Index  Dorothy Wordsworth

Tour in Scotland

The noises of the city were blended in one loud buzz

Glorious impressions of city landscape

We walked industriously through the streets, street after street, and, in spite of wet and dirt, were exceedingly delighted. The old town, with its irregular houses, stage above stage, seen as we saw it, in the obscurity of a rainy day, hardly resembles the work of men, it is more like a piling up of rocks, and I cannot attempt to describe what we saw so imperfectly, but must say that, high as my expectations had been raised, the city of Edinburgh far surpassed all expectation.

Dorothy and William went primarily to Scotland for the magic of the Highlands, for the mountains, the lakes and the people who struggled to make a living on the barren slopes. The towns and cities they visited only to find a bed for the night. They usually left immediately the next morning. Yet Dorothy's account of their stay in Lanark and Edinburgh shows that they were not only receptive to impressive natural landscape. In the city too, they encountered scenes that were just as 'glorious' as the images of nature.

Evening sun in Lanark
The Wordsworths paid a visit to Lanark because they wanted to see the nearby waterfalls in the River Clyde, the Falls of Clyde. Dorothy had been to France with William before, and when they entered the market town, she immediately thought she saw a likeness with the towns there.

The town showed a sort of French face, and would have done much more, had it not been for the true British tinge of coal-smoke; the doors and windows dirty, the shops dull, the women too seemed to be very dirty in their dress. The town itself is not ugly; the houses are of grey stone, the streets not very narrow, and the market-place decent. 

In the evening after dinner at the New Inn, Dorothy took another walk around town. There she was struck by a special effect of the light from the setting sun.

The evening sun was now sending a glorious light through the street, which ran from west to east; the houses were of a fire red, and the faces of the people as they walked westward were almost like a blacksmith when he is at work by night. 

Black smoke over Edinburgh
In Edinburgh it was not the evening sun, but a cloud of black smoke mixed with rain and fog that made a deep impression and gave the city an unreal, almost otherworldly appearance.

This morning it was downright dismal: very dark, and promising nothing but a wet day, and before breakfast was over the rain began, though not heavily. We set out upon our walk, and went through many streets to Holyrood House, and thence to the hill called Arthur's Seat, a high hill, very rocky at the top, and below covered with smooth turf, on which sheep were feeding. We climbed up till we came to St. Anthony's Well and Chapel, as it is called, but it is more like a hermitage than a chapel, - a small ruin, which from its situation is exceedingly interesting, though in itself not remarkable. We sate down on a stone not far from the chapel, overlooking a pastoral hollow as wild and solitary as any in the heart of the Highland mountains: there, instead of the roaring of torrents, we listened to the noises of the city, which were blended in one loud indistinct buzz, - a regular sound in the air, which in certain moods of feeling, and at certain times, might have a more tranquilising effect upon the mind than those which we are accustomed to hear in such places. The Castle rock looked exceedingly large through the misty air: a cloud of black smoke overhung the city, which combined with the rain and mist to conceal the shapes of the houses, - an obscurity which added much to the grandeur of the sound that proceeded from it. It was impossible to think of anything that was little or mean, the goings-on of trade, the strife of men, or every-day city business: - the impression was one, and it was visionary; like the conceptions of our childhood of Bagdad or Balsora when we have been reading the Arabian Nights' Entertainments.