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33.: Walking Tour of Cornwall 3-9 OCTOBER, 1832 - 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).
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Walking Tour of Cornwall
MS, private (photocopy, Mill-Taylor Collection, Add. Mat. II, M511), first notebook; Mill-Taylor Collection, Vol. XXXVII, second notebook. Mill was alone until Falmouth, where he was joined by John and Sarah Austin for the main part of the tour. “Austin was very ill for a time in Cornwall but recovered, and was completely set up in health and spirits by a little tour to the Land’s End in which I accompanied him and Mrs Austin” (EL, XII, 129 [to Carlyle, 22 Oct., 1832]). As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
3rd October 1832
Set out from Polvellen near Looe in East Cornwall, on a journey to the western extremity of the county. I intended to be taken up at Liskeard, due north of Looe, by a cross mail which goes from Devonport to Falmouth and employs the whole day in that journey. With this view I proceeded up the estuary of the Looe river.
The south coast of Cornwall, of which nothing is known to those who have only travelled the great road through Launceston and Bodmin, is a very peculiar and singularly beautiful part of England. On the one hand, no or almost no part of the English coat presents so remarkable a succession of long bold promontories projecting far into the sea, alternating with capacious and noble bays deeply indenting the rocky main-land. Beginning with the Start near Torbay, the most noted of these headlands are the Ram-head near Plymouth, the Deadman or Dudman near St. Austel and the Lizard, which is the most celebrated of all, and which will receive particular notice in this description. Between these are others of inferior magnitude, intersecting the great bays formed by these magnificent promontories and forming bays within bays; indeed the coast never seems to start out into the sea in order to reach these great projecting points without preceding this great effort by two or three smaller ones: it does not throw out the Deadman nor the Lizard at one bound: these names denote the extreme points of a succession of headland beyond headland, still preserving a singular unity and continuity of direction, not only the principal cape but each successive one pointing almost due south. The whole coast rises abruptly from the seashore to a considerable height; it is not strictly perpendicular, and is even covered with pasture of a rough mountainous character; but from its rocky aspect it wears a wonderfully bold appearance, greatly aided by the long projecting lines which proceed from it directly to meet the sea: and where it touches the water it is worn at all the more prominent points into slate cliffs of rugged and quaint aspect though of no great height, upon which as upon many sunken rocks or insulated masses of the same substance the waves dash and break most imposingly.
Inland, the country when seen from a considerable elevation, has the appearance, not of a level country with hills rising here and there above it, but of tableland with valleys sinking below it. The highest land of the country is an elevated line of granite rock, forming in its higher regions scenery analogous to that of Dartmoor: it connects with Dartmoor itself, and terminates at the Land’s End. From this long and lofty ridge, towards the sea, the country certainly is not level, for it gradually declines till it ends in the rocky elevated coast which I have already described: but on the whole its slope is gradual. It is however intersected at very short distances by glens or chasms, similar to the Baranca’s which divide the great plateau of Mexico. These begin almost from the central ridge, and mostly grow constantly deeper as they descend; so that many of them (paradoxically enough) are deepest where the high ground which encloses them is lowest, namely at the sea. They make no conspicuous figure in the general aspect of the country, seen from above; thus seen, they must strike every one by their number, but each in itself is but a small feature in the landscape. When, however, one of these valleys is observed from within itself, especially by a spectator placed halfway up one of their hilly sides, they are seen to be, as they in fact are, one of the most strikingly beautiful and remarkable objects in this or in any country.
These glens are invariably extremely narrow, and the ascent on both sides of them extremely steep. This brings the two sides of the glen very close together, thus adding not only to their abruptness but to their apparent size: as much as a mountainous country loses if its mountains slope gradually and are far apart, until like Craven it becomes as tame and insipid as any plain; so does a district of greatly inferior elevation assume the character of mountain scenery, when each hill rises from the very base of another and starts so directly up that their summits seem almost as close together as their bases. Nearly the whole of both sides of these mountain-defiles is thickly clothed with wood. If the high parts of Cornwall are commonly naked of trees (though not so utterly bare and destitute of them as exaggerated representations would lead us to believe) the deficiency is well made up by the rare exuberance and richness of the woody clothing which lines every one of the baranca’s. The wood, indeed, seldom rises to the dignity of timber; never, I might say, except where a portion of the hill-side has been subtracted from the general purposes of cultivation and formed into an ornamental park or grounds. These are naturally the most beautiful spots of all. But the thick oak copse covering an entire side or both sides of the glen, is also extremely striking. Here and there a patch is vacant of wood, not, however, oftener (if so often) than conduces to the greater beauty of the scene: these patches if in the narrow valley itself are commonly little pieces of meadow-land watered by the beautifully clear trout-stream or rivulet, which is invariably found at the bottom of these rocky dells: but in the higher part of the dell the copse generally crosses from one hill to the other, filling up the whole valley, and the rivulet gurgles down the rocks in the midst of trees or bushes, less often seen than heard. On the hillside these open spaces are either little districts of cheerful corn-fields and orchards, or if left unravaged by the plough, are covered with the most luxuriant growth of furze. The giant-furze of spring, and the dwarf one of autumn, abound equally; and the latter, in all South Devon and Cornwall, makes the country as yellow and as fragrant as its elder brother does in spring: a property which I have never known it to possess elsewhere. The green of the furze-plant when not in flower is also beautiful and conspicuous in these lovely spots, beyond any I ever saw.
When, in descending these valleys towards the sea we came low enough to meet the tide, our trout-stream or rivulet in every one of the more important valleys is converted into an estuary. The defile then widens, and leaves a broader space for the tide, which fills it entirely up, and at high-water kissing the very foot of the trees, leaves little or actually nothing to be seen except water, wood and sky.
Of these estuaries the finest is said to be that of Fowey, one of the two or three fine places in Cornwall which even after the conclusion of this tour I have not seen. As it is impossible to set any limits to the beauty of scenery, I will not affirm that this cannot possibly be more beautiful than Looe. But Looe is eminently so, and of its general character the following description may convey some idea.
Looe Bay, in the widest sense of the term, is the immense sinus included between the Ram Head1 a little west of Plymouth, and the Deadman or Dudman. These extreme boundaries of the Bay form part of all the extensive views of it: From a few higher spots may be descried at a greater distance, the still more southerly headlands of the Start and the Lizard. At the very inmost point, the best therefore for taking a survey of the entire Bay, is the entrance of the Looe river: which is also the central point of a smaller bay included within the other, and which alone I believe is strictly called Looe Bay. Nearly off the entrance of the harbour is a little green island, at no great distance from the shore, inhabited by a single family, and the shape and position of which led Mr. Austin to compare it not unaptly, to an enormous whale stranded on a shoal. The Looe river issues into the Bay between two high hills, like a mere river; the narrow defile is nearly filled by the river itself the remainder is occupied by the curious old slate-roofed fishing towns of East and West Looe, of boroughmongering notoriety,2 connected by a long narrow ancient stone bridge, and having from some points a most picturesque effect, particularly in twilight, with which time of day the dim grey colour of the slate appears to me to harmonize peculiarly. East Looe in particular, seen from half way up the hill on the West Looe side, is so closely hemmed in between the steep eminence, the river and the sea, that it actually seems as if built in the water. The estuary, strange as it may appear, is not at the mouth of the river, but above; the river itself being the outlet of a larger expanse of water. Almost immediately above Looe Bridge, the channel expands, and not only widens into an arm of the sea in its main direction, north and south, but sends up another of equal magnitude westward; to one who stands at the junction of the two or at any other point except the few which command a direct view of the outlet and of the sea, the whole when the tide is up has the appearance in the greatest perfection, of an inland lake, out of which rise at once and abruptly on all sides, the finely wooded hills already mentioned. The western branch of the estuary is winding and the valley which contains it is one of the finest of all the baranca’s: far beyond the reach of the tide it forms the valley of a little and most beautiful stream, affording scenery which combines with the general and uniform character of which I have attempted to give an idea, the most agreeable variety in the details. In the angle between the two estuaries rise the woods of Trenant Park: these were once fine timber, but are now copse like the rest: the park itself, which is the more beautiful because park scenery is so opposite in character to what I have been describing, looks in the contrary direction. At the angular point there peeps out of the wood, near the top of the hill, a kind of summer-house with a grass slope before it, commanding one of the finest views of the water below and the hills above. At the foot of the hill just underneath, close to the water’s edge, is a neat new old-English cottage inhabited I believe by a gamekeeper or other servant of Mr. Hope,3 the owner of Trenant, and purchaser of East Looe but three years before it was disfranchised. The only time I ever was at the cottage, there was nobody in it but one of the prettiest little girls I ever saw, who though not more than ten years of age (I should think) seems to take occasional charge of the ferry-boat. Just opposite to this point, at the foot of the hill which separates this branch of the estuary from the sea are the house and prettily laid-out grounds of Mr. Charles Buller, which rejoice in the name of Polvellen. From this place I was now setting out to ascend the course of the Looe river towards Liskeard.
There is a road from East Looe along the side of the estuary: this road is covered at high water, when the rocky hill covered with trees and bushes is actually washed by the tide: but except for a few hours every day it is passable, and is by far the shortest road. I followed this road to a fork in the valley, where it sends up a tributary dell to the east, of no great length but exquisitely beautiful: almost entirely occupied by the park, woods and plantations of Morval, the seat of John Buller Esq.4 the head of the Buller family, and late patron of the borough of West Looe. Higher up than this fork in the main valley, the estuary speedily terminates, and Looe river is replaced by the Looe and Liskeard canal; which of course in some degree mars the beauty of the valley by the great number of man’s roughest and least ornamental works which are always connected with a navigable canal; but the windings of the glen, the great height of the hills which enclose it (for the country is already in this place much higher than the coast while the valley does not rise near so rapidly) and the beautiful woods with which many parts of the hill-sides are clothed, render even this extremely fine. The most striking spot is, I think, near the foot of an eminence somewhat higher than the rest of the high ground and which from its superiority of height and the fragments of rock which peep out at the summit is dignified with the name of a Tor. Tregallan Tor is something like the name, but I do not know the exact spelling. The word mamelon which in French is sometimes applied to a particular kind of hill, would exactly suit most of the Tors in Cornwall, particularly those of the granite moors.
I however did not follow the main valley, but the collateral one, and passed through the woods of Morval, perhaps (all things considered) the loveliest spot of ground I have seen in the county: I do not mean the most striking, but the most attaching, and abounding most in delightful home views. After quitting Mr. Buller’s domains I ascended the high ground, and kept it all the way to Liskeard.
It is dull work describing every inch of a country: The only way to be endurable is to select such particulars as will suggest a conception of the rest. The road to Liskeard is through a cultivated country, rather pretty than ugly, but not remarkable, on the high ground of Cornwall, and on the whole gradually rising. Two or three miles beyond Liskeard in the same direction you ascend to the top of the granite range: in an interesting part of it too, near the curious block of granite called the Cheesewring, and the Druidical stones, called the Hurlers. But the road to Falmouth, into which I struck at Liskeard, runs westward along the heights instead of climbing to the top of them. Of this road I can give but a very general description, for I travelled it in a rainy day, and the clouds and mist which hung about the hills rendered it difficult to see more than that we first crossed a rather bare cultivated country and then came upon rocky moors. To the left we occasionally passed the head of one of the woody glens so often mentioned; a beautiful one, in which the wood amounted to timber, lay just beyond Lestwithiel. But there was one point on the road, near St. Blazey, between Lestwithiel and St. Austel,5 which happily a suspension of the rain and mist enabled me to catch a passing view of, and which was so strikingly beautiful as to deserve special mention. A broad inlet of the sea intersected the main land far and wide, bounded on the further side as we came in sight by a double headland one stretching behind and beyond another: the furthest is the Deadman. Off the nearer cape, unless my memory deceives me, is a picturesque insular rock. Inland is a valley the richest in the vicinity, which, I am told in finer weather seems as if it had been brought from another region and dropped here. The most conspicuous object which met my eye in descending into it was a fine timber wood. But the sea-view was the glorious one, and may almost compete with the subsequent glories of Falmouth and Penzance. As a matter of curiosity only, I may mention that the little streams here appear in rainy weather to run milk-white; this I was afterwards told arose from the vicinity of beds of a fine and celebrated porcelain clay.
The towns which we passed through, Liskeard, Lestwithiel or Lostwithiel, and St. Austel have no peculiar features to distinguish them from the Cornish towns. All are slate-roofed and built with rough stones, here and there in a house better than common the stone is hewn; rather more frequently faced and edged with brick, but in general the mark of affluence is stucco. From the nature of the country all the towns are more or less picturesque, being always either on the side of a hill, or in a deep hollow between two hills. Liskeard covers the whole side of a hill; Lestwithiel is in the bottom of a deep valley ascending partly up both hills; St. Austel is on a hill side. The material here is if I may trust my recollection chiefly slate: in the remoter part of the county which we shall presently come to it is rough granite. Everywhere the church steeples both of towns and villages are simple quadrangular towers, but tall, sometimes ornamented on some of their faces, and invariably turreted with sharp points at the four angles. Sometimes though but rarely there are four smaller turret-like points in the middles of the four sides. One of these towers when situate in a high place on the bare moors, where no tree or other object comparable to it in height intercepts the view from any quarter, is a conspicuous object for many a mile, and the resemblance in colour between the edifice and the pale rock on which it is built gives rather a subdued if not a mournful character to some of the scenery of the table-land. All the towns on this road were once boroughs; Liskeard still returns one member, St. Austel none, I forget whether Lestwithiel is completely disfranchised.6 The road also passes through the well known Grampound the most ridiculously small and miserable village that can be conceived, though it is said to have doubled in size since it was disfranchised.7 The other places look thriving enough; Liskeard and Lestwithiel are chiefly or wholly agricultural towns, St. Austel is the shop of a mining district of some extent. Hereabouts therefore the ground began to be perforated, and wherever a shaft was sunk the odd looking wooden machine appeared which serves to raise and lower the baskets of ore; the only visible above-ground part of the machinery of the smaller mines.
Truro is a large thriving busy place, of a very different aspect from most of the others; it is the largest town in Cornwall, well-built with large houses and broad streets, and is a seaport by the aid of one of the branches of Falmouth water. As we entered into the valley of this estuary, we came again among woods and rich scenery. This continued all the way to Falmouth. The finest part was the valley of Perran. Leaving the valley of the Truro estuary and ascending a hill, we kept along the high ground, where looking out to our right over the immensely rich mining district of Gwennap, we saw indeed an otherwise bare moor but studded all over at small distances with single cottages inhabited by miners. Presently looking forward and to the left we saw ourselves about to descend into a deep and narrow valley containing another estuary also a branch of the great Falmouth water, which here by its many arms intersects the country in all directions. On the other side of the estuary on the summit and declivity of the hill lay stretched at length the beautiful park of Sir Charles Lemon, one of the members for the county;8 it is full of fine plantations and timber and is called Cardew. Further on, the valley contracts, and fills with wood; and the pretty little village of Perran-ar-worthal (sometimes basely corrupted into Perran Wharf) shews itself by the roadside. I regret much that the rapidity with which I was whirled past this beautiful spot, prevented me not only from seeing the details of the country but even from being sure that I have seized its general outline with correctness. I have seen few places where it would be so delightful to pass four or five days, for the purpose of exploring the neighbourhood. Mr. Richard Taylor, one of the sons of Mr. John Taylor the miner, and entrusted with the care of one of the greatest mining establishments in England the Consolidated Mines has a pretty little residence in the most beautiful part of this valley.9 His window faces the water, and beyond the water a line of steep wooded hill; and the road, also a fine object in a view, and disagreeable only when too much frequented passes along the valley close to the house. When we emerged from this valley and ascended the hill on the westernside of it we came almost immediately in sight of Falmouth harbour, and soon after saw the peninsula of Pendennis castle almost closing up its mouth; the town of Penryn stretched on the long side of a hill to our right, and descended to its foot to meet the principal arm of Falmouth water, along which we held our course for about two miles further to Falmouth itself, with the water on our left, and the little town of Flushing beyond forming a fringe between the estuary and a high steep hill.
Thus far have I ventured though without much confidence of success, to attempt to convey an idea of what I saw; but here I hardly dare proceed further, so impossible do I feel it to make any one who has not seen Falmouth and its harbour, comprehend what it is that renders them so enchantingly beautiful. Yet having once begun I am ashamed to turn back. Conceive then the bold lofty coast which I have before attempted to describe, but here, though without any diminution of its boldness smoothed down into its softest and gentlest forms. Imagine a break in this line of coast forming not a bay, but a broad spacious harbour of which the opening next the sea would be its longest side, were it not that from the western side, and facing you as you look down the harbour a low isthmus juts out from the main-land and suddenly rises into a tall majestic rock somewhat like Gibraltar in character and crowned by Pendennis Castle, an ancient building still used for purposes of defence. This peninsula covers so much of the harbour that not more I should think than one-third of the natural opening remains, and from many points this outlet being masked, the land-locked harbour appears an inland lake. Behind the peninsula of Pendennis Castle lie securely moored, in water which the most violent storm can do little more than ruffle, twenty or thirty of the lightest and most elegant little vessels in the world, in the shape of Post Office packets lying so gracefully in the water that even a landsman must needs fall in love with them. The harbour-mouth is of extraordinary depth. A long bold promontory juts out from the land-side and divides from one another the two noble estuaries which by their junction form the harbour. One of these estuaries, directly opposite to the harbour mouth, forms a long arm of the sea which extends to Truro, and a fork of it eastward to Tregony. Perran water is also I believe a branch of this. The other properly Falmouth water, extends only two miles inland to Penryn, which with its glittering slate roofs lies stretched on the hill at the water-head. It is almost one town with Falmouth which is a long closely-packed town pressed close between the harbour and the hill-side, beginning at the isthmus and extending far up the estuary; and opposite where Falmouth ends, the still more cheerful little town of Flushing begins, once more frequented by invalids for the sake of a Cornish climate and because it is so sheltered from the east. This nearly fills the space between Penryn and Falmouth. From every eminence you see all three at once. The Truro branch I scarcely saw, not having time to ascend to Pendennis castle from which it is best seen and which Mr. and Mrs. Austin, whom I joined at Falmouth, had seen before I arrived. But I put across the harbour in a boat, with Mr. Austin, to Trefusis Park, near the end of the promontory which separates the two estuaries. From hence we had a fine view of the harbour mouth, and the open sea over and beyond Pendennis Castle. Though the high Castle Rock is bare, the isthmus is finely wooded; Mr. Robert Fox,10 a wealthy Quaker of great influence in Cornwall, has a fine house and grounds there which I should much like to see: the timber we saw probably forms part of his grounds. But across this isthmus we could see finest of all, the coast, high and rocky, still trending away to the south, forming as at St. Blazey, one headland beyond another and a third beyond both, to us invisible, the Lizard. Altogether this scene, though all its features were bold and some even grand—such as the peninsular rock and the sea, which is always so,—had its character of majesty entirely merged in one of overpowering beauty. A more exhilarating scene of mere landscape I never expect to live to see nor one to which I could oftener recur without any diminution of delight.
We started this morning early for Penzance by the mail for there is a mail from Falmouth to Penzance. We followed the Falmouth water to Penryn, and then ascended the hill by the main street of that town. Falmouth is busy, thriving, and neat, though with very narrow streets. Penryn is comparatively shabby, though the streets are wide; and by no means bears out when you are in it, the beauty of its appearance from the river. Its corrupt constituency has been thrown into the new and pure one of Falmouth, and both together are to return two members.11 Falmouth previously had none, though, as I had almost forgotten to mention the paltry village of St. Mawes lying over-against it quite across the harbour had the honour of being a borough.12 Penryn is the chief port for the exportation of Cornish granite. That of which the new London Bridge is built, was quarried close to this place.
On quitting Penryn we emerged upon the granite moors; and saw nothing else in all the West of Cornwall except immediately on the coast. In the general form and features of this moorland country there is nothing very striking. It is not abrupt but undulating, and rises by gentle swells rather than sudden starts. There are however almost always numerous and considerable eminences within sight though wavy and roundish in their shape and aspect. The highest and most conspicuous of these are Carn-math, (very near the Consolidated Mines) and Carn-brek,13 not far distant from the former. Carn (previously the same with Cairn) seems to be exactly synonymous with the Devonshire (and Derbyshire) word Tor. The country generally but the eminences or Carns more particularly, are covered with great projecting masses of the moor-stone (as Cornish people call the granite) sometimes jutting out from the rocky substratum, sometimes lying in vast blocks upon the surface: on these nothing grows, save in the crevices; elsewhere herbage, at least furze and turf both good enough for burning, are found. Here and there an inclosed field produces a greener pasturage; sometimes but rarely the more fertile spots are converted into arable; but the moor whether cultivated or not does not lie open, an indefinite expanse, but is everywhere divided into small patches by inclosures either of loose pieces of granite more or less carefully piled, or of such fragments and sods combined. It is, as I afterwards learned, the practice hereabouts, to assign these patches of moorland to the poorer inhabitants of the parish, so that each may know where he is at liberty to cut turf and furze for fuel and how much there is for him to cut. In almost every inclosed piece of pasture, it is the practice to put up a large thin hump of granite near the middle for the convenience of the cattle, namely that they may rub against it: this is probably found necessary in consequence of the absence of trees: these stones amount almost to a feature in the scenery and have often a grotesque effect. It is very common to find here, and in all the West of Cornwall, upright pieces of granite of various sizes, with crosses or other religious emblems carved on them, but almost effaced by age: the stones are generally rounded at the tip thus and are supposed to have been intended mostly to point out the way to church.
In a hollow about mid-way between Falmouth and Penzance, running north and south like all the other glens and descending to the sea, is the town of Helston or Helleston, one of the boroughs redeemed (I think) from total disfranchisement14 when taxes came to be considered as well as population: we all agreed that it is very nearly the neatest town we ever saw; every thing about it speaks of comfort and cleanliness: it would seem to be a place to which people retire and fix their residence when they have saved a little money. Helston is a place renowned throughout the county for eating: to borrow Arthur Buller’s joke,15 you have sucking pigs for side-dishes, and are helped thrice to goose. There is a week of incessant feasting in every year, which some have likened to the ancient Floralia,16 and have even supposed that the Roman custom may have lingered among the ancient Britons in this remote part of the island where the British population has never diffused. The festival begins with a grand scene of merriment, on I forget what day in May, on which it appears that the whole people of the town, higher classes and all, sally out into the country under the guise of bringing from thence the old woman (who the old woman is I forget, though it was elaborately explained to me) and boughs are gathered and there is dancing and all sorts of antics. The valley of Helston has some trees in it, and some cultivation, and might pass for rich in the midst of these moors.
Beyond Helston there is nothing remarkable until the traveller comes in sight of Mount’s Bay. But this is the most glorious scene of all and must be described not as it at first appears but as it is.
The south-western extremity of Cornwall, as may readily be seen by examining the map, is almost exactly similar in its proportions to the southern extremity of Italy, and may be likened to a foot, of which the Land’s End is the toe, and the Lizard the heel. Mount’s Bay, so named from the remarkable insular rock called St. Michael’s Mount, forms the arch contained between these two extremities, and corresponds to the Bay of Tarentum; to which, in its shape and position, I should imagine it to be a reduced but accurate likeness. It is not landlocked like Falmouth Harbour, but presents a broad open front to the sea. Its form is that of a fine sweeping curve, almost a semi-circle, but that its boundary on the east is the longest and straightest of the promontories of Cornwall, that of the Lizard, which seen across the Bay seems a smooth unvarying wall, never varying from its direction, never altering its height. At the inmost point of the Bay is the little town of Marazion, or Marketjew, from which to St. Ives or Hayle on the northern coast close to the Bristol Channel it is not five miles across. This narrow isthmus, comparatively but little elevated above the sea in any part, incloses the peninsula of St. Just and the Land’s End.
Over against Marazion, about a quarter of a mile from the shore at high water, but connected with it by a causeway passable by carts at low water rises the precipitous rock of St. Michael’s Mount, crowned formerly by a convent, which was an offset from the monastery of Mont Saint Michel, perched on a rock of a similar kind off the coast of Normandy. A chapel and Gothic dwelling house belonging to Sir John St. Aubyn, have now replaced the remains of the convent.17 These buildings cover the entire summit of the rock which is about 250 feet high and with difficulty accessible, except where an access has been made to it on the side next the main-land. On this side, where the rock is somewhat less precipitous than on the others, there is a little space sufficient for two or three houses between the rocky cliff and the water: and on this side also by erecting walls in the sea itself a little harbour has been constructed, sufficient to shelter two or three small ships. The rigging of these little vessels lying off the Mount adds considerably to the picturesque effect.
As we descended the hill towards Marazion on a splendid autumnal morning, the picture which gradually opened to us had the Mount for its foreground; the beautiful bay lighted up by the sun into the most brilliant blue, its waves rolling in long lines upon the shore, and the sweep of the elegantly curved sandy beach were the middle, and the background was formed by the wild-looking ascent of the peninsula of the Land’s End, forming the western boundary of the bay, with no less than three sea port towns, Penzance, Newlyn, and Mousehole, glittering in the sunbeams at its feet. Immediately round the bay the country was no longer moor-land, but pasturage and occasionally arable; in the sheltered hollows there were trees, of no inconsiderable numbers and dimensions for the country. On the heights indeed the violent gales and the vicinity of the sea prevent many trees from growing, and those which do grow make but a pitiful figure. From Marazion to Penzance (about three miles) the road lies along the sandy beach, which abounds in maritime plants.
Penzance is one of the busiest, and one of the liveliest little towns I ever saw: as the shop for a considerable mining district, the place of export for much of its produce and of import for what it consumes, and a considerable fishing place besides, it is the most active little place for its size, perhaps, in the West of England. But of Penzance, more on our return; for as the weather was unsettled, and as this day happened to be extremely fine, we resolved to profit by it, and push on to the Land’s End at once to which end we hired a very convenient car at Pearce’s Hotel. Notice to all travellers who read this: At Penzance, Falmouth, Truro, or Barnstaple, be sure to enquire for Pearce’s Hotel. There are four Pearces,18 near relations I believe all brothers, who keep large inns in these several towns, and as their inns are invariably the best in the place I wish there were a Pearce in every town in England.
The village nearest to the Land’s End is Sennan,19 to which the direct road is through another village named St. Buryan, on the highest point of the peninsula, of which the high square steeple may be seen from every part of the neighbourhood. It was our purpose however not to go straight to the Land’s End itself but to make a circuit by all the more interesting points of the coast. We ascended the long and steep hill above Penzance by an oblique road leaving the fishing town of Newlyn under our feet, and enjoying as often as we turned our heads, a noble view of the Bay, the Mount and the Marazion coast. We emerged upon the heights near the steeple of the little village of Paul, and near the only clump of trees (I believe) on the whole table-land of the peninsula. The trees are tolerably high but quite bare even so early in the autumn, and the branches seemed scanty and stunted. A tree exposed to the sea gales is always a strange abortion; in the struggle between the south-west wind and the powers of vegetation, the former always comes best off. The moorland scenery was here in its greatest purity; not dreary on account of its novelty and singularity, and because the extreme mildness of the climate and the balmy genial feeling of the air even when the wind blew hard, excluded the feeling of coldness and bleakness. The inclosures are here wholly of rough granite; and the monuments of Catholic are mixed with those of Druidical superstition. A Druidical circle of upright stones (nine only, I believe, in number, though the circle is very complete) stands in a field hard by the road: there are called the Merry Maidens, and the tradition is that they were turned into these stones while dancing on a Sunday: a similar superstition exists respecting the great upright stones called the Hurlers near the Cheesewring, on the moors between Liskeard and Launceston. At no great distance from the Merry Maidens are two much larger stones, upright like the others but three or four times higher than the upright stones one of which is placed in every field: these two, which are fantastic and peculiar in their shape, are called the Pipers, a name probably expressive of the relation in which they originally stood to the nine dancing damsels. At about four miles from Penzance, we descended into another of the little valleys running down to the sea, to which we were now so much accustomed. This valley contains two or three farmhouses, and a sufficient number of trees to render it when contrasted with the moors, almost rich. A little stream gurgles down it, making miniature cascades and producing verdure wherever it flows: the stream and the valley terminate in the beautiful Lemorna Cove,20 whose “fair form”21 is worthy of a name so fair. It is a miniature bay, inclosed between two projecting points of the high granite shore, and concealed on the landside by cliffs to the right and left and by the rapid rise of the secluded valley in the middle which also by a slight change of its direction causes the cove to be partly masked by a projecting point of rock. The cliffs are not nearly so bold as those we afterwards saw though the large blocks of granite which cover the hill sides are always striking: but it would be impossible or very difficult to scramble round either of the points, so that the seclusion is complete. The sea was here of a deep blue rare in our climates, and which Mr. Austin said reminded him of the Mediterranean. The scene was not grand but singularly beautiful. The little narrow point where the valley joined the sea—beach I cannot call it—was covered wtih huge lumps of granite, rounded like pebbles by the waves and giving a tremendous notion of the seas which could achieve such a feat. But these cannot be our modern seas, if as we were afterwards told by Mr. Carne,22 the geologist, of Penzance, it be true that wherever these boulders (as they are termed) are found on the coast, a great bed of similar ones is discovered underground in the interior.
After leaving Lemorna Cove we reascended the heights, and after another journey of about four miles more, again descended to the coast at the Logan Rock. In a great part of this interval we were surprised to find the country declining very gently on our left and extensively laid out in arable: there is here also an attempt at even an inclosed and wooded pleasure-ground, belonging to a gentleman of the name (I think) of Paynter.23 But before we reached the Logan Rock, the coast had again become much bolder and more rocky than at any place previous. We descended to the Logan Rock by a footpath across several grass fields, from which nobody would form any expectation of the striking objects to which he is approaching here as well as at the Land’s End; the precipitous rocks are not visible till you are almost close to them and cannot be adequately seen until you are actually among them; nor is the apparent elevation above the sea, such as leads you to expect anything remarkable on the water’s edge. But the cluster of rocks deriving its name from one remarkable stone, the Logan Rock; and also the still finer cluster of rocks at the Land’s End; form each of them a little peninsula, connected with the land by an isthmus much lower than itself; projecting sufficiently to form on each side a Bay, and to command across each of these bays, a direct view of the granite cliffs of the principal coast. By reason of their prominent position in the sea, and of their peninsular form the waves not only break upon them but dash around them, and the long lines of surf which break upon the shore of the bay, may be seen gradually advancing one behind another from a great distance, viewed as they are from this advanced post, or watch-tower. The Land’s End however being still finer than the cluster of rocks about the Logan stone, I shall reserve a more particular description for the former.
The Logan stone itself is only one of the upper blocks of an immense pile of granite, consisting or rather seeming to consist of masses heaped one upon another. The wonder of this stone consists in resting upon a single point, and being so nicely balanced upon it that a man by using his strength may set it slightly rocking: but it stands firm and no hurricane was ever known to blow it down though a foolish Lieutenant of the Navy named Goldsmith in the wantonness of destruction so characteristic of Englishmen in their idle hours set nine men to overthrow it and by their united strength succeeded.24 Government very properly required Lieutenant Goldsmith to replace it, and the Dockyard at Devonport furnished the requisite machinery; the thing was successfully accomplished and the stone now stands as it did before, all but a few chips which were broken off by the fall. The formation of this stone, as well as of the Cheesewring, is no mystery to any one who has ever seen a granite moor. The natural progress of decay in the rock itself, is perpetually producing approaches to Logan stones as well as approaches to Cheesewrings. The fact is, though I know not how to account for it, that the granite invariably wears away in horizontal fissures: so that a pile of solid granite if left to itself seems always to end by assuming the aspect of a series of blocks lying one upon another. As it seems moreover almost always to wear the most rapidly in the lower parts, the case of a larger block resting upon a smaller is decidedly more common than the reverse case. The Cheesewring is but a series of such blocks diminishing downwards. This property of granite gives a very singular effect to granite cliffs: they often bear a striking similarity to piles of ancient masonry: odd resemblances to towers, and antique castles, are perpetually occurring: near Lemorna Cove there is one enormous upright block of granite, with ivy growing out of the clefts, which it is hardly possible not to mistake for part of the wall of some gigantic ruin. Now, these horizontal fissures once formed, have a tendency always to increase: most of the blocks of granite are greatly undermined and some of them already rest on a basis not much greater than the Logan Rock, the superincumbent mass being separated all round from the living granite below, save at a spot in the middle, comparatively little more than a point.
We left the Logan Rock, returned to the road, did not trouble ourselves to deviate from it in order to go down to another point of considerable though inferior interest, called the Old Land’s End, because it was once supposed to be the most westerly point: its local name is Tol-pedn-Penwith. The principal peculiarity of the spot is I believe a funnel-shaped hole in the rock. We proceeded straight to Sennan, from whence we ran down that same night to the Land’s End, about three quarters of a mile distant. But I reserve the description for the next day’s journal.
We passed the night in a little inn at the village of Sennan called the First and Last Inn in England. The sign-board bears on the side next the Land’s End, the words “The First Inn in England”; on the opposite side “The Last Inn in England.” This sounds romantic, but unfortunately it is not now true, whatever it may have been formerly; for there is another inn next door, on the Land’s End side, which belies the sign-board to its face; so that it should resign its sign-board to the other, or alter it to “The Second Inn in England” and “The last but one.” It might also inscribe itself “the best but one”, or the “second best inn in Sennan”, for the other, though more humble in appearance, is cleaner and better kept. It seems that there are almost always persons staying in both these inns, and often more candidates than can easily be accommodated; either for pleasure or health. There is one very neat well-built private house at Sennan; but the village (a church-town as they call the chef lieu of a parish in the west of Cornwall) as well as another village near the Logan Rock which is not a church-town, have by no means the neatness generally found in a Cornish village, but (except in the better construction of the houses and the well-glazed windows) do not differ much from one’s ideal of an Irish village. I notice this not as the rule but as the exception.
This day though not so fine as the preceding, but on the contrary, a rainy day on the whole was yet favorable, as it held up whenever we wanted it, and even afforded gleams of sunshine in almost every spot where there was anything remarkable for them to illuminate.
The Land’s End is as I have already mentioned, a rocky peninsula; to which you descend from a flat heath which until you come to its very edge, appears to overhang the sea. When you think you have reached the sea, you have in reality reached the beginning of a narrow grassy isthmus, to which you descend abruptly and which conducts you to the quaint and at the same time magnificent group of upright granite rocks. The isthmus is bounded on both sides by precipices: it is however broad enough to pass over without an atom of danger, except perhaps in case of a tempest setting exactly across it. But the common wind, the south west, sets not across but along it. Once however a certain General Arbuthnot25 undertook for a wager to ride his hunter along the isthmus into the rocky peninsula and did so, but in returning his horse being frightened or accidentally disturbed, reared on the very edge of the precipice and fell over among the rocks in the sea. The rider was saved by catching hold of a point of rock as he fell. The last prints which the horse’s four feet made on the turf are kept open and the place always shewn by the pilots who volunteer themselves as guides. All this sounds romantically dangerous, but when you see the place, the only thing that surprises you is the accident; the danger nothing at all.
But the peninsula itself when you are on it is so unlike all ordinary scenery, that it is scarcely possible to convey anything like an idea of what it is, except to those who have already seen something (if anything there be) of the same character. Many have seen cliffs; some have seen rocky cliffs; but that is quite a different thing from having seen granite cliffs: a wall of granite worn, (spite of its extraordinary hardness) quite flat by the beating of the sea and of the tempest; and few there are who know the fantastic piles into which granite rocks form themselves, broken into block upon block, big upon little, mass across mass; covered moreover and even abundantly though thinly coated with a long grey lichen, called I believe old man’s beard (at least I will call it so) and in some parts carpeted with another, a closer lichen of the most brilliant yellow-red colour; mixing with huge crystals of felspar projecting out of the granite rock. Then there are many who have seen the sea, but how many have seen such a sea? The whole Atlantic driven onward by the wind meeting and breaking upon one single point; a great projecting angle of the hardest of rocks, surrounded every where by gigantic fragments of the same rock quite out at sea; on every fragment a great wave breaking every moment, diffusing itself through the air and descending again in dazzling clouds of white spray; which in the more confined corners the water getting entangled among the rocks, is actually churned till the surface is either covered with foam of the exact colour of the froth of new milk, or is positively yeasted, and lies in thick glutinous yellow froth, which cannot for some time yet dissolve again into the common water of the sea. Now stand on the extreme verge of one of the rocks, and look down, you will see the mouths of more than one rocky cavern, entirely perforating and undermining the ground on which you stand: look again seaward, and you will see the extreme point of the peninsula, but you will see it different in every different period of the tide; rock descends below rock in perpetual succession almost like a staircase, how far under low water mark no spectator can guess. Look to the left, and you will see within gunshot of the point where you stand, between you and the next turn of the coast, a long jagged rock pointing seaward and called from some fancied resemblance the Armed Knight—against which has he taken arms, the sea or the land? But now look rather to your right, and watch from far at sea the long lines of rolling water, like moving ridges of hills, advancing with their slow measured motion and spending their strength upon the beach of the little cove between you and the shore; which yet moves not, stirs not, though you would deem it must be swept away, and the majestic motion dies like the majestic sound, the most solemn surely in the whole range of creation, that sound which any objects less than the great world-elements on their largest scale would attempt in vain to imitate; a deep hollow bellowing, varied only by occasional thunder-claps when a wave instead of dying away on the shallowing beach, comes at once and suddenly with undiminished strength upon a noble rock worthy to be its antagonist: yet even this gradually expires in a faint murmur, which you are saved from hearing by the groaning of the succeeding waves long series of which are already up and following the first. The first! as if there had been a first! Since there has been a world, these breakers have succeeded one another uninterruptedly; and while there is a world they shall never cease.
Beyond the Land’s End, exactly across its direction, far out at sea though seeming near, is a line of five great rocks at short distances from one another, the first objects which the ocean meets as it rushes upon this shore: and the white foam of the breakers may be seen where you stand: some centuries ago these rocks, we cannot doubt, formed part of the main land. On one, I believe the central one, of these rocks shall we say to welcome the boisterous friendship or to defy the raging enmity of the Atlantic, is placed a lighthouse; the light you may in a dark night see from the inn-window at Sennan. It is called the Long Ship light-house, and this range of insular rocks is called the Long Ship. There is an entire poem or legend lying undiscovered in each of the picturesque names, which the fancy of seamen or of the neighbouring peasantry has given to so many of the local objects. One rock is fancifully termed Dr. Johnson’s Head.26 The Long Ship is decidedly the most striking feature which individualizes the Land’s End, and distinguishes it from all the other promontories. Over and beyond these rocks is to appearance nothing but the wide dark sea: yet reascend the heathy height, look round and on the very edge of the horizon that little gleam of brightness but half intercepted by vapours shall enable you to distinguish from the dark murky lowering clouds which hang over the horizon, the coast of several of the Scilly Isles. The two largest seem like long lines, the others like very short ones. There they lie at the distance of twenty-seven miles in a direct line, just shewing themselves above the surface of the water, as if like the coral islands of the Pacific they stood really but three or four feet above it. That tiny archipelago would be the place for sea-views and solitude! A storm in such a spot must be worth seeing. From the similitude of the strata and the exactness with which these islands conform to the direction of the granite ridge, there can be little doubt that these too originally formed part of it; but by what world-convulsion, at what wonderfully remote period, the ocean broke in and carried away at least fifty square miles of the hardest and most solid of rocks, it passes human imagination even to conceive.
Now look to the northward. Beyond the little cove already mentioned is a smaller headland, and beyond that a larger and more spacious bay called Whitsand Bay, of which hereafter. Of the bay itself little is visible from the Land’s End; but no other place affords so grand a view of the further boundary of the bay, the magnificent Cape Cornwall, which has every just right to be the true Land’s End but that it is neither the extremity of the granite range, nor lies due south west like the county nor is its extremity the most westerly point. But it looks grand from a distance, which the Land’s End does not. It is a promontory, advancing far from the coast, which has much receded to form Whitsand Bay: it is not, I believe, of granite, but a far darker rock, it is long, black, and gloomy, terminates abruptly then rises suddenly into a sharp peninsular rock and drops down as suddenly again, thus:
This being taken from memory is of course extremely inaccurate in respect of proportions, but it is quite correct in the general conception. Thus has this shore two advanced posts, each wearing its peculiar character. Let Cape Cornwall have its honours, yet the Land’s End is the Land’s End, and shall be till the waves wash it away or till its rocks moulder into dust from the quieter attacks of the atmosphere. On the edge of the heathy height at a short distance from the Land’s End, is a small house, appurtenant to one of the little inns at Sennan: from the windows of it you might, being yourself under shelter, enjoy the spectacle of a storm on the coast. The rocks close to this little resting-place are also very fine, though inferior to those of the Land’s End itself. In either place you may vary the sea view as much as you like by merely changing your position from one side to another of the same block of granite, and you may cut the ocean or the rocky coves into as many smaller pictures as you like by looking at them through the rift or crevice between two masses of rock.
After leaving Sennan, we made a circuit by the north-western part of the peninsula. On our way we went down to the beach of Whitsand Bay. This, like all Bays I ever saw, is cheerful and riant, more beautiful than grand; it needed, therefore, a ray of light to illuminate it, and draw out the brilliant colour of the “dark-blue sea”27 an expression of which I never before felt the full force. Accordingly the sun here for a while burst forth and shewed the Bay in its fullest beauty. As the name imports this bay has a beach of the purest and whitest sand I ever saw; sand which however is sharp to the feeling if blown about your face by the brisk gale, and when you examine it you find it to be pulverized granite. No shore in Cornwall or perhaps in England is so renowned for the abundance of elegant shells which may be picked up on it. The coast here is not precipitous, but a rapid grassy slope; as one might expect. It is, of course, chiefly at the projecting points that the attacks of the sea undermine and wash away the coast, which is the sole cause of all cliffs.
From Whitsand Bay we soon arrived at the “church-town” (it is actually something more than a village) of St. Just. This is not so cheerful a place as Sennan; but it is a busy place being the centre of a mining district, the only one in the peninsula of Penzance, and probably the oldest in Cornwall. It is supposed that this is the very place from which the Phenicians obtained their tin in the very earliest recorded period of the history of our island, and being imagined to be a little island like the Scilly Isles, shared with them the name of the Cassiterides or Tin Islands. These mines are now worked both for tin and copper; but it is only within a century or so that the copper works have existed, either in this or any other part of Cornwall. The mines of St. Just are on the decline, being now superseded in some degree by more fertile mines in other parts of the county: but the neighbourhood is still very populous. We went down to Botallock Mine, the celebrated one which is (or was for many years) worked under the sea; in which the miners could hear over their heads the rolling of the waves and the dashing of the pebbles at the bottom. We did not go into the mine itself, but were anxious to see the spot, which is celebrated and which was described to us by our hostess at Sennan as “clever scenery.” The situation is a little narrow cove, environed on three sides by a very steep rocky coast, approaching to cliff. Half way down one side of this are one or two of the principal shafts of the mine; and the bal-maidens (bal in Cornish means a mine) that is, the girls who wash and sort the ore, were at work in a shed immediately over looking the raging sea. These cliffs are not granite, but a trap rock, equally hard, and of the blackest hue; the hornblende predominating in its composition: and it was odd to behold28 the surge lashing over rocks which looked like over-grown lumps of coal.
Leaving Botallock and St. Just, we returned to Penzance over some of the highest ground in the peninsula: seeing, at times, the sea on three sides of us; and seeing it under circumstances eminently favorable to its effect on the imagination. Sunny seas are fine things, for the ocean is beautiful as well as sublime: but there is nothing really awe-striking but a gloomy sea. In a showery and gusty day when clouds dark as night conceal the greater part of the sea and you do not clearly distinguish how much is ocean and how much is cloud; when the sea is covered with dark streaks any one of which seems the horizon—till you perceive another behind it; then you know the grandeur of the sea. It then seems to be indeed the boundary of the earth, boundless itself; for you do not as in a clear day see the apparent verge of it, but look forth into the darkness till you can see no further, and know not what frightful or what perilous thing that darkness may conceal from you. Vagueness is of the essence of the sublime: it is therefore that darkness is sublime, light only beautiful: and hence among other reasons it is that painting so rarely attains the sublime, since it can only act in light, and through light.
A view of a very different description presented itself when, in descending from the high ground, we again came in sight of Mount’s Bay and the Lizard. The evening had now cleared, and this enchanting scene was in its highest beauty. The long line of the Lizard was so clearly defined that we could see even the forms of its cliffs; and the Lizard itself was visible; for what is seen from the Bay is not the real Lizard, which is a short promontory forming the extremity of the long one, and generally hidden by it; being considerably to the east of what seems the termination of the long straight line. We were agreeably surprised at entering Penzance by a valley filled with trees.
We passed the whole of this day in the neighbourhood of Penzance, and a greater part of it in seeing St. Michael’s Mount, to which we went with Mr. Carne, the geologist of Penzance, and his daughter; both of them remarkable people, and the latter in particular such a person as it is highly pleasing, and a little surprising, to find in this remote district.29 Of the Mount itself I have already given a general idea: and from the description I have attempted to give of the Bay, it may be conjectured what a splendid sight it is when seen from the Mount. We had the advantage of a bright sunny day, and the clearest of horizons. From this elevation we could see quite across the isthmus of Marazion to the bay or inlet of St. Ives and Hayle: at least if we could not, I am confounding this with some other view in the neighbourhood. The little fishing vessels lying in great numbers off Newlyn, reminded us of Agamemnon’s fleet.30
Marazion is but a poor place, but like almost all towns, looks well when seen from the sea. Most plausible etymological theories have been framed to explain its two names, Marazion and Marketjew. The Jews, it is said, were at an early period the principal speculators in tin, as they were the principal traders in all other exportable commodities. There is evidence that this was the principal port for the exportation of tin, and that the foreigners who traded here had a mart at this place for their meeting with those who brought down the tin from the interior. The place therefore was called Marketjew; and “Marazion” had also, through the medium of “Zion”, something to do with Jerusalem and Jews. Very good: but it unluckily happens that in an old charter, the town is spoken of by a Cornish word, which I at present forget, but which signifies neither more nor less than “Thursday-market” and which, according as the accent is laid on one syllable or another admits of an easy corruption into either of the names by which the place is now known.
This is the place at which the granite and the slate join: and the mountain-rock forming St. Michael’s Mount is composed of both. Mr. Carne pointed out to me the granite veins piercing the solid slate, and sometimes seeming to alternate with it, being themselves joined at their commencement to the main body of the granite. This is one of the facts on which the now prevailing school of geologists have founded their strongest arguments to shew that the granite was protruded in a fluid condition through the slate, making in consequence breaks in it, into which breaks the liquid granite flowed, and there solidified. The opposite school have endeavoured, but I think rather lamely, to account for the same fact on Neptunian principles.
I have formerly mentioned that the entire summit of the Mount is now occupied by a modern house belonging to Sir John St. Aubyn and erected on the site of the ancient convent. But the most recent part of the erection is, externally at least, in the gewgaw stile of the modern Gothic, and neither harmonizes with the historic associations connected with the place, nor with the feelings naturally suggested by such a scene. The architect however has done one excellent thing, he has made a glorious terrace from which to look down upon the sea and round upon the coast would be a delightful employment of an autumn day. It depended upon something like the cast of a die that I had not the option of such employment for a whole fortnight together, for Sir John St. Aubyn (who having quarrelled with his Cornish neighbours because some of them will not countenance the lady who was his mistress and is his wife,31 prefers living in the flats of Cambridgeshire or Essex, I forget which, to enjoying this noble prospect and delightful climate) never lives in this house himself, but lends it to his friends; many of whom occasionally stay there for whole weeks; and the Bullers of Polvellen had almost made up their minds to do so this autumn, in which case I should certainly have been there with them. However, it is as well or better as it is.
There is a very old tower, a part which still remains of the ancient building; it stands much higher than the rest and you ascend to it from the chapel by a long narrow winding staircase which you cannot ascend or descend but by twisting your body into a spiral like the staircase itself. When you have thus made a corkscrew of yourself quite as long as is agreeable, you with some difficulty emerge upon the summit, a little square area of leads with a sort of ditch round it, and battlements surrounding all. From this as being the highest point you can take in the whole view at once, there being nothing to intercept any part of it. At one of the corners there is what was once probably a little turret or pinnacle, intended as some say to contain a lamp: but the exterior bars (if that name can be given to stone) have long disappeared, and it is now a trial of courage to sit in it with your feet hanging down externally, where if you slip you are thrown from the top of the tower to the bottom of the precipice. This is called sitting in St. Michael’s Chair. The only difficulty is that you cannot get into the chair from the inside, and must therefore perform at that height a complicated process of turning round both in getting in and out. Whether any legend is connected with this I do not know, but the singular saying is that whoever sits in the chair ensures the prerogative of rule during the married state. I know not whether this be an ancient superstition, or a joke founded on the very probable supposition that a woman who has boldness enough to brave so much apparent danger (it is chiefly apparent) will by the exercise of the same boldness obtain (as it is ten chances to one she will deserve) the government of her husband. At the hazard of passing for cowards, and at the sacrifice of our prospects of conjugal preeminence, we unanimously forbore to fill St. Michael’s Chair. We saw no particular use in doing gratis what any one of us would readily have done for the purpose of picking up half-a-crown if we had dropped it.
The new part of the building notwithstanding its meretricious taste, is beautiful when you see it close, for nothing can destroy the beauty of walls of the purest and finest-grained granite, sparkling in the sun as if spangled with diamonds.
The interior is very tastefully laid out with oak floors and furniture in the old English stile, and some very old carvings. We were enabled to compare the Mount with some drawings of the Mont St. Michel in Normandy. In the latter the rock itself seems to be much lower, but the building much grander, being two hundred feet high, while this, rock and all, is only two hundred and fifty. The Mont St. Michel it seems is still kept up as a strong fortress, and is used as a state prison.
Our own Mount has stood a siege as it well might. A crevice in the rock was shewn us, through which the garrison were accustomed to draw up provisions and water during the siege. When the floor of the Chapel was taken up in order to restore it (which has been done with considerable taste) there was found under it a dungeon, in which was discovered a skeleton, with a pitcher beside it.
They have planted various parts of the Mount with Tamarisks, the beautiful shrub which is indigenous on the promontory of the Lizard.
There is some little mining hereabouts: Mr. Carne says that the veins are generally richest near the junction of the granite with some other rock: but this spot hardly seems to be a case in point. A shaft has been sunk considerably below high-water mark, so that when the tide is up it is surrounded by the sea, which is kept out by a coffer-dam. We were told however that this speculation had not prospered.
We were more and more pleased with the busy, but perfectly rural and cheerful look of Penzance, and the verdant and exhilarating aspect of some of the neighbouring slopes and dells, which being seen immediately after the base moors of the Land’s End, doubtless appeared richer than they would to a person fresh from the meadows and woods of the inland country. Yet wherever there is shelter there are trees, and though bare in the general and distant views, the country is by no means equally so when you examine the details. In the immediate neighbourhood of Penzance there are a considerable number of villas with inclosed and ornamented grounds, some of them as well planted and wooded as you would desire. The climate must for some constitutions be invaluable. Snow scarcely ever lies at Penzance at all, and even on the heights above the Land’s End rarely for more than three or four hours.
In the evening we walked to drink tea with Mr. Carne at his country-house (for he has a house in Penzance besides) at the “church-town” of Madron on the heights above Penzance and about two miles from it. Mr. Carne is one of the few remaining examples of the old English commercial men, who never dreamed of assuming aristocratic habits; he is understood to be very wealthy, yet lives in the simplest and most unostentatious stile. I walked out with him to the finest point of view in the whole neighbourhood, at least in what I have seen of it: a carn, or tor, or little rocky eminence surpassing the rest of the high ground; it is beautiful in itself from the furze which grows about it, and the fir plantations of Sir Rose Price32 which border on it: even fir plantations are an ornament to a country which would otherwise be bare. But the real beauty of this spot is its view of the Bay, the Mount and the promontory of the Lizard. The view on the landside is not without beauty, the forms of the eminence being here bolder than common: if that can be called the land-side which lies towards the other sea, for the Hayle coast is almost as near to this spot as the Bay is.
We had intended to complete our examination of the West of Cornwall by going this day to the Lizard, where there are several remarkable things to be seen. The long tongue of flat table land which composes the promontory is indeed in itself, according to all descriptions, somewhat tame: but the further part of it is remarkable, being composed of the curious and rare rock called serpentine, and being covered with the beautiful Erica vagans or Cornish heath which grows on no spot in England except this serpentine formation. Tamarisks, and other curious and beautiful plants, are also found here. But the great object of interest near the Lizard, is Kynance Cove, with its serpentine rocks. This has been described to us by several persons as the most striking thing in Cornwall. The serpentine instead of cleaving like the granite, stands upright, it seems, in solid pillars, variegated of red and green. But petty obstacles of various kinds connected with time, space, and conveyance, rendered this journey impracticable. We therefore passed the forenoon at Penzance, revisited the Carn of yesterday evening, and returned to Falmouth in the afternoon by the mail as we had come.
We started this morning by a day coach from Falmouth to Exeter, which leaves Falmouth very early in the morning and arrives at Exeter about half past nine in the evening. The road between Falmouth and Truro has been already described. Beyond Truro it continues pretty as far as the fork where the Bodmin road separates from that to St. Austel. From this place to Bodmin it is extremely ugly. It gradually mounts higher and higher nearly to the top of the granite ridge; the country it passes over is wet dreary sloppy moor, of the tamest character, having nothing of the singularity and interesting wildness of the moors about the Cheesewring. The wind blows so hard on these bare shelterless wastes, that if the climate were not so mild no one could possibly inhabit them. This character holds good as far as Bodmin; itself also a poor, uninteresting town, neither curious nor neat and cheerful. But on leaving Bodmin the country becomes interesting. Mere bleakness and dreariness give way to picturesque wildness; we are in the midst of high Tors like those of Dartmoor; each of these Tors with its masses of granite projecting from its sides looks like a mountain in miniature; and when you look back upon the moorland hills from the low country near Launceston the summits have a sharp abrupt outline like a range of mountains. Launceston, though a place of some size, has nothing striking about it except the one view which Turner has very successfully seized:33 this is the view up to it from the valley of the Tamar, whence it is seen on the very edge of a table land, overlooking a hollow, with the extensive ruins of the ancient castle brought into very prominent relief. From Launceston to Okehampton the country is strikingly beautiful. We first crossed the Tamar, which is here but a small river, though a large mountain stream; and whose valley, by which alone the granite hills of Cornwall are separated from those of Dartmoor, already begins to exhibit that mingled wildness and richness which characterizes it in its whole course. After ascending the opposite hill, the road for the next twenty miles lay wholly along the side of a côteau, overlooking to the right a rich valley, and beyond it, first the green, but steep and lofty hills which follow the base of the granite moors, and finally the high and noble range of Dartmoor itself. From this side, Dartmoor presents a rapid succession of Tors, bold in their outline, rising at once and abruptly from the low country, though descending beyond only to a table land. It is really a mountain range; for there may be mountains of a thousand feet high, as there may be hills of three thousand. But this country deserves, and shall one day have, a more particular examination and description. It would be unjust to attempt to characterize it from a passing view.
Okehampton is not unworthy of Turner’s fine view.34 The old ivy-covered castle-ruin, on a knoll standing upright in the midst of a deep and narrow dell, is unlike anything I ever saw. Here however it grew dark, and between this place and Exeter I could see little, except that there was much to see had there been light. The road actually touches a corner of Dartmoor, and turns round it, but does not ascend any part of the height.
This day I returned from Exeter to London by the day-coach; and from the comparative bareness of the country through which I had recently passed, thought the rich green hills of Somersetshire, and the forests of hedgerow elms, much more beautiful than I ever thought them before. So I remember being in extacy at the beauty of the Southampton road immediately after landing from Normandy.
[1 ]Usually Rame Head.
[2 ]See, e.g., the derogatory remarks on these constituencies by Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), Irish leader and M.P. for various Irish constituencies following Catholic Emancipation, Speech on the Parliamentary Reform Bill (22 July, 1831), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 5, col. 214.
[3 ]Henry Thomas Hope (1808-62), M.P. for East Looe 1830-32.
[4 ]John Buller (1771-1849), M.P. for West Looe 1796 and 1826-27, brother of Charles Buller, Sr., and uncle to Mill’s friend, Charles Buller, Jr.
[5 ]Usually St. Austell. Mill notes the alternative spelling of Lostwithiel below.
[6 ]Liskeard (on Schedule B of the Reform Bill) had one member; St. Austell had never been a borough; Lostwithiel was on Schedule A and so was disfranchised.
[7 ]Grampound had been disfranchised as almost devoid of electors by a separate act, 1 & 2 George IV, c. 47 (1821).
[8 ]Charles Lemon (1784-1868), M.P. for Cornwall 1831-32 and for West Cornwall 1832-41 and 1842-57.
[9 ]Richard Taylor (1810-83), a mining engineer, was manager of the Consolidated Mines at Gwennap, founded in 1819 by his father John Taylor (1779-1863); they were relatives of Sarah Austin.
[10 ]Robert Were Fox (1789-1877).
[11 ]The uniting of Penryn with Falmouth was covered in Sect. 6 of the Reform Act.
[12 ]St. Mawes was in Schedule A of the Reform Act, and so disfranchised.
[13 ]Properly, Carn-brea; Mill may have written “Carn-breh.”
[14 ]Helston was in Schedule B of the Reform Act.
[15 ]Arthur William Buller (1808-69) was the younger brother of Charles Buller, Jr.
[16 ]See Richard Warner (1763-1857), A Tour through Cornwall, in the Autumn of 1808 (London: Wilkie and Robinson, 1809), p. 216.
[17 ]St. Michael’s Mount was granted to Mont Saint Michel by charter in 1070. It passed into the St. Aubyn family in 1657, and was at this time the property of John St. Aubyn (1758-1839), who had represented various Cornwall constituencies 1784-90 and 1807-12.
[18 ]William Pearce, who took over the King’s Head, Truro, in 1806, had four sons to whom Mill is undoubtedly referring. Henry ran the Royal Hotel in Truro; John (d. 1837), the Royal Hotel, Falmouth, and later the Union Hotel, Penzance; William the younger (ca. 1792-1847) followed John at the Royal, Falmouth; Joseph may have been proprietor of the hotel in Barnstaple.
[19 ]Properly Sennen.
[20 ]Properly Lamorna.
[21 ]Byron, Don Juan, Vol. II, p. 10 (Canto 6, Stanza 37).
[22 ]Joseph Carne (1782-1858).
[23 ]John Paynter (1791-1847).
[24 ]Hugh Colvill Goldsmith (1789-1841); the well-publicized episode occurred in 1824.
[25 ]Probably Thomas Arbuthnot (1776-1849), who had become a Major-General in 1825.
[26 ]After the well-known irregular features of Samuel Johnson (1709-84), the man of letters.
[27 ]Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Vol. I, p. 47 (Canto I, sect. lxxi, l. 2).
[28 ]The first notebook ends here; the continuation is in the Mill-Taylor Collection.
[29 ]Joseph Carne’s most eminent daughter was his fourth, Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne (1817-73), who later wrote popular works and contributed papers to the Royal Cornwall Geological Society; she was only fifteen years old at this time, but Mill at fifteen was himself a “remarkable person.”
[30 ]Homer, The Iliad (Greek and English), trans. A.T. Murray, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1924), Vol. I, pp. 86-106 (II, 494-759).
[31 ]Juliana St. Aubyn (née Vinicombe) (ca. 1769-1856).
[33 ]Mill may have seen the original watercolour by Turner, Launceston, Cornwall, shown in the Exhibition Hall, Piccadilly, in June 1829 (catalogue No. 20); it was also available in engravings.
[34 ]Okehampton was also shown at the exhibition in 1829 (catalogue No. 10), and was available as an engraving.