Page images
PDF
EPUB

self by it, I would accept his Homer with many thanks. I have not got or even seen it.

I could wish to subscribe to his new edition of Milton, and desire to be set down for two copies of the large paper; but you must inform me where and when I may pay the money.

You have taught me to long for a second letter, and particularly for what you say will make the contents of it.* I have nothing to requite it with but plain and friendly truth, and that you

shall have, joined to a zeal for your fame, and a pleasure in your success.

I am now setting forward on a journey towards the north of England; but it will not reach so far as I could wish. I must return hither before Michaelmas, and shall barely have time to visit a few places, and a few friends.

LETTER IV.

MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.

Aston, Oct. 18, 1769. I HOPE you got safe and well home after that troublesome night.t I long to hear you say

* His correspondent had intimated to him his intention of sending him his first book of the Minstrel. See the seventh letter of this series.

+ Dr. Wharton, who had intended to accompany Mr. Gray to Keswick, was seized at Brough with a violent fit of his asthma, which obliged him to return home. This was the reason that Mr. Gray undertook to write the following journal of his tour for his friend's amusement. He sent it under different covers. I give it here in continuation. It may not be amiss, however, to hint to the reader, that if he expects to find elaborate and nicely-turned periods in this narration, he will be greatly disappointed. When Mr. Gray described places, he aimed only to be exact, clear, and intelligible; to convey peculiar, not general ideas,

SO.

For me I have continued well, been so favoured by the weather, that my

walks have never once been hindered till yesterday (that is a fortnight and three or four days, and a journey of more than three hundred miles). I am now at Aston for two days. To-morrow I go to Cambridge. Mason is not here, but Mr. Alderson receives me. According to my promise I send you the first sheet of my journal, to be continued without end.

Sept. 30. A mile and a half from Brough, where we parted, on a hill lay a great army* encamped : to the left opened a fine valley with green meadows and hedge-rows, a gentleman's house peeping forth from a grove of old trees. On a nearer approach appeared myriads of cattle and horses in the road itself, and in all the fields round me, a brisk stream hurrying cross the way, thousands of clean healthy people in their best party-coloured apparel: farmers and their families, esquires and their daughters hastening up from the dales and down the fells from every quarter, glittering in the sun and pressing forward to join the throng. While the dark hills, on whose tops the mists were yet hanging, served as a contrast to this gay and moving scene, which continued for near two miles more

and to paint by the eye, not the fancy. There have been many accounts of the Westmoreland and Cumberland lakes, both before and since this was written, and all of them better calculated to please readers, who are fond of what they call fine writing : yet those who can content themselves with an elegant simplicity of narrative, will, I flatter myself, find this to their taste; they will perceive it was written with a view, rather to inform than surprise; and, if they make it their companion when they take the same tour, it will enhance their opinion of its intrinsic excellence; in this

way I tried it myself before I resolved to print its * There is a great fair for cattle kept on the hill near Brough on this day and the preceding.

along the road, and the crowd (coming towards it) reached on as far as Appleby. On the ascent of the hill above Appleby, the thick hanging wood, and the long reaches of the Eden, clear, rapid, and full as ever, winding below, with views of the castle and town, gave much employment to the mirror :* but now the sun was wanting, and the sky overcast. Oats and barley cut every where, but not carried in. Passed Kirbythore, Sir William Dalston's house at Acorn Bank, Whinfield Park, Harthorn Oaks, Countess Pillar, Brougham Castle, Mr. Brown's large new house; crossed the Eden and the Eimot (pronounce Eeman) with its green vale, and dined at three o'clock with Mrs. Buchanan at Penrith, on trout and partridge. In the afternoon walked up Beacon-hill, a mile to the top, and could see Ulswater through an opening in the bosom of that cluster of broken mountains, which the Doctor well remembers, Whinfield and Lowther Parks, &c. and the craggy tops of an hundred nameless hills : these lie to west and south. To the north a great extent of black and dreary plains. To the east, Cross-fell, just visible through mists and vapours hovering round it.

Oct. 1. A grey autumnal day, the air perfectly calm and mild, went to see Ulswater, five miles distant; soon left the Keswick road, and turned to the left through shady lanes along the vale of Eeman, which runs rapidly on near the way, ripling over the stones; to the right is Delmaine,

[graphic]

Mr. Gray carried usually with him on these tours a plano-convex mirror of about four inches diameter on a black foil, and bound up like a pocket-book. A glass of this sort is perhaps the best and most convenient substitute for a camera obscura, of any thing that has hitherto been invented, and may be had of any optician.

a large fabrick of pale red stone, with nine windows in front and seven on the side, built by Mr. Hassle, behind it a fine lawn surrounded by woods, and a long rocky eminence rising over them: a clear and brisk rivulet runs by the house to join the Eeman, whose course is in sight and at a small distance. Farther on appears Hatton St. John, a castle-like old mansion of Mr. Huddleston. Approached Dunmallert, a fine-pointed hill covered with wood, planted by old Mr. Hassle before-mentioned, who lives always at home and delights in planting. Walked over a spungy meadow or two, and began to mount the hill through a broad straight green alley among the trees, and with some toil gained the summit. From hence saw the lake opening directly at my feet, majestic in its calmness, clear and smooth as a blue mirror, with winding shores and low points of land covered with green inclosures, white farm-houses looking out among the trees, and cattle feeding. The water is almost every where bordered with cultivated lands, gently sloping upwards from a mile to a quarter of a mile in breadth, till they reach the feet of the mountains, which rise very rude and awful with their broken tops on either hand. Directly in front, at better than three miles distance, Place Fell, one of the bravest among them, pushes its bold broad breast into the midst of the lake, and forces it to alter its course, forming first a large bay to the left, and then bending to the right. I descended Dunmallert again by a side avenue that was only not perpendicular, and came to Barton-bridge over the Eeman; then walking through a path in the wood

round the bottom of the hill, came forth where the Eeman issues out of the lake, and continued my way along its western shore close to the water, and generally on a level with it. Saw a cormorant flying over it and fishing. The figure of the lake nothing resembles that laid down in our maps: it is nine miles long; and at widest under a mile in breadth. After extending itself three miles and a half in a line to south-west, it turns at the foot of Place Fell almost due west, and is here not twice the breadth of the Thames at London. It is soon again interrupted by the root of Helvellyn, a lofty and very rugged mountain, and spreading again turns off to south-east, and is lost among the deep recesses of the hills. To this second turning I pursued my way about four miles along its borders beyond a village scattered among trees, and called Water-Mallock, in a pleasant grave day, perfectly calm and warm, but without a gleam of sunshine; then the sky seeming to thicken, and the valley to grow more desolate, and evening drawing on, I returned by the way I came to Penrith.

Oct. 2. I set out at ten for Keswick, by the road we went in 1767; saw Greystock town and castle to the right, which lie about three miles from Ulswater over the fells; passed through Penradoch and Threlcot at the foot of Saddleback, whose furrowed sides were gilt by the noon-day sun, whilst its brow appeared of a sad purple from the shadow of the clouds as they sailed slowly by it. The broad and green valley of Gardies and Lowside, with a swift stream glittering among the cottages and meadows, lay to the left, and the much

« PreviousContinue »