Diana Athill

Coleridge, Potter & King Pocky

The English Lakes: A History


Bloomsbury 433pp £25 order from our bookshop

In the 1720s, when Daniel Defoe, in his A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, came to the ‘unpassable hills’ of Westmorland, he concluded that ‘all the pleasant part of England was at an end’. To him and his contemporaries mountains were ‘horrid’, being uncultivable, cold and likely to drop rocks on you. It is amazing that only about twenty years later the poet Thomas Gray reported about the French Alps that ‘not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry’. Poets and painters: it was they who first responded to untamed nature, and thus became the heralds of the eight million or so people who flock every year to the part of England we now call Cumbria.

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