The Lighthouse (1855)
The setting of the play is based on the Eddystone Lighthouse that
Collins saw in 1850 with his friend, Henry C. Brandling, on a walking
tour of Cornwall. His journal was later published as Rambles Beyond Railways; or, Notes in
Cornwall taken A-Foot (London: Bentley, 1851), with
illustrations by Brandling. The passage relating to the lighthouse is
in 'Chapter 3: A Fishing-Town on the South Coast [Looe]', pp. 42-3:
We ascended the heights to the westward, losing sight of the town among the trees, as we went; and then, walking in a southerly direction through some cornfields, approached within a few hundred yards of the edge of the cliffs, and looked out on the sea. The sky had partially cleared, and the rain had ceased; but huge, fantastic masses of cloud, tinged with lurid copper-colour by the setting sun, still towered afar off over the horizon, and were reflected in a deeper hue on the calm surface of the sea, with a perfectness and grandeur that I never remember to have witnessed before. Not a ship was in sight; but out on the extreme line of the wilderness of grey waters there shone one red, fiery spark—the beacon of the Eddystone Lighthouse. Before us, the green fields of Looe Island rose high out of the ocean—here, partaking the red light on the clouds; there, half lost in cold shadow. Closer yet, on the mainland, a few cattle were feeding quietly on a long strip of meadow bordering the edge of the cliff; and, now and then, a gull soared up from the sea, and wheeled screaming over our heads. The faint sound of the small shore-waves (invisible to us in the position we occupied) beating dull and at long intervals on the beach, augmented the dreary solemnity of the evening prospect. Light, shade, and colour were all before us, arranged in the grandest combinations, and expressed by the simplest forms. If Michael Angelo had painted landscape, he might have represented such a scene as we now beheld.