Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Wooing of Mrs Walter Scott (NY639679)

To a Lady, with Flowers from a Roman Wall
By Sir Walter Scott

Take these flowers which, purple waving,
On the ruin’d rampart grew,
Where, the sons of freedom braving
Rome's imperial standards flew.

Warriors from the breach of danger
Pluck no longer laurels there;
They but yield the passing stranger
Wild-flower wreaths for Beauty’s hair.

Astride the Northumberland-Cumbria border, where the River Irthing swings down from the north before turning westward, can be found the little town of Gilsland (on the Northumberland side) and Gilsland Spa (on the Cumbrian). Opposite the latter, across the little valley, can be found Wardrew House, now a private residence but once a hotel. During 1797, the famous Scottish novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott, stayed there for a three month break whilst taking the waters of the nearby spa.

Wardrew House
© Copyright Karl and Ali and licensed for reuse 

Inspired by the flora of the district, Scott composed the above piece – his efforts fuelled, too, no doubt by the whirlwind romance he enjoyed during his stay in the area with his future wife, Charlotte Genevieve Charpentier (or Carpenter). Miss Carpenter, an émigré from the French Revolution, was at the same time staying at The Shaws Hotel (which formerly stood on the site of the Gilsland Spa Hotel over the river from Wardrew), and Scott supposedly proposed to the young woman at the famous ‘Popping Stone’ a little upstream from their respective hotels. They were married in December 1797 in Carlisle.

Coincidentally, Scott’s compatriot, Robert Burns, also stayed at Wardrew House a decade before, in 1787. The house was originally built in 1752, but was much modified after a period of dilapidation in the 19th century.

1 comment: