Seizing the opportunity presented by war with France, Spain, the Netherlands and the rebellious colonies calling themselves the "United States", the Cumbrian town of Keswick began a determined, prolonged, and ultimately very successful campaign to promote its lakes and mountains as alternatives to the glories of the Alps. Elsewhere you can find information on the early regattas but here we present some examples of the more general promotional material which appeared in the press:
From the Cumberland Pacquet, 24 July 1781 [with paragraph breaks inserted]
To the Printers of the Cumberland Pacquet.
There is not perhaps upon the whole terrestrial Globe, a valley equal to that of Keswick for Beauty, Majestic Grandeur, and a Variety of the most delightful Prospects; nor yet for producing the Necessaries of Life. The many different Heights, Soils, and Waters, contribute abundantly to this End. Hence Food and Cloathing, Fuel and Furnished Mansions are produced here with Salt, to relish all. Particularly those delicious Animals of the Fleecy, Finny, and Feathered Kinds. Gold and Silver, Copper and Iron, common and black Lead are Natives of this extraordinary Vale, and have all been obtained; the first by Queen Elizabeth, and the rest by others. The Pick and Lever are at Work, rending the variegated Rocks in Subterraneous Caverns for Minerals. Natural Medicines are likewise produced here in great Variety, and Excellent. The first Class are of the Vegetable Kingdom; the second, Air; varying greatly both with regard to Density and Purity; and the Third, Water of several Kinds: one sort being Medicinal on Account of its extraordinary Purity; another impregnated with Iron, another with Salt, &c. Scarce one real Necessary or Convenience is wanting.
Stupendous Skiddaw stands betwixt old Boreas and this peaceful Vale, obstructs his horizontal chilling Blasts, up-bends their furious Course aloft, and thus over Head they swiftly sail. The Southern Mountains do the work of Alembics, condensing the Vapours which fall in Rains, and bring the Natives fruitful Seasons; in like Manner do the Mountains act, which bound the East and West Sides of this enchanting Amphitheatre. Brown, Hutchinson, Gray, Young, West, and many others have all written seemingly in Raptures of the various Beauties of this uncommon Place; and generally acknowledged themselves unable to delineate with Pen or Pencil, Pictures equal to half its Glory. Hither great Numbers of the Nobility and Gentry Tour, and here they gaze with seemingly as much Pleasure and Surprize, as the Mountain-shepherd at his first entering the Capital; but with a better Grace.
Improvements are still making, in order to render this Northern Tour much more delightful than the Continent; and it is said a Native, (who delights in searching into Nature) has long been collecting the vast Variety of Vegetable and Fossil Productions common to the Valley, with other Foreign Curiosities, into one Cabinet, for the Entertainment of Tourers and others.— The Valley of Keswick, and the matchless Lake of Derwent are not all: the grand Lake of Windermere, ornamented with Islands, and its rural Environs. Leathe's Lake profound; (with Confines pleasingly awful) which far beneath the Reach of human Ken, deep drowns the silent Base of Cloud-capt Helvellyn. Ulls Lake and its wonderous Coasts, Bassenthwaite Lake and its magnificent Shores; with many other Lakes and Coasts, (so situate as almost to surround the Vale of Keswick,) have all their Beauties, &c. in a high Degree; yet inferior to the vale of Keswick. In short I have, in my travels, seen three Quarters of the World, and do conclude, never yet any one Place, so well adapted to pleasure, nourish, and comfort Man.
|The letter's author is quite likely to be the enterprising Peter Crosthwaite, founder of the museum at Keswick- the "one Cabinet" mentioned.|
I am, Sirs, your very obedient Servant.
From the Cumberland Pacquet, 31 July 1781 [with spelling corrections in square brackets]
As the intended Regatta on the Lakes at Keswick, may for a time engage the public attention; we presume the following descriptive view of those romantic regions, cannot fail of being acceptable to our readers. They are extracts from the new edition of Dr. Leake's medical instructions towards the prevention and cure of female diseases.
|"Medical Instructions Towards the Prevention and Cure of Chronic Diseases Peculiar to Women" by John Leake, MD, was first published in 1777, and by 1781 was already up to its fifth edition.|
"THE cure of MELANCHOLY should be attempted in spring and summer, by travelling far from home with agreeable company, of if convenient into foreign countries.— Prospects which suddenly open upon the mind with novelty and surprise are most likely to dispossess it of painful sensations, or counteract their bad effects. Of the different excursions which the British Isle affords, none will so much contribut to that end as a tour to the Lakes in Cumberland, particularly those of Keswick and the sequestered regions of Borrowdale.— Here we may view nature
attired in all the sweet simplicity of pastoral beauty, or behold her enthroned amidst the vast and tremendous fragments of the antediluvian world. Bruno, thou holy sage, here, in solemn and deep repose where the eagle builds her nest, mightest thou have fixed thy dreary abode to view the wonders of creation, and meditate on things past or worlds to come. Here might have stood another Paraclete, with its white walls and silver springs, where some former Eloisa devoted a life to penitence and tears. This the Vaucluse, where perhaps another Petrarch once retired, and in the anguish of his soul bewailed the loss of his long loved Laura, for which nothing but religious hope could give consolation, and only death could cure. But of this enough, lest inadvertently we excite those very feelings for which we were proposing to find a remedy.
|"Bruno" is presumably the 16th century cosmologist and philosopher Giordano Bruno.|
|The Oratory of the Paraclete, about 100km south-east of Paris, was in the 12th century the home of the religious philosopher Heloise of Argenteuil, where she wrote her famous letters to her soulmate (and technically husband) Peter Abelard.|
|Philosopher and poet Francesco Petrarca spent some years in meditation and study at Vaucluse, south-east France, in the mid-14th century, but never forgot Laura, a young woman who could not return his love, and whose early death troubled him intensely.|
On the 23d of July 1780, I set out from KESWICK to take a view of the adjacent country from the top of Skiddow, and, after more than two hours toil, we gained the summit of that enormous mountain; although at first the sun was bright and the sky clear, we were soon involved in dark clouds which shut all prospect from our eyes, but, after waiting some time, an auspicious breeze from the west suddenly dispersed the gloom, and, as if by the power of magic, instantly displayed a prospect which I beheld with wonder and delight.— Here I could distinctly see the western ocean and ships under sail, the Isle of Man, South of Scotland, and a great part of England.
At an immense distance on the east was Cross-Fell or British Alps, over which I had passed a few days before, mixing with the horizon, and appearing like a blue cloud. Towards the south, and contiguous to the view, were Helvellyn and Vale of St. John. Southward we looked down upon the town of Keswick and lofty wave like hills of Borrowdale. At the foot of Skiddow the Lakes of Darwent and BASSENTHWAITE appeared like crystal mirrors; the first is environed with huge craigs, precipices and hanging woods, and from thence the vale of Keswick divided by the river Darwent is beautifully extended for many miles.
The mind, transported with scenery of such magnificence and supreme delight, is lifted above itself, and, quitting those earthly regions, enchanting as they are, soars above nature, and aspires to Nature's God. How infinite and incomprehensible is space, of which all this is merely a point, and how great the wisdom of the Creator in formin[g] the Eye which, in its narrow circle, concentrate[s] the wide extended regions of Ocean, Earth, and Air!
By thus shifting the scene, the mental faculties will be presented with a continual change of new objects, which strike more forcibly on the senses than things familiar to them. The eye will be delighted with all the charms of variety in new prospects; the impulse of sounds different from those before, will strike the ear; unusual odors will affect the smell, and the taste itself will also experience a change by the variety of aliments peculiar to different situations.
From those impressions thus made on the senses, which are so many avenues or immediate inlets to the brain and nerves, a sucession of new ideas will arise, so as insensibly to disengage the mind from objects of its distress.
Hence, by travelling, the universal benefits of air, exercise, and Diet, will at once be most agreeable obtained; all which, tend to strengthen the constitution, and to wear out disagreeable impressions of the mind, by introducing others of an opposite nature."