As you advance a mile or more on the road from Ambleside toward Grasmere, a lane over-hung with trees turns up to the right, and there, at some few hundred yards from the highway, stands the modest cottage of the poet, elevated on Rydal Mount, so as to look out over the surrounding sea of foliage, and to take in a glorious view. Before it, at some distance across the valley, stretches a high screen of bold and picturesque mountains; behind, it is overtowered by a precipitous hill, called Nabscar; but to the left, you look down over the broad waters of Windermere, and to the right over the still and more embosomed flood of Grasmere.
Whichever way the poet pleases to advance from his house, it must be into scenery of that beauty of mountain, stream, wood, and lake, which has made Cumberland so famous over all England. He may steal away up backward from his gate and ascend into the solitary hills, or diverging into the grounds of Lady Mary Fleming, his near neighbor, may traverse the deep shades of the woodland, wander along the banks of the rocky rivulet, and finally stand before the well known waterfall there. If he descend into the highway, objects of beauty still present themselves. Cottages and quiet houses here and there glance from their little spots of Paradise, through the richest boughs of trees; Windermere, with its wide expanse of waters, its fairy islands, its noble hills, allures his steps in one direction; while the sweet little lake of Rydal, with its heronry and its fine background of rocks, invites him in an-other.
In this direction the vale of Grasmere, the scene of his early married life, opens before him, and Dunmail-raise and Langdale-pikes lift their naked corky summits, as hailing him to the pleasures of old companionship. Into no quarter of this region of lakes, and mountains, and vales of primitive life, can he penetrate without coming upon ground celebrated by his muse. He is truly “sole king of rocky Cumberland.”
The immediate grounds in which his house stands are worthy of the country and the man. It is, as its name implies, a mount. Before the house opens a considerable platform, and around and beneath lie various terraces and descend various walks, winding on amid a pro-fusion of trees and luxuriant evergreens. Beyond the house, you ascend various terraces, planted with trees now completely overshadowing them ; and these terraces conduct you to a level above the house-top, and extend your view of the enchanting scenery on all sides.
Above yon tower the rocks and precipitous slopes of Nab-scar; and below you, embosomed in its trees, lies the richly ornate villa of Mr. William Ball, a friend, whose family and the poet’s are on such social terms, that a little gate between their premises opens both to each family alike. This cottage and grounds were formerly the property of Charles Lloyd, also a friend, and one of the Bristol and Stowey coterie. Both he and Lovell have been long dead; Lovell, indeed, was drowned, on a voyage to Ireland, in the very heyday of the dreams of Pantisocracy, in which he was an eager participant.
The poet’s house, itself, is a proper poet’s abode. It is at once modest, plain, yet tasteful and elegant. An ordinary dining-room, a breakfast-room in the center, and a library beyond, form the chief apartments. There are a few pictures and busts, especially those of Scott and himself, a good engraving of Burns, and the like, with a good collection of books, few of them very modern.