In preparing for an upcoming trip to the Lake District of England I’ve been reading about some of the famous figures of English literature who visited there or made the area their home. The rivers, lakes and mountains were essential ingredients of William Wordsworth’s poems. His affection for the natural world is fully evident in works like “Daffodils.” But not all were so enamored of the rugged beauty to be found there.
Charles Dickens was not impressed by the fells or fell-walking. He could not understand why anyone would subject themselves to the folly of climbing any steep place when there is level ground within distance to walk on instead. Here I quote a detail of his tour up a rocky mountainside in the rain with Wilkie Collins and a local guide-
“The wind- a wind unknown in the happy valley- blows keen and strong. The rain mist gets impenetrable. A dreary little cairn of stones appears. The landlord adds one to the heap, first walking all round the cairn as if he were about to perform an incantation, then dropping the stone onto the top of the heap with the gesture of a magician adding an ingredient to a cauldron in full bubble. Good Charles sits down by the cairn as if it were his study table at home. Idle, drenched and panting, stands up with his back to the wind, ascertains distinctly that it is the top at last, looks round with all the little curiosity that is left in him, and gets in return a magnificent view of nothing.”