Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/56

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28 INTRODUCTION.

mountain scenery on the spirits of Englishmen. The soldiers who were encamped near Loch Ness fell sick daily in their minds as well as in their bodies from nothing but the sadness produced by the sight of the black barren mountains covered with snow, with streams of water rolling down them. To divert their melancholy, which threatened to develop even into hypochondriacal madness, races were held. It was with great joy that the volunteer at last " turned his back upon these hideous mountains and the noisy ding of the great falls of waters."

Even the dales of Cumberland struck strangers with awe. Six months before Wordsworth was born, Gray wandered up Borrowdale to the point where now the long train of tourist-laden coaches day after day in summer turns to the right towards Honister Pass and Buttermere. " All farther access," he wrote, " is here barred to prying mortals, only there is a little path wind- ing over the Fells, and for some weeks in the year passable to the Dale's-men ; but the mountains know well that these innocent people will not reveal the mysteries of their ancient kingdom, the

A few days after Johnson had arrived in Scotland, Mason, the poet, visited Keswick. Many of the woods which had charmed his friend Gray had been since cut down, and a dry season had reduced the cascade to scanty rills. " With the frightful and surprising only," he wrote, " I cannot be pleased." 3 He and his companion climbed to the summit of Skiddaw, where, just as if they were on the top of the Matterhorn, they found that " respira- To John Wesley, a traveller such as few men have ever been, wild scenery was no more pleasing than to the man who wandered for the first time. Those " horrid mountains " he twice calls the fine ranges of hills in the North Riding of Yorkshire, whose waters feed the Swale and the Tees, though it was in summer-time that he was travelling. To Pennant Glencroe was " the seat of melan- choly." Beattie, Burns's " sweet harmonious Beattie," finds the same sadness in the mountains :

" The Highlands of Scotland " (he writes) " are a picturesque, but in general a melancholy country. Long tracts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath,

1 James Ray's History of the Rebellion of 4 An Excursion to the Lakes, p. 157. 1747 (ed. 1752), pp. 365, 383. 5 \Vesley's/<7/-a/, iii. 336, 465.

  • Gray's Works, iv. 150. G Tour in Scotland, i. 222.

3 Walpole's Letters, v. 501.

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