William Wordsworth wrote his sonnet "On the Projected Kendal and Windermere Railway" on October 12, 1844. He was 74-years-old and living in his beloved Lake District of England. Wordsworth revered nature and his peaceful home, Dove Cottage. He fiercely objected to the advancement of the railway to the area and wrote a poem, letters, and eventually collected them into a pamphlet. The poem was originally printed in the Carlisle Journal, which can be seen here.
On the Projected Kendal and Windermere Railway
Is there no nook of English ground secure
From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown
In youth, and 'mid the busy world kept pure
As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,
Must perish;‐‐how can they this blight endure?
And must he too the ruthless change bemoan
Who scorns a false utilitarian lure
Mid his paternal fields at random thrown?
Baffle the threat, bright Scene, from Orresthead
Given to the pausing traveller's rapturous glance:
Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance
Of nature; and, if human hearts be dead,
Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong
And constant voice, protest against the wrong.
In one of his letters, Wordsworth responds to the proposal by humbly explaining that members of the working class would not have the capacity to appreciate the “beauty” and “character of seclusion and retirement” that the Lakes District had to offer. He states quite plainly that “a vivid perception of romantic scenery is neither inherent in mankind, nor a necessary consequence of a comprehensive education.”
Keep in mind that Wordsworth is largely responsible for people taking an interest in the Lake District. Much of his poetry focuses on the beauty of the area and he also wrote a guidebook about it. And now he was insulting his readers and the general population. Wordsworth was dismayed people took his letter this way. He wrote to a friend:
“They actually accuse me of desiring to interfere with the innocent enjoyments of the poor, by preventing this district becoming accessible to them by a railway.”
Wordsworth tried to explain himself better in his second letter to The Morning Post with the following:
"The scope pf the main argument, it will be recollected, was to prove that the perception of what has acquired the name of picturesque and romantic scenery is so far from being intuitive, that it can be produced only by a slow and gradual process of culture."
He didn't succeed in correcting people's opinion of his viewpoint, or in stopping the railway.
Another author (after Wordsworth's time), did manage to help preserve the Lake District. Beatrice Potter lived in the area too, and she purchased parcels of land to ward off developers. When she died in 1943, she donated over 4,000 acres to the National Trust. Watch the video below to take in the beauty of the Lake District.
Wordsworth began his guide with: "I know not how to give the reader a distinct image of [the main outlines of the country] more readily, than by requesting him to place himself with me, in imagination, upon some given point; let it be the top of either of the mountains, Great Gavel, or Scawfell; or, rather, let us suppose our station to be a cloud hanging midway between those two mountains."
I was going to attempt my own map of the area based on Wordsworth's time period, but there is already a great one on the Romantics Circle website found here. The map was created using geospatial technologies. Two historical overlays can be viewed. One is the map Wordsworth included in his guide, and the other is Smith's New and Accurate Map of the Lakes in the Counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancaster, printed in 1800. The map at Romantic Circles also contains placemarks mentioned in the guide.