button to main menu  Clarke's Survey of the Lakes, 1787

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Page 96:-
amusement, and with their lines kill ten or twelve pound of fish; which were perhaps a feast to a friend, of use to a family, a refreshment from hard labour, and a Saturday afternoon's diversion for a school-boy.
The Bailiff, like most others, wanting to make something more of his place, or please his lord by encroachments, made some of the freeholders, and others, (tenants at will under the freeholders, who were to keep in repair their landlord's boat and use it,) pay a little; as appeared by the evidence of himself and others: some gave him a day-reaping for what they called boat-gate, some half a day mowing, some a cow-bulling, and one a pennyworth of candle-seeves*; all which payments gave a handle for the counsel.
  Gray's Journal
The Lake contains 1747 acres at low water, and is shallow, (as appears by the soundings) of a soft muddy bottom; where very shallow, it has, like all the others, a grassy bottom. Some of our writers, (West and Hutchinson) describing the transparency of this and Derwent Lake, say they can see small white pebble stones a great depth shining like diamonds. This I deny; but they, in describing and extolling those places, often overdo it, especially West in the last edition. In this he tells us, that he thinks a work of this kind will not do in plain language: I cannot, however, help differing from him, as, in my opinion, plain facts are best told in plain language. I shall here copy a part of his notes on Mr Gray's journal, in the addenda to his (West's) guide to the Lakes, page 197; here he says, that,"Dr Wharton, who had intended to accompany Mr Gray to Keswick, was seized at Brough ‡ with a violent fit of his asthma, which obliged him to return home. This was the reason that Mr Gray undertook to write the following journal of his tour for his friend's amusement: He sent it under different covers; I give it here in continuation. It may not be amiss, however, to hint to the reader, that if he expects to find elaborate and nicely turned periods in his narration, he will be greatly disappointed. When Mr Gray describes places, he aimed only to be exact, clear, and intelligible, to peculiar, not general ideas; and to paint by the eye, not the fancy."
When Mr Gray was exact, clear, and intelligible, I think he would paint to the fancy, better than a pompous phraseology and magnified bombastic account of a country that has not the least need of it: the praises of these counties have, indeed, been so highly spoken of before by the testimony of very ancient authors, and the satisfaction that its numberless visitors meet with, that exaggerations are ridiculous: but to proceed with him a little further; "There have been many accounts of the Westmorland and Cumberland Lakes, both before and since this was written, and all of them better calculated to please readers, who are fond of what they call fine writing. Yet those who can content themselves with an elegant simplicity of narrative, will, I flatter myself, find this to their taste; they will perceive it written with a view, rather to inform than surpize; and if they make it their companion when they take the same tour, it will enhance their opinion of its intrinsic excellence: in this way I tried it myself before I resolved to print it."
Surely never was there such an instance of modesty in an author! Should we, however, annalize this gentleman's book, we may perhaps find that periods are more attended to than sense, and pomp of description than truth; that at sometimes he has omitted the most remarkable objects, and at other times described things and places that never existed, unless in his own fancy.
* Candle-Seeves are rushes, the bark whereof being taken away, except a very little, the country people dip in butter, tallow, or kitchen grease, and light them for candles.
‡ Brough, twenty-two miles from Penrith.
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