William Wordsworth and Richard Holmes

I introduced Simon Armitage and his record of walking the Pennine Way delivering poetry readings each night to locals, in his book Walking Home, in an earlier posting Walking Home-the Pennine Way.   Walking is so interesting but then so is reading.  So now that I have finished reading Armitage’s book, I want to share a couple of pieces of information previously unknown to me:

“Wordsworth was the poet-walker par excellence. “Writing about Wordsworth’s legs, his friend Thomas de Quincy once remarked ‘undoubtedly they had been serviceable legs beyond the average standard of human requisition; for I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth must have traversed a distance of 175 to 185,000 English miles.’… Even in later life. A five-mile round trip to the hardware store or a twenty-mile perambulation was hardly a rare occurrence, but these distances should be viewed as a gradual slowing down considering the marathons of his youth, most notably in 1790 when instead of revising for his exams at Cambridge he went walkabout in the French Alps  with his friend Robert Jones. They covered three hundred miles in two weeks …”

Armitage also refers to Richard Holmes who as an eighteen year old produced a new form of travel writing.  Apparently he donned a felt hat and walked in “the footsteps and hoofprints of Robert Louis Stevenson and his troublesome donkey from Le Monastier to St Jean-du-Gard in 1878, a walk of 220 kilometres through the ‘French Highlands’, which Stevenson completed in under a fortnight.”

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