Friday, July 15, 2016

Blast from the Past: Hermits Weren’t the Only Ones in the Woods

I’ll be playing, er I mean learning and networking at the Romance Writers of America annual conference this week, but I promise to come back with lots of good insights to share. In the meantime, enjoy this post, updated slightly from when it was originally published in August 2011.

Contrived rustic landscapes were only one way nineteenth century young ladies and gentlemen discovered nature. The period saw a rise in the appreciation of natural beauty for beauty’s sake. Where once the pockets of wilderness around England had been seen by the fashionable as backward hamlets in their otherwise civilized isle, now they saw the lofty peaks, verdant valleys, and thundering freshets worthy to visit, to view, and to capture in word and drawing. And one of the most popular areas to appreciate nature, then and now, was the Lake District.

The Lake District boasts a collection of rocky mountains, deep clear lakes, and crystal streams found nowhere else in England. It had already achieved some popularity with the more outdoorsy types who enjoyed walking along the paths and shores. However, when the romantic poet William Wordsworth authored a Guide through the District of the Lakes (anonymously in 1810 and under his own name in 1820), even those usually content with indoor pursuits took notice.

Wordsworth had been born and went to school in the Lake District, and his time away from it only made him appreciate it further. He wrote some of his most famous poems while at Dove Cottage in Grasmere with his sister Dorothy and spent much of his married life in a house in Rydal. His love of the area glowed in his guide. Take this from early in the piece:

“When the sun is setting in summer far to the north-west, it is seen by the spectator on the shores or breast of Winandermere, resting among the summits of the loftiest mountains, some of which may be half or wholly hidden by clouds, or by the blaze of light which the orb diffuses around it; and the surface of the lake will reflect correspondent colors through every variety of beauty, and through all degrees of splendor.”

Kind of makes you want to go there, doesn’t it? His words certainly had that affect on the gentry and aristocracy of nineteenth century England, many of whom built summer homes along the lakes and streams.

Growing up as I did near the mountains and seas of the Pacific Northwest, and having returned to live there now, I feel a particular affinity for the Lake District. I have set several of my Regency romances there, including portions of The Marquis’s Kiss, An Honorable Gentleman, and the Everard Legacy series. 

Now you know another entry on my ever-growing bucket list of places to visit in England!

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