James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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the last sad offices of friendship to his fiery but gallant Highland com-
panion in a hopeless cause, will draw forth the sigh nay, the tear of
sympathy, from the passing stranger, long after the red battlements of
the castle shall have mouldered into dust !

But it is \iseless to sigh or to weep over the tragedies enacted by man
on this little globe. It is wiser at least it is pleasanter to laugh at
his fooleries. Time's telescope brings into view, from Carlisle Castle,
what Sir Richard Phillips would call " a million of facts," and fifty
million of fictions all furnishing food for the contemplative tourist,
and more especially for the book-making traveller, and border minstrel.
The remains of the wall of Severus might make a good scene for a
historical novel.

The Romans must have been stout REPEALERS or, at least, sturdy
anti-unionists. SEVERUS was a DAN of the first water in his day ; but
he calculated without his host, when he expected that a wall from
Carlisle to Newcastle, some twenty feet high, would sever Scotland from
England. Na, na. If a chain of Alps as high as Mont Blanc were
thrown across from sea to sea, Sawney Macgriggor would scale them ;
and, having surveyed the fertile plains that stretch from Carlisle to
Penryn, he would slide down, southward, over snow and glacier, even if
he had nothing but the KILT d posteriori, to defend him from the cold


sharp icicles of the descent ! All contrasts produce harmonies. The
frosts and fogs of the north, together with the " stimulus of necessity,"
urge the Caledonian south, in pursuit of more genial skies and any
other little thing that may turn up on the journey : While the relax-
ing atmosphere of England, plethoric wealth, and thirst of change,
impel thousands annually to wander among the Highland mountains,
to get their skins cooled hy Scotch mists, their stomachs warmed with
Highland whiskey, and their constitutions invigorated by active exercise
and pure air.

In respect to the Emerald Isle, the King of KERRY has made as great
a mistake as the Emperor SEVERUS. If the Irish Channel were as
broad as the Atlantic, Paddy and his pig, together with other subordi-
nate branches of his family, would find their way across, " even in a
cobble, to visit JOHN BULL.

Would that some Hibernian SCOTT started into existence, and, by a
series of Irish novels, induce the family of the Bulls to visit annually,
the Giant's Causeway and the lakes of Killarney ! ! He would do
more good to his country than all the REPEALERS between Cape Clear
and Fair-head.


The character of English scenery in general is fertile beauty that of
Scotland is barren beauty, intermixed with much of the sublime, and
more of the frigorific *. The scenery of the English lakes is interme-
diate between these two ; or rather combines the characteristics of both.
Derwentwater is little inferior to Loch Katrine. Borrowdale is scarcely
less wild than the Trosachs, and Skiddaw is higher than Ben Venue.
Windermere is on a smaller scale than Loch Lomond the surrounding
mountains are not so bold as the Scotch but beauty, fertility, cultiva-
tion, and ornament, are more profusely scattered along the banks of the
English than of the Caledonian waters.

The roads, the inns, the pretty towns and neat cottages the cleanli-
ness, comfort, and accommodation on every side, among the lakes of
Westmoreland and Cumberland, are items not much prized by the
adventurous tourists, or the Syntaxes in search of the sublime; but
they are attractions of no mean power, with nine-tenths of those who

* Whoever has experienced a wet squall on Ben-Lawers, Ben-Nevis, or even Ben-
1/omond, will remember it, and perhaps admit the adjective fiigorif;c as not entirely mis-


compose pleasure-parties. With an eye familiarized to the finest lakes
and the finest scenery in the world, tropical and extra-tropical, I can
safely say that the English lakes and mountains surpassed my expecta-
tions, and excited nearly as much pleasure as those of Switzerland or
Italy not because the British are similar to the continental, but
because they have a cast and character of their own, differing consider-
ably and agreeably from both Alpine and Highland scenery.

Derwentwater is my favourite. It is surrounded with sublimity :
by the fantastic mountains of Borrowdale to the south the solitary
majesty of Skiddaw to the north the bold steeps of Waltow-crag and
Lodore to the east and the clustering mountains of New-lands to the

Great as is the annual concourse of visiters to these lakes, the wonder
is, that it is not far greater. But the English fly to Lucerne, Como,
and Geneva, before they are acquainted with the beauties of Ulsewater,
Keswick, and Windermere. Mr. West, a Roman Catholic clergyman,
who had spent much time abroad, makes the following judicious obser-
vations :

" They who intend to make the continental tour should begin here ;
as it will give them, in miniature, an idea of what they are to meet with
there, in traversing the Alps and Apennines; to which our northern
mountains are not inferior in beauty of line, or variety of summit,
number of lakes, and transparency of water not in colouring of rock,
or softness of turf but in height and extent only. The mountains
here are all accessible to the summit, and furnish prospects no less sur-
prising, and with more variety than the Alps themselves. The tops of
the highest Alps are inaccessible, being covered with everlasting snow,
which, commencing at regular heights above the cultivated tracts, or
wooded and verdant sides, form indeed the highest contrast in nature ;
for there may be seen all the variety of climate in one view. To this,
however, we oppose the sight of the ocean, from the summits of all the
higher mountains, as it appears decorated with islands, and animated
with navigation."

It has been still better observed by Wordsworth, that nothing is
more injurious to genuine feeling, than the practice of hastily and un-
graciously depreciating the face of one country, by comparing it with
that of another. Fastidiousness is a wretched companion and the
best guide to which we can commit ourselves, in matters of taste, is a
disposition to be pleased. Wlien among the Alps, let him give up his
thoughts to, and feast his senses on, the roaring torrent, the glittering
glacier, and the dazzling snow, without complaining of the monotony
of their foaming course, or the muddiness of the waters. In Cumber-


land and Westmoreland, let him not dwell on the comparative weakness
of the streams, but contemplate and admire their unrivalled brilliancy,
and that variety of motion, mood, and character, arising from the cir-
cumstances in which they are placed, so different from those around
the Alpine streams and lakes. And although the mountains are com-
paratively small though there is little of perpetual snow no thunder
of the avalanche, and few traces of elemental ravage yet out of this
deficiency proceeds a sense of stability and safety, more grateful to many
minds. But, as I have often had occasion to remark, the first and
second-rate mountains, of fourteen and ten thousand feet, are often not
so impressive as those of five, or even three thousand feet. The travel-
ler, therefore, among the English and Scotch mountains, will find that
an elevation of three or four thousand feet can call forth no inconsider-
able sense of sublimity, which indeed depends more upon form and
relation of subjects to each other, than upon actual magnitude or

" I do not indeed know (says Wordsworth) any tract of country in
which, within so narrow a compass, may be found an equal variety in
the influences of light and shadow upon the sublime or beautiful features
of landscape. From a point between Great Gavel and Scawfell, a
shepherd would not require more than an hour to descend into any one
of the eight principal vales by which he would be surrounded ; and all
the others lie (with the exception of Hawswater) at but a small dis-
tance. Yet, though clustered together, every valley has its distinct and
separate character; in some instances, as if they had been formed in
studied contrast to each other, and in others with the united pleasing
differences and resemblances of a sisterly rivalship. This concentration
of interest gives to the country a decided superiority over the most
attractive districts of Scotland and Wales, especially for the pedestrian

Although the lakes of England are on a smaller scale than those of
other countries, they are not the less interesting on that account. In
lakes of great extent, their shores cannot be all distinctly seen at the
same time, and cannot, therefore, contribute to mutual illustration and
ornament. The small size of the English lakes is favourable to the
production of variegated landscape, their boundary line being, in most
instances, gracefully or boldly indented. This is continually exempli-
fied along the margins of these lakes. Masses of rock that have been
precipitated from the mountains into the area of the waters, lie, in some
places, like stranded ships in others, jut out like piers, or project in
little peninsulae, crested with native wood.

But although these lakes are placid, they arc not stagnant. From


the multitude of brooks and torrents by which they are fed, and which
circulate through them, they are justly entitled to the appellation of
" LACUS vivi." Their waters are of crystalline purity and I can
safely aver, that in no lake, even of fair Italy, have I seen fairy land-
scape, of " banks, trees, and skies," so beautifully and faithfully re-
flected as in the little lake of Grassmere. As we rode along the margin
of the watery mirror, the following lines of the late wizard of the North,
the poet of Nature recurred to my mind :

" The lake return'd, in chasten'd gleam,
The purple cloud, the golden beam :
Reflected in the crystal pool,
Headland and bank lay fair and cool ;
The weather-tinted rock and tower,
Each drooping tree, each fairy flower,
So true, so soft the mirror gave,
As if there lay beneath the wave,
Secure from trouble, toil, and care,
A world, than earthly world more fair."

The climate, too, is more favourable for tourists, and especially for
invalids, than that of either Ireland or Scotland. Although much more
rain falls here than in most other parts of England, there are not so
many clays of drizzling wet, as the southern, western, or northern por-
tions of the island present, to " blot out the face of things." The rain
here comes down heartily, and is soon succeeded by clear skies. Then
every brook is vocal every torrent sonorous yet never muddy, even in
the harvest floods.

" Days of unsettled weather, with partial showers, are very frequent ;
but the showers, darkening or brightening as they fly from hill to hill,
are not less grateful to the eye than finely interwoven passages of gay
and sad music are touching to the ear. Vapours exhaling from the lakes
and meadows after sunrise, in a hot season, or, in moist weather, brood-
ing upon the heights, or descending towards the valleys with inaudible
motion, give a visionary character to every thing around them ; and are
in themselves so beautiful, as to dispose us to enter into the feelings of
those simple nations (such as the Laplanders of this day) by whom
they are taken for guardian deities of the mountains ; or to sympathise
with others who have fancied these delicate apparitions to be the spirits
of their departed ancestors. Akin to these are fleecy clouds resting
upon the hill-tops ; they are not easily managed in picture, with their
accompaniments of blue sky ; but how glorious are they in nature !
how pregnant with imagination for the poet ! and the height of the
Cumbrian mountains is sufficient to exhibit daily and hourly instances


of those mysterious attachments. Such clouds, cleaving to their sta-
tions, or lifting up suddenly their glittering heads from behind rocky
barriers, or hurrying out of sight with speed of the eagle will often
tempt an inhabitant to congratulate himself on belonging to a country
of mists and clouds and storms, and make him think of the blank sky
of Egypt, and of the cerulean vacancy of Italy, as an unanimated and
even a sad spectacle*."

The Lakes have long been the favourite seats of the poets though
few of that genus have been remarkable for water drinking. As Lucus
is said to be derived from " Non Lucendo,' 1 so the poets may consider
LACCS as figurative of " Non bibendo." Wordsworth, Southey, Cole-
ridge, Wilson, and de Quincy, figure among the principal lake poets, of
recent times ; and their productions savour much more of the " moun-
tain-dew," or brown stout, than of Adam's ale, the watery element of
the lakes ! Wordsworth's " Excursion," by the way, is a desperate
tough job. The ascent of Skiddaw, Helvellyn, or Scawfell, is child's
play, compared with the Excursion ! If de Quincy had not commenced
his mal-habit of opium-eating, for the tooth-ache, in Oxford-street,
he might have enjoyed a less injurious sedative in an " excursion"
among the Cumbrian mountains.

But I must hasten from these fairy scenes, dragged by a tyrant spell,
towards the southern vortex! To those who have, and to those who
have not visited the lakes and mountains of Switzerland, Italy, Cam-
bria, and Caledonia, I would recommend an excursion to those of Eng-
land. The former class of visiters will not be disappointed; and the
latter will be delighted. A tour through the Highlands will be no
drawback to one through Westmoreland and Cumberland. The lakes
and mountains of both countries are like the various members of one
large family.

" facies non omnibus una,

Nee diversa tanicn; qualisdecct esse sororum."


On approaching this great emporium of commerce, from the pure
and exhilarating breezes of the English lakes and mountains, and while
passing along Dale-street, to the hotel, our olfactories were saluted with
a compound of strange odours, such as I had never experienced in any
other part of the world. As cholera was rife, some of the party became

* Wordsworth.


alarmed, lest we should be inhaling the mephitic effluvia of the " black
death." But, on reconnoitring the locality, I became convinced that
the source of the strange perfume had little to do with the epidemic.
The dense mass of shipping that seemed an impenetrable forest between
a broad river and a magnificent city and the long line of stupendous
warehouses, in close proximity with the docks, containing immense
deputs of every article of commerce which the four quarters of the globe
could furnish, afforded a clue to the complication of smells that impreg-
nated the atmosphere. Here we have exhalations from Mocha coffee
and Virginian tobacco from the cloves of Banda and the cod-fish of
Newfoundland from the cinnamon of Ceylon and the whiskey of
Scotland from the rum-puncheons of Jamaica and the tar-barrels of
Norway from the St. Michael orange and St. Petersburgh hemp
from the olives of Lucca, and the onions of the Azores from the tea-
chests of Canton and the pitch-casks of Pomerania from the brimstone
of Solfaterra and the barilla of the Hebrides from the opium of Bengal
and the herrings of Loch Fine from the nutmegs of the Celebes and
the turpentine of the Canadas from the tamarinds of the Antilles and
the train-oil of Greenland from the hops of Kent and the juniper of
Holland from the log-wood of Honduras and the pine-planks of
Sweden from the pepper of Sumatra and the cotton-bales of Bombay
in short, from every species of odorous and mal-odorous materials
that load the ships, line the quays, and crowd the warehouses of one of
the greatest emporiums of commerce in the world. The Englishman
who can traverse the almost interminable series of docks or rather of
harbours hewn, literally as well as virtually, out of the solid rock,
without experiencing strong emotions of surprise as well as pride, is
insensible to the works of art and the wonders of wealth, from ignorance
of what exists in other countries. The stranger can apprecinte these
stupendous constructions, any one of which would contain, without
inconvenience, the united commerce of ancient Venice or ancient
Genoa ! docks, which daily cause the Frenchman to stare, the Dutch-
man to weep, the Spaniard to sigh, and the Yankee to murmur.

Livei*pool seems disposed to distinguish itself on its eastern as well
as on its western bound : by a magnificent cemetery for its citizens'
bones on one side by stupendous docks for its merchants' shipping on
the other. The latter are more useful, if not more ornamental than
the former. The almost universal desire to honour the dead, by the
preservation of their bodies, or by monuments erected to their memory,
must have some strong foundation in human nature. In some coun-
tries, it was no doubt, connected with a religious principle in others,
and I apprehend in most, with feelings of a less dignified nature with


ties of love, affection, veneration, or esteem perhaps even with selfish-
ness and vanity !

In Christian countries, it has little countenance from our religious
faith. Few can believe that the same body will be raised incorruptible
which was buried in corruption : and still fewer, that the frail tene-
ment of clay can be preserved, by any human means, till the awful day
of resurrection. What need is there of such preservation ? The same
miracle the same power which calls us up into a new state of existence,
requires not the aid of man to furnish materials for a new fabric.

If the present rage for " pleasure-grounds," ornamental cemeteries,
and Elysian fields for the DEAD, continues, a time must come when there
will be little room for the LIVING ! Everybody knows the complaint of
Cicero, that the Campagna of Rome was so taken up, in his time, with
tombs, that there was no longer space for the construction of villas.
There is room enough now ! The monuments of the dead have moul-
dered away and the mansions of the living are not likely to replace
them. Desolation, the emblem and the offspring of death, reigns there
unmolested and uncontrolled.

Whether the cheerful PERE-LA-CHAISE, with its gay parterres, its
verdant bowers, its flowery walks, its storied urns and animated busts
the delicious " green retreat " of our departed friends, on the Harrow
road or the " painted sepulchre," sculptured and scooped out of the
solid rock, at Liverpool, shall familiarize us with death, and cause us to
fall in love with the grave, is more than I can tell. Neither dare I
prognosticate what may be the ultimate effects, religious or moral,
resulting from an extension of these elegant establishments for the
defunct, throughout the kingdom. All I shall say is this, that it will
be a great measure of REFORM if not in the Church itself, at least in
certain lands thereunto belonging the CHURCH-YARDS. Some thou-
sands of years hence, when what appears to us a grave revolution shall
itself be buried in the mouldering annals of mortality, many passages
in Gray's Elegy will require the comments of learned antiquarians,
before their meaning can be deciphered. When the post mortem man-
sions of posterity shall have rivalled our modern villas, many a reader
will be puzzled by the following verse of the poet :

" Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,

Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
"\Vith uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh!''

. Uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculptures ! Why, we shall have
half an epic poem inscribed on each marble sarcophagus, and a Belvi-
dere Apollo, or Metlicean Venus sculptured on every tombstone !

p 2


But I must not leave Liverpool, without paying to its enterprising
spirit, its commercial wealth, and its distinguished intelligence, the
homage of a stranger, who has visited many a city and site of com-

" A Gadibus usque

Auroram et Gangem ;"

but never an equal to this if I except the metropolis of the British

Nature seems to have determined, many thousand years ago, that
Liverpool should not be a commercial port : and to effect her design,
she placed, at the mouth of its river, a congregation of shifting sands
and dangerous channels, that might deter mankind, for ever, from
attempting the navigation of such frightful Syrtes. But he has con-
quered the dread, if not entirely the danger, of these quicksands ; and
the Transatlantic sailor approaches them with as much confidence as
he would sail up the inland ocean of the Chesapeake !


Of all the wonders that steam has worked, this is the most wonderful.
Without rudder or rein without tug or tow-rope without chart or
compass without impulse from man, or traction from beast, this
maximum of power in minimum of space this magic AUTOMATON, darts
forward, on iron pinions, swift as an arrow from a bow ; unerring, un-
deviating from its destined course ! Devised by science, but devoted to
industry unwearied as rapid, in its toils and movements harmless as
the dove, if unopposed, but fatal as the thunderbolt, if encountered in
its career, this astonishing offspring of human genius, gigantic in strength
as dwarfish in stature, drags along, and apparently without effort, whole
cargoes of commerce merchants and their merchandize artizans and
their arts travellers and their traffic tourists and their tours (some of
them heavy enough!) in short, every thing, living or dead, that can
be chained to the train of this Herculean velocipede !

Mounted on the shoulders of this docile but all-powerful AUTOMATON,
we " scour the blasted heath," more fleetly than the Weird Sisters,
when despatched on deeds of death dive through the solid rock, which
greets the passing stranger with a hollow and growling salute spring
forward into the cheerful day and wave our sable banners in the air.

The steam-carriage will probably effect more revolutions in military
operations, than the steam-boat in naval warfare. A steam-carriage


skilfully equipped and directed, would have broken through the hollow
squares on the field of Waterloo opened a passage for Napoleon's
cavalry and changed the face of battle, as well as the fate of nations.
The war-chariots of our ancient English queen (Boadicea) may pos-
sibly be renewed and introduced, under some future princess and with
more success, since they will, not only transport whole armies, with all
their materiel, from point to point, with incredible velocity, but pene-
trate the densest lines, the firmest cohorts, the compactest squadrons,
with as much certainty and ease, as a cannon ball would pass through a
partition of pasteboard. A greater mass of men, arms, and ammunition
could be defiled along the Manchester rail-road in one day, than along
the Via Appia in a month, with Julius Caesar to direct the expedition,
and the fate of Rome dependent on the celerity of its movements !

But it is more pleasing to contemplate the effects of the steam-car-
riage in peace. By increasing the facilities of intercommunication, we
multiply the products of human labour, mental as well as corporeal,
and reduce their price. The steam-carriage lessens the distance (or the
TIME, which is tantamount) between the inhabitants of a state, and
thereby converts, as it were, a country into a city. By this kind of
artificial approximation, we secure all the good effects of combination,
without the detrimental consequences of a concentrated population. By
it, Liverpool and Manchester are constituted one city, as regards all
kinds of communication and commerce, while a fertile tract of thirty
miles is placed between them.

The intercommunication, by steam, will enable us to change many
millions of meadow into fields of wheat and the provender of horses
will be converted into food for man*.

* Every improvement in science and political economy, will be denounced by the
" Laudatores temporis acti," the advocates of ancestral wisdom. The Manchester rail-
road, say they, will supersede the labour of two or three hundred horses ! What a na-
tional calamity ; especially when it is recollected that the said rail-road gives employ-
ment to treble that number of men ! The same argument is applicable to all rail-roads,
and all abbreviations of muscular labour, whether of man or animals. But there is
hardly a doubt that the present'mania for rail-roads will be the ruin of thousands of im-

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 24 of 28)