Touring with the Gardiners

Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer. "We have not quite determined how far it shall carry us," said Mrs Gardiner, "but perhaps to the Lakes." No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing...Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. --Pride and Prejudice Just as summer vacation trips are popular today, “touring the countryside” was a popular activity during Regency Summers. When the weather was hot, those that could retreat to countryside estates would. If you didn’t own such a place, visiting a cooler climate and touring grand estates was the next best thing. In Emma, Boxhill is beset by summer travelers, some travelling in an “Irish car”….which, by the way, is not a car at all, but a particular type of carriage arranged with two rows of seats facing outward. Of course, the most famous instance of summer travel is that of the Gardiners, in Pride and Prejudice who first decide to tour the Lake District, and when circumstances prevent that, settle on the Peaks, taking in, on their way, a tour of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate. Early visitors to the Lake District, who travelled for the education and pleasure of the journey, include Celia Fiennes who in 1698 undertook a journey the length of England, including riding through Kendal and over Kirkstone Pass into Patterdale. Her experiences and impressions were published in her book Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall: As I walked down at this place I was walled on both sides by those inaccessible high rocky barren hills which hang over one’s head in some places and appear very terrible; and from them springs many little currents of water from the sides and clefts which trickle down to some lower part where it runs swiftly over the stones and shelves in the way, which makes a pleasant rush and murmuring noise and like a snowball is increased by each spring trickling down on either side of those hills, and so descends into the bottoms which are a Moorish ground in which in many places the waters stand, and so form some of those Lakes as it did here. In 1724, Daniel Defoe published the first volume of A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain. He commented on Westmorland that it was: the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales itself; the west side, which borders on Cumberland, is indeed bounded by a chain of almost unpassable mountains which, in the language of the country, are called fells. Towards the end of the 18th century, the area was becoming more popular with travellers. This was partly a result of wars in Continental Europe, restricting the possibility of travel there. In 1778 Father Thomas West produced A Guide to the Lakes, which began the era of modern tourism. West listed "stations" - viewpoints where tourists could enjoy the best views of the landscape, being encouraged to appreciated the formal qualities of the landscape and to apply aesthetic values. At some of these stations, buildings were erected to help this process. The remains of Claife Station (on the western shore of Windermere below Claife Heights) can be visited today. The Lake District is intimately associated with English literature in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thomas Gray was the first to bring the region to attention, when he wrote a journal of his Grand Tour in 1769, but it was William Wordsworth whose poems were most famous and influential. Wordsworth's 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. Out of 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 (1799-1813) and Rydal Mount (1813-50). Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey became known as the Lake Poets. William Wordsworth published his Guide to the Lakes in 1810, and by 1835 it had reached its fifth edition, now called A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England. This book was particularly influential in popularising the region. Wordsworth's favourite valley was Dunnerdale or the Duddon Valley nestling in the south-west of the Lake District. The poet and his wife lie buried in the churchyard of Grasmere and very near 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 friend of Wordsworth, was a resident of Keswick for forty years (1803-43), and was buried in Crosthwaite churchyard. Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived for some time in Keswick, and also with the Wordsworths at Grasmere. 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 which Wordsworth had inhabited. In addition to 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. These include 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. The time fixed for the beginning of their Northern tour was now fast approaching; and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour; and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county, there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity, as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak. --Pride and Prejudice The Peak District in Derbyshire and Staffordshire offers incredible views. The dramatic landscape ranges from percipitous valleys edged in loose stones in the Dark Peaks to lush valleys with limestone outcrops in the White Peaks all bisected by streams. Birds and wildflowers abound. Dovedale is a meandering, deeply-cut two mile valley on the River Dove in the Peak District. The River Dove originates in the high moorlands of Axe Edge and joins the River Trent after a 45 mile circuitous journey through a series of spectacular limestone gorges: Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale, Milldale, and finally Dovedale. Dovedale is best enjoyed on a walking tour in which the views of valleys and rock spires are gradually revealed. The Peak District and Dovedale are the result of extensive erosion of limestone [White Peaks] beds by waters rich in debris at the end of the ice age. The erosion cut through a conglamerate limestone resulting from a river delt overlaying an older limestone bed laid down in a shallow tropical sea 350 million years ago. The harder coral reef limestone remained. The ice age scouring revealed the coral islands as the Peaks from which the district derives its name. Mr. Gardiner may well have stopped for a day of fishing in Dovedale. Trout fishing in the valley was made famous by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton who wrote The Compleat Angler in the 17th century. Elizabeth must have greatly enjoyed the scenery. Located on the Gardiner’s path to Pemberley in Derbyshire, are two of the most famous great houses in England: Blenheim and Chatsworth. While it may seem odd today to visit a private home, uninvited, and ask for a tour, such goings on were fairly common place two hundred years ago. It was a mark of hospitality to allow travelers, however unexpected, to drop in and request a tour of the housekeeper, who, no doubt, knew the history and the house better than the inhabitants. She would usually be given a monetary tip for her troubles. While it is not mentioned whether Elizabeth and the Gardiners toured these homes on their journey, it has long been thought that Chatsworth was Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley. Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at  
  Adapted from Sharon Wagoner's article on The Georgian Additional information from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published