THE BLOG

6 Weeks in the English Lakes #2: A Literary Map

06/17/2013 02:58 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2013
  • Meg Waite Clayton Bestselling Novelist, 'The Race for Paris' and 'The Wednesday Sisters'

If you don't know where the English Lakes are, pull out your trusty map of England and look as far north and west as you can. (Go too far, and you'll end up in Scotland.) To give you an idea of just how beautiful the Lakes are, when Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is invited by her aunt to travel with the idea of going perhaps as far as the Lake District, she "rapturously" cries, "My dear, dear aunt, what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour! Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend!"

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I think the passage may count for the majority of exclamation points in the book. Things take a sad turn for poor Lizzie, though, and she gets no further than Pemberley, in Derbyshire.

But two real-life literary heroes not only made it to the Lake District, but stayed for the rest of their lives. Both lived near Lake Windermere.

The poet Wordsworth's first Lake District home was the very modest Dove Cottage in Grasmere, on a small lake northwest of Windermere. When he became more prosperous, he moved to nearby Rydal Mount, above Rydal Water and a little closer to Ambleside and Windermere.

Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter lived to the west of the lake, first at Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, and after she married, at Castle Cottage there. She regularly crossed on the ferry to visit her parents on the other side of the lake, and she often painted real elements of her neighborhood into the illustrations in her books. Her husband was a solicitor in Hawkeshead, and both Near Sawrey and Hawkeshead remain rich with her art and the things of her life. The photo below is of the tarn on her property, where she and her husband rowed together on summer nights. - Meg

Beatrix Potter's Moss Eccles Tarn in the English Lake District; photo by Meg Waite Clayton