an uneasy writhing motion. Brooks, of course, from every nook and hollow in the mountains, plunged into the valley; which, in its upper part, was strewed with little green hillocks, covered with sward, always dry and fresh, not the deep swampy, rushy green of the moister bog-grass which occupied the hollows between them. From most points, this upper end of the valley appeared a mere basin, of great depth, inaccessible but by crossing the lofty mountains which bounded it; but from one point in the descent, looking through the narrow gap between the Pillar-mountain and the back of High Stile, we caught a partial view of Ennerdale Water filling up the hollow vale, its lower end encircled by smaller and tamer hills, but the upper part built up by mountains like walls, and a precipitous mountain-end actually jutting out with a bold long cape into the water. This striking scenery is little known to tourists, who seldom visit Ennerdale, and if they go to Wastdale, pass over the Sty-head pass from Borrowdale, or else travel up the valley from its opening near the town of Gosforth and the sea.
Having crossed the narrow upper end of Ennerdale, we ascended a still higher, and steeper pass, called Black Sail, between Kirkfell and the Pillar; though indeed it was rather a part of those two mountains and not much inferior to them in height. When we had crossed this and began to descend, we saw before us a narrow basin like the head of Langdale, but formed by still steeper, and still more lofty mountains. Facing us was one of the finest of all, Yewbarrow, the sides of which were rendered inaccessible by screes; the summit was a bold ridge, rising to the left into a lofty peak. To the right, and all round to the place where we were descending, the back of the mountains of Ennerdale formed a high, impenetrable amphitheatre. To the left, Kirkfell, one of the most solid and massive as well as highest of the mountains so thrust forward its immense bulk that we could only imagine, but could not see, the opening between it and Yewbarrow, through which we afterwards descended into Wastdale. This basin opens laterally from Wastdale head, and is in one respect finer, that it is a complete circuit of almost impassable mountains; while the proper Wastdale head, though formed by still loftier summits, leaves between them a broad opening called the Sty-head, which travellers usually pass over from Borrowdale, and which though as high as the tops of many mountains, breaks the continuity of this immense mountain-ridge. As we gradually wound round the sides of Kirkfell, we obtained a peep of the upper end of Wastwater, and the mountains of its head began to shew themselves. Gable was now completely hid from us by Kirkfell, but the Pikes of Scawfell began to shew themselves over the top of a ridge which mounts up to the summit of another part of the same mountain, called more properly Scawfell. To the right of this, over another and lower part of the mountain range, the road to Eskdale slanted away to the south-west. The head of Wastdale is rich with meadows and fields; five or six prosperous-looking farmhouses are grouped together, and comprise all its inhabitants: lower down there is no room for cultivation, so immediately do the mountains rise out of the lake. On the left side as you look downward a long ridge called the Screes forms the impassable wall of the valley and lake; you see that were you to set your foot on its side you would come down, carrying with you an avalanche of loose stones, and would fall at once into the water. On the other side also the mountains rise immediately from the water, though a very little more gradually, leaving here and there a small headland. A road here follows the margin of the lake, close to it yet in most places considerably above it.
The valley of Buttermere and Crummock gave the idea of seclusion, but Wastdale gives that of absolute solitude. You may look down the valley for hours and see no trace of humanity: for though you see the opening towards the level country which separates the mountains from the sea, this opening is not quite flat, but marked by sharp angular lines, and seems as wild as the mountains themselves. One solitary spot of green meadow, exactly at the foot of the lake, alone distinguishes the prospect before you from a mere desert; but a desert of cheerful aspect; you see nothing of man, but you do not seek him; the forms of the mountains, and the bright sparkling water which fills the vale, and breaks upon the shore at your feet, supplies the place of every thing else. It is fortunate that this lake is not accessible but by steep climbing or a long circuit. Were there a single house on its banks, its peculiar charm would be gone; it would be beautiful, but no longer Wastwater. This peculiar feeling of happy solitude makes the view down the lake more pleasing and striking to me, than the backward view towards the water-head, though this is the more generally admired, and is in fact the noblest mountain view in the whole country. At the head of the vale stand the two highest and grandest mountains of the district; Gable, and Scaw Fell. Gable lifts up his pyramidal summit high above the mountain passes on his right and left, and seems one, individual, tall, solitary object: Scaw Fell seems a heap of mountains, consisting of three principal parts, with craggy ridges, points, and descending lines or neeses as they are here called; one point termed Scaw Fell Pike, the highest land in England, asserting its preeminence only by a small superiority of height. Between these mountains and connecting them, is the waving line of Sty-head Pass. To the left of Gable, and separated from it by a far loftier pass, is the massive globose mountain, Kirkfell: next to that the broad gap between them being masked, stood Yewbarrow, which turns towards the valley a tall roundish point, cleft like the mitre of a bishop. Other high mountains succeeded to this, while on the other side the whole bank of the lake was occupied and shut in by the Screes,—the mountain itself receiving this name from one of its most marked characters—until the ridge declines away, at the foot of the lake, almost into the plain. There are no islands on Wastwater, as there are on the other lakes; they would destroy its wildness.—We stayed some time on the edge of the lake, looking alternately up and down; having first gone far enough down to command the finest view in both directions. But of all the lakes, this perhaps is the one of which any idea, which can be formed from description, is least like the reality. The objects may be described, but the character of cheerful loneliness which belongs to the whole picture when you look down the lake leaving its upper end behind you, must be felt to be understood.
We dined at a farm-house, one of the small group already mentioned; and were exceedingly well treated and much pleased. We then returned to Buttermere by exactly the same way by which we came; road there was none, and often scarcely a path: and arrived about night fall.
The next day we employed in seeing the lower part of Buttermere Vale, before returning to Keswick. We walked down the road by the side of Crummock water, at the foot of Grasmire, or Grasmoor; at one projecting point, jutting out into the water, the road is excavated in the living rock, and the cliff above you is continued beneath your feet, till it sinks under the lake below. Further on, the mountains recede somewhat from the lake, and leave room for a few corn fields, and meadows, which the road crosses without hedges, between two flowery and bushy roadsides. We turned, soon after, into a field-path which almost immediately entered a wood, and conducted us through it (immediately above, and almost close to, the water,) to meet the road which crosses the valley at the lake-foot. From this road, the view of the mountains of Buttermere was unequalled. The projecting point, already adverted to, was seen to form part of a knotty little mountain, which protruded itself into the valley where it had properly no business, but where it created a pleasing variety; behind it the lofty mountains round the head of the lake of Buttermere were seen in a splendid series, clearly individualized, and adorned by brilliant lights and deep shades, while exactly over the top of Haystacks we dimly saw, amid the clouds which partly veiled its pyramidal summit, the noble mountain Gable. The mountains nearer to us were not less striking, though very different: Melbreak with its long ridge and steep declivity overhanging the water on the right, Grasmoor with its vast bulk and graceful forms on the left, fronted by Whiteside, a mountain which we had not seen from any other point; well-named, and contrasting most effectively by its colour, with the red sides of Grasmoor and the mountains opposite. In front of all this was Crummock Lake, more beautiful from this point than from all others; and were it no otherwise beautiful, it is water, and therefore an unequalled foreground to hill or mountain scenery. Behind, the valley finds its way, I cannot tell exactly how, among lower mountains, to the plain. But there is an opening to the right, which lets out into the valley of Crummock Lake, another valley and another lake; smaller indeed, and of a less magnificent character, but highly and pleasingly beautiful: this was Loweswater. We walked along the road, already mentioned, till we found a gate into a field sufficiently high and open to overlook the whole of the lake. Loweswater, unlike the other lakes, has its head among tamer hills and its outlet among bold high mountains. There is nothing sufficiently individualizing in its circumstances to render a description interesting. We returned to Buttermere by the west side of Crummock water, along the side of Melbreak, seeing by the way the celebrated waterfall Scale Force, which is situated in a deepish opening between Melbreak and Red Pike, the only place where the mountain range recedes on this side from the water’s edge. This is the highest single fall in the country, being about 150 feet in height; a thin but adequate stream dropping down like a ribbon of foam, at the end of a defile of rock. You climb up some fragments of rock to get into the defile; you then find yourself between two walls, as high as the fall itself, once no doubt joined in a single mass, but gradually worn away by the waterfall, which, every century, will form the termination of a deeper recess. The two opposite faces of rock are interspersed with bushes, where clefts permit; and to a considerable distance from the fall, they are wet with the spray, as you will be, if you approach as near to the fall as you will certainly be inclined to do. The end of the chasm is a solid rock, crossed from its summit to its base by a single streak of falling water.
The same evening we walked back to Keswick by the valley of Newlands. The pass to this valley, (the Hawse, it should be called in the local language) lies exactly over against the village of Buttermere, or that village, I should rather say lies at the foot of the pass; to which you ascend by a short valley, remarkable for the turf and bright green fern with which its mountains are clothed to their very tops. The pass is not high, and when we had crossed it, the vale of Newlands lay straight and open before us: Skiddaw and Saddleback soon came in sight, and the view would have been more complete had not a cluster of mountains, Hindsgarth and its dependencies, narrowed the valley near its outlet, over against Causey Pike. This vale from its head is green and cheerful, though uncultivated, and in time, groups of cottages multiply; with their sycamore and pollard ash, and their little thickets of smaller wood about them. The road becomes more and more beautiful at every step, and beyond Causey Pike it lies wholly among hedge-rows and thickets, and finally through a wood. Here however you must cross the valley, or you will reach Whitehaven instead of Keswick; and after skirting a little furze-clad mountain, we found ourselves in the road along the west side of Derwent Lake, near Lady William Gordon’s woods, from whence, passing through Portingscale, we reached Keswick by the track with which we were already familiar.
After this little tour, we contented ourselves the following day with short excursions. Among others, we went to see the waterfalls at Mr. Pocklington’s, on the way to Lodore: they are pretty, and pleasingly situated among trees, but inferior on the whole to any of the other falls. We also climbed up to a height just above the top of Lodore cataract, in hopes of seeing more of the previous course of the stream which forms it, but could see little of what we sought, though a fine view of the lake fully rewarded us for our labour. This evening I went with the Taylor family to drink tea with Southey.
We were desirous of ascending Scawfell the next day, it being the highest, and by the account of all who have climbed it, the finest of the mountains. The easiest mode of reaching it is from Borrowdale, and we therefore set out early and breakfasted at Rossthwaite, after which we lingered in the valley hoping that the clouds which at present covered the tops of the highest mountains (although in other respects it was a clear, beautiful day) might dissipate themselves. But although they did clear off very much, a cap of clouds remained upon Scawfell and Gable, and most of the other summits at the head of the vale were only occasionally free. We employed the day first in exploring the eastern fork of Borrowdale, from Stonethwaite up to the pass into Langdale; it bears a general resemblance to the other fork, but is rather more interesting; then in climbing from the narrow wild upper end of this vale, over part of the mountain Glaramara which separates it from Borrowdale proper. From this elevation we saw the backs of the Langdale Pikes and Bowfell and over them the mountains of Little Langdale and Coniston; occasionally we could see the long vista of Great Langdale, almost to Ambleside; but oftener, we could see nothing but clouds scudding over the summits at the head of the vale, and rolling down the centre of the valley, at a level somewhat below us, though we were free from them. And we observed, that though the clouds were congregated about the knot of high mountains from which the valleys diverge, yet the smaller fragments of cloud which were continually disengaging themselves from the larger masses, (detachments which never diminished the main body) always took the direction of the valleys and never adhered to the heights which bounded them. From the top of the mountain we looked down Borrowdale upon Keswick lake, which was spread out in all its loveliness, as it might have been seen by an eagle in his highest flight; while the view was closed by Skiddaw and Saddleback, perfectly clear of cloud and mist. We looked down into the narrow vale at the head of Borrowdale, somewhat above Seathwaite and the black lead mines; and sat a considerable time watching the clouds on the summits of Scawfell, as they occasionally opened and afforded us a momentary view of some point or other of the mountain. But finding a complete dispersion of the mist to be entirely hopeless, we returned to Keswick by the Bowder Stone, and by the road on the west side of the lake, which is a terrace road, a little way up the mountain, commanding the whole of Lady William Gordon’s woods (a delightful foreground to the lake) and affording by far the finest views we had ever had, of the lake itself. The islands, which from some points appear too much clustered together, or confined too exclusively to one part of the lake, here placed themselves in graceful array, and no one of them hid or injured the effect of any other.
The next day, which was the last of our stay at Keswick, we employed in climbing the delightful mountain Blencathara, or Saddleback; and no day, of our whole excursion, was more delightfully spent, although the weather was hazy, and did not allow a clear view of distant objects. We walked five miles and upwards towards Penrith, almost round the base of the mountain, in order to ascend it by the way of Threlkeld Tarn, so beautifully figured and described in Southey’s Colloquies.54 We quitted the Penrith road a little beyond the village of Threlkeld, and took a little road which winds round the base of the mountain; until, after turning round the last neese or descending ridge which is visible from Shoulthwaite Moss, we arrived at a broad but bold recess or ghyll along the side of which a good horsepath winds up towards a mine that lies high up the mountain. When we reached the top of this ghyll we saw in front of us from right to left a long deep ravine, with steep turfy hills (of indescribable but beautiful shape and grouping), on the other side of it; our path turned to the left along the side of the mountain overlooking the ravine: far up the hollow at a point where it winds round towards the north, is the mine, immediately overhung by one of the horns of Saddleback; by horns I mean the sharp points which form the extremities, and intermediate angles of the sharp wedge-like but bent ridge formerly mentioned in describing the top of the mountain as seen from St. John’s Vale. The beautiful mountain-brook which afterwards runs at the bottom of the ravine, is seen flowing into it laterally between two points of the mountain on the left, and by its course, guides the exploring traveller to the Tarn of which it is the outlet. We however finding that the path conducted us round one of these points and not between them, followed it in hopes of an easier ascent; but were merely conducted to the foot of a lofty crag, surmounted by one of the summits of Saddleback; and we had to scale the grassy height which we had thought to turn. When we reached its top, we saw below us, in a nook, surrounded on three sides by heights as precipitous as turf will grow on, the beautiful tarn; we descended to its brink: it was the first genuine tarn that we had seen in these mountains (I had seen others in the Pyrenees), and we could not take our eyes off it. The water, which is of the deepest blue, seems hid, out of the reach of man; no trees or shrubs, nor even the smallest herb, overshadow it, yet one wonders at having found it, and deems it a prodigy that it should not have been overlooked. It is beautifully clear; a part of it is shallow, but it deepens suddenly; some light green moss-like weeds shew themselves at the bottom, but it is said to contain no fish. Its situation, and its little extent compared with the heights that overlook it, remind one of the pure crystalline water which collects in the basin formed by the united leaves of the teazle, or other perfoliate plants. But the comparison is too humble, and does it injustice. At the outlet of the tarn, where the mountain brook issues out of it, the break in the side of the basin allows a distant, bird’s eye view of part of the vale of Penrith, with a part of the range of Cross Fell in the distance. When we had satiated ourselves with gazing at the tarn, we climbed the side of the turfy hollow where it lies and reached one, and the highest, of the three sharp points, which are the angles of the sharp ridge. Wedge-like as the ridge appears from below, it seems not less so from above; it is an angular line, formed by the intersection of a steep green slope and a series of steep bare coves, combes, or recesses: separated from one another by long ridges or neeses equally angular and equally bold. The view is still finer than that from Skiddaw: you see but little towards the sea; but you see Skiddaw himself in a long profile, as fine as his immense front (for in profile he has an immense advantage over Blencathara); the remaining smaller mountains of the Skiddaw group are seen much more advantageously from the less lofty elevation of Saddleback; and to the south, Helvellyn, and St. John’s Vale are better seen: of the latter we had, I should think, the best possible view, with Great How and the lower part of Thirlmere (invisible from Skiddaw) to terminate it, and beyond the mountains of Grasmere and Ambleside. We went successively to each of the three sharp points, and then descended to the mountain foot by a turfy declivity, affording an easier descent than any other mountain we had climbed. Between Saddleback on the one side, and Latrigg and the horn of Skiddaw on the other, is one of the loveliest little vales conceivable, with the little mountain river Glenderamakin at its bottom, running into the Greta: we crossed this vale by winding field-paths and cart-roads as we best could, and then struck into a terrace road along the sides of Latrigg, through the wood which covers a great part of that mountain, within hearing, and occasional sight, of the beautiful Greta winding round the hill foot, and returned to Keswick by the most lovely and enjoyable path, perhaps, of which its neighbourhood, delightful as it is, has to boast.
The next morning, I took leave of Southey and his family, and we set off (three of us—for a third companion55 had joined us the evening before) to walk to Ulleswater. We left the Penrith road near the second milestone, and crossing St. John’s Vale, ascended the opposite hill-side, round which a winding road brought us out into an extensive moor, differing little from those in the flat country. The mountains of the range terminating in Helvellyn, were on our right, but their sloping side was turned towards us, and we could see but little of their height: the vale, which opened before us towards Penrith, was terminated in the distance by the Cross Fell range, which is a continuation of the Craven mountains, and the highest elevation of which is formed by the round convex summit of Cross Fell itself. One round ugly little hill stood by itself in the midst of the valley, not far from us. All this was not very interesting; but on the left the beautiful Blencathra, which is to my taste the finest of all the mountains, presented a constantly varying, and perpetually interesting and remarkable front. Our road, or horsepath, followed for some distance the base of a low ridge, then climbed over it, and entered into Matterdale, one of the smaller valleys tributary to the Ulleswater vale. The scenery here began to grow interesting: the brook, a beautiful mountain rivulet, was at the bottom of a deep narrow ravine; the dell and the brook kept company with each other in eternal twistings and turns, and the sides of the brook, sometimes very rocky and precipitous, were clothed all the way with trees and shrubs. We passed the village of Dockray, and rapidly descending, came presently in sight of Ulleswater close beneath us, bathing the feet of the steep mountains beyond: we walked down to its bank through a rich forest-like wood of native oak, ash, and thorn, forming part of what is now called Gowbarrow Park. Here, in the midst of the indigenous woods which still survive about Ulleswater though unhappily extinct in the neighbourhood of the other lakes, the Duke of Norfolk has a hunting box close upon the lake, called Lyulph’s Tower, built in the stile of the gateway of an ancient castle, and adapted with rare felicity to harmonize with the surrounding scene. Close to this place the brook already mentioned forms, not the highest or fullest, but the prettiest waterfall in the country. The spot itself, and the narrow ghyll both above and below it, are so hidden by fine trees that you might seek long for it without finding it; and the waterfall (it is called Airey Force) is one of the spots where one would go in a hot summer-day to conceal oneself from the sun, and refresh oneself by the sight of water and rocks, shut up in a leafy nook, and the feeling of the cool moist air.
It is scarcely possible to describe Ulleswater. No description can give the slightest notion of what it is. The beauty of the other lakes consists in a few grand features, but the charm of this lies in the immense variety of the details. What can be said, is said very shortly. The form of the lake bears some resemblance to the letter Z, or rather, consisting of three distinct reaches; and the first two are imbedded in lofty mountains. On the left, looking towards the head of the lake, the mountains grow at once out of the water: on the right, Helvellyn and its numberless dependant heights, form the boundary of the basin, while the immediate edge of the lake is overhung by wooded hills of every variety of form and steepness; sometimes close to the water, sometimes receding a little, sometimes opening to receive a stream from a tributary vale running up into the recesses of Helvellyn. The margin of the water itself is crowded with trees, among which the fern rises to a height and luxuriance seldom met with; and the headlands are numerous and varied beyond what any description could render conceivable: the bays which they inclose participate in their beauty.56
We passed the remainder of this day, and the whole of the next, on the shores or on the bosom of this delightful lake; wandering at times sufficiently far up the tributary vales, to catch finer views of the main valley, and the water which fills it. These vales (Grisedale, Glenridden Vale, Glencoin, etc.) are wooded in their lower part; in the upper they become more bare, and resemble more the narrow vales of the other lakes. The weather was singularly favourable; the lake, in consequence, was of the most brilliant blue: and though it is narrower than the other large lakes, yet the absence of islands (except three little islets in the upper and narrowest reach) and the bends in the lake itself, allow the spectator when in particular positions to see a large expanse of water, having the effect of an inlet of the sea. The finest view of this sort, I think, is the view down the lake from its first bend, near the outlet of Glencoin. But it is difficult to make a choice amidst such astonishing variety of beauty. Several elegant residences have been pitched on or near this lake, and do not injure the soft and verdant character of its beauty: the most delightful of these is the cottage and grounds of the Rev. Mr. Askew,57 whose shrubbery or rather wood, occupies a very narrow space along the bank of the lake, between it and the road, comprising several of the most beautiful of the headlands and some of the most interesting home-views of the lake: his gates are left open, and nothing hinders any one from walking in, or even through, the grounds.—To see the higher and more rugged mountains which separate this valley from that of Thirlmere, or Legberthwaite, you must either be on the lake itself, or at some of the many delightful stations on the opposite, or steep and bare side of the valley. You then see a wall of uneven height, bounded at the top by a long crooked line—not a curve, but a series of short straight lines, continually varying its direction, and forming, among various obtuse angles, two decided peaks, of which the highest is, I believe, the summit of Helvellyn. These may also be seen from the western side of the lake below Gowbarrow Park, near Halsteads, the beautiful house and grounds of Mr. Marshall,58 occupying a promontory of the lake, from whence you see up the second reach, and from whence, also, the jutting-out point of the mountain which stands between the second and the first reach, has a particularly bold and striking appearance.59
On the third day of our stay at Patterdale (counting the day of our arrival as the first) we made an excursion to Hawes Water, the only one of the lakes which we had not seen. We went up Patterdale (the upper part of the Ulleswater vale, beyond the lake itself) for about two miles: it is much finer than the other broad green valleys, such as Borrowdale and Langdale: yet it would not be easy to say in what its superiority consists: the mountains are not so high; they are hardly even steeper, but there seems to be more among them of what a painter would call, harmony of composition: there are no striking contrasts, or bold reliefs, but one mountain seems to glide naturally into another, every one seems in his place, and you feel at every point, that his shape is just what it should be. The secret, I suspect, is, variety without tameness: in the other valleys, there is either too great a uniformity of character, or the variety is purchased by some sacrifice of the beauty or boldness of the individual features.—At a little lake called Brother’s Water, two miles from the head of Ulleswater, and formed by the same stream which afterwards feeds the larger lake, we turned up a valley to the left, which shortly narrows; and following the bed of one of the most interesting mountain brooks I ever saw, arrived at a large Tarn known by the name of Hays Tarn, surrounded on all sides (except the outlet) by steep ridges without even a pass. We had to scramble over the summit of the ridge, from which, had the day been clearer, we should have enjoyed a very extensive and beautiful view: as it was we saw the mountains at the head of Patterdale, with some of the Ambleside mountains beyond them, and in another direction we looked down Martindale, a tributary valley of Ulleswater, and caught, at its foot, a peep of the lower part of the lake. As we advanced further along the height, we saw the mountains at the head of Kentmere and Troutbeck vales, and below us in the midst of bare ridge-like mountains, the green head of Mardale, the valley containing Hawes Water. The character of these mountains pleases me somewhat less, than that of most of the others. There is little individuality in them; you might almost imagine them to be a long reel of mountain, broken here and there, and thrown about, as chance might direct. While you see but a little of them they are fine; and they are fine, too, when you see much of them, but not so fine, nor does their aspect vary sufficiently, as your own position changes. We did not see the lake till we had descended quite into the valley and turned a corner: it is about three miles long, of unequal but nowhere of great width, and contracted in the middle almost to a strait. As seen from its shore, the mountains are not unlike in their shape to those of Ulleswater; and when you have descended nearly to the foot of the lake, where its banks are a good deal wooded and where it forms numerous headlands and bays, the view upwards really reminds one of Ulleswater, of which it seems the younger and homelier sister. We crossed from the foot of Hawes Water to the foot of Ulleswater through a tame moorland country, quite out of the mountain region: but the first view of Ulleswater from the high ground near Pooley Bridge is singularly fine. A round wooded hill called Dunmallet stands sentinel at the end of the lake; and the country and views grow finer and finer at every step, from this point to the inn at Patterdale.60
We had intended to climb Helvellyn the succeeding day, but the hazy state of the atmosphere prevented it; and we lingered the greater part of the day on the banks of Ulleswater. The haze did not at all diminish the beauty of the home views: this country contains scenery for all weathers, and he who has not seen mountains in the very worst state of the weather is far from knowing what beauty they are capable of. The slightest change in the state of the atmosphere has such an effect on the mountains, that on such days as most of our summer days are, the same mountain scarcely seems the same object for three minutes together. Today we witnessed some of the most interesting of the atmospheric phenomena of mountainous countries: the lake, so blue two days before, was of a deep slate colour which was absolutely unearthly, and as we lost sight of it all at once under the thick haze which hung over its lower end, we might have taken it for the waters of oblivion.—In the evening we left this delightful neighbourhood, and walked up Patterdale to the pass at its head, in the mountain Kirkstone, noticed in a former part of this journal. A carriage road, though a difficult one, ascends this pass, from the higher parts of which, on looking back, nothing is visible but the sky, the wild sides of the pass, and a glimpse of Brother’s Water at its foot. The descent to Ambleside by the side of Stock Ghyll is less striking; but still very fine: the scenery of Ambleside, considered as grand mountain-scenery, will scarcely bear examination after the more striking scenes which I had witnessed since I left it, but the beauty of the home-scenes and of the more rich and graceful Windermere is even more delightful from the contrast.61
[4th to 7th]
We remained four whole days at Ambleside, chiefly for the purpose of seeing Wordsworth, with whom we passed as much of that time as we could, and were amply repaid both in pleasure, intellectual excitement, and instruction. Our walks were chiefly short ones; Wordsworth conducted us to several beautiful spots, and his own grounds contain in a very limited extent, so great a variety of prospects that they are almost a compendium of the whole Westmoreland mountains. We walked again to Troutbeck, and employed a considerable part of one day in going down the west side of Windermere (which we had not seen) to the Station House, built by Mr. Curwen at a point commanding a fine view both up and down the lake; we were then ferried over, and returned by Bowness and Lowood: in this walk, the first part of which was chiefly among wood, we had many new and delightful views of the lake; and in the latter half, we refreshed our recollection of many of the old ones.62
On the fifth day we were forced to quit the neighbourhood; and the delightful afternoon in which we travelled, outside the stage-coach, from Ambleside to Kendal by way of Bowness, made the last farewel look of the lovely Windermere so delightful, that our departure had something of the melancholy character of parting from a beloved friend; and the image of the lake and mountains remained impressed upon the internal eye, long after the physical organs could see them no more.
[1 ]See No. 29, entry of 27 July, 1827.
[2 ]John Scarlett Davis (1804-45), Fourteen Views in Lithography of Bolton Abbey, 2nd ed. (London: Cock, 1829); Mill is referring to the 6th plate, a view of the interior of the nave, and the 7th, a view of the choir.
[3 ]William George Spencer Cavendish.
[4 ]Both Wordsworth, “The Force of Prayer or the Founding of Bolton Abbey: A Tradition” (1815), in Poetical Works, Vol. IV, pp. 265-8, and Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), “The Boy of Egremond,” in Poems, new ed. (London: Cadell, 1827), pp. 202-4, draw upon Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759-1821), The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, in the County of York (London: Nichols, 1805), p. 324, for the traditional tale of the drowning of William Romilly (ca. 1154) and the founding of the Abbey.
[5 ]First published, 1815; in Poetical Works, Vol. IV, p. 17 (ll. 229-38).
[6 ]Anne Clifford (1590-1676), Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery, who inherited the northern estates of the Earls of Cumberland and was a great restorer of churches and castles (including Barden Tower and Skipton Castle), had married first Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, and second Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.
[7 ]Mill had strong personal memories of Forde Abbey, near Chard in Somerset, where the Mill family had spent many months from 1814 to 1818 as guests of Jeremy Bentham, who rented it as a summer and fall residence.
[8 ]Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855), sister of William.
[9 ]Not identified.
[10 ]John Christian Curwen (1756-1828), author, M.P. for Carlisle 1786-1812 and 1816-20, and for Cumberland 1820-28.
[11 ]Thomas Madge (1786-1870), formerly co-pastor of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1811-25, whom Mill had met in 1822 when studying with the Austins (CW, Vol. XII, p. 13), and who then became minister of the Essex Street Chapel, Strand, London, 1825-60.
[12 ]Commonly Esthwaite.
[13 ]Commonly Nab Scar.
[14 ]Commonly Rothay.
[15 ]Diana Le Fleming (née Howard), widow of Michael Le Fleming (1748-1806).
[16 ]Sara Hutchinson (1775-1835), sister of Mary Wordsworth (1770-1859).
[17 ]Dorothy Wordsworth, “Address to a Child, during a Boisterous Winter Evening,” “The Mother’s Return,” and “The Cottager to Her Infant” (all 1815), in William Wordsworth, Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 9-11, 12-14, and 200.
[18 ]E.g., in “To a Butterfly” and “The Sparrow’s Nest” (both 1807), ibid., pp. 4 and 156.
[19 ]Dorothy Wordsworth (1804-47).
[20 ]Commonly Ullswater.
[21 ]Poetical Works, Vol. V, pp. 61-2.
[22 ]Ibid., Vol. I, p. 247.
[23 ]Richard Fleming (1791-1857) was Rector of Grasmere and Windermere, and ofBowness.
[24 ]The first edition of The Booke of the Common Prayer and Administracion of the Sacramentes, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Churche: after the Use of the Churche of England appeared in 1549 (London: Whitchurche). That of the “King James Bible,” to which Mill is obviously referring, appeared in 1611 (London: Barber); the edition of 1617 is a reissue of the 1st edition.
[25 ]Thomas (1806-12) and Catherine (1808-12).
[26 ]Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810), An Abridgement of the New Testament, an extremely popular work that appeared in many editions, e.g., in 1805 as “A new ed.” (London: Rivington).
[27 ]Jonathan Otley (1766-1856), A Concise Description of the English Lakes, the Mountains in Their Vicinity, and the Roads by Which They May Be Visited (Keswick: Otley, 1823), pp. 109-10. The quotations are from Thomas Gray (1716-71), “Letter to Dr. Wharton” (1769), in Works, ed. Thomas James Mathias, 2 vols. (London: Porter, 1814), Vol. I, p. 459; Thomas West (1720-79), A Guide to the Lakes (London: Richardson and Urquhart; Kendal: Pennington, 1778), p. 84;William Green (1761-1823), A Description of Sixty Studies from Nature (London: Longman, et al.; Ambleside: Green, 1810), p. 51; and Wordsworth, “The Waggoner” (1819), in Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 280-1.
[28 ]Wordsworth had lived in the “neat little house” (Allan Bank) from 1808 to 1810, after living in his “cottage” (Dove Cottage, not then so named) from 1799 to 1806; he was at the time of Mill’s visit in Rydal Mount, as indicated above.
[29 ]According to some traditions, Dunmail was apprehended by Edmund I (ca. 922-46 ) in 946.
[30 ]A Description of the Scenery of the Lakes in the North of England (1810), 3rd ed. (London: Longman, et al., 1822), pp. 3-7.
[31 ]Mill’s usual spelling for Blencathra.
[32 ]“Rural Architecture” (1800), in Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 27-8.
[33 ]From its mention in “The Waggoner,” iv, 17.
[34 ]Daniel Crosthwaite (ca. 1776-1847), the owner at that time, was the son of Peter Crosthwaite, who founded the museum in 1780. A manuscript catalogue of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” is in the Wordsworth Trust.
[35 ]Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1829), frontispiece to Vol. II.
[36 ]William Gordon (1744-1823) had been deputy ranger of St. James’s Park and Hyde Park.
[37 ]William Peachey (ca. 1763-1838) was M.P. for Taunton 1826-30.
[38 ]Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), Professor of Geology at Cambridge.
[39 ]“Letter to Dr. Wharton,” p. 450.
[40 ]Usually Portinscale.
[41 ]Frances Gordon (née Ingram) (d. 1841), whose main residence was in Piccadilly.
[42 ]Henry Taylor (1800-86), man of letters as well as civil servant, son of George Taylor (1771-1851), a farmer of literary and reclusive tastes.
[43 ]“Yew Trees,” in Poetical Works, Vol. II, pp. 53-4.
[44 ]Otley, A Concise Description of the English Lakes, pp. 36-7.
[45 ]The Ordnance Survey, originally called the Trigonometrical Survey, aiming at a mapping of the whole of England, was founded in 1791, and issued its first sheet in 1801.
[46 ]Wordsworth’s image; see n30 above.
[47 ]Wordsworth cites this judgment (probably delivered in conversation) by William Mudge (1762-1820), a leading member of the Ordnance Survey, Description, pp. 143-4.
[48 ]Usually Hindscarth.
[49 ]Actually Taylor’s step-mother (née Mills), his mother having died in his infancy, and his father having remarried in 1818. Isabella Fenwick (d. 1856) is almost certainly the cousin in question.
[50 ]Joseph Pocklington (1804-74), who took in 1842 the additional surname Senhouse.
[51 ]Elsewhere and correctly, Lodore or Lowdore.
[52 ]Usually Mellbreak.
[53 ]Thomas Westmorland (1774-1845), Vicar of Great Sandal, Yorkshire, from 1818, and perpetual curate of Buttermere.
[54 ]Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies, Vol. II, pp. 153-4 (facing p. 153 is an engraving of the Tarn).
[55 ]I.e., Henry Cole, whose diary entry for the previous day, Saturday, 30th July, indicates that after starting early in the morning, he joined Mill and Grant at the Queen’s Head Inn at Keswick.
[56 ]Cole’s diary for 31st July mentions the first part of the walk, to Castle Head, where they saw a “Collection of Minerals and Musical Stones,” refers to the “Beauty of the girl waiting at the Ale House,” and indicates that the inn in Patterdale was satisfactory.
[57 ]Henry Askew (d. 1850), Rector of Greystoke, Cumberland.
[58 ]John Marshall (1765-1845), of the cotton manufacturing family, an intimate of the Benthamite circle.
[59 ]Cole’s diary for 1st August indicates that, as Mill implies, they went in a boat on Ullswater, from which they saw Helvellyn.
[60 ]Cole’s diary for 2nd August contains detail lacking in Mill’s account: “we lost our way to Pooley Bridge which a Country man would not tell Mill thinking he was in jest—after a very long walk we at length reached Paterdale [sic] at 11 at night after much fatigue and proportionally weary.”
[61 ]Again Cole’s diary (for 3rd August) adds colour to Mill’s tale: “Patterdale Inn must be remembered for its Ale, Trout and Marmalade”; and the change from it to the Salutation Inn in Ambleside “was by no means for the better—Very Civil but very tardy—and their Cookery not to be mentioned in the same breath—”
[62 ]Mill’s account of these four days, being much compressed, is given further perspective by the entries in Cole’s diary: “Thursday 4 [August]. Mill went to see Wordsworth and Grant and I to Rydal Lake where the rain kept us for two hours under the protection of of [sic] the umbrage of some very fine Sycamores—The neighbourhood of Ambleside is of remarkable variety—The Meadows—Lakes and Mountains each offer its attractions—and I should have liked the place much better if some silly young men from the University who would be sailors had not been perpetually intruding themselves before—[sic]