The Wordsworth Society held its inaugural meeting in the Rothay Hotel, Grasmere, on the afternoon of 29 September 1880. The driving force behind the society was Professor William Knight who became its first secretary. As a lover of Wordsworth, Hardwicke became involved with the work of the society. He told the society at its meeting on 3 May 1882:
A proposition, made by one of its members to the Wordsworth Society when it met in Grasmere in 1881, to mark the spot in the Grisedale Pass of Wordsworth’s parting from his brother John—and to carry out a wish the poet seems to have hinted at in the last of his elegiac verses in memory of that parting—is now being put into effect.1
Whether it was Hardwicke who made the original proposition is not known but he was certainly the driving force behind ensuring that it happened.
William, and his sister Dorothy, took their parting from John on 29 September 1800 just below the outflow from Grisedale Tarn on the route between Patterdale and Grasmere. They were never to see their brother again. John became Commander of the Earl of Abergavenny, a ship belonging to the East India Company. He was drowned, along with 250 other men, when the ship sank off Portland on 5 February 1805.
In June of that year, William and Dorothy visited the place where they had said goodbye to their brother. As a result of this visit William wrote ‘Elegiac Verses: In Memory of My Brother, John Wordsworth’. Although written in 1805, they were not published until 1842.
After some deliberation, members of the Wordsworth Society decided that the spot of the parting of the brothers should be memorialised by an inscription on a rock from the first four lines of Stanzas III and VII of ‘Elegiac Verses’:
Here did we stop; and here looked round
While each into himself descends,
For that last thought of parting Friends
This is not to be found.
Brother and friend, if verse of mine
Have power to make thy virtues known,
Here let a monumental Stone
Stand—sacred as a Shrine.
At the 1882 meeting of the Wordsworth Society, Hardwicke reported:
The rock selected is a fine mass, facing the east, on the left of the track as one descends from Grisedale Tarn towards Patterdale, and is about 100 yards from the tarn.2
After the stanzas were chosen, the style of lettering led to some debate with the final decision being made in favour of one suggested by Hardwicke’s wife, Edith. The work of carving the inscription on the stone was superintended during 1882 by Hardwicke and W. H. Hills, a local solicitor and future campaigner for the Lake District Defence Society. The rock also has a metal cross on top, with the words, ‘Brothers’ Parting Stone’, written on it. The inscription of the verses are carved on the rock a few feet below the cross. Because of the effect of weather, the inscription is now unreadable.
1. Rawnsley, H. D. ‘Memorandum. In Reference to the Memorial Stone at Grisedale Tarn’. Transactions of the Wordsworth Society. 1882, no. 2, pp. 23-24.
2. ibid. p. 23.