Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1834/Grasmere Lake

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1834-45-Grassmere Lake & Village, Westmorland.png


GRASSMERE LAKE & VILLAGE, WESTMORLAND.

Artist: G. Pickering - Engraved by: C. Mottram


GRASMERE LAKE.


A SKETCH, BY A COCKNEY!


CERTAINLY when one is young, one is taught a great deal of useful knowledge; why it is called useful, I can’t tell; it has never been of any use to me: but among other things which I then learnt by heart, is a piece of ancient history. Plato ordained that poetry should not be permitted in his republic. I wish I had lived under such a well-regulated government, I had not then been the victim of an over-excited imagination. Some persons have had their happiness destroyed by their wives; others by their children; others, a still more numerous class, by their creditors. Mine has been destroyed by poetry. Oh! that I had never read Cowper’s Task, or Thomson’s Seasons; or that the days of my youth would return, attended by my present experience, or they would be no good to me. The truth is, that I am an unfortunate individual smitten with
"The sacred loves of nature and of song."

Not that I ever wrote verses; I respected them too much, to dream of attaining unto them myself. No, I merely read them at every leisure moment; was never without a book in my pocket; and resolved to practise their precepts at my earliest convenience, the country became

"My hope by day, my dream by night."

I never passed through the Strand, without repeating

"Oh, for a home in some vast wilderness!
A boundless contiguity of shade,
Where noise of human suffering or guilt

Might never reach me more."

I never drove out in my gig on a Sunday, and saw a cottage with a green door, a pear-tree nailed against the wall, and French-beans growing naturally in the garden, without wishing,

"Oh, that some home like this for me would smile!"

My taste for the beauties of nature, as pointed out by the poets, showed itself even in the arrangements of my shop window. I always whispered to myself as I watched the graceful ribbons mimic some gay parterre,

"Such beauties does Flora disclose,

When she smiles on the banks of the Tweed."

Red ribbons always suggested,

"The rose, which here unfolds

Her paradise of leaves."

And white satin was like

"The lady-lily, paler than the moon."
At length, my brother died. I should have been sorry, only he left me a legacy. A house in the country was worth "fifty thousand brothers." I flung aside my blue gauzes, and thought of violets,

"Which come before the swallow dares, and take

The winds of March with beauty."

I folded up my maize silks, and thought of the yellow daffodil,

"Bending its image o’er the watery clearness,

Wooing its own sad beauty into nearness."

I dismissed my foulards, intent on those radiant foulards of the garden:

"Tulips, that every shade of colour wear."

Let me not be ungrateful—I was happy for a month, which is as long as a honeymoon, perhaps longer: here I can’t speak from experience; the poetry by which I have regulated my existence is eloquent upon love, but silent upon matrimony. Moore says, no great genius ever yet lived happily with his wife. I thought it too great a risk, as their disciple, to try; some of the evil influence might have descended on me, their devout worshipper; and they have done me quite harm enough without that. Mr. George Robins was my Mephistopheles, and the copyhold of a cottage near Grasmere my bond. It was a sweet pretty place, quite removed from the high-road, with a porch hung with honeysuckle, roses that looked in at the window, and a garden "well stocked with fruit-trees and vegetables:" here, I thought, I may copy Wordsworth, and enjoy

"The harvest of a quiet eye,

That sleeps and broods on its own heart."

The influence of the Lake poets was on "the haunted air." I went to bed, and dreamt of getting up early, and really had new-laid eggs, and milk from the cow, for breakfast; but—for the truth may be told, when we are tired to death of keeping it to ourselves—I am a miserable man: I really do not know what to do with myself, the nights are so long; for I go to bed soon, and get up late—and the days are yet longer. In vain I remind myself, that I have realized my former dreams of human felicity; that I bake my own bread, grow my own vegetables, and kill my own mutton. In vain

"My banks they are furnished with bees,

Whose murmur invites one to sleep.

I cannot accept the invitation more than fourteen hours out of the twenty-four; and what to do with the remaining ten, I cannot tell. Why did Wilson give "Hints for the Holidays," unless they could be taken? but I own, walking tires me, fishing makes me swear, and I catch cold by going on the water: as to shooting, that is quite out of the question, unless, in my extremity, I shoot myself—and I don't want to die; I only want to live, and live poetically. If I had but taken a house near the high-road, I should at least have seen the stages pass; or if there were even an apothecary in the neighbourhood, or an officer on half-pay, or a curate, I might sometimes get them to dine with me, and not be doomed to watch my shadow on the wall, or in the glass; I have tried each side of the room, to avoid it.

"Oh solitude! where are the charms

That sages have seen in thy face?"
{{smaller|I lean day after day over the little gate of my garden, and the lane is my Sister Anne; I keep asking it, "Is any body coming ?" and I only get the same answer as the unfortunate heroine in Blue Beard,
"Tis the sun that shines bright, and the grass that grows green."

I would sell my house, but no one will buy it; and besides, there is such a thing as shame in the world: I wish I had not said so much about my happiness on leaving London. People ought to be grateful: I have done a great deal for the poets; is there not one among them to do something for me? I entreat them to recollect that I have read them, which is a great deal; I have bought them, which is still more; and I have reduced their theory to practice, which is most of all. They owe me a recompense, and I have a plan in my head. I want one of them to come and commit suicide in my garden, and leave a paper behind requesting to be interred in that very spot. He might assign any reason his imagination suggested, and I would take care that religious attention should be paid to his last wish; indeed, it is for that I desire his death. He shall be buried under my fine old apple-tree: think how beautiful the pink and white blossoms will strew his grave in spring! and I will plant over it my finest double violets, with a succession of polyanthuses and pinks; besides going to the expense of a handsome tablet in white marble; or I would not even grudge an urn, with a veiled figure, like that on the lid of a black teapot, weeping over it. My house would then be put down in the guide-books, and all travellers informed "that it would be very desirable for them to go a little out of their way, to see the beautiful monument erected to the memory of the well-known and unfortunate Mr.——, so celebrated for his genius, his misfortunes, and his death." I might then hope to see a little company. I would keep a book in the summer-house for them to write their names and reminiscences, also some of Bramah’s patent pens, and an inkstand. Moreover, if the worshippers of talent should bring their provisions with them, (pic-nics, I am told, are common among the ruins of Rome,) they should be welcome to the use of the grass-plot; and I would lend them glasses, and knives and forks, articles which, being indispensable, are always forgotten on such occasions: however, when it rains, which it usually does on all parties of pleasure, they should be indulged in the use of my two parlours, and the passage between them.

Nota bene, Visitors are at liberty to take what flowers they might want to strew over the grave.