The Romance of the Lake District: A Postcard from Helena Whitbread

The Romance of the Lake District: A Postcard from Helena Whitbread

Oh how I like receiving these notes. The latest from the desk of Helena Whitbread:

Dove Cottage
Dove Cottage, Grasmere – the Lakeland home of William Wordsworth from 1799-1808

Today my work has been all about the footnotes for my most recent chapter, the subject of which is the tour of the Lake District Anne Lister made, accompanied by her Aunt Anne, in the summer of 1824. The research which the footnotes entailed has been about such topics as the Lake poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge; the Maid of Buttermere; Romanticism in nature and also Burke’s concept of The Sublime and Beautiful, with which Anne was obviously familiar, vide her comment at the end of her tour, ‘…the scenery about here (Ambleside) perhaps better unites beauty with sublimity than anything we have seen hereabouts except the vale of Keswick.’ [A.L. 2.8.1824.]

The romance of the scenery at times conjured up Anne’s love for Mariana. After taking a boat ride on Lake Windermere, she and her aunt were sitting in their hotel parlour, the windows of which opened on to the lake. The village band was playing on the lake, ‘…clarionets, horns, great drum, etc., very beautiful’, and as they listened to the music Anne’s thoughts turned to Mariana. ‘…I thought I will bring Mariana here sometime. My aunt & I joked & said when Mariana married the blue room [i.e. came to live permanently with Anne at Shibden Hall] we should make a little tour here.’

The trouble, however, with burying myself all day in these footnotes about the Lake poets and the beauty of the Lake District is that it makes me want to reread Juliet Barker’s huge biography of William Wordsworth (971 pages) – but at my age time is at a premium and I find myself thinking (with apologies to Andrew Marvell’s “To a Coy Mistress”):

Had I but world enough and time
This love of reading were no crime
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near.


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