As we leave the town [Ambleside] in the direction of Grasmere, we pass a house on the left, on a sunny terrace, almost hidden away among its trees, above a “careless ordered garden,” where wild flowers are freely allowed to grow, and nature has her own sweet way, and where to-day lives William Henry Hills, who has done more than most men in his generation to keep the natural beauty of our Lakeland undisturbed for the enjoyment of over-worked Englishmen. (p. 107)

In that house, built by herself, dwelt Harriet Martineau for the last thirty years of her life.  She died in 1876.  In the garden stands upon a stone pillar a sundial; beneath it the date 1847, and the prayer, “Come, Light, visit me!” reminding us of the dying words of Goethe, “Light, more Light!”  Whether as traveller in the east or west, a teller of tales to children, historian, novelist, educationist, or social reformer, her fame, though deservedly great, is not so remarkable as the power she wielded with the pen of a journalist, during the Civil War in America, in the direction of maintaining peace between this country and the United States.  One of the most conspicuous advocates of the Abolition of Slavery, she also constantly appealed for justice to the native races of India, and for many reforms at home, the accomplishment of which she was happy in living to witness. (pp. 107-108)

She had many friends and many foes.  Blackwood spoke of her work on America as “exactly the book which might be expected from Miss Martineau, giddy, self-willed, well-intentioned, and ill-informed—a book laden with absurdity, philosophy, and everything else in the world”; while the Spectator characterised it as “longo intervallo”; the best, the truest, the most philosophical work which has yet appeared on the social condition of the United States.”  I am writing these words in the very room in which she penned that remarkable book.  I wonder how much she cared then, or cares now, for the opinion of either reviewer! (p. 108)

One never passes the gate to the Knoll without being reminded that, in March, 1848, Emerson spent two days there as the guest of Miss Martineau; and that hence on Sunday he accompanied his hostess to pay a call on the aged poet, whom he had not seen for the past fifteen years.  They found the poet asleep on the sofa, and one expects that they felt it had been almost a pity that they woke him, for the old man was “at first silent and indisposed, but soon became full of talk on the French news,” and bitter on Frenchmen, bitter on Scotchmen, bitter on all Edinburgh reviewers, for neither Scotchmen, Frenchmen, reviewers, nor writers, from Jeffrey to Gibbon, could write English.  But the old bard allowed that Tennyson was “a right poetic genius, though with some affectation.”  “He had thought an elder brother of Tennyson (Charles Tennyson Turner, the sonnet writer) at first the better poet, but must now reckon Alfred the true one.”  “He had a healthy look,” adds Emerson, “with a weather-beaten face, his face corrugated, especially the large nose.”  But Emerson remembered too how Miss Martineau praised the poet, not for his poetry, “but for thrift and economy; for having afforded to his country neighbours an example of a modest household, where comfort and culture were secured without any display.” (pp. 108-109)

Other guests have made the Knoll famous; hither for her second visit to the English Lakes came Charlotte Brontë to be Miss Martineau’s guest, in the early spring of 1861.  There, on a certain Sunday evening, after many requests, the “little, quiet, bird-like lady” allowed herself to be mesmerised by the stronger will of her hostess.  There, on another day, her eyes filled with tears at the touch of that enthusiasm for justice done to the memory of the Iron Duke by Miss Martineau’s first page of the chapter on the Peninsular War, in her History of the Peace.(pp. 109-110)

Her [Charlotte Brontë’s] own account of that visit is worth repeating.  “I am at Miss Martineau’s for a week.  Her house is very pleasant, both within and without, arranged at all points with admirable neatness and comfort….  I rise at my own hour, breakfast alone….  I pass the morning in the drawing-room, she is in her study.  At two o’clock we meet, work, talk and walk together till five—her dinner hour—spend the evening together….  She appears exhaustless in strength and spirits, and indefatigable in the faculty of labour.  She is a great and good women; of course not without peculiarities, but I have seen none as yet that annoy me.  She is both hard and warm-hearted, abrupt and affectionate, liberal and despotic.  I believe she is not at all conscious of her own absolutism.  When I tell her of it she denies the charge warmly; then I laugh at her.  I believe she almost rules Ambleside.  Some of the gentry dislike her, but the lower orders have a great regard for her….  She is certainly a woman of wonderful endowments, both intellectual and physical; and though I share few of her opinions, and regard her as fallible on certain points of judgment, I must still award her my sincerest esteem.  The manner in which she combines the highest mental culture with the nicest discharge of feminine duties filled me with admiration,… without adopting her theories I yet find a worth and greatness in herself, and a consistency, benevolence, perseverance in her practice, such as wins the sincerest esteem and affection.  She seems to be the benefactress of Ambleside, yet takes no sort of credit to herself for her active and indefatigable philanthropy,… all she does is well done, from the writing of a history down to the quietest female occupation,… her servants and her poor neighbours love as well as respect her.” (pp. 110-111)

(Literary Associations of the English Lakes, Vol. II, pp. 107-111)