Justifying the scheme to a sceptical aunt, Dorothy Wordsworth explained it thus: "We can live for less money in Germany while we are stationary than we can in England, so that you see our regular income (independent of what we may gain by translation) will be sufficient to support us when we are there." After arriving in Hamburg and realising that this optimistic assessment did not necessarily apply to large towns with thriving mercantile economies, the poetic pair headed south to the more depressed country hinterland. Added to the financial bonus was, of course, the literary pedigree of the Hartz and the Brocken mountain, which was of interest to the addressee of the letter below, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, fellow artistic British refugee in Germany at the time.
Nordhausen, Wednesday evening
27th February, 1799
27th February, 1799
My dear Coleridge,
The peasants in the plains adjoining to Goslar are extremely well clothed and decent in their appearance. We had often seen in Goslar women inhabitants of the hills, but we did not imagine them to be so rude and barbarous a race as we found them. They carry enormous burthens in square baskets hung over their shoulders, their petticoats reach very little below their knees, and their stockings are dangling about their ankles without garters. Swellings in the throat are very common amongst them which may perhaps be attributed to the straining of the neck in dragging those monstrous loads. They rarely travel without a bottle of German brandy, Schnapps as they call it; many of them go weekly from Clausthall to Brunswick, they perform this journey, a distance of thirty five miles in two days, carrying ass loads, parcels, &c, and letters clandestinely. These people are chiefly inhabitants of Clausthal, a large Hanoverian town cursed with the plague of a vicious population. We arrived there in the dusk of the evening, found an excellent inn, with beautiful bed-linen, good coffee, and a decent supper. The charge was about the same rate as in England, perhaps a little cheaper. This town lies in the centre of the Hartz forest. We left it on sunday, a mild morning, saw little that was remarkable till we came to the decaying posts of an old gibbet. We had scarcely passed it when we were saluted with the song of the lark, a pair of larks a sweet, liquid and heavenly melody heard from the first time, after so long and severe a winter. I ought to have said that before this we had a view of the Brocken, the Mont Blanc of the Hartz forest, and the glory of all this part of Germany. I cannot speak of its height compared with any of our British mountains, but from the point of view from which we saw it, it had nothing impressive in its appearance.