We are nearing White Moss. Our eyes may haply now fall on a jutting point of land that runs with its clump of willows into Rydal Water; it is held by some to be Point Rash Judgment. Here, on a September morning in the year 1800, Coleridge and Dorothy, who had sauntered with Wordsworth through the thickets that descend to the Rotha, saw an old man fishing. Wordsworth exclaimed at the idleness of the fisher, who had far better have been with the harvesters; but a nearer view showed that,
Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
The man was using his best skill to gain
A pittance from the dead, unfeeling lake;
and the poet commemorated his feelings of shame for hasty judgment in the poem, ‘A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags.’ (p. 390)
The little house close by the White Moss quarry on the right was built by Wordsworth, it is said, in two tenements, that he might obtain two votes for Parliament. It is a happy coincidence that now a granddaughter of the poet resides here. For this White Moss is consecrated by the many poems suggested by the locality to the poet. (p. 390)….
But what a surprise view this first prospect of Grasmere and the Easedale hollow, and the gap of Dunmail Raise, flanked by Steel Fell and Seat Sandal, surely is! There is the white old church, Allan Bank among its trees behind; and here in front, the glittering lake, and—
Its isle at anchor with its dusky crew—
crew of Scotch firs, as faithful as they are beautiful! What wondrous beauty has that western shore! How serenely slope the meadows to the water’s edge! How snugly beneath the hills from White Dale Head to Silver How Cottage stand the happy houses of comfortable men! (p. 393)
That curious circular abutment from the road into the lake was the favourite view of Hartley Coleridge. Hither, sometimes twice in a day, would he ramble from the Nab. Now shouldering his stick and hustling along as if he were in hot pursuit; now standing as one dazed in silent reverie. How the old folk loved him; how the little ones feared him! ‘Flayte to death o’most were the barns of our lààl Hartley. (p. 393)….
‘Time’s up, sir,’ cries the coachman, and round by Mrs. Nelson’s—the champion baker of cakes in the North Country; away by the house Lord Cadogan built—the Rothay Hotel of to-day; round to the left through the ‘Red Lion’ yard, and then swiftly to the right we speed. (p. 397)
Allan Bank is sighted—Allan Bank, where between 1808 and 1811 Wordsworth found shelter, where the ‘Excursion’ was for the most part written, where Coleridge wrote the ‘Friend,’ where Hartley Coleridge learned his classics, where De Quincey, popping into Coleridge’s study for a book, was first introduced to a tall, lithe-looking young man in a sailor’s dress with the words, ‘Mr. Wilson, of Elleray.’ Nearer is seen the old post office where Arthur Clough and Matthew Arnold spent such happy long-vacation times. (pp. 397-398)….
The white house at the end of the road is a halting-place. We pull up short at the ‘Swan’ and look for the sign that the old landlord painted, in vain. ‘Who does not know the famous Swan?’ Waggoner or tourist—what man does not stop here who ‘e’er essays the long scent of Dunmail Raise?’ (p. 398)
Sir Walter Scott, Southey, and Wordsworth, mounted on their grey ponies, essayed from hence the height of Helvellyn years ago, and hither, so tradition has it, Sir Walter repaired daily to find the extra comforts which the humble board of his host at Townend could at that time ill afford. Wordsworth drank cold water of the spring. Scott liked to mix his with the mountain dew. And doubtless the shepherd Michael often sauntered hither from his cottage that in the last century was standing there where the Hollies lifts its tower of grey beneath Thunacar Knott. Michael’s cottage, which, whether from its window glaring in the sun, or from its ‘constant light so regular’ of fire or homely lamp, was called ‘the evening star,’ is gone. But as one’s eyes wander up towards the great hollow in the Fairfield Hill one’s mind may picture that ‘old man, stout of heart and strong of limb’ climbing up that mountain cleft to build in his sorrow the fold whose unfinished ‘remains may still be seen beside the boisterous brook of Greenhead Ghyll.’ (p. 398)
Other shepherds have haunted this spot since Michael’s time. Edward Thring, the great headmaster, came for thirteen consecutive years to build up thoughts that should build up men beside this self-same ghyll. (p. 399)
The coachmen cracks his whip; away we go; we have yet twelve miles to Keswick. The hawthorns have shed their bloom that gave such glory last month to this part of our drive, but the purple shales of Helm Crag have won such verdure from the fresh fern bunches as atone for any loss of blossom. (p. 399)
Stone Arthur towers on our right hand; to that emissary—
The last that parleys with the setting sun—
how often Wordsworth looked as he sat upon his orchard seat in the Townend Cottage? To that height the companion at his side gave her poet husband’s name. (p. 399)
What a picturesque grouping of Scotch firs is that yonder at the foot of the ascent to Grisedale; what a picturesque mill-wheel is that yonder to our left as, crossing Tongue Ghyll Beck, we begin to ascend the Raise! There is no more beautiful waterfall hereabouts than the Tongue Ghyll up in the meadow to the right; but the coach stops for none. (p. 399)….
Now we begin the ascent in earnest. The coach stops, and we dismount to lighten the load, and it is well. (p. 399)….
We remount the coach, and along over the moraine-covered plateau that gave its name to the Raise, ‘Dun Meols’ or Dunmail Raise, we go at a brisk trot. We cross a tiny bridge. We are in Cumberland. (p. 400)
(Cornhill Magazine, 11 (October 1888), 390-404)
[This article was published, along with Parts I and III, in book form - A Coach Drive at the Lakes: Windermere to Keswick (Keswick, 1890)]