451. To Sara Hutchinson Transcript Sara Hutchinson, in Mr. A. H. B. Coleridge possession. Pub. Wordsworth and Coleridge, ed. by E. L. Griggs, 1939, pp. 158-63. Eskdale, Friday, Augt. 6th. [ 1802] at an Estate House called Toes There is one sort of Gambling, to which I am much addicted; and that not of the least criminal kind for a man who has children & a Concern. -- It is this. When I find it convenient to descend from a mountain, I am too confident & too indolent to look round about & wind about 'till I find a track or other symptom of safety; but I wander on, & where it is first possible to descend, there I go -relying upon fortune for how far down this possibility will continue. So it was yesterday afternoon. I passed down from Broadcrag, skirted the Precipices, and found myself cut off from a most sublime Crag-summit, that seemed to rival Sca' Fell Man in height, & to outdo it in fierceness. A Ridge of Hill lay low down, & divided this Crag (called Doe-crag) & Broad-crag -- even as the Hyphen divides the words broad & crag. I determined to go thither; the first place I came to, that was not direct Rock, I slipped down, & went on for a while with tolerable ease -- but now I came (it was midway down) to a smooth perpendicular Rock about 7 feet high-this was nothing -- I put my hands on the Ledge, & dropped down / in a few yards came just such another / I dropped that too / and yet another, seemed not higher -- I would not stand for a trifle / so I dropped that too / but the stretching of the muscle[s] of my hands & arms, & the jolt of the Fall on my Feet, put my whole Limbs in a Tremble, and I paused, & looking down, saw that I had little else to encounter but a succession of these little Precipice -- ____________________ 1 'The Sca' Fell Letter' was posted to Sara Hutchinson at Gallow Hill, Yorkshire, from Ambleside on Sunday evening, 8 Aug. Cf. Letter 453. The transcript contains no conclusion or signature. -841- it was in truth a Path that in a very hard Rain is, no doubt, the channel of a most splendid Waterfall. -- So I began to suspect that I ought not to go on / but then unfortunately tho' I could with ease drop down a smooth Rock 7 feet high, I could not climb it / so go on I must / and on I went / the next 3 drops were not half a Foot, at least not a foot more than my own height / but every Drop increased the Palsy of my Limbs -- I shook all over, Heaven knows without the least influence of Fear / and now I had only two more to drop down / to return was impossible -- but of these two the first was tremendous / it was twice my own height, & the Ledge at the bottom was [so] exceedingly narrow, that if I dropt down upon it I must of necessity have fallen backwards & of course killed myself. My Limbs were all in a tremble -- I lay upon my Back to rest myself, & was beginning according to my Custom to laugh at myself for a Madman, when the sight of the Crags above me on each side, & the impetuous Clouds just over them, posting so luridly & so rapidly northward, overawed me / I lay in a state of almost prophetic Trance & Delight -- & blessed God aloud, for the powers of Reason & the Will, which remaining no Danger can overpower us! O God, I exclaimed aloud -- how calm, how blessed am I now / I know not how to proceed, how to return / but I am calm & fearless & confident / if this Reality were a Dream, if I were asleep, what agonies had I suffered! what screams! -- When the Reason & the Will are away, what remain to us but Darkness & Dimness & a bewildering Shame, and Pain that is utterly Lord over us, or fantastic Pleasure, that draws the Soul along swimming through the air in many shapes, even as a Flight of Starlings in a Wind. -- I arose, & looking down saw at the bottom a heap of Stones -- which had fallen abroad -- and rendered the narrow Ledge on which they had been piled, doubly dangerous / at the bottom of the third Rock that I dropt from, I met a dead Sheep quite rotten -- This heap of Stones, I guessed, & have since found that I guessed aright, had been piled up by the Shepherd to enable him to climb up & free the poor creature whom he had observed to be crag-fast -- but seeing nothing but rock over rock, he had desisted & gone for help -- & in the mean time the poor creature had fallen down & killed itself. -- As I was looking at these I glanced my eye to my left, & observed that the Rock was rent from top to bottom -- I measured the breadth of the Rent, and found that there was no danger of my being wedged in / so I put my Knap-sack round to my side, & slipped down as between two walls, without any danger or difficulty -- the next Drop brought me down on the Ridge called the How / I hunted out my Besom Stick, which I had flung before me when I first came to the Rocks -- and wisely gave -842- over all thoughts of ascending Doe-Crag -- for now the Clouds were again coming in most tumultuously -- so I began to descend / when I felt an odd sensation across my whole Breast -- not pain nor itching -- & putting my hand on it I found it all bumpy -- and on looking saw the whole of my Breast from my Neck [to my Navel] 1 -- & exactly all that my Kamell-hair Breast-shield covers, filled with great red heat-bumps, so thick that no hair could lie between them. They still remain / but are evidently less -- & I have no doubt will wholly disappear in a few Days. It was however a startling proof to me of the violent exertions which I had made. -- I descended this low Hill which was all hollow beneath me -- and was like the rough green Quilt of a Bed of waters -- at length two streams burst out & took their way down, one on [one] side a high Ground upon this Ridge, the other on the other -- I took that to my right (having on my left this high Ground, & the other Stream, & beyond that Doe-crag, on the other side of which is Esk Halse, where the headspring of the Esk rises, & running down the Hill & in upon the Vale looks and actually deceived me, as a great Turnpike Road -in which, as in many other respects the Head of Eskdale much resembles Langdale) & soon the channel sank all at once, at least 40 yards, & formed a magnificent Waterfall -- and close under this a succession of Waterfalls 7 in number, the third of which is nearly as high as the first. When I had almost reached the bottom of the Hill, I stood so as to command the whole 8 Waterfalls, with the great triangle-Crag looking in above them, & on the one side of them the enormous & more than perpendicular Precipices & Bull'sBrows, of Sca' Fell! And now the Thunder-Storm was coming on, again & again! -- Just at the bottom of the Hill I saw on before me in the Vale, lying just above the River on the side of a Hill, one, two, three, four Objects, I could not distinguish whether Peathovels, or hovel-shaped Stones -- I thought in my mind, that 8 of them would turn out to be stones -- but that the fourth was certainly a Hovel. I went on toward them, crossing & recrossing the Becks & the River & found that they were all huge Stones -- the one nearest the Beek which I had determined to be really a Hovel, retained it's likeness when I was close beside / in size it is nearly equal to the famous Bowder stone, but in every other respect greatly superior to it -- it has a complete Roof, & that perfectly thatched with weeds, & Heath, & Mountain-Ash Bushes -- I now was obliged to ascend again, as the River ran greatly to the Left, & the Vale was nothing more than the Channel of the River, all the rest of the interspace between the mountains was a tossing up & down of Hills of all sizes -- and the place at which I am now ____________________ 1 Words in brackets inked out in MS. -843- writing is called -- Te-as, & spelt, Toes-- as the Toes of Sca' Fell --. It is not possible that any name can be more descriptive of the Head of Eskdale -- I ascended close under Sca' Fell, & came to a little Village of Sheep-folds / there were 5 together / & the tedding Stuff, & the Shears, & an old Pot, was in the Passage of the first of them. Here I found an imperfect Shelter from a Thunder-shower -- accompanied with such Echoes! O God! what thoughts were mine! O how I wished for Health & Strength that I might wander about for a Month together, in the stormiest month of the year, among these Places, so lonely & savage & full of sounds! After 1 the Thunder-storm I shouted out all your names in the Sheep-fold -- when Echo came upon Echo/ and then Hartley & Derwent & then I laughed & shouted Joanna 2 / It leaves all the Echoes I ever heard far far behind, in number, distinctness & humanness of Voice -- & then not to forget an old Friend I made them all say Dr. Dodd 3 &c. -- After the Storm I passed on & came to a great Peat-road, that wound down a hill, called Maddock How, & now came out upon the first cultivated Land which begins with a Bridge that goes over a Stream, a Waterfall of considerable height & beautifully wooded above you, & a great water-slope under you / the Gill down which it falls, is called Scale Gill -- & the Fall Scale Gill Force. (The word Scale & Scales is common in this Country -- & is said by. . . 4 to be derived from the Saxon Sceala; the wattling of Sheep -- but judging from the places themselves, Scale Force & this Scale Gill Force -- I think it as probable that it is derived from Scalle -- which signifies a deafening Noise.) Well, I passed thro' some sweet pretty Fields, & came to a large Farm-house where I am now writing / The place is called Toes or Te as -- the master's name John Vicars Towers -- they received me hospitably / I drank Tea here & they begged me to pass the Night -- which I did & supped of some excellent Salmonlings, which Towers had brought from Ravenglass whither he had been, as holding under the Earl of Egremont, & obliged 'to ride the Fair' -- a custom introduced during the times of Insecurity & piratical Incursion for the Protection of Ravenglass Fair. They were a fine Family -- and a Girl who did not look more than 12 years old, but was nearly 15, was very beautiful -- with hair like vine-tendrils -- . She had been long ____________________ 1 This paragraph, which forms the conclusion of this letter in the Sara Hutchinson journal, has been transferred to keep the events of the tour in chronological order. 2 cf. Wordsworth poem, To Joanna. 3 A reference to Dr. William Dodd, the forger. 4 Name omitted in MS. -844- ill -- & was a sickly child -- [']Ah poor Bairn! (said the Mother) worse luck for her / she looks like a Quality Bairn, as you may say.' This man's Ancestors have been time out of mind in the Vale / and here I found that the common Names, Towers, & Tozers are the same -- / er signifies 'upon' -- as Mite-er-dale the Dale upon the River Mite / Donnerdale -- a contraction of Duddon-er-dale the Dale upon the River Duddon -- So Towers, pronounced in the Vale Te-ars -- & Tozers is [are] those who live on the Toes -- i.e. upon the Knobby feet of the Mountain / Mr. Tears has mended my pen. -This morning after breakfast I went out with him, & passed up the Vale again due East, along a higher Road, over a heathy upland, crossed the upper part of Scale Gill, came out upon Maddock How, & then ascending turned directly Northward, into the Heart of the mountains; on my left the wild Crags under which flows the Scale Gill Beck, the most remarkable of them called Cat Crag (a wild Cat being killed there) & on my right hand six great Crags, which appeared in the mist all in a file -- and they were all, tho' of different sizes, yet the same shape all triangles -- . Other Crags far above them, higher up the Vale, appeared & disappeared as the mists passed & came / one with a waterfall, called Spout Crag -and another most tremendous one, called Earn [Heron] Crag -- I passed on, a little way, till I came close under a huge Crag, called Buck Crag -- & immediately under this is Four-foot Stone -- having on it the clear marks of four foot-steps. The Stone is in it's whole breadth just 86 inches, (I measured it exactly) but the part that contains the marks is raised above the other part, & is just 20 1/2 Inches. The length of the Stone is 32 1/2 Inches. The first foot-mark is an Ox's foot -- nothing can be conceived more exact -- this is 5 3/4 Inches wide -- the second is a Boy's shoe in the Snow, 94 Inches in length / this too is the very Thing itself, the Heel, the bend of the Foot, &c. -- the third is the Foot-step to the very Life of a Mastiff Dog -- and the fourth is Derwent's very own first little Shoe, 4 Inches in length & O! it is the sweetest Baby shoe that ever was seen. -- The wie-foot in Borrowdale is contemptible; but this really does work upon my imagination very powerfully / & I will try to construct a Tale upon it / the place too is so very, very wild. I delighted the Shepherd by my admiration / & the four foot Stone is my own Christening, & Towers undertakes it shall hereafter go by that name for hitherto it has been nameless. -- And so I returned & have found a Pedlar here of an interesting Physiognomy -- & here I must leave off -- for Dinner is ready 1 ----- ____________________ 1 Sara Hutchinson's transcript breaks off with Friday, 6 Aug. On 10 Aug. (Letter 458), after his return to Keswick, Coleridge wrote to Sara that he had not yet finished this 'Great-sheet' letter. Probably he never did so, for shortly -845-