The Great Lakes Poets
World famous for its stunning landscapes, rugged fells and beautiful lakes, it is little wonder the Lake District, Cumbria inspired some of England’s most famous poets to write some of their best works.
William Wordsworth, the Lake District´s best known son, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge penned some of their most famous works while living in the Lakes at the end of the 18th Century.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge had already written ´The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner´ and ´Kubla Khan´ by the time he was persuaded by Wordsworth to move to the Lake District.
Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School, along with brother. The school is still open to the public, and the poet´s initials can be seen carved on his original desk. Wordsworth went on to complete his education at Cambridge University, before travelling widely with Coleridge who became a great friend of the poet.
Both poets decided to return to the Lake District to live, and found great inspiration from the countryside, and the landscapes to write some of their most famous poems.
Wordsworth was much more political than many people realised, and he had firm ideas about the conservation of the Lake District and of the damage a direct rail link to Windermere may bring to his beloved home. He feared that mass tourism would change the Lakes forever and his romantic poetry was an answer to the industrial revolution.
He campaigned to keep the railways from destroying the region, and much of his poetry reflected his love for the Lakes. His best known poem is ´Daffodils´ – often referred to as ´I wandered Lonely as a Cloud´ which he was inspired to write while out walking with his sister, Dorothy in Ullswater.
Wordsworth turned down the position of Poet Laureate several times as he did not want to write to order, but eventually accepted the post when he was in his seventies. The poet stuck to his principles however, and never wrote a piece of official poetry. Wordsworth died in 1850, aged 80.
Coleridge´s life went from bad to worse in the Lake District after his marriage failed and he turned to opium. He left the area in 1803 and never fully recovered. He had co-written ´Lyrical Ballads´ during his time in the Lakes, but Coleridge suffered from mental health problems later in life associated with his opium use.
Robert Southey was the brother-in-law of Coleridge and a well-known poet in his own right. He was Poet Laureate from 1813 until his death in 1843 when Wordsworth took the post. Southey was very close to Coleridge´s children, and he wrote the children´s story, ´The Three Bears´ for them.
Wordsworth´s house, Dove Cottage is still open to the public in Grasmere, and is now a museum, which celebrates the lives of the Lakeland poets. Visitors can see manuscripts by Matthew Arnold and Thomas de Quincey who later lived in the cottage. Quincey was famous for his ´Confessions of an English Opium Eater´ which is ironic, as he later succumbed to this addiction.
The inspiration for many of Beatrix Potter´s tales, Hill Top Farm is the 17th Century farmhouse where the author bought in 1905. It was initially used as a holiday home and later a permanent residence. Many of her ´treasures´ are still on display, and Hill Top Farm was the model for Samuel Whiskers illustrations and many others included in her books.
If you are planning to explore the Lake District and walk in the footsteps of the region´s former famous poets and writers, check out the incredible choice of romantic cottages and spa hotels in Windermere.