Romantic poets including William Wordsworth were tough outdoor types

The Rime of the Ancient Mountaineer: Romantic poets including William Wordsworth were tough, outdoor types who climbed to keep fit

  • Author claims romantic poets such as John Keats were tough outdoorsy types 
  • Simon Bainbridge says male poets were ‘very keen to prove their masculinity’
  • Poet William Wordsowth scaled Helvellyn in the Lake District at the age of 70

Romantic poets may be better known for their sensitive souls than sporting prowess.

But a new book says this is wrong and Wordsworth, Keats and Coleridge were tough, outdoorsy types. 

Its author, Simon Bainbridge, professor of romantic studies at Lancaster University, said: ‘The poets were pioneer mountaineers who went to the strain and effort of climbing mountains for the reward it brings them.

‘The starting point is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of Kublai Khan and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Wordsworth (above) scaled Helvellyn, also in the Lake District, at the age of 70 and Keats was one of the first up Ben Nevis in Scotland

‘He makes the first recorded use of the term mountaineer. But it goes beyond that, they were creating a new activity. They were very keen to prove their hardiness, and the male poets are very keen to prove their masculinity.’

The conquest of Scafell Pike by Coleridge, pictured, in 1802 is acknowledged to be Britain’s first recorded rock climb.

Wordsworth scaled Helvellyn, also in the Lake District, at the age of 70 and Keats was one of the first up Ben Nevis in Scotland.

Mountaineering and British Romanticism is published by the Oxford University Press.


The conquest of Scafell Pike by Coleridge, pictured left in his youth, in 1802 is acknowledged to be Britain’s first recorded rock climb. Scafell Pikein the Lake District  is pictured right

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