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We know how Wordsworth deprecated the changes which took place before his death, and one can believe that he would have recoiled from many that have happened since. How he would have loathed the new village of Windermere, which, as Mrs. Linton says in her delightful book, resembles the poet's "mountain child with a perpetual Sunday frock on, and curls newly taken out of paper;" how severely he would have written against the incursion of limited liability companies, how the lines of telegraph wire would have vexed his soul and eyes, and how his wrath would have been excited at the issue of excursion tickets! But it is useless to deploro changes which are inevitable. If we lose much as individuals, we perhaps gain as a community, and it is certainly for good and not for evil that thousands of Englishmen can now see something of the loveliness which until recently was hidden from all but men of wealth or leisure. And moreover, Wordsworth has done more than any man to promote the distraction of which he complained. As a poet he has identified himself with mountain summit, and solitude, with noisy beck and lonely tarn, with river and waterfall, with almost
every spot of sublimity or beauty in the Lake country. He has set up a shrine at Rydal, to which most Englishmen perform loving pilgrimage. He has given spiritual life to material beauty, and all who value the wise lessons taught by the great poet are glad to visit his cottage, and to stand beside his grave. Moreover, Wordsworth is not the sole monarch of the Lake country. When Gray wrote to Warton he was perhaps the only man of genius in the two counties, but if he had lived at a later period he would have been welcomed warmly by brother poets of equal cultivation and greater originality-by Wordsworth and Southey, by Coleridge and Shelley, and by men such as Wilson and De Quincey. What Sir Walter Scott did for Scotland, these authors have done for the English Lakes; and tourists are now attracted thither as much perhaps by these associations as by the beauty of the scenery. Guide-books therefore abound. “Murray's Handbook,” which has been long looked for, has one or two formidable competitors. "Black's Guide," which has reached its thirteenth edition, is more expansive and readable. Miss Martineau's is more picturesque, and has also higher literary pretensions. She has written with affectionate enthusiasm of the neighbourhood she loves, and the book is worthy of its author and of the scenery it describes. Murray's Handbook” differs in many points from its predecessors. It embraces the whole of Westmoreland and Cumberland; it is very concise, very exact—a business-like book, which contains in the fewest words possible all needful information. Its map, beautifully engraved by Stanford, has been constructed chiefly from the new ordnance survey,
(1) “The Lake Country.” By E. Lynn Linton. With a Map and one hundred Illustrations, by W. J. Linton. Smith, Elder, and Co.
and is stated to be the most complete that has been hitherto published; and the Skeleton Tours, always so valuable in Murray's Handbooks, are arranged here with great felicity, and given in sufficient variety. Finally, and this for pedestrian tourists is good news, the volume consists of less than one hundred and thirty pages, and can be carried without inconvenience in the pocket. Topographical literature has greatly improved of late years,
and much of this improvement is due to Mr. Murray. His English Handbooks, as yet far from complete, are remarkable for the accuracy with which they have been compiled. Trivial mistakes are rare; and I believe it is seldom possible to find in them one important
Such a series of works is of national importance. They will promote home-travel, they will make excursions in England as fashionable as a Continental tour, they will increase our love of the country by enlarging our knowledge of it, and will thus promote a patriotic spirit, the mother of many noble virtues. As far as the Lake District is concerned, such a stimulus is not required. Englishmen will always be familiar with Westmoreland and with Cumberland. They are the most popular counties in England; some respects the most beautiful, and certainly the most remarkable for the literary associations with which they are connected. For headquarters some tourists will prefer Ambleside, while others may give the preference to Keswick: the scenery of the former is the more beautiful; the latter, although rich in beauty also, is on the whole wilder and nobler. In the olden time the tourist generally started for the Lake country from Lancaster, now he will take the train at once for Windermere or Keswick. Windermere the largest, some say
the loveliest, of the lakes, is also, if the word may be spoken, a little tedious; the beauty, of which it may boast much, is rather monotonous, and the villas and pleasure-grounds which crowd along its banks give it the aspect of
“A nature tamed, And grown domestic, like a barn-door fowl.” There is a taint about it of that heavy but reputable sobriety with which wealth is apt to clothe field and woodland as well as human beings. You want more freedom and less refinement; but when you leave Bowness behind you and approach Ambleside, the aspect of the scenery changes. Beauty gives place to sublimity; you catch the scent of the mountains, and hear the music of their streams. Ambleside is a spot in which a true lover of nature would willingly spend weeks and months, or indeed a long lifetime. It forms the centre of a wide expanse of noticeable scenery; the near walks are charming, the distant walks almost sublime. In a few minutes you can escape from houses and men to the solitude of streams and waterfalls, or without great exertion you may ascend
Wansfell Pike, or roam through the woods of Rydal, or climb Nab Scar and drop down upon Grasmere. Then there is the Rothay Valley to be explored ; and let the tourist take off his hat as he passes Fox How, for there lived, when leisure permitted, one of the most earnest, upright, noble Christian gentlemen which these modern days have produced, and there still lives his widow, beloved for her own sake and honoured for the name of Arnold. The falls of Rydal will be visited, and with deeper interest Rydal Mount, where on the 23rd April, 1850, died the greatest of modern English poets. The house, according to the Handbook, is shown to visitors, but this is a mistake. Entrance was. I believe, possible last year under certain conditions ; although even then the notices painted on the gates of “Private” and “No admittance," would have sufficed to deter any save an American tourist; but now the house and garden are strictly private, and the gates are secured with a padlock.
Wordsworth’s study was the mountain side or the rustling stillness of the woods; he conversed more with nature than with books, and less with men than either. He had deep affections, but he was not sociable ; strong attachments for a few friends, but his friendship was not widely diffused. Not perhaps a very loveable man, for his faults were those for which men feel little tenderness or pity, and his virtues, of which he was himself too conscious, had in them something repellent. But how great he was, and how good ! His life was consistent, his aim lofty, his courage invincible. The sneers of crities failed to disturb him. He let them rave on while he continued to write, pleased “with the joy of his own thoughts,' and strong in the belief that he was doing a great work which would be hereafter recognised. “Posterity,” he once said, “will settle all accounts justly, and works that deserve to last will last. If undeserving this fate, the sooner they perish the better," and he said this with the unfaltering conviction that his own works would not perish, but that they would live “ to console the afflicted ; to add sunshine to daylight by making the happy happier; to teach the young and gracious of every age to sce, to think, and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous.” Rydal Mount is but a short distance from Rydal Water, a lake which being very small may be easily surveyed. It is scarcely more than a mile round, but from every point of view the scenery is delightful. The road to Grasmere runs by the side of the lakelet, and in walking thither you pass Nab's cottage, in which poor IIartley Coleridge lived, and where he tried so earnestly but so vainly to get rid of his besetting frailty. His life, like his father's, was full of sadness—incomplete, ill-regulated; his conscience was sensitive, but he wanted strength to follow its dictates. IIe lies amid the scenes and by the friends he loved in Grasmere churchyard, close to Mary Wordsworth and William and Dora. The
simple black stones which mark their graves tell the common tale of our mortality, but with more than common impressiveness. It is a spot for quiet thongbt, but not for despondency, and standing under the yew-trees planted by the Christian poet, I thought that in that corner of this churchyard among the mountains a wiser lesson might be learnt than any delivered in the church itself, where I had just suffered from a monotonous delivery of one of the homilies.
The situation of Grasmere is pre-eminently beautiful. The mountains surround it on all sides.
“Of all the lake country villages,” writes Mrs. Linton, “it is the most picturesque and the likest one's ideas of the English typical home. It has no street properly so called, but is a scattered collection of human habitationscottages, shops, houses, mansions-each with its own garden or special plot of greenery, however small, and all for the most part standing apart and individual. The postman walks daily some eight miles in and about the village in the delivery of his letters, which may give an idea of its scattered and therefore picturesque character. . . . Though not trimmed and decorated as the dainty Rydal hamlet, nor so evidently artistic and considered as the new town of Windermere, it has a certain well-to-do look about it-not as of fashion and luxury and a few large fortunes flaring out over all the rest like the dominant notes in an orchestra, or the master colours of a picture, but in the quiet beauty and cleanliness everywhere, and the absence of sordid squalor even in the poorer cottages. It is full of flowers, and green trees, and pleasant meadows, and lovely little lanes, and the signs of human care throughout; but not of human care putting a luxuriant nature too fussily to rights. . . So sheltered and so peaceful is it, that even in the rugged winter time it does not look cheerless or dreary; while in the bright young spring, in the luscious summer, and in the ripe and lusty autumn, it is the pleasantest spot for lotus-eating and dreaming in by-arhours of Armida's gardens to be found between Windermere and Loweswater. Unimportant, uncommercial, unproductive, but serene, beautiful, and happy, ii is like some gracious lady sitting by the wayside and offering milk to thirsiy travellers."
The little cottage at Grasmere, to which Wordsworth brought home his wife, and where he wrote some of his finest poems, including the noblest of them all, the “Intimations of Immortality,” is now in the possession of a shoemaker, and is let as a lodging-house.
From his headquarters at Ambleside, the tourist can make several delightful excursions, more conveniently, perhaps, than from any other spot. He should visit Langdale, not solely for its own beauty and grandeur (though this reason were surely sufficient), for who does not remember that at Langdale Hall lived Sir Leoline and Cristabel? He should take a two-horse car and drive to Coniston Water, returning, albeit the driver may grumble at the badness of the road, through Yewdale and Tilberthwaite, by the slate quarries, and IIolmground, by Skelwith-bridge, and Brathay. This is, perhaps, the finest drive in the district, and there is one portion of it which Wilson said he preferred to the Pass over the Simplon. The variety of the mountain ranges, the majestic sweep of the hills, the distant views, and the beauty lying at your feet, all unite in giving a charm to
the excursion which it is hardly possible to describe. In the Handbook the pedestrian is recommended to make his way to Coniston by Skelwith and Yewdale, but it is, I think, preferable to visit these spots en route for Ambleside. Coniston, by the way, may tempt the traveller to linger for more than a few hours, for there is the Lake to be visited, and the Old Man, a grand but not very lofty mountain, to be ascended. Coniston is accessible from the south, as there is a line of railway from Furness, and it can also boast a first-class hotel, one of the most comfortable, says Miss Martineau, in England; but, despite these advantages, the lake is said to be the least visited. Ullswater, for which a return ticket by coach can be taken from Bowness, has a higher fame, and is worthy of it. There is a large hotel on its banks, and another at Patterdale, from whence it is customary to make the ascent of Helvellyn ; there are guides here, offering their services, and ponies to ascend the mountain, and a steamer to explore the lake, and, in the season, considerable gaiety and excitement. But there is solitude, also, for those who love itlonely mountain sides and sunny valleys-much that is solemn-much, also, that opens the heart to all cheerful influences. There are halfa-score places in the Lake regions which seem specially marked out for the enjoyments of a honeymoon, and Ullswater is one of them.
The traveller who has spent a day or two at the “Salutation Hotel,” Ambleside, will be loath to leave it; but a bright, sunshiny morning may tempt him, nevertheless, when he has taken a last lingering look at Stock Ghyll Force, to mount the coach and proceed to Keswick-a difficult matter, sometimes, as the vehicle startes from Windermere, and may be full before reaching Ambleside. The distance is seventeen miles, and Wordsworth, whose residence was two miles nearer, thought little of walking over to drink tea with Southey, and returning to Rydal Mount the same evening. The villagers used to say he was always "booing about,” and indeed it was while taking these long and lonely rambles that he performed the work of his life. “A pedestrian is a great ass,” said Christopher North, and he wrote from a rare experience. But, of course, when writing thus, he alluded to cockney tourists, and not to lake poets. Londoners, with little time and less money, will find it economical to employ the railroad or coach for all long distances, and if bent on performing muscular feats, there are mountains to be climbed, on which they can prove their metal. Sit, then, behind four horses, as in the old coach days, and they will carry you with as much swiftness as the road will allow past Miss Martineau's pretty cottage, by Rydal Mount and Rydal, through Gra-mere—“the very Eden of English beauty, peace, and pastoral solitude”-past Helm Crag, by the little beck which runs at the foot of Steel Fell, and divides Westmoreland and Cumberland, through the Pass of Dunmail Raise, from whence you look down upon Thirle