Martha Preston - Elizabeth Gaskell - ebook
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs Gaskell, was a English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte, published in 1857, was the first biography of the eponymous novelist.

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Martha Preston

by

Elizabeth Gaskell

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“Martha Preston”

Within the last few years I have been twice at the Lakes. There is a road leading to Grasmere, on the least known side of Loughrigg, which presents a singular number of striking and dissimilar views. First of all, on departing from the highway to Langdale, you climb a little hill; and there below you, in a sort of grassy basin on the side of Loughrigg, lies Wordsworth’s favourite Loughrigg tarn; the “Speculum Dianæ,” as he loves to call it; oval, deep, and clear as her mirror should be. Then you pass between two Westmoreland farm-houses, which shut in the road as it were, and make a little home-like scene, with their gables, and stacks of chimneys, and wooden galleries, and numerous out-buildings, festooned with ivy and climbing roses; which latter straggle through the loose stone wall, and scent the air, already so fragrant with the odours of the wayside herbs. Pass these homesteads, and you seem to have left all human habitation behind, - the very fences disappear, as if the moorland and bog were not worth enclosing, until you come to a little glen - a ravine, - a “ghyll,” where linger yet one or two of the ancient trees of Loughrigg forest; and, as if they had suggested the idea of planting, in the lower and more open and genial part of this “ghyll,” there are ninny of the more hardy trees of a much later date, say fifty years old; but they have spread out their branches, and grow unchecked and unpruned, till they form quite a wood, of perhaps half a mile long, on the bleak mountain side, through which the soft grassy road passes on the way to Red Bank: where first you saw Grasmere, lying calm and still, fathoms below you, and reflecting the blue heavens, and purple mountain tops in its glassy surface. But come back with me to the shady wood on Loughrigg side: We passed a stone cottage there in the more open part, where your attention was called off from more immediate objects, by the sunny peep into the valley between Loughrigg and Highclose. You were so absorbed by this glimpse into the bright fertile little dale on the left, with its “meadow green and mountain gray,” that you did not notice the gray, old cottage, just up above the road, in the wood on the right, and yet it was very picturesque; truly “a nest in a green hold,” with yet enough of sun to gild the diamond-paned windows, all through the long afternoon of a summer’s day: and high enough to command a view through that opening in the trees for many a mile. It was large and roomy, though too irregular and low; and if we had peeped over the stone wail, we should have seen a trim little garden, with pleasant flower-borders under the low windows.