The Old Man; or, Ravings and Ramblings round Conistone


Title Page

The Old Man;

Love’s Labour’s Lost.


Table of Contents



Ancient Forests, Remarks upon, 38
Anecdote from Mr Wordsworth, 49
———— Curious Chronological, 84
———— of a Hairy Trout, 107
———— of deaths in a Slate Quarry, 108
———— of Fox-craft, 27
———— of New Ale, 33
———— of Jenkin Syke, 84
———— of “Kibble filling”, 97
———— of Lieut. Oldfield, R.N., 85
———— of Mrs Robinson, 81
———— of Parson Walker’s Economy, 54
———— of Ravens, 100
———— of Simon’ Nick, 101
———— of the Church Beck, 82
———— of the Name of Tyson, 45
———— of the Rev. E. Tyson, 64
———— of Wordsworth’s Duddon, 43
Anderson, Robert, quoted, 55
Archives, Parochial, 111
Bannockstone Bridge, 74
Betty Yewdale, 144
Birkett, Dan, 48
Birks Bridge, 45
Black Bull, the, 79
Black Hall, 40
Blea Tarn, 135
Brantwood, 117
Brathay, the River, 29, &c.
Brimfell, 102
Busk, the, 33
Caldron Dub, 125
Chapel Stile, 141
Church Beck, the, 82
Church Clock, the old, 66
Church Conistone Village, 73, &c.
Cockley Beck, 41 iv
Colwith Force, 145
Conistone Bank, 117
———— Chapel, 77
———— Etymology of, 5
———— Hall, 19
———— Lake, description of, 8
———— —— Environs of, 12
———— Monk, 73
———— Schools, 78
———— Villa, 118
Copper Mines, 91
Copper Ore, process of dressing, 97
Courting Customs, 67
Crown Inn, 77
Deer Park, the Ancient, 112
De Quincey, Thos., quoted, 7, &c.
Dow Crags, 71
Dungeon Ghyll, 138
Elterwater, 143
Epitaph in Conistone Church, 78
———— in Langdale Church-yard, 142
Falls, the Mines, 90
—— in Seathwaite Beck, 69
Fell-foot, 33
Fells seen from Brantwood, 117
———————— the Lake, 14
———————— the Old Man, 105
———————— Walna Scar, 70
Fish of Conistone Lake, 9
Fir Island, 9
Flemings, Le, their Residence at Conistone, 20
Floating Island, 124
Gait’s Water, 71
Gibraltar, 66
Green, the Artist, quoted, 26
Halfpenny Ale-house, the, 117
Hird, Mary, 59
Holme Ground, 24
Holy Wath, 89
Islands on Conistone Lake, 9
Kernel Crag, 100
Lake Foot, the, 115
Langdale, Great, 137
———— Little, 29
———— Pikes, 137
———— Tarn, 30
“Langden Jerry”, 135 v
Legend of the Devil’s foot-mark, 75
——— of “Girt Will’s Grave”, 125
Levers Water, 101
Lloyd, the Rev. Owen, 142
Ling-Moor, 30
Low Water, 107
Mackay, Dr. Chas., quoted, 7
Macaulay, T.B., quoted, 58
Martineau, Miss, quoted, 7, &c.
Mill-beck, 138
Miners, Character of, 99
Monk Conistone, 73
—— ————— Park, 14
Newfield, 48
Nibthwaite, 115
Old Man, the, 103
———— Summit of, ibid.
———— View from, 104
Oukrigg, 102
Paddy’ End, 100
Parkinson, the Rev. R., quoted, 25
Parsonage of Conistone, 125
————— of Seathwaite, 47
Priest’s Stile, 83
Quarries, Slate, 132
Raven Crag, 27
Robinson, Mrs, 80
Ruins, Supposed British, 70
Scott, Sir Walter, quoted, 47, &c.
Seathwaite Beck, 47
————— Chapel, &c., ibid.
————— Head of, 38
Sedgwick, Professor, quoted, 6
Sheep Shearing, 20
Shire Stones, The, 35
Slate Riving and Dressing, 133
Slater’s Bridge, 29
Smith, Miss Elizabeth, 119
——— Mrs, her parody on “Ruth”, 123
Southey’s “Doctor,” quoted from, 144
Stepping Stones, The, 43
Stoneythwaite, 49
Sunken Graves, The, 42
Tarn Hows, View from, 146
Tent Lodge, 118
Thwaite, The, 74
Tilberthwaite, 28 vi
Torver, 112
Tumulus at Fell-foot, 34
Tyson, a common name, 44
——— Daniel, 41
——— The Rev. Edward, 62
Ulpha, 40
Undercrag, 65
Walker, The Rev. Robert, 51
Walla-barrow Crag, 49
Walna Scar, 69
Waterhead Inn, 7
——————— View from, 12
Weatherlam, 28
West the Antiquary, quoted, 19
White Houses, Mr Wordsworth on, 30
Whittlegate, The Custom of, 83
Wilson, Professor, quoted, 6, &c.
Woo’ Geordie, 22
Wordsworth, Mr., quoted, 29, &c. 4
—————'s Seat, 117
Wraysdale Cottage, 83
Wrynose, 34



It has long been a favourite notion with me that if, instead of general guides to, or descriptions of all the Lake country comprised in single volumes, of which we have a superabundance, we could have each distinct locality treated of fully and minutely in a work devoted exclusively to itself, and written by some one whose long residence in, and intimate knowledge of the district described would secure its accuracy, we should possess a series of Lake books much more comprehensive, more useful, and more amusing than any we can yet boast of. An idea slightly similar to this seems at one period to have germinated in Professor Wilson’s brain; but, notwithstanding the fertility of the soil, it bore no fruit. In a review of Green’s Guide, the Professor says,—“It is our serious intention to pitch our Tent, next summer, somewhere or other among these said Lakes. Each of our principal contributors will have a Lake assigned him, and the lesser ones a Tarn. Wastle shall have Windermere—Odoherty, Ullswater—Ourselves, Keswick—and Kempferhausen is perfectly welcome to Conistone. By a just distribution of our forces, the Lakes will find themselves looked at and described in a way they never experienced before.” As nearly thirty years have elapsed since this intention was promulgated, and we have still to deplore its non-fulfilment, I have taken the initiative with the Lake somewhat depreciatingly assigned to the German savan. It is devoutly to be wished that my modest example were followed with regard to the other great Lakes, by parties who know them as perfectly as I know Conistone. It may hardly be gainsaid that there are such about every one of our Lakes, able, were they willing, to do much more justice to their subjects than poor Conistone has obtained from me; and if they would only set about it, I might, at least, claim the credit of having opened the ball.

In the volume now offered to his favourable consideration, the reader will find a very sufficient guide to all that is worthy of notice in the neighbourhood it depicts. The accuracy of its descriptions will be apparent when he visits the scenes2 described. The few anecdotes, traits of character, and sketches, or rather, perhaps, scratches, of mountain life can be vouched for as correct, and native to the district. And the information it professes to offer upon topics of supposed interest, local or general, is, when no authority is specified, all deduced from personal observation. These little merits may, perhaps, serve, in some degree, as a set off against its short-comings as a literary composition, and those are now sufficiently manifest even to myself; but in extenuation, I may plead that they are such as may be attributed to inexperience in author-craft, or such as may be looked for in a performance mainly written by way of amusement in the uncertain and brief snatches of relaxation from duties and anxieties of a nature peculiarly unfavourable to the improvement of a faulty style of composition by study or practice. I may state, however, that these duties and cares arise chiefly from an occupation which, more than any other, affords facilities of observing the topographical peculiarities of a district of country, and of noting the characteristics, social and psychological, of its inhabitants of every class. On this latter department of my subject, I should have dilated more freely, had I not been restrained by two salutary considerations, the first being a wish to keep within compass, and avoid prolixity—the second, a desire to live in peace and goodwill with those amongst whom my lot in life is cast. It is not easy to tell the even down truth of a class, any more than of an individual, without exciting wrath.

By the way, it is remarkable that, notwithstanding all that has been scribbled anent the Lakes, we are yet without anything like a correct portraiture of the Dales-people. The narratives and traits of character in Mr Wordsworth’s works, though generally striking and beautiful, are, as regards the peasantry, mere emanations of poetic fancy, rather than true delineations of life and manners. The same may be said of Wilson. De Quincey’s papers on the population of the Lake district, are correct only so long as he confines himself to colonists of his own rank. When he comes lower, it is plain enough to those who know the Aborigines, that he has only been permitted to study that, the most interesting, class in3 their Sunday faces and best behaviour, and that his observation there is rarely more than skin-deep.

It was reserved for a lady to give us the best essay upon the peculiarities of our aboriginal character; but even Miss Martineau, with all her female penetration, and her more than female genius and talent for observation, is, in that part of her work, oddly astray in her illustrations and erroneous in her assertions. For instance, she avers that our women-folk are all mutes. On this it is only necessary to remark that some of their husbands, and that I, myself, not unfrequently, nor yet unfervently, wish that Miss Martineau’s averment had better foundation. Bating this defect, her work on the Lakes, taking it for all in all, is the best, and by far the cheapest, of all Lake books, and their name is Legion!

One word more. I have been accused of using irreverently a name which it is the fashion now for all to revere. I should be truly sorry, could I fancy I had afforded real grounds for such accusation. If the opinion of one so obscure as I could be of any importance, I might truly declare that I yield to none in my respect for Mr Wordsworth’s character—that few can estimate the poetic grandeur and fine moral feeling of his truly great poems more highly than I; and if I have hinted at what I consider defects in his genius and philosophy, as exhibited in his works, who shall censure me for expressing an honest opinion, even though the mode of expressing it be a trifle more flippant than the subject may seem to warrant? It were as reasonable to extinguish a small luminary for announcing a fancied discovery of spots upon the sun, as to demolish me for fancying that I discern a few specks upon the otherwise resplendent disc of the great light of our Lakes.

Entreating the gracious patience of the reader for having spun a plain unvarnished tale at such a length, and bespeaking his more gracious indulgence to the manifold faults in “my von leetle performance,” as Signor Blitz used to call his conjuring tricks, I beg to subscribe myself the reader's

Very humble servant,
A. C. G.

Yewdale Bridge, May 21st, 1849.






Geographical Position—Etymology—Attractions—A String of Authorities—The Lake—Its Attributes—Statistic—Piscatorial—Commercial—Fatal, and Scenic.

Conistone, anciently Conyngstone and Cunyngstone, is situated in that isolated portion of Lancashire which, divided from the mother county by Morecambe Bay, bears the general designation of Lonsdale North of the Sands, and in the extensive sub-division of Lonsdale North called High Furness, which, the map will tell you, lies between Windermere and the Duddon, and between the Brathay, in Little Langdale, and Low Furness.

Of its name, different derivations are given by different authorities. Some give it a British origin, viz., “ton a town, con at the head of, is a lake.” Others say it is from the Saxon “Konyg'ston,” thereby inferring it to have been, some time or other, a residence or appanage of royalty. Others, less profound and less ambitious, derive its name from the facilities for hiding in “times of trouble” afforded by the intricate and inaccessible character of its cliffs, crags, and boulders, and call it Cunning Stone. The first describes its position—the second may flatter the loyal vanity of its residents, and the third accords with its natural character, its ancient orthography, and the6 A BAKER’S DOZEN OF PANEGYRISTSlocal pronunciation of its name; therefore take which best suits your taste, and allow me to tell you something about it as we find it now.

The beauties of Conistone have never been adequately described, neither has it received even “the shadow of justice” from any writer since the days of Gray, the poet, old West, the antiquary, and Mrs Anne Radcliffe, of romance-spinning celebrity, all of whom wrote of the scenery of Conistone in terms of quaintly eloquent eulogium. Indeed, the once popular, and still admired, fabricatrix of “Mysteries,” places it pre-eminent over all its neighbours in its diversity of beauty; and, since her day, many have spoken or written in praise of one or more of the items which go to make up the sum of its unparalleled attractions.

A lady of high rank and wealth informed me that the salubrity of its atmosphere is such that, when in very precarious health, and advised by an eminent court physician to proceed to Madeira as her only chance of recovery, a few weeks’ residence at Conistone restored her to robust and permanent health.

Professor Wilson says, that when “you come in sight of the Lake of Conistone, the prospect is at once beautiful and sublime,” and “you will acknowledge that Conistone can almost bear a comparison with Windermere.” And even he admits elsewhere, that it surpasses Windermere in the quality of its char!—perhaps, to most people, the highest praise he can give it.

Another equally experienced, though not equally eminent gastronome, declares its black-faced mutton to be incomparably the best ever boiled.

Professor Sedgwick, in his “Geology of the Lake District,” names Conistone thrice for any other locality once.

Experienced and successful mining adventurers class it A1., on account of its underground wealth.



Dr Charles Mackay says that Conistone Water is “the most placid of all the lakes.”

Thomas de Quincey, the English opium-eater, speaking of the view of Conistone from the road near Tarn Hows, says—“to which, for a coup de theatre, I know nothing equal.”

A talented artist of indisputable taste says, that no other vicinity affords such an abundance of subjects for fine pictures.

The rain-gauge states, that scarcely one-half of the rain falls here that falls at Keswick, (where, by the bye, Lord Byron makes a devil say it usually rains).

Last and best, Miss Martineau says, the traveller “has probably never beheld a scene which conveyed a stronger impression of joyful charm; of fertility, prosperity, comfort, nestling in the bosom of the rarest beauty.”

And I, being neither bard, antiquary, romancist, moral philosopher, gourmand, natural philosopher, miner, bookmaker, opium-eater, painter, moist weather meter, nor philanthropist in particular, but the least in the world of them all, “in the abstract”—keeping its scenery, atmosphere, geology, mineralogy, fish, flesh, and fine weather all at once in view, and lumping, as is fair, the opinions of all these great and undeniable authorities together,—hold it to be matchless, not only in the Lake district of England, but in the world, at least in any part of it that I have seen.

In executing my agreeable task of pointing out some of the more prominent of the beauties and attributes of Conistone, I shall suppose you, my reader (should I gain one) to be a diffident, well-disposed young gentleman, located at the Water Head Inn, and just coming down stairs after a capital night’s rest. It is no matter, for our present purpose, how you contrived to get there without seeing anything I am going to shew you, but there you8 LENGTH, &c., OF CONISTONE LAKE.are, “with shining morning face,” praying complacently, as you trip down stairs, that you may never find yourself in worse quarters. You may present my compliments to Mrs. Atkinson, and request her to let you have breakfast in the parlour with the projecting window. If you be very hungry, you had better not look out yet; but, should there be any delay in the appearance of your breakfast, a thing not very likely, you may amuse yourself with the visitor’s book until it comes in; but don’t scribble any nonsense in it, as has been done by some youths who have been permitted by their mammas to leave home prematurely.

Breakfast being brought in, whilst you are eating, I may as well say a word or two on the statistics of the lake whose head lies within a few yards of your feet, and whose ancient name was Thurston Water. It is about six and a half miles long, therefore ranks next after Windermere and Ullswater in point of size, or, to speak very exactly, in point of longitude, for I should suppose the area of Bassenthwaite Water to be larger than the area of this lake, it (Bassenthwaite), though only four miles long, carrying a better breadth with it than Conistone Water, whose greatest width does not exceed a mile, many parts not half a mile, the average lying, perhaps, between them. Its greatest depth is stated in the Guide Books to be twenty-seven fathoms, but a map or chart of the lake in my possession, which was made from actual survey, many years ago, by a talented native of the dale, gives the depth of forty fathoms at about two-thirds of the distance down the lake, and twenty or thirty yards from the western shore. This places the depth of Conistone Lake second only to that of Wastwater, which is stated by some to be forty-five fathoms, by others to be unfathomable. Conistone Lake contains, in addition to some mere rocks, two islands. The uppermost, called Knott’s Island, after its9 ISLANDS, FISH, AND MERCHANDISE.proprietor, or more frequently, Fir Island, from its handsome covering of Scotch firs, becomes peninsular in very droughty weather; and the lower, called Peel Island—why, I don’t know—or Montagu Island, after the Dukes of Montagu, formerly Lords of the Manor, and succeeded by the Dukes of Buccleugh, or by the Aborigines, the “Gridiron,” the best name of the three, inasmuch as it pretty accurately describes its shape, it having a handle or shank of rocks projected in lengthened chain from its south-western side, is covered by natural wood of no great altitude; and its rocky sides are so high and precipitous, as to render landing upon it a matter of difficulty, if not of danger, but, for all that, pic-nic parties sometimes resort to it. There was also a floating island about twenty yards square, finely covered with young birches of decent stature, which used to move about the lower end of the lake, but unfortunately it was stranded amongst the reeds near Nibthwaite by a strong north-east wind which prevailed for a day or two in October, 1846, when the lake was unusually swollen by heavy rains. I shall, perhaps, point it out to you by and bye.

As to the lake’s vulgarly useful qualities, it contains the best char in the world, and quantities of unsurpassable trout of delicious flavour, and often of large size—for instance, there was one cut up at your present quarters, some time since, which weighed fourteen pounds. Of its pike, I need only say that one of them roasted or baked “with a pudding in its belly,” is, on certain occasions, worth all the scenery in the neighbourhood. It is also rich in eels and perch, more particularly the latter. It serves as a commodious highway towards the port of exportation for two hundred and fifty tons of copper ore every month, as well as for nobody knows how much slate, flags, birch brooms, and small timber. Conjointly with the circumjacent mountains and valleys, and the10 SOMETHING “OLD KIT” SAYS.copper mines, it brings, during each laking season, a goodly haul of fish to your host’s net, in the form of tourists and visitors. There has been only one person drowned in it within the memory of man, and he was a stupid, drunken fellow, who walked into it over the slate quay. Of course, under these circumstances, the most harmless water in the world could do nothing else but drown him.

Of its ornamental characteristics you shall judge for yourself, as soon as you finish eating.

Well, having despatched a few cups of coffee and a fair proportion of a most satisfactory array of etceteras, (for be it remarked, en parenthese, that a breakfast furnished by Mrs Atkinson does not yield even to that at Grasmere described by Christopher North, in terms sufficiently graphic, “to create an appetite under the ribs of death,”) you may take a look from the window. Your first impulse is an expression of gratitude to me for advising you to make a hearty breakfast before looking forth, for assuredly, say you, this would, if seen before, have effectually withdrawn your attention from the creature comforts before you, albeit first-rate.

The eminent Scotchman already twice mentioned, who is a high-caste laking authority, although his judgment is somewhat warped by his attachment to his own Windermere, says, somewhere, that a man sitting where you do now, might fancy himself looking from the cabin window of a ship at anchor in a beautiful land-locked bay of some island in the South Sea. You don’t know how far that flight may be correct; but you think that the Pacific bays must, in beauty, fall somewhat short of the scene before you. And you are nearer right than the great Christopher, who is out of his latitude in the South Seas, else he had never drawn the pretty-sounding comparison. Though many of the bays in those seas are lovely enough, yet few,11 RHYME AND A REASON FOR I am told, can come within a day’s sail of Conistone Water, so far as ordinary impressions of the beautiful may bear me out; and the beauties of Conistone, as they are manifold, so are they manifest even to the lowest order of taste, or talent, or whatever the principle may be that enables a common-place man, like myself, to distinguish beauty when he looks at it, and as they are apparent to all, so must they be appreciable by every one, and—but I am waxing enthusiastic, and shall, if I go on, become intolerably nonsensical, for, with me, there is not even the one step between the sublime and the ridiculous; therefore, as I prefer being absurd in verse to being ridiculous in prose, till I cool down a little—

“I'll have a shy
At Po—e—try.”
Conistone, fair Conistone, how vain it were to roam
Abroad in search of beauty, with such scenes as thine at home,
For, nowhere,—seek the frigid north, or sultry southern clime,
Are mingled so the beautiful, the sweet and the sublime.
Thy placid lake is beautiful—its winding shores are sweet—
Thine Old Man Mountain is sublime, whose top the white clouds greet,
As brother greeteth brother, with a hearty, close embrace,
And round whose rugged rock-bound sides the sportive cloudlets race.
Though other lakes be passing fair,—though fair be “green Grasmere;”
Though Rydal boast its herony, and Rydal Mount be near;
Though Ullswater be gorgeous, and Bassenthwaite be broad;
Though lovely be the lake that holds Saint Herbert’s old abode;
Though Crummock slumber pleasantly, 'neath high Scale Force’s roar,
“And Butter”-mere “is beautiful, but that you knew before;”
Though Wastwater and Ennerdale look sternly dark, but clear;
Though Eden-like the islets be of regal Windermere;
Though each hath its own beauties, yet amongst them is not one
Can boast of beauty varied so as thine, sweet Conistone!
Thy rivulets are bright as is air bell or crystal bead,
And high, and wild, and lone the Tarns those rivulets that feed.
Thy sunny sky is cloudless oft, and healthful are thy gales;
And sweet, in their secludedness, thy tributary vales;
And pleasant are thy homesteads snug beneath thy mountains dark,
And stately stands thine ancient Hall within its coppiced park.
And lofty are thy crags from whence the wakeful raven stoops,
And wildly are thy fells arranged in strange fantastic groups,
Uprearing their majestic heads in grandeur, gloom, and pride,
And none may tell what treasures vast their rugged bosoms hide.
And such are some attractions which in Conistone we find;
But Conistone! dear Conistone!! thy best remains behind,
For never elsewhere have I found, though I have wander’d far,
A dinner like thy mutton-chops preceded by thy char!

There, there! you seem to have had enough of that, and I, having let off my superabundant steam, may now get on in a sedate, business-like manner. The placid lake and its winding shores you are now staring at, and tastefully, as you perceive, are its winding shores decorated with timber disposed in rich variety of thriving young plantations, clump, grove, coppice, hedge-row, solitary tree, avenue, and shrubbery, gracefully interblended here, and separated by fields and wide pastures of glorious verdure there, the whole finished off on the east, which we shall dispose of first, by miles and miles of heath purpled moorland. Along the lake on its said eastern side, are the finely-sheltered grounds of Tent Lodge, Bank Ground, Conistone Bank, Brantwood, and Water Park. The lake appears to terminate at about five miles distance—in fact, a little below “the Gridiron,” or a mile and a half from the lake foot—the water thereabout making a gentle sweep to the east. The southward prospect is bounded by the high-lying moor of Gawthwaite, from whence the green and cultivated slopes of Lowick and Blawith appear to descend in easy gradation to the water edge. Bringing the eye back along the western shore, your attention is next arrested by the brightly verdant,13 WESTERN SHORE.cultivated and conical height of Stable Harvey, standing out in fine contrast against the dark brown Beacon hill in Blawith, which considerably overtops it, and forms, with its broken outline, a highly picturesque background to the landscape in that direction. The landward edge of Stable Harvey is hidden from where you are, by the lengthened heath-clad summit, and coppiced and furze-clad side of Torver common, which rises steep from the margin of the lake to a considerable height. As you follow up the margin of the lake, you next descry the beautiful farm of Hawthwaite, with its rookery, plantations, and numerous single trees, occupying a fine situation under the northern shoulder of Torver common, and presenting one of the most eligible sites for a gentleman's seat, with extensive grounds, in the north of England. Nearer still, you see a promontory covered with bright verdure, and tipped, or fringed, with low spreading wood, running out, as it seems from the Water Head, into the very middle of the lake. It is the Hall Point; the grounds lying between it and Hawthwaite, and extending from the water side to the tops of the heights more than a mile to the westward, form the ancient deer-park, which possesses such a luxuriant and widely-extended covering of natural timber, as might gladden the hearts of those who affect to hold that any utilitarian interference with nature tends grievously to degrade or destroy the romantic characteristics of lake scenery. The Hall itself is concealed by the upper arm of the bay, with the trees and neat, but singular and high, steep-roofed edifice upon it. The said building is a boat-house belonging to “The Thwaite,” a handsome residence upon the southern declivity of the richly-wooded eminence to your right, over which you may note “The Old Man,” anciently, and more correctly, “Alt Maen” (British),

“Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,”


and looks, from this window, something like part of the back and head of a huge elephant, with his trunk slightly extended and a wart on his forehead.


You had better now take a boat and row a mile or two down the lake, and row yourself, or, if you are lazy, at least sit with your face to the stern, and fresh beauties will open upon your enraptured gaze at every stroke of the oars.

Beyond, or above, the inn you are leaving, is the residence of Mr James Garth Marshall, one of the princely manufacturers of that name in Leeds; it is surrounded by—excepting in some particulars Rydal Hall—decidedly the finest demesne in the Lake district, so far as the most beautiful combination of all the elements of natural and artificial loveliness can establish its superiority; for nowhere else have I seen wood and water, hill and valley, green sward and purple heather, rugged crag and velvet slope, grey rock and bright blossoming shrubs brought under the eye at once, in such magnificent contrast. Over the western side of the grounds, you may note the picturesquely rugged and jagged summit of Raven Crag, at the head of Yewdale, and nearer to you, but still more to the west, the wild, precipitous and lofty Yewdale crags. Over them the long ridge of Henn Crag, and higher still the broad summit of Weatherlam; and, as you row farther down the lake, the lofty undulating range connecting those with the Old Man, which last you may now contemplate in all his hoary grandeur and rugged magnificence. And, having just shewn you one of the finest demesnes and grandest mountain groups in the Lake district, I now shew you the most romantically situated village, parts nestled at the foot of the steep craggy hills, and parts stuck here and there upon the face of the adjacent declivity, every separate detachment, whether consisting of one or many houses, having its own separate designation, 15 “TIME’S CHANGES.”but forming altogether the village of Church Conistone, and containing, by the last census, twelve hundred people. Its scattered appearance suggests the idea of something having, at some former period, flown across the country with a bagful of houses, and losing a number here in irregular lots through a hole in the sack. And here, close by in the apex, or, to speak nautically, the bight of the bay, between a row of lofty sycamores and the wide-spread woods of the old park, stands Conistone Hall, the ancient seat of the once warlike family of le Fleming, but now a farm house—with a considerable portion removed, and the banquet hall, wherein, of old, knightly revellers befuddled their brains in honour of high born ladies, converted into a barn, and a mighty commodious barn it makes; but how very applicable would be a quotation from Hamlet here, were it not hackneyed. The hall's most striking features now are its massive ivy-clad chimneys, though it is well worthy a closer inspection, and I shall perhaps tell you more about it at our next confabulation.




Daylight versus Moonlight—Possible Results of Moonlight Laking or Love-Making—Conistone Hall—“The Hall Clipping”—Vale of Yewdale—Yewdale Crags—Old Yew Tree—Raven Crag—Hunting Incident.

Some harmless individuals who desiderate the reputation of a taste for the romantic, and fancy that such reputation is to be attained by affecting to think differently from the ordinary race of observers, maintain that this lake and the circumjacent landscape, like the ruins of Melrose, as described (unseen, except by daylight) by Sir Walter Scott, are seen to most advantage by moonlight. I don't agree with them! The beauties around you are so numerous, so diversified, such perfect realities, and the deformities or defects in the scenery are so few and so minute, that no softening or shadowing is required to enhance a reasonable man’s enjoyment of the loveliness of Conistone. The more extensively, and the more distinctly its features are developed, the more must it be admired. As with some rare specimens of human nature, “the more you see of it, the better you like it.” Therefore, be it mine to gaze upon, to exhibit and to dilate upon the attractions of this “our own fair vale,” just when the “sun of the morning” has mopped up the mists of the night,—when mountains and mere, crags and cottages, woods and waterfalls, fields and fell-sides, are fairly lighted up, and17 fully brought into view in all their proud proportions, and in all their contrasted colours. And, moreover, as Conistone is best seen under


“One unclouded blaze of living light,”

so will any susceptible young gentleman like yourself best consult his well-being by forswearing all loitering by moonlight, whether for laking or love-making purposes. I myself, in those days “when hope was high and life was young,” grievously deteriorated my mental quiet, as well as my physical comfort, by indulging in these too natural propensities, as may be evidenced by the following rhymes which, under the retrospect of wounded feelings and aching bones, I felt constrained to indite, and now offer to you by way of caution against yielding to the promptings of an excitable imagination; and, first, what say you to this?

Matter of Moonshine.

Where the hazels droop o'er a lake-laved slope,
Sat a sweet little maid and I,
And a chastened light lay softly bright
On water, wood, and sky;
For the lovely moon, in the “lift aboon,”
Was 'shrined on her azure throne,
And bright and clear in the slumbering mere
Her mirrored semblance shone.
We were silent both, and the evening moth
Was the only life that stirred,
And the far, faint roll of the waterfall
The only sound we heard;
Till soft and slow did a murmur low
Come on through the quivering trees,
And the boughs of the brake and the reeds of the lake
Were bent by a passing breeze.
And still did we lean on our couch so green—
That sweet little maid and I—
And we marked its course as, with lessening force,
The breeze swept ruffling by.
Whilst the lake rippled o'er from shore to shore,
And shattered the moonbeams bright,
Till that mirror broad o'er its surface showed
One shivering sheet of light.
But it passed away, and the waters lay
Once more in their holy sleep,
With the orb so fair still glittering there
In their bosom dark and deep;
When that sweet little maid glanced up and said,
With her smile so fond and free,
“I can tell you how what we've witnessed now
May apply to you and me:
If yon radiant light that adorns the night,
Seem the light of my love for you,
And her form beneath your answering faith
So perfect, deep, and true;
If that breeze appear any transient care
That may ruffle your bosom’s rest,
Then they shew that my love will the brighter prove,
When peace forsakes your breast.”
Long years have fled since that sweet little maid
Thus sweetly said to me,
And as seasons change, will the fancies range
Of maidens young as she.
And from hopes of bliss, in a life like this,
Will dreamers all awake—
And all that was said by that sweet little maid,
Was as moonshine on the lake.

So much for mental quiet; the next, as the show people say, will be for physical comfort, viz.:—

'Twas eve, and over Walna Scar the sun had sought the west,
And shades of night were settling thick o'er Thurston’s glassy breast,
But yet I lingered on the lake as loath to leave a scene
So lovely as, ere day’s decline, fair Conistone had been.
When over Hawkshead’s heights arose a mild and mellow light,
Announcing, with its silver sheen, the coming Queen of Night;
And now I lingered on the lake her advent high to see,
When stealing through the breezeless night came sounds of melody.
And from the mantling mist emerged a slowly gliding boat,
Which seemed in that imperfect light upon the mist to float;
And now I lingered on the lake a wild, sad song to hear,
And deemed it all too sweet for sound of this terrestrial sphere.
That seraph song to silence sank, the boat swept slowly past,
But soon another strain was heard as sweet as was the last;
And still I lingered on the lake in strange entrancement held,
Whilst through the calm mist-laden air the plaintive cadence swelled.
The moon rose fair above the fell, and fast her radiance cleared
The gloom away, and by her light another boat appeared;
And now I lingered on the lake to watch that lonely pair
Of tiny barks, propelled by hands of maidens young and fair.
Then soon as ceased the second song, the first-seen boat drew nigh,
And promptly did the first-heard voice in harmony reply;
And still I lingered on the lake unseen from either boat,
While Brantwood’s echoes multiplied each bosom-thrilling note.
As boat crossed boat—song after song did their fair crews repeat
Across the cool and glancing mere, in alternation sweet;
And still I lingered on the lake, and prayed they might prolong
Till day their strife of melody, alternate song and song.
And when they ceased, all nature seemed involved in sudden shade,
The lake its placid brightness lost, the moonlight seemed to fade;
No more I lingered on the lake—I felt the charm was fled,
And feeling, too, I’d caught a cold, went sneezing home to bed.

When I commenced this tedious, but, in your case, requisite digression, you were seated in a boat upon the lake, and staring with all your might at the turret-like, ivy-clad chimneys of Conistone Hall; concerning which hall West, the precise and industrious Furnesian Antiquary, who published his great work in 1774, says therein—“Conistone Hall appears upon the bank of the lake; it was for many ages the seat of the Flemings, and though now abandoned and in ruins, it has the air of grandeur and magnificence.” And again, in his history of the family who possess it, he says—“Sir Richard le Fleming, in the reign of Henry III., married Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Adam de Urswick, by which marriage he acquired20 MORE OF “THE HALL.”the manor of Conistone, and other considerable possessions in Furness;” and—“Upon the acquisition of the manor of Conistone, the family returned to Furness, the first seat of the Flemings. The Castle of Caernarvon was abandoned, then erased, and Conistone Hall was the family seat for seven generations. After the union of Lancaster with Le Fleming (temp. Hen. 4th), Rydal and Conistone vied with each other for seven generations more to fix the family in Westmorland or Lancashire. Sir Daniel le Fleming came and gave it against the latter; since that event (about 1650-60), the Hall of Conistone, pleasantly situated upon the banks of the lake of that name, has been deserted.”

If the Hall were in ruins seventy-four years ago, you may perceive that, though sufficiently venerable and time-shaken, there is nothing exactly like ruins about it now; but, as I said before, a great part of it has been removed, as is shewn by certain jambs and chimney-pieces which remain in the outer surface of what is now the outer wall, and have formed the fire-places of an extensive range of apartments which formerly occupied the space along the northern side of the present edifice. What remains of the Old Hall, I have also said, is converted into a farm-house and appurtenances, both of which are of a most commodious and substantial description; and, should your sojourn at Conistone happen to fall in the early part of July, let me exhort you to attend the Conistone Hall clipping, or sheep-shearing, where you will witness some “scenes of life and shades of character” not to be seen every day, nor in every locality; and, moreover, you will find the viands to accord in character with the building,—i. e. to be plentiful, substantial, and old-fashioned.

I say that the scene, or rather the series of scenes, presented by a sheep-shearing in the lake country, are of a description not to be passed by in these artificial days,21 when “touches of nature,” which “make the whole world kin,” are rare as they are rich;—therefore, supposing you to be at Conistone in the proper season, I shall, with your approval, of which I have little doubt, and with Mr Irving’s hospitable permission, of which I have still less, introduce you to that of Conistone Hall.


The sheep, which are of the black-faced breed, are all gathered in from the fells on the previous day, or early in the morning, and are penned up in lots in a large detached barn through which you pass, and, in a yard behind which you are startled by a scene of animated and noisy bustle wonderfully at variance with the surrounding quiet. In two rows along the inner side of the semicircular yard wall, are seated the clippers, numbering from 25 to 30, each astride upon a stool, busily plying his shears upon a sheep laid bound on the stool before him; and you cannot help being surprised at the rapidity with which the animals are divested of their superabundant coverings; that tall man there in the blue linen jacket is one of the most expert, and can take the fleece from a mountain sheep in three minutes. I am told his father, a respectable yeoman in an adjacent vale, was still more dexterous, and that, for a wager, he, in one day, clipped—a number which, as I am anxious to maintain my character for veracity, I shall not here state. The average rate of clipping is, of course, lower than what I have mentioned; but, allowing it to be so, this number of shears incessantly at work for seven or eight hours, may give some idea of the number of sheep denuded each year on this and similar farms.


In attendance upon the clippers are a much greater number of men and lads supplying them with unclipped sheep and removing those operated upon to another part of the yard, where, beside a turf-fire and a kettle of melted tar an active youth is stationed ready to stamp22 them with their owner’s initial, with another near at hand ycleped “the doctor,” carrying in his hand a pot of ointment to anoint the wounds, which, in such a hurried operation, many of his ovine patients receive. Multitudes of boys are skipping about on every side, collecting the cords as they are removed from the limbs of the clipped sheep, and carrying them to be applied to the feet of their successors upon the clipping stools. In a remote corner of the yard, a small party of sedate, business-like individuals are rolling up the fleeces upon a couple of small sloping platforms, and handing them over the wall to others who are building them upon carts, to be carried to the storing-house. One jolly-looking personage, with an aspect worthy of his office, is moving about and dispensing “clipping drink” to all and sundry. And “Woo' Geordie,” known elsewhere as “Mop George” (after his chief article of merchandise,) is poking about gathering up stray fragments of wool. These, with one or two groups of idle on-lookers waiting for, and wondering when it will be, dinner-time, and perhaps an artist sketching the various and ever-changing groups, constitute the dramatis personæ of the sheep-shearing, whilst nothing but work is going forward; but, now the last sheep shorn, the last fleece rolled up, and “Woo’ Geordie,” liberally informed that he may convert to his own proper use and emolument all the fragments of wool that remain on the ground (no inconsiderable prize to him,) adjourn we to the Hall where a banquet waits our attack, which is perfectly worthy of Conistone Hall in its best days, for gigantic rounds of beef, and legs of veal, ditto of mutton, and quarters of lamb, with every tempting and appropriate accompaniment, are arranged upon a table which accommodates thirty hungry people at once, and the first detachment, having stuffed to repletion with the above enumerated solids, topped off with sweets,23quæ nunc perscribere FUDDLING AND FUN.(or describere either) longum est,” are succeeded by a second troop equally sharp set, and those who were idlers before, are by no means the least industrious now. “Another and another (set) yet succeeds,” until the whole party, amounting to something above six score, are fed and satisfied. You may observe that the whole company does not partake of its generally pastoral and agricultural character, for the duties of one end of the table are probably discharged, to all the successive troops of eaters, by a practitioner of the law, and those of the other by a ditto of medicine, both of whom are glad to relieve, by a few hours’ mirth, untutored though it be, their daily routine of attention to the multifarious derangements to which the business and the bodies of “God’s humanity” are liable.

Dinner being at last fairly finished, “now comes the sweetest morsel of the night,” and strong ale and tobacco, as their legitimate successors, supersede beef and pudding, and all the guests being settled down in the capacious Hall, as many as can, round the long table, others on forms or benches arranged in rows, and others, more favoured, apart from the crowd, around a small table placed under a chimney large enough to be a dwelling-house for a family of moderate pretensions; pipes are filled and lighted, glasses are filled and tasted, and singing is commenced by John Kendal giving, in characteristic and peculiarly comic style, a quaint old ballad of the “down, derry down” genus, concerning a parson who “had a remarkable foible of loving good liquor much more than the Bible,” and of whom it was said “he was much less perplext in handling a tankard than handling a text,” and, once set a going, a stream of songs interspersed with “quips and cranks,” and no! not “wreathed smiles,” but wide grins and roars of laughter, with noisy joke and noisier repartee, carries rapidly away the remaining hours of the evening. The majority of the songs are24 CLOSE OF THE CLIPPING.of a stamp now to be met with only amongst the mountains, or in such other districts where primitive pastoral habits yet prevail, and are to be appreciated and enjoyed only by those who hold broad humour and natural spirit and freedom to be a sufficient compensation for rudeness of phraseology, and the absence of polish, refinement, and high sentiment; and you may notice, that, as might be expected, their subjects and sentiments become less and less refined, and their humour less and less restrained, in due proportion with the sinking of the potent clipping drink in the tilted barrels, till at length the very orderly part of the company think it time to depart.

I may be censured for introducing you to scenes like these, and the only excuse I have to offer is that I wish to give you a correct idea of life and manners amongst the primitive inhabitants of these our dales, and it is only by mixing freely amongst the people upon such occasions, that any true knowledge of their habits and customs is to be gained.

I was lately deluded into reading a book entitled, “Conistone Hall, or the Jacobites,” written by a dignitary of the English Church, “in order,” as he says, “to exhibit the tone of feeling and the disorders of Church and State, to which the ill-advised revolution of 1688 gave rise.” I was simple enough to hope to find matter of local interest in a book called “Conistone Hall,” but was grievously disappointed,—it might as well have been called “Lancaster Castle,”—and the subject-matter is quite worthy of the author’s object.

And now, having bored you, probably ad nauseam, about the Old Hall, it were well to return to your Inn; and, having allowed you what is requisite of rest and refreshment, I shall carry you off upon your longest excursion first; “and,” to quote The Professor thereanent, “if murmuring streams and dashing torrents, and silent pools,25 and shadow-haunted grass-fields, and star-studded meadows, and glimmering groves, and cliff-girdling coppice woods, and a hundred charcoal shellings, huts and cottages, and one Old Hall, and several hall-like barns, and a solitary chapel among its green graves, and glades, and dells, and glens without number, knolls, eminences, hillocks, hills, and mountains,—if these, and many other such sights as these, all so disposed that beauty breathes, whispers, moves, or hangs motionless over all, have power to charm your spirit,——away with the cavalcade into the heart of the expecting mountains.”


If, like myself, you prefer enjoying a long excursion upon four legs to enduring it upon two, your host can supply, at a satisfactory rate, ponies well accustomed to the roughest roads in the country. You declare for the equestrian mode of progression: well, say the word, and behold your steed at the door. Being safely and pleasantly mounted, you turn your pony’s tail to the lake, and canter up the road till you come to a group of ancient and picturesque cottages and farm-buildings, called High Waterhead (Conistone Water being bicipital), and then take the road to your left, which passes through amongst these houses, and by another old homestead called 'Boon (vulgo above) Crag, holding on along an occupation road which winds through a considerable portion of Mr Marshall's wooded parks; and, as you jog along, keep a sharp eye to the left,—“ride, as the Spaniard hath it, with your beard on your shoulder,”—and your vigilance will be rewarded with occasional glimpses of the lake and its shores, broken up into a series of lovely fragmentary pictures by the irregular intervention of the scattered or “clumped” timber. You soon begin to descend into the middle of the vale of Yewdale, which Mr Parkinson, the accomplished canon of Manchester and Principal of St. Bees, maintains to be the most beautiful in the lake district, and26 which is described by Green, the artist, as being “a grand valley lying at the feet of the high mountains on the north of Conistone Water.” As you approach it, you must, if you have eyes and soul, be struck with “the steep, frowning glories” of the mile-long range of lofty cliffs which bound Yewdale on the whole extent of its western side, the otherwise barren aspect of which is finely relieved by thick groves, comprising oak, larch, birch, holly, &c., stretching along the foot of the crags, and also by numerous and various trees flourishing here and there along the face of the steep, in situations “the most inaccessible by shepherds trod,” even up to the highest verge of the precipice, where it makes one giddy to imagine how they have been planted, for they ore not of spontaneous growth, but were all planted by the late Mr Knott.


You cross the pellucid Beck of Yewdale by a ricketty wooden bridge, pass through the farm-yard of Low Yewdale, and immediately after gain the high road, which runs along the west side of the valley close under the crags. As you near the head of the vale, be pleased to observe, as you will doubtless be pleased in observing, the sweetly situated farm of High Yewdale, with its long rows of unmercifully clipt yews, looking like magnified chessmen, one of which was recently recommended to my notice by an observant fair friend, as presenting a ludicrous resemblance to a starched puritan of the time of the Commonwealth, attired in round beaver and “cloak of formal cut.” You must here diverge a little from your line of ramble to examine the aged tree which gives its name to the vale, and which some unscrupulous local chronologists stoutly maintain to have been coeval with the deluge. Without feeling myself called upon to establish that fact, I may safely enough assert that it must be of vast antiquity, and it is the largest yew that I have yet fallen in with, those immortalized by Wordsworth as27 “the pride of Lorton vale,” and the “fraternal four of Borrowdale,” not excepted. I, and two friends, girthed it one summer with three riding-whips knotted together, and found it, at five feet from the ground, to measure 29 feet in circumference. You see that it has an aperture in the northern side of its huge trunk, which, like Mercutio's wound, though “not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, 'twill serve” to let you go in and creep round between that centre pillar formed of the most internal layers of its wood and the surrounding wall formed of its external layers and bark, a large portion of the intermediate timber having, like the halls of Lord Byron’s fathers, “gone to decay.”


This wondrous feat being duly accomplished, for your future exaltation, retrace your steps as far as the Shepherds' Bridge, and then, holding to the right, you soon pass through a gate, and come out upon a somewhat stony road winding along between the beck and the foot of Raven Crag, which rises on your right, steep and rugged, to form its multi-peaked crown. That precipitous peak (or pike) immediately above you, was the scene of an event remarkable in the annals of mountain fox-hunting. A poor fox, after an unusually long chase, reached the summit of Raven Crag, closely pursued by only three hounds, the rest of the pack being distanced long before; as a last chance for life, he made directly for the edge of that precipice, purposing, doubtless, to swerve when close to the verge, and thus rid himself of his pursuers by throwing them over: this sagacious expedient was, however, unsuccessful, for, when he reached the edge, his three foes were too near to admit of his effecting the saving turn, and all four were projected from the brow of the cliff, and dashed, out of all semblance of caninity and vulpinity, on the stones not far above your present position.



Weatherlam—Tilberthwaite—The Brathay—Wordsworth's Bridges—Hallgarth—Little Langdale, its Tarn, &c.—Whitewash, pro and con—The Busk and Fell-foot—“Joan’s Ale was New”—Ancient Tumulus—Ascent of Wrynose—The Shire Stones—Source of the Duddon—Wordsworth's Sonnets thereon—Author’s ditto ditto—Traditional Sayings about Old Woods—Their Extent Disputed.

As you wind round the heel of Raven Crag, you obtain a fine view of the Old Man’s stupendous brother, Weatherlam, rearing his massive summit over the circumjacent hills, like a giant amid ordinary mortals. You follow a narrow winding road through the verdant fields and copse-clad hillocks of Holme ground, and soon find yourself in the vale of Tilberthwaite; and “O,” you suspirate, as you roll your eyes around, “what a spot for a honeymoon—'the world forgetting, by the world forgot'—so lovely in its seclusion and so lonely in its loveliness.” The only unpleasant characteristic of Tilberthwaite is an odd, uncomfortable feeling of which, though absurd enough, you cannot entirely divest yourself—an idea of difficulty in getting out of it. It is so encompassed by steep hills and hanging woods, that you involuntarily compare yourself to a cockroach in the bottom of a porridge basin. The name of Tilberthwaite is said to be compounded of Till29bear and thwaite, and to signify an enclosure for the cultivation of bear (pronounced beer), an old name for barley. This word, like many more that are obsolete in England, is still used in Scotland; for instance, it occurs in Tam O'Shanter, where it is said that Cutty Sark—

“Shook baith muckle corn and bear,
And held the kintra side in fear.”

And again, an old song commences—

“There'll be nae shearing here the year,
For the craws hae eaten the bear the year.”

But the day advances, and you’d better advance along with it, for “you've many a mile to go” before you get back to your comfortable quarters at Conistone. Push on then, along the bye road through the fields, and you again reach the high road. You follow it through the farm-yard—take the gate to the right, and pursue a rough way meandering pleasantly for about a mile through an irregularly-wooded vale. The enormous heaps of loose blue stone on every side of you are from the slate quarries, of which I shall perhaps tell you more when I have more time.


The stream you now approach is a branch of the Brathay, which rises on Wrynose and other hills round the head of Little Langdale, down which valley it flows, forming a fine fall at Colwith and at Skelwith, after joining the Great Langdale branch in Elterwater, and become a principal feeder of the “Regal Windermere;” you stand upon the verge of Lancashire, for this brook here divides it from Westmorland. Don’t cross it as yet, but follow its course upwards on the Lancashire side, and you will soon fall in with a primitive stone bridge—one of the very few remaining of those whose rapid disappearance Mr Wordsworth deplores, whilst he expresses admiration of30 “the daring and graceful contempt of danger and accommodation with which so many of them are constructed, the rudeness of form of some, and their endless variety.” If neglect of danger and accommodation, and rudeness of form, be the distinguishing and essential attributes of the class, this, connecting Tilberthwaite with Little Langdale, and called Slater’s Bridge, ought certainly to be preserved as an exquisite and unique specimen of a style of bridge all but extinct; for the sturdy Dalesmen perversely prefer bridges that are safe and commodious, though they may sacrifice the picturesque and rudeness of form to obtain these vulgar requisites.


Pass by, not over, the bridge—a horse passing over it might remind one of the famous asinine performer on the tight-rope—and you come to the hamlet of Hallgarth, which has little to distinguish it from a thousand others, save the rather uncomfortable peculiarity of not being touched upon by the “blessed sun” for about three months in the year. As you leave it by a steep acclivity, you had better take a survey of Little Langdale which lies spread out at your feet. Rather farther than midway between you and the abruptly rising range of hill called Lingmoor, which divides this vale from its larger namesake, lies Langdale Tarn, which bears out the Poet Laureate's assertion, that “Tarns are often surrounded by an unsightly tract of boggy ground.” The chief beauty of Little Langdale consists in the irregular hillocky nature of its ground and the sites of its dwellings, many of which nestle so cozily in little dells, behind rocky knolls, and beneath umbrageous trees, as to convey a notion of the most attractive snugness; but here I am heretic enough to dispute the infallibility of the Poet Laureate’s taste. He has declared war against whitewash in something like the following terms:—“The objections to white, as a colour, in large spots or masses in landscapes, especially in a mountainous country, are insurmountable”—and, quoting somebody who says31 “that white destroys the gradations A WORD FOR WHITE HOUSES.of distance,” he holds on thus—“Five or six white houses, scattered over a valley, by their obtrusiveness, dot the surface, and divide it into triangles, or other mathematical figures, haunting the eye, and disturbing that repose which might otherwise be perfect.” By the bye, a fair lady, whose opinion, in most matters of taste, I hold in the deepest reverence, recently became a convert to this doctrine of Mr Wordsworth, because she noticed the effect just instanced, not when gazing upon a landscape, but when compiling patch work in which fragments of white intruded amongst the blues, yellows, greens, reds, and neutrals, woefully disturbed the harmony and repose of the cushion cover or quilt. Mr Wordsworth says also, in support of his anti-whitewashing theory, that “in nature, pure white is scarcely ever found but in small objects, such as flowers; or in those which are transitory, as the clouds, foam on rivers, and snow.” But I must remind those who take for gospel every word that Mr Wordsworth preaches, that the “White Cliffs of England,” the snows upon a thousand hills, and the foam of a thousand cataracts are neither minute nor transitory; and that large masses of white in nature, such as these, as well as white clouds, and the terrible white of a stormy sea upon a rocky coast are all calculated to excite sensations of the sublime and beautiful in any bosom, whether the possessor be very much of a man of feeling and imagination or the reverse. But coming back to cottages, with all due deference to the Poet Laureate’s argument, and with more to that of his fair and talented supporter, I do maintain that no objects can give such a gratifying air of life and cheerfulness to a valley surrounded, or not, by high mountains, or so strikingly enhance the bright green of herbage and foliage, or the more sombre, but warmer, tints of near or distant hills, as a liberal sprinkling over the landscape of pure white cottages, embosomed, as these are, each in its own32 OUT-DOORS AND IN-DOORS CONTRASTED.nest of sheltering trees; and I do wish that the farmers of Langdale, and all our other fell-dales, would expend a shilling or two annually on lime, and bestow upon their romantically situated homesteads, “the cleanly, pleasant appearance derivable from a plentiful periodical application of white-wash.” Their present grim, dingy, almost squalid exteriors, are strongly suggestive to the mind of a stranger of internal poverty, desolation and dirt, than which nothing can be more distant from their real in-door condition; for, in all these scattered houses, miserable as they look externally, there is abundance for the wants of the inmates and for the requirements of hospitality, and their cleanliness is such that, as I have partaken of many meals spread upon their unclothed tables, so, in the absence of a table, would I not scruple to eat my dinner if laid upon any of their blue flagged floors,[A] for those are cleaner than many table-cloths I have seen in the course of my peregrinations through other countries.

[A] It is said that “great wits jump together,” and it would appear that, under certain circumstances, the same saltatory exploit may be performed by a great and a small wit; for instance, Miss Martineau in her capital essay on the Lake District, treating of the inside cleanliness of the houses, makes nearly the same remark as I have made above. I am sorry that I cannot conscientiously adopt the complaint of the very modern literary gentleman who accused Shakspeare of forestalling all his best ideas, because the above passage, or at least the same idea, if it be one, occurred in the first edition of these papers, and was printed above three years before the appearance of Miss Martineau’s work.


Mais revenons a nos moutons,—return we to our ramble. As you move forward, here take a good look at Langdale Pikes, perhaps the most picturesque hills in England, and seen to advantage from this road, over Wallend and Blea Tarn. Which last again brings Mr Wordsworth upon the stage; indeed it is difficult to descant upon any part of the lake country without running33 foul of him, and this Blea Tarn is the scene of one of those purely poetical descriptions so truly and peculiarly his own, which prove by the earnestness, fervour, and simplicity of their style, that their author is a true poet, with all his whims; and they may well be received as an ample atonement for even more of the middling quality than he, during his long and peaceful life, has inflicted upon the reading world.

The newly-made cart-road to your left leads to Greenbourne—a wild and retired dell under the north-eastern shoulder of Weatherlam, where a spirited and meritorious mining adventure, set on foot by some working miners from Conistone, is in progress, and is likely to prosper. The farm under the fell on the other side of the valley, is called the Busk, and was formerly a public house, as was also Fell-foot, the uppermost house in the dale. It is said of these old hostels, that they would commence brewing when they saw their chief customers, the caravans of travellers, carriers, and pack horses (then the only mode of conveying goods, as this was the only road, between Kendal and Whitehaven), appear on the top of Wrynose, and that they would have good drink ready for them by the time they reached the bottom. This reminds one of the old story of the thirsty London traveller drawing up and calling for ale at an old public house, called the “Dog and Doublet” on Carleton Thwaite, and being told by the landlady in her brewing apron, that “they happened to be out of drink just then, but if he would light his ways down and stop a leyle bit, he should have wort and welcome while the yell was getting ready.” As you approach Fell-foot you cross the beck, and entering Westmorland, come upon the ancient pack-horse road; and passing close in front of Fell-foot, a favourable sample of the old-fashioned mountain farm-house, you commence the ascent of Wrynose. In the field immediately behind34 the farm buildings, is a large mound or tumulus which has never been noticed in any published work, but which, it is much to be desired, that some learned antiquary would examine, and report upon its nature and probable or possible origin. It is an oblong square, with a tabular summit from thirty to forty yards long, and from ten to fifteen broad—attained by a broad terraced road of very gradual ascent, which, after encompassing the mound twice or thrice, comes out upon its summit at its northern extremity.


As you creep up the mountain, you may perceive in the deep verdant glen under your left, a number of small cone-shaped tumuli, whether formed by the hand of man or by the operations of nature this deponent sayeth not.

Having climbed for nearly a mile, please to halt and look back, and you have a view well worth all your toil, embracing Little Langdale, Colwith, Skelwith, Loughrigg, the bright waters of Windermere, and the groves and mountains beyond, altogether making up a picture approaching in beauty, though inferior in richness and variety, (as all other prospects are) to that seen from the Castlerigg, near Keswick.

And now, having nearly attained the summit of Wrynose Pass, I shall impart to you such instructions, as will enable you, without difficulty, to find the three shire stones, which here mark the spot where the three counties, Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire meet; and this service I may mention is not rendered you by any of the hackney itineraries or guide-books, for I never could make them out until I received explicit directions in the matter from an old woman in Seathwaite. At what appears the top of Wrynose, when ascending it from Langdale, you come upon a short track of level ground, where the road runs along between a low wall of rock on35 CLASSIC GROUND.the right and a peat-moss on the left. Near to the point where the rocky wall runs down to nothing, and where the road makes a sweep to the left to rise an acclivity, look to the right, and, at a few yards distance from the road, and stuck in rather wet ground, you will descry three stones of the size of a high-crowned hat—about five feet distant from each other—and forming a triangle; each stone is in a different county, and if you are tolerably lish and lengthy of limb, you may place a foot upon one stone, the other foot on another, and your hands on the third; or should the circumstances under which you visit the spot require you to do the feat more gracefully or more decorously, you may place both feet on one and distribute your hands between the other two—either way you perform it, you may brag thereafter that you, in your individual person, have been in three counties at one and the same time.

You leave the spot where “three fair counties meet together,” and topping the aforesaid short ascent, soon begin to descend, and as you descend, do not attempt to shew your learning by quoting Virgil, and calling this “facilis descensus Averni,” for it is a most infacile and innerman-jumblingdescensus” into a very different place—a vale destined through future ages to hold a proud rank amongst the thousand be-rhymed and be-sonneted localities of ancient and modern poets, such as “The Plains of Troy, of which blind Homer sang,” “Parnassus' hill where wells fair Castaly,” “The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece, where burning Sappho loved and sung,” “The soft flowing Avon,” “The wide and winding Rhine,” “The Banks o’ Doon,” “The Groves of Blarney,” &c., &c., &c.—for it is the subject of a rosary of sonnets by our great moral poet, of higher celebrity than any given to the world since the days of Petrarch, and I hope that neither Mr Wordsworth nor you will think that I exceed36 my commission by quoting here the two first of the series of “Sonnets on the River Duddon.”—

Not envying Latian shades—if yet they throw
A grateful coolness round that crystal spring,
Blandusia prattling as when long ago
The Sabine Bard was moved her praise to sing;
Careless of flowers that in perennial blow
Round the moist marge of Persian fountains cling;
Heedless of Alpine torrents thundering
Through ice-built arches radiant as Heaven’s bow;
I seek the birth-place of a native stream.
All hail! ye mountains! hail thou morning light!
Better to breathe at large on this clear height
Than toil in needless sleep from dream to dream:
Pure flow the verse, pure, vigorous, free, and bright,
For Duddon, long-loved Duddon, is my theme!
Child of the clouds! remote from every taint
Of sordid industry thy lot is cast;
Thine are the honours of the lofty waste;
Not seldom, when with heat the valleys faint,
Thy handmaid Frost with spangled tissue quaint
Thy cradle decks;—to chant thy birth, thou hast
No meaner Poet than the whistling blast,
And desolation is thy Patron-Saint!—
She guards thee, ruthless Power! who would not spare
Those mighty forests, once the bison’s screen,
Where stalked the huge deer to his shaggy lair
Through paths and alleys roofed with sombre green;
Thousands of years before the silent air
Was pierced by whizzing shaft of hunter keen!

The first two lines of the second of these sonnets furnish an instance of the prime defect in Wordsworth’s philosophy and poetry, namely, his affected (for it cannot be real), contempt for, and his perpetually recurring sneer at, what he here calls sordid industry. I say this contempt cannot be real, because Wordsworth, though a great Poet, possesses quite an average share of ordinary unpoetical prudence and discernment, and though in earnest, no doubt, in his worship of37 “unprofaned nature” holds in due appreciation those commonplace comforts of civilized life, which, without the aid of the sordid industry, would scarcely be attainable. Moreover, to meet him on his own ground, this wild locality is by no means very “remote from every taint of sordid industry”—these hills are devoted to sheep farming, and though I am far from stigmatizing stock farmers as being more sordid than other classes, yet is their ordinary employment as essentially sordid in its nature, and as coarse, unromantic and disagreeable in its details, as any other common mode of money-making, notwithstanding all that has been said, or sung, to the contrary.


And now, in humble imitation of my betters, I cannot refrain from trying my poor hand at a sonnet, and, when you have well considered the same, I hope and believe that, however infinite you may reckon its poetical inferiority, you will admit that its sentiment is more in accordance with the subject—that it is conceived in a more Catholic spirit than those of my great prototype—

“And that my raptures are not conjured up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,” attend;—
Here springs the Duddon, trickling from the end
Of Wrynose, thus suggesting the belief
That Wrynose lacks a pocket-handkerchief.
It argues much untidiness to send
A nose-bred rill meandering o'er the breast
Of Seathwaite vale; but, as you downward wend,
Where verdure, rocks, and water aptly blend
To form a scene whose presence few had guess'd,
Amid these wild brown fells, you'll bless the source
Of this clear stream whose gushing waters lend
A music cheering you as you descend,
With easy lounge along its fitful course,
And pray that, whilst these wild brown fells endure,
Wrynose’s catarrh ne'er may find a cure!

The head of this vale does not hold out much promise of beauty, and you feel surprised that any one, were he fifty times a poet, could contrive to make anything read38able on such a subject as the dreary uninteresting valley before you. It is indeed a desolate spot, stretching its unrelieved length for two miles from the foot of this hill, with nothing for the eye to exercise itself, or the heart to console itself with, but bare fells, grey crags, screes and boulders, and a stone-vexed rivulet winding its lonely way along the bottom of the dale, but not a sign of life except what may be contained in moss and lichens, with here and there a little fern and grass.


There are many who would persuade you that all these bleak hills and dales were formerly and for centuries covered with dense forests. Mr Wordsworth, in sonnet number two, speaks of “mighty forests” having existed hereabout for thousands of years before archery or hunting became fashionable, and Dan Birkett, of whom more anon, declares that formerly a con (vulgarly called a squirrel), could hop from branch to branch all the way from the top of Wrynose to Millom Castle; the same tradition, I may remark, exists in the same form in other localities; for instance, it is averred that the aforesaid little animal, could, in the olden time, accomplish a similar aerial journey from Wythburn to Keswick, and also from Loweswater to the sea at Moresby. But perhaps the best of the sort is the tradition cherished by the descendants of one of the old Border clans, which asserts that some time before “the good old days of Adam and Eve” a moss trooper might ride in the shade of trees from the head of Annandale to the Solway, about thirty-five miles, and all upon land belonging to the Hallidays.

Take my word for it, the extent, duration, and number of these old forests are very much exaggerated. Let us take these hill sides as an instance. Where are the vestiges of a thick wood existing here for ages? Burnt, you may say!—Yes, but where is the rich loam inevitably produced by copious deposit of decayed vegetable matter39 WHAT THE SOIL SAYS.on dry situations, or the deep peat-moss that always betokens the former existence of timber in wet localities? Here, to your left, you perceive there has been a small land-slip—examine the soil exposed, and what do you find? Why, about a single inch of the soil created by vegetable growth and decay, just as much as the poor little mosses can make and no more, and a substratum of the tenacious reddish gravel locally called sammel; but no where do we see anything approaching to the thick superstratum of rich vegetable mould always discovered on the sites of primeval forests. No! no! where you cannot find either loam or peat-moss, be assured there has been at no period, however remote, any considerable covering of wood.




Ulpha—Cockley Beck—The Sunken Graves—Dale-head—“The Stepping Stones”—Hinging House—The Clan Tyson—Anecdotes—T’ Birks Brig—Remarks on Scenery, and Quotations—Seathwaite Beck—Miss Martineau on the Church and Parsonage—Newfield—Entertainment for Man and Beast—Dan Birkett—Walla-barrow Crag—Stoneythwaite—Mr Wordsworth’s Anecdote—Character of Scenery.

As you pursue your rugged way down the vale, you at length come in sight of a group of buildings, which offers to you, as the gibbet did to the castaway mariner, the comforting assurance that you are still a sojourner in a civilised country—a matter on which you were beginning to feel uneasily dubious. It is the onstead of a large sheep farm, well known by the designation of Black Hall, which forms the most northerly portion of the Chapelry of Ulpha—a wild tract of country extending for many lonely miles along the Cumberland side of the Duddon, deriving its outlandish looking appellation from the same royal personage who is said to have accorded the honour of bearing his name, as part of theirs, to the town of Ulverstone and the Lake of Ullswater, the old Saxon Monarch Ulfo or Ulphus (some call him one and some the other), who, for anything that I know to the contrary, was one of the Kings of the Heptarchy. Probably, when I mention this, you will remember that Scott, in the Bridal41 of Triermain, tells of the Baron’s Page, when sent by his lord to enquire at the Sage of Lyulph’s Tower whether the fair apparition in his dream was “an airy thing” or of the earth earthy—

“He traced the Eamont’s winding way,
Till Ulfo’s lake beneath him lay.”

Push on, and, as you round the elbow of the hill, you are farther cheered by the nearer prospect of another domicile on the Lancashire side of the brook; that is the residence of Mr Daniel Tyson, the worthy proprietor and occupant of Cockley Beck, the name of the house and farm being derived from the stream that rushes along its north-western boundary, and said to signify “a winding or rugged stream;” others say its name is derived from the former condition or character of the bridge here which used to be “Cocklety,” a term implying “a daring contempt of danger and accommodation” on the part of its architect; others, again, say that the name of the brook ought to be Cockling or Cackling Beck, because the noise it occasionally makes in its stoney bed may, by the aid of a leetle imagination, be likened to that by which a hen announces to all concerned that she has just got safely quit of an egg.

The vale of Seathwaite now assumes a more attractive aspect; your pleasantest road lies through the farm-yard of Cockley Beck, and that hearty-looking elderly man, the uniform cherry-colour of whose honest phiz bespeaks exposure to many a biting mountain blast, is Daniel Tyson himself. If you are disposed to rest and chat awhile, you may lead him, nothing loath, into conversation, and if you do so, I fancy that some of his communications will surprise, if they don’t interest you; for instance, in allusion to some skins you may notice hung up to dry, he will inform you that the weasels about Cockley Beck have a fashion, on the advent of winter, of42 CONJECTURES.changing their colour from brown to white, resuming their more sombre coloured coats on the return of spring; a fact in local zoology of which I incline to imagine you have not hitherto been cognisant. He will also tell you, should anything suggest the subject, that, in one of his pastures, a little up the beck, there existed, till within the last few years, a number of graves arranged in rows, but which now, either from the sinking of the soil, or the growth of the surrounding moss, &c., have become level with the adjacent surface, and all distinct traces of them obliterated. What rather adds to the interest excited by these mysterious tombs is, that there is no history, authentic, traditional, or legendary, to account for their existence—thus affording a capital field for those imaginative geniuses who love to speculate upon such mysteries or to frame what maybe awanting for their satisfactory development. With me the favourite probability in this instance is, that a skirmish, tolerably fatal, has been fought in this sequestered nook during the progress of some of the horrible wars that, from time to time, have saddened our merry land, and that the slain have been buried here where they fell; but, whether the supposed skirmish was fought between the factions of York and Lancaster about the time poor King Henry sought and found, for a season, a house of refuge in this vicinity; or between the Cavaliers and Roundheads, when the Flemings of Conistone stood out for Church and King; or between the Dalesmen themselves and a stray party of Moss-trooping Scots, who, “in the old riding times,” occasionally pushed their predatory incursions even into these poor valleys, neither Mr Tyson nor I will inform you, for, as I said before, history, authentic and apocryphal, is silent on the subject, Daniel is a man of verity, and I am but a lame hand at invention; therefore you need not hope for even a fabricated story (which, after all, would be better than none),43 in connection with this now effaced souvenir of the good old times.


But it is time you were taking leave of Cockley Beck, and as you are doing so, you may perceive at the foot of the heights to your left a number of rubbish heaps, the result of a mining speculation set a going and kept up by some spirited and very persevering gentlemen chiefly resident in Ulverstone. You now canter along a decent road through flat meadows where, if it be the season, the lads and lasses of the dale are busily engaged in securing the hay-crop and carrying it home, probably on horseback, for the old farmers here have not as yet begun to use carts for that purpose. On this road, too, there are “oceans of gates” to open, the frequent recurrence of which becomes rather troublesome, should your pony not be all the steadier. You very soon arrive at another farm, called Dalehead; but, by the bye, just before you reach that, you had better turn off to the right by a track that soon brings you to the river side, and take a look at the stepping stones by which the Duddon is crossed at this point. When you have looked at them, you seem to wonder what it may be that should entitle them to be noticed more than any other stepping stones in the country. I'll tell you. Mr Wordsworth says they are—

“What might seem a zone
Chosen for ornament—stone matched with stone
In studied symmetry, with interspace
For the clear waters to pursue their race
Without restraint,”

and so on. It certainly does require a poet’s eye to discover the title of these stones to be made the subject of two whole sonnets of fourteen lines apiece; and apropos to that, I once, at an evening party near Hawkshead, overheard a gentleman ask another, “Have you read Wordsworth’s sonnets on the Duddon?” “No.” “O then,” said the first,44 “if you ever do read them, don’t believe them! We were there last week, and we didn’t find anything as he has described it.” Now though this advice is entitled to some respect, inasmuch as the giver is an amateur painter and musician of high excellence and also a very keen angler, which last a respected friend of mine would call the most intellectual and poetical pursuit of the three, I cannot quite coincide with it, and I shall soon make you admit that, although the vale of Seathwaite may not be all that the Laureate, in the customary exercise of poetic licence, may seem to make it, yet is it well worthy a visit from any one with the smallest pretensions to a taste for the picturesque.


Leaving Dalehead, you soon come to another farm-house, noticeable as presenting, in strong contrast to its dingy-looking, though prettily placed neighbours, a clean and cheerful, because whitewashed, exterior, a veracious index of the comfort, tidiness, and hospitality that characterise its interior. It is called Hinging House, and is the residence of another of the clan Tyson, the members of which are so numerous in this, and the sister vales Eskdale, Wastdale, The Langdales, &c., that in case of need, their chief, if they’d had one, might levy a regiment of his own name, as was done, if I remember aright, by one of the Highland Chieftains, and a regiment, too, that would be scarcely surpassable even by the Queen’s household troops as regards the strength, stature, figures and features of the rank and file. In this dale alone there are, zoologically speaking, some magnificent specimens, both male and female, of the genus homo amongst the Tysons: and, indeed, the same may be said truly enough of the Walkers, Dawsons, Birketts, and the bearers of other Seathwaite surnames.


The great number of families bearing the name of Tyson renders it necessary for their neighbours and themselves to adopt the custom of distinguishing indivi45duals by the names of their residences, as Daniel of Cockley Beck, George of Black Hall, Harry o’ t’ Hinging House, and so on ad infinitum.


Not long ago, I had occasion to call at a house in Little Langdale, and the friend who accompanied me was joined, whilst waiting in the fold, by a fine ruddy and lively little fellow who had not then attained the dignity of his first breeches. He was, by way of starting a conversation, accosted with the question most common under such circumstances, “What is your name?” The answer was ready, “Jimmy o’ t’ Fell-foot!” “What other name have you?” “I have nin!” and neither his questioner nor his grown-up brother, who came up during the conversation, could prevail upon the youngster to assert his right to any other designation than “Jimmy o’ t’ Fell-foot.”

Another anecdote illustrating the power of this custom and then we'll march on. Mr Tyson, the much respected incumbent of Seathwaite, had, and perhaps still has a son settled in London, and a worthy statesman, one of his parishioners, having business requiring his presence in town, was furnished with Mr Thomas Tyson’s address, which, with some difficulty, he contrived to make out, and greatly astonished the servant who opened the door to his knock by asking, in a dialect very distinctly not that of a Cockney, “If ye pleese, does Tom o’ t’ Priest’s leeve here?”

Continue your course down the vale, again passing through the farm-yard and holding on along the foot of the fell by a road which has become somewhat more rugged, you, by and bye, re-approach the river and arrive at the Birks Bridge—the which I may guarantee to be much better worth an examination than those paltry stepping stones that disappointed you so grievously. The Duddon, for some distance above and below this bridge, considerably narrows and deepens, and loses the general rapidity of its current, passing through a chasm,46 A SLIGHTED BEAUTY.the jagged rocky walls of which rise perpendicularly to a considerable height above the surface, and sink to a depth a good deal below the level of the river’s bed above and below the chasm (whether this be “the Faëry Chasm” which Mr Wordsworth has pressed into his service as a subject for one of his sonnets, not knowing, can’t say, but it may perhaps do as well for it as any other). At a point where opposite portions of these rocky walls jut out so as to render the space between extremely narrow, the little arch of the bridge springs boldly across the void, the jutting portions of rock forming piers more substantial and durable, barring earthquakes, than any artificial structure for the same purpose in the kingdom. The water on the lower side of the bridge is still and very deep, I should say nearly two fathoms, and bears a beautiful tinge of faint blue, but is so clear that, if you happened to wear blue spectacles, you might very well fancy that you were staring down into a river course destitute of water. The best view of this little bridge and its picturesque natural adjuncts is to be gained by fastening your steed to the gate at its further end, and descending to a little platform of rock nearly on a level with the surface of the water about twenty yards below the bridge, and, when there, I think you will agree with me that this neglected atom of scenery is a full compensation for the fatigue of even a longer and rougher ride than you have undertaken on this joyful occasion, as Saunders Mucklebackit’s mother called her grandson’s funeral.

Remount your Bucephalus and canter away down the dale past the farms of Troutwell and Browside, through scenery which suggests a couplet from “The Lady of the Lake,” for assuredly

“Crags, knolls, and mounds confusedly hurled,
The fragments of an earlier world,”


THE “CHERISHED” OF DUDDON.applies with equal propriety to Seathwaite as to the glorious scenery around Loch Katrine. As you approach the farm of Nettleslack, you must make up your mind to quit either the river or your poney, for the road diverges from the Duddon, which now assumes a course where

“It seems some mountain, rent and riven,
A channel to the stream hath given.
Where he who winds 'twixt rock and wave,
May hear the headlong torrent rave,
And like a steed in frantic fit,
That flings the froth from curb and bit,
May view her—chafe her waves to spray,
O'er every rock that bars her way,
Till foam-globes on her eddies ride
Thick as the schemes of human pride,
That down life’s current drive amain
As frail, as frothy, and as vain!”

But you must take my word for all this, for you cannot “wind 'twixt rock and wave” on horseback, therefore keep the good road, whilst you have it. Cross Seathwaite Beck by Nettleslack Bridge, and push on for the little Inn at Newfield, to reach which you must pass between the Chapel and the Parsonage. Behind the latter, you may notice Seathwaite Beck, a tributary of the Duddon nearly as large as itself, which rushes impetuously and noisily along—

“Hurrying with lordly Duddon to unite;
Who, 'mid a world of images imprest
On the calm depth of his transparent breast,
Appears to cherish most that torrent white,
The fairest, softest, liveliest of them all!”

The “torrent white” looks exceedingly black and gloomy under the shadow of these dense overhanging branches, causing the numerous patches of snow-like foam to look “than snow more white” by the contrast.


Of Seathwaite Chapel Miss Martineau says,48 “when the traveller reaches the Church, he finds it little loftier or larger than the houses near. But for the bell, he would hardly have noticed it for a Church in approaching: but when he has reached it, there is the porch, and the little grave-yard, and the spreading yews encircled by the seat of stones and turf, where the early comers sit and rest, till the bell calls them in. A little dial on a whitened post in the middle of the enclosure, tells the time to the neighbours who have no clocks.” Miss Martineau may undertake to supply all “the neighbours who have no clock” with that essential article of domestic respectability, for I can answer for it, there is no house in Seathwaite without one. “Just outside the wall,” Miss M. says, “is a white cottage, so humble that the stranger thinks it cannot be the parsonage: yet the climbing roses and glittering evergreens, and clear lattices, and pure uncracked walls, look as if it might be.”

I have a good deal to say in connection with this same Church and Parsonage, but I suppose it must be deferred, for after your long ride you must be somewhat athirst, and an unromantic feeling of emptiness most likely renders you insensible to the charms of scenery as well as sentiment. Your pony, who has been here before, has for sometime shewn an impatient consciousness of the proximity of Edward Stables’ corn-chest, and, in fair time of day, here you are at the door of his public, which, though of rather unpromising exterior, has the wherewithal inside to furnish forth a plain, but plentiful, savoury, and to a man, in your circumstances, satisfactory feed—

“And here the ale is foaming up,
And genuine is the gin,
And you may take a liberal sup
To cheer your soul within.”

I am not sure that I quote correctly, but you will find that the facts are correctly given. If it be about the end of the week, you will probably fall in with my friend Dan Birkett, “t’ heead Captain of Seeathwaite Tarn-heead Mines,”49 ANTIQUITIES AND ANECDOTE.who will not require much pressing to take a glass of grog, and whose varied conversation may amuse you, whilst your ham and eggs are being cooked. Amongst other matters, he will tell you that, in the Longhouse Close, on the side of Walna Scar, with which you shall be made acquainted by and bye, are to be seen the remains of an ancient British town, consisting of the ruins of several stone-built huts, and a large enclosure, where Dan says they secured their flocks from the wolves: he also says that they wore no clothes except a coat, but painted their legs blue, and lived out upon the bare hill-sides, that they might preserve the bottoms, which were then covered with wood, for hunting in.

Whilst you are taking your ease at your Inn, you may note from the yard thereof a very fine, precipitous and rocky height upon the farther side of the stream, which it is impossible to pass by unnoticed. It bears the fine rolling name of Walla-barrow Crag, and, upon its further side, the remains of a Roman castrum are said to exist, and, though I, when I made the attempt, was unable to trace them, they may be there for all that. Looking along the heights to the south of Walla-barrow Crag, you will be struck with the appearance of trees and

“A field or two of brighter green, or plot
Of tillage-ground, that seemeth like a spot
Of stationary sunshine!”

indicating the situation of a farm called Stoneythwaite, perched like an eagle’s nest on the summit of the precipice, with some of its fields upon ledges half-way down.

“The laurel-honouring Laureate” says, respecting this portion of Duddon vale,—“The chaotic aspect of the scene is well marked by the expression of a stranger, who strolled out while dinner was preparing, and, at his return, being asked by his host, “What way he had been wandering?” replied,50 “As far as it is finished!”


The wild is the prevailing characteristic of Seathwaite scenery; and, at the same time, it is invested with an air of quietness and repose which prevents its wildness approaching the savage or terrible, though many distinct parts of it, as well as its general aspect, are fully entitled to the epithet of sublime.




The Rev. Robert Walker—His Parentage, Birth, and Breeding—Habits of Life—His Industry, Economy, and Hospitality—His Ways of Moneymaking—His Death—Description of his Outer Man—Comments—General Poverty of the Old Clergy—Mary Hird—Her Character and Death.

Having fed yourself and seen your pony fed, whilst the latter is enjoying needful rest, you may return to the Chapel and make a more deliberate examination thereof than you could do when you lately passed it on horseback and hungry, and see that you approach that “low, small, modest house of prayer” with befitting reverence for it, and the ground of the humble cemetery around it, in the opinion of greater men than you or I can ever hope to be, are each doubly hallowed, the former as having been for sixty-six years the scene of the labours, and the latter as holding “the mortal dust” of the “Wonderful Walker;” and who, you inquire, was he? and how was he wonderful? I'll tell you all about him in as few words as possible. The Rev. Robert Walker was the youngest child in a family of twelve, who were all born to a small yeoman, at Undercrag, in this dale. He was born in 1709, and being sickly in boyhood, it was determined, in accordance with very general custom in such cases, to “breed him a scholar.” His father died when he was seventeen, and he soon obtained the appointment of parochial teacher at Gosforth, in Cumberland. After52 PREFERMENTS AND PROFITS.labouring there, and in the same capacity at Loweswater for some few years, he was ordained to the living of Buttermere—the smallest Chapel, and, by no means the largest living, in England. His income as incumbent of Buttermere, even though eked out by teaching, being insufficient for his wants, moderate as they were, he worked hard, when his clerical and pedagogical duties permitted, as a common country labourer, span, knitted, and acted as private secretary and scrivener general, and sometimes as marketing agent in sheep, wool, &c., to all his neighbours. Amongst other modes of raising the needful whilst at Buttermere, I have been told by one of his Seathwaite neighbours, that he taught the Buttermerians the art of drawing their lake and the adjacent lake of Crummock with the draught net, and for this service he was paid at the extravagant rate of one halfpenny for every draught they took, whilst he remained amongst them. After this he obtained the living of Torver, a small Chapelry, under Ulverstone, situate a mile or two from Conistone down the west side of the lake; and shortly after that, he attained the great object of his very natural ambition—the ministry of this his native valley; married a wife with a fortune of forty pounds, and yet did not allow his strict habits of economy and industry to slacken. There was no labour too mean for him to engage in; indeed his daily routine of employment as given by his trumpeter-in-chief, Mr Wordsworth, is such as few Bishops in these degenerate days would permit a clergyman to indulge in. Listen to it—“Eight hours in each day, during five days in the week, and half of Saturday, except when the labours of husbandry were urgent, he was occupied in teaching. His seat was within the rails of the altar: the communion table was his desk; and, like Shenstone's schoolmistress, the master employed himself at the spinning-wheel, while the children were repeating their53 A POOR PARSON’S LABOURS.lessons by his side. Every evening, after school hours, if not more profitably engaged, he continued the same kind of labour, exchanging, for the benefit of exercise, the small wheel at which he had sate, for the large one on which wool is spun, the spinner stepping to and fro. Thus was the wheel constantly in readiness to prevent the waste of a moment’s time. Nor was his industry with the pen, when occasion called for it, less eager. Intrusted with extensive management of public and private affairs, he acted, in his rustic neighbourhood, as scrivener, writing out petitions, deeds of conveyance, wills, covenants, &c., with pecuniary gain to himself and to the great benefit of his employers. These labours (at all times considerable) at one period of the year, viz., between Christmas and Candlemas, when money transactions are settled in this country, were often so intense, that he passed great part of the night, and sometimes whole nights at his desk. His garden also was tilled by his own hand; he had a right of pasturage on the mountains for a few sheep and a couple of cows, which required his attendance; with this pastoral occupation he joined the labours of husbandry upon a small scale, renting two or three acres in addition to his own less than one acre of glebe; and the humblest drudgery which the cultivation of these fields required was performed by himself. He also assisted his neighbours in haymaking and shearing their flocks, and in the performance of this latter service, he was eminently dexterous.”

For this assistance, he was in the annual habit of levying contributions upon his near neighbours of hay, and on those more distant of wool; and there are several yet remaining, who remember his trudging about the head of the dale with his old white galloway, collecting the tributary fleeces which were carried home pannier-wise upon the said galloway’s back.



His economy was still more wonderful than his industry, and I have been told by an eye-witness of a somewhat curious instance of it. He greatly enjoyed a game at whist on the winter evenings, and in old age when his sight was dim, he had, when playing, a mould candle lighted and placed upon a shelf behind him; but it sometimes happened, when more than four players were present, that the old Parson had to “sit out” in his turn, and when that was the case, he always carefully extinguished his mould candle and allowed the rest of the party to find out their trumps as they best could by the light of the rush dipped in fat, re-lighting his mould so soon as he cut in again.

He was offered, and it would appear, was, at first, inclined to accept, the adjoining benefice of Ulpha to hold in conjunction with that of Seathwaite, for he writes to the Bishop, an unexpected difficulty having arisen—“If he,” the person who started the difficulty, “had suggested any such objection before, I should utterly have declined any attempt to the curacy of Ulpha: indeed I was always apprehensive it might be disagreeable to my auditory at Seathwaite, as they have always been accustomed to double duty, and the inhabitants of Ulpha despair of being able to support a schoolmaster who is not curate there also;” and again he says that the annexation would cause a general discontent in both places, and Mr Walker had more sense than to brave such discontent.

His hospitality likewise has been extensively dilated upon, and, as I think, unnecessarily. Had he been inhospitable, he would have been unlike his neighbours, for hospitality is even yet a prominent characteristic of the district; and, moreover, I once took the liberty of inquiring into the extent and nature of his hospitality at an old lady who well remembers him, when I found that she was inclined to give the credit of liberal hospitality to his wife55 rather than to Mr Walker, stating that Mrs Walker would occasionally bestow some homely dainty upon neighbour children, requesting them to conceal it from “t’ maister.”


He supplied messes of broth on Sundays to such of his hearers as came from a distance, and Mr Wordsworth mentions this as involving an act of generous self-denial, because to make the requisite supply of Sunday broth, it would be necessary to boil the whole week’s meat on that day, reducing the family to the necessity of eating nothing but cold meat until the next supply of broth was required. This appearance of self-denial disappears, when we come to know that it is, even yet, a rule in the domestic economy of old Seathwaite families to boil sufficient meat to serve several days’ dinners in every Sunday's broth; and, as has been elsewhere said, though the dried mutton, oat-bread, fresh butter, and sweet milk so liberally offered to callers by my hospitable though homely friends in Seathwaite are all more than excellent, yet is their broth as little tempting a mess as it has been my fortune to encounter, the “singit sheep’s heid broth” of a Duddingston public, or the “a la mode soup” of a St. Giles's eating-house not excepted.

Mr Walker’s biographers and panegyrists omit altogether to mention a very important means he adopted to help to “bring grist to the mill,” and that was keeping an ale-house, not a jerry-shop, mind, for in “Wonderful Walker's” time, his Parsonage was an ordinary country ale-house, in which the ordinary customs of country ale-houses were regularly observed. For instance, at certain periods, he held “auld wife hakes,” or “merry nights,” and such like jollifications, where, as Anderson sings—

“The bettermer sort sat snug i’ the parlour;
I’ t’ pantry the sweathearters cuttered sae soft;
The dancers they kicked up a stour i’ the kitchen;
At lanter the card-lakers sat i’ the loft.”



I don’t mean that this exact arrangement of guests was religiously followed at the Seathwaite Parsonage hakes, but such, beyond dispute, were the staple amusements on these jolly occasions. One custom of Mr Walker’s public, I should mention as differing from the practice of its successors; ale, if “drunk on the premises,” was charged fourpence per quart, but if swallowed outside, on the road or in the church-yard, only threepence. The ale licence was taken out in the name of his brother. He refused to have any dealings with Quakers, because, as I understand the matter, that stiff-necked generation have some out-of-the-way and inconvenient notions about the propriety of paying Church dues.

He discharged his clerical duties zealously and faithfully for sixty-six years at Seathwaite alone, which was his third benefice. He brought up, educated well and established well in life, a numerous family, and, in 1802, died universally lamented, at the age of ninety-three, leaving two thousand pounds and a large quantity of linen and woollen cloth spun by himself, chiefly within the communion rails, where he had his seat when engaged in teaching the young intelligences of the dale to read and write.

The following descriptive sketch of his ordinary dress and occupations occurs in a letter from Conistone in 1754:57—“I found him sitting at the head of a large square table, such as is commonly used in this country by the lower class of people, dressed in a coarse blue frock, trimmed with black-horn buttons; a checked shirt, a leathern strap about his neck for a stock, a coarse apron, and a pair of great wooden-soled shoes plated with iron to preserve them (what we call clogs in these parts), with a child upon his knee, eating his breakfast; his wife, and the remainder of his children, were some of them engaged in waiting upon each other, the rest in teazing and spinning wool, at which trade he is a great proficient; and, moreover, when it is made ready for sale, he will lay it, by sixteen or thirty-two pounds weight, upon his back, and on foot, seven or eight miles, will carry it to market, even in the depth of winter. I was not much surprised at all this, as you may possibly be, having heard a great deal of it related before. But I must confess myself astonished with the alacrity and the good humour that appeared both in the clergyman and his wife, and more so at the sense and ingenuity of the clergyman himself.”


After all, these are but every day wonders and amount to no more than the bare fact of a resolute, conscientious, and very indigent man, carrying with him into the Church the stern habits of frugality, industry, temperance, and self-denial in which he was reared, and which he doubtless had seen practised in his father’s family from his earliest childhood. One really might suppose that the Poet Laureate and the Principal of Saint Bees, his most prominently eulogistic biographers, are struck with admiring astonishment on discovering such an assemblage of homely working-day virtues in a clergyman (though very sorry should I be to insinuate that the cloth deserve the imputation); for they may see, and must have seen, the same virtues practised, under circumstances less favourable to their development, amongst the humble classes of the laity often enough without considering themselves called upon to say or to think anything about the matter. But, however that may be, the humble grave of “Wonderful Walker,” chiefly under the influence of Mr Wordsworth’s writings, has become a shrine before which many, from great distances, bow annually; and at one of my visits to Seathwaite I fell in with a much esteemed elderly friend, who, with a party of ladies, had made an excursion, half pilgrimage, half58 pic-nic, to Robert Walker’s tomb and Church, and he declared with much appearance, and, I doubt not, much reality of feeling, that it gave him higher gratification to stand by “this low Pile,” and that simple unadorned place of rest, than he could have derived from a visit to any scene the most famous in ancient or modern history.


I hope I shall be acquitted of any wish to depreciate the real excellences of Robert Walker’s character; but I maintain that it is scarcely just to the bulk of human kind to bestow the title of “Wonderful” upon an individual who to the frugality, temperance, integrity, and industry of the class he sprang from, superadded the piety, purity, and some of the learning of the profession he adopted. But, as sings the Roman poet—

Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Multi; sed omnes illachrymabiles
Urgentur ignotique longâ
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro.

That his poverty was by no means wonderful, the following sketch of the English Country Clergy of the seventeenth century, from Macaulay’s history, may suffice to prove, bearing in mind that the circumstances of the clergy of that date in the more populous parts of the kingdom were those of the clergy of these remote chapelries far into the succeeding century. And Southey tells us that the curate of Newlands, near Keswick, about that time was obliged to add to his income by exercising the crafts of tailor, clogger, and butter-print maker.

Here is Macaulay’s picture:—


“Not one living in fifty enabled the incumbent to bring up a family comfortably. As children multiplied and grew, the household of the priest became more and more beggarly. Holes appeared more and more plainly in the thatch of his Parsonage, and in his single cassock. Often it was only by toiling on his glebe, by feeding swine, and by loading dung-carts, that he could obtain daily bread; nor did his utmost exertions always prevent the bailiffs from taking his concordance and his inkstand in execution. It was a white day on which he was admitted into the kitchen of a great house, and regaled by the servants with cold meat and ale. His children were brought up like the children of the neighbouring peasantry. His boys followed the plough; and his girls went out to service. Study he found impossible; for the advowson of his living would hardly have sold for a sum sufficient to purchase a good theological library; and he might be considered as unusually lucky, if he had ten or twelve dog-eared volumes among the pots and pans on his shelves. Even a keen and strong intellect might be expected to rust in so unfavourable a situation.”


And again, to prove that his original class do, in some instances, possess the virtues specified, I may adduce the case of a neighbour of Mr Walker's, whose melancholy end caused a wide-spread feeling of commiseration and regret throughout this and the neighbouring dales; and I shall quote the account of her given by a gentleman who knew her well—who frequently stayed in her house when hereabout on fishing excursions—who, with a hand “open as day to melting charity,” possesses a heart ready to acknowledge and to sympathize with goodness, whether it appears in the disposition and the works of peasant, parson, peer, or prince—

“She was by no means a common character. Left a widow many years ago, with a young family, by great industry and exertion she brought them up and settled them in the world in useful and respectable callings. In the sweet and quiet vale of Duddon, about a quarter of a mile below the bridge which unites Seathwaite and Ulpha, at an angular bend of the river, is a deep hole called the ‘Smithy Dub.’ About a stone-throw from this, on the Cumberland side of the river, behind one of those detached rocks, so characteristic of Duddon dale, stands a neat and roomy cottage and a garden, well furnished with bee-hives and flowers. Here she kept a small shop for the sale of groceries and drapers’ ware, and in due time her eldest son was fixed in the new smithy, by the river side. With a manner and outside somewhat plain and countryfied, she had as kind a heart as ever beat in the human bosom. She appeared almost to keep open house, and gave away, I should think, more bread and cheese and home-brewed, than is sold in some public-houses. If you called about hay-time, the well white-washed house, the fire-place, and all was beautiful to behold:60 and in the large grate was an immense thick sod of purple heather, in full blossom, the prettiest chimney ornament I ever saw. I have occasionally boarded in that cottage for a week at a time, and never saw any one applying for relief go away empty-handed. Few indeed, in a contracted sphere, have been so generally respected; and long will it be, ere that pleasant valley loses an inhabitant so beloved and regretted by rich and poor, as was Mary Hird.”


I have said that the end of Mary Hird was melancholy, and it may not be improper, trivial and slight though these lucubrations be, to relate the circumstances attending it here.

On the afternoon of February the 4th, 1848, she left home in accordance with an arrangement made with a traveller from Ulverstone, who had offered to take her over Birker Moor in his gig to Eskdale, where she wished to visit some relations—the friendly traveller agreeing to pick her up at a stated hour at the end of the Birker Moor road. She unfortunately had been too late, and had walked onwards, as was supposed, under the impression that he was behind and would overtake her. However that might be, no alarm was felt on her account at home, until Miss Tyson, the clergyman’s daughter, called at the cottage on her way from Eskdale, and it then came out that she had not been seen there, though that was the sixth day after her departure. The neighbourhood was alarmed instantly, and a long line of willing and anxious friends, taking the whole breadth of the wild moor before them, soon discovered her body lying about forty yards from the road, where, but for the continual misty state of the atmosphere during the whole week, she must have been discovered days before by people passing along the road. The lacerated condition of her hands and knees and her torn dress shewed that the poor old woman, after losing the power of walking, had struggled onwards, no one knows how far, upon her hands and knees: she had taken out her spectacles, as it was thought, to assist her in see61ing THE FELLS IN WINTERher way through the bewildering mist; and she had lost a handkerchief, containing oranges for her grandchildren, at some distance from the spot where she died. I am well qualified to speak as to what the poor old creature must have suffered from the weather, for I had to cross over Walna Scar (which is near two thousand feet high) twice upon the day she perished, and though I am tolerably robust, and had the assistance of an active pony, I nearly sunk under it myself. There had been a heavy snow which, for a day or two, under the influence of soft weather and showers, had been melting; the whole country was saturated with wet—“every road was a syke, every syke a beck, and every beck a river.” The high lands were covered with a thick, cold, driving, suffocating mist, which every now and then thinned a little to make way for one of these thorough-bred mountain showers, of which none can have any conception who have not faced them on the fells in winter—wetting you to the skin and chilling you to the marrow in three seconds, and piercing your exposed skin like legions of needles and pins. The hollows in the road, which are neither few nor far between, were filled with snow in a state of semifluidity, cold as if it had been melted with salt, through which I splashed and struggled, dragging my floundering, jaded pony after me with the greatest difficulty. Though my road was over a much greater elevation than Mary Hird's, hers would be nearly as much exposed to the weather and as completely covered in by the smothering mist; it is therefore not to be wondered at that, though an active hale old woman, she sank upon the dreary moor.




The Present Incumbent of Seathwaite—His Appearance, Manner, Conversation, and Preaching—A Contre-Temps—Causes of Defection—Undercrag—“A Vale within a Vale”—“The Old Church Clock”—“Bad Customs”—Country versus Town—Ascent of Walna Scar—Old British Camp?—View from the Summit and Descent of Walna Scar—Gaits Water and Dow Crags—Return to Conistone.

As you loiter about the church-yard, you will be inevitably saluted by an elderly personage arrayed in an elderly black coat, corduroy “never-mention-thems” ending at the knees, dark rough yarn stockings, by way of continuations, and strong country made shoes fastened with leather whangs. He has the appearance of one with whom the world has gone smoothly. His double chin, broad convex shoulders, “fair round belly with” fell mutton “lined,” sturdy, well-developed under-limbs, and, above all, the cheerful and benevolent expression pervading his venerable features, all indicate one whose lot in life has been peaceful, happy, and contented. His outer man would seem to fix his rank in life very little above the surrounding farmers and yeomen. His manner is simple, easy, and unaffected, and his style of language is vastly superior to that of any with whom you have exchanged words during your Seathwaite expedition. I may as well tell you who and what he is. Well, then, he is the Rev. Ed. Tyson, and a collateral descendant of the famous indivi63dual AN OBLIGING CICERONE.I told you so much about in our last chapter,—was, for a short time, his coadjutor, and, at his death, succeeded him in the ministry of this romantic chapelry. Ask him for how long he has watched over the spiritual interests of his unsophisticated flock, and he will answer “only forty-six years this time.” The “this time” means that, after acting as Mr Walker’s curate for some time, he left Seathwaite, and returned at his death in 1802. Forty-six years added to sixty-six, the duration of Robert Walker's ministration, gives the sum of one hundred and twelve years, during which the clerical function has been discharged in Seathwaite by only two individuals. To this, I fancy, you can scarcely find a parallel! Mr Tyson will have much pleasure in pointing out what is worthy of note in and about his chapel; as the pew lined with cloth of “Wonderful Walker's” own spinning, and again I may say that you will scarcely find a parallel to this in any English church—a pew lined with cloth spun by a clergyman! The pulpit is worth looking at on account of its antiquity, and so is the door of a cupboard beside it, both being of carved oak, and bearing a date which I forget.

One of the many writers who have chosen the Duddon for their theme, says that he has seldom witnessed anything so gratifying as the manner in which Mr Tyson greets his parishioners on a Sunday morning, as he passes through amongst the assembled groups in the church-yard. He might have increased his gratification by entering the church, and hearing the church service read in Mr Tyson's unpretending, but earnest and even affectionate style, and still more, by staying to hear one of his plain, practical, and convincing discourses, so perfectly adapted to the circumstances and understanding of his rustic congregation, and yet so good in their matter, so impressive in the manner of their delivery, and so excellent in their diction, composition, and arrangement of topics, that any64 congregation, the most polished and intellectual, might listen to them with the same pleasure and profit, as that with which they are evidently attended to by the simple-minded and uncultivated worshippers in Seathwaite. I have latterly made it a custom to go to Seathwaite once a year to hear Mr Tyson preach, which custom I mean to keep up, so long as I may be permitted.


I once witnessed a rather amusing scene occasioned by the plainness of Mr Tyson’s exterior. I had accompanied a gentleman from London on an excursion to Seathwaite, and introduced him to Mr Tyson, without thinking it requisite to mention his position in the parish, and noticed with some surprise, that whilst the worthy parson, with his usual ready kindness, was shewing us through the chapel, and pointing out the remarkables in its vicinity, my companion scarcely treated him with the consideration due to his rank, character, and profession; but my surprise increased almost to consternation, when the stranger, looking over his shoulder to our venerable Cicerone, asked very abruptly, “but, I say, who is the parson here?” Mr Tyson looked rather astonished for an instant, but immediately answered, with some little dignity, “I am the parson, sir—for want of a better.” The gentleman's hat was off directly, and, with a deep obeisance, a muttered apology was tendered to what he doubtless thought the clergyman’s insulted dignity.—“Yes, sir,” continued Mr Tyson, “I am the parson here, and if you calculated upon finding parsons in these dales dressed in black silk stockings and broad-cloth breeches, you see you have been mistaken!”


Miss Martineau says that Mr Tyson will tell the traveller “of the alteration in the times, and how the Wesleyans have opened a chapel in Ulpha, which draws away some of the flock; and that others have ceased to come to church since the attempts to get copper from the neigh65bouring hills,—the miners drawing away the people to diversion on Sundays.” I cannot help thinking that Miss Martineau has misunderstood the worthy pastor as to this latter cause of diminution in his congregation. The miners are certainly no more given to Sunday diversion than the rest of the community, and they have the less excuse for indulging in amusement on Sunday, inasmuch as they have more time for week-day recreation than their agricultural compeers. I cannot observe any difference between the manners and conduct of the miners and of the other inhabitants of Seathwaite, nor can I understand how any such difference can be supposed to exist, because all the people employed in the Seathwaite mines are natives of this or the adjoining vales—are, in fact, for the most part, sons or brothers of the small yeomen and farmers, and have taken to mining because it is an occupation that affords them better earnings for less work, than does agricultural or pastoral labour, their only other resources.

Bidding adieu to Seathwaite chapel, and to its venerable and obliging minister, you must return to Newfield for your pony, and set out on your way back to Conistone. You ride up the dale by the road you descended for about half a mile or more, and just before you reach the guide-post, where the road you came by turns off to cross Nettleslack Bridge, you had better leave the road, passing through a gate on your right, and following a track through a field for about forty yards, to take a look at the humble homestead of Undercrag, where Robert Walker was born. Though the buildings are of the humblest, the situation is very beautiful, nestling, as its name signifies, at the foot of a high wall of grey rock nearly perpendicular, but delightfully chequered with little slopes and irregular shelves of bright green turf. Undercrag has little about it to attract notice before many of its neighbours;66 its only claim to our attention is its being the birth-place of one, whose homely name has become known wider and farther than has that of any other native of the lake country, always excepting the name of his great biographer.


Leave Undercrag, and on regaining the highroad, instead of crossing the bridge to your left, and so returning upon your track, hold straight forward, and you soon enter a little circular basin of green fields, besprinkled with ancient cottages and farms, intersected with stone walls, and enlivened by two or three sparkling brooklets which meet in its centre. It reminds you of De Quincey's description of Easedale—“a chamber within a chamber, or rather a closet within a chamber—a chapel within a cathedral—a little private oratory within a chapel.” The houses in this little den are all within the sweep of the eye, and are easily enumerated; Hollin house, Tongue-house, Beck-house, Long-house, The Thrang, and—what next? Gibraltar!—each with

“A few small crofts of stone-encumbered ground,
Masses of every shape and size that lie
Scattered about beneath the mouldering wall
Of the rough precipice, and some apart,
In quarters unobnoxious to such chance,
As if the moon had rained them down in spite.”

There is a little book bearing the odd title of “The Old Church Clock,” written by the Rev. Mr Parkinson, canon of Manchester, &c., which, possibly, you may have read. If you have, you may remark how strangely inaccurate the amiable author is in his local geography. To take one instance of many, he represents the sister of his hero to have the very reprehensible habit of slipping out of the paternal door, after bed-time, somewhere about the head of Yewdale, as near as I can fix it, and tripping it deftly over hill and dale, to meet her scamp of a sweetheart in this little dell. The said sweetheart must have been a very irresistible, as well as a very unreasonable67 personage, to entice a decent man’s daughter to enact the cart going to the horse, and give him the meeting so far from home—for the distance is little short of a round dozen of miles—and she is described as taking the rough, wild road that you have travelled over in this excursion. It is “rather of the ratherest,” and moreover, though this same custom of “meeting by night in the shady boreen” may suit a taste so romantic as that of the reverend author, it is not the custom of the daughters of these dales, who, with a careful regard for personal comfort and security from interruption, always have their wooers within the house after the family retire to rest; and I may quote Anderson, the Cumbrian bard, in support of the correctness of this statement, premising that the customs of this portion of Lancashire are, in all respects, similar to those in Cumberland and Westmorland. He says,—“A Cumbrian peasant pays his addresses to his sweetheart during the silence and solemnity of midnight, when every bosom is at rest, except those of love and sorrow. Anticipating her kindness, he will travel ten or twelve miles over hills, bogs, moors and mosses, undiscouraged by the length of the road, the darkness of the night, or the intemperature of the weather. On reaching her habitation, he gives a gentle tap at the window of her chamber, at which signal she immediately rises, dresses herself, and proceeds, with all possible silence, to the door, which she gently opens, lest a creeking hinge or a barking dog should awaken the family. * * Next the courtship commences, previously to which the fire is darkened or extinguished, lest its light should guide to the window some idle or licentious eye. In this dark and uncomfortable situation (at least uncomfortable to all but lovers), they remain till the advance of day,” and so on, concluding with some moralizing remarks upon this naughty custom, which I do not feel myself called upon to repeat. These “sittings,” which68 THE BALANCE OF MORALITY—WHERE? are in constant practice all over these northern counties, and which, after all, are not so bad as the Scotch and Welsh sweethearting customs, generally come off on the Saturday nights; and this practice, which involves the violation of the Sabbath, as well as the breach of decorum, is unnoticed, or rather winked at, by most writers who pretend to describe “life and manners” in the Lake country, such as Wilson, Wordsworth, De Quincey, and, lastly, Mr Parkinson. In fact, there appears a design amongst that tribe of writers to cry up the inhabitants of secluded districts such as these, at the expense of the inhabitants of towns. I am ready to do battle in this cause under the banner of Miss Martineau, who, in her triumphant answer to the arguments of those who opposed the introduction of railways into the Lake district, on the plea, amongst others equally absurd, that the morality of the people would suffer from contact with the denizens of towns, who, it was dreaded, would avail themselves in crowds of the increased facilities of transit, says—“As for the fear that the innocent rural population will be morally corrupted by intercourse with people from the towns, we have no apprehension of this, but are disposed to hope rather than fear certain consequences from the increased intercourse of the mountaineers with the people of large towns. We doubt at once the innocence of the one party, and the specific corruption of the other. Scarcely anything can be conceived more lifeless, unvaried, and unideal, than the existence of the dalesmen and their families; and where the intellect is left so idle and unimproved as among them, the sensual vices are sure to prevail. These vices rage in the villages and small towns; and probably no clergyman or justice of the peace will be ever heard speaking of the rural innocence of the region,—which is, indeed, to be found only in works of the imagination. The people have their virtues many and great.”—And so69 they have! but as to their morals being purer, or their lives and conversation more innocent than those of the parallel classes in towns, it is all nonsense. My life has been about equally divided between town and country, the nature of my occupation has given me much—I hope not wasted—opportunity in both of noting human nature en deshabille, and I tell you that good and evil in town and country, in crowded capital and lonely fell-dale, are “much of a muchness.” As a general rule, you may safely aver that the best educated community, is also the best behaved, and the standard of education amongst our mountaineers is by no means a high one.


But quitting this subject, on which one might prose till midnight, you had better commence the ascent of Walna Scar, and you’d also better gird up your loins, and make up your mind to encounter a labour of no ordinary magnitude; but as you rest and look back occasionally, the view rewards you well for your labour. Mr Wordsworth gives a very poetical and correct enumeration of the beauties of these prospects, but the passage has been quoted so often that you must have read it, and, therefore, though sorely tempted, I shall not give it here now. Part of Seathwaite beck comes leaping, frothing, and sparkling down a very rocky channel on your left. I think it is Captain Marryatt who describes an American river as forming “a staircase of waterfalls;” you have here this quaint fancy realized on a small scale for nearly half a mile along the side of your steep fell-road. On the farther side of this merry companion, is the extensive enclosure in which is situated Dan Birkett’s Town of “t'auld Ancient Britons.” The following instructions, furnished to me by a respected clerical friend, who is, in the ordinary pedestrian acceptation of the phrase, indisputably a “Wonderful Walker,” sufficed to enable me to find it out, and may serve your turn now. You will observe that he supposes the in70structed party to be journeying from Conistone towards Seathwaite. “Follow the cart-road from Walna Scar to Seathwaite, till it meets the brook coming from the Peat-beds—turn to the right over the brook and wall, and march at right angles to your former course, upon some thorn trees distant about 500 yards. If the bogs are impassable, follow the Seathwaite road to the gate of the road leading to the Peat-beds, and there scramble over and among rocks to the above-mentioned thorn trees.”


I visited these remains with a member of the Archæological Association, and he expressed a decided opinion that they were a genuine antiquity, but thought they had formed a summer encampment, rather than a Town. On the other hand, a Seathwaite shepherd assured me that they were the ruins of a Peat-scale; that is, an erection for storing peats, until leisure serves to get them brought home. After a good hour’s climb, I must suppose you safely at the top of Walna Scar, and lost in admiration at the magnificent prospect you contemplate, when looking back to the north and west. The hill peering over the high ridge to your right, is Bowfell, then Great End, and next Scawfell Pikes and Scawfell, the highest hills in England. Those more distant, and seen over the western slope of Scawfell, are the Ennerdale hills, with the Pillar conspicuous amongst them, the scene of the fatal catastrophe in Wordsworth’s beautiful poem called “The Brothers.” Over the lower range of hills beyond Seathwaite, you may see the Isle of Man, the hills of Galloway, and Saint Bees Head, with the broad expanse of sea between them, glittering like ruddy gold in the red light of the declining sun. This huge arm of the mountains thrust out, as it seems, to shake hands with the sea, is Blackcombe, a well known land-mark for sailors. Under it, to the south, are extended the fertile fields of Millom, bounded again on the south by Duddon sands, over which71 LANDS, WATERS, AND ROCKS.the sea creeps up into the country, converting the bare sands twice every day into a broad area of water. The rich district of Low Furness divides the Duddon estuary from Morecambe Bay, which you may contemplate in all its vastness of extent and irregularity of shore. Stretching along the eastern horizon, are the hills of Yorkshire, the most conspicuous of which is Ingleborough. Nearer home, you behold the bright waters of Windermere, divided into three portions by intervening heights. And here nearer still, you have nearly the whole six miles of

“Our own dear lake
Beside the ancient Hall,”

with the beautiful valley of the Crake reaching from its foot to the sea at Greenodd.


You will find the descent of Walna Scar worse than the climb, for, on the Seathwaite side, the road is good and smooth, but, on the Conistone side, it is less like a road than a superannuated water-course, and that not of the “gentlest conditions.” After you have safely descended the steepest portions, and crossed by a primitive stone bridge over a brawling brook, pray leave your road for about half a mile, to look at Gaits Water. You will find it to present a scene of savage desolation approaching the terrific, and I know nothing equal to it for wildness in the Lake country. It is an oval Tarn, about half a mile round, on the eastern side of which the Old Man rears his most rocky and precipitous side; at the head is a steep, high pass, connecting the Old Man with Dow, or Dhu Crags, which last rise on its western side, high, barren, verdureless screes, surmounted by a coronet of tremendous black rocks, partly mural and partly columnar, of vast altitude, with rough jagged edges, and bisected here and there with awful-looking chasms, which, with the borrans formed by the accumulation of huge fragments of rock along the south-west of the shore, form a favourite72 DRAWING A FOX.harbour for foxes, against which the shepherds wage a constant war of extermination. They have an extraordinary method of taking the fox, when they trace him to one of these rocky hiding-places; they draw him out with a screw, like a cork from the neck of a bottle. They have a gigantic cork-screw upon the end of a pole, which they sometimes succeed in insinuating into poor reynard's corpus, and so ruthlessly screw him to destruction. On the three sides I have pointed out around Gaits Water, the walls of the dungeon come sheer down to the water-edge: the fourth is fortified with a grotesquely-piled accumulation of rocks of enormous size. Altogether, it is a scene to make a man shudder, and wish himself anywhere else;—so return to your road, and prick along under the southern slope of the Old Man to Conistone.

As you approach the village, you have a view of all the vale of Yewdale, shining sweetly in its setting of dark brown hills and moors. You reach Church Conistone by an abruptly-descending road, lined and over-arched by a long grove of flourishing oaks. Of the village itself, through a portion of which you take your way, we will say more anon; meantime, your mind’s eye is doubtless gloating upon the good things awaiting your attack at the Inn.




Walk to the Village—Bannockstone Bridge—A Wild Legend—The Church and Schools—Inns—The English Opium Eater—Mrs. Robinson—Jenkin Syke—Hause Bank—Parkgate—Highthwaite, &c.

As you will, most probably, be rather stiff, not to say saddle sick, with your last long and rough ramble, I may calculate upon your being disposed to make this a short and easy one; so what say you to a saunter through the village of Church Conistone? You are possibly aware that there are two Conistones, the designation of each possessing an ecclesiastical character. The district around the uppermost part of the lake, and for half a mile down the western shore, and two or three miles down the eastern, is called Monk Conistone, and forms a part of the parish of Hawkshead; whilst Church Conistone, lying on the west of the lake and Yewdale beck, and extending to Torver in one direction and Fell-foot in another, is a chapelry in the parish of Ulverstone.

The road leading from the Waterhead to the village runs for some distance along the edge of the lake, and is delightfully shaded with trees, chiefly oaks. On the right, a single range of extensive level fields divides it from the finely-wooded Guards hill; on the left, the wavelets of the lake run upon a gentle grassy slope close up to the roadside, and, occasionally, in very wet weather, the lake extends its waters across the road and the fields beyond it, leaving pedestrians no other choice but wading or walking back.



Where the road makes a sudden sweep to the right, and leaves the water side, you may notice the miniature docks and piers where slate, &c., are shipped for the lake foot on its way to the sea, and the scene of the only fatal accident known to have occurred in Conistone lake. The first houses you approach are the buildings belonging to the Thwaite farm, sheltering prettily under its wooded eminence, and, adjoining them, the neat old-fashioned residence, called Thwaite Cottage; a little further still, occupying a natural terrace on the southern declivity of the aforesaid eminence, stands Thwaite House, or “The Thwaite,” which commands a most comprehensive view of the vale, the village, the mountains and the lake, in one ocular range. Saunter on, and you soon come to a group of singular-looking buildings—built, a few years ago, by Mr Marshall—surrounded by pretty flower-gardens which, in the season, agreeably relieve the dismal effect of the dark blue, or rather light black stone of which the walls are constructed, with very little mortar, lest the white should disagree with the character of the scenery, as Mr Wordsworth avers it does: but the ivy, with its bright green tapestry, is now rapidly covering the nakedness of these comfortless-looking walls.

You now come to Yewdale Bridge, and, crossing it, enter Church Conistone; but here I wish you to turn off the road, and passing between some houses on your left, walk down the beckside for about 150 yards, and you reach a very primitive-looking bridge, formed of two huge flags laid upon piers of ancient and substantial mason-work, and named, with manifest propriety, “Bannockstone bridge.” It was not this I brought you out of your way to see; but I want you to bestow especial notice upon a large stone lying in the beck-bottom, just to the lower side of the bridge. Though it is covered by from two to three feet of water, Yewdale beck is so pure that you have75 no difficulty in discovering that the otherwise flat surface of this stone is interrupted by a ridge or elevation, some inches in height, occupying one of its corners, and in the edge of that elevation nearest to you is the deep, perfect, and unmistakeable imprint of a very large heel. Convinced, from the time I first noticed it, that some story might be ferretted out, to account for the production of this large heel-mark, I took considerable pains, for which I expect your gratitude, to collect the following facts in explanation of its traditionary origin, and now, without amplification or comment, I retail them for your satisfaction.


In those pious and enlightened times, when the profession and practice of witchcraft were so common that very few women could grow old and ugly, especially if they were also poor, without being suspected of having sold their immortal part to the Father of evil, a very old woman whose name has not been preserved, but the certainty of whose commerce with the devil no one ever doubted, dwelt in a hut upon the point of land which runs into the lake near the mouth of this brook. After practising the ordinary routine of a witchwoman’s life for several years, it is said that, as the time drew near for the fulfilment of her short-sighted bargain, she was seized with terror and remorse, and resolved to try whether she might not find a means of nullifying the agreement and evading payment of the fearful penalty to be exacted from her in return for the evil power with which her master had endued her old age; and, with this object, she visited a holy man, one of the Monks of Saint Mary of Furness, who was stationed at the place now called Bank Ground, which stands pleasantly upon the opposite side of the lake. He, when made aware of all the bearings of the case, offered some hope of redemption from the consequences of her contract, on the conditions of teetotal abstinence from any future indulgence in the evil art, abnegation of the devil, his works76 A MIRACLE. and devices, and a course of penance so severe and protracted, as to make the penitent witch think the cure almost as bad as the disease; but concern for “her pore sole,” as Winifred Jenkins pathetically designates it, determined her to accept of Father Brian’s terms, provided he could secure her against the power of Satan in the interim. Being instructed to flee for her life, and to call loudly upon Father Brian and Saint Herbert for aid, should Beelzebub come, as was likely, to claim his own before the completion of her saving penance had rescued her from his dreaded clutches, she returned home, and turned over a new leaf, beginning to lead a tolerably exemplary life. As might be expected, the other contracting party was not long in hearing of this unpardonable breach of faith, and, one evening, he startled his quondam disciple by making his appearance at the door of her domicile, when she, remembering the Monk’s instructions, darted through the open window, and fled, with the speed of light, directly up the course of this beck, screaming loudly enough for succour as directed. She had reached the site of this bridge, and her pursuer was just about to lay his claws upon her, when the Saint, or the Monk, or both heard her, and the devil’s foot, not the cloven one,—for neither dead Saint nor living Priest can be supposed to have power over that,—but his other foot, was set upon that stone, the heel sank into the ridge upon its surface, and the stone hardening, he was held fast by the heel, and thus, by the miraculous intervention of the dead Saint or the living Monk—I cannot learn exactly whether—the penitent witch escaped; and, moreover, ere the devil was released, Father Brian, being well versed in this particular line of business, succeeded in obtaining possession of the document on which the claim upon the old woman’s soul was founded, and so was able to remit a considerable portion of her heavy penance. The print, much too large to77 be produced by any human heel, is, as you see, still there to testify to the truth of the history I have collated for your special behoof, and, therefore, I hope that you will readily recognise its perfect credibility.


You will now return to the road, and move on towards the village by the Crown Inn, a very commodious, respectable, and well-conducted house of entertainment for man and beast, with unexceptionable accommodation, and a more than unexceptionable hostess. Immediately beyond it, in a level green enclosure, having handsome iron rails on one side and low stone walls on the other, stands an oblong barn-like building, with a few blunt-arched windows in its dirty yellow walls, and over-topped at its western extremity by an unsightly black superstructure of rough stone, which some might call a small square tower badly proportioned, and others, with apparently equal correctness, the stump of a large square chimney. The oblong building is the church, and the level enclosure is the church-yard, in which the almost total absence of tombstones and the paucity of mounds lead you to the correct inference that death is rather a rare visitant at Conistone.

If you have any desire to explore the interior of the sacred edifice, the parish clerk, who, by the bye, is a poet of no mean pretensions, lives in one of these cottages close at hand, and he will readily open the doors and admit you. The only objects possessing even the smallest interest are—first, the antique oak-chest, with its curious padlock, which stands in the southern entrance, and in which the ancient parochial records were deposited—and second, a plate of copper fastened upon the wall over the Conistone Hall pew, engraven upon which in old, but very legible characters, are the following commemorative notice and quaint epitaph. You will perceive that there is probably an error in the dates:—



“To the living memory of Alice Fleming, of Coningston Hall, in the County Palatine of Lancaster, widow (late wife of William Fleming, of Coningston Hall aforesaid, Esq., and eldest daughter of Roger Kirkby, of Kirkby, in the said county, Esq.,) and of John Kirkby, gentleman, her second brother, was this monument, by her three sorrowful sons, Sir Daniel Fleming, Knight, Roger Fleming and William Fleming, gentlemen, to their dear mother and uncle, here erected. The said John Kirkby (having lived above thirty years with his sister, and having given to the churches and poor of Kirkby and Coningston the sum of £150), died a bachelor at Coningston Hall aforesaid, September 23, A.D., 1680, and was buried near unto this place the next day. And the said Alice Fleming died also (having outlived her late husband about 27 years, and survived five out of her eight children,) at Coningstone Hall aforesaid, Feb. 26, 1680, and was buried in this church, close by her said brother, Feb. 28, 1680; in the same grave where ye Lady Bold (second wife to John Fleming, Esq., deceased, uncle to ye said W. Fleming,) had, about 55 years before, been interred.


Spectator, stay and view this sacred ground;
See, it contains such love on earth scarce found;
A brother and a sister—and you see
She seeks to find him in mortality.
First he did leave us, then she stayed and tryed
To live without him—liked it not, and died.
Here they ly buried whose religious zeal
Appeared sincere to Prince, Church, Commonweal;
Kind to their kindred, faithful to their friends,
Clear in their lives, and cheerful at their ends.
They both were dear to them, whose good intent
Makes them both live in this one monument.
So dear is sacred love, though th’ outward part
Turn dust, it still shall linger round the heart.”

In the vestry-room there is a library consisting of theological works, for circulation amongst the parishioners, but judging from the dusty state of the volumes, old divinity is not a favourite study with the reading public of Conistone. Leaving the church, you may notice, flanking the church-yard at two of its corners, a couple of tasteful little buildings, whose character and use you cannot well mistake. They are the boys’ and girls’ schools, and have79 been conducted upon the Home and Colonial School system, which, during the three or four years it has been tried here, has given great satisfaction.


Opposite to the school and to the church gates, stands the Black Bull Inn, one of that low-browed, old-fashioned, roomy and snug class of public houses once so numerous in all the rural districts of England, but now fast disappearing before the sweep of modern improvement, or, if you like it better, modern innovation—and around whose ample hearths “the rude forefathers of the hamlet” were wont to muddle their brains, whilst settling the affairs of the parish, or discussing those of the country;—

“Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,
And news much older than their ale went round.”

This same Black Bull derives a sort of classical interest from being the “Howf” where the English Opium-eater took up his quarters, when he made his two unsuccessful attempts to accept Mr Wordsworth’s invitation to visit him at Grasmere. You want to know what made the attempts unsuccessful! Upon my word, I can scarcely tell you; but I can give you Mr De Quincey’s own account of the matter, as detailed in his interesting autobiographical sketches in Tait’s Magazine:—“My delay”—in accepting a long-standing invitation—“was due to anything rather than to waning interest. On the contrary, the real cause of my delay was the too great profundity, and the increasing profundity of my interest in this regeneration of our national poetry; and the increasing awe, in due proportion to the decaying thoughtlessness of boyhood, which possessed me for the character of its author. So far from neglecting Wordsworth, it is a fact, (and Professor Wilson who, without knowing me in those, or for many subsequent years, shared my feelings towards both the poetry and the poet, has a story of his own experience somewhat similar to report)—it is a fact, I say, that twice80 DE QUINCEY’S IDOLATRY.I had undertaken a long journey expressly for the purpose of paying my respects to Wordsworth; twice I came so far as the little rustic inn (at that time the sole inn in the neighbourhood) at Church Conistone—the village which stands at the north-western angle of Conistone Water; and on neither occasion could I summon confidence enough to appear before him. * * * The very image of Wordsworth, as I pre-figured it to my own planet-struck eye, crushed my faculties as before Elijah or St. Paul. Twice, as I said, did I advance as far as the lake of Conistone, which is about eight miles from the church at Grasmere, and once I absolutely went forward from Conistone to the very gorge of Hammerscar, from which the whole vale of Grasmere suddenly breaks upon the view. Catching one glimpse of this loveliest of landscapes, I retreated like a guilty thing, for fear I might be surprised by Wordsworth, and then returned faint-heartedly to Conistone, and so to Oxford re infectâ. This was in 1806—and thus far, from mere excess of nervous distrust in my own powers for sustaining a conversation with Wordsworth, I had, for nearly five years, shrunk from a meeting for which, beyond all things under heaven, I longed. These, the reader will say, were foolish feelings.” Very possible, indeed, that the reader may say so, Mr De Quincey! more particularly if he hold with me the opinion that the man who records his experience of those feelings, is, though inferior in genius, certainly superior in scholastic acquirements to the object of his idolatrous awe.


At the period of the English opium-eater’s sojourn at the Black Bull, its domestic affairs would be under the control of Mrs Robinson, the eldest daughter of “Wonderful Walker,” and quite as wonderful a person, in her way, as her more celebrated father. In early life, she was wooed, won, and privately married by a respectable81 working miner named Bamford, who subsequently obtained an appointment as sub-agent and clerk at the Leadhills Mines, in Dumfriesshire. During her husband’s protracted last illness, she, having in common with all Parson Walker’s children, received an excellent education, discharged his duties as clerk, or accountant, in a manner so satisfactory to the Mining Managers, that, after his death, she was allowed to continue in his office and lift his salary, until an alteration in the management caused her removal. She then returned to her father at Seathwaite Parsonage, and she continued with him for some time, until her favour was sought by her second “venture,” Robinson. To his pretensions the patriarchal pastor was, however, unfavourable, and he kept such strict watch upon their movements, that they found it impossible to transact the requisite courtship in a satisfactory manner, until she contrived to give her lover an impression of the out-door key in dough, and he got a duplicate manufactured therefrom, which admitted him to her society when “Wonderful Walker” was safe in the land of dreams. At these stolen meetings, a marriage was arranged, which came off in spite of all obstacles, and they settled on the farm called Townend, on the eastern side of Conistone Lake. A simple anecdote I have heard, may serve to illustrate Mrs Robinson’s shrewd and upright character. One Sunday afternoon, some Conistone youths crossed the lake, and bought of her husband a quantity of apples. Some dispute arising as to the partition of the purchase, it was agreed that Robinson should divide them. Her quick eye detected him giving a larger share to one than the rest, when she called out, “Nay, nay, Thomas! if thou will make Tom Park a present, bring him out some of thy own, but don’t give away other folks’ apples.” From Townend, they removed to the Black Bull, where she remained for many years. She discharged the duties of82 parish officer in her own turn, and in that of her son-in-law, and the parish books yet bear testimony to the beauty of her hand-writing, and the accuracy and clearness of her accounts. She also managed a small woollen mill, carried on here by the late Mr Gandy, of Kendal; and even in extreme old age, when bent double by years and infirmity, so that she could not sit upon a chair without leaning forward upon a table, she would write for hours with her books upon her knee. Of the Black Bull there is little more to say, than that mine especial good friend, Mrs Bell, is, as hostess, in every respect a worthy successor of Mrs Robinson, and if you choose to place yourself under her care, and don’t feel comfortable, the fault will not be hers. And, lest you should be misled and prejudiced by the identity of surname, I should tell you that she is no connection of “Peter Bell.”


We will leave the examination of that portion of the village to the north of the Black Bull for another convenient occasion, and you had better now cross the bridge over the church beck, the waters of which, from having been used at the mines in the process of dressing copper ore, present such an appearance as might arise from some thousands of washerwomen exercising their vocation amongst the hills, and sending their suds down to the lake. The bed of this beck is fearfully rugged, and reminds one of the Border stream, the Tarras, of which the old rhyme says—

“There ne'er was ane drowned in Tarras,
Nor yet in doubt,
For ere his head could win down,
His brains would be out.”

Many years ago, a young miner, who was courting the daughter of a blacksmith who resided at the mines, got into this beck one dark night when it was heavily flooded, and his body was found about a quarter of a mile below83 this bridge frightfully mangled. At the farther end of the bridge stands the post-office, and, leaving it to your right, you may ramble away down the road by Low Houses, Wraysdale Cottage, and Gateside, and then you come to Mount Cottage, where you must stay to inspect Mr Barrow's flower-garden, conservatory, shell grotto, grotesquely sculptured stones, of which nature was the artist, and, above all, his collection of busts, clerical, phrenological, general and diabolical.


Immediately beyond Mount Cottage is a stile where a foot-path leading to the Hall commences. It is called “Priest’s Stile,” and I have heard two accounts of the origin of its appellation. First, it is said to be so called, because a former Incumbent of Conistone died suddenly whilst crossing it. I prefer the second derivation of the name, because it affords an opportunity of mentioning a curious ancient custom, as well as reason good for congratulating ourselves and our clergy upon the progress of social improvement. In former times, the minister of Conistone, who was also the parochial schoolmaster, had no fixed home of his own, but held rights of “Whittlegate” over his chapelry; which signifies that he was lodged and fed by the different householders, each in turn, for longer or shorter periods, according to the value of the several tenements. Conistone Hall being by far the largest property in the chapelry, was favoured with the poor clergyman’s company, and had the benefit of his “whittle” much more frequently than any other residence, and consequently, on his way to and from church and school, the Priest very often was seen using this stile, and thence arose its name. The custom of “Whittlegate” is now all but obsolete, and, I believe, exists only at Wastdale-head, where, I understand, the schoolmaster is still supported on that uncomfortable system.


Rising a short ascent called, no one knows why, Doe84 How, you soon reach another cluster of dwellings, named Bowmanstead, the most prominent amongst which are the Baptists’ Chapel and the Ship Inn; and beyond them, a row of houses which had its name from a somewhat odd incident. There was formerly an open ditch, called locally a syke, across the road here; and once the funeral array of a man named Jenkin, on the way to Ulverstone, then the only place of interment for this part of the parish, had got near to Torver, when the mourners discovered that the coffin had slipped, unobserved, from the “sled” it was carried upon, and, deeming it unseemly to proceed without it, they returned, and found it here in the syke, whence the spot is called “Jenkin Syke” to this day.

You saunter on past the Corn-mill and cottages around it, and down a short declivity to Hause Bank. An intelligent villager, who has resided at Hause Bank during the whole of a long life, tells me that the ancient cottage adjoining the smith’s shop was formerly an ale-house, and that a neighbour, who died at a great age, when my informant was a boy, used to relate that he remembered having seen two brothers of the Fleming family who were staying at the Hall, go in there for ale, and make a scramble with their change amongst the children round the door, of whom the relater was one. The names of the brothers, he stated, were “Major and Roger.” This reminiscence is remarkable, and worthy of record, because, supposing my calculations to be correct, it connects, by a single life, an individual of our own time with an officer who fought under the great Duke of Marlborough, and was the son of a gentleman who was obnoxious to Cromwell’s sequestrators, having to pay, during the time of the Commonwealth, a large annual fine for his loyalty. My authority is a condensed history of the Fleming family, on referring to which I find that85 “Michael, the sixth son of Sir Daniel Fleming, was Major in the regiment commanded by the Hon. Col. Stanley, afterwards Earl of Derby, was in most of the sieges and battles in Flanders during the reigns of King William and Queen Anne, and was returned to Parliament for Westmorland in 1706.” I fancy he would be great-grandfather to the estimable lady who now holds the estates and honours of her ancient house. The other brother remembered by the old man would be, as I have reason to believe, Sir Daniel’s eighth son, Roger Fleming, who entered the church, and became Vicar of Brigham, a preferment enjoyed at the present day, not by a son of the Knight of Rydal Hall, but by a son of the Bard of Rydal Mount.


We have not done yet with Hause Bank, for you should be told that the old-fashioned house in the fold, surrounded by equally old-fashioned farm-buildings, was formerly the residence of Lieutenant Oldfield, R.N., and is still possessed by his widow.

This Mr Oldfield rose from before the mast, and was made Lieutenant by Nelson himself, as a reward for very important service rendered on a critical occasion—that of piloting the fleet through an intricate and dangerous navigation at the entrance of the Baltic, previous to

——“the glorious day’s renown
When to battle fierce came forth
All the might of Denmark’s crown.”

The Danes had lifted all the buoys, and taken other measures to place difficulties in the way of the British fleet gaining the anchorage off Copenhagen, and no other man but Oldfield was to be found in the whole fleet, who would undertake a pilot’s responsibility under such circumstances.


Leaving Hause Bank, you next pass “Piper-hole,” and soon after reach Park-gate, the farthest houses in the village in this direction. Then take the narrow road to your right, past the pretty farm of Outrake, and following it86 for a steep half mile, it brings you out upon the table-land high above the village, where stands the ancient hamlet of Highthwaite, called here “Heethat,” and from which you have a grand view of the Lake and the vales of Conistone and Yewdale. Descending by another steep lane, you arrive at another cluster of very comfortable cottages called Cat-bank, formerly Catherine Bank, upon the brow beyond which stands a recently-built row of ten cottages, with large well-tilled gardens in front.

Taking the foot-path behind these, whence the natural panorama of the dale and village appears to vary at every few steps, you pass one or two small groups of houses, and arrive at the steep road you descended in returning from Seathwaite. The old-fashioned farm-houses and cottages adjoining, which are shaded by a straggling regiment of magnificent Scotch firs, are called Dixon-ground; and from the flat in front of the higher farm, the whole of the upper portion of Conistone lies spread out beneath you, and beautiful it looks; “here a scattering, and there a clustering, as in the starry heavens.” But as you walk down this lane, I'll tell you how Father West describes the Conistone of nearly a century back; “the village of Conistone,” says he,87 “consists of scattered houses; many of them have a most romantic appearance, owing to the ground they stand on being extremely steep. Some are snow-white, others grey; some stand forth on bold eminences at the head of green enclosures, backed with steep woods; some are pitched on sweet declivities, and seem hanging in the air; others, again, are on a level with the lake; they are all neatly covered with blue slate, the produce of the mountains, and beautified with ornamental yews, hollies, and tall pines or firs. This is a charming scene, when the morning sun tinges all with a variety of tints. In the point of beauty and centre of perspective, a white house, under a hanging wood, gives life to this picture. Here a range of dark rugged rocks rises abruptly, and deeply contrasts with the transparent surface of the lake, and the stripe of verdure that skirts their feet.

The hanging woods, waving enclosures, and airy sites are elegant, beautiful, and picturesque; and the whole may be seen with ease and pleasure.”


I need not tell you that Conistone is greatly altered since then, but it is for the better. It has lost none of its old beauties, and it has gained many new ones. But here we are again at the central point of the village, the Church bridge; and if you are as tired of rambling as I am of raving, you will be exceedingly glad when I bid you good bye for the present.




Perchance you now feel no insurmountable objection to visiting and inspecting the grand source of the prosperity of Conistone—the copper mines to wit.

Miss Martineau tells you that—“The traveller should see the copper works at Conistone (if he can obtain leave,) both for their own sake, and for the opportunity it gives him of observing the people engaged there, and because they lie in his way to the tarns on Conistone Old Man, and to the summit of the mountain itself.” Should you happen to know this very eminent and excellent writer, pray tell her that she might have omitted the parenthesis which insinuates that leave to inspect the mines is sometimes refused; for I assure you and her, that such leave has never been refused during the reign of the present liberal and enlightened manager, and that has lasted upwards of twenty years, and will, I earnestly hope, last for upwards of twenty more. You will find that you have nothing to do but walk up to the office like a gentleman, as you are, (if you be not a lady,) send in your card, state your wishes, and you will not only obtain the wished permission, but the offer of a proper equipment, and candles, and be directed to a competent guide and cicerone.

Very well, then; you may follow the same route you took at the commencement of your last ramble—that is to say, along the Lake side, by the slate-quays, over Yewdale Bridge, past the Church to the Black Bull, the end of which you pass, and soon come to a wooden bridge89 connecting the road with a number of cottages arranged in the form of an irregular square with a tail to it, and called “the Forge.”


As you saunter on towards the hills, you arrive at a huge inelegant building of three high stories, formerly a corn-mill, but now converted into eight roomy dwelling-houses, and a large public room. Immediately above this old corn-mill, on a gentle acclivity at the apex of the fertile triangular plain of Church Conistone, so close to the fells as to be almost overhung by them, and surrounded by richly-decorated grounds, stands Holy-wath, the residence of one to whom Conistone is mainly indebted for the prosperity she has for so many years enjoyed.

Those interested in planting operations, especially in transplanting “adult trees,” may here see numerous examples of success in that difficult art; for all these large healthy trees in the grounds of Holy-wath were transplanted by Mr Barratt, some few years ago, from beyond the lake.

The neat cottages beyond, smiling over the beauty below them, are called 'Boon Beck, and, like nine-tenths of the houses you have seen, are inhabited by miners. Pass through the Fell-gate, taking the road to the right, and a pretty stiff pull you will find it.

On the upper side of the road, you have a steep fell-side consisting of grey rock, alternating with green pasturage, and on the lower a high and dry stone wall, and when you come to a gate therein, you may rest, and look over, or through it, at the dale and village from a new point of view. It is “devoutly to be wished” that, when wearied in the up-hill journey through life, we may always find a resting-place pleasant as this. You are, of course, delighted, for the beauty of Conistone is of that sterling character that, from whatever direction you gain a peep at it, you are struck with renewed admiration, and you90 GHYLL AND FALLS.are always inclined to fancy that it is seen to most advantage from the place whence you then happen to be looking. But all earthly delights must end, and you must not stand all day gazing so eagerly at the landscape through the gate—reminding one of a hungry monkey eyeing gingerbread nuts through the bars of his cage. So resume your walk, and when the wall terminates, you have in its place a deep rugged ravine, with the soap-suddy beck brawling and foaming along its jagged course at the bottom. And here the lover’s leap might commodiously be perpetrated, as one of Mr George Robins’ advertisements said in its enumeration of the attractions of a property he had to sell hereabouts some years ago. But you had better, if you contemplate such an exploit, defer the execution of it, until once I have shown you all that is worth seeing around this same Conistone; and then, if you still wish to quit a world containing a locality so beautiful, why, the sooner such an insensate animal makes his exit, the better for all parties concerned. About half way up the ghyll, you come to a waterfall of about forty feet, where the water, being much broken by the inequalities above, and upon the broad ledge it falls from, spreads out like a huge white apron gathered a little at the waist. A hundred yards higher is another fall, and, higher still, a third, where the stream is split into three by two sharp projecting rocks, and, about half way down, falls upon a sort of “slantindicular” shelf, whence, white as butter-milk, it makes a second fall at right angles to the first, and forms altogether a highly interesting subject of contemplation.


And now, occupying the upper end of an oblong basin amongst the hills, you see “a little town” of sheds, offices, workshops, and water-wheels, which, with the constant clatter of the machinery issuing therefrom, presents a most extraordinary contrast to the silence and solitude of91 the surrounding wilderness. These are the works belonging to the Copper Mines, which Copper Mines were in existence when Christianity was not, for there is good reason to believe that copper was wrought here, and that extensively, by the Romans during their first occupation of the country, and also by the Britons before them. In support of this supposition, I beg to offer an extract, bearing upon the subject, from that very grave and erudite work, Mr A'Beckett’s History of England. “Before quitting the subject of Cæsar’s invasion, it may be interesting to the reader to know something of the weapons with which the early Britons attempted to defend themselves. Their swords were made of copper, and generally bent with the first blow, which must have greatly straitened their aggressive resources, for the swords thus followed their own bent, instead of carrying out the intention of the persons using them. This provoking pliancy of material must often have made the soldier as ill-tempered as his weapon.” Since those remote days, these mines have never been entirely deserted, save for a few years during the rumpus kicked up by Oliver Cromwell and his compatriots, at which period of our national history, lead and cold iron being more in request than “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals,” they were shut up; but on the restoration of tranquillity and of “that sad scamp, the Merry Monarch,” operations were resumed, and continued with varying energy and success until the advent of the present management. At that period there were only two or three miners employed, but since then, matters have been very different. The mines have been rapidly increasing in extent and prosperity; they now employ several hundred people, and are become a splendid property to the present enterprising company.


It is worthy of being remarked, that, in the early ages, the mode of obtaining the ore, which is generally found92 in veins, or lodes, intermingled with quartz, and surrounded by very hard rock, was similar to that which the Roman historians say was adopted by Hannibal to smooth his passage over the Alps; that is, they kindled large fires upon the veins, and, having heated the stone as much as possible, poured water upon it, (the Carthaginians used vinegar,) which, by the sudden and copious abstraction of caloric, caused it to crack, or burst, and so rendered a circumscribed portion workable by their rude implements, some of which—small quadrangular iron wedges, with a hole at the thick end for the insertion of a handle—have been recently found in the very old workings. The invention of gunpowder and its application to blasting purposes, have, of course, for ages, superseded this primitive modus operandi;

And now these rock-built hills are hourly “shaken
By thy humane discovery, Friar Bacon!”

Some of the operations are carried on by what are called “tribute-workers,” the workmen receiving a certain proportion of what they raise, and, when fortunate, some of them realize large sums under this system; but the greater part by far of the underground work is done by bargain, some man, or, more frequently, men, undertaking to excavate a given number of fathoms in a certain locality and in an assigned direction, for so much per fathom; the results of their labours being brought out along the levels by waggons, and by “kibbles”—a sort of large strong bucket—up the shafts. If you happen to be fresh from College, it may be necessary to inform you that a level means a horizontal, and a shaft a perpendicular excavation.

High up the mountain side, you may notice a solitary water-wheel which, from having nothing near it visible from below, appears to be spinning away like a child's toy mill, without aim or object. It is at the top of the93 main shaft, and is employed in hoisting those kibbles and water to the horse level.


And now having arrived at the works, before examining the details of the dressing process, suppose you take a subterranean ramble, and see how and where the ore is obtained, and to do that comfortably, it were well to borrow some regular mining habiliments to save your clothes;—the gentlemen below stairs will excuse your appearing amongst them in full dress.

It will be wise to select the oldest and most extensive part of the mines for exploration, and it is that most to the east; so, when you are properly equipped, and have procured candles and a guide, proceed at once to the horse level mouth, light your candles, open the door and walk in, and as you proceed, it were well, once in a way, to take a lesson from your respectable fellow-biped the goose, who, I have been told, always lowers his head when entering even the highest doors; for if you disdain the Saviour of the Capitol’s example, you will hardly save your own capital, the arch of living rock beneath which you travel being too low for even a little man to walk with an erect front. When you have progressed thus with your crest lowered for some distance, you may straight your back and look up, for you are under the “Cobbler’s hole,” a tremendous chasm, from which a vein of copper, extending to above the water-wheel you saw on the hill-side, has been wrought, and when you are advanced about a quarter of a mile into the level, you are at the side of the shaft which reaches from the said water-wheel through all the workings down to the deepest level; and by which the kibbles containing the ore are hoisted a few fathoms above your head, and there emptied into a large hopper, the mouth of which is six or seven feet above the level, and under it the waggons are run to be loaden.


If you are determined to descend the shaft, it must be94 by a series of ladders, with wooden sides and iron steps, and you come upon a platform, or “landing,” at every few fathoms. Diverging occasionally from, but generally following the line of the shaft, you pass several old “bunnins”—I am not sure about the orthography, but the derivation is, I fancy, from bound in—which are short logs of wood jammed between the opposite walls of rock for the miners to stand upon when working in such situations. As you proceed on your perilous journey, you must not allow the thundering echoes of the distant blast, or the astounding rattle of the rapidly descending kibble and its chain, to deprive you of your presence of mind, else you are “but a dead” tourist. But supposing that you carry your senses along with you, and are resolved to stop at nothing short of the deep workings, you continue, sometimes crawling down the ladders, and sometimes stepping cautiously across the landings, and pass several levels in your descent—viz., one twenty fathoms down, one thirty-five, one fifty, and at length you arrive at the seventy fathom, when you are some where about the level of the village, or about 420 feet below the place where you commenced your underground knight errantry—or, again, about 640 feet below the top of the shaft. There is, “at the lowest depth a lower still,” some twenty fathoms below this another working called “the ninety;” but you are already deep enough for any useful purpose. Moving a short way onwards, you come in sight of two men working upon a “bunnin,” and looking, according to your notion, very much like inhabitants of a still lower region, the darkness being made barely visible by a couple of twinkling candles plastered against the rock with clay. Their attitudes are somewhat picturesque, as they hold up and turn the jumper with the left hand, whilst they keep driving it into the flinty rock by an incessant rapping with a hammer held in the right. Having bored95 BORING AND BLASTING. their holes to a sufficient depth, they proceed to clear them out with an iron instrument something like a yard-long needle, with its point bent and flattened—first scraping out the borings or fragments of stone, with the point, and then drying the hole with a small wisp of straw, or dried grass, drawn through the eye, and worked up and down in the hole until all moisture is completely mopped up. They then fill a tin tube with gunpowder, and conveying it into the hole, withdraw the tube and leave the hole filled to one-third, or one-half its depth with the powder. Having corked down, by way of wadding, the wisp used in drying, and carefully cleaned away any stray grains of powder which may possibly adhere to the sides, they next thrust a long sharpened rod of copper, called a “pricker,” down one side into the powder, and pass an iron “stemmer,” or ramrod, grooved on one side to fit the pricker, to feel whether it work easily, which it will not do, if the pricker be improperly inserted. They then beat in with the stemmer a quantity of soft rotten stone, called “stemming,” sufficient to fill up the hole, finishing off with a little clay, and commence the withdrawal of the pricker, an operation of some nicety. Having got it out, they pass down the hole it leaves a long straw filled with powder, having a piece of match-paper attached to its outer extremity; and having secured their tools, and uttered two or three indescribable warning shouts, the precise sound of which it is difficult to realize, but which consist of the monosyllable “fire,” they ignite the touch-paper and immediately retire to a respectful distance, and you had better retire with them, to await the report, which, when it does occur, will be pretty likely to make you jump an inch or two out of your skin. Returning to their working, they note carefully the effects of the blast, and breaking up the larger fragments, and beating down any loose pieces that may hang about the sides, they se96lect a suitable “lofe,” and recommence boring. About three blasts in this hard rock is considered a fair day's work, the men working eight hours a day in shifts—which does not mean that they array themselves in chemises to work in, but that they are relieved, or shifted, at the end of eight hours, by other workmen taking their places.


And now having visited the depths of the mines, and witnessed the most important, as well as the most common of the underground operations, and, moreover, being almost “scomfished” with the powder smoke, you are anxious to return to the blessed light of day, and “Heaven's untainted breath,” and may clamber up the interminable ladders you descended by. What you have seen, of course, conveys no adequate idea of the extent of the mines, for these hills are almost honey-combed by levels and other workings; but you have seen enough to show you the nature of copper mining. It is rather extraordinary that the mines, even in their deepest parts, are infested by myriads of rats, and why they harbour there, or what they get to eat, would require a longer head than mine to discover.

It says much for the excellent arrangements on the part of the management, that, notwithstanding the dangerous nature of the work, and the number of hands employed, serious accidents are of very rare occurrence; and when they do occur, they are almost always the result of negligence, frequently involving disobedience of orders, on the part of the sufferer. However, one of the most melancholy that has yet occurred, was purely accidental, and I may relate it as a sad episode in mining life. A father and son—Irishmen—named Redmond, were employed at the foot of a shaft, “filling kibbles.” The father’s kibble had descended, and he had unhooked the chain, handed it to his son to attach to his kibble, which was full, and commenced refilling, when his attention was attracted by a97 ANECDOTES GRAVE AND GAY.cry, and, starting round, he saw his son carried with the kibble rapidly up the dark shaft. He called to him to hold on by the bucket, but that was considered hopeless by the workmen about, because the shaft is tortuous, and the sides very rugged and uneven. A very short time shewed that they were correct, for the unfortunate youth's body was heard tumbling down the shaft. The old man placed himself below, stretching out his arms to catch the body as it fell, and was with difficulty dragged from the position where he would have shared the fate of his son, whose mangled body fell close to his feet.

Another story of a different character connected with kibble-filling, I may tell you by way of relief to the above sad narrative. A man was employed in this department, who had seen better days, and whose thoughtlessness or ill luck had reduced him to labour thus for his daily bread, but whose humour and ready wit were by no means impaired by his fallen fortunes. One of the agents observing some small stones falling down the shaft, said, “Take care—or you'll have your brains knocked out!” He continued his work, replying coolly, “If I’d ever had any brains, Captain, I shouldn’t have been here!”


And now, having safely returned to this every-day world, you may examine the processes through which the ore has to pass, before it is fit for the market, for, unlike most other mining, one-half of the work is not done when it is brought above ground. Well, first, you perceive, it is thrown from the waggons into a heap, where water runs over it, and by cleaning the lumps, shews more plainly what each piece is made of. Then from the heap it is raked by men to a platform, or long low bench, along which a number of little boys are actively engaged in picking or separating the richer pieces from the poorer, and it is highly amusing to watch the expertness and celerity with which the imps make the selection, and toss each lump98 into its proper receptacle. The richest portion is carried at once to the crushing mill, the poorer is thrown into another shed below, to be broken up and further picked, and the mere stones are wheeled off to the rubbish heap. The ore being broken small is thrown into the crushing mill, and passed once or twice through it, being returned to the mill by an endless chain of iron buckets, which dip into the heap of crushed ore below, and, carrying it up, empty themselves into the mill. When ground to the size of coarse sand, the ore is carried to the “jigging troughs,” which are large square boxes, filled with water, and having each a smaller box, with a grated bottom, suspended in it from a beam above, and filled with ore, a “jigging” motion being imparted to the grated boxes by water-power. This jigging under water causes the grains of pure ore, which are heavy, to sink and pass through the grating of the inner box, and the particles of spar and rock, which are lighter, to rise to the top, whence they are scooped off and wheeled away to undergo another pounding and washing. The pounding is effected by means of two long rows of stamps or heavy iron-shod pestles, kept incessantly rising and falling in beds fronted with perforated iron plates, and fed with the material, and a flow of water to wash it, when fine enough, through the holed plate. It is, after that, collected to go through the process of “buddling,” which consists of laying it on slanting shelves, at the head of long wooden troughs, also slanting longitudinally, and a limited stream of water being allowed to run through it and wash it slowly off the shelves and down the inclining troughs, the heavier and valuable portion remains at the head, whilst the lighter and worthless portion is washed down to the lower end. All the waste water used in any of the dressing processes is made to flow through a series of large tanks or reservoirs, in which it deposits all the fine particles of ore that may be float99ing away, and from these tanks some thousands of pounds' worth of ore is collected annually in the form of slime, and looking like bronze, which with all the other ore is shipped to Swansea to be smelted.


An impression is general that the people employed here are more than ordinarily “ignorant and profligate.” Nothing could be farther from the truth than such a supposition. They, doubtless, have their share of the failings of human nature, and many enjoy themselves rather freely at the month’s end, when they receive their pay, but open or obtrusive profligacy is very rare, and their ignorance is certainly not so general as that of the pastoral and agricultural population around them. And I maintain that, in kindness to each other, in the proper discharge of the duties of domestic life, in demonstrative respect for those above them, in real civility to strangers, though accompanied perhaps, in some instances, by gruffness of manner, the mining population of Conistone are not to be surpassed by any other of equal numbers in the world, and are certainly not equalled by any that I have been amongst.

I have now nothing more to say about either mines or miners, but leave you to divest yourself of your miners' habiliments, and cleanse your fingers from the candle grease at your leisure.




Ascent from the Mines—The Kernel Crag Ravens—Paddy' End and Simon’ Nick—Leverswater, &c.— The Summit—“Old Man,” unde Derivatur—Enumeration of Objects seen from the Summit—Mountain and Mere—Dale and Down—Sea and Shore—Tower and Town—The Descent.

It were well now to delay no longer the favourite and finest of all Conistonian excursions; therefore again gird your loins with strength, and prepare to ascend the Old Man. For that purpose, I think the pleasantest, though not the nearest route is directly past the Mines; so, leaving on your right the works you have been inspecting, you take a very rough and very steep cart-road winding its weary way up the mountain, and pass between another more elevated and more recent range of works and workings styled Paddy'-end—after the discoverer of the richness of the veins in that direction—and a high precipice of solid stone called Kernel Crag. On this crag, probably for ages, a pair of ravens have annually had their nest, and though their young have again and again been destroyed by the shepherds, they always return to this favourite spot; and frequently, when one of the parents has been shot in the brooding season, the survivor has immediately been provided with another helpmate; and, what is still more extraordinary, and beautifully and literally illustrative of a certain impressive scripture passage—it happened, a year or two since, that both the parent birds were shot,101 whilst the nest was full of unfledged young, and their duties were immediately undertaken by a couple of strange ravens, who attended assiduously to the wants of the orphan brood, until they were fit to forage for themselves.


In the face of the precipice to the left, over Paddy'-end, you may note a nearly perpendicular fissure, or niche. It is called Simon’ nick, also after the discoverer, and thereby hangs a tale. The said Simon, to the great mystification, and greater mortification of his compeers, succeeded in obtaining large quantities of rich ore from this nick, wherein no one but himself could discover any indications of it. They were all, of course, very curious and anxious to fathom this mystery, but they could make nothing of it. Simon resisted all enquiries, direct or insidious, till one unfortunate night when, “hot with the Tuscan grape,” or, to express it less poetically, the Black Bull malt, he divulged the fatal secret that he owed his mysterious and envied success to the co-operation of the Fairies. For this breach of confidence, he received condign punishment, for he never again fell in with anything worth working; and becoming reckless from the consequences of his own indiscretion, he abandoned all caution in his perilous operations, and the charge in one of the holes he had prepared for blasting exploding prematurely, Simon paid the penalty of his imprudence with his life.

Still toiling upwards, you soon attain the edge or lip of the basin containing Leverswater, one of the finest of our mountain lakelets, nearly circular in shape, surrounded by very steep grassy slopes and magnificent rocky precipices, and measuring upwards of a mile in circumference. Were Mr Wordsworth here, he might again make the bewailing inquiry—

“Is there no spot of English ground secure
From rash assault?”

for you may observe that even this lonely tarn is rendered102 subservient to purposes of “sordid industry” (I feel spiteful at that phrase) by having its waters dammed up, so as to form it into a mere vulgar reservoir of water for the dozen or two of water-wheels at the works below. And, moreover, as you follow the path along the southern verge of Leverswater, under the noble offset from the Old Man, called Brimfell, you fall in with very plain indications that mining is pursued, and that vigorously, even up here. In one of these levels very rich ore has been found, including, in minute quantities, copper in a malleable state, which, if I am correctly informed, is the only instance of native malleable copper being found in Britain.


You wend your way along a very uneven path on the hill-side to the west of Leverswater, and when you arrive at a point about opposite to that on which you approached it, and nearly under a precipice called Oukrigg (Wool-crag?) you take the very steep ascent to your left, and follow up a small water-course, until you observe more on your left a fine dell dished, as it were, out of the hill-side, and thickly dotted with sheep. It is called the Gillcove, because, from time immemorial, the sheep belonging to a farm in the village called the Gill (or Ghyll), have been depastured upon it. You traverse this same cove, and rise over the shoulder of Brimfell, regularly gaining upon the mountain; but the ascent becomes dismally laborious here, so much so, that you are fain to lie down to recover breath, and whilst doing so, what say you to a little familiar chat with the Old Man himself?—Listen!

Old Man! Old Man!!—Your sides are brant,
And dreadfully hard to climb;
My strength fails fast, and my breath is scant,
So I'll e'en rest here and rhyme.
“Yea, my slopes are steep and my dells are deep,
And my broad bald brow is high,
And you'll ne'er, should you rhyme till the limit of time,
Find worthier theme than I!
“My summit I shroud in the weltering cloud,
And I laugh at the tempest’s din;
I am girdled about with stout rock without,
And I've countless wealth within.
“My silence is broke by the raven’s croak,
And the bark of the mountain fox;
And mine echoes awake to the brown glead’s shriek,
As he floats past my hoary rocks.”
Old Man! Old Man! many an age
Has glided away while you've stood,
And much has been graven on history’s page,
Since your summit was laved by the flood.
“Yea, nations are dead and centuries fled,
Whilst here, like a trusty guard,
O'er mine own sweet vale, braving thunder and gale,
I have held close watch and ward.
“And many a change, portentous and strange,
Hath swept o'er this change-loving earth;
Yet here do I stand, and I frown o'er the land
With the aspect I wore at my birth.”

There! you perceive Shakspere is correct as ever when he says we may find sermons in stones, and I trust you will profit by the Old Man’s homily.

Resuming your clamber, you, by and bye, come out upon the high narrow ridge connecting the Old Man with the fells behind him. It is now all plane sailing, and you soon arrive at the pinnacle, or pillar, or pile of stones upon the mountain’s “very topmost towering height,” which is, according to the best authority, 2,632 feet above the sea.

In the place of this solid erection there stood, a few years ago, an externally similar, though larger pile containing a chamber, which formed a welcome shelter to such shepherds and tourists as happened to be overtaken on the mountain by bad weather. This chambered pile was pulled down by certain officers employed on the trigonometrical survey, or rather by their orders; and, by the bye, I have heard that the labourer who undertook the demolition had five pounds for the job, and earned the104 THE OLD MAN’S GODFATHERS.satisfactory wages of somewhere near one pound per hour by it. Be this as it may, those gentlemen ought, when they restored the erection, to have made the new equal in all respects to the old one, instead of giving us a pile inferior both in its useful and ornamental attributes. Any erection of this description on a hill-top being locally called a “man,” this is said by certain shallow etymologists to give the Old Man his name, as though a mountain of his respectability would stand unchristened, until somebody, like the “three rosy-cheeked school-boys, the tallest not more than the height of a counsellor’s bag,” in the Laureate's poem on “Perseverance” (I believe), undertook and completed the task of rearing a pile of stones upon his vertex. The Rev. W. Ford, who has written one of the many “Guides to the Lakes,” says there are three piles on the mountain top—“the Old Man, his wife, and son,” thereby inferring that the name of the hill bears some allusion to the featherless biped of similar designation. This is certainly wide of the mark, but there are two reasonable derivations of this mountain’s quaint appellative, and both are probably correct. Some say the name comes from two British or Saxon words Alt, high, and Maen, crag or rocky hill, which pretty well describe the Old Man. Others say that the same Roman soldiery who called their beautiful station at the head of Windermere Amabilis Situs (since degenerated into Ambleside), called this hill Altus Mons, which, by a natural metonomy, gradually became Auld Man, for, be it remembered, the natives of this immediate vicinage, even at the present day, pronounce old in the Scotch fashion.


The view from this same Old Man is, in my opinion, and in that of many others, unequalled in England; and though, on the north and east, the prospect is somewhat limited by its kindred hills, they are hills such as you would not have removed, if you could, even to enlarge the105 prospect, for they comprise all the English mountains worthy of notice, and, in other directions, some of those of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Commencing here at the south-west, you have Blackcombe, which is not seen to very great advantage, in as much as you are looking down upon it, a mode of inspection which you must know to be unfavourable to the dignity of either mountain or man.

Near to it is a tarn called Devock Water, which contains trout of peculiarly excellent quality, traditionally said to have been imported by the Monks of Furness from Italy, and it fully supports the character of those holy men as judges of good living, for no one should say he has eaten trout, till once he has tasted those of Devock Water. The next hill of any mark is Birksfell, which is a striking object, not so much on account of its altitude—for that is no great matter—as its isolated position and conical shape. Then you see Scawfell and the Pikes, followed up by Great End, Great Gable, and Bowfell, beyond which, more to the east, is Skiddaw, and beyond Skiddaw are to be seen the dim outlines of the Scotch hills about Langholm. Still bringing the eye round in the course of the sun, you look at Blencathra, and then “the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn.” Nearly in the same line, but much nearer, you have Langdale Pikes, and in the side of them Stickle Tarn glistens like a gem in a lady’s hair. Recurring to the more distant line, you see Fairfield, Kirkstone, High Street, and Hillbell. You have overlooked very many important mountains, but I have enumerated the most prominent as seen from the Old Man. Rather nearer than Hillbell is Wansfell, at the foot of which you may perceive Ambleside, and a little lower, a considerable portion of Windermere, with numerous seats upon its banks, Wray Castle the most conspicuous; and nearer and more to the right, the vale and lake of Esthwaite,106 with the pretty village of Sawrey (which Wilson calls “scarcely a village indeed, but rocks, glades, and coppices bedropt with dwellings!”) smiling in the sun, at its south-eastern extremity. A little farther to the right, another portion of the “river lake” is visible, and beyond that a remarkable succession of elevated ridgy moorlands stretches across the view, until it is stopped by a portion of that chain of hills called the “Backbone of England.” You remark that, if yonder ridge be in reality a portion of England’s backbone, she must have been a ricketty child, for there are inequalities upon it such as no healthy spine would exhibit.


More to the right, the view becomes more extended, for it embraces much of that part of Lancashire lying to the west and south of the county town, watered by the Ribble and the Wyre, and at the western extremity of which you can distinctly see the town and port of Fleetwood. Stretching far in-land from it, you have all the majestic Bay of Morecambe, looking so beautiful with its numerous rivers meandering along its level sands, that you fancy it would be almost a sin to carry into execution the project of embanking it. Following along its shores, your eyes come to the town and castle of “John O'Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster;” then the wooded promontory of Cartmel, jutting into the bay, and, on its north-western side, the fertile and undulating district of Low Furness, with the Isle of Walney stretched along its seaward side like a natural breakwater. Then you look upon the miles of smooth, flat sand, over which the Duddon is

“Gliding in silence with unfettered sweep.”

Directly over that, and across the sea, are to be seen very plainly some of the hills of Wales, Snowdon, I believe, amongst the rest; and you have under your eye the whole of that portion of the Irish sea stretching from Wales to the Isle of Man, and thence to the Mull of Galloway and107 Burrow Head, and, again, a considerable portion of the Solway Frith. I am told that in “certain conditions of the atmosphere,” the high hill in Ireland, called Slieve Donard, where O'Neale entertained Rokeby and Mortham, and

“Gave them each sylvan joy to know,
Slieve Donard’s cliffs and woods could shew”—

is to be seen between the Scottish headlands and the Isle of Man. If it be so, and there is no good reason to doubt it, it seems that, from the Old Man, the eye can at one sweep behold all the divisions of the Kingdom, as well as “the Kingdom of Man.”


You may now take a look at the objects nearer home, and perhaps the most striking is the tarn, occupying a concavity in the eastern side of the Old Man, and called, on the principle of lucus a non lucendo, Low-wat-hung by a tremendous precipitous range called Buckbarrow Crags, which, like Dow Crags, is a favourite place of refuge with foxes; and upon its ledges sheep frequently get “crag-fast,” from which predicament they have to be rescued by an adventurous shepherd lowered over the beetling precipice by a rope, the animal, aware of its peril, allowing itself to be slung in the rope and drawn up. Low-water is remarkable for trouts of large dimensions, and once, like the tarn sung by the poet, had one of enormous size supposed to be immortal. It was frequently seen by the men working in the slate quarry above, and it was not unfrequently hooked, but no tackle was strong enough to land such a monster. So much for its strength: but, alack for its immortality,—it was found one morning dead upon the shore. I am too tenacious of my character for veracity to tell you its weight and size; but, according to my informant, nature, compassionating its great age and its high stormy location, had fur108nished it with a covering of hair, a fact unparalleled, as I think, in the annals of ichthyology.

Directly under Low-water, you have a bird's-eye view of the works belonging to the Mines, which, with the roads intersecting the hills about them, have a rather odd appearance. Beyond these, Weatherlam rears his massive cone to nearly an equal height with you.


Down to the right, you have a delicious view of the vale of Monk and Church Conistone, in early autumn most beautifully chequered with fields of ripe and ripening grain. But I have already dilated usque ad nauseam (sufficiently to sicken a dog) upon the beauties of that same valley, so let it rest, and commence your descent, taking a path to the southward of Low-water, through amongst the slate-quarries, which, for many years deserted, are again in active operation. One of these, called Saddle Stone quarry, was the scene, some years ago, of two melancholy deaths,—one of them mysterious, the other singular. On a Monday morning, the labourers discovered a man’s hat floating in some water in a hole a good way into the working, and, on a search being instituted, they soon after found the body of a Mr Dixon, a respectable and intelligent native of the dale. It was supposed that he had sauntered into the level, and, whilst directing his attention to the air-shaft above, had walked into the water.

The other was one of the labourers, named Gould, who, with his fellow-workmen, had sat down to rest, or dine, somewhere under the said shaft. He was leaning back, when a stone, scarcely larger than a good walnut, fell from the shaft, and striking him upon the forehead, killed him on the spot. Passing this ill-omened hole, you follow the steep path downwards, and pass considerably to your left the “Pudding Stone,” the largest boulder stone I have seen, excepting that near Keswick. It is higher109 than it is long or broad, and rests upon a ridge, where it is puzzling to conceive how it could have stayed by chance. You also pass on the left, but nearer to you, two singularly rugged hillocks called High and Low Crawberry, with Crawberry Hause between. On the right is the Bell, a precipitous rocky hill, where ravens, and buzzards, or gleads, take up their abode; and descending still through an extensive rocky pasture, rejoicing in the euphonious title of the Scrow, formerly covered with wood, as is evidenced by the traces of the charcoal pits yet visible, you reach a wooden bridge, and cross it into the Mines road, with which you are already so well acquainted, that it is scarcely incumbent upon me to rave any further at this present speaking.


I would by no means bind you to ascend or descend the Old Man by the routes I have described. I merely recommend them as offering most objects likely to amuse, and as being considered the easiest for pedestrian adventurers. But, by taking the road to the slate quarries, you may ride a steady pony to within a quarter of a mile of the summit,—or by following the Walna Scar road for a mile or two, and taking the path by Gaits Water, you may, with one or two short intervals of leading, ride to the very top; the road, however, is some miles longer, seeing that you must circumvent the Old Man before you attain your object by this route, and you will find it no trifling task to get round him.


During this and the preceding ramble, it might, perhaps, be expected of me to say something upon geology. The only excuse I have to offer for this serious omission—whether sufficient or otherwise—is, that I know nothing about it. I can, however, do the next best thing to lecturing on the subject myself, and that is recommend you to peruse the letters of Professor Sedgwick to Mr Wordsworth on the Geology of the Lake District, which you will find110 in a handsome and well got up guide-book, published by Mr Hudson, of Kendal, or the chapters on the same subject by Professor Phillips, contained in another guide-book, of which Adam and Charles Black, of Edinburgh, are the publishers, either or both of which are amply sufficient, if well studied, to enable you to talk geology in any society very respectably. I am a very superficial observer myself, and only pretend to point out what is amusing, leaving the instructive to abler hands and wiser heads.




The Village and Church again—The Deer Park—High Ground, Little Arrow, and Hawthwaite—Torver—Hem Hall—Torver Mill—Sunny Bank—Oxness—Brown How—Water-yeat—Arklid—Nibthwaite—Waterpark—The Lake Foot—“The Gridiron,” and Fir Island—Brantwood—Conistone Bank—Bank Ground—T’ Ho'penny Yall 'us—Tent Lodge.

I intend now to treat you to a fourteen miles’ ride, namely, down the western side of the Lake and up the eastern, to accomplish which it is necessary again to pass through the village by Yewdale Bridge, the Crown Inn and the Church. When I last mentioned the Church to you, I think I alluded to “an old oak chest,” with a very oddly constructed padlock, in which chest is deposited a mass of ancient documents connected with the ecclesiastical business of the chapelry. Since then, through the polite attention of my urbane and erudite friend, the parish clerk, I have had an opportunity of rummaging at will through these parochial archives, but the only papers possessing the least interest were a number of slips, each recording the oaths of two people—always females by the bye—as to the costume in which defunct persons were carried to their long home. As these afford a striking and instructive instance of the wisdom of our ancestors, and refer to an act of Parliament, of the existence of which, at any period of our national annals, perhaps you were not cognizant, any more than I was112 myself, I have taken the liberty of transcribing one of the most legible; and here it is:—


Parociall Chappell de Coniston.

We Elizabeth Grigg widdow and Agnes Fleming widow—doe severally make oath that ye corps of Elizabeth wife of George Towers was buryed April ye 3d day Anno Dmi 1688 And was not put in wrapt or wound up in any shirt shift sheet or shroud made or mingled with Flax Hemp Hair Gold or Silver &c; nor in any coffin lined or faced with Cloath &c; nor now other material but sheeps wooll only According to Act of Parliamt. In Testemony whereof we ye sd. Eliz Grigg and Agnes Fleming have hereunto set our hands and seals

Capt. et. Jurat Septimo die       Elizabeth Grigg
Aprilis Anno Dmie 1688 Her X mark
Coram me Agnes Fleming
Rogero Atkinsonne Her X mark

You cross the Church Bridge, and, riding down the village in the same direction as before, leave it at Parkgate, where the road enters the old deer park, still pretty well covered with coppice wood, oaks and other trees from the Lake side, about half a mile to your left to the top of Bleathwaite, the same distance to your right. Looking back from the little height beyond Parkgate, you have a delicious view of the scenery around the upper part of the Lake, and it is, perhaps, as well that the wooded park soon screens this view from your admiring retrospection, or it is possible that your progress southward might be seriously retarded by your “longing, lingering looks behind.”


After emerging from the forest-fringed road through the park, you soon pass the pleasant residence called High Ground, and the picturesque homestead of Little Arrow, and leaving the beautiful farm of Hawthwaite considerably to the left, you shortly enter the ancient and primitive chapelry of Torver, where—

“Provided you've got a strong taste for rusticity,
And Wordsworth has not made you sick of simplicity”—

you may have your taste gratified, for there are few places113 now in England, where old-fashioned and unsophisticated habits and manners prevail more decidedly than in Torver. There is no account of any family of rank ever being resident in Torver, and nearly all the land is still possessed by the descendants of the men whom Sir Walter Scott apostrophizes as

“——Those gallant yeomen,
England’s peculiar and appropriate sons,
Known in no other land. Each boasts his hearth
And field as free as the best lord his barony,
Owing subjection to no human vassalage,
Save to their King and law. Hence are they resolute,
Leading the van on every day of battle,
As men who know the blessings they defend.
Hence are they frank and generous in peace,
As men who have their portion in its plenty;
No other kingdom shows such worth and happiness
Veiled in such low estate.”

A very neat and appropriate chapel has just been erected in Torver, after a design furnished gratuitously by Mr M. Thompson, an architect resident, I believe, in Kendal. The old chapel, removed in 1848, was an object of interest from the fact of its having been consecrated by Archbishop Cranmer, and said to have been the first church erected in England for the exercise of the Protestant form of worship.

Close to the chapel stands the snug and tidy public-house, known pretty widely by the title of Torver Kirk-house, and if you happen to be a-thirst, I can honestly recommend Thomas Massicks’ home-brewed ale. In fulfilment of a trite rhyming proverb, these houses of entertainment, adjoining houses of prayer, are very abundant in our rural parishes, and are so extensively patronized both by wayfarers and neighbours, that Mr Wordsworth, when he says

“The Kirk of Ulpha to the pilgrim’s eye
Is welcome as a star, that doth present
Its shining forehead through the peaceful rent
Of a black cloud diffused o'er half the sky:”


&c. &c., would have given us a truth of much more general application, had he said—

Old Ulpha Kirk-house to the pilgrim’s eye
Is welcome as the sun that doth present
His blowzy visage through some hopeful rent
In clouds, whose rain has left not one stitch dry.

After noticing the many old, but comfortable and substantial dwellings with which the remarkably verdant fields of Torver (which flow with milk and honey) are “bedropt,” you must take the road which the guide-post tells you leads to Ulverston—if you can’t read, ask at the blacksmith’s shop—and when you reach the eminence on which stands the old farm-house called Hem, or Hen Hall, turn round and take a good look at the Old Man, who is certainly seen to the greatest advantage from this point of view. In looking at him on any other side, his connection with the chain of hills behind him detracts much from the dignity of his aspect; but from this side, and especially from this precise spot, he appears to stand forth, independent and self-reliant, the advanced guard of an army of Titans.

At Hem Hall, you may leave the high road for about a hundred yards, taking a narrow steep lane straight before you, to look at Torver Mill,—and a splendid fall the “Blackbeck of Torver” makes a little above the mill,—returning to the highway at Beckstones, and descending rapidly till you cross the beck near to the exceedingly well-named farm of Sunny-bank, and the Bobbin Mill. By the bye, if you would like to see how very rapidly they can make bobbins or reels for holding cotton thread, and boxes for holding Professor Holloway’s pills and ointment, by the use of which you may escape the penalty entailed upon us all by old father Adam, you should ask leave to inspect the operations in this bobbin mill, and I have no doubt that my good friend, Mr Kendal, will be115 happy to do the honours to any pretty-behaved young gentleman like yourself.


You pass Sunny-bank, its pretty farm, its bridge and bobbin mill, and return to the lake-side below the mouth of Torver beck, and opposite to “the Gridiron,” and ride on through the farm-yard of Oxness, past Brown How, near to which a very handsome mansion has just been built upon a singularly beautiful site by the lake side. The scenery here is very picturesque, consisting, as it does, of successive but irregular precipitous ranges of grey rock—in some parts bare, and in others clad with a heavy drapery of glittering ivy—separated by intervals of purple heather, or green brackens and greener pasturage.

You are now near the water-foot, and just before you reach the hamlet of Water-yeat, stop on a little eminence and enjoy a view, one glimpse of which, I have been told, would be ample compensation for a journey from Timbuctoo. The whole length of the lake lies spread out before you, from the Copper sheds at Nibthwaite to the Inn at Waterhead, which last, though at six miles’ distance, is very distinctly seen—beautifully backed up by the slopes and woods of Mr Marshall’s noble park; these again over-topped by the distant, finely-outlined range of mountains beyond Rydal and Grasmere.

At Water-yeat, you take a road leading across the valley and over the river Crake, to a large old farm-house called Arklid, when you again turn your nose towards Conistone, passing through the venerable village of Nibthwaite, and by the richly-wooded grounds of Waterpark, the road sometimes approaching the lake side, and sometimes diverging from it.


The lower part of Conistone Water is said to be tame, and many of its most faithful admirers do not attempt to contradict what has almost assumed the aspect of an ad116mitted fact. But you now see that it is anything but tame, and if you cannot accept the evidence of your own optics, or if you doubt the infallibility of your own taste, you will, perhaps, feel more confidence in your perception of the beautiful, when I tell you what Professor Wilson says anent the foot of this lake. You will please to observe, too, that, as I have already said, the Professor’s taste is somewhat warped by his devotion to his own magnificent Windermere, and that he has, on other occasions, written somewhat slightingly of Conistone Water. Hear what he says now:—“Pull away to the foot of the lake, if you choose, and you will be well repaid for your labour by the pretty promontories and bashful bays they conceal, and merry meadows lying in ambush, and “corn riggs sae bonny” trespassing upon the coppice woods that, year after year, yield up their lingering roots to the ploughshare, and grey, white, blue, green, and brown cottages of every shape and size, and pastoral eminences of old lea crowned with a few pine trees, or with an oak, itself a grove.” There, after that, I hope you will never allow Conistone Water-foot to be twitted with tameness again, without running at least one tilt in its defence.

Mr Wordsworth says that the lakes in general should be approached by this road, and as he says it well, and, like the true worshipper of Nature that he undoubtedly is, I feel constrained to quote him:—“The stranger, from the moment he sets his foot upon these (Lancaster) sands, seems to leave the turmoil and traffic of the world behind him; and, crossing the majestic plain when the sea has retired, he beholds, rising apparently from its base, the cluster of mountains among which he is going to wander; and towards whose recesses, by the vale of Conistone, he is gradually and peacefully led.”

As you pursue your pleasant road along the lake, now rising and descending over a gentle hillock, and again117 running along the level lake shore, the Conistone fells become grander and grander, as you bring them nearer, the Old Man still towering over his compeers, the Patriarch of his tribe, and seeming what the Professor happily says “he certainly is, with his firm foot and sunny brow,

‘The king o’ guid fellows and wale o’ auld men.'”

Again, passing “the Gridiron” and then Fir Island close to this side of the lake, the road runs between the lake and the most attractively placed villa of Brantwood, in the charming grounds of which is a seat called “Wordsworth's seat,” because that great poet is in the habit of recommending it to his friends as the point whence he thinks the beauties of Conistone are beheld to the most advantage: and certainly the landscape from the said seat is truly exquisite, if such a young-lady-like term can with propriety be applied to a view, where none may say whether the grand or the beautiful predominates. The sparkling waters of the lake in the foreground,—beyond it the fertile plain and green acclivity, sheltered and shaded by an abundance of scattered and congregated trees and by giant hedge-rows, and dotted and diversified by innumerable white, grey, and black houses, peeping here and there from their embowering foliage, or smiling over the brilliant verdure of the fields,—the picture being filled up in the background by that most magnificent of all mountain ranges, comprising Walna Scar, the Old Man, Brim Fell, High Carr, Oukrigg, Weatherlam, Henn Crag, Yewdale Crag and Raven Crag, with their countless waterfalls shining, here like patches, and there like zig-zag lines of snow, forming altogether a coup d'œil rarely to be equalled—never surpassed.


Leaving this highly favoured spot, you proceed past the gate of Conistone Bank and Black-beck Cottage, nestling prettily in the overhanging wood, with which the road is thickly fringed, sometimes on one side, but more frequently118 on both, and wherever the western side is left open, you have the view respecting which Miss Martineau says,—“And there he (the traveller) will assuredly pause, and hope that he may never forget what he now sees. He has probably never beheld a scene which conveyed a stronger impression of joyful charm; of fertility, prosperity, comfort, nestling in the bosom of the rarest beauty.

The traveller feasts his eye with the scattered dwellings under their sheltering woods,—the cheerful town, the rich slopes, and the dark gorge and summits of Yewdale behind; while the broad water lies as still as heaven between shore and shore.”

After pausing, as Miss Martineau says you assuredly will, for a reasonable space, pray move on, passing, down to your left, the two pretty farms of Bank-ground, one of which is in the course of conversion into an ornamental cottage residence, by a lady whose ancestors have possessed it for centuries. Then passing the large new house built upon the site of the old cottage which used to rejoice in a name suggestive of the low-priced jollifications of ancient times, namely the Halfpenny Ale-house, or, more correctly, t'Ho'penny Yall'us, you descend by Howhead, and soon run to cover under the umbrageous groves of Tent Lodge, decidedly the most interesting of all the seats around Conistone Lake, having, for many years, been the residence of a family, widely celebrated on account of the wonderful talents and acquirements of one of its female members—the learned, elegant, estimable, and accomplished Elizabeth Smith. I might myself from my own knowledge of that lady’s history and character, picked up in this locality, which she, for years, honoured and adorned with her residence, and which was the scene of her early death, give a sketch of her story. But this has been done already by much abler hands, amongst others by Mr De Quincey in Tait’s Magazine,119 and of his excellent paper on Miss Smith, I propose to offer such an epitome as, with due regard for time and space, will enable you to form some notion of her extraordinary character and attainments.


The narcotic-loving philosopher commences thus:—“On a little verdant knoll, near the north-eastern margin of the lake, stands a small villa, called Tent Lodge, built by Colonel Smith, and for many years occupied by his family. That daughter of Colonel Smith who drew the public attention so powerfully upon herself by the splendour of her attainments, had died some months before I came into the country. But yet, as I was subsequently acquainted with her family through the Lloyds (who were within on easy drive of Tent Lodge), and as, moreover, with regard to Miss Elizabeth Smith herself, I came to know more than the world knew—drawing my knowledge from many of her friends, but especially from Mrs Hannah More, who had been intimately connected with her, for these reasons, I shall rehearse the leading points of her story; and the rather because her family, who were equally interested in that story, long continued to form part of the lake society. On my first becoming acquainted with Miss Smith’s pretensions, it is true that I regarded them with but little concern, for nothing ever interests me less than great philological attainments, or, at least, that mode of philological learning which consists in mastery over languages. But one reason for this indifference is, that the apparent splendour is too often a false one. They who know a vast number of languages, rarely know any one with accuracy; and the more they gain in one way, the more they lose in another. With Miss Smith, however, I gradually came to know that this was not the case, or, at any rate, but partially the case; for of some languages which she possessed, and those the least accessible, it appeared finally that she had even a critical120 A FEMALE’S LORE. knowledge. It created also a secondary interest in these difficult accomplishments of hers to find that they were so very extensive. Secondly, that they were nearly all of self-acquisition. Thirdly, that they were borne so meekly, and with unaffected absence of all ostentation. As to the first point, it appears that she made herself mistress of the French, the Italian, the Spanish, the Latin, the German, the Greek, and the Hebrew languages. She had no inconsiderable knowledge of the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Persic. She was a good geometrician and algebraist. She was a very expert musician. She drew from nature, and had an accurate knowledge of perspective. Finally, she manifested an early talent for poetry; but, from pure modesty, destroyed most of what she had written, as her acquaintance with the Hebrew models had elevated the standard of true poetry in her mind, so as to disgust her with what she now viewed as the tameness and inefficiency of her own performances. As to the second point—that for these attainments she was indebted almost exclusively to her own energy, this is placed beyond all doubt, by the fact, that the only governess she ever had (a young lady not much beyond her own age) did not herself possess, and therefore could not have communicated any knowledge of languages, beyond a little French and Italian. Finally, as to the modesty with which she wore her distinctions, that is sufficiently established by every page of her printed works, and her letters. Greater diffidence as respected herself, or less willingness to obtrude her knowledge upon strangers, or even upon those correspondents who would have wished her to make a little more display, cannot be imagined. And yet I repeat that her knowledge was as sound and as profound as it was extensive. For, taking only one instance of this, her translation of Job has been pronounced by Biblical critics of the first rank, a work of real and intrinsic value,121 without any reference to the disadvantages of the translation, or without needing any allowance whatever. In particular, Dr Magee, the celebrated writer on the Atonement, and subsequently a dignitary of the Irish Church—certainly one of the best qualified judges at that time—describes it as 'conveying more of the character and meaning of the Hebrew, with fewer departures from the idiom of the English, than any other translation whatever that we possess.'”


Mr De Quincey next proceeds to “briefly sketch her story”—mentioning her birth at Burnhall, in the county of Durham, in 1776—the engagement of her governess—the acquisition of, and removal of the family to “the splendid inheritance of Piercefield, a show place on the banks of the Wye”—their numerous visitors there, and the influence of two of them (Mrs Bowdler and her daughter) in exciting in Miss Smith her ardent and enduring love of learning and piety—the ruin that, in her 16th year, fell upon “the house of Piercefield. The whole estate, a splendid one, was swept away by the failure of one banking house;” the greatest loss to Miss Smith being the library, which followed the general wreck—“not a volume, not a pamphlet was reserved; for the family were proud in their integrity, and would receive no favours from the creditors.” Then the residence of the family in many different parts of the kingdom under their sadly altered circumstances, and the comfort they derived from their daughter, who, “young as she was, became the moral support of the whole family, and the fountain from which they all drew consolation and fortitude;”—their settlement in Patterdale, and then finally at Conistone, in the cottage close behind Tent Lodge—for the villa was built, after Miss Smith’s death, on the spot where the tent stood in which, during her long illness, she was wont to enjoy the breezes from the lake, and the glorious122 PRAISE WORTH HAVING. scenery around it—the manner in which her fatal illness was contracted—its progress—her death in 1806, at the lamentably early age of 29—and several anecdotes illustrating the extraordinary and various perfections of Miss Smith’s character, are all detailed by Mr De Quincey at great length, with great elegance of diction and great force of expression, as this last extract will serve to exemplify:—“She was buried in Hawkshead Church-yard, where a small tablet of white marble is raised to her memory, on which there is the scantiest record that, for a person so eminently accomplished, I ever met with. After mentioning her birth and age (twenty-nine), it closes thus:—‘She possessed great talents, exalted virtues, and humble piety.’ Anything so unsatisfactory or so common-place, I have rarely known. As much or more is often said of the most insipid people; whereas Miss Smith was really a most extraordinary person. I have conversed with Mrs Hannah More often about her; and I never failed to draw forth some fresh anecdote illustrating the vast extent of her knowledge, the simplicity of her character, the gentleness of her manners, and her unaffected humility. She passed, it is true, almost inaudibly through life; and the stir which was made after her death, soon subsided. But the reason was, that she wrote but little! Had it been possible for the world to measure her by her powers, rather than by her performances, she would have been placed, perhaps, in the estimate of posterity, at the head of learned women; whilst her sweet and feminine character would have rescued her from all shadow and suspicion of that reproach which too often settles upon the learned character, when supported by female aspirants.”


This you will admit to be no ordinary measure of praise; and when you reflect that it is meted out by one of the greatest and most philosophic scholars of this or123 any other age—one whose acquaintance with literature (and literateurs), ancient and modern, is inferior to that of no other writer whatever, you will pardon me for lingering so long at Tent Lodge, and for taking such extensive liberties with the English Opium Eater’s charming papers on the “Society of the Lakes,” and, at the risk of greatly overstepping my usual limits, I must make one further quotation:—“The family of Tent Lodge continued to reside at Conistone for many years; and they were connected with the Lake literary clan chiefly through the Lloyds, and those who visited the Lloyds; for it is another and striking proof of the slight hold which Wordsworth, &c., had upon the public esteem in those days, that even Miss Smith, with all her excessive diffidence in judging of books and authors, never seems, in any one of her letters, to have felt the slightest interest about Wordsworth or Coleridge.” It is possible that Miss Smith’s indifference about Wordsworth was, like the rash humour of Cassius, something that her mother gave her, for it may be admitted to be a defect in the otherwise powerful understanding of that venerable lady—whose memory is cherished in Conistone with undiminishing respect and affection—that, to the close of her long life, she always appeared to regard our greatest of living bards with something more like contempt than anything else. Indeed I have seen a copy of verses written by her, parodizing one of his poems, perhaps the most beautiful and pathetic he has produced. If my memory does not betray me, the parody commenced somewhat in this way:—

“He dwelt by the untrodden ways,
Near Rydal’s grassy mead,
A Bard whom there were none to praise,
And very few to read.”

The imitation, you observe, is sufficiently close to the original.



I believe the only surviving member of Mrs Smith's once numerous family, is one of her sons, now Sir Chas. Smith, who has pitched his tent far from Tent Lodge. After Mrs Smith’s death, the villa was purchased by Mr Jas. G. Marshall, and, it is understood, is about to become the residence of a gentleman whose family name is not unknown in modern literature, nor yet in old romance.

Note.—I ought, in this tenth division of my discourse, to have remembered my promise relative to the floating island. I make the best reparation I can by telling you now, that the last time I saw the said island, it was stranded amongst the reeds between the Copper Quay at Nibthwaite and the outlet of the lake, and when I looked for it again, it had left that berth, and gone I knew not whither; but on enquiring after it at the Commodore of the Copper fleet, I was informed that the erratic object of my solicitude is now occupying a berth in juxta-position to Mr Harrison’s quay, below Waterpark, where it may be inspected. Ben’s memory is failing, or he would have told me the number of trees upon it, having counted them one day whilst on duty in its vicinity. However, it may suffice to inform you that it is a piece of earth about twenty yards square, well covered with herbage and young birches of decent growth. Altogether, were it not for its unfortunate preference of short to long voyages, it would be a highly important addition to the attractions of Conistone Water, and decidedly the best specimen of its genus in the kingdom.




Yewdale Beck—The Parsonage—Oak Cottage—Hollin-how—Far-end—The Saw Mills—Yewdale—“Girt Will’s Grave”—Holme Ground—Tilberthwaite—Hodgeclose—Slate-quarries.

This ramble being, in play-bill phrase, positively our last performance here this season, I am inclined to make it a pretty long one; therefore, you had better order out your pony, and be off without loss of time.

You may canter along the road to the village as far as Yewdale bridge, and, crossing it, turn to your right, and proceed along a narrow, shaded, and rugged lane up the banks of the stream. The house across a field or two to your left, with some fine oaks beside it, is the Parsonage, both the house and grounds of which have been much beautified and extended by the present incumbent. You soon gain the high road at a neat little house called Oak Cottage; and may notice a little beyond it a handsome, but not very large residence, called Hollin-how, and near to that, close under the beetling precipice, a picturesque group of new cottages and old farm buildings, bearing the odd title of Far-end.

Continuing to skirt the brook, you pass a pool close under the road, and divided from it only by a few trees and bushes growing upon the steep high bank, and I may now inform you that this pool, called Cawdrell, or Cauldron Dub, has been haunted, as also has Yewdale Bridge, for a century or two, by certain apparitions who develope their incorporealities in a somewhat eccentric manner, of which I shall tell you more directly.



These neat new buildings to your right, are mills erected by Mr Marshall, for sawing timber and for cutting and polishing the blue flag-stones worked from a quarry at the back of the Guards hill. The land round the saw-mills is divided into garden allotments, let at easy rents to the neighbouring cottagers, and the industrious attention paid by the allottees to the delving, clearing, and cropping of their several parcels, is a pleasing proof of the high estimation in which they hold the privileges thus accorded them. I should have mentioned that Lady le Fleming has devoted a field adjoining the church-yard to the same excellent purpose.

Move on, and, as you pass the Saw-mills, you enter the vale of Yewdale, on which, and on its charms, seeing that I have long ago exhausted my vocabulary of praise, it were but repeating a thrice-told tale to say much more respecting it. But, that you may not ride up Yewdale “in solemn silence,” as, according to the newspapers, they drink to dead men at public dinners, “I'll tell you a tale without any flam” in connection with Yewdale and Cauldron Dub.

It is a story possessing a fair allowance of tragic incident, and in some hands might be worked up into something worth while; but I am a wretched story-teller, and regret exceedingly that I cannot recapitulate its leading particulars in the racy and terse, aye, and poetical, albeit broadly provincial phraseology of my rustic informant.

In good time here we are at the very fittest spot for the commencement of my story, about a quarter of a mile above the Saw-mills, where, by craning over the hedge to your right, you may perceive, near to the verge of the precipitous bank of Yewdale Beck, and a few yards from the road side, a long narrow mound which seems to be formed of solid stone covered with moss, but which a nearer inspection would shew to be composed of several blocks fitted so closely together as to prove the mound to127 have had an artificial, and not a natural origin. You observe it is somewhere between three and four yards long. That singular accumulation of lichen-clad rock has been known for centuries amongst the natives of Yewdale and the adjacent valleys, by the romance-suggesting designation of “Girt Will’s Grave.” How it came by that name, and how Cauldron Dub and Yewdale Bridge came to be haunted, my task is now to tell.


Some few hundred years ago, the inhabitants of these contiguous dales were startled from their propriety, if they had any, by a report that one of the Troutbeck giants had built himself a hut, and taken up his abode in the lonely dell of “The Tarns,” above Yewdale Head. Of course you have read the history and exploits of the famous Tom Hickathrift, and remembering that he was raised at Troutbeck, you will not be much surprised when I tell you that it was always famous for breeding a race of extraordinary size and strength, for even in these our own puny days, the biggest man in Westmorland is to be found in that beautiful vale.

The excitement consequent upon the settlement of one of that gigantic race in this vicinity soon died away, and the object of it, who stood somewhere about nine feet six out of his clogs—if they were in fashion then—and was broad in fair proportion, became known to the neighbours as a capital labourer, ready for any such work as was required in the rude and limited agricultural operations of the period and locality—answered to the cognomen of “Girt (great) Will o’ t’ Tarns,” and, once or twice, did good service as a billman under the Knight of Conistone, when he was called upon to muster his powers to assist in repelling certain roving bands of Scots or Irish, who were wont, now and again, to invade the wealthy plains of Low Furness.


The particular Knight, who was chief of the Flemings at the period of the giant’s location at the 128 Tarns, was far advanced in the vale of years, and, in addition to some six or eight gallant and stately sons, had

“One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well.”

And Eva le Fleming, called by the country people “the Lady Eva,” was famed throughout the broad north for her beauty and gentleness, her high-bred dignity and her humble virtues; but it is not with her that my story has to do. She, like the mother of “the gentle lady married to the Moor,” had a maid called Barbara, an especial favourite with her mistress, and, in her own sphere, deemed quite as beautiful. In fact, it was hinted that, when she happened to be in attendance upon her lady on festive or devotional occasions, the eyes of even knights and well-born squires were as often directed to the maid as to the mistress, and seemed to express as much admiration in one direction as the other. And when mounted on the Lady Eva’s own palfrey, bedecked in its gayest trappings, she rode, as she oftentimes did, to visit her parents at Skelwith, old and young were struck with her beauty, and would turn, as she ambled past, to gaze after her, and to wonder at the elegance of her figure, the ease of her deportment, and the all-surpassing loveliness of her features. Her lady, notwithstanding the disparity of their rank, loved her as a sister, and it was whispered amongst her envious fellow-servants, that her mistress’s fondness made her assume airs unbecoming her station. True enough it was that she seemed sufficiently haughty and scornful in her reception of the homage paid to her charms by the young men of her own rank, and by many above it. The only one to whom she showed the slightest courtesy on these occasions was wild Dick Hawksley, the Knight’s falconer, and he was also the only one who appeared to care no more for her favours than for her frowns.



The Lady Eva, as well befits high-born dames, was somewhat romantic in her tastes, and would often row for hours upon the lake, and wander for miles through the woods, or even upon the mountains, unattended, save by her favourite bower-maiden. And one evening in autumn, after having been confined for two whole days to the hall by heavy and incessant rain, tired of playing chess with her father and battledore with her younger brothers, or superintending the needlework of her maids, and tempted by the brilliant moonlight and now unobscured skies, she summoned Barbara, and set out upon a stroll by the lake side.

The pair were sauntering along a path cut through the dense coppice, the lady leaning in condescending affection upon the shoulder of her maiden, and listening to a recital of how, on her return from some of her visits to her parents, she had been waylaid by Great Will of the Tarns, and how, on a recent evening, he had attempted to seize her rein, and would have stopped her, had she not whipt the palfrey, and bounded past him. The lady was expressing her indignation at this insolence, when a gigantic figure sprang upon the pathway, and snatching up the screaming Barbara with the same ease with which she herself would have lifted an infant, vanished on the instant amongst the thick hazels.

The Lady Eva stood for a minute struck powerless with terror and astonishment at this audacious outrage; but the sound of the monster crashing his headlong course through the coppice, and the half-stifled screams of his captive, soon recalled her suspended faculties, and then

“Fair” Eva “through the hazel grove
Flew, like a startled cushat-dove,”

back to the hall, where, breathless with terror and exertion, she gave the alarm that Barbara had been carried off by the Giant. There was noisy and instantaneous com130motion A CHASE BUT NO RESCUE. amongst the carousing gentles at the upper, and the loitering lackeys at the lower end of the hall. Dick Hawksley, and a few more, darted off in immediate pursuit on foot, while several rushed to the stables, in obedience to the calls of their young masters, who were, one and all, loudly vociferating for their horses. Scarce a minute passed, ere half a dozen le Flemings, attended by as many mounted followers, were spurring like lightning through the wood in the direction of Yewdale. They came in sight of the Giant and his burthen as he neared Cauldron Dub, with the light-heeled falconer close behind, calling loudly upon him to stay his flight; but he held on with tremendous strides, till he reached the brow over the pool, when, finding that the horsemen were close upon him, and that it was hopeless to try to carry his prize farther, he stopped—uttered one terrible shout of rage and disappointment—and whirled his shrieking victim into the flooded beck, resuming his now unincumbered flight with increased speed. Dick Hawksley rushed over the bank a little lower down, and the horsemen, abandoning the chase, galloped to the brink of the stream, which was high with the recent rains. They saw the falconer plunge into the torrent, as the bower maiden, yet buoyant with her light garments, was borne rapidly down. They saw him seize her with one hand, and strike out gallantly for the bank with the other, but the current was too strong for him, encumbered as he was with the girl in his grasp. The devoted pair were swept down the stream, at a rate that made the spectators put their horses to a gallop to keep them in sight, even while the exertions of the brave falconer sufficed to sustain their heads above water, which was only till they came under the bridge, where the water, pent in by the narrow arch, acquired four-fold force, and there they heard him utter a hoarse cry of despair, and the gallant Hawksley and the Lady Eva’s beauteous favourite131 SPEEDY RETRIBUTION.were seen no more, till their bodies were found, days after, on the shore far down the lake. One or two of the horsemen continued to gallop down the side of the beck, in the bootless hope of being able even yet to render them some aid, but the most of them turned their horses’ heads, and went off once more at their utmost speed in pursuit of the murderous Giant. He, considering the chase at an end, had slackened his pace, and they were not long in overtaking him. Great Will struck out manfully with his club (time out of mind the giant’s favourite weapon) as they rushed upon him, but they speedily surrounded him, and, amid a storm of vengeful yells and bitter execrations, the Giant of the Tarns was stretched upon the sward, “with the blood running like a little brook” from a hundred wounds, for he was so frightfully slashed and mangled by their swords, that—as my informant näively averred—there was not so much whole skin left upon his huge body as would have made a tobacco-pouch.

It will be apparent enough to the most obtuse intellect, that, after such events as these, the localities where they occurred must, of necessity, be haunted, and, as the ghosts of murderers, as well as of murderees, if they be right orthodox apparitions, always appear to be re-enacting the closing scene of their earthly career, it is scarcely required of me to dilate farther upon the manner of their appearance. Of course I do not expect, and certainly do not wish to be called upon to prove the even down truth of every particular of the story, with which I have been doing my little best to amuse you; but the assured fact of the Dub and the Bridge being haunted, and that by sundry most pertinacious spirits, I am ready to maintain against all comers.

But here you are approaching the lovely secluded farm and cottage of Holme Ground, and whenever I am sick of132 this world and its vanities, which as yet, I am happy to say, maintain some hold upon my affections, it is here that I should be satisfied to take up my rest.


You may remember that it was hereabouts you crossed the vale of Tilberthwaite,

“Paled in with many a mountain high,”

on a former ramble. On the present occasion, you hold the road to your right, and a precious steep, rugged sample of a road it is; but as you gradually surmount the ascent, you may take a retrospective glance, now and then, at the beautiful vale, or rather dell, of Tilberthwaite, and the mountains with which it is “paled in,” all of these being surmounted by the massive Weatherlam, which is seen to much advantage, and shews itself to be a magnificent hill from this road.

Travel onwards, with belts of plantations occupying all conceivable, and some inconceivable inequalities of ground on your left, and “mountains and moorlands, bleak, barren, and bare,” on your right, till, as you approach Hodgeclose, you pass one or two very awful-looking chasms, yawning in close proximity to the road. These are slate-quarries, which have, for many years, been placed upon the superannuated list. At Hodgeclose, you must turn from the road, pass through the farm-yard and a wood-girdled field or two, to inspect an adjacent slate-quarry, in which inspection you will find the proprietor an intelligent and obliging cicerone. He will first conduct you by a subterranean passage two hundred yards long, to the principal quarry, where the men are busy boring and blasting, and loading the carts with masses of slate metal, technically called clogs. It is in truth a strange looking spot this same quarry, being about eighty yards long and twenty wide, with perpendicular walls of living rock rising to a height of, at least, fifty yards, fringed at the top by low trees and bushes, the circumscribed portion of white133 clouds and blue sky appearing, from below, to rest upon the tree tops. The only exit is by the level through which you entered, though there is another level branching off to the right, and leading to an enormous dark cavern,

“Where, far within the darksome rift,
The wedge and lever ply their thrift.”

Its great extent is shewn by the candles of the workmen at its farther extremity—its height, by a chink in the roof, where a few stray rays of daylight faintly and feebly struggle through.

Having explored the slate beds, you may proceed to the slate sheds, where the men are engaged in riving and dressing the slate, and, from the expertness of the workmen, a very interesting process it is. The clogs, you perceive, are thrown down in heaps at the open side of the shed, and are of various shapes and sizes, the average size being that of a well-grown folio volume. One of these the splitter seizes, and holding it adroitly on edge with his left hand, taps one side of it with a hammer like a small pickaxe, with its points flattened and sharpened, until he establishes a decided crack, which he follows up, and repeating this process, divides the clog into smooth slates, quite as rapidly as you could divide the leaves of any gigantic folio. When riven to a proper degree of thinness, the slates are laid alongside of a man who sits very commodiously upon a prostrate beam of wood, into the upper side of which a long flat-topped staple is fastened. On this staple he holds the undressed slates, and chips them into shape as quickly as any young lady of your acquaintance could clip muslin with her best scissors. They are then laid aside, and classified according to their fineness, the finest being called London—the second Country—the coarsest Tom—and a very small quality for slating the walls of houses is called Peg.



Having thanked Mr Parker for his courtesy, and, if you can afford it, left a small gratuity for the men, you may proceed upon your way, which is a very pleasant one, as ways go, winding through woods and fields into the valley you traversed on your way to Wrynose. Then cross this same valley to examine another slate-quarry belonging to Mr Marshall, in which you will find a magnificent cavern, not dark, but quite as light as any part of the world without, having an ample window near its roof; it is nearly circular, about forty-five yards in diameter, and the same in height, forming a grander dome than is possessed by any artificial edifice I have yet beheld.




Little Langdale—Blea Tarn—Great Langdale—Langdale Pikes—Wallend—Mill-beck—Dungeon Ghyll—Chapel Stile—Langdale Church-yard—Elterwater—Hackett—Colwith and Colwith Force—Tarn Hows—Finale.

Quitting the slate quarries, you follow the road by which you formerly travelled on your way to the classic Duddon, till you reach the stream separating Lancashire from Westmorland. You now cross this stream at the point where you approach it, and at once enter Little Langdale, up which the road takes you past “the New Houses,” Birk How, “Langden Jerry,” The Busk, and Langdale Tarn, all of which have been noticed either collectively or separately, on a previous occasion. After winding by a rough ascending road, half way round the mountain range called Lingmoor, you arrive at Blea Tarn, which, to quote the Professor, is “a lonely, and if in nature there be anything of that character, a melancholy piece of water!” It is thus finely described in Mr Wordsworth’s Excursion, as the abode of his Solitary:

'Urn-like it is in shape—deep as an urn;
With rocks encompassed, save that to the south
Is one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge
Supplies a boundary less abrupt and close,
A quiet treeless nook with two green fields,
A liquid pool that glitters in the sun,
And one bare dwelling; one abode—no more!
It seems the home of poverty and toil,
Though not of want. The little fields made green
By husbandry of many thrifty years,
Pay cheerful tribute to the moorland house.
There crows the cock, single in his domain;
The small birds find in spring no thicket there
To shroud them; only from the neighbouring vales
The cuckoo, straggling up to the hill-top,
Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place!'



‘What!’ methinks we hear a voice exclaim—‘Is that a description of bare, dull, dreary, moorland Blea-Pond, where a man and a Christian would die of mere blank vacancy, of weary want of world, of eye and ear?’ Hush, critic, hush! forget you that there are sermons in stones, and good in everything? In what would the poet differ from the worthy man of prose, if his imagination possessed not a beautifying and transmuting power over the objects of the inanimate world?”

It is indisputable that the poet must possess something that may be called “a transmuting power” of vision, for to the unpoetical optics of any “worthy man of prose,” like you or me, Blea Tarn is much more like a platter than “an urn.” Once upon a time, I—even I myself—in a very sentimental mood, perpetrated a sonnet upon Blea Tarn, and, if you can tolerate such enormity, here it is:

It is the very home of loneliness
This lonely dell, with lonely hills around,
Whose hundred rills emit one lonely sound—
A hum which doth the lonely soul oppress,
When joined with the lone scene you look upon.
The lonely pool with murky shadows thrown
Across its waters; and, within the gloom
Of mountain shade, the lonely dwelling-place,
Upon whose lonely roof each flitting trace
Of sunbeam fades like smiles beside a tomb.
And were you long to linger there and muse
In chilling loneliness, 'twould make you shiver,
Submerge your brightest fancies in the blues,
Mar much enjoyment, and derange your liver.

It is no longer, nor has it been, for many years, a “treeless nook,” for the “one abode” is now shaded by a sycamore or two, and the hill-side beyond the tarn is covered with Mr Wordsworth’s most especial aversion, an extensive plantation of fine larches, which were planted, I suppose, by Dr Watson, the venerated Bishop of Llandaff, in the possession of whose representatives the place still remains. For miles hereabouts the137 scenery partakes largely of the Blea-tarn character, and were it not for the house, the road, the little fields and the intruding larches, there were nothing to indicate that the hand or foot of man has been there. It is not until you are descending a steep hill towards Wall-end, that the fertile meadows, the flourishing trees, the hedge-rows and the homesteads of Great Langdale, and the magnificent Pikes towering beyond them, neutralize the effect of the dreary scene you are emerging from. But in introducing you to Great Langdale, I am glad to resign my office to a much more efficient and eloquent cicerone—so attend to him:—“Promise not to lift your eyes from your ponies' ears, till we cry 'eyes forward'! We wish you to enjoy the soul-uplifting emotion of instantaneous magnificence. There, honest Jonathan, hold the gate open till the cavalry get through; and now,——behold the Vale of Great Langdale! There is no lake in that depth profound—the glittering sunshine hides a cloud of rich enclosures, scattered over with single trees; and, immediately below your feet, a stately sycamore-grove shrouding the ancient dwelling of Wall-end. Ay, your dazzled eyes begin now to discern the character of the vale, gradually forming itself into permanent order out of the wavering confusion. That thread of silver is a stream! Yonder seeming wreath of snow a waterfall! No castles are these built by hands, but the battlements of the eternal cliffs! There you behold the mountains, from their feet resting on the vale as on a footstool, up to their crests in the clear blue sky! And what a vast distance from field to cloud! You have been in Italy, and Spain, and Switzerland,—say, then, saw ye ever mountains more sublime than the Langdale Pikes?”


After passing Wall-end, you are fairly upon the floor of the vale of Langdale, and crossing its fertile fields by a tolerable road, and the other branch of the Brathay by an138 equally tolerable bridge, you follow the road rather down the vale, till you reach the farm house of Mill-beck, where you must stable your steed, whilst you scramble about a quarter of a mile up the fell to look at Dungeon Ghyll. Arrived at the entrance of this famous “rock-dungeon,” where Coleridge says “three wicked sextons’ souls are pent,” and occasionally make a terrible rumpus with “bells of rock and ropes of air,” the devil answering “to the tale with a merry peal from Borrowdale,” you descend by a rude, but stout ladder into the watercourse. After clambering over some rather impracticable rocks, you obtain a full view of the fall, and declare it to be an ample recompense for your journey, had it been five times as toilsome. A perpendicular wall of solid rock rises on each side, scarcely three yards apart, to the height of one hundred feet. At the inner extremity of the chasm, about fifty yards from its external opening, and directly opposite to you as you enter, the water rushes in one clear unbroken fall, from a height of ninety feet, into a deep circular basin, whence a lamb, which had been dashed over the fall without injury, was rescued from drowning by Mr Wordsworth, to await the legitimate fate of all lambs, they, like many of the human species, “being destined to a drier death on shore.” The most curious feature of Dungeon Ghyll is two huge rocks, which appear to have been rolling down simultaneously from the Pikes above, and to have met and jammed together across the top of the chasm, forming a bridge, which it is a favourite feat with adventurous spirits to cross over, and which, in its “contempt of danger and accommodation,” might almost seem to have been placed there to gratify the peculiar taste in bridges of the lamb’s benevolent preserver.


There are various opinions on the momentous question of what is the best weather for visiting falls such as this of Dungeon Ghyll. One eminent lover and describer139 of mountain scenery, says:—“To our liking, a waterfall is best in a rainless summer. After a flood, the noise is beyond all endurance. You get stunned and stupified, till your head splits. Then you may open your mouth like a barn door, and roar into a friend’s ear all in vain a remark on the cataract. To him you are a dumb man. In two minutes you are as completely drenched in spray, as if you had fallen out of a boat—and descend to dinner with a tooth-ache that keeps you in starvation in the presence of provender sufficient for a whole bench of bishops. In dry weather, on the contrary, the waterfall is in moderation; and instead of tumbling over the cliff in a perpetual peal of thunder, why it slides and slidders merrily and musically away down the green shelving rocks, and sinks into repose in many a dim or lucid pool, amidst whose foam-bells is playing or asleep the fearless Naiad. Deuce a headache have you—speak in a whisper, and not a syllable of your excellent observation is lost; your coat is dry, except that a few dew-drops have been shook over you from the branches stirred by the sudden wing-clap of the cushat—and as for tooth-ache interfering with dinner, you eat as if your tusks had been just sharpened, and would not scruple to discuss nuts, upper- and lower-jaw-work fashion, against the best crackers in the country.”


I have the temerity to hold the opposite opinion on this “momentous question.” Some idea of the grounds on which I found that opinion, may be gathered from the following rhyming epistle, in which, “long, long ago,” I essayed to give a distant friend an account of a winter excursion to Dungeon Ghyll:—

Of our wet ride to Dungeon Ghyll
A sketch, you say, would much delight you,
And though I lack descriptive skill,
A sketch I'll do my best to write you.
We took the way at high forenoon—
Three couples all on ponies mounted—
'Twas fair at first, but altered soon—
A change on which we’d scarcely counted;
For when we came to Yewdale head,
Thick clouds old Raven Crag were cloaking,
And as through Tilberthwaite we sped,
'Twas plain we’d catch a hearty soaking.
As Brathay beck with previous rains
Was flooded so we could not cross it—
We therefore wended round by lanes,
With mud and mire one clarty posset.
And after crossing Colwith Bridge,—
The narrow ways forbade all other
Course but jostling in the hedge,
Or following after one another,—
In single file through Fletcher’s wood
Away we rustled, splashed, and clattered—
The foremost steed threw up the mud,
Bespattering me, whilst mine bespattered
The next behind, and in this way
We kept up one continued spatter,
And helter-skelter, clothed with clay,
We galloped on through Elterwater.
And when we came to Chapel Stile,
The heavy rain our spirits daunted,
But after sheltering there awhile,
It slackened, and again we mounted.
And as we rode up Langdale flat,
The lanes for many a rood with water
Were flooded deep, we splashed through that,
And came out looking something better.
Because we kicked up such a spray—
Our steeds abating none their paces—
It washed off almost half the clay
That stuck upon our clothes and faces.
And when we reached the resting farm,
We tied our ponies in the stable;
And then, our stiffened limbs to warm,
Ran off as fast as we were able.
Right up the hill to Dungeon Ghyll
We scudded like so many rabbits;
The ladies all got many a fall
By tripping in their riding habits;
Till, straggling up the torrent’s course,
We neared the fall whose ceaseless thunder
Seemed roaring hoarse, behold the force
That cleft this mighty rock asunder.
I've said I lack descriptive skill,
And now I really wish I’d held it,
To tell of pealing Dungeon Ghyll
When winter’s snows and rains have swelled it.
We ventured up within the rent
Where the vexed element was dashing,
And came forth cleaner than we went,
Receiving there a further washing.
We then descended to the farm,
And round the grateless fire we sauntered,
Our toes and noses well to warm,
Then back to Chapel Stile we cantered.
We saw our steeds get corn and hay,
And then enquired about our dinners,
For riding in the rain all day
Had left us six wet hungry sinners.
And when for clothing dry we’d bawled,
And some brief time to dress devoted,
Les dames came forth dry gowned and shawled,
The gentlemen dry breeched and coated.
They, in the hostess’ shawls and gowns—
We, in poor Isaac’s coats and breeches,
Were much like masquerading clowns
Hobnobbing Tam O'Shanter’s witches.
But ne'ertheless the fare was good,
The room was warm, the waiter handy,
And all (who would) washed down their food
With reeking draughts of “toddied brandy.”
Then round the hearth so cozily
We drew, mirth, song and chat combining;
And when our proper clothes were dry,
The moon and stars were brightly shining.
We cantered down by Skelwith Bridge,
And round by Borwick fast we wended,
Then scampering over High Cross’ ridge,
We to our own fair vale descended.
If e'er you pass o'er Wrynose hill,
Where three fair counties meet together,
Be sure to visit Dungeon Ghyll,
And visit it in rainy weather!

When you have had enough of Dungeon Ghyll, descend the mountain side, return to Mill-beck, re-mount your pony, and canter down the vale past pretty farm houses, green fields, and slate-quarries, to Chapel Stile, where my esteemed friend, Mrs Tyson, the youthful and blooming landlady, will unexceptionably administer to your physical wants, which, no doubt, are becoming importunate,142 whilst her husband will pay equal attention to the requirements of your pony.


Having refreshed to your satisfaction in Mrs Tyson's best parlour, where the furniture of ancient oak bears such a polish as might tempt you to re-enact the story of Narcissus, you may proceed to examine the church yard, for here, again, the house of prayer and the house of refreshment are in juxta-position. In this little mountain burial-place, you will find, under a yew tree, a plain tombstone erected to the memory of a late incumbent—the Rev. Owen Lloyd, son of Mr Charles Lloyd, of Old Brathay, who was the early and life-long friend of Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth—a participator, I believe, in the much-ridiculed scheme of Pantisocrasy—an accomplished scholar, and an elegant, though little known, writer. You may find a very interesting sketch of his history and character in De Quincey’s papers on Lake Society, and to that I must refer you. On the humble tombstone of his excellent, but unhappy son, you may read the following epitaph, which, I need not tell you, is by “the aged poet, whose residence is the crowning honour of the district”:

By playful smiles, (alas! too oft
A sad heart’s sunshine) by a soft
And gentle nature, and a free,
Yet modest hand of charity,
Through life was Owen Lloyd endeared
To old and young; and how revered
Had been that pious spirit, a tide
Of humble mourners testified,
When, after pains dispensed to prove
The measure of God’s chastening love,
Here, brought from far, his corse found rest,—
Fulfilment of his own request;—
Urged less for this yew’s shade, though he
Planted with such fond hope the tree,
Less for the love of stream and rock,
Dear as they were, than that his Flock,
When they no more their Pastor’s voice
Could hear to guide them in their choice
Through good and evil, help might have,
Admonished, from his silent grave,
Of righteousness, of sins forgiven,
For peace on earth and bliss in Heaven.

If post mortem poetical panegyric be a proof of the affection with which the subject has been regarded through life, (and why should it not?) Owen Lloyd must have enjoyed no ordinary share of the love and esteem of his neighbours and friends, for his early death is the subject, in addition to Mr Wordsworth’s epitaph, of three other sets of elegiac verses, viz., by Mr Hartley Coleridge, Mr Ball, of Glen Rotha, and Mr —— Lloyd, his surviving brother. Mr Hartley Coleridge’s verses are scarcely worthy of his name, though they certainly contain some striking stanzas, as this,—referring to his school days:—

“Fine wit he had, and knew not it was wit,
And native thoughts before he dreamed of thinking,
Odd sayings, too, for each occasion fit,
To oldest sights the newest fancies linking.”

And these,—to a later period of life, when the gloom that darkened his latter days was appearing:—

“I traced with him the narrow winding path
Which he pursued when upland was his way,
And then I wondered what stern hand of wrath
Had smitten him that wont to be so gay.
“Then would he tell me of a woeful weight—
A weight laid on him by a bishop’s hand,
That late and early, early still and late,
He could not bear, and yet could not withstand.”

These must serve as a specimen of Hartley Coleridge's dozen stanzas. Mr Ball’s are remarkable only as containing the following tolerable Irishism:—

“The rock that meets the current’s way
May stillest rills arrest.”

His brother’s verses I have not seen, and having devoted more time to this subject than you may approve of, you had better now return to your inn—pay your moderate bill, and set out, passing the Elterwater powder works, and through the straggling village of that name—take a144 glance at the tarn with its reedy shores, and pushing on, you pass, unseen, far up on the height to your right hand, the farm houses called Hacket, formerly the residence of old Betty Yewdale, the heroine of one of the best passages in the “Excursion.” I allude to that in the fifth book, where the sage and eloquent wanderer describes his having been benighted amongst the hills—

——until a light
High in the gloom appeared, too high, methought,
For human habitation;——

But making for this light, he finds a matron

“Drawn from her cottage on that aëry height,
Bearing a lantern in her hand she stood,
Or paced the ground—to guide her husband home.”

As you have read “The Excursion,” or, if not, intend to correct that sin of omission without further delay, I need not quote farther. But I should tell you that the same Betty Yewdale also figures as the heroine of a section of that strange book “The Doctor,” or rather, I should say, she is the narrator of the chapter, for it was taken down from her own lips, and in her own language, by “the Doctor's” daughter, Miss Southey, and a friend. It is called “A true story of the terrible knitters i’ Dent”—is by far the best specimen of our local dialect that I know, and in truth to nature, interest of narrative, and as a picture of manners, is infinitely superior to the only production at all resembling it—the well-known “Borrowdale letter.” I must recommend it to you as well worthy a careful perusal, giving you the following short extract as a whet. She and her sister, I must premise, had been sent from Langdale to Dent, when she was “between sebben an’ eight year auld, and Sally twea year younger,” and tiring of the mode of living and the incessant knitting at Dent, which are most graphically described, they ran away. She gives a minute detail of their three days’ journey, and continues:—“It was quite dark afore we gat to145 Ammelside yat—our feet warr sair, an’ we warr naarly dune for—an’ when we turnt round Windermer Watter heead t'waves blasht sea dowly that we warr fairly heart-brossen. We sat down on a cauld steean an’ grat sair—but when we hed hed our belly full o’ greeting, we gat up an’ dreed on agean—slaw enough, ye may be sure, but we warr i’ kent rwoads.——We began ta be flayet at my fadder an’ mudder wad be angert at us for running away. It was tweea o'clock in t’ mwornin’ when we gat to our awn duir. I ca’d out ‘Fadder, fadder! Mudder, mudder!’ ower an’ ower agean. She hard us, an’ sed ‘That’s our Betty voice!’ ‘Thou’s nowt but fancies, lig still,’ sed my fadder—but she waddent, an’ sea gat up an’ open’t duir, an’ thear warr we stannin’ dodderin’ an’ daized wi’ cauld, as nar deead as maks nea matter. When she so us she was warr flay’t than we,—she brast out a crying, an’ we grat, an’ my fadder grat an’ o', an’ they duddent flyte nor sed nowt tull us for running away.”


You soon arrive at Colwith, where you may stop to inspect the force. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest forces in the country, possessing by far the largest body of water, with a fall, or rather a succession of falls, of 152 feet, very much broken and frothed up by jutting interruptions of rock. Its immediate environs are prettily wooded, and it is seen to most advantage from below. When you cross Colwith Bridge, you are again in Lancashire, and in rather a dreary portion of that important county. You have no houses for miles, except the two farms of Arnside, which stand unseen in “dual loneliness” upon the wild moor to the left, and those of Oxenfell over the heights on your right.

As you descend towards Yewdale by the alder-fringed brook, you may notice a large enclosure of birches, which fully justify Mr Wordsworth’s preference; for it is difficult to name a deciduous tree that is prettier in all seasons146 than the birch, with its tremulous foliage in summer, and its flea-coloured twigs and its grey-coloured stem in winter. One cannot help regretting that the twigs of such a handsome tree should come to such base uses at last!


As you approach the head of Yewdale, the scenery gradually assumes an aspect of the most varied loveliness. When you enter the vale of Yewdale, take the steep road to the left over Tarn Hows; but Mr De Quincey is here a much better cicerone than I, and he says,—“Taking the left-hand road, so as to make for Monk Conistone, and not for Church Conistone, you ascend a pretty steep hill, from which, at a certain point of the little gorge, or hawse (i. e. hals, neck or throat, viz., the dip in any hill through which the road is led), the whole lake, of six miles in length, and the beautiful foregrounds, all rush upon the eye with the effect of a pantomimic surprize—not by a graduated revelation, but by an instantaneous flash.”

You descend by the road winding through Mr Marshall's beautiful grounds, until you reach the road from Ambleside. You are now very near your excellent head quarters, and my ravings and your ramblings are equally near a happy conclusion; so trusting you will drink your first bumper after dinner to our next merry meeting, I bid you, most affectionately, adieu.





Transcriber's Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations in hyphenation, spelling and punctuation remain unchanged except where there is conflict with the index.

In the original the side notes appear at the head of each page. Most have been moved to the beginning of a proximate paragraph. In cases where paragraphs are several pages long, they remain embedded in the text.

The errata have been implemented.

The table of contents has been added by the transcriber.