Romantic Mountaineering

I have just finished reading “The Stress of Her Regard” by Tim Powers, which has turned out to be an interesting variation on the well-worn vampire theme. Interestingly, Mr Powers has also taken the opportunity of bringing in the Romantic Poets, and suggests that their relationships with those of a vampiric nature brought with it the payoff of great poetry. I remain to be convinced of this, but it’s an entertaining thought nonetheless.

At one point in the novel, the reader is invited to follow Lord Byron and his party on an excursion through the Swiss Alps, with the ultimate aim of climbing the Jungfrau. Now I’ve never been to the Swiss Alps but I suspect that a certain amount of climbing gear would be useful; at the very least some protective clothing. But it seems that His Lordship has taken to the hills with nothing more useful than a flask of hock and his thick coat. It sounds unbelievable, and I’m sure it is, but…

At Victoria Station I found myself facing a poster advertising a new exhibition of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, one of whose best known works is this, The Wanderer Above The Fog:


This can’t be Lord Byron, surely! But it seems apparent to me that for the Romantics, going up a mountain with anything other than a pack mule loaded with bonbons and fine claret is really not the done thing.