“The wide expanse of the White Peak, with its grey outcrops and vestiges of mining spoils lead us to deep valleys and caves that have prospered and inspired over the centuries. The scenic Derwent Dale contrasts with the shadows of the industrial revolution.”
The writers on the Caves and Down Under route:
With abbreviated extracts from The Literary Way, written by Terry Goble and published by The Creative Peak
Whenever anyone goes into a bookshop there is always a section labelled, Classic Writers. Many of the authors that are found under the classic heading have enduring qualities that have lasted the test of time. Five names in this chapter can be found on those elite shelves. We start with a man who had a most amazing life and literary output at the end of the end of the seventeenth century and the first two decades of the eighteenth century. He farmed cats, became bankrupt, but wrote a novel that is still widely read today and that has been a favourite in schools for many years. We will let his eloquence describe a journey, which he made throughout the country. It has been hinted that its purpose was as much as a spy as for the gentleman’s pleasure.
The early twentieth century brings us an enigmatic writer who caused controversy both in his books and his private life. Like so many of the writers we have come across he was poor and, at times, found it difficult to make ends meet. He lived for a short period just near The Literary Way and one of his short stories is based on our route. This walk also has a touch of the international about it, first with connections to Australia and then with a visiting American writer. He took a diplomatic post in England and we garner knowledge through his journals, which recorded his visits to different parts of the country.
We finish this walk with writers that were very closely linked. Scratched words on a window pane would, for most of us, constitute graffiti, but in this case, it is a memento of one of England’s leading poets. The wife of his great friend, wrote a novel in the early nineteenth century when she was about twenty years-old. It is on all of the classic bookshelves and to give an indication of its gripping nature it has formed the basis of seventy-eight films. Writers are often associated with hotels and in this chapter we have more than one, who either stayed on our route, or used it for a location in a literary work.
The countryside in this chapter is very varied. We start on the rolling landscape of the White Peak, with attention paid to the dolomitic crags and scars that rise from the more gentle carbon rich limestone. The area, particularly around Brassington, was mined for lead for many centuries. We will cross the grassed waste heaps from those intense manual workings. We climb to one of the highest points locally, before descending into the narrow ravine of the Derwent Valley.
The rolling countryside of the White Peak became most evident on our walk from Bradbourne to Brassington. The dry stones walls, often with eccentric lines, framed the coarse grass of the sheep fields, with scattered trees dotted along their edges. The White Peak gradually becomes more undulating and, just to the north of Brassington, we cross the High Peak Trail, which is another of the disused railway tracks that has been converted to a footpath and bridleway. In front of us, small spikey crags rise from grassy mounds. These are called Harboro Rocks and are made of the more resistant dolomitic limestone. There is a cave in these rocks, which has a notable place in literary history. For the information we must turn to a famous English author, but the location is not in one of his novels. Let’s look at this man who was not only a novelist, but a spy, and was reputed to be one of the first true journalists.
One of the most easiest recognised titles in English literature, and one that has been read in school by many people, is Robinson Crusoe. The author Daniel Defoe is equally well-known. However, I think it will surprise many to realise just how long ago Daniel lived. He was born in London in about 1660, which puts him there as a child during the Great Plague and Fire of London. As with so many of the other writers he had an amazing output, as he wrote more than five hundred publications including books, pamphlets and journals. He finished up in jail on more than one occasion and also had to contend with a large family and lack of money. One of his most noted works, after his novels, is A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, which he produced between 1724 and 1727. Its strength, and usefulness in history, is that it provides a view of Britain just as the industrial revolution was about to start. We will soon go on The Literary Way to one of the most famous sites in the world for the industrial revolution, but for now let us return to Daniel Defoe. He wrote little before the age of thirty-five as he tried his hand at a variety of businesses, none of which turned out to be successful. At one time he was a hosier and later was very heavily involved in brick making as a pantile merchant, near Tilbury on the Thames. One of his more unusual commercial attempts came when he kept a civet cat farm. Even today civet cats are known for their musk, which forms the stable part of perfume. However, Daniel’s attempts at business came to a head when he was made bankrupt and for a short time he was put in jail.
In A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain Daniel and his companions followed the directions to near Brassington and arrive at Harboro Rocks.
'When we came close up we saw a small opening in the rock, the noise we made brought a women out with a child in her arms and another at her foot.'
A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain - Daniel Defoe
In a cave just to the west of the main path through through Harboro Rocks Daniel Defoe found a family living there, which was very unusual at the time. He then went on to find a lead miner who worked nearby rakes. But
Harboro rocks, and Daniel Defoe will not detain us any longer and as we cross to the far side of this outcrop, we can see a small settlement perched on the opposite hill. In between us and that hamlet is a deep wooded valley, called the Via Gellia.
We are nearing the end of our transverse of the White Peak, but before we do, we shall visit this hamlet on the facing hill, which even in the modern day, gives a good appearance of being isolated. Let us introduce one of the early twentiethth century’s most controversial authors. D H Lawrence was born in 1885 at Eastwood, near Nottingham. He was the son of a local miner and his mother came from the Derbyshire town of Wirksworth, which is a few miles from where we are now. David Herbert Lawrence died, aged forty-five, in 1930. It wasn’t only David’s books, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, that caused controversy. He became the centre of attention and ostracism when he eloped with the wife, Frieda, of one of the German professors at the University of Nottingham. This was just before the First World War and they moved to Cornwall. But because of her German accent, they were treated as though they were spies and eventually forced to leave. No doubt they would have been treated even worse, if the local people had known that her family name was von Ricthofen. Frieda was a relative the famous German flying ace, the Red Baron. With nowhere to go after their treatment in Cornwall they returned to Derbyshire and settled in a cottage near the hamlet of Ible.
David wrote twelve novels between 1911 and 1928 with the last being Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which for many years, was not widely published, and at one time was banned under the obscenity laws. He also wrote a considerable amount of poetry and short stories. In his latter life, he transferred his interests to painting. Mountain Cottage, where he lived for a short while, is just off the Via Gellia. Not far along the other side of the dale is the road that leads to Ible. His short story that is set here both in Ible, and at Mountain Cottage, and is called, The Wintry Peacock.
The man in the story is stopped by a young women living on a farm and asked to translate a letter. The man soon works out the letter is to her husband from his mistress in Belgium, and so he misrelates the story to try to ease her pain. As their conversation develops, a peacock comes up to the woman and she strokes it. A few days later, during a period of heavy snow the man finds the peacock, cold and wet, near his cottage. He knew it was the one who was treated as a pet by the young wife. He tends for it overnight and carries it back the next day. The story closes after the man meets the errant husband and explains about his letter translation.
Let’s move with D H Lawrence to the other side of the world. He and Frieda visited Australia in 1922. As a result, Lawrence wrote a novel called Kangaroo. It was published in 1923. It is of interest to us for two reasons. First, it was semi-autobiographical, as the two leading characters, Richard Somers and his German wife Harriet, correspond very closely to David and Frieda. One section of the book describes their time in Cornwall during the Great War, which mimics David and Frieda’s stay in that county. The second reason of interest in the book contains references to Nat Gould, who we introduced in Bradbourne.
In Kangaroo Richard and Harriet have gone into a local library to borrow books.
‘Y’aven’t got a new Zaine Greye, have yer?” She spoke in these tones of unmitigated intimacy to the white–moustached librarian. One would have thought he was her dear old dad. Then came a young railway man who had heard there was a new Nat Gould.
‘But,’ said Somers, as he and Harriet went off with a Mary E. Mann and a George A. Birmingham, “I don’t wonder they can’t read English books, or only want Nat Gould. All the scruples and the emotions and the regrets in English novels do seem waste of time out here.’
Kangaroo - D H Lawrence
It is interesting to speculate that as D H Lawrence lived near Ible in 1918, which is very close to when, in 1919, Nat Gould died and was buried in a village a few miles away. We wonder from the description in Kangaroo whether Lawrence realised that Nat Gould was English and that he was buried in a nearby village close to the time they were in the locality.
The steady incline across the grassy lead mine wastes brings us to the village of Bonsall, with its stepped market cross, picturesque church, and quaint pubs. After which the upward progress continues and we enter the woodland that embraces the top of the hill. As we descend the other side of Masson Hill, we reach the road and it is only a few steps to an entrance to The Heights of Abraham. Within this leisure park there are two caverns, which are open to the public as well as a cable car to journey to the valley floor, for now we are on the upper slopes of the Derwent Valley. So it time to go underground again. But let us do so with one of the best known of the American writers.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Massachusetts in 1804. His dark romanticism writings are portrayed through a representation of evil and temptation within the backdrop of Puritan New England. Nathaniel was best known as a short story writer, but he also wrote eight novels of which The Scarlett Letter is the most well known. He only moved into non-fiction once, and that was to write a biography of his friend, Franklin Pierce. In 1853, following the election of his friend as President of the United States of America, Nathaniel was rewarded with the post of American Consul in Liverpool, England. It was near the end of his period of service of four years in the role, that he undertook a tour of England, which brought him to Matlock Bath. His tour journals were not written with a view to publication, and therefore he is quite open and honest in this opinion. He was a very shy man and requested his friends not to write his biography even after his death.
The village of Matlock is situated on the banks of the Derwent, in a delightful little nook among the hills, which rise above it in steeps, and in precipitous crags, and shut out the world so effectually that I wonder how the railway ever found it out.
Passages from English Notebooks – Nathaniel Hawthorne
The whole area has many natural caves and many more mines. Often the caves have been used as entrances to the lead mines. The number of caves open to the public has varied considerably over the years. Part of the popularity in the nineteenth century can be ascribed to visits by Victoria, first, when she was a princess and then as the Queen. She went down the Cumberland Cavern, which is now no longer accessible, but was on the present site of the small children’s amusement park of Gulliver’s Kingdom.
The caves of Matlock Bath provide an intriguing link with a book that most would not associate with the area. Before we deal with the book we want to explain a little about the author and her back ground, which is really quite intriguing and full of literary connections. When we were in Mayfield, near Ashbourne, we stated that Tom Moore wrote the biography of Lord Bryon, with the help of Mary Shelley. It is now that we want to focus on Mary, who was born in 1797. She was named Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and was the daughter of the radical thinkers, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Let us take William first. He was very actively involved in politics. Mary Wollstonecraft was attracted to the meetings. She was very much a radical woman and would go on to write a book, that is seen as a singularly important milestone in the history of women’s liberation, The Vindication of the Rights of Women, which was published in 1792. It is easy to imagine at that time it created a great deal of controversy.
Mary was a woman given to passion in her relationships. Her first love was Henry Fuseli, who painted The Apotheosis Of Penelope Boothby, who was the five year daughter of Brooke Boothby, that so tragically died. Mary Wollstonecraft’s second lover was Gilbert Imlay. It was a tempestuous affair that produced a daughter but no marriage. It would cause social rejection for Mary, in later times, when it became widely known that they had never married. When Imlay deserted her, she tried twice to commit suicide. For the second attempt she walked in the rain, until her clothes were sodden and then turned and stepped directly into the River Thames. However, she has been spotted and a passer-by pulled her from the river. George Eliot came to know of this suicide attempt and included it in her last novel, Daniel Deronda.
So it is with this parental background that daughter Mary was born into the household of Mary and William Godwin. But tragedy would strike as Mary’s mother would die within ten days, because of complications with the birth. William carried on with his radical ideas and this would bring Percy Bysshe Shelley, who harboured similar political leanings, into contact with Godwin. By the age of seventeen daughter Mary and Percy were infatuated with each other. However, Percy was married, but in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy’s first wife, they married.
By this time William Godwin has remarried and Mary now had a half-sister with whom she got on well, called Claire Clairmont. As part of their first year of marriage Mary and Percy spent time in Switzerland with Claire and Lord Byron, who was a friend of Percy. Byron was already having an affair with Claire and this continued whilst they were in Switzerland, much to the chagrin of Percy and Mary. The liaison finally resulted in the birth of Allegra, who Lord Byron took with him to Italy and placed her with the nuns for her upbringing, and in the process treated Claire very badly. Little Allegra died as a young girl, and the treatment of her and her mother by Byron caused rifts with Percy and Mary.
But we get ahead of ourselves, so let us return to the foursome holiday in Switzerland. It was during this period and at the age of nineteen, that Mary Shelley would conceive the idea for her most famous novel, Frankenstein. The book was published anonymously, as was common for women writers, when Mary Shelley was twenty years old. The preface was written by her husband Percy and the dedication was to her father William Godwin. The introduction also shows the links, and her understanding, with some of the writings of Erasmus Darwin. So how is the book mainly set in Switzerland linked with Matlock? As the story develops so there is a frantic sinister journey to escape as far away as possible from past evil deeds. In hoping to avoid pursuit, the characters travel to England and stayed a short time in Matlock.
The hotels in Matlock Bath have changed since their zenith in the nineteenth century. The largest at the time was the Old Bath Hotel and so let’s start with a writer who was born at there. It is common in the area for hotel names to change, and they often took on the name of its owner, and so the Old Bath, became Cumming’s Hotel for a period. It was here in 1812 that Joseph Cumming was born. He went to Cambridge, and after taking his masters degree, he also, in 1835, took holy orders. A few years later, he moved his home in order to take up a teaching post. It would be this location that would stimulate his interest, and produce as a result, most of his life’s publications. He had settled in the Isle of Man and went on to produce nine major archaeological and geological works about the island. Joseph returned to England, taking first professorial posts, and finally finishing as a clergyman at Bethnal Green in London, which is where he died aged fifty-six.
The current Temple Hotel, was originally part of the Old Bath Hotel. A particular window in this establishment has been made famous. It is the graffiti of the lines of a poem etched into the window in the dining room by Lord Byron, who was a frequent visitor to Matlock Bath. He came to this spa in the attempt to court his first love, Mary Chaworth. Byron had a physical deformity to his foot that prevented him dancing as he would have liked. In the dances of the evening at Matlock, Miss Chaworth, of course, joined, while her lover sat looking on, solitary and mortified.
By this time Byron was convinced he was in love with Mary Chaworth, the first realisation of which happened down a cave, but not one in Matlock Bath. We shall have to wait to later on The Literary Way to discover where. He was only fifteen at the time and Mary was two years older and never really took any interest in him. It could have been just their respective ages as to why she wished to avoid him, but there had been an incident in the history of their families that could have coloured her mind. Mary Chaworth came from an old established family on the Annesley estate in Nottingham, which is very near to the ancestral home of the Lord Byron. The poet Lord Byron was the sixth in line of the noble family. He inherited the title, when he was ten, from his uncle the fifth Lord Byron. Some years before the fifth Lord Byron had killed his cousin and neighbour, William Chaworth, in a duel. When the future poet inherited the Newstead Abbey the sword that had killed William Chaworth was still hung on the wall.
But before we leave the vicinity of what was the Old Bath Hotel let us look at part of the opening chapter of an 1844 book entitled Chatsworth or The Romance of the Week. It is a series of stories told by people in Chatsworth, but our interest lies in the narrator’s description of the journey from London to Chatsworth, which is a few miles further up the Derwent Valley. Peter George Patmore, or as he was usually known, P.G. Patmore was a periodical journalist based in London and mainly specialised in articles about old masters and various other paintings. However, let’s look at the title page of Chatsworth for it does not give an author’s name, Chatsworth or The Romance of the Week, edited by the author of Tremaine, De Vere etc
If we let our minds drift back to Okeover Hall on the River Dove where Robert Plumer Ward lived there. We said that he wrote De Vere. So how do we sort out this confusion of anonymous books. For P.G. Patmore the writing of articles was not his only work. For the publisher Henry Colburn, Peter was also an editor and especially helped new writers to get their work up to publishable standards. Robert Plumer Ward was one such author, who he helped and in the end they became good friends. Robert wished to remain anonymous and while this continued, the literary scene in London detected the style of Peter and assigned him as the author of de Vere. The book, Chatsworth or The Romance of the Week came from the same publishing stable and so the owner was happy to go along attribution.
The Half Sisters was written by Geraldine Jewsbury in 1848. While we were in Dovedale, we became familiar with the poems of Eliza Cook, who adored the actress, Charlotte Cushman. In Geraldine Jewsbury, Charlotte found another great devotee. Geraldine followed the trend among the circle of the actress friends and often dressed in man’s clothes. However, there did develop a clear rivalry between Geraldine and Eliza Cook for Charlotte’s attention. The Half Sisters was published very close to the release of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, but the approach was subtlety different. In The Half Sisters Geraldine explored women’s role in society from two different perspectives. One of the half-sisters was the wife of a wealthy industrialist and lived in a substantial mansion, while the other came from the much lower perceived status of the acting profession. Not only did Geraldine base the actress in the story, called Bianca, on Charlotte Cushman, but the name she chose was the first major role Charlotte played in England. The other sister in the story was called Alice, and it was she that appeared in the scene set at Saxton’s Hotel in Matlock, which is the former name of the New Matlock Bath hotel.
Geraldine wrote six novels for adults and two for children and her writing skills were greatly admired. She also worked in the publishing business and rejected a writer that we shall shortly come across further down the valley. Despite the rejection the author went on to become extremely successful and produced ten times more novels than Geraldine.
The infatuation of Geraldine with Charlotte nearly led to a rift between Geraldine and her best friend Jane Carlyle, but despite some sharp rebukes, the friendship survived for Jane’s lifetime.
…....Geraldine by the way is all in a blaze of enthusiasm about Miss Cushman the actress – with whom she has sworn everlasting friendship at Manchester.... Ever since her letters have been filled with lyrics about this woman – till I could stand it no longer – and I have written her such a screed of my mind as she never got before – and which will probably terminate our correspondence – at least until the finale of her friendship with Miss Cushman
To her sister Jeannie Welsh – Jane Carlyle
Geraldine never married and was distraught after Jane died. In the introduction to The Half Sisters, the dedication is to Jane. A great deal of information of this period of history is learned from the letters of Jane and her husband Thomas Carlyle, who was a leading Victorian intellectual and essayist. He not only wrote a great deal of social commentary, but he also had a deep interest and knowledge in German philosophical idealism especially the work of Fichte. Jane and Thomas’s letters totalled over three thousand and there were a large number to and about Geraldine Jewsbury.
Thomas Carlyle visited Matlock Bath. Our walk from The Temple Hotel to the New Bath goes along Temple Terrace and it was here, in 1847, that Thomas Carlyle stayed and wrote to his brother, John.
The three Hotels are all fine airy houses, seemingly the best in the place; and Matlock is not Malvern for noise, but a comparatively very quiet place, tenanted by invalids, manufacturing ennuyés, and people generally who make no great din. However we did get private lodgings; moderately successfully, and without any difficulty
To his brother, John - Thomas Carlyle
From the New Bath Hotel it is a short journey down to the main road to find a large five storey redbrick building, which has its origins defined on its front in large letters. Richard Arkwright built this mill in 1783 to harness the River Derwent for the water power needed to drive the spinning machines. The original mills, just down the road, were built earlier and we will visit them shortly. The Arkwright mills, along with those at Belpher and Lea, are a World Heritage site as they were key locations in the establishment of the industrial revolution. Erasmus Darwin visited Masson Mill, no doubt as the guest of the Arkwrights, which enabled him to write the following lines in the Love of Plants section of The Botanic Garden.
So now, where Derwent rolls his dusky floods
Through vaulted mountains, and a night of woods,
The nymph, Gossypia, treads the velvet sod,
And warms with rosy smiles the watery god;
His ponderous oars to slender spindles turns,
And pours o’er massy wheels his foamy urns;
With playful charms her hoary lover wins,
And wields his trident, - while the monarch spins.
The Love of Plants – Erasmus Darwin
We follow the main road for a short time and then turn up to Cromford, following an immediate right turn we enter Scarthin with its mill pond for the yet unseen mill.
Caves have formed an important part of this walk and, to which, we add the springs that flourish from those same rocks. The waters started the spa business of the hotels, then we have the basis for many of the literary works of this chapter. We have looked at novels, short stories and travelogues, as well as letters and diary entries. All these literary forms have given us a great insight into the work of some of the leading names of literature. When we return to Daniel Defoe, in The Literary Way, he will be in a much more sceptical mood about Derbyshire.
D H Lawrence has certainly shown his quixotic character. The short tale at Ible, along with his novel Kangaroo, show the complexity of this man whose native county Nottingham is nearby. We have tried to give a tantalising peek at the fascinating, but labyrinthine relationship that surrounding Charlotte Cushman, the poet, Eliza Cook, and the novelist, Geraldine Jewsbury, which has been enriched by them all knowing the Carlyles. Added to these literary strengths, we have the contrasts between the open rolling limestone moors near Taddington, with the precipitous, cave-rich valley of the Derwent. We have ended this part of our journey in Cromford, which grew as a result of the growth of Arkwright's mills, but we will continue with the same industrial period in the next walk, when we visit another part of the world heritage site.