ON CAMBRIAN AND CUMBRIAN HILLS. By Henry S. Salt. London: A. C. Fifield. Pp 128. 3s.0d. net.
Mr. Salt is a writer of distinction, and he is a really good mountain voluptuary; not a climber in the strict sense—that and just a little forcing of the sentiment, sometimes, are his only faults,—but a walker almost of genius. He has discovered the subtle joy of traversing the screes under the Napes on Great Gable, and he finds what is loosely called bad weather on a mountain to be second only in delightfulness to good. Of relative beauty in mountains, too, he is very sound judge, placing Great Gable and Tryfan, we gather, well at the top. There is an old saying that God might perhaps have made a better fruit than the strawberry but that certainly He never did, and the same temperate praise may surely be given to Tryfan and Great Gable. Mr. Salt has, too, a great eye for birds and beasts on a fell; he does not fail to see the ravens which some unauthoritative authorities declare to be extinct in the Lakes, and he has also seen companies of wild goats—the “luxurious mountain goats” of Antient Pistol—in North Wales, goats whose ancestors may have been at some time tame, but who have since returned, in the modern fashion, to the simple life. We almost hesitate to mention the fact, lest the chase of the plein-airiste goat be added to the other “rough shooting” advertised by some Welsh mountain inns. Mr. Salt himself a vegetarian, and a very good thing to be, too, during a hard day’s walking and climbing, though most of us find the carnivorous impulse returning with some violence in the evening and raging uncontrollably at next day’s breakfast. On those who ply the homely, slighted climber’s trade Mr. Salt is a little hard—only a little, for he is the kindest-hearted of men, and would be really glad to think that climbers did not undervalue mountain beauty. In fact they do not; it is partly out of their own delight in it that there has grown their little custom of going rather to the extreme opposite to effusiveness on the subject. This was once lucidly explained by Leslie Stephen. But really Mr. Salt, though not technically a mountaineer, is very little removed from grace; he is like the anima naturaliter Christiana who lacked but the form of baptism, and if he only knew what a good and well-framed additional view of Stickle Tarn is obtainable from the Pavey Ark gullies, and of a midsummer sunset over the Solway Firth from the top of the Doctor’s Chimney of Great Gable, he would be in the font without further hesitation. He ends, or nearly ends, with a proposal for the conversion of the Lake mountains and the Snowdon ranges into national parks, to secure them from such malpractices as have disfigured Snowdon and from the danger of enclosure. The risk of their loss or destruction, as public play-grounds, is really very serious. There is nothing whatever, as far as we know, to keep Great Gable from being covered with bungalows or Tryfan from being disembowelled like Honister Crag if her vitals should be found “payable.” Even if a private person did own Westminster Abbey, vehement public objections would be raised his breaking it up for use as macadam, and it is just as difficult to replace a perfect piece of mountain architecture when the mischief has once been played with it.
The Guardian, 11 May, 1908, 5