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In its edition of 5 May 1855 (p3), the Kendal Mercury published an effusive review of Harriet Martineau's Guide to the Lakes, over a column in length, more than half of which was copied directly from the book. One very knowledgeable reader was not entirely impressed. My comments in [square brackets].

Kendal Mercury, 26 May 1855, p6:


To the Editor of the Kendal Mercury.
SIR,- A few weeks ago you treated your readers to some extracts from Miss Martineau's new Guide; but I am not going to compliment you upon your selection. We have heard these stories of our kind Borrowdale neighbours so often, that if we have not been induced to believe them, we, at least, think we know how they should be told; and there is no good in extending them so far beyond the bounds of probability.

The story of the ascent of Scawfell, in Wordsworth's Guide, said in some former editions to be extracted from a letter to a friend; and in the last edition from a letter by a friend [in reality, unknown to the correspondent, the letter was written by Wordsworth's sister Dorothy, to a friend !], is well told, and is good as far as it goes; but it might have been improved by a prefatory introduction, and extended by an appendix.

As all the actors have departed, there is no good in suppressing names; it might be told that the friend alluded to was a Miss Barker, who, about the year 1815 [actually 1812], came from a distant county to sojourn at Keswick, and was admitted into the society of the Southeys, the Coleridges, and the Wordsworths. She was an enthusiastic admirer of mountain scenery, especially that of Borrowdale, and in a few years she bought a small property at Rosthwaite, where she built a residence. Years passed on in enjoyment till about the year 1820 [probably about August 1818], when having consulted Otley's Map, which had lately appeared, and the only one at that time that could be relied on, she fixed upon an excursion by which she could, in three days, see the beauties of Wasdale and Eskdale, and return to Borrowdale by another route. The sun was well advanced in the morning before she set out, accompanied only by her maid, Agnes, to walk over Sty Head to Wasdale Head, where she engaged a cart to take her to Santon Bridge, where she remained for the night. In the morning, having engaged a man with such a conveyance as was to be had at the place, to take her through Eskdale to the last house of entertainment on that side of the mountains; which was understood to be the Wool Pack. On arriving there, she was shown into a room furnished with beds without curtains, and men's things strewing about, so that she could not submit to sleep there. She took the conveyance back to the next public-house, which was the Bout, enquiring if she could be accommodated. "No," says the landlady: "We have no accommodation for such as you." "Oh!" says Miss B.: "I expected no better of you, I have heard of you before!" The man wanted to take her back to Santon Bridge, but she would not, if there was a nearer place.

At the King of Prussia she found such accommodation as might serve her necessities for the night. In the morning, having engaged a guide to conduct her on foot over the Esk Hause, which she thought was called Ash Course [it was not named on the map], into Borrowdale, she started anew in the expectation of passing Esk Hause early in the afternoon. She at first thought the guide a very simple looking person, but in passing along he gained favour by the way in which he pointed out Stanley Gill, which she considered the most perfect waterfall among the lakes. Passing the residence of Mr Thomas Towers, called the Taes, in the ancient maps wrote Toes, in more modern ones Taw House; cultivation and habitation were left behind. The valley became contracted, the immense rocks of Scawfell towering on the left hand, and the Esk rushing down in a succession of water falls on the right. The guide was striding away at a pace difficult for the two females to follow, when a person was met coming from the fell. After a few words with him, the guide says, "Please, maam, I cannot gang enny farther with you, I mun gang back wi' this man."

"O ! Gracious !" says Miss B., "How can you think of leaving us two weak women in this desolate place?" He says, "You are not far from the top of Esk Hause, and you will easily find your way down into Borrowdale. Indeed it's no use my ganging any farder wi' ye, for I dunnon ken the way any farder mysell." Left to themselves, the two females pushed on, and reached the pass of Esk Hause, without accident; and on looking around, Miss B. was so enraptured with the prospect that it was not till her maid reminded her that the sun was going down, that she could think of leaving the place; vowing that she would visit it again ere long. There was yet daylight sufficient to consult the map, and they could see where the stream originated that would lead them down to Seathwaite; and keeping it in sight, after many a false step among rocks and boggy ground, in the dusk they found themselves at Seathwaite, and at the house of Mr Dixon.

They had the good fortune to meet a worthy neighbour, Mr John Allison, who happened to be there on parish business. After being refreshed, they journeyed together to Rosthwaite. On Miss B. speaking of her resolution of again visiting the same scenes, Mr Allison proposed to direct her by a better route than the one by which she had descended. Some time after this, Miss B. had Miss Wordsworth on a visit, when they fixed upon an excursion, and called upon Mr Allinson [sic] to redeem his promise.

Here we shall leave this narrative to the editor of Wordsworth; and as the preface to a work is commonly the last part written, the reader, if he likes, may accept now, what he could not have before, and the proposed appendix is delayed for the present.

I am, &c.;
Keswick, May 22d, 1855.

"Anthony Loajet" is an anagram pseudonym of Jonathan Otley, whose map of the Lake District was first published in 1818 [scan at], implying that Miss Barker was a very early purchaser. Anthony's claim that "all the actors have departed" was only just true: John Allison (or Allinson), yeoman, had died at Rosthwaite on 22 January 1855, aged 68.

Dorothy Wordsworth's anonymous description of her October 1818 excursion with Miss B. was added to William Wordsworth's Guide to the Lakes in its 1822 edition (publishing letters about walking tours was something of a fashion at the time: a visit to Borrowdale and Wastwater about the time Mary was having her Eskdale adventure was described in a local newspaper just days before Dorothy came to Borrowdale). Loajet's "appendix" is a version of the "wrong Seathwaite" story printed in Miss Martineau's guide (but not, incidentally, pirated by the Mercury for its review), which presumably took place between 1822 and 1824:

Kendal Mercury, 9 Jun 1855, p6:


To the Editor of the Kendal Mercury.
Sir.- In my last I proposed to supply an appendix to the ascent of Esk Hause and Scawfell; and notwithstanding that Miss Martineau has, in some degree, forestalled me in the story, I shall not be deterred from giving it as I learned it at the time; and while more than thirty years have passed over, it has never escaped my recollection.

A party sojourning at Rosthwaite, having agreed to follow in the steps of the friend who supplied the letter in Mr Wordsworth's Guide, proceeded by Seathwaite to Esk Hause; and having enjoyed the various scenes described in that letter, were preparing to return, when one lady, wishing to go a little further, assured them that she would find her way back, and follow them, which she probably would have done, had she not met with a shepherd, and innocently asked, what was her best way to Seathet ? Although the man knew there was a Seathwaite on each side of the fell, and although both spelled alike, the pronunciation was decidedly different. If she had named Seewhait, he would have directed her back to Borrowdale; but having named Seathet, he pointed out a way, by which, having Hardknot on the right, she could go down Moredale [printer's error for Mosedale?] direct to Cockley Beck; the first house in Seathwaite on the rise of the Duddon. For some time she might have surmised that it was not like Borrowdale; but she had no means to ascertain it; till, in a state of feverish excitemite [another printer's error?], she arrived at the house of Mr Daniel Tyson. When informed where she was, no entreaty could prevail upon her to tarry all night; no rest could she take, till at Rosthwaite she must be; to relieve the anxieties of her sister and friends that she had parted from on the fell. To send her back by the way she came, would be like consigning her to destruction; and Mr Tyson himself, wth best intentions, would not like to undertake the charge of conveying her over the fell, either by Esk Hause, or, what was nearer, through the Ewengap [another printer's error, for Ewergap?], in the night. The only way was to take her over Wrynose to Fellfoot, thence by Blea Tarn to Langdale Head; and by the Stake, and Langstreth, to Rosthwaite.

On arriving at Rosthwaite, in the night, they found all in commotion, and people out in every direction in search of the missing lady. There was a happy meeting, and no one had to regret the trouble they had taken. Mr Tyson was recompensed by one pound, and five pounds were afterwards distributed amongst those who had been active on the occasion.

I am, &c.
Keswick, June 5, 1855.