Skip to content

Month: August 2018

The Childhood of Edward Thomas

From The Childhood of Edward Thomas (1938). Written between 1913 and 1915, this is Edward Thomas’s autobiography which unfortunately he was unable to continue beyond his schooldays, but the existing portion is complete in itself. It creates a vivid picture of his middle-class suburban childhood, with many amusing vignettes of his family, friends, school teachers and casual acquaintances, as well as giving a fascinating account of Edward’s burgeoning passions for literature and natural history. It also sometimes, as in this extract, depicts the unpleasant – even brutal – aspects of human nature as they were revealed to this boy.

So I used to enjoy going about with Henry to look at the pigeon shops in Wandsworth, Battersea and Clapham, occasionally to visit the back-garden lofts of working men in the same neighbourhoods.Continue Reading

The Maidens Wood

From ‘The Maiden’s Wood’, a short story in Rest and Unrest (1910). Though this piece is most accurately classified as a short story, its style is very similar to that typical of Edward Thomas’s nature essays and topographical writing: first-person narration with closely observed details of an encountered scene or character.

I had been there a score of times without making anything like a full survey and inventory of my kingdom. It was becoming part of me, a kingdom rather of the spirit than of the earth, and I was content to see what I had seen on my first visit.Continue Reading

In Pursuit of Spring

From In Pursuit of Spring (1914), one of Edward Thomas’s best topographical books, recounting his bicycle journey, in March 1913, from London, through the southern counties, to Cothelstone Hill in Somerset. Here he describes Glastonbury.

For three miles I was in the flat green land of Queen’s Sedgemoor, drained by straight sedgy watercourses, along which grow lines of elm, willow, or pine. Glastonbury Tor mounted up out of the flat before me, like a huge tumulus, almost bare, but tipped by St Michael’s tower. Soon the ground began to rise on my left, and the crooked apple orchards of Avalon came down to the roadside, their turf starred by innumerable daisies and gilt celandines.Continue Reading

A Return To Nature

From ‘A Return to Nature’, a short story in The South Country (1909). Here, Edward Thomas describes a small and rather pathetic demonstration by famished unemployed men in London; the attitudes of various onlookers are particularly telling. This passage reveals his acute conscience regarding social injustice.

The multitude on the pavement continued to press straight onward, or to flit in and out of coloured shops. None looked at the standard, the dark man and his cloudy followers, except a few of the smallest newspaper boys who had a few spare minutes and rushed over to march with them in the hope of music or a speech or a conflict.Continue Reading

From The Heart of England

From The Heart of England (1906). Edward Thomas appears to recount walking with his wife Helen across the fields to the farmhouse where they would live. This precise description of Else’s Farm, near the village of Weald in Kent, which was the Thomases’ home from 1904-1906, remains accurate. This passage also provides an example of Edward Thomas’s lyrical idealism in his prose.

Almost at the end of a long walk, and as a small silver sun was leaving a pale and frosty sky, we began to ascend a broad, heaving meadow which was bordered on our right, on its eastern side, by a long, narrow copse of ash trees.Continue Reading

From Beautiful Wales

From Beautiful Wales (1905). A description of a Welsh clergyman which exemplifies Edward Thomas’s skill at observing traits of character as well as his gentle humour.

He makes a fine figure of Charity in his old age, with his preoccupied blue eyes under a brow that is marked only by three lines like three beams thrown upward by a sun. He has a large, joyous, curving mouth, side-whiskers, careless beard, large feet.

He has but one touch of sentiment. Nearly half a century ago he fell in love with a pretty woman, and unsuccessfully; yet, though she is known to be married and still alive, he has come to have for her memory a grandfatherly tenderness, regarding her as a white and careless girl, in spite of time.… Continue Reading