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Memoirs and Biography

Letters, Papers and Journals of William Pearson


Winner of the 2006 Cumbria Tourist Board Lakeland Book of the Year award for biographies and autobiographies.

About this book:

  • ISBN: 190 452 4311 (paperback)

  • Published 2005

  • Price £25.00

  • 524 pages

  • Illustrated with original line drawings

About the Book:

THIS book has been out of print for nearly 150 years. It was a rare book, even when first published, as it is believed that only 50 copies were printed. This facsimilie edition is a memoir by Anne Pearson and an important collection of letters and articles by her husband, William Pearson of Borderside, a well known Westmorland man, who was buried at Crosthwaite Church.
William Pearson was a friend of the Wordsworths and the book includes letters to the family at Rydal Mount. There are many letters to his poverty stricken friend T. Smith of Gorton which give an insight into the lives which Mrs Gaskell later brought to the notice of a wider public.
The second half of the book includes articles by William Pearson on a wide variety of subjects from local flora and fauna to Game Laws and politics. These are of great interest, especially to local historians, who will be fascinated by this book, which was edited and published by his wife Anne after his death.


Jennifer Forsyth has produced this illustrated facsimile of the compilation published by Anne Pearson, William's widow, in 1863. The original volume (only fifty copies), printed by the Victoria Press in London, was privately circulated. It is now rare (a recent example at auction brought £800) and Hayloft Publishing has done us a favour in making it more widely available...
The young Pearson revelled in exploring the world of books ('necessaries of life'), joining a subscription library, subscribing to a News-room, exchanging books and newspapers with friends...
Pearson was a native of Crosthwaite and Lyth, Westmorland. His early search for a career took him into teaching (Winster school), the grocery business (Simpson & Harrison, Kendal) and commercial banking (Manchester, which poor health forced him to exchange for his native area after 17 years). He lived to the age of 76, dying in 1856.
The opening Memoir (180pp.) presents Anne Pearson's narrative linking letters by and to William. Those involving their friends the Wordsworths are of special interest, as are those of T. Smith, a Gorton silk weaver whose letters tell at first hand of the harrowing experience of having little or no work. Pearson proved to be a staunch friend.
The second section of the book (numbered independently from the first) offers a collection of Pearson's observations and opinions linked with his life as a country landowner (not always very prosperous), and his visits to Derbyshire and Scotland.
From the book as a whole, readers learn about such a diversity of topic: the carefully observed wildlife of Pearson's native area (Pearson was a keen member of the Kendal Natural History Society); contemporary political measures such as the Game Laws, and their effects; Wordsworth's Protestantism; alterations to routes of tracks and roads in the south lakeland area, and the expansion of Bowness; vernacular architecture (1849: his new house, Borderside, 'stands unclothed by roughcast; it exhibits, also, a goodly set of chimneys, with pretty round tops, on square pedestals - the only specimen yet in Crosthwaite of the revived, good, old fashion'); visits to historic sites, including Bampton, Mayburgh, and the Roman Wall; superstitions in Westmorland. 'Dull would he be of soul' indeed who could find but little of interest in this valuable reprint.

Margaret Edwards, Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society.






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