From Dystopia to Utopia

Part of the Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories book series (ROPTCH)


Commenting on Salisbury Cathedral in the travelogue A Journey into Cornwall (1799), George Lipscomb, like most other contemporary travel writers, focuses on the spire and especially its ‘astonishing height’.1 The tall spire interests Lipscomb because it has ‘frequently been noticed’ by others, and he reports well known facts that explain how and why others have viewed it before him. He offers two historical examples: ‘Among the extraordinary feats which have been attempted’, he writes,

a story is related here of a man who stood upon the very top of this spire (four hundred feet from the ground) at the time when King Charles the second visited Salisbury, and continued there while he sung a loyal song in the King’s hearing: after he had descended he waited upon his Majesty, requesting the honor of Knighthood as a mark of the King’s favour and as a reward of this singular proof of his attachment. The good humoured monarch remarked, that he could not think of making him a Knight, but that he was very ready to issue letters patent, giving him an exclusive right of climbing all the steeples in England and forbidding any other of his loving subjects from an encroachment upon this privilege, by attempting to do the like.

It is a well known fact that when his present Majesty was at Salisbury a few years ago in his road to Weymouth, some man, in imitation of the above-mentioned feat, seated himself also on the spire, and there sung ‘God save the King’.2


Lake District Green Spot Ordnance Survey Ideological Critique Travel Writer 
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© Michael Wiley 1998

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