Art & Literature

The Lake District is intimately associated with English literature during the 18th and 19th centuries. Thomas Gray was the first to bring the region to attention, when he wrote a report or journal of his Grand Tour in 1769, but it was William Wordsworth whose poems were the most famous and influential. His poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, remains one of the most famous in the English language. During his long life of eighty years, sixty were spent amid its lakes and mountains, first as a schoolboy at Hawkshead, and afterwards living in Grasmere, from 1799-1813 and at Rydal Mount, frpm1813-50.

Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey were known as the Lake Poets.
Wordsworth and his wife lie buried in the churchyard of Grasmere and very close to them are the remains of Hartley Coleridge, son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who himself lived for many years in Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere.

Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate and great friend of Wordsworth was a resident of Keswick for forty years,1803-43, and was buried in the Crosthwaite churchyard. Samuel Taylor Coleridge also lived for some time in Keswick, and additionally with the Wordsworths at Grasmere. For eight years from 1807 to 1815 John Wilson lived at Windermere. De Quincey spent the greater part of the years 1809 to 1828 at Grasmere, in the first cottage where Wordsworth had lived.

Ambleside and its surroundings was also the place of residence both of Thomas Arnold, who spent there the vacations of the last ten years of his life and of Harriet Martineau, who built herself a house there in 1845. At Keswick, Mrs Lynn Linton, the wife of William James Linton, was born in 1822. Brantwood, a splendid house beside Coniston Water, was the home of John Ruskin during the last years of his life. His assistant W. G. Collingwood author, artist and antiquarian lived close by and wrote Thorstein of the Mere, set in Viking times.

As well as these residents or natives of the Lake District, a variety of other poets and writers made visits to the Lake District or were bound by ties of friendship with those already mentioned above. Included in these are Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Hugh Clough, Henry Crabb Robinson, Thomas Carlyle, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Felicia Hemans and Gerald Massey.

At the start of the 20th century, the children’s author Beatrix Potter was in residence at Hill Top Farm, the setting of many of her famous Peter Rabbit books. Her life was memorised in a biopic film, starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Arthur Ransome lived in various parts of the Lake District, and set a number of his Swallows and Amazons books, published between 1930 and 1947, in a fictionalised Lake District setting. As did Geoffrey Trease with his five Black Banner school stories,1949-56, starting with No Boats on Bannermere.

The novelist Sir Hugh Walpole lived at “Brackenburn” on the lower slopes of Catbells overlooking Derwent Water from 1924 until he died in 1941. Whilst living at “Brackenburn” he wrote The Herries Chronicle, the detailed history of a fictional Cumbrian family over two centuries. The noted author and poet Norman Nicholson came from the south-west Lakes area, living and writing about Millom in the twentieth century. He was generally known as the last of the Lake Poets and came close to becoming the Poet Laureate.

Writer and author Melvyn Bragg was raised in the region and has used it as the setting for some of his work, such as his novel “A time to dance”, which was later turned into a television drama.
Film director Ken Russell resides in the Keswick/Borrowdale area and has used it in some films, such as Tommy and Mahler.

Quite a few students of Arthurian lore identify the Lake District with the Grail kingdom of Listeneise. The former Keswick School of Industrial Art at Keswick was founded by Canon Rawnsley, a friend of John Ruskin.

Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence