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Title: The Eulogy of Richard Jefferies
Author: Besant, Walter, Sir, 1836-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Eulogy of Richard Jefferies" ***

[Transcriber's Note: Words and phrases appearing in italics in the
original publication have been delimited with underscore characters in
this transcription. Additional notes appear at the end of this text.]





  'I hearing got, who had but ears,
    And sight, who has but eyes before;
  I moments live, who lived but years,
    And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore.





  [_All rights reserved_]




In the body of this work I have sufficiently explained the reasons why I
was entrusted with the task of writing this memoir of Richard Jefferies.
I have only here to express my thanks, first to the publishers, who have
given permission to quote from books by Jefferies issued by them,
namely: Messrs. Cassell and Co., Messrs. Chapman and Hall, Messrs.
Longman and Co., Messrs. Sampson Low and Co., Messrs. Smith and Elder,
and Messrs. Tinsley Brothers, and next, to all those who have entrusted
me with letters written by Jefferies, and have given permission to use
them. These are: Mrs. Harrild, of Sydenham, Mr. Charles Longman, Mr.
J.W. North, and Mr. C.P. Scott. I have also been provided with the
note-books filled with Jefferies' notes made in the fields. These have
enabled me to understand, and, I hope, to convey to others some
understanding of, the writer's methods. I call this book the "Eulogy" of
Richard Jefferies, because, in very truth, I can find nothing but
admiration, pure and unalloyed, for that later work of his, on which
will rest his fame and his abiding memory.

    _September, 1888_.


  COATE FARM                                              1

  SIXTEEN TO TWENTY                                      49

  LETTERS FROM 1866 TO 1872                              66

  GLEAMS OF LIGHT                                        96

  FIRST YEARS OF SUCCESS                                108

  FICTION, EARLY AND LATE                               145

  IN FULL CAREER                                        163

  THE LONGMAN LETTERS                                   193

  THE COUNTRY LIFE                                      214

  "THE STORY OF MY HEART"                               269

  THE CHILD WANDERS IN THE WOOD                         301

  CONCLUSION                                            327

       *       *       *       *       *

  LIST OF JEFFERIES' WORKS                              366

  LIST OF PAPERS STILL UNPUBLISHED                      368

  LETTER TO THE "TIMES," NOVEMBER, 1872                 370







"Go," said the Voice which dismisses the soul on its way to inhabit an
earthly frame. "Go; thy lot shall be to speak of trees, from the cedar
even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; and of beasts also,
and of fowls, and of fishes. All thy ways shall be ordered for thee, so
that thou shalt learn to speak of these things as no man ever spoke
before. Thou shalt rise into great honour among men. Many shall love to
hear thy voice above all the voices of those who speak. This is a great
gift. Thou shalt also enjoy the tender love of wife and children. Yet
the things which men most desire--riches, rank, independence, ease,
health, and long life--these are denied to thee. Thou shalt be always
poor; thou shalt live in humble places; the goad of necessity shall
continually prick thee to work when thou wouldst meditate; to write when
thou wouldst walk forth to observe. Thou shalt never be able to sit down
to rest; thou shalt be afflicted with grievous plaguy diseases; and thou
shalt die when little more than half the allotted life of man is past.
Go, therefore. Be happy with what is given, and lament not over what is

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Jefferies--christened John Richard, but he was always called by
his second name--was born on November 6, 1848, at the farmhouse of
Coate--you may pronounce it, if you please, in Wiltshire fashion--Caute.
The house stands on the road from Swindon to Marlborough, about two
miles and a half from the former place. It has now lost its old
picturesqueness, because the great heavy thatch which formerly served
for roof has been removed and replaced by slates. I know not whether any
gain in comfort has been achieved by this change, but the effect to
outward view has been to reduce what was once a beautiful old house to

It consists of two rooms on the ground-floor, four on the first floor,
and two large garrets in the roof, one of which, as we shall see, has
memorable associations. The keeping-room of the family is remarkable for
its large square window, built out so as to afford a delightful retreat
for reading or working in the summer, or whenever it is not too cold to
sit away from the fireplace. The other room, called, I believe, the best
parlour, is larger, but it lacks the square window. In the days when the
Jefferies family lived here it seems to have been used as a kind of
store-room or lumber-room. At the back of the house is a kitchen
belonging to a much older house; it is a low room built solidly of stone
with timber rafters.

Beside the kitchen is a large modern room, which was used in Richard's
childhood as a chapel of ease, in which service was read every Sunday
for the hamlet of Coate.

Between the house and the road is a small flower-garden; at the side of
the house is a vegetable-garden, with two or three fruit-trees, and
beyond this an orchard. On the other side of the house are the farm
buildings. There seems to be little traffic up and down the road, and
the hamlet consists of nothing more than half a dozen labourers'

"I remember," writes one who knew him in boyhood, "every little detail
of the house and grounds, even to the delicious scent of the musk
underneath the old bay window"--it still springs up afresh every summer
between the cobble stones--"the 'grind-stone' apple, the splendid
egg-plum which drooped over the roof, the little Siberian crabs, the
damsons--I could plant each spot with its own particular tree--the
drooping willow, the swing, the quaint little arbour, the
fuchsia-bushes, the hedge walks, the little arched gate leading into the
road, the delightful scent under the limes, the little bench by the
ha-ha looking towards Swindon and the setting sun. I am actually crying
over these delicious memories of my childhood; if ever I loved a spot of
this earth, it was Coate House. The scent of the sweet-briar takes me
there in a moment; the walnut-trees you recollect, and the old wooden
pump, where the villagers came for water; the hazel copse that my uncle
planted; the gateway that led to the reservoir; the sitting-room, with
its delightful square window; the porch, where the swallows used to
build year after year; and the kitchen, with its wide hearth and dark

In "Amaryllis at the Fair" the scene is laid at Coate Farm. But, indeed,
as we shall see, Coate was never absent from Jefferies' mind for long.

Coate is not, I believe, a large farm. It had, however, been in the
possession of the family for many generations. Once--twice--it passed
out of their hands, and was afterwards recovered. It was finally lost
about twelve years ago. To belong to an old English yeoman stock is,
perhaps, good enough ancestry for anyone, though not, certainly,
"showy." Richard Jefferies was a veritable son of the soil: not
descended from those who have nothing to show but long centuries of
servitude, but with a long line behind him of independent farmers
occupying their own land. Field and forest lore were therefore his by
right of inheritance.

As for the country round about Coate, I suppose there is no district in
the world that has been more minutely examined, explored, and described.
Jefferies knew every inch of ground, every tree, every hedge. The land
which lies in a circle of ten miles' radius, the centre of which is
Coate Farm-house, belongs to the writings of Jefferies. He lived
elsewhere, but mostly he wrote of Coate. The "Gamekeeper at Home," the
"Amateur Poacher," "Wild Life in a Southern County," "Round about a
Great Estate," "Hodge and his Masters," are all written of this small
bit of Wiltshire. Nay, in "Wood Magic," in "Amaryllis at the Fair," in
"Green Ferne Farm," and in "Bevis," we are still either at Coate Farm
itself or on the hills around.

It is a country of downs. Two of them, within sight of the farmhouse,
are covered with the grassy mounds and trenches of ancient forts or
"castles." There are plantations here and there, and coppices, but the
general aspect of the country is treeless; it is also a dry country. In
winter there are water-courses which in summer are dry; yet it is not
without brooks. Jefferies shows ("Wild Life in a Southern County," p.
29) that in ancient and prehistoric time the whole country must have
been covered with forests, of which the most important survival is what
is now called Ashbourne Chase. For one who loved solitude and wanderings
among the hills, there could be hardly any part of England more
delightful. Within a reasonable walk from Coate are Barbury Hill,
Liddington Hill, and Ashbourne Chase; there are downs extending as far
as Marlborough, over which a man may walk all day long and meet no one.
It is a country, moreover, full of ancient monuments; besides the
strongholds of Liddington and Barbury, there are everywhere tumuli,
barrows, cromlechs, and stone circles. Wayland Smith's Forge is within
a walk to the east; another walk, somewhat longer, takes you to Avebury,
to Wan's Dyke, to the Grey Wethers of Marlborough, or the ancient forest
of Savernake. There are ancient memories or whispers of old wars and
prehistoric battles about this country. At Barbury the Britons made a
final stand against the Saxons, and were defeated with great slaughter.
Wanborough, now a village, was then an important centre where four Roman
roads met, so that the chieftain or king who had his seat at Wanborough
could communicate rapidly, and call up forces from Sarum, Silchester,
Winchester, and the Chilterns. All these things speak nothing to a boy
who is careless and incurious. But Richard Jefferies was a boy curious
and inquiring. He had, besides, friends who directed his attention to
the meaning of the ancient monuments within his reach, and taught him
something of the dim and shadowy history of the people who built them.
He loved to talk and think of them; in after-years he wrote a
book--"After London"--which was inspired by these early meditations
upon prehistoric Britain. He himself discovered--it is an archæological
find of very considerable importance--how the garrisons of these
hill-top forts provided themselves with water. And as for his special
study of creatures and their ways, the wildness of the country is highly
favourable, both to their preservation and to opportunities for study.
Perhaps no other part of England was better for the development of his
genius than the Wiltshire Downs. Do you want to catch the feeling of the
air upon these downs? Remember the words which begin "Wild Life in a
Southern County."

     "The most commanding down is crowned with the grassy mould and
     trenches of an ancient earthwork, from whence there is a noble view
     of hill and plain. The inner slope of the green fosse is inclined
     at an angle pleasant to recline on, with the head just below the
     edge, in the summer sunshine. A faint sound as of a sea heard in a
     dream--a sibilant 'sish, sish'--passes along outside, dying away
     and coming again as a fresh wave of the wind rushes through the
     bennets and the dry grass. There is the happy hum of bees--who love
     the hills--as they speed by laden with their golden harvest, a
     drowsy warmth, and the delicious odour of wild thyme. Behind the
     fosse sinks, and the rampart rises high and steep--two butterflies
     are wheeling in uncertain flight over the summit. It is only
     necessary to raise the head a little way, and the cool breeze
     refreshes the cheek--cool at this height while the plains beneath
     glow under the heat."

All day long the trains from Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and South Wales,
from Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, and Oxford, run into Swindon and
stop there for ten minutes--every one of them--while the passengers get
out and crowd into the refreshment rooms.

Swindon to all these travellers is nothing at all but a
refreshment-room. It has no other association--nobody takes a ticket to
Swindon any more than to Crewe--it is the station where people have ten
minutes allowed for eating. As for any village, or town, of Swindon,
nobody has ever inquired whether there be such a place. Swindon is a
luncheon-bar; that is all. There is, however, more than a
refreshment-room at Swindon. First, there has grown up around the
station a new town of twenty thousand people, all employés of the Great
Western Railway, all engaged upon the works of the company. This is not
by any means a beautiful town, but it is not squalid; on the contrary,
it is clean, and looks prosperous and contented, with fewer
public-houses (but here one may be mistaken) than are generally found.
It is an industrial city--a city of the employed--skilled artisans,
skilled engineers, blacksmiths, foremen, and clerks. A mile south of
this new town--but there are houses nearly all the way--the old Swindon
stands upon a hill, occupying, most likely, the site of a British
fortress, such as that of Liddington or Barbury. It is a market town of
six or eight thousand people. Formerly there was a settlement of Dutch
in the place connected with the wool trade. They have long since gone,
but the houses which they built--picturesque old houses presenting two
gables to the street--remained after them. Of these nearly all are now
pulled down, so that there is little but red brick to look upon. In
fact, it would be difficult to find a town more devoid of beauty. They
have pulled down the old church, except the chancel: there was once an
old mill--Jefferies' grandfather was the tenant. That is also pulled
down, and there is a kind of square or _place_ where there is the corn
exchange: I think that there is nothing else to see.

On market-day, however, the town is full of crowd and bustle; at the
Goddard Arms you can choose between a hot dinner upstairs and a cold
lunch downstairs, and you will find both rooms filled with men who know
each other and are interested in lambing and other bucolic matters. The
streets are filled with drivers, sheep, and cattle; there is a horse
market; in the corn market the farmers, slow of speech, carry their
sample-bags in their hands; the carter, whip in hand, stands about on
the kerbstone; but in spite of the commotion no one is in a hurry. It is
the crowd alone which gives the feeling of busy life.

Looking from Swindon Hill, south and east and west, there stretches
away the great expanse of downs which nobody ever seems to visit; the
treasure-land of monuments built by a people passed away--not our
ancestors at all. This is the country over which the feet of Richard
Jefferies loved to roam, never weary of their wandering. On the slopes
of these green hills he has measured the ramparts of the ancient
fortress; lying on the turf, he has watched the hawk in the air; among
these fields he has sat for hours motionless and patient, until the
creatures thought him a statue and played their pranks before him
without fear. In these hedges he has peered and searched and watched; in
these woods and in these fields and on these hillsides he has seen in a
single evening's walk more things of wonder and beauty than one of us
poor purblind city creatures can discern in the whole of the six weeks
which we yearly give up to Nature and to fresh air. This corner of
England must be renamed. As Yorkshire hath its Craven, its Cleveland,
its Richmond, and its Holderness, so Wiltshire shall have its
Jefferies-land, lying in an irregular oval on whose circumference stand
Swindon, Barbury, Liddington, Ashbourne Chase and Wanborough.

Richard Jefferies was the second of five children, three sons and two
daughters. The eldest child, a daughter, was killed by a runaway horse
at the age of five. The Swindon people, who are reported to be
indifferent to the works of their native author, remember his family
very well. They seem to have possessed qualities or eccentricities which
cause them to be remembered. His grandfather, for instance, who is
without doubt the model for old Iden in "Amaryllis," was at the same
time a miller and a confectioner. The mill stood near the west end of
the old church; both mill and church are now pulled down. It was worked
for the tenant by his brother, a man still more eccentric than the
miller. The family seems to have inherited, from father to son, a
disposition of reserve, a love of solitude, and a habit of thinking for
themselves. No gregarious man, no man who loved to sit among his
fellows, could possibly have written even the shortest of Jefferies'

The household at Coate has been partly--but only partly--described in
"Amaryllis at the Fair." It consisted of his parents, himself, his next
brother, a year younger than himself, and a brother and sister much
younger. Farmer Iden, in "Amaryllis," is, in many characteristics, a
portrait of his father. Truly, it is not a portrait to shame any man;
and though the lines are strongly drawn, one hopes that the original,
who is still living, was not offended at a picture so striking and so
original. Jefferies has drawn for us the figure of a man full of wisdom
and thought, who speaks now in broad Wiltshire and now in clear, good
English; one who meditates aloud; one who roams about his fields
watching and remembering; one who brings to the planting of potatoes as
much thought and care as if he were writing an immortal poem; yet an
unpractical and unsuccessful man, who goes steadily and surely down-hill
while those who have not a tenth part of his wisdom and ability climb
upwards. A novelist, however, draws his portraits as best suits his
purpose; he arranges the lights to fall on this feature or on that; he
conceals some things and exaggerates others, so that even with the
picture of Farmer Iden before us, it would be rash to conclude that we
know the elder Jefferies. Some of the pictures, however, must be surely
drawn from the life. For instance, that of the farmer planting his

     "Under the wall was a large patch recently dug, beside the patch a
     grass path, and on the path a wheelbarrow. A man was busy putting
     in potatoes; he wore the raggedest coat ever seen on a respectable
     back. As the wind lifted the tails it was apparent that the lining
     was loose and only hung by threads, the cuffs were worn through,
     there was a hole beneath each arm, and on each shoulder the nap of
     the cloth was gone; the colour, which had once been gray, was now a
     mixture of several soils and numerous kinds of grit. The hat he had
     on was no better; it might have been made of some hard pasteboard,
     it was so bare.

     "The way in which he was planting potatoes was wonderful; every
     potato was placed at exactly the right distance apart, and a hole
     made for it in the general trench; before it was set it was looked
     at and turned over, and the thumb rubbed against it to be sure that
     it was sound, and when finally put in, a little mould was
     delicately adjusted round to keep it in its right position till the
     whole row was buried. He carried the potatoes in his coat
     pocket--those, that is, for the row--and took them out one by one;
     had he been planting his own children he could not have been more
     careful. The science, the skill, and the experience brought to this
     potato-planting you would hardly credit; for all this care was
     founded upon observation, and arose from very large abilities on
     the part of the planter, though directed to so humble a purpose at
     that moment."

This book also contains certain references to past family history which
show that there had been changes and chances with losses and gains. They
may be guessed from the following:

     "'The daffodil was your great-uncle's favourite flower.'

     "'Richard?' asked Amaryllis.

     "'Richard,' repeated Iden. And Amaryllis, noting how handsome her
     father's intellectual face looked, wandered in her mind from the
     flower as he talked, and marvelled how he could be so rough
     sometimes, and why he talked like the labourers, and wore a ragged
     coat--he who was so full of wisdom in his other moods, and spoke,
     and thought, and indeed acted as a perfect gentleman.

     "'Richard's favourite flower,' he went on. 'He brought the
     daffodils down from Luckett's; every one in the garden came from
     there. He was always reading poetry, and writing, and sketching,
     and yet he was such a capital man of business; no one could
     understand that. He built the mill, and saved heaps of money; he
     bought back the old place at Luckett's, which belonged to us before
     Queen Elizabeth's days; indeed, he very nearly made up the fortunes
     Nicholas and the rest of them got rid of. He was, indeed, a man.
     And now it is all going again--faster than he made it.'"

Everybody knows the Dutch picture of the dinner at the farm--the
description of the leg of mutton. Was ever leg of mutton thus

     "That day they had a leg of mutton--a special occasion--a joint to
     be looked on reverently. Mr. Iden had walked into the town to
     choose it himself some days previously, and brought it home on foot
     in a flag basket. The butcher would have sent it, and if not, there
     were men on the farm who could have fetched it, but it was much too
     important to be left to a second person. No one could do it right
     but Mr. Iden himself. There was a good deal of reason in this
     personal care of the meat, for it is a certain fact that unless you
     do look after such things yourself, and that persistently, too, you
     never get it first-rate. For this cause people in grand villas
     scarcely ever have anything worth eating on their tables. Their
     household expenses reach thousands yearly, and yet they rarely have
     anything eatable, and their dinner-tables can never show meat,
     vegetables, or fruit equal to Mr. Iden's. The meat was dark-brown,
     as mutton should be, for if it is the least bit white it is sure to
     be poor; the grain was short, and ate like bread and butter, firm,
     and yet almost crumbling to the touch; it was full of juicy red
     gravy, and cut pleasantly, the knife went through it nicely; you
     can tell good meat directly you touch it with the knife. It was
     cooked to a turn, and had been done at a wood fire on a hearth; no
     oven taste, no taint of coal gas or carbon; the pure flame of wood
     had browned it. Such emanations as there may be from burning logs
     are odorous of the woodland, of the sunshine, of the fields and
     fresh air; the wood simply gives out as it burns the sweetness it
     has imbibed through its leaves from the atmosphere which floats
     above grass and flowers. Essences of this order, if they do
     penetrate the fibres of the meat, add to its flavour a delicate
     aroma. Grass-fed meat, cooked at a wood fire, for me."

After the dinner, the great strong man with the massive head, who can
never make anything succeed, sits down to sleep alone beside the fire,
his head leaning where for thirty years it had daily leaned, against the
wainscot, so that there was now a round spot upon it, completely devoid
of varnish.

     "That panel was in effect a cross on which a heart had been
     tortured for the third of a century, that is, for the space of time
     allotted to a generation.

     "That mark upon the panel had still a further meaning; it
     represented the unhappiness, the misfortunes, the Nemesis of two
     hundred years. This family of Idens had endured already two hundred
     years of unhappiness and discordance for no original fault of
     theirs, simply because they had once been fortunate of old time,
     and therefore they had to work out that hour of sunshine to the
     utmost depths of shadow.

     "The panel of the wainscot upon which that mark had been worn was
     in effect a cross upon which a human heart had been tortured--and
     thought can, indeed, torture--for a third of a century. For Iden
     had learned to know himself, and despaired."

Then the man falls asleep, and Amaryllis steals in on tiptoe to find a
book. Then the wife, with a shawl round her shoulders, creeps outside
the house and looks in at the window--angry with her unpractical

     "Slight sounds, faint rustlings, began to be audible among the
     cinders in the fender. The dry cinders were pushed about by
     something passing between them. After a while a brown mouse peered
     out at the end of the fender under Iden's chair, looked round a
     moment, and went back to the grate. In a minute he came again, and
     ventured somewhat farther across the width of the white hearthstone
     to the verge of the carpet. This advance was made step by step, but
     on reaching the carpet the mouse rushed home to cover in one
     run--like children at 'touch wood,' going out from a place of
     safety very cautiously, returning swiftly. The next time another
     mouse followed, and a third appeared at the other end of the
     fender. By degrees they got under the table, and helped themselves
     to the crumbs; one mounted a chair and reached the cloth, but soon
     descended, afraid to stay there. Five or six mice were now busy at
     their dinner.

     "The sleeping man was as still and quiet as if carved.

     "A mouse came to the foot, clad in a great rusty-hued iron-shod
     boot--the foot that rested on the fender, for he had crossed his
     knees. His ragged and dingy trouser, full of March dust, and
     earth-stained by labour, was drawn up somewhat higher than the
     boot. It took the mouse several trials to reach the trouser, but he
     succeeded, and audaciously mounted to Iden's knee. Another quickly
     followed, and there the pair of them feasted on the crumbs of bread
     and cheese caught in the folds of his trousers.

     "One great brown hand was in his pocket, close to them--a mighty
     hand, beside which they were pigmies indeed in the land of the
     giants. What would have been the value of their lives between a
     finger and thumb that could crack a ripe and strong-shelled walnut?

     "The size--the mass--the weight of his hand alone was as a hill
     overshadowing them; his broad frame like the Alps; his head high
     above as a vast rock that overhung the valley.

     "His thumb-nail--widened by labour with spade and axe--his
     thumb-nail would have covered either of the tiny creatures as his
     shield covered Ajax.

     "Yet the little things fed in perfect confidence. He was so still,
     so _very_ still--quiescent--they feared him no more than they did
     the wall; they could not hear his breathing.

     "Had they been gifted with human intelligence, that very fact would
     have excited their suspicions. Why so very, _very_ still? Strong
     men, wearied by work, do not sleep quietly; they breathe heavily.
     Even in firm sleep we move a little now and then, a limb trembles,
     a muscle quivers, or stretches itself.

     "But Iden was so still it was evident he was really wide awake and
     restraining his breath, and exercising conscious command over his
     muscles, that this scene might proceed undisturbed.

     "Now the strangeness of the thing was in this way: Iden set traps
     for mice in the cellar and the larder, and slew them there without
     mercy. He picked up the trap, swung it round, opening the door at
     the same instant, and the wretched captive was dashed to death upon
     the stone flags of the floor. So he hated them and persecuted them
     in one place, and fed them in another.

     "From the merest thin slit, as it were, between his eyelids, Iden
     watched the mice feed and run about his knees till, having eaten
     every crumb, they descended his leg to the floor."

This portrait is not true in all its details. For instance, the elder
Jefferies had small and shapely hands and feet--not the massive hands
described in "Amaryllis."

Another slighter portrait of his father is found in "After London." It
is that of the Baron:

     "As he pointed to the tree above, the muscles, as the limb moved,
     displayed themselves in knots, at which the courtier himself could
     not refrain from glancing. Those mighty arms, had they clasped him
     about the waist, could have crushed his bending ribs. The heaviest
     blow that he could have struck upon that broad chest would have
     produced no more effect than a hollow sound; it would not even have
     shaken that powerful frame.

     "He felt the steel blue eyes, bright as the sky of midsummer,
     glance into his very mind. The high forehead bare, for the Baron
     had his hat in his hand, mocked at him in its humility. The Baron
     bared his head in honour of the courtier's office and the Prince
     who had sent him. The beard, though streaked with white, spoke
     little of age; it rather indicated an abundant, a luxuriant

And I have before me a letter which contains the following passage
concerning the elder Jefferies:

     "The garden, the orchard, the hedges of the fields were always his
     chief delight; he had planted many a tree round and about his farm.
     Not a single bird that flew but he knew, and could tell its
     history; if you walked with him, as Dick often did, and as I have
     occasionally done, through the fields, and heard him
     expatiate--quietly enough--on the trees and flowers, you would not
     be surprised at the turn taken by his son's genius."

Thus, then, the boy was born; in an ancient farmhouse beautiful to look
upon, with beautiful fields and gardens round it; in the midst of a
most singular and interesting country, wilder than any other part of
England except the Peak and Dartmoor; encouraged by his father to
observe and to remember; taught by him to read the Book of Nature. What
better beginning could the boy have had? There wanted but one thing to
complete his happiness--a little more ease as regards money. I fear that
one of the earliest things the boy could remember must have been
connected with pecuniary embarrassment.

While still a child, four years of age, he was taken to live under the
charge of an aunt, Mrs. Harrild, at Sydenham. He stayed with her for
some years, going home to Coate every summer for a month. At Sydenham he
went to a preparatory school kept by a lady. He was then at the age of
seven, but he had learned to read long before. He does not seem to have
gained the character of precocity or exceptional cleverness at school,
but Mrs. Harrild remembers that he was always as a child reading and
drawing, and would amuse himself for hours at a time over some old
volume of "Punch," or the "Illustrated London News," or, indeed,
anything he could get. He had a splendid memory, was even so early a
great observer, and was always a most truthful child, strong in his
likes and dislikes. But he possessed a highly nervous and sensitive
temperament, was hasty and quick-tempered, impulsive, and, withal, very
reserved. All these qualities remained with Richard Jefferies to the
end; he was always reserved, always sensitive, always nervous, always
quick-tempered. In his case, indeed, the child was truly father to the
man. It is pleasant to record that he repaid the kindness of his aunt
with the affection of a son, keeping up a constant correspondence with
her. His letters, indeed, are sometimes like a diary of his life, as
will be seen from the extracts I shall presently make from them.

At the age of nine the boy went home for good. He was then sent to
school at Swindon.

A letter from which I have already quoted thus speaks of him at the age
of ten:

     "There was a summer-house of conical shape in one corner paved with
     'kidney' stones. This was used by the boys as a treasure-house,
     where darts, bows and arrows, wooden swords, and other instruments
     used in mimic warfare were kept. Two favourite pastimes were those
     of living on a desert island, and of waging war with wild Indians.
     Dick was of a masterful temperament, and though less strong than
     several of us in a bodily sense, his force of will was such that we
     had to succumb to whatever plans he chose to dictate, never
     choosing to be second even in the most trivial thing. His temper
     was not amiable, but there was always a gentleness about him which
     saved him from the reproach of wishing to ride rough-shod over the
     feelings of others. I do not recollect his ever joining in the
     usual boy's sports--cricket or football--he preferred less
     athletic, if more adventurous, means of enjoyment. He was a great
     reader, and I remember a sunny parlour window, almost like a room,
     where many books of adventure and fairy tales were read by him.
     Close to his home was the 'Reservoir,' a prettily-situated lake
     surrounded by trees, and with many romantic nooks on the banks.
     Here we often used to go on exploring expeditions in quest of
     curiosities or wild Indians."

Here we get at the origin of "Bevis." Those who have read that
romance--which, if it were better proportioned and shorter, would be the
most delightful boy's book in the world--will remember how the lads
played and made pretence upon the shores and waters of the lake. Now
they are travellers in the jungle of wild Africa; now they come upon a
crocodile; now they hear close by the roar of a lion; now they discern
traces of savages; now they go into hiding; now they discover a great
inland sea; now they build a hut and live upon a desert island. The man
at thirty-six recalls every day of his childhood, and makes a story out
of it for other children.

One of the things which he did was to make a canoe for himself with
which to explore the lake. To make a canoe would be beyond the powers of
most boys; but then most boys are brought up in a crowd, and can do
nothing except play cricket and football. The shaping of the canoe is
described in "After London":

     "He had chosen the black poplar for the canoe because it was the
     lightest wood, and would float best. To fell so large a tree had
     been a great labour, for the axes were of poor quality, cut badly,
     and often required sharpening. He could easily have ordered half a
     dozen men to throw the tree, and they would have obeyed
     immediately; but then the individuality and interest of the work
     would have been lost. Unless he did it himself its importance and
     value to him would have been diminished. It had now been down some
     weeks, had been hewn into outward shape, and the larger part of the
     interior slowly dug away with chisel and gouge.

     "He had commenced while the hawthorn was just putting forth its
     first spray, when the thickets and the trees were yet bare. Now the
     May bloom scented the air, the forest was green, and his work
     approached completion. There remained, indeed, but some final
     shaping and rounding off, and the construction, or rather cutting
     out, of a secret locker in the stern. This locker was nothing more
     than a square aperture chiselled out like a mortise, entering not
     from above, but parallel with the bottom, and was to be closed with
     a tight-fitting piece of wood driven in by force of mallet.

     "A little paint would then conceal the slight chinks, and the boat
     might be examined in every possible way without any trace of this
     hiding-place being observed. The canoe was some eleven feet long,
     and nearly three feet in the beam; it tapered at either end, so
     that it might be propelled backwards or forwards without turning,
     and stem and stern (interchangeable definitions in this case) each
     rose a few inches higher than the general gunwale. The sides were
     about two inches thick, the bottom three, so that although dug out
     from light wood, the canoe was rather heavy."

"As a boy," to quote again from the same letter, "he was no great
talker; but if we could get him in the humour, he would tell us racy and
blood-curdling romances. There was one particular spot on the Coate
road--many years ago a quarry, afterwards deserted--upon which he wove
many fancies, with murders and ghosts. Always, in going home after one
of our visits to the farm, we used to think we heard the clanking chains
or ringing hoof of the phantom horse careering after us, and we would
rush on in full flight from the fateful spot."

His principal companion in boyhood was his next brother, younger than
himself by one year only, but very different in manners, appearance, and
in tastes. He describes both himself and his brother in "After London."
Felix is himself; Oliver is his brother.

This is Felix:

     "Independent and determined to the last degree, Felix ran any risk
     rather than surrender that which he had found, and which he deemed
     his own. This unbending independence and pride of spirit, together
     with scarce-concealed contempt for others, had resulted in almost
     isolating him from the youth of his own age, and had caused him to
     be regarded with dislike by the elders. He was rarely, if ever,
     asked to join the chase, and still more rarely invited to the
     festivities and amusements provided in adjacent houses, or to the
     grander entertainments of the higher nobles. Too quick to take
     offence where none was really intended, he fancied that many bore
     him ill-will who had scarcely given him a passing thought. He could
     not forgive the coarse jokes uttered upon his personal appearance
     by men of heavier build, who despised so slender a stripling.

     "He would rather be alone than join their company, and would not
     compete with them in any of their sports, so that, when his absence
     from the arena was noticed, it was attributed to weakness or
     cowardice. These imputations stung him deeply, driving him to brood
     within himself."

And this is Oliver:

     "Oliver's whole delight was in exercise and sport. The boldest
     rider, the best swimmer, the best at leaping, at hurling the dart
     or the heavy hammer, ever ready for tilt or tournament, his whole
     life was spent with horse, sword, and lance. A year younger than
     Felix, he was at least ten years physically older. He measured
     several inches more round the chest; his massive shoulders and
     immense arms, brown and hairy, his powerful limbs, tower-like neck,
     and somewhat square jaw were the natural concomitants of enormous
     physical strength.

     "All the blood and bone and thew and sinew of the house seemed to
     have fallen to his share; all the fiery, restless spirit and
     defiant temper; all the utter recklessness and warrior's instinct.
     He stood every inch a man, with dark, curling, short-cut hair,
     brown cheek and Roman chin, trimmed moustache, brown eye, shaded by
     long eyelashes and well-marked brows; every inch a natural king of
     men. That very physical preponderance and animal beauty was perhaps
     his bane, for his comrades were so many, and his love adventures so
     innumerable, that they left him no time for serious ambition.

     "Between the brothers there was the strangest mixture of affection
     and repulsion. The elder smiled at the excitement and energy of the
     younger; the younger openly despised the studious habits and
     solitary life of the elder. In time of real trouble and difficulty
     they would have been drawn together; as it was, there was little
     communion; the one went his way, and the other his. There was
     perhaps rather an inclination to detract from each other's
     achievements than to praise them, a species of jealousy or envy
     without personal dislike, if that can be understood. They were good
     friends, and yet kept apart.

     "Oliver made friends of all, and thwacked and banged his enemies
     into respectful silence. Felix made friends of none, and was
     equally despised by nominal friends and actual enemies. Oliver was
     open and jovial; Felix reserved and contemptuous, or sarcastic in
     manner. His slender frame, too tall for his width, was against him;
     he could neither lift the weights nor undergo the muscular strain
     readily borne by Oliver. It was easy to see that Felix, although
     nominally the eldest, had not yet reached his full development. A
     light complexion, fair hair and eyes, were also against him; where
     Oliver made conquests, Felix was unregarded. He laughed, but
     perhaps his secret pride was hurt."

After his return from Sydenham the boy, as I have said, went to school
for a year or two at Swindon. Then he presently began to read. He had
always delighted in books, especially in illustrated books; now he began
to read everything that he could get.

The boy who reads everything, the boy who takes out his younger brothers
and his cousins and makes them all pretend as he pleases, see what he
orders them to see, and shudder at his bidding and at the creatures of
his own imagination--what sort of future is in store for that boy? And
think of what his life might have become had he been forced into
clerkery or into trade: how crippled, miserable, and cramped! It is
indeed miserable to think of the thousands designed for a life of art,
of letters, of open air, or of science, wasted and thrown away in
labouring at the useless desk or the hateful counter.

This boy therefore read everything. Presently, when he had read all that
there was at Coate, and all that his grandfather had to lend him, he
began to borrow of everybody and to buy. It is perfectly wonderful, as
everybody knows, how a boy who never seems to get any money manages to
buy books. The fact is that all boys get money, but the boy who wants
books saves his pennies. For twopence you can very often pick up a book
that you want; for sixpence you can have a choice; a shilling will tempt
a second-hand bookseller to part with what seems a really valuable book;
half-a-crown--but such a boy never even sees a half-crown piece. Richard
Jefferies differed in one respect from most boys who read everything.
They live in the world of books; the outer world does not exist for
them; the birds sing, the lambs spring, the flowers blossom, but they
heed them not; they grow short-sighted over the small print; they become
more and more enamoured of phrase, captivated by words, charmed by
style, so that they forget the things around them. When they go abroad
they enact the fable of "Eyes and No Eyes," playing the less desirable
part. Jefferies, on the other hand, was preserved from this danger. His
father, the reserved and meditative man, took him into the fields and
turned over page after page with him of the book of Nature, expounding,
teaching, showing him how to use his eyes, and continually reading to
him out of that great book.

So a strange thing came to pass. Most of us who go away from our native
place forget it, or we only remember it from time to time; the memory
grows dim; when we go back we are astonished to find how much we have
forgotten, and how distorted are the memories which remain. Richard
Jefferies, however, who presently left Coate, never forgot the old
place. It remained with him--every tree, every field, every hill, every
patch of wild thyme--all through his life, clear and distinct, as if he
had left it but an hour before. In almost everything he wrote Coate is
in his mind. Even in his book of "Wild Life Round London" the reader
thinks sometimes that he is on the wild Wiltshire Downs, while the wind
whistles in his ears, and the lark is singing in the sky, and far, far
away the sheep-bells tinkle.

Why, in the very last paper which he ever wrote--it appeared in
_Longman's Magazine_ two months after his death--his memory goes back to
the hamlet where he was born. He recalls the cottage where John Brown
lived--you can see it still, close to Coate--as well as that where Job
lived who kept the shop and was always buying and selling; and of the
water-bailiff who looked after the great pond:

     "There were one or two old boats, and he used to leave the oars
     leaning against a wall at the side of the house. These oars looked
     like fragments of a wreck, broken and irregular. The right-hand
     scull was heavy as if made of ironwood, the blade broad and
     spoon-shaped, so as to have a most powerful grip of the water. The
     left-hand scull was light and slender, with a narrow blade like a
     marrow-scoop; so when you had the punt, you had to pull very hard
     with your left hand and gently with the right to get the forces
     equal. The punt had a list of its own, and no matter how you rowed,
     it would still make leeway. Those who did not know its character
     were perpetually trying to get this crooked wake straight, and
     consequently went round and round exactly like the whirligig
     beetle. Those who knew used to let the leeway proceed a good way
     and then alter it, so as to act in the other direction like an
     elongated zigzag. These sculls the old fellow would bring you as if
     they were great treasures, and watch you off in the punt as if he
     was parting with his dearest. At that date it was no little matter
     to coax him round to unchain his vessel. You had to take an
     interest in the garden, in the baits, and the weather, and be very
     humble; then perhaps he would tell you he did not want it for the
     trimmers, or the withy, or the flags, and you might have it for an
     hour as far as he could see; 'did not think my lord's steward would
     come over that morning; of course, if he did you must come in,' and
     so on; and if the stars were propitious, by-the-bye, the punt was
     got afloat."

Then the writer--he was a dying man--sings his song of lament because
the past is past--and dead. All that is past, and that we shall never
see again, is dead. The brook that used to leap and run and chatter--it
is dead. The trees that used to put on new leaves every spring--they are
dead. All is dead and swept away, hamlet and cottage, hillside and
coppice, field and hedge.

     "I think I have heard that the oaks are down. They may be standing
     or down, it matters nothing to me; the leaves I last saw upon them
     are gone for evermore, nor shall I ever see them come there again
     ruddy in spring. I would not see them again even if I could; they
     could never look again as they used to do. There are too many
     memories there. The happiest days become the saddest afterwards;
     let us never go back, lest we too die. There are no such oaks
     anywhere else, none so tall and straight, and with such massive
     heads, on which the sun used to shine as if on the globe of the
     earth, one side in shadow, the other in bright light. How often I
     have looked at oaks since, and yet have never been able to get the
     same effect from them! Like an old author printed in other type,
     the words are the same, but the sentiment is different. The brooks
     have ceased to run. There is no music now at the old hatch where we
     used to sit in danger of our lives, happy as kings, on the narrow
     bar over the deep water. The barred pike that used to come up in
     such numbers are no more among the flags. The perch used to drift
     down the stream, and then bring up again. The sun shone there for a
     very long time, and the water rippled and sang, and it always
     seemed to me that I could feel the rippling and the singing and the
     sparkling back through the centuries. The brook is dead, for when
     man goes nature ends. I dare say there is water there still, but it
     is not the brook; the brook is gone like John Brown's soul. There
     used to be clouds over the fields, white clouds in blue summer
     skies. I have lived a good deal on clouds; they have been meat to
     me often; they bring something to the spirit which even the trees
     do not. I see clouds now sometimes when the iron grip of hell
     permits for a minute or two; they are very different clouds, and
     speak differently. I long for some of the old clouds that had no
     memories. There were nights in those times over those fields, not
     darkness, but Night, full of glowing suns and glowing richness of
     life that sprang up to meet them. The nights are there still; they
     are everywhere, nothing local in the night; but it is not the Night
     to me seen through the window."

Nobody believes him, he says. People ask him if such a village ever
existed--of course, it never existed. What beautiful picture ever really
existed save in the sunrise and in the sunset sky? Those living in the
place about which these wonderful things are written look at each other
in amazement, and ask what they mean. All this about Coate? Why, here
are only half a dozen cottages, mean and squalid, with thatched roofs;
and beyond the hedge are only fields with a great pond and bare hills
beyond. "No one else," says Jefferies, "seems to have seen the sparkle
on the brook, or heard the music at the hatch, or to have felt back
through the centuries; and when I try to describe these things to them
they look at me with stolid incredulity. No one seems to understand how
I got food from the clouds, nor what there was in the night, nor why it
is not so good to look out of window. They turn their faces away from
me, so that perhaps, after all, I was mistaken, and there never was any
such place, or any such meadows, and I was never there. And perhaps in
course of time I shall find out also, when I pass away physically, that
as a matter of fact there never was any earth." That, indeed, will be
the most curious discovery possible in the after-world. No earth--then
no Coate; no "Wild Life in a Southern County," and no "Gamekeeper at
Home," because there has never been any home for any gamekeeper.

I have dwelt at some length upon these early years of Jefferies' life
because they are all-important. They explain the whole of his
after-life; they show how the book of Nature was laid open to this man
in a way that it was never before presented to any man who had also the
divine gift of utterance, namely, by a man who, though steeped in the
wisdom of the field and forest--though he had read indeed in the
book--could not read it aloud for all to hear.

In order to read this book aright, one must live apart from one's
fellow-men and remain a stranger to their ambitions, ignorant of their
crooked ways, their bickerings, and their pleasures. One must have quick
and observant eyes, trained to watch and mark the infinite changes and
variations in Nature, day by day; one must go to Nature's school from
infancy in order to get this power. Nay; one must never cease to
exercise this power, or it will be lost; it must be continually
nourished and strengthened by being exercised. If one who has this power
should go to live in the city, his eyes would grow as sluggish and as
dim as ours; his ear would be blunted by the rolling of the carts, and
his mind disturbed by the rush and the activity of the crowd. Again, if
one who had this power should abandon the simple life, and should deaden
his senses with luxury, sloth, and vice, he would quickly lose it. He
_must_ live apart from men; all day long the sun must burn his cheek,
the wind must blow upon it, the rain must beat upon it; he must never be
out of reach of the fragrant wild flowers and the call and cry of the
birds. Of such men literature can show but two or three--Gilbert White,
Thoreau, and Jefferies--but the greatest of them all is Jefferies. No
one before him has so lived among the fields; no one has heard so
clearly the song of the flowers and the weeds and the blades of grass.
The million million blades of grass spoke to Jefferies as the Oak of
Dodona spoke through its thousand leaves. When he went home he sat down
and was inspired to translate that language, and to tell the world what
the grass says and sings to him who can hear.

He who met the great God Pan face to face fell down dead. Still, even in
these days, he who communes with the Sylvan Spirit presently dies to the
ways of men, while his senses are opened to see the hidden things of
hedge and meadow; while his soul is uplifted by the beauty and the
variety and the order of the world; by the wondrous lives of the
creatures, so full of peril, and so full of joy. Then, if he be
permitted to reveal these things, what can we who receive this
revelation give in exchange? What words of praise and gratitude can we
find in return for this unfolding of the Book of Fleeting Life?

As for us, we listened to the voice of this master for ten years; we
shall hear no more of his discourses; but the old ones remain; we can go
back to them again and again. It is the quality of truthful work that it
never grows old or stale; one can return to it again and again; there is
always something fresh in it, something new. In a great poem the lines
always bring some new thought to the mind; in great music, the harmonies
always call forth some fresh emotion, and inspire some new thought; in a
true book there is always some new truth to be discovered. If all the
rest of the literature of this day prove ephemeral and is doomed to
swift oblivion, the work of Jefferies shall not perish. Our fashions
change, and the things of which we write become old and pass away. But
the everlasting hills abide, and the meadows still lie green and
flowery, and the roses and wild honeysuckle still blossom in the hedge.
And those who have written of these are so few, and their words are so
precious, that they shall not pass away, so long as their tongue
endureth to be spoken and to be read.



At the age of sixteen, Richard Jefferies had an adventure--almost the
only adventure of his quiet life. It was an adventure which could only
happen to a youth of strong imagination, capable of seeing no
difficulties or dangers, and refusing to accept the word "impossible."

At this time he was a long and loose-limbed lad, regarded by his own
family as at least an uncommon youth and a subject of anxiety as to his
future, a boy who talked eagerly of things far beyond the limits of the
farm, who was self-willed and masterful, whose ideas astonished and even
irritated those whose thoughts were accustomed to move in a narrow,
unchanging groove. He was also a boy, as we have seen, who had the
power of imposing his own imagination upon others, even those of
sluggish temperament--as Don Quixote overpowered the slow brain of
Sancho Panza.

Richard Jefferies then, at the age of sixteen, conceived a magnificent
scheme, the like of which never before entered a boy's brain. Above all
things he wanted to see foreign countries. He therefore proposed to
another lad nothing less than to undertake a walk through the whole of
Europe, as far as Moscow and back again. The project was discussed and
debated long and seriously. At last it was referred to the decision of
the dog as to an oracle. In this way: if the dog wagged his tail within
a certain time, they would go; if the dog's tail remained quiet, it
should be taken as a warning or premonition against the journey.
Reliance should never, as a matter of fact, be placed in the oracle of
the dog's tail; but this the lads were too young to understand. The tail
wagged. The boys ran away. It was on November 11, in the year 1864. Now,
here, certain details of the story are wanting. The novelist is never
happy unless the whole machinery of his tale is clear in his own mind.
And I confess that I know not how the two boys raised the money with
which to pay their preliminary expenses. You may support yourself, as
Oliver Goldsmith did, by a flute or a fiddle, you may depend upon the
benefactions of unknown kind hearts in a strange land, but the steamship
company and the railway company must be always paid beforehand. Where
did the passage-money come from? Nay, as you will learn presently, there
must have been quite a large bag of money to start with. Where did it
come from? The other boy--the unknown--the _innominatus_--doubtless
found that bag of gold.

They got to Dover and they crossed the Channel, and they actually began
their journey. But I know not how far they got, nor how long a time,
exactly, they spent in France--about a week, it would seem. They very
quickly, however, made the humiliating discovery that they could not
understand a word that was said to them, nor could they, save by signs,
make themselves understood. Therefore they relinquished the idea of
walking to Moscow, and reluctantly returned. But they would not go
home; perhaps, because they were still athirst for adventure; perhaps,
because they were ashamed. They then saw an advertisement in a newspaper
which fired their imaginations again. The advertiser undertook, for an
absurdly small sum, to take them across to New York. The amount named
was just within the compass of their money. They resolved to see America
instead of Russia; they called at the agent's office and paid their
fares. Their tickets took them free to Liverpool, whither they repaired.
Unfortunately, when they reached Liverpool, they learned that the
tickets did not include bedding of any kind, or provisions, so that if
they went on board they would certainly be frozen and starved. What was
to be done? They had no more money. They could not get their money
returned. They were helpless. They resolved therefore to give up the
whole project, and to go home again. Jefferies undertook to pawn their
watches in order to get the money for the railway ticket. His appearance
and manner, for some reason or other--pawning being doubtless a new
thing with him--roused so much suspicion in the mind of the pawnbroker
that he actually gave the lad into custody. Happily, the superintendent
of police believed his story--probably a telegram to Swindon
strengthened his faith; he himself advanced them the money, keeping the
watches as security, and sent them home after an expedition which lasted
a fortnight altogether. There is no doubt as to the facts of the case.
The boys did actually start, with intent to march all the way across
Europe as far as Russia and back again. But how they began, how they
raised the money to pay the preliminary expenses, wants more light.
Also, there is no record as to their reception after they got home
again. One suspects somehow that on this occasion the fatted calf was
allowed to go on growing.

It must have been about this time that the lad began to have his bookish
learning remarked and respected, if not encouraged. One of the upper
rooms of the farmhouse--the other was the cheese-room--was set apart for
him alone. Here he had his books, his table, his desk, and his bed.
This room was sacred. Here he read; here he spent all his leisure time
in reading. He read during this period an immense quantity. Shakespeare,
Chaucer, Scott, Byron, Dryden, Voltaire, Goethe--he was never tired of
reading Faust--and it is said, but I think it must have been in
translation, that he read most of the Greek and Latin masters. It is
evident from his writings that he had read a great deal, yet he lacks
the touch of the trained scholar. That cannot be attained by solitary
and desultory reading, however omnivorous. His chief literary adviser in
those days was Mr. William Morris, of Swindon, proprietor and editor of
the _North Wilts Advertiser_. Mr. Morris is himself the author of
several works, among others a "History of Swindon," and, as becomes a
literary man with such surroundings, he is a well-known local antiquary.
Mr. Morris allowed the boy, who was at school with his own son, the run
of his own library; he lent him books, and he talked with him on
subjects which, one can easily understand, were not topics of
conversation at Coate. Afterwards, when Jefferies had already become
reporter for the local press, it was the perusal of a descriptive paper
by Mr. Morris, on the "Lakes of Killarney," which decided the lad upon
seriously attempting the literary career.

What inclined the lad to become a journalist? First of all, the narrow
family circumstances prevented his being brought up to one of the
ordinary professions: he might have become a clerk; he might have gone
to London, where he had friends in the printing business; he might have
emigrated, as his brother afterwards did; he might have gone into some
kind of trade. As for farming, he had no taste for it; the idea of
becoming a farmer never seems to have occurred to him as possible. But
he could not bear the indoor life; to be chained all day long to a desk
would have been intolerable to him; it would have killed him; he needed
such a life as would give him a great deal of time in the open air. Such
he found in journalism. His friend, Mr. Morris, gave him the first start
by printing for him certain sketches and descriptive papers. And he had
the courage to learn shorthand.

He had already before this begun to write.

"I remember"--I quote from a letter which has already furnished
information about these early days--"that he once showed his brother a
roll of manuscript which he said 'meant money' some day." It was
necessary in that house to think of money first.

I wonder what that manuscript was. Perhaps poetry--a clever lad's first
attempt at verse; there is never a clever lad who does not try his hand
at verse. Perhaps it was a story--we shall see that he wrote many
stories. At that time his handwriting was so bad that when he began to
feed the press, the compositors bought him a copybook and a penholder
and begged him to use it. He did use it, and his handwriting presently
became legible at least, but it remained to the end a bad handwriting.
His note-books especially are very hard to read.

He was left by his father perfectly free and uncontrolled. He was
allowed to do what he pleased or what he could find to do. This liberty
of action made him self-reliant. It also, perhaps, increased his habit
of solitude and reserve. In those days he used to draw a great deal,
and is said to have acquired considerable power in pen-and-ink sketches,
but I have never seen any of them.

At this period he was careless as to his dress and appearance; he
suffered his hair to grow long until it reached his coat collar. "This,"
says one who knew him then, "with his bent form and long, rapid stride,
made him an object of wonder in the town of Swindon. But he was
perfectly unconscious of this, or indifferent to it."

Later on, he understood better the necessity of paying attention to
personal appearance, and in his advice to the young journalist he points
out that he should be quietly but well dressed, and that he should study
genial manners.

In appearance Richard Jefferies was very tall--over six feet. He was
always thin. At the age of seventeen his friends feared that he would go
into a decline, which was happily averted--perhaps through his love for
the open air. His hair was dark-brown; his beard was brown, with a shade
of auburn; his forehead both high and broad; his features strongly
marked; his nose long, clear, and straight; his lower lip thick; his
eyebrows distinguished by the meditative droop; his complexion was fair,
with very little colour. The most remarkable feature in his face was his
large and clear blue eye; it was so full that it ought to have been
short-sighted, yet his sight was far as well as keen. His face was full
of thought; he walked with somewhat noiseless tread and a rapid stride.
He never carried an umbrella or wore a great-coat, nor, except in very
cold weather, did he wear gloves. He had great powers of endurance in
walking, but his physical strength was never great. In manner, as has
been already stated, he was always reserved; at this time so much so as
to appear morose to those who knew him but slightly. He made few
friends. Indeed, all through life he made fewer friends than any other
man. This was really because, for choice, he always lived as much in the
country as possible, and partly because he had no sympathy with the
ordinary pursuits of men. Such a man as Richard Jefferies could never be
clubable. What would he talk about at the club? The theatre? He never
went there. Literature of the day? He seldom read it. Politics? He
belonged to the people, and cursed either party. That once said, he had
nothing more to say. Art? He had ideas of his own on painting, and they
were unconventional. Gossip and scandal? He never heard any. Wine? He
knew nothing about wine. Yet to those whom he knew and trusted he was
neither reserved nor morose. An eremite would be driven mad by chatter
if he left his hermitage and came back to his native town; so this
roamer among the hills could not endure the profitless talk of man,
while Nature was willing to break her silence for him alone among the
hills and in the woods.

He became, then, a journalist. It is a profession which leaves large
gaps in the day, and sometimes whole days of leisure. The work, to such
a lad as Jefferies, was easy; he had to attend meetings and report them;
to write descriptive papers; to furnish and dress up paragraphs of news;
to look about the town and pick up everything that was said or done; to
attend the police courts, inquests, county courts, auctions, markets,
and everything. The life of a country journalist is busy, but it is in
great measure an out-door life.

Although Mr. Morris was his first literary friend and adviser, Jefferies
was never attached to his paper as reporter. Perhaps there was no
vacancy at the time. He obtained work on the _North Wilts Herald_, and
afterwards became in addition the Swindon correspondent of the _Wilts
and Gloucestershire Standard_, published at Cirencester. The editor of
the _North Wilts Herald_ was a Mr. Piper, who died two years ago. Of him
Jefferies always spoke with the greatest respect, calling him his old
master. But in what sense he himself was a pupil I know not. Nor can I
gather that Jefferies, who acquired his literary style much later, and
after, as will be seen, the production of much work which has deservedly
fallen into oblivion, learned anything as a writer from anybody. In the
line which he afterwards struck out for himself--that of observations of
nature--his master, as regards the subject-matter, was his father; as
regards his style he had no master.

He filled these posts and occupied himself in this kind of work between
the years 1865 and 1877.

But he did other things as well, showing that he never intended to sit
down in ignoble obscurity as the reporter of a country newspaper.

I have before me a little book called "Reporting, Editing, and
Authorship," published without date at Swindon, and by John Snow and
Co., Ivy Lane, London. I think it appeared in the year 1872, when he was
in his twenty-fourth year. It is, however, the work of a very young man;
the kind of work at which you must not laugh, although it amuses you,
because it is so very much in earnest, and at the same time so very
elementary. You see before you in these pages the ideal
reporter--Jefferies was always zealous to do everything that he had to
do as well as it could be done. It is divided into three chapters, but
the latter two are vague and tentative, compared with the first. The
little book should have been called, "He would be an Author."

"Let the aspirant," he says, "begin with acquiring a special knowledge
of his own district. The power and habit of doing this may subsequently
stand him in good stead as a war-correspondent. Let him next study the
trade and industries peculiar to the place. If he is able to write of
these graphically, he will acquire a certain connection and good-will
among the masters. He will strengthen himself if he contributes papers
upon these subjects to the daily papers or to the magazines; thus he
will grow to be regarded as a representative man. Next, he should study
everywhere the topography, antiquities, traditions, and general
characteristics of the country wherever he goes; he should visit the
churches, and write about them. He may go on to write a local history,
or he may take a local tradition and weave a story round about
it--things which local papers readily publish. Afterwards he may write
more important tales for country newspapers, and so by easy stages rise
to the grandeur of writing tales for the monthly magazines." Observe
that so far the ambition of the writer is wholly in the direction of

One piece of advice contrasts strongly with the description of him given
by his cousin. He has found out that eccentricity of appearance and
manner does not advance a man. Therefore he writes:

     "A good personal manner greatly conduces to the success of the
     reporter. He should be pleasant and genial, but not loud: inquiring
     without being inquisitive: bold, but not presumptuous: and above
     all respectful. The reporter should be able to talk on all subjects
     with all men. He should dress well, because it obtains him
     immediate attention: but should be careful to avoid anything
     'horsey' or fast. The more gentlemanly his appearance and tone, the
     better he will be received."

The chapter on Editing gives a tolerably complete account of the conduct
of a country-town newspaper. The chapter on Authorship is daring,
because the writer as yet knew nothing whatever of the subject. Among
other mistakes is the very common one of supposing that a young man can
help himself on by publishing at his own expense a manuscript which all
the respectable publishing houses have refused. He himself subsequently
acted upon this mistake, and lost his money without in the least
advancing his reputation. The young writer can seldom be made to
understand that all publishers are continually on the look-out for good
work; that good work is almost certain (though mistakes have been made)
to be taken up by the first publisher to whom it is offered; that if it
is refused by good Houses, the reason is that it is not good work, and
that paying for publication will not turn bad work into good. Jefferies
concludes his little book by so shocking a charge against the general
public that it shall be quoted just to show what this country lad of
nineteen or twenty thought was the right and knowing thing to say about

     "The public will read any commonplace clap-trap if only a
     well-known name be attached to it. Hence any amount of expenditure
     is justified with this object. It is better at once to realize the
     fact, however unpleasant it may be to the taste, and instead of
     trying to win the good-will of the public by laborious work, treat
     literature as a trade, which, like other trades, requires an
     immense amount of advertising."

This is Jefferies' own ideal of a journalist. In March, 1866, being then
eighteen years of age, he began his work on the _North Wilts Herald_.


LETTERS FROM 1866 TO 1872.

The principal sources of information concerning the period of early
manhood are the letters--a large number of these are happily
preserved--which he wrote to his aunt, Mrs. Harrild. In these letters,
which are naturally all about himself, his work, his hopes, and his
disappointments, he writes with perfect freedom and from his heart. It
is still a boyish heart, young and innocent. "I always feel dull," he
says, "when I leave you. I am happier with you than at home, because you
enter into my prospects with interest and are always kind.... I wish I
could have got something to do in the neighbourhood of Sydenham, which
would have enabled me to live with you."

The letters reveal a youth taken too soon from school, but passionately
fond of reading--of industry and application intense and unwearied; he
confesses his ambitions--they are for success; he knows that he has the
power of success within him; he tries for success continually, and is as
often beaten back, because, though this he cannot understand, in the way
he tries success is impossible for him. Let us run through this bundle
of letters.

One thing to him who reads the whole becomes immediately apparent,
though it is not so clear from the extracts alone. It is the
self-consciousness of the writer as regards style. That is because he is
intended by nature to become a writer. He thinks how he may put things
to the best advantage; he understands the importance of phrase; he wants
not only to say a thing, but to say it in a striking and uncommon
manner. Later on, when he has gotten a style to himself, he becomes more
familiar and chatty. Thus, for instance, the boy speaks of the great
organ at the Crystal Palace: "To me music is like a spring of fresh
water in the midst of the desert to a wearied Arab." He was genuinely
and truly fond of good music, and yet this phrase has in it a note of
unreality. Again, he is speaking of one of his aunt's friends, and says,
as if he was the author of "Evelina": "How is Mr. A.? I remember him as
a pleasant gentleman, anxious not to give trouble, and the result
is ..." and so forth. When one understands that these letters were
written by the immature writer, such little things, with which they
abound, are pleasing.

In March, 1866, he describes the commencement of his work on the _North
Wilts Herald_; he speaks of the kindness of his chief and the pleasant
nature of his work. In December of the same year he sends a story which
he wants his uncle to submit to a London magazine. In June, 1867, he
writes that he has completed his "History of Swindon" and its
neighbourhood. This probably appeared in the pages of his newspaper.

In the same year he says that he has finished a story called

     "Here I have no books--no old monkish records to assist
     me--everything must be hunted out upon the spot. I visit every
     place I have to refer to, copy inscriptions, listen to legends,
     examine antiquities, measure this, estimate that; and a thousand
     other employments essential to a correct account take up my time.
     The walking I can do is something beyond belief. To give an
     instance. There is a book published some twenty years ago founded
     on a local legend. This I wanted, and have actually been to ten
     different houses in search of it; that is, have had a good fifty
     miles' walk, and as yet all in vain. However, I think I am on the
     right scent now, and believe I shall get it.

     "This neighbourhood is a mine for an antiquary. I was given to
     understand at school that in ancient days Britain was a
     waste--uninhabited, rude and savage. I find this is a mistake. I
     see traces of former habitation, and former generations, in all
     directions. There, Roman coins; here, British arrowheads, tumuli,
     camps--in short, the country, if I may use the expression, seems
     alive with the dead. I am inclined to believe that this part of
     North Wilts, at least, was as thickly inhabited of yore as it is
     now, the difference being only in the spots inhabited having been
     exchanged for others more adapted to the wants of the times. I do
     not believe these sweeping assertions as to the barbarous state of
     our ancestors. The more I study the matter the more absurd and
     unfounded appear the notions popularly received."

            *       *       *       *       *

     "The spiders have been more disturbed in the last few days than for
     twelve months past. I detest this cruelty to spiders. I admire
     these ingenious insects. One individual has taken possession of a
     box of mine. This fellow I call Cæsar Borgia, because he has such
     an affection for blood. You will call him a monster, which is
     praise, since his size shows the number of flies he has destroyed.
     Why not keep a spider as well as a cat? They are both useful in
     their way, and a spider has this advantage, that he will spin you a
     web which will do instead of tapestry."

Between July 21st and September 2nd of this year he writes of a bad
illness which sent him to bed and kept him there, until he became as
thin as a skeleton. As soon as he was able to get out of bed he wrote to
his aunt; his eyes were weak, and he could read but little, which was a
dreadful privation for him. And he was most anxious lest he should lose
his post on the paper.

Later on he tells the good news that Mr. Piper will give him another
fortnight so that he may get a change of air and a visit to Sydenham.

He goes back to Swindon apparently strengthened and in his former health
and energy. Besides his journal work he reports himself engaged upon an
"Essay on Instinct." This is the first hint of his finding out his own
line, which, however, he would not really discover for a long time yet.

"The country," he says, little thinking what the country was going to do
for him, "is very quiet and monotonous. There is a sublime sameness in
Coate that reminds you of the stars that rise and set regularly just as
we go to bed down here."

His grandfather--old Iden of "Amaryllis"--died in April, 1868.

He speaks in June of his own uncertain prospects.

"My father," he says, "will neither tell me what he would like done or
anything else, so that I go my own way and ask nobody...." The letters
are full of the little familiar gossip concerning this person and that,
but he can never resist the temptation of telling his aunt--who "enters
into his prospects"--all that he is doing. He has now spent two months
over a novel--this young man thinks that two months is a prodigiously
long time to give to a novel. "I have taken great pains with it," he
says, "and flatter myself that I have produced a tale of a very
different class to those sensational stories I wrote some time ago. I
have attempted to make my story lifelike by delineating character rather
than by sensational incidents. My characters are many of them drawn from
life, and some of my incidents actually took place." This is taking a
step in the right direction. One wonders what this story was. But alas!
there were so many in those days, and the end of all was the same. And
yet the poor young author took such pains, such infinite pains, and all
to no purpose, for he was still groping blindly in the dark, feeling for

His health, however, gave way again. He tells his aunt that he has been
fainting in church; that he finds his work too exciting; that his
walking powers seem to have left him--everybody knows the symptoms when
a young man outgrows his strength; he would like some quiet place; such
a Haven of Repose or Castle of Indolence, for instance, as the Civil
Service. All young men yearn at times for some place where there will be
no work to do, and it speaks volumes for the happy administration of
this realm that every young man in his yearning fondly turns his eyes to
the Civil Service.

He has hopes, he says, of getting on to the reporting staff of the
_Daily News_, ignorant of the truth that a single year of work on a
great London paper would probably have finished him off for good.
Merciful, indeed, are the gods, who grant to mankind, of all their
prayers, so few.

In July he was prostrated by a terrible illness, aggravated by the great
heat of that summer. This illness threatened to turn into consumption--a
danger happily averted. But it was many months before he could sit up
and write to his aunt in pencil. He was at this time greatly under the
influence of religion, and his letters are full of a boyish, simple
piety. The hand of God is directing him, guiding him, punishing him. His
heart is soft in thinking over the many consolations which his prayers
have brought him, and of the increased benefit which he has derived from
reading the Bible. He has passed through, he confesses, a period of
scepticism, but that, he is happy to say, is now gone, never to return

He is able to get out of bed at last; he can read a little, though his
eyes are weak; he can once more return to his old habits, and drinks his
tea again as sweet as he can make it; he is able presently to seize his
pen again. And then ... then ... is he not going to be a great author?
And who knows in what direction? ... then he begins a tragedy called
"Cæsar Borgia; or, The King of Crime."

He is touched by the thoughtfulness of the cottagers. They have all
called to ask after him; they have brought him honey. He resolves to
cultivate the poor people more.

"After all," he says, with wisdom beyond his years, "books are dead;
they should not be our whole study. Too much study is selfish."

Unfortunately the letters of the year 1869 have not been preserved; but
we may very well understand that the lad spent that year in much the
same way as the year before and the year after. That is to say, he wrote
for his country paper; he reported; he collected local news; and he
devoted his spare time to the writing of stories which were never to see
the light, or, more unhappy still, to perish at their birth.

In the autumn of the year 1870 the letters begin again. He has now got
money enough to give himself a holiday. He is at Hastings, and he is
going across the water to Ostend. It is in September. The Prince
Imperial of France is in the place, and Jefferies hopes to see him.
There is a postscript with a characteristic touch: "I do not forget
A----. Her large and beautiful eyes have haunted me ever since our visit
to Worthing. Remember me to her, _but please do it privately; let no
one else know what I have said of her_. I hope to see her again."

Presently he did see the Prince, sitting at the window of his room in
the Marine Hotel. The adventures which followed were, he says in his
next letter, "almost beyond credibility."

You shall hear how wonderful they were. Lying in bed one night, a happy
thought occurred to him. He would write some verses on the exile of the

     "... No sooner thought than done. I composed them that night, and
     wrote them out, and posted them the first thing next morning
     (Thursday). You say I am always either too precipitate or too
     procrastinating. At least, I lost no time in this. A day went by,
     and on Easter day there came a note to me at the hotel, from the
     aide-de-camp of the Prince, acknowledging the receipt of the
     verses, and saying that the Prince had been much pleased with them.
     You will admit this was about enough to turn a young author's head.
     Not being _au fait_ in French, I took the note to a French lady
     professor, and she translated it for me. I enclose the translation
     for you. But does not S. learn French? If so, it would be good
     practice for her to try and read the note. Please tell her to take
     care of it, as it cannot be replaced, and will be of great value to
     me in after-life. If I were seeking a place on a London paper the
     production of that note would be a wonderful recommendation. Well,
     the reception of that acknowledgment encouraged me, and on the
     following morning I set to work and wrote a letter to the Prince,
     communicating some rather important information which I had learnt
     whilst connected with the press. The result was a second letter
     from the aide-de-camp, this time dictated by the Empress Eugénie,
     who had read my note. I send you this letter too, and must beg you
     to carefully preserve it. I took it and had it translated by the
     same French lady, Madame ----, and I enclose her translation. She
     says that the expressions are very warm, and cannot be adequately
     rendered into English. She says it would be impossible to write
     more cordially in French than the Empress has done. Now came
     another discovery. It came out in conversation with this French
     lady that she had actually been to school with the Empress in her
     youth; that they had played together, and been on picnics together.
     Her husband was a sea-commander, and she showed me his belt, etc.
     He served Napoleon when Napoleon was president, but protested
     against the _coup d'état_ of 1851, and they had then to leave
     Paris. She had been unfortunate, and had now to earn her bread. She
     still preserves her husband's coat-of-arms, etc. Then came another
     discovery. It appeared that the equerries of the Empress (sixteen
     in number), unable to speak English, had seen her advertisement and
     came to her to act as interpreter. She did so. After a while it
     crept out that these rascals were abusing their employer behind her
     back, and even went the length of letting out private conversations
     they had overheard in the Tuileries, and at the Marine Hotel. She
     felt extremely indignant at this ungrateful conduct (for they are
     well paid and have three months' wages in advance), and she should
     like the Empress to know, but being so poor she could not call on
     her old companion; indeed, her pride would not permit. These were
     the men, she said, from whom the Prussians obtained intelligence;
     and certainly they did act the part of spies. Other Frenchmen
     resident here met them at an inn, and they there detailed to them
     what they had learnt at the Marine Hotel. I persuaded her (she was
     in a terrible way, indignant and angry) to write to my friend, the
     aide-de-camp, and see him. She did so, and the consequence is that
     a number of these fellows have been discharged. The Empress and the
     Prince are still here, despite all paragraphs in the papers. They
     drove out yesterday afternoon. I saw them...."

After this adventure Jefferies took the boat from Dover to Ostend. He
had more adventures on the journey:

     "... It was a beautiful night, scarcely a breath of air, moonlight
     and starlit, and a calm sea. Every little wave that broke against
     the side flashed like lightning with the phosphoric light of the
     zoophytes, and when at eleven the paddles began to move, great
     circles of phosphoric light surrounded the vessel. I was on deck
     all night, for instead of being four hours as advertised, the boat
     was eight hours at sea. After we had been out about four hours the
     sailors mistook a light on the horizon for Ostend, and steamed
     towards it. Presently the light rose higher, and proved to be the
     planet Venus, shining so brilliantly. At this moment an immense
     bank of fog enveloped us, so thick that one could scarcely see from
     one end of the ship to the other. The captain had lost his way, and
     the paddles were stopped. After a short time there was the sound of
     a cannon booming over the sea. Everyone rushed on deck, thinking of
     war and ironclads; but it was the guns at Ostend, far away, firing
     to direct ships into port through the fog. It was now found that we
     had actually got about opposite Antwerp. So the ship was turned,
     and we slowly crept back, afraid of running on shore. Then, after
     an hour or two of this, we got into shallow water, and the lead was
     heaved every minute. The steam-whistle was sounded, and the guns on
     shore again fired. To our surprise, we had run past Ostend almost
     as much the other way, thanks to the fog. Now I heard a bell
     ringing on shore--the matin bell--and you cannot imagine how
     strange that bell sounded. You must understand no shore was
     visible. More firing and whistling, until people began to think we
     should have to remain till the fog cleared. But I did not grumble;
     rather, I was glad, for this delay gave me the opportunity of
     seeing the sun, just as the fog cleared, rise at sea--an
     indescribable sight:

         'Then over the waste of water
            The morning sun uprose,
          Through the driving mist revealed,
            Like the lifting of the Host
            By incense clouds almost

     A boat finally came off and piloted us into harbour, which we
     reached at seven o'clock Saturday morning--eight hours' passage.
     Numbers were ill--the ladies, most dreadfully; I did not feel a
     qualm. I went on by the next train at 9.30 to Brussels, and reached
     it at one o'clock...."

Brussels, at this moment, was full of French people mad with grief and
excitement at the conduct of the war and the disasters of their
country. Jefferies does not appear, however, to have been much struck
with the terror and pity of the situation. It was his first experience
of foreign life, not counting his boyish escapade; his delight in the
hotel, the _table d'hôte_, the wine, the brightness and apparent
happiness of the Brussels people--they do somehow seem younger and
happier than any other people in the world, except, perhaps, the
Marseillais--is very vividly expressed. The ladies dazzle him; he thinks
of "our London dowdies" and shudders; but alas! he cannot talk to them.

Then he goes back to Swindon, but not, for the present, to Coate. There
is trouble at home. His father has to be brought round gradually to look
at things from his son's point of view. Till that happy frame of mind
has been arrived at he cannot go home. But his mother visits him, and so
far as she is concerned all is well. He is out of work and has no
money--two shillings and threepence can hardly be called money.
Meantime, his mind is still excited by his recent experiences. He will
never be happy in the country again; he must find a place in London. It
is the kind aunt who fills his purse with a temporary supply.

The following letter relates the difficulties of finding work:

     "... It is now four months since I last saw you, and during that
     time I have unremittingly endeavoured to get money by all the fair
     means I could think of. Scarcely a day has passed without making
     some attempt, or without maturing some plan, and yet all of them,
     as if by some kind of fate, have failed. I have written all sorts
     of things. Very few were rejected, but none brought any return. I
     have endeavoured to get employment, but there is none within reach.
     My old place has been filled up for months, and I could not recover
     it without resorting to unfair means, unless by some unforeseen
     accident. The other two papers here are sufficiently supplied with
     reporters, and though ready enough to receive my writings, don't
     pay a farthing. There remains a paper at Marlborough to which I
     applied. They were quite ready to employ me, but said that, as
     their circulation at Swindon was very small, they could give but a
     small price--quoting a sum which absolutely would not buy me a
     dinner once a week. This was no good. Other papers further off
     refused entirely. As for answering advertisements, or seeking
     situations in other places, it was useless, from the following
     circumstance. In the autumn a large London paper failed, and the
     staff was thrown out. The consequence was, that the market became
     overstocked with reporters, and all vacancies were speedily filled.
     My next step was to try the London papers, especially the _Pall
     Mall_, with which I have had more or less connection for years. As
     I told you, three of the Dailies said if I were in town they could
     give me plenty of work, but not regular employment. In other words,
     one would employ me one day, another another, until an opening
     occurred for regular work...."

There are other details showing that it was a terrible time of
tightness. Threatenings of county court for a debt of £2 10s.; personal
apparel falling to pieces; work offered by the _Pall Mall Gazette_ and
other papers if he would go up to London. But how? One must have enough
to pay for board and lodging for a week, at least; one must have enough
for the railway-fare; one must present a respectable appearance. And now
only a single halfpenny left! We have seen with sorrow how the young man
had been already reduced to two shillings and threepence. But this seems
affluence when we look at that solitary halfpenny. Only a halfpenny!
Why, the coin will buy absolutely nothing.

Yet in this, the darkest hour, when he had no money and could get no
work--when his own people had ceased to believe in him--he still
continued to believe in himself. That kind of belief is a wonderful
medicine in time of trouble. It is sovereign against low spirits,
carelessness, and inactivity--the chief evils which follow on

     "... I have still the firmest belief in my ultimate good-fortune
     and success. I believe in destiny. Not the fear of total
     indigence--for my father threatens to turn me out of doors--nor
     the fear of disgrace and imprisonment for debt, can shake my calm
     indifference and belief in my good-fortune. Though I have but a
     halfpenny to-day, to-morrow I shall be rich. Besides, though I have
     had a severe cold, my health and strength are wonderful. Nothing
     earthly can hurt me...."

The next letter was written in July of the same year, six months later.
"I am very busy," he says, "getting well known as a writer. Both Swindon
papers employ me; but I am chiefly occupied with my book. I work at it
almost night and day. I feel sure it will succeed. If it does not, I
know nothing that will, and I may as well at once give up the

I do not think there is anything in the world more full of pity and
interest than the spectacle of a clever young man struggling for
literary success. He knows, somehow he feels in his heart, that he has
the power. It is like a hidden spring which has to be found, or a secret
force which has to be set in motion, or a lamp which has to be set
alight. This young man was feeling after that secret force; he was
looking for that lamp. For eight long years he had been engaged in the
search after this most precious of all treasures. What was it like--the
noblest part of himself--that which would never die? Alas! he knew not.
He hardly knew as yet that it was noble at all. So his search carried
him continually farther from the thing which he would find.

On July 28 he writes a most joyful letter. He has achieved a feat which
was really remarkable; in fact, he has actually received a letter from
Mr. Disraeli himself on the subject of a work prepared by himself. It
will be observed that by a natural confusion he mixes up the success of
getting a letter from this statesman with the success of his book.

     "... I told you that I had been bending all my energies to the
     completion of a work. I completed it a short time since, and an
     opportunity offering, I wrote to Disraeli, describing it, and
     asking his opinion. You know he is considered the cleverest man in
     England; that he is the head of the rich and powerful Conservative
     Party; and that he is a celebrated and very successful author. His
     reply came this morning:

                                                      'Grosvenor Gate.

     'Dear Sir,

     'The great pressure of public affairs at the present moment must
     be my excuse for not sooner replying to your interesting letter,
     which I did not like to leave to a secretary.

     'I think the subject of your work of the highest interest, and I
     should have confidence in its treatment from the letter which you
     have done me the honour of addressing to me. I should recommend you
     to forward your MS. to some eminent publisher whom interest and
     experience would qualify to judge of it with impartiality.

                                  'Believe me, dear sir,
                                      'With every good wish,
                                         'Your faithful servant,
                                                        'B. DISRAELI.'

     "A recognition like this from so great an intellectual leader is a
     richer reward to one's self than the applause of hundreds, or than
     any money can possibly be. And it is a guarantee of success, even
     in a money sense; for what publisher would not grasp at a work
     commended by Disraeli? This is a day of triumph to me. In an
     obscure country village, personally totally unknown, name never
     heard of, without the least assistance from any living person,
     alone and unaided, I have achieved the favourable opinion of the
     man who stands highest in our age for intellectual power, who
     represents the nobility, gentry, and clergy of the land, who is the
     leader of half England. This, too, after enduring the sneers and
     bitter taunts of so many for idleness and incapacity. Hard, indeed,
     have I worked these many months since I last saw you, and at all
     times it has been my intention--and looked forward to as a
     reward--to write and tell you of my success. And at last--at last!
     Write to me and tell me you rejoice, for without someone to rejoice
     with you, success itself is cold and barren. My success is now

A few days later he has to tell his aunt of another brilliant success of
the same shadowy character. He calls it a "singular stroke of good
fortune." One of the best publishing houses in London had promised to
consider his new novel--which of his new novels was it?--carefully.

     "I cannot help thinking that their 'full consideration' is a very
     promising phrase. I really do think that I am now upon the
     threshold of success.... The idea of writing the book came to me by
     a kind of inspiration, and not from study or thought. I am now
     engaged upon a magazine article, which I think will meet the taste
     of the public. Since finishing the book, I have written a play
     which can either be published or acted, as circumstances prove most
     propitious. I have also sketched out a short tale, founded on fact,
     and have sent the MS. of a history of Swindon to the local paper,
     and expect a fair sum for it. I am engaged to go to Gloucester next
     week for a day--perhaps two--to report a trial. So that you see I
     am not idle, and have my hands as full as they can hold."

Quite as full as they can hold; and all the time he is drifting further
and further from the haven where he would be. Yet his fortune lies at
his feet, if he will but stoop to pick it up. It lies in the hedges, and
in the fields, and woods; it lies upon the hillside. He can see it red
as gold, flashing with the splendid light of a million diamonds, if he
will open his eyes. But the time is not yet.

The firm of publishers declined, but in courteous and even flattering
terms, to publish the work in question. The author at once made up his
mind that the book was not "in their line," and sent the MS. to another

The second firm apparently declined the work; but in another month the
author writes triumphantly that Messrs. ---- are going to publish it.
Now nothing remains but to settle the price.

"I cannot help," he says, "feeling this a moment of great triumph, after
so much opposition from everyone. All my friends prophesied failure, and
when I refused to desist from endeavouring, grew angry with me, and
annoyed me as much as possible.... I will let you know as soon as we
have agreed upon the price, and, of course, I shall have the pleasure
of sending you some copies when it appears."

Alas! he was mistaken. There was much more than the remuneration to be
settled before the work was published; in fact, it never was published.

The last letter of the packet has no other date than May 7. From
internal evidence, however, it must have been written in the year 1873.

     "I have just had a great disappointment. After keeping the
     manuscript of my novel more than two months, Mr. ---- has written
     to decline it. It really does seem like Sisyphus--just as one has
     rolled the stone close to the top of the hill, down it goes again,
     and all one's work has to be done over again. For some time after I
     began literary work I did not care in the least about a failure,
     because I had a perpetual spring of hope that the next would be
     more fortunate. But now, after eight years of almost continual
     failure, it is very hard indeed to make a fresh effort, because
     there is no hope to sustain one's expectations. Still, although I
     have lost hope entirely, I am more than ever _determined_ to
     succeed, and shall never cease trying till I do.

     "It seems so singular to me that, although publishers constantly
     decline my works, yet if by any chance something that I have
     written gets into print, everybody immediately admires it, so that
     it does not seem that there is any want of ability. You remember
     those letters in the _Times_? They were declined by one editor of a
     much less important paper. The moment they were published everyone
     admired them, and even the most adverse critics allowed that the
     style and literary execution was good. I could show you a dozen
     clippings from adverse newspapers to that effect. This is the
     reflection that supports me under so many disappointments, because
     it seems to say that it is through no fault of mine. Thinking over
     this very deeply lately, and passing over in review the facts and
     experience I have obtained during the last eight years, I have come
     to the conclusion that it is no use for me to waste further time
     in waiting for the decisions of publishers, but that I ought to set
     to work and publish on my own account. What, then, shall I publish?
     A novel costs some £60 or £80 at least. This I cannot possibly
     afford; I have no friends who can afford it. I can borrow, it is
     true, but that seems like putting a noose round your own neck for
     some one else to hang you with. But then many authors have made a
     name and even large sums of money by publishing very small

He goes on to show in his sanguine way how a little book is bound to
bring in a great profit.

He then adds:

     "... Having tried, therefore, every other plan for succeeding, I
     have at last determined to try this. Do you not think I am right?
     It is only risking a few pounds--not like £60 or £80. The first
     little book I have selected to issue is a compendium of reporting
     experience for the use of learners. It is almost finished--all but
     binding--and the first copy issued you shall see. It will be
     published by J. Snow and Co., 2, Ivy Lane.

     "Then with regard to Swindon. I have so enlarged my account of it,
     and so enlarged the account of the Goddard family, that I have
     determined to publish the work in two parts. First to issue the
     Goddard part, by which means I shall not risk so much money, and
     shall see how the thing takes. Besides, I know that the Goddards
     would prefer it done in that way. I estimate the cost of the first
     part at about £10; and as the manuscript has been completed and
     lying idle for nearly three months, I should like to get it out at
     once, but I do not like to give the order until I have the cash to
     meet the bill.

     "You have no idea of the wretched feeling produced by incessant
     disappointment, and the long, long months of weary waiting for
     decisions without the least hope...."



With the year 1871 the early struggles of the young writer came to an
end. He had now secured his position, such as it was, on the local
press. As there are no further suggestions of parental opposition, we
may suppose that this had now ceased. Parental opposition generally
gives way when the lad shows that by following his own path he can
maintain himself. This Richard could now do. He continued, however, to
live at Coate, partly, no doubt, for economy, and partly for
convenience. His old friends point out the short cut across the fields
by which he was accustomed to walk from Coate to the office of the
paper. Local enthusiasm, however, is proverbially feeble in the case of
the native prophet. This grows up in the after-years. The income which
a young reporter on a small country paper can make is very modest, and
the position is not one which commands the highest respect. Yet many
young fellows are satisfied and happy in such a position, because,
though they are still at the bottom of the ladder, their foot is planted
on the rung, and their hands are on the sides. Being rich, therefore, in
hope, he took the step which naturally follows success--he became
engaged. His _fiancée_ was a daughter of the late Mr. Andrew Baden, at
that time occupying Dayhouse Farm, adjacent to Coate. For the present
there could be no thought of marrying, but they would wait till their
hopes were partly realized, and the golden shower should begin. Now
there were two instead of one looking for the splendid triumph of the
future. A first instalment of success came the following year, in
November, 1872--a real, indisputable success--a thing that brought money
and more work, and yet more work; a thing which, in the hands of a
practical man, would have brought work enough to last a lifetime. To
Jefferies it was better than this, because it presently led him--the
wanderer in the labyrinth of fruitless effort--to the line in which he
was to make his reputation, and to find his true success. Is there
anything in the world more truly delightful than the first success in
the career you have chosen and ardently desire to adorn? If one desires
to become an authority on any subject, to read your own paper in a great
magazine; if one desires to become a journalist, to have the columns of
a great paper opened to you; if one wishes to be a great novelist, to
read the reviews of your first work, and to be assured that you are on
the right track--nothing in the world surely can equal that blissful

It came to this pair, thus waiting and hoping, in November, 1872, in
this wise:

In the autumn of that year, the mind of the nation was beginning to be
exercised with the subject of the relations of the farmer with the
agricultural labourer. Richard Jefferies, inspired, if any man ever was,
with the thought that he knew all about the subject, sat down and wrote
a long letter about "The Wiltshire Labourer." This letter he sent first
to a certain London editor (name of the paper not stated), who refused
it. He then sent it to the editor of the _Times_, who not only accepted
it and printed it, but had a leader written upon it. Nor was this all.
The letter called forth many answers; to these Jefferies replied in two
more letters. The subject was noticed in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, in the
_Spectator_, and in other journals. We are not here concerned with the
results of the case--Jefferies wrote on the side of the tenant farmer.
It is sufficient to note the fact of the letters and their immediate
result--namely, that Jefferies sprang at one bound into the position of
an authority on things agricultural. He dated the letters from Coate
Farm, Swindon; so that he probably appeared to the editor and to the
general public as a farmer, rather than as a newspaper reporter. To the
whole of his after-life these letters were most important. They denoted,
though as yet he knew it not, an entirely new departure. He was to
experience many a bitter disappointment over novels which he ought
never to have written. There were plenty of snubs and rubs in store for
him, as there are for every literary man at every stage of his career.
Snubs and rubs are part of a profession which has an advantage quite
peculiar to itself, that everything a man does is publicly commented
upon by his brother professors writing anonymously. It is as if a
clergyman's sermons should be publicly and every week handled by brother
clergymen, or a doctor's cases by brothers of the calling; or as if a
barrister's speeches should be anonymously criticised by other
barristers. A man cannot make an ass of himself in the profession, and
expect that nobody will notice it. Not at all; the greater the mess he
makes, the more he will hear of it. Now Jefferies--poor man--was going
to make a big mess of two or three jobs before he really found himself.

To be an authority on things agricultural is to speak on behalf of what
was then, and is still, the most important interest of the whole
country; to speak of agricultural labourers and of tenant farmers is to
speak of the best blood of the country, the hope and stay of Great
Britain. Here was opened a chance such as comes to few. If it had been
properly followed up, if it had fallen to a practical man, there would
have been perceived here an open door leading to an honourable career, a
safe line, with a sufficient income. I mean that any of our great
newspapers would have been glad to number on its staff, and to retain,
one who could write with knowledge on things agricultural. Always,
throughout the whole of his life, Richard Jefferies wanted someone to
advise him, but never so much as at this moment. He had this splendid
chance, and he threw it away, not deliberately, but from ignorance and
want of aptitude in business.

Yet the letters mark a new departure, for they made him write about the
country. Success was before him at last, though not in the way he hoped.

The first letter to the _Times_ was, for a young man of twenty-four, a
most remarkable production. It was crammed with facts and information.
In point of style it was clear and strong, without any faults of fine
writing. It would be taken--I have no doubt at all that the editor so
received it--as the letter of a clear-headed, well-informed, middle-aged
Wiltshire farmer. He writes at full length, covering two columns and a
quarter of the _Times_, in small print. The letter itself is so curious,
as giving an account of a condition of things which has already greatly
changed in the sixteen years since it was written, that I have placed it
for preservation in an appendix to this volume. The leader on the
subject in the _Times_ of the same day thus sums up the case:

     "When so much is done for labourers by an improved class of
     landlords and tenants, and when it is evident that they cannot but
     share the general advance of wages, what is it that remains to be
     done? There can be no doubt about it, and we commend it to the
     attention of the talkative gentlemen who are making fine speeches
     and backing up the labourer to a stand-up fight with his employer.
     It is the labourer himself who wants improvement. He will do
     everything for himself so very badly. He will not show
     common-sense in his cottage--if it is his own choice--or his
     clothing, or his food, or in his general arrangements. He will
     insist on poisoning the air of his cottage, his well, or the stream
     that runs past his door. He will not bestow half an hour on some
     needful repair which he thinks a landlord ought to do for him. He
     goes to the worst market for his provisions, buying everything on
     credit and in the smallest quantities. He allows a waste that would
     not be tolerated in wealthier households. He will not second with
     home discipline the efforts made to instruct his children at the
     school. He will still permit it to be almost impossible that his
     children shall be taught in the same room or play in the same
     ground with the children of his employer. In a word, he will not do
     his part--no easy one, it is true, yet not impossible. He escapes
     from thought, effort, and responsibility at the village 'public,'
     and lets his household go its way. Of course, he is only doing what
     many of his betters are doing in his own class and condition. But
     there is the same to be said of all. If men are to rise, it must be
     done by themselves, for the whole world will never raise, or better
     appreciably, those who will not raise themselves."

You have already seen the letter written in May, 1873, in which he
speaks despairingly of his efforts and his ill-success; in fact, he
allowed a whole year to elapse without following up the advantage and
experience acquired by these letters. It seems incredible. Meanwhile he
was muddling his time, and perhaps his money, in bringing out things
from which neither money nor honour could be expected. The first of
these was the little book I have already noticed, on reporting and
journalism. It would be curious to learn the pecuniary result of this

The next volume was a "Family History of the Goddards of North Wilts."
Now, if the Goddards were anxious to have their history written, they
might have paid for it. Perhaps they did pay for the work, but I find no
record of their doing so. Perhaps they thought that Swindon would rally
round the Goddard flag, and eagerly buy the book. I have not read the
work; but it had the honour of getting a notice from the _Athenæum_,
which the author heroically cut out and preserved. The plain truth was
spoken in that notice, and the most was made of a very unfortunate
mistake of a place, a date, and a poet, concerning which the curious may
consult the _Athenæum_ for the year 1873.

The results of publishing at his own expense were, we suppose, so
satisfactory that Jefferies in 1874 brought out his first novel--"The
Scarlet Shawl"--on that delightful method. It is always in vain that one
assures a young writer that works which publishers with one consent
refuse must be commercially worthless; it is always in vain that one
preaches, exhorts, and implores the inexperienced not to throw away
their money in the vain hope of getting it back with profit of gold and
glory. They will do it. There are always publishing houses of a kind
which are ready to print young writers' crude and foolish works at their
own risk, and to talk vaguely beforehand of enormous profits to be
shared. Poor wretches! they never get any profits. Nobody ever buys any
copies. There is never for the unfortunate writer any gold or any glory,
but only sure, certain, and bitter disappointment.

As yet, Jefferies still clung to his old ideas, and had learned none of
the lessons which the _Times_ letters should have taught him. Therefore
he brought out three novels in succession (see Chapter VI.), never
getting any single advantage or profit out of them except the pain of
shattered hopes, the loss of money, and the most contemptuous notices in
the reviews.

We are in the year 1874. Apparently, Jefferies has had his chance, and
has thrown it away. He is six-and-twenty years of age--it is youth, but
this young man has only twelve more years of life, and none of his work
has yet been done. Why--why did no one tear him away from his vain and
futile efforts? See, he toils day after day, with an energy which
nothing can repress--a resolution to succeed which sustains him through
all his disappointments. He covers acres of paper, and all to no
purpose; for no one has told him the simplest law of all--that Art is
imitation. One must not close the shutters, light the lamp, and then
paint a flower one has never seen, as the painter thinks it ought to
have been. Yet this is what Jefferies was doing. The young country lad,
who knew no other society than that of the farm and the country town,
was wasting and spoiling his life in writing about people and things
whom he imagined. He was painting the flower he had never seen as he
thought it ought to be.

Well, the great success of the _Times_ letters seemed to have led to
nothing. Yet it gave him a better position in his native place. His work
was now so assured, and his income so much improved--though still
slender enough--that in July, 1874, after a three years' engagement, he
was married.

For the first six months of their marriage the young pair lived on at
Coate. They then removed to a small house in Victoria Street, Swindon,
where their first child was born. It is a happy thing to think that it
was in the first year of his wedded life that Jefferies brushed away
the cobwebs from his brain, left the old things behind him for ever, and
stepped out upon the greensward, the hillside, the forest, and the
meadows, where he was to walk henceforth until the end. It was time,
indeed, to throw away his novels of society, to put away the unreal
rubbish, to forget the foolish dreams, to let the puppets who could
never have lived lie dust-covered in the limbo of false and conventional
novels. Where is it, that limbo? Welcome, long-desired flowers of May!
Welcome, fragrant breath of the breezy down!



Jefferies made his way to the fields through the farmers first and the
labourers next.

He wrote a paper for _Fraser's Magazine_ (December, 1873) on the "Future
of Farming," which attracted a considerable amount of attention. The
_Spectator_ had an article upon it. The paper is full of bold
speculations and prophecies; as, for instance:

     "We may, then, look to a time when farming will become a commercial
     speculation, and will be carried on by large joint-stock concerns,
     issuing shares of ten, fifteen, or fifty pounds each, and occupying
     from three to ten thousand acres. Such companies would, perhaps,
     purchase the entire sewage of an adjacent town. Their buildings,
     their streets of cattle-stalls, would be placed on a slope
     sheltered from the north-east, but near the highest spot on the
     estate, so as to distribute manure and water from their reservoirs
     by the power of gravitation. A stationary steam-engine would crush
     their cake, and pulp their roots, pump their water, perhaps even
     shear their sheep. They would employ butchers and others, a whole
     staff, to kill and cut up bullocks in pieces suitable for the
     London market, transmitting their meat straight to the salesman,
     without the intervention of the dealer. That salesman would himself
     be entirely in the employ of the company, and sell no other meat
     but what they supplied him with. This would at once give a larger
     profit to the producer, and a lower price (in comparison) to the
     public. In summer, meat might be cooled by the ice-house, or
     refrigerator, which must necessarily be attached to the company's
     bacon factory. Except in particular districts, it is hardly
     probable that the dairy would be united with the stock-farm; but if
     so, the ice-house would again come into requisition, and there
     would be a condensed-milk factory on the premises."

This was going back to the right line. He seems, however, to have done
no more in this line until August of the next year (the month after his
marriage), when he returned in earnest to the rural life, and never
afterwards left it. His earliest and fastest friend was _Fraser's
Magazine_, now, alas! defunct. But he was speedily engaged to write for
other papers and magazines. His real literary life, in fact, may be said
to begin at this period. The "Farmer at Home" was the title of this
paper singled out by the _Spectator_ as the best of all the papers for
the month. Here there occurs a really striking passage on the "Farmer's
Creed." They live, says the writer, amid conditions so unchanging that
they have acquired a creed of their own, which they rarely express,
never discuss, and never fail to act upon.

     "... In no other profession do the sons and the daughters remain so
     long, and so naturally, under the parental roof. The growth of half
     a dozen strong sons was a matter of self-congratulation, for each
     as he came to man's estate took the place of a labourer, and so
     reduced the money expenditure. The daughters worked in the dairy,
     and did not hesitate to milk occasionally, or, at least, to labour
     in the hay-field. They spun, too, the home-made stuffs in which all
     the family were clothed. A man's children were his servants. They
     could not stir a step without his permission. Obedience and
     reverence to the parent was the first and greatest of all virtues.
     Its influence was to extend through life, and through the whole
     social system. They were to choose the wife or the husband approved
     of at home. At thirty, perhaps, the more fortunate of the sons were
     placed on farms of their own nominally, but still really under the
     father's control. They dared not plough or sow except in the way
     that he approved. Their expenditure was strictly regulated by his
     orders. This lasted till his death, which might not take place for
     another twenty years. At the present moment I could point out ten
     or twelve such cases, where men of thirty or forty are in farms,
     and to all appearance perfectly free and independent, and yet as
     completely under the parental thumb as they were at ten years
     old.... These men, if they think thus of their own offspring,
     cannot be expected to be more tender towards the lower class around
     them. They did at one time, and some still wish to, extend the same
     system to the labouring population.... They did not want only to
     indulge in tyranny; what they did was to rule the labouring poor in
     the same way as they did their own children--nothing more nor less.
     These labouring men, like his own children, must do as the farmer
     thought best. They must live here or there, marry so and so, or
     forfeit favour--in short, obey the parental head. Each farmer was
     king in his own domain; the united farmers of a parish were kings
     of the whole place. They did not use the power circumstances gave
     them harshly, but they paid very little regard to the liberty of
     the subject.... In religion it is, or lately was, the same. It was
     not a matter with the farmer of the Athanasian Creed, or the
     doctrine of salvation by faith, or any other theological dogma. To
     him the parish church was the centre of the social system of the
     parish. It was the keystone of that parental plan of government
     that he believed in. The very first doctrine preached from the
     pulpit was that of obedience. 'Honour thy father and thy mother'
     was inculcated there every seventh day. His father went to church,
     he went to church himself, and everybody else ought to go. It was
     as much a social gathering as the dinner at the market ordinary, or
     the annual audit dinner of their common landlord. The Dissenter,
     who declined to pay Church-rates, was an unsocial person. He had
     left the circle. It was not the theology that they cared about, it
     was the social nonconformity. In a spiritual sense, too, the
     clergyman was the father of the parish, the shepherd of the
     flock--it was a part of the great system. To go a step farther, in
     political affairs the one leading idea still threaded itself
     through all. The proper Parliamentary representative--the natural
     law-giver--was the landlord of the district. He was born amongst
     them, walked about amongst them, had been in their houses many a
     time. He knew their wants, their ideas, their views. His own
     interest was identical with theirs. Therefore he was the man."

A third paper, called "John Smith's Shanty," gave a picture of the
agricultural labourer's life. He here began, timidly at first, to leave
the regions of hard actual fact, and to venture upon the higher flights
of poetic and ideal work, but poetry based upon the actual facts. Yet
not to leave altogether the journalistic methods. Thus, he wrote for
_Fraser_ a paper on "The Works at Swindon," which was simply a newspaper
descriptive article, and one on "Allotment Gardens" for the _New
Quarterly Review_. This was like his "Future of Farming"--a wholly
practical paper. One of the new principles, he says, that is now
gradually entering the minds of the masses, is a belief that each
individual has a right to a certain share in the land of his birth. That
was written twelve years ago. Since that time this belief has extended
far and wide. There are now books and papers which openly advocate the
doctrine that the land is the property of the people. It is no longer a
question which is asked, an answer which has to be whispered on account
of its great temerity: it is a doctrine openly held and openly taught.
But Jefferies was the first to find it out. He heard the whisper in the
cottage and in the village ale-house; the reeds beside the brook
whispered it to him. If, he thinks, every labouring man had his
allotment, he would cease to desire the general division of the land.

     "If it is possible to find ground near enough to the residence of
     the population to be practically useful as cemeteries, there can be
     no valid reason why spaces should not be available for a system of
     gardens. Numerous companies have been formed for the purpose of
     supplying the workmen with houses; the building societies and their
     estates are situated outside the city, but within easy reach by
     rail. Why should not societies exist and flourish for the equally
     useful object of providing the workman with a garden? If the plan
     of universal division of land were thoroughly carried out, it
     follows that the cities would disappear, since, to obtain a bare
     living out of the four acres, a man must live on or very near to
     it, and spend his whole time in attending to it. But the extent of
     allotment-ground which such a society as this would provide for the
     workman must not be so large as to require any more attention than
     he could pay to it in the evening, or the Saturday afternoon, or at
     most in a day or so of absence from his work. He would have, of
     course, to go to his allotment by rail, and rail costs money. But
     how many thousands of workmen at this very hour go to their work
     day by day by rail, and return home at night; and the sum of money
     they thus expend must collectively be something enormous in the
     course of a year! To work his allotment he would have no necessity
     to visit it every day, or hardly every week. Such an
     allotment-ground must be under the direction of a proper staff of
     officers, for the distribution of lots, the collection of rent, the
     prevention of theft, and generally to maintain the necessary order.
     Looked at in this light, the extension of the allotment system to
     large towns does not hold out any very great difficulties. The
     political advantage which would accrue would be considerable, as a
     large section of the population would feel that one at least of
     their not altogether frivolous complaints was removed. As a
     pecuniary speculation, it is possible that such a society would pay
     as well as a building society; for the preliminary expenses would
     be so small in comparison. A building society has to erect blocks
     of houses before it can obtain any return; but merely to plough,
     and lay out a few fields in regular plots, and number them on a
     plan, is a light task. If the rent was not paid, the society could
     always seize the crops; and if the plot was not cultivated in a
     given time, they might have a rule by which the title to it should
     be vacated. To carry the idea further, a small additional payment
     per annum might make the plot the tenant's own property. This would
     probably act as a very powerful inducement."

In the year 1874 he meditates a great work, which he began but never
finished, using up his notes in after-years for what is really the same
subject treated with more literary finish and style than he had as yet
acquired. He proposes (May 20th) to Messrs. Longmans to write a great
book in two volumes on the whole Land Question. The first volume he
proposes to call "Tenant and Labourer;" the second, "Land and Landlord."
He will deal, he says, with the subject in an "impartial and trenchant"
manner, but still "with a slightly conservative tone, so as to counsel
moderation." On June 8th he sends an instalment of two hundred
manuscript folios, proposing that the first volume shall be called "The
Agricultural Life." The chapters are to be as follows:

    I. The Creed of the Agriculturist.
   II. The Agriculturist at Home.
  III. Agriculture as a Business.
   IV. Summary of the Farmer's Case.
    V. The Labourer's Daily Life.
   VI. The Labourer's Case.
  VII. The Gist of the Whole Matter.

This proposal never came to anything; but the subject-matter was
abundantly treated by Jefferies later on. Most of the chapters will be
found in "Hodge and his Masters." So far, he is still, it will be
observed, the practical man. Whatever feeling he has for the poetry of
Nature, he has as yet found little expression of it. He next wrote a
paper on "Field-faring Women" for _Fraser_. He also wrote a most
delightful article for the _Graphic_ on the same subject, in which the
truth is told about these women. This was the very first paper written
in his later and better style:

     "Those who labour in the fields require no calendar, no
     carefully-compiled book of reference to tell them when to sow and
     when to reap, to warn them of the flight of time. The flowers,
     blooming and fading, mark the months with unfailing regularity.
     When the sweet violet may be found in warm sheltered nooks, and the
     sleepy snake first crawls out from under the brown leaves, then it
     is time to gather the couch or roots after the plough, and to hoe
     the young turnips and swedes. This is the first work of the year
     for the agricultural women. It is not a pleasant work. Everyone who
     has walked over a ploughed field remembers how the boots were
     clogged with the adhesive clay, and how the continuous ridges and
     furrows impeded progress. These women have to stoop and gather up
     the white couch-roots, and the other weeds, and place them in heaps
     to be burnt. The spring is not always soft and balmy. There comes
     one lovely day, when the bright sunlight encourages the buds and
     peeping leaves to push out, and then follows a week or more of the
     harsh biting east wind. The arable field is generally devoid of
     hedges or trees to break the force of the weather, and the
     couch-pickers have to withstand its cutting rush in the open....

     "The cold clods of earth numb the fingers as they search for the
     roots and weeds. The damp clay chills the feet through thick-nailed
     boots, and the back grows stiff with stooping. If the poor woman
     suffers from the rheumatism so common among the labouring class,
     such a day as this will make every bone in her body ache. When at
     last four o'clock comes, she has to walk a mile or two miles to her
     cottage and prepare her husband's supper. In hilly districts,
     where sheep are the staple production, it follows, of course, that
     turnips and swedes, as their food, are the most important crop.
     Upon the unenclosed open downs the cold of early spring is intense,
     and the women who are engaged in hoeing feel it bitterly. Down in
     the rich fertile valleys, in the meadows, women are at work picking
     up the stones out of the way of the scythe, or beating clots about
     with a short prong. All these are wretched tasks, especially the
     last, and the remuneration for exposure and handling dirt very
     small. But now 'green grow the rushes,' and the cuckoo-flower
     thrusts its pale petals up among the rising grass. Till that grass
     reaches maturity, the women in meadow districts can find no field
     employment. The woods are now carpeted with acres upon acres of the
     wild hyacinth, or blue-bell, and far surpass in loveliness the most
     cultivated garden. The sheen of the rich deep blue shows like a
     lake of colour, in which the tall ash poles stand, and in the
     sunset each bell is tinged with purple. The nightingale sings in
     the hazel-copse, or on the hawthorn bough, both day and night, and
     higher up, upon the downs, the skies are full of larks carolling at
     'Heaven's gate.' But the poor woman hears them not. She has no
     memories of poetry; her mind can call up no beautiful thoughts to
     associate with the flower or the bird. She can sign her name in a
     scrawling hand, and she can spell through simple print, but to all
     intents and purposes she is completely ignorant. Therefore, she
     cannot see, that is, appreciate or feel, the beauty with which she
     is surrounded. Yet, despite the harsh, rude life she leads, there
     works up to the surface some little instinctive yearning after a
     higher condition. The yellow flowers in the cottage-garden--why is
     it that cottagers are so fond of yellow?--the gilly-flower, the
     single stock, marigolds, and such old-fashioned favourites, show a
     desire for ornament; still more so the occasional geranium in the
     window, specially tended by the wife."

Later on he returns to the subject, and relates the story of Dolly most
mournful, most tragic, full of tears and pity.

He now began to alternate his practical and his poetical papers. For
the _Mark Lane Express_ he wrote on "Village Organization"; for the
_Standard_ on "The Cost of Agricultural Labour"; for the _Fortnightly_
on the "Power of the Farmer." Between these papers he wrote on
"Marlborough Forest," on "Village Churches," and on the "Average of

The first of these three articles already reached almost the highest
level of his better style. Even for those who have never wandered in
this great and wonderful forest, the paper is wholly charming, while to
those who know the place, it is full of memories and regrets that one
has seen so little of all that this man saw.

     "The great painter Autumn has just touched with the tip of his
     brush a branch of the beech-tree, here and there leaving an orange
     spot, and the green acorns are tinged with a faint yellow. The
     hedges, perfect mines of beauty, look almost red from a distance,
     so innumerable are the peggles. Let not the modern Goths destroy
     our hedges, so typical of an English landscape, so full of all that
     can delight the eye and please the mind. Spare them if only for
     the sake of the 'days when we went gipsying--a long time
     ago'--spare them for the children to gather the flowers of May and
     the blackberries of September. When the orange spot glows upon the
     beech, then the nuts are ripe, and the hawthorn-bushes are hung
     with festoons of the buff-coloured, heart-shaped leaves of a
     once-green creeper. That 'deepe and enclosed country of Northe
     Wiltes,' which old Clarendon, in his famous 'Civill Warre,' says
     the troops of King Charles had so much difficulty to hurry through,
     is pleasant to those who can linger by the wayside and the copse,
     and do not fear to hear the ordnance make the 'woods ring again,'
     though to this day a rusty old cannon-ball may sometimes be found
     under the dead brown leaves of Aldbourne Chase where the skirmish
     took place before 'Newbury Battle.' Perhaps it is because no such
     deadly outbursts of human passions have swept along beneath its
     trees that the 'Forest' is unsung by the poet, and unvisited by the
     artist. Yet its very name is poetical, Savernake, _i.e._,
     savernesacre--like the God's acre of Longfellow. Saverne--a
     peculiar species of sweet fern; acre--land. So we may call it
     Fern-land Forest, and with truth, for but one step beneath those
     beeches away from the path plunges us to our shoulders in an ocean
     of bracken. The yellow stalks, stout and strong as wood, make
     walking through the brake difficult, and the route pursued devious,
     till from the constant turning and twisting the way is lost. For
     this is no narrow copse, but a veritable forest in which it is easy
     to lose one's self; and the stranger who attempts to pass it away
     from the beaten track must possess some of the Indian instinct
     which sees signs and directions in the sun and wind, in the trees
     and humble plants of the ground. And this is its great charm. The
     heart has a yearning for the unknown, a longing to penetrate the
     deep shadow and the winding glade, where, as it seems, no human
     foot has been. High over head in the beech-tree the squirrel peeps
     down from behind a bough--his long bushy tail curled up over his
     back, and his bright eyes full of mischievous cunning. Listen, and
     you will hear the tap, tap of the woodpecker, and see, away he
     goes in undulating flight with a wild, unearthly chuckle, his green
     and gold plumage glancing in the sun, like the parrots of
     far-distant lands. He will alight in some open space upon an
     ant-hill, and lick up the red insects with his tongue. In the
     fir-tree, there, what a chattering and fluttering of gaily-painted
     wings--three or four jays are quarrelling noisily. These beautiful
     birds are slain by scores because of their hawk-like capacities for
     destruction of game, and because of the delicate colours of their
     feathers, which are used in fly-fishing. There darts across the
     glade a scared rabbit, straining each little limb for speed, almost
     rushing against us, a greater terror overcoming the less. In a
     moment there darts forth from the dried grass a fierce red-furred
     hunter, a very tiger to the rabbit tribe, with back slightly
     arched, bounding along, and sniffing the scent. Another, and
     another, still a fourth--a whole pack of stoats (elder brothers of
     the smaller weasels). In vain will the rabbit trust to his speed,
     these untiring wolves will overtake him. In vain will he turn and
     double, their unerring noses will find him out. In vain the
     tunnels of the 'bury,' they will come as surely under ground as
     above. At last, wearied, panting, frightened almost to death, the
     timid creature will hide in a _cul-de-sac_, a hole that has no
     outlet, burying its head in the sand. Then the tiny bloodhounds
     will steal with swift, noiseless rush, and fasten upon the veins of
     the neck. What a rattling the wings of the pigeons make as they
     rise out of the trees in hot haste and alarm! As we pass a
     fir-copse, we stoop down and look along the ground under the
     foliage. The sharp 'needles,' or leaves, which fall will not decay,
     and they kill all vegetation, so that there is no underwood or
     herbage to obstruct the view. It is like looking into a vast cellar
     supported upon innumerable slender columns. The pheasants run
     swiftly away underneath. High up the cones are ripening--those
     mysterious emblems sculptured in the hands of the gods at Nineveh,
     perhaps typifying the secret of life. More bracken. What a strong,
     tall fern! it is like a miniature tree. So thick is the cover, a
     thousand archers might lie hid in it easily. In this wild
     solitude, utterly separated from civilization, the whistle of an
     arrow would not surprise us--the shout of a savage before he hurled
     his spear would seem natural, and in keeping. What are those
     strange clattering noises, like the sound of men fighting with
     wooden 'back-swords'? Now it is near--now far off--a spreading
     battle seems to be raging all round, but the combatants are out of
     sight. But, gently--step lightly, and avoid placing the foot on
     dead sticks, which break with a loud crack--softly peep round the
     trunk of this noble oak, whose hard furrowed bark defends it like
     armour. The red deer! Two splendid stags are fighting, fighting for
     their lady-love, the timid doe. They rush at each other with head
     down and horns extended--the horns meet and rattle--they fence with
     them skilfully. This was the cause of the noise. It is the tilting
     season--these tournaments between the knights of the forest are
     going on all around. There is just a trifle of danger in
     approaching these combatants, but not much, just enough to make the
     forest still more enticing; none whatever to those who use common
     caution. At the noise of our footsteps away go the stags, their
     'branching antlers' seen high above the tall fern, bounding over
     the ground in a series of jumps, all four feet leaving the earth at
     once. There are immense oaks that we come to now, each with an open
     space beneath it where Titania and the fairies may dance their
     rings at night. These enormous trunks--what _time_ they represent!
     To us each hour is of consequence, especially in this modern day
     which has invented the detestable creed that time is money. But
     time is not money to Nature. She never hastens. Slowly from the
     tiny acorn grew up this gigantic trunk, and spread abroad those
     limbs which in themselves are trees. And from the trunk itself, to
     the smallest leaf, every infinitesimal atom of which it is composed
     was perfected slowly, gradually--there was no hurry, no attempt to
     discount effect. A little farther, and the ground declines; through
     the tall fern we come upon a valley. But the soft warm sunshine,
     the stillness, the solitude have induced an irresistible idleness.
     Let us lie down upon the fern, on the edge of the green vale, and
     gaze up at the slow clouds as they drift across the blue vault. The
     subtle influence of nature penetrates every limb and every vein,
     fills the soul with a perfect contentment, an absence of all wish
     except to lie there half in sunshine, half in shade for ever, in a
     Nirvana of indifference to all but the exquisite delight of simply
     _living_. The wind in the tree-tops overhead sighs in soft music,
     and ever and anon a leaf falls with a slight rustle to mark the
     time. The clouds go by in rhythmic motion, the ferns whisper verses
     in the ear, the beams of the wondrous sun pour in endless song, for
     he also

         "'In his motion like an angel sings,
           Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim,
           Such harmony is in immortal souls!'

     Time is to us now no more than it was to the oak; we have no
     consciousness of it. Only we feel the broad earth beneath us, and
     as to the ancient giant, so there passes through us a sense of
     strength renewing itself, of vital energy flowing into the frame.
     It may be an hour, it may be two hours; when without the aid of
     sound or sight we become aware by an indescribable supersensuous
     perception that living creatures are approaching. Sit up without
     noise and look--there is a herd of deer feeding down the narrow
     valley close at hand within a stone's-throw. And these are deer
     indeed, no puny creatures, but the 'tall deer' that William the
     Conqueror loved 'as if he were their father.' Fawns are darting
     here and there, frisking round the does. How many may there be in
     this herd?--fifty, perhaps more; nor is this a single isolated
     instance, but dozens more of such herds may be found in this true
     old English forest, all running free and unconstrained. But the sun
     gets low. Following this broad green drive, it leads us past vistas
     of endless glades going no man knows where into shadow and gloom,
     past grand old oaks, past places where the edge of a veritable
     wilderness comes up to the trees--a wilderness of gnarled hawthorn
     trunks of unknown ages, of holly with shining metallic-green
     leaves, and hazel-bushes. Past tall trees bearing the edible
     chestnut in prickly clusters, past maples which in a little while
     will be painted in crimson and gold, with the deer peeping out of
     the fern everywhere, and once perhaps catching a glimpse of a shy,
     beautiful milk-white doe.... Still onward, into a gravel
     carriage-road now, returning by degrees to civilization, and here
     with happy judgment the hand of man has aided nature. Far as the
     eye can see extends an avenue of beech, passing right through the
     forest. The tall smooth trunks rise up to a great height, and then
     branch overhead, looking like the roof of a Gothic cathedral. The
     growth is so regular and so perfect that the comparison springs
     unbidden to the lip, and here, if anywhere, that order of
     architecture might have taken its inspiration. There is a
     continuous Gothic arch of green for miles, beneath which one may
     drive or walk as in the aisles of a forest-abbey. But it is
     impossible to even mention all the beauties of this place within so
     short a space. It must suffice to say that the visitor may walk for
     whole days in this great wood, and never pass the same spot twice.
     No gates or jealous walls will bar his progress. As the fancy
     seizes him so he may wander. If he has a taste for archæological
     studies, especially the prehistoric, the edge of the forest melts
     away upon downs that bear grander specimens than can be seen
     elsewhere--Stonehenge and Avebury are near. The trout-fisher can
     approach very close to it. The rail gives easy communication, but
     has not spoilt the seclusion. Monsieur Lesseps, of Suez Canal fame,
     is reported to have said that Marlborough Forest was the finest he
     had seen in Europe. Certainly no one who had not seen it would
     believe that a forest still existed in the very heart of Southern
     England, so completely recalling those woods and 'chases' upon
     which the ancient feudal monarchs set such store."

In the paper called "Village Churches," Jefferies has wholly found
himself at last. Everybody has felt the charm of the village church. The
most careless pedestrian turns by instinct into the old churchyard, and
hopes to find the church-door open. It is not the architecture that he
cares to study, but the feeling of holy peace which lingers in the
place, like the glory between the Cherubim. Let Jefferies interpret for

     "The black rooks are busy in the old oak-trees carrying away the
     brown acorns one by one in their strong beaks to some open place
     where, undisturbed, they can feast upon the fruit. The nuts have
     fallen from the boughs, and the mice garner them out of the
     ditches; but the blue-black sloes cling tight to the thorn-branch
     still. The first frost has withered up the weak sap left in the
     leaves, and they whirl away in yellow clouds before the gusts of
     wind. It is the season, the hour of half-sorrowful, half-mystic
     thought, when the Past becomes a reality, and the Present a dream,
     and unbidden memories of sunny days and sunny faces, seen when life
     was all spring, float around:

         "'Dim dream-like forms! your shadowy train
           Around me gathers once again;
           The same as in life's morning hour,
           Before my troubled gaze you passed.

                *       *       *       *       *

           Forms known in happy days you bring,
           And much-loved shades amid you spring,
           Like a tradition, half-expired,
           Worn out with many a passing year.'

     "In so busy a land as ours, there is no place where the mind can,
     as it were, turn in upon itself so fully as in the silence and
     solitude of a village church. There is no ponderous vastness, no
     oppressive weight of gloomy roof, no weird cavernous crypts, as in
     the cathedral; only a _visible_ silence, which at once isolates the
     soul, separates it from external present influences, and compels
     it, in falling back upon itself, to recognise its own depth and
     powers. In daily life we sit as in a vast library filled with
     tomes, hurriedly writing frivolous letters upon 'vexatious
     nothings,' snatching our food and slumber, for ever rushing forward
     with beating pulse, never able to turn our gaze away from the goal
     to examine the great storehouse--the library around us. Upon the
     infinitely delicate organization of the brain innumerable pictures
     are hourly painted; these, too, we hurry by, ignoring them, pushing
     them back into oblivion. But here, in silence, they pass again
     before the gaze. Let no man know for what real purpose we come
     here; tell the aged clerk our business is with brasses and
     inscriptions, press half-a-crown into his hand, and let him pass to
     his potato-digging. There is one advantage, at least, in the
     closing of the church on week-days, so much complained of--to those
     who do visit it there is a certainty that their thoughts will not
     be disturbed. And the sense of man's presence has departed from the
     walls and oaken seats; the dust here is not the dust of the
     highway, of the quick footstep; it is the dust of the past. The
     ancient heavy key creaks in the cumbrous lock, and the iron
     latch-ring has worn a deep groove in the solid stone. The narrow
     nail-studded door of black oak yields slowly to the push--it is not
     easy to enter, not easy to quit the Present--but once close it, and
     the living world is gone. The very style of ornament upon the
     door--the broad-headed nails--has come down from the remotest
     antiquity. After the battle, says the rude bard in the Saxon

         "'The Northmen departed
           In their nailed barks,'

     and earlier still the treacherous troop that seized the sleeping
     magician in iron, Wayland the Smith, were clad in 'nailed armour,'
     in both instances meaning ornamented with nails. Incidentally it
     may be noted that until very recently at least one village church
     in England had part of the skin of a Dane nailed to the door--a
     stern reminder of the days when 'the Pagans' harried the land. This
     narrow window, deep in the thick wall, has no painted magnificence
     to boast of, but as you sit beside it in the square high-sided pew,
     it possesses a human interest which even art cannot supply. The
     tall grass growing rank on the graves without rustles as it waves
     to and fro in the wind against the small diamond panes, yellow and
     green with age--rustles with a melancholy sound, for we know that
     this window was once far above the ground, but the earth has risen
     till nearly on a level; risen from the accumulation of human
     remains. Yet but a day or two before, on the Sunday morning, in
     this pew, bright restless children smiled at each other, exchanged
     guilty pushes, while the sunbeams from the arrow-slit above shone
     upon their golden hair. Let us not think of this further. But dimly
     through the window, 'as through a glass darkly,' see the green yew
     with its red berries, and afar the elms and beeches, brown and
     yellow. The steep down rises over them, and the moving gray patch
     upon it is a flock of sheep. The white wall is cold and damp, and
     the beams of the roof overhead, though the varnish is gone from
     them, are dank with slow decay. In the recess lies the figure of a
     knight in armour, rudely carved, beside his lady, still more rudely
     rendered in her stiff robes, and of him an ill-spelt inscription
     proudly records that he 'builded ye greate howse at'--no matter
     where--but history records that cruel war wrapped it in flames
     before half a generation was gone. So that the boast of his
     building great houses reads as a bitter mockery. There stands
     opposite a grander monument to a mighty earl, and over it hangs a
     breastplate, and gauntlets of steel. The villagers will tell that
     in yonder deep shady 'combe' or valley, in the thick hazel-bushes,
     when the 'beetle with his drowsy hum' rises through the night air,
     there comes the wicked old earl wearing this very breastplate,
     these iron gloves, to expiate one evil deed of yore. And if we sit
     in this pew long enough, till the mind is magnetized with the
     spirit of the past, till the early evening sends its shadowy troops
     to fill the distant corners of the silent church, then perhaps
     there may come to us forms gliding noiselessly over the stone
     pavement of the aisles--forms not repelling or ghastly, but filling
     us with an eager curiosity. Then through the slit made for that
     very purpose centuries since, when the pew was in a family chapel,
     through the slit in the pillar, we may see cowled monks assemble at
     the altar, muttering as magicians might over vessels of gold. The
     clank of scabbards upon the stones is stilled, the rustle of gowns
     is silent; if there is a sound it is of subdued sobs, as the aged
     monk blesses the troop on the eve of their march. Not even yet has
     the stern idol of war ceased to demand its victims; even yet brave
     hearts and noble minds must perish, and leave sterile the hopes of
     the elders and the love of woman. There is still light enough left
     to read the few simple lines on the plain marble slab, telling how
     'Lieutenant ----,' at Inkerman, at Lucknow, or later still, at
     Coomassie, fell doing his duty. And these plain slabs are dearer
     to us far than all the sculptured grandeur, all the titles and pomp
     of belted earl and knight; their simple words go straighter to our
     hearts than all the quaint curt Latin of the olden time. The
     belfry-door is ajar--these winding-stairs are not easy of access.
     The edges are worn away, and the steps strewn with small sticks of
     wood; sticks once used by the jackdaws in building their nests in
     the tower. It is needful to take much care, lest the foot should
     stumble in the semi-darkness. Listen! there is now a slight sound;
     it is the dull ticking of the old, old clock above. It is the only
     thing with motion here; all else is still, and even its motion is
     not life. A strange old clock; a study in itself; all the works
     open and visible, simple, but ingenious. For a hundred years it has
     carried round the one hour-hand upon the square-faced dial without,
     marking every second of time for a century with its pendulum. Here,
     too, are the bells, and one, the chief bell, is a noble tenor, a
     mighty maker of sound. Its curves are full and beautiful, its
     colour clear, its tone, if you do but tap it, sonorous, yet not
     harsh. It is an artistic bell. Round the rim runs a rhyme in the
     monkish tongue, which has a chime in the words, recording the
     donor, and breathing a prayer for his soul. In the days when this
     bell was made men put their souls into their works; their one great
     object was not to turn out a hundred thousand all alike: it was
     rarely they made two alike. Their one great object was to construct
     a work which should carry their very spirit in it, which should
     excel all similar works, and cause men in after-times to inquire
     with wonder for the maker's name, whether it was such a common
     thing as a knife-handle, or a bell, or a ship. Longfellow has
     caught the spirit well in the Saga of the 'Long Serpent,' where the
     builder of the vessel listens to axe and hammer--

         "'All this tumult heard the master,
             It was music to his ear;
           Fancy whispered all the faster,
           "Men shall hear of Thorberg Skafting
             For a hundred year!"'

     Would that there were more of this spirit in the workshops of our
     day! They did not, when such a work was finished, hasten to blaze
     it abroad with trumpet and shouting; it was not carried to the
     topmost pinnacle of the mountain, in sight of all the kingdoms of
     the earth. They were contented with the result of their labour, and
     cared little where it was placed, or who saw it; and so it is that
     some of the finest-toned bells in the world are at this moment to
     be found in village churches, and for so local a fame the maker
     worked as truly, and in as careful a manner, as if he had known his
     bell was to be hung in St. Peter's at Rome. This was the true
     spirit of art. Yet it is not altogether pleasant to contemplate
     this bell; the mind cannot but reflect upon the length of time it
     has survived those to whose joys or sorrows it has lent a passing
     utterance, and who are now dust in the yard beneath.

         "'For full five hundred years I've swung
             In my old gray turret high,
           And many a changing theme I've sung
             As the time went stealing by.'

     Even the 'old gray turret' shows more signs of age and of decay
     than the bell, for it is strengthened with iron clamps and rods to
     bind its feeble walls together. Of the pavements, whose flag-stones
     are monuments, the dates and names worn by footsteps; of the vaults
     beneath, with their grim and ghastly traditions of coffins moved
     out of place, as was supposed, by supernatural agency, but, as
     explained, by water; of the thick walls in which, in at least one
     village church, the trembling victim of priestly cruelty was
     immured alive--of these, and a thousand other matters that suggest
     themselves, there is no time to speak. But just a word must be
     spared to notice one lovely spot where two village churches stand
     not a hundred yards apart, separated by a stream, both in the hands
     of one vicar, whose 'cure' is, nevertheless, so scant of souls,
     that service in the morning in one, and in the evening in the other
     church, is amply sufficient. And where is there a place where
     spring-time possesses such a tender yet melancholy interest to the
     heart, as in a village churchyard, where the budding leaves, and
     flowers in the grass, may naturally be taken as symbolical of a
     still more beautiful spring-time yet in store for the soul?"



There lies before me a roll containing certain newspaper extracts pasted
on paper and sewed together. They are cuttings from the _North Wilts
Herald_, and contain a romance, entitled "A Strange Story," written
"expressly" for that paper, and signed "Geoffrey." That Geoffrey--let us
reveal a long-buried secret--was none other than Richard Jefferies
himself. The "Strange Story" was published on June 30, 1866. It is
blood-curdling; it is, in fact, the work of a boy. Between July 21 and
August 4 of the same year, a second tale appeared by the same author; it
is called "Henrique Beaumont." There is a murder in it, and, of course,
a murderer. Lightning--sign of Heaven's wrath--reveals that the
murderer's face, after the deed, is as pale as death. A third tale is
called "Who Will Win? or, American Adventure." There is fighting in it,
with negroes, hairbreadth escapes, and such things, in breathless
succession. A fourth and last tale is called "Masked." These boyish
efforts are only mentioned here to show in what direction the lad's
thoughts were running. Considered as a lad's productions, they require
no comment. At the outset, Jefferies proposed fiction to himself as the
most desirable form of literature, and the most likely form with which
to court success. Almost to the end he continued to keep this ambition
before himself. The list of his serious attempts at fiction is
respectable as regards number. It includes the following:

  "The Scarlet Shawl," one vol., 1874.
  "Restless Human Hearts," three vols., 1875.
  "World's End," three vols., 1877.
  "Green Fern Farm," three vols., 1880.
  "The Dewy Morn," two vols., 1884.
  "Amaryllis at the Fair," one vol., 1887.

To these may be added--but they must be treated separately--"Wood
Magic," a fable, 1881, and "Bevis," three vols., 1882. Perhaps "After
London" may also be accounted a work of fiction.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Scarlet Shawl" was published in July, 1874, in one volume. As the
work is stated on the title-page to have advanced to a second edition,
one of two things is certain--namely, either the book appealed to a
large number of readers, or the editions were very small indeed. I
incline, myself, to the latter opinion.

Great as is the admiration of Jefferies' readers for his best and
noblest work, it must be frankly confessed that, regarded as a
story-teller, he is not successful. Why this is so we will presently
inquire. As regards this, his earliest serious work of fiction, there is
one remarkable fact, quite without precedent in the history of
literature--it is that the book affords not the slightest indication of
genius, insight, descriptive or dramatic power, or, indeed, of any
power, especially of that kind with which he was destined to make his
name. It is a book which any publisher's reader, after glancing at the
pages, would order to be returned instantly, without opinion given or
explanation offered; it is a book which a young man of such real
promise, with such a splendid career before him, ought somehow to have
been prevented from publishing. Two reviews of it are preserved in a
certain book of extracts--one from the _Athenæum_, and one from the
_Graphic_. The story was also made a peg by a writer in the _Globe_ for
some unkind remarks about modern fiction generally. It is only mentioned
here because we would not be accused of suppressing facts, and because
there is no author who has not made similar false starts, mistakes, and
attempts in lines unsuited to his genius. It is not much blame to
Jefferies that his first novel was poor; it was his misfortune that no
one told him at the outset that a book of which the author has to pay
the expense of production is probably worthless. It is, perhaps,
wonderful that the author could possibly think it good. There are, one
imagines, limits even to an author's illusions as regards his own work.
But it is not so wonderful that Jefferies should at this time, when he
was still quite young and ignorant of the world, write a worthless book,
as that he should at any time at all write a book which had not the
least touch of promise or of power.

Consider, however. What is the reason why a young author so often shows
a complete inability to discover how bad his early work really is? It is
that he is wholly unable to understand--no young writer can
understand--the enormous difference between his powers of conception and
imagination--which are often enormous--and those of execution. If it
were worth while, I think it would be possible to extricate from the
crude pages of "The Scarlet Shawl" the real novel which the writer
actually had in his mind, and fondly thought to have transferred to the
printed page. That novel would, I dare say, have been sweet and
wholesome, pure and poetical. The thing which he submitted to the public
was a work in which all these qualities were conspicuously wanting. The
young poet reads his own verses, his mind full of splendid images,
half-formed characters, clouds of bewildering colours, and imagines that
he has fixed these floating splendours in immortal verse. When he has
forgotten what was in his mind while he was writing that verse, he will
be able to understand how feeble are his rhymes, but not till then. I
offer this as some explanation of these early novels.

Consider, again. He never was a novelist; he never could be one. To
begin with, he knew nothing of society, nothing of men and women, except
the people of a small country town. There are, truly, materials for
dramatic fiction in plenty upon a farm and in a village; but Jefferies
was not the man to perceive them and to use them. His strength lay
elsewhere, and as yet he had not found his strength.

Another reason why he could never be a novelist was that he wholly
lacked the dramatic faculty. He could draw splendid landscapes, but he
could not connect them together by the thread of human interest. Nature
in his books is always first, and humanity always second. Two figures
are in the foreground, but one hardly cares to look at them in
contemplating the wonderful picture which surrounds them.

Again, he did not understand, so to speak, stage management. When he had
got a lot of puppets in his hands, he could not make them act. And he
was too self-contained to be a novelist; he could never get rid of his
own personality. When he succeeds in making his reader realize a
character, it is when that character is either himself, as in "Bevis,"
or a part of himself, as Farmer Iden in "Amaryllis." The story in his
earlier attempts is always imitative, awkward, and conventional; it is
never natural and never spontaneous. In his later books he lays aside
all but the mere pretence of a story. The individual pictures which he
presents are delightful and wonderful; they are like his short essays
and articles--they may be read with enormous pleasure--but the story,
what is the story? Where is it? There is none. There is only the promise
of a story not worked out--left, not half untold, but hardly begun, as
in "After London" and in "Amaryllis at the Fair." You may put down any
of his so-called novels at any time with no more regret than that this
scene or that picture was not longer. As the writer never took any
interest in his own characters--one understands that as clearly as if it
was proclaimed upon the house-tops--so none of his readers can be
expected to feel any interest. It is the old, old story. In any kind of
art--it matters not what--if you wish your readers to weep, you must
first be constrained to weep yourself. Many other reasons might be
produced for showing that Jefferies could never have been a successful
novelist; but these may suffice.

Meantime, the wonder remains. How could the same hand write the coarse
and clumsy "Scarlet Shawl" which was shortly to give the world such
sweet and delicate work, so truthful, so artistic, so full of fine
feeling? How could that be possible? Indeed, one cannot altogether
explain it. Collectors of Jefferies' books--unless they are mere
collectors who want to have a complete set--will do well to omit the
early novels. They belong to that class of book which quickly becomes
scarce, but never becomes rare.

There are limitations in the work of every man. With such a man as
Jefferies, the limitations were narrower than with most of those who
make a mark in the history of literature. He was to succeed in one
way--only in one way. Outside that way, failure, check, disappointment,
even derision, awaited him. In the "Eulogy of Richard Jefferies" one can
afford to confess these limitations. He is so richly endowed that one
can well afford to confess them. It no more detracts from his worth and
the quality of his work to own that he was no novelist than it would be
to confess that he was no sculptor.

But the wonder of it! How _could_ such a man write these works, being
already five or six and twenty years of age, without revealing himself?
It is as if one who was to become a great singer should make his first
attempt and break down without even revealing the fact that he had a
noble voice, as yet untrained. Or as if one destined to be a great
painter should send in a picture for exhibition in which there was no
drawing, or sense of colour, or grouping, or management of lights, or
any promise at all. The thing cannot be wholly explained. It is a
phenomenon in literature.

It is best, I say, to acknowledge these limitations fully and frankly,
so that we may go on with nothing, so to speak, to conceal. Let us grant
all the objections to Jefferies as a story-teller that anyone may choose
to make. In the ordinary sense of the word, Jefferies was not a
novelist; in the artistic sense of the word, he was not a novelist. This
fully understood and conceded, we can afterwards consider his later
so-called novels as so many storehouses filled with priceless treasure.

I have in my hands certain letters which Jefferies addressed to Messrs.
Tinsley Brothers on the subject of his MSS. They are curious, and rather
saddening to read. They begin in the year 1872 with proposals that the
firm should publish a work called "Only a Girl," "the leading idea of
which is the delineation of a girl entirely unconventional, entirely
unfettered by precedent, and in sentiment always true to herself." He
writes a first letter on the subject in May. In September he reopens the

"The scenery is a description of that found in this county, with every
portion of which I have been familiar for many years. The characters are
drawn from life, though so far disguised as to render too easy
identification impossible. I have worked in many of the traditions of
Wilts, endeavouring, in fact, in a humble manner to do for that county
what Whyte Melville has done for Northampton and Miss Braddon for

As nothing more is written on the subject of "Only a Girl," I suppose
she was suppressed altogether, or worked up into another book.

In 1874 he attacks the same publishers with a new MS. This time it is
"The Scarlet Shawl." It will be easily understood, from what has gone
before, that he was asked to pay a sum of money in advance in order to
cover the risk--in this case, to pay beforehand the certain loss. He
objected to the amount proposed, and says with charming simplicity:

"I mean to become a name sooner or later. I shall stick to the first
publisher who takes me up; and, unless I am very much mistaken, we
shall make money. To write a tale is to me as easy as to write a letter,
and I do not see why I should not issue two a year for the next twelve
or fifteen years. I can hardly see the possible loss from a novel."

This is really wonderful. This young man knows so little about the
writing of novels as to suppose that, because it is easy for him to
write two "Scarlet Shawls" a year, there can be no possible loss in
them! You see that he had everything to learn. You may also observe that
from the beginning he has never faltered in his one ambition. He will
succeed; and he will succeed in literature.

Terms are finally agreed upon, and "The Scarlet Shawl" is produced. Some
time afterwards he writes for a cheque, and receives an account, whether
accompanied by a cheque or not does not appear. But he submits the
account to a friend, who assures him that it is correct. Thus satisfied,
he finishes a second story, this time in three volumes. It was called
"Restless Human Hearts."

In the following year "Restless Human Hearts," in three volumes, was
brought out by the same firm. In the book of extracts, from which I have
already drawn, there are four or five reviews preserved. They are all of
the same opinion, and it is not a flattering opinion. The _Graphic_
admitted that there was one scene drawn with considerable power. One
need not dwell longer upon this work. Jefferies, in fact, was describing
a society of which he knew absolutely nothing, and was drawing on his
imagination for a picture which he tendered as one of contemporary
manners. At this juncture--nay, at every point--of his literary career,
he wanted someone to stand at his elbow and make him tear up
everything--everything--that pretended to describe a society of which he
knew nothing. The hero appears to have been a wicked nobleman. Heavens!
what did this young provincial journalist know of wicked noblemen? But
he had read about them, when he was a boy. He had read the sensational
romances in which the nobleman was, at that time, always represented as
desperately wicked. In these later days the nobleman of the penny
novelette is generally pictured as virtuous. Why and how this change of
view has been brought about it is impossible in this place to inquire;
but Jefferies belonged to the generation of wicked dukes and vicious

The terms upon which "Restless Human Hearts" was published do not appear
from the letters extant. Jefferies writes, however, a most sensible
letter on the subject. He refuses absolutely to pay any more for
publishing his own books. He says:

"This is about the worst speculation into which I could possibly put the
money. Therefore I am resolved to spend no more upon the matter, whether
the novel gets published or not. The magazines pay well, and immediately
after publication the cheque is forwarded. It seems the height of
absurdity, after receiving a cheque for a magazine article, to go and
pay a sum of money just to get your tale in print. I was content to do
so the first time, because it is in accordance with the common rule of
all trades to pay your footing." The resemblance is not complete, let me
say, because the new author, on this theory, would not pay his footing
to other authors, but to a publisher, and, besides, such a proposal has
never been made to any author. "I might just as well," he concludes,
"put the cheque in the fire as print a tale at my own expense."

Quite so. Most sensibly put. Young authors will do well to lay this
discovery to heart. They may be perfectly certain that a manuscript
which respectable firms refuse to publish at their own risk and expense
is not worth publishing at all, and they may just as well put their
bank-notes upon the fire as pay them to a publisher for producing their
works. Nay, much better, because they will thus save themselves an
infinite amount of disappointment and humiliation.

Before "Restless Human Hearts" is well out of the binder's hands, he is
ready--this indefatigable spinner of cobwebs--with another story. It is
called "In Summer-Time." He is apparently oblivious of the brave words
quoted above, and is now ready to advance £20 towards the risk of the
new novel. Nothing came of the proposal, and "In Summer-Time" went to
join "Only a Girl."

In the same year--this is really a most wonderful record of absolutely
wasted energy--he has an allegory written in Bunyanesque English called
"The New Pilgrim's Progress; or, A Christian's Painful Passage from the
Town of Middle Class to the Golden City." This, too, sinks into
oblivion, and is heard of no more.

Undeterred by all this ill-success, Jefferies proceeds to write yet
another novel, called "World's End." He says that he has spent a whole
winter upon it.

"The story centres round the great property at Birmingham, considered to
be worth four millions, which is without an owner. A year or two ago
there was a family council at that city of a hundred claimants from
America, Australia, and other places, but it is still in Chancery. This
is the core, or kernel, round which the plot develops itself. I think,
upon perusal, you would find it a striking book, and full of original

In consideration of the failure of "Restless Human Hearts," he offers
his publisher the whole of the first edition for nothing, which seems
fair, and one hopes that his publisher recouped by this first edition
his previous losses. The reviewers were kinder to "World's End." The
_Queen_, the _Graphic_, and the _Spectator_ spoke of it with measured
approbation, but no enthusiasm.

He writes again, offering a fourth novel, called "The Dewy Morn;" but as
no more letters follow, it is probable that the work was refused. This
looks as if the success of "World's End" was limited. "The Dewy Morn,"
in the later style, was published in 1884 by Messrs. Chapman and Hall.

The appearance of "World's End" marks the conclusion of one period of
his life. Henceforth Jefferies abandons his ill-starred attempts to
paint manners which he never saw, a society to which he never belonged,
and the life of people concerning whom he knew nothing. He has at last
made the discovery that this kind of work is absolutely futile. Yet he
does not actually realize the fact until he has made many failures, and
wasted a great deal of time, and is nearly thirty years of age.
Henceforth his tales, if we are to call them tales, his papers,
sketches, and finished pictures, will be wholly rural. He has written
"The Dewy Morn," and apparently the work has been refused; there was
little in his previous attempts to tempt a publisher any farther. He
will now write "Greene Ferne Farm," "Bevis," "After London," and
"Amaryllis at the Fair." They are not novels at all, though he chooses
to call them novels; they are a series of pictures, some of beauty and
finish incomparable, strung together by some sort of thread of human
interest which nobody cares to follow.



Never, certainly, did any man have a better chance of success in
literature than Jefferies about the year 1876. He had made himself, to
begin with, an authority on the most interesting of all subjects; he
knew more about farming--that is to say, farming in his own part of the
country--than any other man who could wield a pen; he had written papers
full of the most brilliant suggestions, as well as knowledge, as to the
future of agriculture and its possible developments; he had written
things which made people ask if there had truly arisen an agricultural
prophet in the land. And he was as yet only twenty-eight. Of all young
authors, he seems to have been the man most to be envied. Everything
that he had so long desired seemed now lying at his feet ready to be
picked up. To use the old parlance, the trumpet of fame was already
resounding in the heavens for him, and the crown of honour was already
being woven for his brows.

Some men would have made of this splendid commencement a golden ladder
of fortune. They would have come to town--the first step, whether one is
to become a millionnaire or a Laureate; they would have joined clubs;
they would have gone continually in and out among their fellow-men, and
especially those of their own craft or mystery; they would have been
seen as much as possible in society; they would have stood up to speak
on platforms; they would have sought to be mentioned in the papers; they
would have courted popularity in the ways very well known to all, and
commonly practised without concealment. Such a man as Jefferies might
have made himself, without much trouble, a great power in London.

Well, Jefferies did not become a power in London at all. He could not;
everything was against him, except the main fact that the way was open
to him. First, the air of the town choked and suffocated him; he panted
for the breath of the fields. Next, he had no knowledge or experience of
men; he never belonged to society at all, not even to the quiet society
of a London suburb; he had none of the conversation which belongs to
clubs and to club life; he never associated with literary men or London
journalists; he knew nobody. Thirdly, there was the reserve which clung
round him like a cloak which cannot be removed. He did not want to know
anybody; he was not only reserved, but he was self-contained. Therefore,
the success which he achieved did not mean to him what it should have
meant had he been a man of the world. On the other hand, it must be
conceded that no mere man of the world could write the things which
Jefferies subsequently wrote. Let us, therefore, content ourselves with
the reflection that his success proved in the end to be of a far higher
kind than a mere worldly success. This knowledge, if such things follow
beyond the grave, should be enough to make him happy.

He was himself contented--he was even happy--and desired nothing more
than to go on finding a ready market for his wares, a sufficient income
for the daily wants of his household, and that praise which means to
authors far more than it means to any other class of men. Nobody praises
the physician or the barrister: they go on their own way quite careless
of the world's praise. But an author wants it; I think that all authors
need praise. To work day after day, year after year, without
recognition, thanks, or appreciation, must in the end become destructive
to the highest genius. Praise makes a man write better. Praise gives him
that happy self-confidence which permits the flow, and helps the
expression, of his thoughts. Praise gives him audacity, a most useful
quality for an author. Jefferies could never have written his best
things but for the praise which he received. The chief reason, I verily
believe, why his work went on improving was that every year that he
lived after the appearance of the "Gamekeeper at Home" he received an
ever increasing share of praise, appreciation and encouragement.

It was somewhere about the year 1876 that I myself first fell upon some
of his work. I remember the delight with which I drank, as a bright and
refreshing draught from a clear spring-head, the story of the country
life as set forth by him, this writer, the like of whom I had never
before read. Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the
most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw
them not. Nay, after reading all the books and all the papers--every
one--that Jefferies wrote between the years 1876 and 1887, after
learning from him all that he had to teach, I cannot yet see these
things. I see a hedge; I see wild rose, honeysuckle, black
briony--_herbe aux femmes battues_, the French poetically call
it--blackberry, hawthorn, and elder. I see on the banks sweet
wildflowers whose names I learn from year to year, and straightway
forget because they grow not in the streets. I know very well, because
Jefferies has told me so much, what I should be able to see in the hedge
and on the bank besides these simple things; but yet I cannot see them,
for all his teaching. Mine--alas!--are eyes which have looked into shop
windows and across crowded streets for half a century, save for certain
intervals every year; they are also eyes which need glasses; they are
slow to see things unexpected, ignorant of what should be expected; they
are helpless eyes when they are turned from men and women to flowers,
ferns, weeds, and grasses; they are, in fact, like unto the eyes of
those men with whom I mostly consort. None of us--poor street-struck
creatures!--can see the things we ought to see.

It happened unto me--by grace and special favour, I may call it--that in
the course of my earthly pilgrimage I had for a great many years certain
business transactions at regular short intervals with one who knew
Jefferies well, because he married his only sister. The habit began, as
soon as I learned that fact, of talking about Richard Jefferies as soon
as our business was completed. Henceforward, therefore, week by week, I
followed the fortunes of this man, and read not only his books and his
papers, but learned his personal history, and heard what he was doing,
and watched him curiously, unknown and unsuspected by himself. To be
sure, his own people knew little, except in general terms, about his
intentions or projects. It was not in Jefferies' nature to consult them.
Another thing I knew not, because, with characteristic pride and
reserve, he did not suffer even his brother-in-law or his sister to know
it--viz., the terrible poverty of his later days.

I have never looked upon the face of Richard Jefferies. This, now that
it is too late, is to me a deep and abiding sorrow. I always hoped some
day to see him--there seemed so much time ahead--and to tell him, face
to face, what one _ought_ to tell such a man--it is a plain duty to tell
this truth to such a man--how greatly I admired and valued his work,
with what joy I received it, with what eagerness I expected it, what
splendid qualities I found in it, what instruction and elevation of soul
I derived from it. I have never even seen this man. I was not a friend
of his--I was not even a casual acquaintance--and yet I am writing his
life. Perhaps, in this strange way, by reading all that he wrote, by
connecting his work continually with what I learned of his life and
habits, and by learning, day by day, all the things which happened to
him, I may have learned to know him more intimately even than some of
those who rejoiced in being called his friends.

As for his personal habits, Jefferies was extremely simple and regular,
even methodical. He breakfasted always at eight o'clock, often on
nothing but dry toast and tea. After breakfast he went to his study,
where he remained writing until half-past eleven. At that hour he always
went out, whatever the weather and in all seasons, and walked until one
o'clock. This morning walk was an absolute necessity for him. At one
o'clock he returned and took an early dinner, which was his only
substantial meal. His tastes were simple. He liked to have a plain roast
or boiled joint, with abundance of vegetables, of which he was very
fond, especially asparagus, sea-kale, and mushrooms. He would have
preferred ale, but he found that light claret or burgundy suited him
better, and therefore he drank daily a little of one or the other.

Dinner over, he read his daily paper, and slept for an hour by the
fireside. Perhaps this after-dinner sleep may be taken as a sign of
physical weakness. A young man of thirty ought not to want an hour's
sleep in the middle of the day. At three o'clock he awoke, and went for
another walk, coming home at half-past four. He thus walked for three
hours every day, which, for a quick walker, gives a distance of twelve
miles--a very good allowance of fresh air. Men of all kinds, who have to
keep the brain in constant activity, have found that the active exercise
of walking is more valuable than any other way of recreation in
promoting a healthy activity of the brain. To talk with children is a
rest; to visit picture-galleries changes the current of thought; to play
lawn tennis diverts the brain; but to walk both rests the brain and
stimulates it. Jefferies acquired the habit of noting down in his walks,
and storing away, those thousands of little things which make his
writings the despair of people who think themselves minute observers. He
took tea at five, and then worked again in his study till half-past
eight, when he commonly finished work for the day. In other words, he
gave up five hours of the solid day to work. It is, I think, impossible
for a man to carry on literary work of any but the humblest kind for
more than five hours a day; three hours remained for exercise, and the
rest for food, rest, and reading. He took a little supper at nine, of
cold meat and bread, with a glass of claret, and then read or conversed
until eleven, when he went to bed. He took tobacco very rarely.

He had not a large library, because the works which he most wished to
procure were generally beyond his means. For instance, he was always
desirous, but never able, to purchase Sowerby's "English Wild-Flowers."
His favourite novelists were Scott and Charles Reade. The conjunction of
these two names gives me singular pleasure, as to one who admires the
great qualities of Reade. He also liked the works of Ouida and Miss
Braddon. He never cared greatly for Charles Dickens. I think the reason
why Dickens did not touch him was that the kind of lower middle-class
life which Dickens knew so well, and loved to portray, belonged
exclusively to the town, which Jefferies did not know, and not to the
country, which he did. He was never tired of Goethe's "Faust," which was
always new to him. He loved old ballads, and among the poets, Dryden's
works were his favourite reading. In one thing he was imperious: the
house must be kept quiet--absolutely quiet--while he was at work. Any
household operations that made the least noise had to be postponed till
he went out for his walk.

I have before me a great number of note-books filled with observations,
remarks, ideas, hints, and suggestions of all kinds by him. He carried
them about during his walks, and while he was always watching the
infinite wealth and variety of Nature, the multitudinous forms of life,
he was always noting down what he saw. To read these note-books is like
reading an unclassified index to the works of Nature. And since they
throw so much light upon his methods, and prove--if that wanted any
proof--how careful he was to set down nothing that had not been noted
and proved by himself, I have copied some few pages, which are here
reproduced. Observe that these extracts are taken almost at random from
two or three note-books. The writing is cramped, and in parts very
difficult to make out.

     "_Oct. 16, 1878._--Wasp and very large blue-fly struggling,
     wrestling on leaf. In a few seconds wasp got the mastery, brought
     his tail round, and stung twice or thrice; then bit off the fly's
     proboscis, then the legs, then bit behind the head, then snipped
     off the wings, then fell off leaf, but flew with burden to the
     next, rolled the fly round, and literally devoured its intestines.
     Dropped off the leaf in its eager haste, got on third leaf, and
     continued till nothing was left but a small part of the body--the
     head had been snipped off before. This was one of those large black
     flies--a little blue underneath--not like meat flies, but bigger
     and squarer, that go to the ivy. Ivy in bloom close by, where,
     doubtless, the robber found his prey and seized it.

     "While the other leaves fall, the thick foliage of the fir supports
     the leaves that have been wafted to it, so that the fir's branches
     are thickly sprinkled with other leaves."

     "_Surrey, Oct. 27._--Red-wings numerous, and good many fieldfares.

     "Ivy, brown reddish leaves, and pale-green ribs."

     "_Oct. 29._--Saw hawk perched on telegraph line out of
     railway-carriage window. Train passed by within ten yards; hawk did
     not move.

     "Street mist, London, not fog, but on clear day comes up about
     two-thirds the height of the houses."

     "_Nov. 3._--The horse-chestnut buds at end of boughs; tree quite
     bare of leaves; all sticky, colour of deep varnish, strongly
     adhesive. These showed on this tree very fully.

     "Golden-crested wren, pair together Nov. 3; 'cheep-cheep' as they
     slipped about maple bush, and along and up oak bough; motions like
     the tree-climber up a bough; the crest triangular, point towards
     beak, spot of yellow on wing.

     "Still day; the earth holds its breath."

     "_Nov. 11._--Gold-crested wren and tom-tit on furze clinging to the
     very spikes, and apparently busy on the tiny green buds now showing
     thickly on the prickles.

     "The contemplation of the star, the sun, the tree raises the soul
     into a trance of inner sight of nature."

     "_Nov. 17._--Sycamore leaves--some few still on--spotted with
     intensely black spots an inch across. Willow buds showing."

     "_Nov. 23._--Oaks most beautiful in sun--elms nearly leafless, also
     beech and willow--but oaks still in full leaf, some light-brown,
     still trace of green, some brown, some buff, and tawny almost, save
     in background, toned by shadow, a trace of red. The elms hid them
     in summer; now the oaks stand out the most prominent objects
     everywhere, and are seen to be three times as numerous as

     "_Nov. 25._--Thrushes singing again; a mild day after week or two

     "_Dec. 23._--Red-wings came within a yard, Velt (?) came within
     ten, wood-pigeon the same. Weasel hunting hedge under snow;
     under-ground in ivy as busy as possible; good time for them."

     "_Jan. 6._--Very sharp frost, calm, some sun in morning, dull at

     "_Jan. 7._--Frost, wind, dull."

     "_Jan. 8._--Frost light, strong N.E. wind."

     "_Jan. 9._--Frost light, some little snow, wind N.E., light."

     "_Jan. 10._--Very fine, sunny, N.E. wind, sharp frosty morning.

     "Orange moss on old tiles on cattle-sheds and barns a beautiful
     colour; a picture."

     "_Feb. 7._--Larks soaring and singing the first time; one to an
     immense height; rain in morning, afternoon mild but a strong wind
     from west; catkins on hazel, and buds on some hazel-bushes;
     missel-thrush singing in copse; spring seems to have burst on us
     all at once; chaffinches pairing, or trying to; fighting."

     "_Feb. 8._--Numerous larks soaring; copse quite musical; now the
     dull clouds of six weeks have cleared away, we see the sun has got
     up quite high in the sky at noon."

     "_Feb. 12._--Rooks, five, wading into flood in meadow, almost up to
     their breasts; lark soaring and singing at half-past five, evening;
     light declining; partridges have paired.

     "No blue geranium in Surrey that I have seen."

     "_Feb. 17._--Rooks busy at nests, jackdaws at steeple; sliding down
     with wings extended, 4.50, to gardens below at great speed."

     "_Feb. 20._--Ploughs at work again; have not seen them for three
     months almost."

     "_Feb. 21._--Snow three or four inches; broom bent down; the green
     stalks that stand up bent right down; afterwards bright sunshine
     for some hours, and then clouded again."

     "_Feb. 22._--Berries on wild ivy on birch-tree, round and
     fully-formed and plentiful; berries not formed on garden ivy."

     "_Feb. 27._--Snow on ground since morning of 21st; four wild ducks
     going over to east; first seen here for two years; larks fighting
     and singing over snow; thawing; snow disappeared during day; tomtit
     at birch-tree buds; pigeons still in large flocks."

     "_March 7._--Splendid day; warm sun, scarcely any wind;
     wood-pigeons calling in copse here."

     "_April 16._--Elms beginning to get green with leaf-buds; apple
     leaf-buds opening green."

     "_May 12._--A real May-day at last; warm, west wind, sunshine;
     birds singing as if hearts would burst; four or five blackbirds all
     in hearing at once; butterfly, small white, tipped with yellowish
     red; song of thrush more varied even than nightingale; if rare,
     people would go miles to hear it, never the same in same bird, and
     every bird different; fearless, too; _operatic_ singer.

     "More stitchwort; now common; it looks like ten petals, but is
     really five; the top of the petal divided, which gives the
     appearance; a delicate, beautiful white; leaves in pairs, pointed.

     "Humble-bees do suck cowslips."

     "_May 14._--Lark singing beautifully in the still dark and clouded
     sky at a quarter to three o'clock in the morning; about twenty
     minutes afterwards the first thrush; thought I heard distant
     cuckoo--not sure; and ten minutes after that the copse by garden
     perfectly ringing with the music. A beautiful May morning;
     thoroughly English morning: southerly wind, warm light breeze,
     smart showers of warm rain, and intervals of brilliant sunshine;
     the leaves in copse beautiful delicate green, refreshed, cleaned,
     and a still more lovely green from the shower; behind them the blue
     sky, and above the bright sun; white detached clouds sailing past.
     That is the morning; afternoon more cloudy.

     "More swifts later in evening. The first was flying low down
     against wind; seemed to progress from tip to tip of wing,
     alternately throwing himself along, now one tip downwards, now the
     other, like hand-over-hand swimming. Furze-chat, first in furze
     opposite, perched on high branch of furze above the golden blossom
     thick on that branch; a way of shaking wings while perched;
     'chat-chat' low; head and part of neck black, white ring or band
     below, brownish general colour. Nightingale singing on
     elm-branch--a large, thick branch, projecting over the green by
     roadside--perched some twenty-five feet high. Yellow-hammer noticed
     a day or two ago perched on branch lengthwise, not across. Oaks:
     more oaks out. Ash: thought I saw one with the large black buds
     enlarged and lengthened, but not yet burst."

     "_May 18._--The white-throat feeds on the brink of the ditch,
     perching on fallen sticks or small bushes; there is then no
     appearance of a crest; afterwards he flies up to the topmost twig
     of the bush, or on a sapling tree, and immediately he begins to
     sing, and the feathers on the top of his head are all ruffled up,
     as if brushed the wrong way."

     "_May 20._--Coo of dove in copse first."

     "_May 21._--The flies teased in the lane to-day--the first time."

Such a man as Jefferies, with his necessities of fresh air and solitude,
should have been adopted and tenderly nursed by some rich man; or he
should have been piloted by some agent who would have transacted all his
business for him, placed his articles in the most advantageous way,
procured him the best price possible for his books, and relieved him
from the trouble of haggling and bargaining--a necessary business to one
who lives by his pen, but to one of his disposition an intolerable
trouble. It would, again, one thinks, have proved a profitable
speculation if some publisher had given him a small solid income in
return for having all his work. Consider: for the truly beautiful papers
on the country life which Jefferies wrote, there were the magazines in
which they might first appear, both American and English, and there was
the volume form afterwards. Would four hundred pounds a year--to
Jefferies it would have seemed affluence--have been too much to pay for
such a man? I think that from a commercial point of view, even including
the year when he was too ill to do any work, it might have paid so to
run Jefferies. As it was, he had no one to advise him. He drifted
helplessly from publisher to publisher. His name stood high, and rose
steadily higher, yet he made no more money by his books. The value of
his work rose no higher--it even fell lower. This curious fact--that
increase of fame should not bring increase of money--Jefferies did not
and could not understand. It constantly irritated and annoyed him. He
thought that he was being defrauded out of his just dues. On this point
I will, however, speak again immediately.

The young couple remained at Swindon until February, 1877, when
Jefferies thought himself justified in giving up his post on the _North
Wilts Herald_, and in removing nearer London. But it must not be too
near London. He must only be near in the sense of ready access by train.
Therefore he took a house at Surbiton--it was at No. 2, Woodside. At
this semi-rural place one is near to the river, the fields, and the
woods. It is not altogether a desertion of the country. Jefferies
_could_ not leave the country altogether. It was necessary for him to
breathe the fresh air of the turf and the fragrance of the newly-turned
clods. He could not live, much less work, unless he did this. As for his
work, that was daily suggested and stimulated by this continual
communing with Nature. Poverty might prick him--it might make him uneasy
for the moment--it never made him unhappy--but unless his brain was full
to overflowing, he could not work. Out of the abundance of his heart his
mouth spoke. It seems, indeed, futile to regret that such a man as this
did not make a more practical advantage to himself out of his success.
He could not. If a man cannot, he cannot. Just as in scientific
observation there is a personal equation, so in the conduct of life
there is a personal limitation. Some unknown force holds back a man when
he has reached a certain point. The life of every man, rightly studied,
shows his personal limitation. But without the whole life of a man
spread out before us, it is not easy to understand where this personal
limitation begins. There is no more to be said when this is once
understood. It is a matter of personal limitation. Those kindly people
who continually occupy themselves with the concerns of their neighbours,
constantly go wrong because they do not understand the personal
limitation. What we call fate is often another word for limitation. Why
do I not write better English, and why have I not a nobler style, and
why cannot I become the greatest writer who ever lived? Because I cannot
rise above a certain level. If I am a wise man, I find out that level; I
reach it, and am content therewith. Why did not Jefferies make himself
rich with the opportunities he had? Because he could not. Because to
grasp an opportunity and to turn it to his own material interest was a
thing beyond his personal limitation. To seize Time by the forelock,
though he go ever so slowly, is to some men impossible. For while they
look on and hesitate, another steps in before them; or the world is
looking on and observes the situation, ready to sneer and snigger, and
there seems a kind of meanness in the act--very likely there _is_
meanness; or to do so one must trample on one's neighbours; or one must
desert one's habits of life, throw over all that one loves, and make a
change of which the least that can be said is that it is certain to make
one uncomfortable for the remainder of life.

Therefore, Jefferies suffered that forelock to be plucked by another,
and continued to wander about the fields. He had now indeed attained the
object of his ambition. He was not only a recognised and successful
writer, but his work was also looked for and loved. Happy that author
who knows that his work is expected before it is ready, and is loved
when it appears. Henceforth he made no more mistakes. He understood by
this time his personal limitation. His work, as well as his days, must
be concerning the fields and the wild life. Year after year that work
becomes more beautiful until the end. As for an income, it was mainly
secured by his contributions to the magazines and journals. He wrote,
during the last ten years of his life, for nearly all the magazines,
but especially for _Longman's_. He also contributed to the _Standard_,
the _St. James's_, the _Pall Mall_, the _Graphic_, the _World_, and
other papers. Most of these articles he gathered together as soon as
there were enough of them, and published them in a volume. In this way
he made a little more out of them. He even contrived to save a little
money. But his income was never very great.

The first five of the works on the country life were published by
Messrs. Smith and Elder. These were the "Gamekeeper at Home," "Wild Life
in a Southern County," "The Amateur Poacher," "Greene Ferne Farm," and
"Round About a Great Estate." Then he did either a very foolish or a
very unfortunate thing. He left Messrs. Smith and Elder, and for the
rest of his life he went about continually changing his publisher,
always in the hope of getting a better price for his volumes, and always
chafing at the smallness of the pecuniary result. An author should never
change his publisher, unless he is compelled to do so by the misfortune
of starting with a shark, a thing which has happened unto many. The
very fact of having all his works in the same hands greatly assists
their sale. A reader who is delighted, for instance, with "Red Deer,"
and would wish to get other books by the same author, finds the name of
Longmans on the back, but no list of those books published by Smith and
Elder, Chatto and Windus, Cassell and Co., and Sampson Low and Co. I
have myself found it very difficult to get a complete set of Jefferies'
books. At the London Library, even, they do not possess a complete set.
Then that reader lays down his book, and presently forgets his purpose.
I suppose that there are very few, even of Jefferies' greatest admirers,
who actually possess all his works.

He was, as I have already said, bitter against publishers for the small
sums they offered him. He made the not uncommon mistake of supposing
that, because the reviews spoke of his works in terms so laudatory,
which, indeed, no reviewers could refrain from doing, the public were
eagerly buying them. I have, myself, had perhaps an exceptional
experience of authors, their grumblings, and their grievances, and I
know that this confusion of thought--this unwarranted conclusion--is
very widespread. An author, that is to say, reads a highly-complimentary
review of his work, and looks for an immense and immediate demand in
consequence for that work. Well, every good review helps a book,
undoubtedly, but to a much smaller extent, from the pecuniary point of
view, than is generally believed. The demand for a book is created in
quite other ways; partly by the author's previous works, which, little
by little, or, if he is lucky, at a single bound, create a _clientèle_
of those who like his style; partly by the talk of people who tell each
other what they have read, and recommend this or that book. Then, since
most books are read from the circulating library, and that kind of
personal recommendation, especially with a new writer, takes time, the
libraries are able to get along with a comparatively small number of
copies; in fact, an author may have a very considerable name, and yet
make, even with the honourable houses, quite a small sum of money by any
work. Again, this is not, one sorrowfully owns, a country which buys
books. My compatriots will buy everything and anything, except books.
They will lavish their money in every conceivable manner, except
one--they never commit extravagances in buying books. For the greater
part, the three-guinea subscription to the library is the whole of the
family expenditure for the greatest, the only unfailing, delight that
life has to offer them.

Again, in the case of Richard Jefferies, the demand for his books was
confined to a comparatively small number of readers. I do not suppose
that his work will ever be widely popular, and yet I am certain that his
reputation will grow and increase. Of all modern writers, I know of none
of whom one can predict with such absolute certainty that he will live.
He will surely live. He draws, as no other writer has done, the actual
life of rural England under Queen Victoria. For the very fidelity of
these pictures alone he must live. No other writers, except Jefferies
and Thomas Hardy, have been able to depict this life. And, what is even
more, as the hills, and fields, and woods, and streams are ever with
us, whether we are savages or civilized beings, whatever our manners,
dress, fashions, laws or customs, the man who speaks with truth of these
speaks for all time and for all mankind.

Yet he is not, and will never be, widely popular. There are many
persons, presumably persons of culture, who cannot read Jefferies. A
country parson--poor man!--observed to me in Swindon itself, that he
hoped the biography of Richard Jefferies would not prove so dry as the
works of Richard Jefferies. These, he said, with the cheerful dogmatism
of his kind, were as dry as a stick, and impossible to read. Now, this
good man was probably in some sort a scholar. He lives in the Jefferies
county. All round him are the hills and downs described in these works.
To us those hills and downs are now filled with life, beauty, and all
kinds of delightful things, entirely through those very books. The good
vicar finds them so dry that he cannot read them. Others there are who
complain that Jefferies is always "cataloguing." One understands what is
meant. To some of us the picture is always being improved by the
addition of another blade of grass, another dead leaf, or the ear of a
hare visible among the turnip-tops; others are fatigued by these little
details. Jefferies is too full for them.

Another thing against him in the minds of the frivolous is that you
cannot skip in reading Jefferies. To take up a volume is to read it
right through from beginning to end. You can no more skip Jefferies than
you can skip Emerson. Now, most readers like to rush a volume. You
cannot rush Jefferies. I defy the most rapid reader to rush Jefferies.
You might as well try to rush the Proof of the Binomial Theorem. Others
there are who like to be made to laugh or to cry. This man never laughs.
You may, perhaps, put down the book and smile at the incongruities of
the rustic talk, but you do not laugh. Hardy's rustics will make you
laugh a whole summer's day through, but Jefferies' rustics never. He is
always in earnest. Hardy is a humorist; Jefferies is not. And, worst sin
of all in him who courts popularity, he makes his readers think. Men
who live alone, who walk about alone, who commune with Nature all day
long, do not laugh, and do not make others laugh.

For these reasons, then, among others, Jefferies was never popular,
despite the laudatory reviews and the readiness with which editors
welcomed his work.

As to the remuneration which he received. With these considerations in
our minds, let us next remember that publishing is a business
undertaken, not for love of literature or of authors, but for profit,
for a livelihood, for making money. It is, therefore, conducted upon
"business principles." Now, in business of every kind, the first rule is
that the business man must "make a profit on every transaction." You
must pay your publisher, if you engage one, just as you must pay your
solicitor. This is fair, just, and honest. You must pay him for his time
and his trouble. He must be paid either by the author, or out of the
books which he sells. The only question, therefore, not including
certain awkward points into which we need not here enter--I am speaking
only of honourable houses--is what proportion of a book's returns, or
what sum, should be paid to a publisher for his trouble. Now, I have
learned enough of the sale of Jefferies' books, and of the sums which he
received for them, to be satisfied that his publishers' services were by
no means exorbitantly paid by the sale of his books, and that no more,
from a business point of view, could have been given. That is to say, if
more had been given, it would have been as a free gift, or act of
charity, which this author would have spurned. All these things,
however, he could not understand, perhaps because they were never
explained to him.

I have been told by one who knew Jefferies from boyhood that he was
indolent, and would never have worked had it not been for necessity. His
writings do not convey to me the idea of an indolent man. On the
contrary, they are those of a man of an intellect so active that he must
have been compelled to work. Yet one can understand that he could not
work, after making the grand discovery of what his work should be, until
his brain was overflowing with the subject. Generally it was a single
and a simple subject round which he wove his tapestry. The subject once
conceived, he could do nothing until his brain was charged and possessed
with it.

His life has henceforth no incidents to record, except those of work and
illness. He worked, he walked, he wrote, he walked again, he read, he
watched and observed, he thought. That is his life, until illness fell
upon him. Always a silent man, always a man of few friends, always a man
of simple habits, in all weathers delighting to be out of doors,
refusing to put on a great-coat or to carry an umbrella.

He changed his residence several times. From Surbiton, where he stayed
for five years, he went to West Brighton, to a house called "Savernake."
Did he himself christen it after the forest which he knew so well?
Thence, in 1884, he went to Eltham, where he took a house in the
Victoria Road. Then, I suppose, an irresistible yearning for some place
far from men seized him, for he moved again, and went to live at a
cottage two miles and a half from Crowborough Station, near Crowborough
Hill, the highest spot in Sussex. Again he stayed for a few weeks on
the Quantock Hills, Somerset. Lastly, he went to live at a house called
Sea View, at Goring, where he died.



Mr. Charles Longman, who for the last eight years of Jefferies' life was
one of his most constant friends, has lent me a packet of letters
written to him by Jefferies between the years 1878 and 1886. They form
by themselves, like the previous letters to Mrs. Harrild, a kind of
diary of his life during that period.

"The papers on the 'Gamekeeper at Home,' in the _Pall Mall Gazette_,"
Mr. Longman writes, "were the first things of Jefferies' that attracted
me. I thought at once that they seemed to me written by a man who could
see more of the secrets of nature than anyone whose work I had ever come
across. I wrote to Mr. George Smith, asking him to forward a letter to
the writer of the papers, whose name I did not know. In the letter I
proposed that he should write a complete work on Shooting, to be what
Hawker's work was forty years ago. He never did it; but this was the
beginning of my friendship with this most interesting man."

"He never did it." Jefferies could never do anything which did not
spring from his own brain. He has written admirable pages on kindred
subjects--he was the very man to write such a book--and it would
undoubtedly have proved a most popular book. Why, there is not a
gentleman's house in the three kingdoms or the colonies which would not
desire to have a copy of such a work. But the work was proposed to him
by another man, therefore Jefferies could not see his way to put his
heart in it. However, he did think of it; he even went so far as to draw
up a scheme of the work. He would have chapters on the gun, the
gun-room, the art of shooting, etiquette of the field, the dog, the
various kinds of game, and so forth. Presently, we hear that the book is
actually begun; that there are difficulties about getting information
as to various points; that he has been occupied with the various kinds
of game, and so on. He also mentions with complacency pardonable and
even praiseworthy that he has received a proposal to write two books
from a leading Edinburgh firm. Nothing apparently came of this proposal.
It is, however, noticeable, and to young writers it should be very
encouraging, that no sooner did his first really good book appear--the
"Gamekeeper at Home"--than his genius was at once recognised, and the
best publishers began inviting him to write for them. He then offers a
novel--always a novel!--which Messrs. Longmans' reader does not advise
the house to accept. What was that novel? Perhaps one of those which had
already been refused by one publisher, if not by more. Pending the
writing and completion of the book on Shooting, he submits another
proposal. He says:

     "To carry out this volume I must partly lay aside some MSS. which I
     had previously begun, and before writing it I should like to hear
     your opinion on the subject. The provisional title of one for
     which I have accumulated materials and ideas for some time is 'The
     Proletariate: the Power of the Future.' It has been my lot to see a
     great deal of the Labour Question, not only agricultural, but also
     urban." Really? Urban? Where, how, and in what period of his life
     did he get his urban experience? Was it on the streets of Swindon,
     that great centre of life and thought? "And it seems to me that all
     politics are slowly resolving into this one great point." He means
     that the condition of the people all over the world is rapidly
     becoming the dominant question. He was right; but he spoke ten
     years too soon. "Religion, society, institutions of every kind are
     affected. No doubt you saw the extraordinary account in the _Times_
     recently of the burial of a Socialist in Germany, and the marked
     progress of their doctrines. There are several books on wages,
     capital and labour, etc., but it seems to me that most thinkers and
     writers treat the subject on grounds too narrow. Of wages I propose
     to say very little. My idea is to point out how proletarian
     influences are at work everywhere under the surface. The Church,
     the Chapel, the Houses of Parliament, legislation, society, at
     home; abroad, the same. Note the Nihilism in Russia, and the
     railway insurrection in the United States lately. Everywhere the
     masses are heaving and fermenting. In our own rural districts I
     clearly foresee changes in the future through the education now
     beginning of the cottagers. Personally, I have little feeling, and
     my book will be absolutely free of party politics. I look at it
     much as I should dissect and analyze a given period in the history
     of ancient Rome."

Nothing came of this proposal, and, indeed, one feels that Jefferies was
not the man to write such a book. Of the people in other countries he
knew nothing but what he read in the papers; of the people at home he
knew only the agricultural portion; and though he had read a great many
books he was in no sense an historical student. But he was still young,
and it still seemed to him, as to all young writers, that he could write
a book upon any subject which it interested him to read about in the
papers or elsewhere.

The same letter contains another idea. It is that of a book on "The
History of the English Squire." This seems a very good subject for a
competent person. Perhaps someone will take up the idea and write the
history of the English squire before he becomes extinct. One would like
to see how, first, the yeoman added acre to acre, ousting his neighbour,
and so became the squire; then how, gradually, all over the country,
owing to the action of forces too strong for him, the yeoman began to
disappear; how the squire was able to add more acres, buying out yeoman
after yeoman, always on the look-out to buy more land, and therefore
always becoming more important; and how, presently, he got a title,
which he now "enjoys," claiming superiority of blood and descent, while
the ex-yeoman, once his equal, is now his tenant, and humbly doffs his
hat. Jefferies, one feels convinced, ought to have written a most
interesting and instructive volume upon this subject, if--which he has
never shown--he had the patience for historical research and

He presently forwards a specimen chapter for the Shooting-Book. That was
in September, 1878. In October he formally accepted the business
arrangements offered by the firm, undertook the work, and signed the
agreement. There follows here a gap of three years. When the letters are
resumed, Jefferies is living at West Brighton (December, 1882). He
offers to contribute to the new _Longman's Magazine_, and proposes an
article consisting of three short sketches. (1) The Acorn-gatherer; (2)
The Legend of a Gateway; and (3) A Roman Brook. This article, in fact,
appeared under the title of "Bits of Oak Bark."

He presently speaks of his long illness, which has kept him out of the
world. "I see," he says, "that you have got out the Shooting-Book under
the title of 'The Dead Shot.'" This, however, was a reprint of an old
book. Mr. Longman's idea of a complete manual for shooting has since
been carried out in "The Badminton Library." "No wonder; I could not
expect anyone to be more patient than you were. But even now I hope some
day to send in a manuscript."

He is also ready to write another book. This time it is to be a series
of "short story-sketches of life and character, incident and nature. I
want to express the deeper feelings with which observation of
life-histories has filled me, and I assure you I have as large a
collection of these facts and incidents--the natural history of the
heart--as I have ever written about birds and trees." In short, he
proposes to write a series which shall take the place in the magazine of
the novel, and says that he has enough material to carry him along until
the year 1890, or longer. "Why not let other contributors, besides the
novelist, occasionally give you a series? For myself, I have given up
English novels and taken to the French, which are at least bright,
short, dramatic, and amusing." The poor English novelist! He has to
endure a great deal. Whenever an editor is in want of a subject for a
leading article, or a critic for something to talk about, he has a fling
at the English novelist. The greatest artist and the smallest, most
insignificant story-teller; the master and the apprentice; the observer
of manners and the school-girl--all are lumped together by the critic
who has nothing else to write about, and discussed under the title of
"the English Novelist." And to think that Jefferies--Richard
Jefferies--should throw his stone! Oh! 'tis too much! But Nemesis fell
upon him, for he presently wrote "Green Ferne Farm," which is neither
short, bright, dramatic, nor amusing. That proposed series did not
appear. He says, a few days afterwards, that he has begun a paper asked
for by Mr. Longman on "The County Suffrage." This paper subsequently
appeared under the title of "After the County Suffrage."

It was in June, 1883, that _Longman's Magazine_ contained the article
called "The Pageant of Summer." This fine paper, the best thing ever
written by Jefferies, glorified the whole of that number. There has
never been, I think, in any magazine any article like unto it, so
splendid in imagery and language, so perfectly truthful, so overflowing
with observation, so full of the deepest feeling, so tender and so
touching, so generous of thought and suggestion. In this paper Jefferies
reached his highest point. There are plenty of single pages and
detached passages in which he has equalled the "Pageant of Summer;" but
there is no one chapter, no single article, in which he has sustained
throughout the elevation of this noble paper. I will return to "The
Pageant of Summer" later on.

Although he wrote this paper while in dire straits of poverty; although
he had already entered that valley whose gloomy sides continually
narrow; where the slopes become, little by little, precipices; where the
light grows dim, and where the spectre of death slowly rises before the
eyes and takes shape: although he lived poorly; although he continued
unknown to the mass of the reading world, who passed him by, everything,
to us, seems compensated by the splendid power which he had now acquired
of thinking such thoughts and expressing them in such language. I have
heard it said by some that Jefferies wrote too much. Not a single page
too much, beginning from the "Gamekeeper at Home," and thinking only of
the "Gamekeeper's" legitimate successors! That is to say, we are
prepared to surrender portions, but not all--saving great pieces, huge
cantles, here and there whole chapters--of "Bevis," "Wood Magic," "After
London," "Green Ferne Farm," "The Dewy Morn," and even "Amaryllis." We
will blot out everything that has to do with the ordinary figures,
conversations, and situations of what the writer called a novel. But of
the rest we will not part with one single line. Year after
year--generation after generation--the truth and fidelity and beauty of
these pages will sink deeper and deeper into the heart of the world. So
deeply will they sink, so long will they live, that he who writes a
memoir of this man trembles for thinking that when future ages ask who
and what was the man who wrote these things, the pages which contain his
life may seem unequal to the subject--too low, pedestrian, and creeping
for the greatness of the author he commemorates.

I return to the packet of letters. They go on to offer articles, and to
explain how promised papers are getting on. He wrote nine papers in all
for _Longman's Magazine_--namely, three in 1883, two in 1884, one in
1885, one in 1886, and two, which appeared after his death, in the year

In June of 1883 he offers a manuscript which, he says, he has been
meditating for seventeen years. In that case he must have begun to think
of it at eighteen. This, if one begins to consider, is by no means
improbable. On the contrary, I think it is extremely probable, and that
Jefferies meant his words to be taken literally. The thoughts of a boy
are long thoughts. Sometimes one remembers, by some strange trick of
memory--it shows how the past never dies, but may be recalled at any
moment--a train of thought which filled the mind on some day long passed
away, when one was a lad of eighteen; a child; almost an infant. At such
a moment one is astonished to remember that this thought filled the
brain so early. As for the age of adolescence, there is no time when the
brain is more active to question, to imagine, to create, to inform;
none, when the mind is more eager to arrive at certainty; none, more
hopeful of the future; none, more anxious to arrive at the truth.
Therefore, when Jefferies tells Mr. Longman that he has meditated "The
Story of My Heart" for eighteen years, I believe him: not that he then
consciously called the work by that or by any other name, but that the
book is the outcome of so long a period of thought and questioning. "It
is," he says, "a real record--unsparing to myself as to all
things--absolutely and unflinchingly true."

The book was published with Longman's autumn list in October, 1883. I
have something to say about it in another chapter.

Jefferies' industry at this time seems superhuman. The MS. of "The Story
of My Heart" is no sooner out of his hands, than he asks Mr. Longman if
he will look at another. This time it is his "Red Deer," which I really
believe to be the very best book of the kind ever produced. This is what
he says himself about it:

     "The title is 'Red Deer,' and it is a minute account of the natural
     history of the wild deer of Exmoor, and of the modes of hunting
     them. I went all over Exmoor a short time since on foot in order to
     see the deer for myself, and in addition I had the advantage of
     getting full information from the huntsman himself, and from others
     who have watched the deer for twenty years past. The chase of the
     wild stag is a bit out of the life of the fifteenth century brought
     down to our own times. Nothing has ever interested me so much, and
     I contemplate going down again. In addition, there are a number of
     Somerset poaching tricks which were explained to me by gamekeepers
     and by a landowner there, besides a few curious superstitions.
     There seem to be no books about the deer--I mean the wild deer. A
     book called 'Collyer's Chase of the Wild Red Deer' was published
     many years ago, but is not now to be had."

"Red Deer" was brought out by Longmans in 1884.

In December, 1883, he offers "The Dewy Morn." The proposal came to
nothing. The book was published in the following year by Messrs. Chapman
and Hall. In February, 1884, he speaks of a letter written to him by
Lord Ebrington, master of the Devon and Somerset staghounds, upon his
"Red Deer." Certain small errors were pointed out for correction, but,
as he points out with satisfaction, no serious omission or fault had
been discovered.

In a letter written in March he mentions that an anonymous correspondent
has been scourging him with Scripture texts on account of the "Story of
My Heart." That anonymous correspondent! How he lieth in wait for
everybody! how omniscient he is! how unsparing! how certain and sure of
everything! The texts which this person used to belabour poor Jefferies
were, however, singularly inappropriate. "O Lord," he quotes, "how
glorious are Thy works! Thy thoughts are very deep. An unwise man doth
not consider this, and a FOOL doth not understand it." The word "fool"
was doubly underlined, so that there should be no mistake as to the
practical application of the passage. The anonymous correspondent is,
indeed, always very particular on this point. But Jefferies had been all
his life commenting on the glory of those works, and endeavouring to
apprehend and to realize, if only a little, the meaning and the depth
of these thoughts. The cry of his heart all through the book is for
fuller insight--for a deeper understanding.

He goes on to speak of his illness. It is not, he says, at all serious;
but it will make him go to London to see a physician, and it is likely
to prevent him from getting about. There is a paper (not one of these
letters) among his literary remains, in which he describes the symptoms
at length.

In April he writes a long letter about many things, but especially his
"After London."

     "I have just put the finishing touch to my new book. It is in three
     volumes." As published by Cassell and Co. it was in one volume, and
     it leaves off with the story only half told. Perhaps the author cut
     it down, perhaps the publishers refused to bring it out unless as a
     short one-volume work. "It is called," he says, "'After London,'
     with a second title, 'Chronicles of the House of Aquila.' The first
     part describes the relapse of England into barbarism; how the roads
     are covered with grass, how the brambles extend over the fields,
     and in time woods occupy the country. These woods are filled with
     wild animals--descendants of the dogs, cats, swine, horses, and
     cattle that were left, and gradually returned to their original
     wild nature. The rivers are choked, and a great lake forms in the
     centre of the island.

     "Such inhabitants as remain are resident about the shores of the
     lake--the forest being without roads, and their only communication
     being by water. They have lost printing and gunpowder; they use the
     bow and arrow, and wear armour, but retain some traces of the arts
     and of civilization. At the same time, slavery exists, and moral
     tyranny. There are numerous petty kingdoms and republics at war
     with each other. Knights and barons possess fortified dwellings,
     and exercise unbounded power within their stockaded
     estates--stockaded against bushmen, forest savages, against bands
     of gipsies, and against wild cattle and horses.

     "The Welsh issue from their mountains, claiming England as having
     belonged to their ancestors. They succeed in conquering a section,
     but are confronted by other invaders, for the Irish, thinking that
     now is the time for their revenge, land at Chester. These invaders
     to some degree neutralize each other, yet they form a standing
     menace to the South, and more civilized portion.

     "The state of the site of London is fully described. It is, I
     think, an original picture.

     "The second part, or 'Chronicles of the House of Aquila,' treats of
     the manner of life, the hunting journeys through the forest, the
     feasts and festivals, and, in short, the entire life of the time.
     Ultimately, one of them starts on a voyage round the great inland
     lake, and his adventures are followed. He assists at a siege, and
     visits the site of London.

     "All these matters are purposely dealt with in minute detail so
     that they may appear actual realities, and the incidents stand out
     as if they had just happened. There is a love affair, but it is in
     no sense a novel; more like a romance, but no romance of a real

     "First, you see, I have to picture the condition of the country
     'After London,' and then to set my heroes to work, and fight, and
     travel in it."

This book was brought out, as stated above, by Cassell and Co. in 1886.
The idea is indeed truly original. Had it been more of a novel, with an
end, as well as a beginning, it would have proved more successful.

"You tell me," Jefferies continues, "that I write too much. To me it
seems as if I wrote nothing, more especially since my illness; for this
is the third year I have been so weakened. To me, I say, it seems as if
I wrote nothing, for my mind teems with ideas, and my difficulty is to
know what to do with them. I not only sketch out the general plan of a
book almost instantaneously, but I can see every little detail of it
from the first page to the last. The mere writing--the handwriting--is
the only trouble; it is very wearying. At this moment I have several
volumes quite complete in my mind. Scarce a day goes by but I put down a
fresh thought. I have twelve note-books crammed full of ideas, plots,
sketches of papers, and so on."

These are probably the note-books of which I have spoken, and from which
I have quoted.

The following, dated January 29, 1885, refers to a copy of the Badminton
hunting-book sent him by Mr. Longman:

     "You have made me pretty miserable. I have just read the otter
     chapter, and I can see it all so plainly--the rocks and the rush of
     water, and the oaks of June above. Have you ever seen the Exe and
     Barle? It is a land of Paradise. So you have made me miserable
     enough, being on all-fours; literally not able to go even on three,
     as the Sphynx said, but on four, crawling upstairs on hands and
     knees, and nailed to the uneasy chair."

He offers more work from Crowborough (May 1, 1884 or 1885, uncertain).
There is a new novel of which he speaks, called "A Bit of Human Nature,"
which never appeared, and was probably never written. The rest of the
letters belong to the last few months of his life, and must be reserved
for the last chapter.

Enough has been quoted from these letters to show the extraordinary
mental activity of the man. He is continually planning new work. He sees
a whole book spread out before him complete in all its details. To make
a book--that is to say, to imagine a book already made,--is nothing;
what troubles him is the writing it. This temperament, however, is fatal
to novel-writing, because characters cannot be seen at once; they must
be studied, they require time to grow in the brain. But Jefferies cannot
write enough. It seems to his fertile brain, fevered with long sickness,
as if he did nothing.



It was then, very slowly, and after many hesitations, false starts,
deviations, and mistakes, that Jefferies at last discovered himself and
his real powers. He had written, for obscure country papers, pages of
local descriptions: he had written feeble and commonplace novels, which
all fell dead at their birth, and of which none survive to reproach his
memory or to darken the splendour of his later work. He had also written
practical common-sense papers on agriculture, the farmer and the
farm-labourer. He thus worked his way slowly, first to the mere
mechanical art of writing, that is, to the expression, somehow or other,
of thought and ideas; next, when this was acquired, he endeavoured to
depict society, of which he knew nothing, and its manners, of which he
was completely ignorant; thirdly, after many years of blundering along
the wrong road, he advanced to the perception of the great truth that he
who would succeed in the great profession of letters must absolutely
write on some subject that he knows, and that he should understand his
own limitations. For instance, Jefferies, as we have seen, ardently
desired to become a novelist. If a man be habitually observant of his
fellow-men, if he have the eye of a humourist, a brain which is like a
store-house for capacity, a fair measure of the dramatic faculty, an
instinctive power of selection, and the faculty of getting away from his
own individuality altogether, he will perhaps do well to try the
profession of a novelist. But Jefferies possessed one only of these
faculties: he had a brain which would hold millions of facts, each
consigned to its proper place: but he had little or no humour: he had no
power of creating situation and incident: and he could never possibly
get outside himself and away from his own people. He could not,
therefore, become a novelist: that line of work--though he never
understood it--was closed to him from the beginning. Nature herself
stood before him, though he neither saw nor heard her, as Balaam could
not see the angel, and barred his way. But when he discovered his own
incomparable gift, which was not until he was nearly thirty years of
age, he sprang suddenly before the world as one who could speak of
Nature and her wondrous works in field and forest, as no man ever spake

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a passage in Thomas Hardy's "Woodlanders" which might have been
written of Richard Jefferies. The words, which could only have been
written by one who himself knows the country life, concern a pair, not

     "The casual glimpses which the ordinary population bestowed upon
     that wondrous world of sap and leaves called the Hintock woods had
     been, with these two, a clear gaze. They had been possessed of its
     finer mysteries as of commonplace knowledge; had been able to read
     its hieroglyphs as ordinary writing; to them the sights and sounds
     of night, winter, wind, storm, amid those dense boughs, were simple
     occurrences whose origin, continuance, and laws they foreknew. They
     had planted together, and together they had felled; together they
     had, with the run of the years, mentally collected those remoter
     signs and symbols which seen in few were of runic obscurity, but
     all together made an alphabet. From the light lashing of the twigs
     upon their faces when brushing through them in the dark, they could
     pronounce upon the species of the tree whence they stretched; from
     the quality of the wind's murmur through a bough they could in like
     manner name its sort afar off. They knew by a glance at a trunk if
     its heart were sound, or tainted with incipient decay; and by the
     state of its upper twigs the stratum that had been reached by its
     roots. The artifices of the seasons were seen by them from the
     conjuror's own point of view, and not from that of the spectator."

There are not in the whole of the English-speaking world, which now
numbers close upon a hundred million, more, I suppose, than forty
thousand who read Jefferies' works. Out of the forty thousand not
one-half have read them all. For some are contented with the "Gamekeeper
at Home," "Red Deer," and the "Amateur Poacher." Some have on their
shelves "The Life in the Fields," or "The Open Air." Few, indeed, have
read all those books which came from his brain in so full and clear a
stream. This stream may be likened unto the river by whose banks
Petrarch loved to wander; inasmuch as it springs full grown from the
foot of a great bare precipice. All around is tumbled rock. So, among
the heaped and broken rocks of disappointed hopes and baffled attempts,
this full, strong, and clear stream leaped forth triumphant.

For the greater part of mankind Jefferies is too full. They cannot
absorb so much; they are more at their ease with the last century poets
who use to talk vaguely of the perfumed flowers, the rustling leaves,
the finny tribe, and the warbling of the birds in the bosky grove. It
fatigues them to read of so much that they can never see for themselves;
it irritates them, perhaps, even to think that there is so much; they
are more at home among their geraniums in the conservatory; they even
call his style a cataloguing.

There is also another thing where Jefferies is outside the sympathies of
the multitude. This solitary, who was never so happy as when he wandered
alone upon the downs with no human creature in sight, is yet intensely
human. All kinds of injustice, and especially social injustice, the
grinding and robbery and oppression of the producer, the pride of caste
and class, the pretensions of rank and the insolence of money--these
things make him angry. Now, if there be one thing more lamentably sure
and certain than another, it is that injustice does not make the average
man angry. If money is to be made by injustice, he will be unjust. He
will call his injustice, unless he covers and hides it up, the custom of
the trade, and persuade himself that it is laudable and even Christian
so to act. When another man speaks the truth about these injustices, he
gets uncomfortable. Because, you see, he goes to church, and perhaps
bears a character for eminent piety. There were doubtless churchwardens
and sidesmen among those who, fifty years ago, used to send the little
children of six to work for fourteen hours in the dark coal-pit.
Jefferies had lived so little in towns and among men that he did not
know any sophistry of trade custom, and when he heard of these customs
his soul flamed up. It is not a side of his character which often comes
into view; but it comes often enough to irritate many excellent people
who live in great comfort by the exertions of other people, and plume
themselves mightily upon their virtues, hereditary or otherwise.
Jefferies could never have called himself a Socialist; but he
sympathized with that part of Socialism which claims for every man the
full profit of the labour of his hands.

    "Dim woodlands made him wiser far
       Than those who thresh their barren thought
       With flails of knowledge dearly bought,
     Till all his soul shone like a star
     That flames at fringe of Heaven's bar,
       There breaks the surf of space unseen
       Against Hope's veil that lies between
     Love's future and the woes that are.
     His soul saw through the weary years--
     Past war-bells' chimes and poor men's tears--
       That day when Time shall bring to birth
     (By many a heart whose hope seems vain,
     And many a fight where Love slays Pain)
       True Freedom, come to reign on earth."[1]

      [1] These lines were communicated to me by the writer,
          Mr. H.H. von Sturmer, of Cambridge.

In thinking of Jefferies and the country life, one is continually
tempted to compare him with Thoreau. There are some points of
resemblance. Neither Thoreau nor Jefferies had a scientific training. I
do not gather from any page in the works of the latter that he was a
scientific botanist, entomologist, or ornithologist. Both were men of
few wants and simple habits. Neither went to church, yet in the heart of
each there was a profound sense of religion, which, in the case of
Jefferies, took the form of a firm faith in the future destiny of the
soul. Both men were impatient of authority and of imitation. Each
desired to be self-sufficient. What Emerson says of Thoreau in respect
of open air and exercise might have been written of Jefferies. "The
length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up
in the house he could not write at all."

In both men there was to be observed a great strength of common-sense.
And again, there was this other point common to both, that no college--I
here imitate Emerson on Thoreau--ever offered either of them a diploma
or a professor's chair: no academy made either man its corresponding
secretary, its founder, or even its member. And the following passage,
written by Emerson of Thoreau, might be equally well written, _mutatis
mutandis_, of Jefferies:

     "Thoreau dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields,
     hills and waters of his native town, that he made them known and
     interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea.
     The river on whose banks he was born and died he knew from its
     springs to its confluence with the Merrimack. He had made summer
     and winter observations on it for many years, and at every hour of
     the day and night. Every fact which occurs in the bed, on the
     banks, or in the air over it; the fishes, and their spawning and
     nests, their manners, their food; the shad-flies which fill the air
     on a certain evening once a year, and which are snapped at by the
     fishes so ravenously that many of these die of repletion; the
     conical heaps of small stones on the river-shallows; the huge nests
     of small fishes, one of which will sometimes overfill a cart; the
     birds which frequent the stream, heron, duck, sheldrake, loon,
     osprey; the snake, muskrat, otter, woodchuck and fox, on the banks;
     the turtle, frog, hyla, and cricket, which make the banks
     vocal--were all known to him, and, as it were, townsmen and
     fellow-creatures; so that he felt an absurdity or violence in any
     narrative of one of these by itself apart, and still more of its
     dimensions on an inch-rule, or in the exhibition of its skeleton,
     or the specimen of a squirrel or a bird in brandy. He liked to
     speak of the manners of the river, as itself a lawful creature, yet
     with exactness, and always to an observed fact. As he knew the
     river, so the ponds in this region."

Again, though Thoreau was short of stature and Jefferies tall, there is
something similar in their faces: the lofty forehead; the full, serious
eye; the large nose--these are features common to both. And to both was
common--but Jefferies had, perhaps, the greater forbearance--a certain
impatience with the common herd of mankind who know not, and care not
for, Nature.

There is another passage on Thoreau by a younger writer,[2] which might
just as well have been written, word for word, of Jefferies:

     "The quality which we should call mystery in a painting, and which
     belongs so particularly to the aspect of the external world and to
     its influence upon our feelings, was one which he was never weary
     of attempting to reproduce in his books. The seeming significance
     of nature's appearances, their unchanging strangeness to the
     senses, and the thrilling response which they waken in the mind of
     man, continued to surprise and stimulate his spirits. It appeared
     to him, I think, that if we could only write near enough to the
     facts, and yet with no pedestrian calm, but ardently, we might
     transfer the glamour of reality direct upon our pages; and that, if
     it were once thus captured and expressed, a new and instructive
     relation might appear between men's thoughts and the phenomena of
     nature. This was the eagle that he pursued all his life long, like
     a schoolboy with a butterfly net. Hear him to a friend: 'Let me
     suggest a theme for you--to state to yourself precisely and
     completely what that walk over the mountains amounted to for you,
     returning to this essay again and again until you are satisfied
     that all that was important in your experience is in it.'"

      [2] Robert Louis Stevenson, "Men and Books: _Thoreau_."
          Chatto and Windus, London.

It was not until Jefferies had thoroughly mastered this lesson, and
saturated himself with its spirit, that he began to write well. No one
would believe that the same hand which wrote "The Scarlet Shawl" also
wrote "The Pageant of Summer." I firmly believe that it is not until a
man obtains the great gift of beautiful thought that he can even begin
to understand the beauty of style. To some such thoughts come early; to
others, late. When Jefferies left men for the fields, and not till then,
his mind became every day more and more charged with beauty of thought,
and his style grew correspondingly day by day more charged with beauty.
This beauty of thought grows in him out of the intense love, the
passionate love, which he has for everything in Nature: it is the child
of that love: it is Nature's reward for that love: he loves not only
flowers and trees, but every flower, every tree; he is even contented to
look upon the same trees, the same hedges filled with flowers every day:

     "I do not want change," he says; "I want the same old and loved
     things, the same wildflowers, the same trees and soft ash-green;
     the turtle-doves, the blackbirds, the coloured yellow-hammer sing,
     sing, singing so long as there is light to cast a shadow on the
     dial, for such is the measure of his song: and I want them in the
     same place. Let me find them morning after morning, the
     starry-white petals radiating, striving upwards to their ideal.
     Let me see the idle shadows resting on the white dust; let me hear
     the humble-bees, and stay to look down on the rich dandelion disk.
     Let me see the very thistles opening their great crowns--I should
     miss the thistles; the reed-grasses hiding the moorhen; the bryony
     bine, at first crudely ambitious and lifted by force of youthful
     sap straight above the hedgerow to sink of its own weight presently
     and progress with crafty tendrils; swifts shot through the air with
     outstretched wings like crescent-headed shaftless arrows darted
     from the clouds; the chaffinch with a feather in her bill; all the
     living staircase of the spring, step by step, upwards to the great
     gallery of the summer--let me watch the same succession year by

Therefore, and in return for this great love, Nature rewarded him.
Jefferies began, as Thoreau recommends, by writing down everything that
he saw: he presently arrived at an inconceivable power of minute
observation. Pages might be quoted to show this wonderful closeness. It
is indeed the first, but not the finest, characteristic of Jefferies. It
was the point which most struck the critic in the "Gamekeeper at Home."
But it is not the point which most strikes the reader in his later and
more delicate work. Here the things which he loves speak to him: they
reply to his questioning; they support and raise his soul. "So it has
ever been to me," he says, "by day or by night, summer or winter:
beneath trees the heart feels nearer to that depth of life which the far
sky means. The rest of spirit found only in beauty, ideal and pure,
comes there because the distance seems within touch of thought."

In Jefferies' later books the whole of the country life of the
nineteenth century will be found displayed down to every detail. The
life of the farmer is there; the life of the labourer; the life of the
gamekeeper; the life of the women who work in the fields, and of those
who work at home. If this were all, he would well deserve the gratitude
of the English-speaking race, because in any generation to get so great
a part of life described truthfully is an enormous boon. But it is far
from being the most considerable part of his work. He revealed Nature in
her works and ways; the flowers and the fields; the wild English
creatures; the hedges and the streams; the wood and coppice. He told
what may be seen everywhere by those who have eyes to see. He worked his
way, as we have seen, to this point. And, again, if this were all, he
would well deserve the gratitude which we willingly accord to a White of
Selborne. But this is not all. For next he took the step--the vast
step--across the chasm which separates the poetic from the vulgar mind,
and began to clothe the real with the colours and glamour of the unreal;
to write down the response of the soul to the phenomena of nature: to
interpret the voice of Nature speaking to the soul. Unto his last. And
then he died; his work, which might have gone on for ever, cut off
almost at the commencement.

I desire in this chapter to show how Jefferies paints the country life;
to show him in his minuteness and fidelity first, and in his higher
flights afterwards. Even to those who know Jefferies there will be
something new in reading these scenes again. To those who know him not,
and yet can feel beauty and truth and simplicity--things so rare, so
very rare--these scenes will be like the entrance to some unknown
gallery filled with pictures exquisite, touching and tender.

I select, first, a specimen of his early style. He is speaking of the
provision made by the oak for the creatures of the wood:

     "It is curious to note the number of creatures to whom the oak
     furnishes food. The jays, for instance, are now visiting them for
     acorns; in the summer they fluttered round the then green branches
     for the chafers, and in the evenings the fern owls or goat-suckers
     wheeled about the verge for these and for moths. Rooks come to the
     oaks in crowds for the acorns; wood-pigeons are even more fond of
     them, and from their crops quite a handful may sometimes be taken
     when shot in the trees.

     "They will carry off at once as many acorns as old-fashioned
     economical farmers used to walk about with in their pockets,
     'chucking' them one, two, or three at a time to the pigs in the
     stye as a _bonne bouche_ and an encouragement to fatten well. Never
     was there such a bird to eat as the wood-pigeon. Pheasants roam out
     from the preserves after the same fruit, and no arts can retain
     them at acorn time. Swine are let run out about the hedgerows to
     help themselves. Mice pick up the acorns that fall, and hide them
     for winter use, and squirrels select the best.

     "If there is a decaying bough, or, more particularly, one that has
     been sawn off, it slowly decays into a hollow, and will remain in
     that state for years, the resort of endless woodlice, snapped up by
     insect-eating birds. Down from the branches in spring there descend
     long, slender threads, like gossamer, with a caterpillar at the end
     of each--the insect-eating birds decimate these. So that in various
     ways the oaks give more food to the birds than any other tree.
     Where there are oaks there are sure to be plenty of birds."

After reading this, turn to the following, in quite a different style,
from the same volume. Could the same man, one asks, have written both
these passages?

     "The waves coming round the promontory before the west wind still
     give the idea of a flowing stream, as they did in Homer's days.
     Here beneath the cliff, standing where beach and sand meet, it is
     still; the wind passes six hundred feet overhead. But yonder, every
     larger wave rolling before the breeze breaks over the rocks; a
     white line of spray rushes along them, gleaming in the sunshine;
     for a moment the dark rock-wall disappears, till the spray sinks.

     "The sea seems higher than the spot where I stand, its surface on a
     higher level--raised like a green mound--as if it could burst in
     and occupy the space up to the foot of the cliff in a moment. It
     will not do so, I know; but there is an infinite possibility about
     the sea; it may do what it is not recorded to have done. It is not
     to be ordered, it may overleap the bounds human observation has
     fixed for it. It has a potency unfathomable. There is still
     something in it not quite grasped and understood--something still
     to be discovered--a mystery.

     "So the white spray rushes along the low broken wall of rocks, the
     sun gleams on the flying fragments of the wave, again it sinks, and
     the rhythmic motion holds the mind, as an invisible force holds
     back the tide. A faith of expectancy, a sense that something may
     drift up from the unknown, a large belief in the unseen resources
     of the endless space out yonder, soothes the mind with dreamy hope.

     "The little rules and little experiences, all the petty ways of
     narrow life, are shut off behind by the ponderous and impassable
     cliff; as if we had dwelt in the dim light of a cave, but coming
     out at last to look at the sun, a great stone had fallen and closed
     the entrance, so that there was no return to the shadow. The
     impassable precipice shuts off our former selves of yesterday,
     forcing us to look out over the sea only, or up to the deeper

     "These breadths draw out the soul; we feel that we have wider
     thoughts than we knew; the soul has been living, as it were, in a
     nutshell, all unaware of its own power, and now suddenly finds
     freedom in the sun and the sky. Straight, as if sawn down from turf
     to beach, the cliff shuts off the human world, for the sea knows no
     time and no era; you cannot tell what century it is from the face
     of the sea. A Roman trireme suddenly rounding the white edge-line
     of chalk, borne on wind and oar from the Isle of Wight towards the
     gray castle at Pevensey (already old in olden days), would not seem
     strange. What wonder could surprise us coming from the wonderful

Here, again, is a specimen of what has been called his "cataloguing." He
describes a hedgerow. Cataloguing! Yes. But was ever observation more

     "A wild 'plum,' or bullace, grew in one place; the plum about twice
     the size of a sloe, with a bloom upon the skin like the cultivated
     fruit, but lacking its sweetness. Yet there was a distinct
     difference of taste: the 'plum' had not got the extreme harshness
     of the sloe. A quantity of dogwood occupied a corner; in summer it
     bore a pleasing flower; in the autumn, after the black berries
     appeared upon it, the leaves became a rich bronze colour, and some
     when the first frosts touched them, curled up at the edge and
     turned crimson. There were two or three guelder-rose bushes--the
     wild shrub--which were covered in June with white bloom; not in
     snowy balls like the garden variety, but flat and circular, the
     florets at the edge of the circle often whitest, and those in the
     centre greenish. In autumn the slender boughs were weighed down
     with heavy bunches of large purplish berries, so full of red juice
     as to appear on the point of bursting. As these soon disappeared
     they were doubtless eaten by birds.

     "Besides the hawthorn and briar there were several species of
     willow--the snake-skin willow, so called because it sheds its bark;
     the 'snap-willow,' which is so brittle that every gale breaks off
     its feeble twigs, and pollards. One of these, hollow and old, had
     upon its top a crowd of parasites. A bramble had taken root there,
     and hung over the side; a small currant-bush grew freely--both, no
     doubt, unwittingly planted by birds--and finally the bines of the
     noxious bitter-sweet or nightshade, starting from the decayed wood,
     supported themselves among the willow-branches, and in autumn were
     bright with red berries. Ash-stoles, the buds on whose boughs in
     spring are hidden under black sheaths; nut-tree stoles, with
     ever-welcome nuts--always stolen here, but on the downs, where they
     are plentiful, staying till they fall; young oak growing up from
     the butt of a felled tree. On these oak-twigs sometimes, besides
     the ordinary round galls, there may be found another gall, larger,
     and formed, as it were, of green scales one above the other.

     "Where shall we find in the artificial and, to my thinking,
     tasteless pleasure-grounds of modern houses so beautiful a
     shrubbery as this old hedgerow? Nor were evergreens wanting, for
     the ivy grew thickly, and there was one holly bush--not more, for
     the soil was not affected by holly. The tall cow-parsnip or 'gicks'
     rose up through the bushes; the great hollow stem of the angelica
     grew at the edge of the field, on the verge of the grass, but still
     sheltered by the brambles. Some reeds early in spring thrust up
     their slender green tubes, tipped with two spear-like leaves. The
     reed varies in height according to the position in which it grows.
     If the hedge has been cut it does not reach higher than four or
     five feet; when it springs from a deep, hollow corner, or with
     bushes to draw it up, you can hardly touch its tip with your
     walking-stick. The leaders of the black bryony, lifting themselves
     above the bushes, and having just there nothing to cling to, twist
     around each other, and two bines thus find mutual support where one
     alone would fall of its own weight.

     "In the watery places the sedges send up their dark flowers, dusted
     with light yellow pollen, rising above the triangular stem with its
     narrow, ribbed leaf. The reed-sparrow or bunting sits upon the
     spray over the ditch with its carex grass and rushes; he is a
     graceful bird, with a crown of glossy black. Hops climb the ash and
     hang their clusters, which impart an aromatic scent to the hand
     that plucks them; broad burdock leaves, which the mouchers put on
     the top of their baskets to shield their freshly gathered
     watercresses from the sunshine; creeping avens, with
     buttercup-like flowers and long stems that straggle across the
     ditch, and in autumn are tipped with a small ball of soft spines;
     mints, strong-scented and unmistakable; yarrow, white and sometimes
     a little lilac, whose flower is perhaps almost the last that the
     bee visits. In the middle of October I have seen a wild bee on a
     last stray yarrow."

Again we are in the forest, and again 'cataloguing':

     "The beechnuts are already falling in the forest, and the swine are
     beginning to search for them while yet the harvest lingers. The
     nuts are formed by midsummer, and now, the husk opening, the brown
     angular kernel drops out. Many of the husks fall, too; others
     remain on the branches till next spring. Under the beeches the
     ground is strewn with the mast, as hard almost to walk on as
     pebbles. Rude and uncouth as swine are in themselves, somehow they
     look different under trees. The brown leaves amid which they rout,
     and the brown-tinted fern behind, lend something of their colour
     and smooth away their ungainliness. Snorting as they work with very
     eagerness of appetite, they are almost wild, approaching in a
     measure to their ancestors, the savage boars. Under the trees the
     imagination plays unchecked, and calls up the past as if yew bow
     and broad arrow were still in the hunter's hands. So little is
     changed since then. The deer are here still. Sit down on the root
     of this oak (thinly covered with moss), and on that very spot it is
     quite possible a knight fresh home from the Crusades may have
     rested and feasted his eyes on the lovely green glades of his own
     unsurpassed England. The oak was there then, young and strong; it
     is here now, ancient, but sturdy. Rarely do you see an oak fall of
     itself. It decays to the last stump; it does not fall. The sounds
     are the same--the tap as a ripe acorn drops, the rustle of a leaf
     which comes down slowly, the quick rushes of mice playing in the
     fern. A movement at one side attracts the glance, and there is a
     squirrel darting about. There is another at the very top of the
     beech yonder, out on the boughs, nibbling the nuts. A brown spot a
     long distance down the glade suddenly moves, and thereby shows
     itself to be a rabbit. The bellowing sound that comes now and then
     is from the stags, which are preparing to fight. The swine snort,
     and the mast and leaves rustle as they thrust them aside. So little
     is changed: these are the same sounds and the same movements, just
     as in the olden time.

     "The soft autumn sunshine, shorn of summer glare, lights up with
     colour the fern, the fronds of which are yellow and brown, the
     leaves, the gray grass, and hawthorn sprays already turned. It
     seems as if the early morning's mists have the power of tinting
     leaf and fern, for so soon as they commence the green hues begin to
     disappear. There are swathes of fern yonder, cut down like grass or
     corn, the harvest of the forest. It will be used for litter and for
     thatching sheds. The yellow stalks--the stubble--will turn brown
     and wither through the winter, till the strong spring shoot comes
     up and the anemones flower. Though the sunbeams reach the ground
     here, half the green glade is in shadow, and for one step that you
     walk in sunlight ten are in shade. Thus, partly concealed in full
     day, the forest always contains a mystery. The idea that there may
     be something in the dim arches held up by the round columns of the
     beeches lures the footsteps onwards. Something must have been
     lately in the circle under the oak where the fern and bushes remain
     at a distance and wall in a lawn of green. There is nothing on the
     grass but the upheld leaves that have dropped, no mark of any
     creature, but this is not decisive; if there are no physical signs,
     there is a feeling that the shadow is not vacant. In the thickets,
     perhaps--the shadowy thickets with front of thorn--it has taken
     refuge and eluded us. Still onward the shadows lead us in vain but
     pleasant chase."

Next let us rise with the rustic and follow him as he begins his day's

     "The pale beams of the waning moon still cast a shadow of the
     cottage, when the labourer rises from his heavy sleep on a winter's
     morning. Often he huddles on his things and slips his feet into his
     thick 'water-tights'--which are stiff and hard, having been wet
     over-night--by no other light than this. If the household is
     comparatively well managed, however, he strikes a match, and his
     'dip' shows at the window. But he generally prefers to save a
     candle, and clatters down the narrow steep stairs in the
     semi-darkness, takes a piece of bread and cheese, and steps forth
     into the sharp air. The cabbages in the garden he notes are covered
     with white frost, so is the grass in the fields, and the footpath
     is hard under foot. In the furrows is a little ice--white because
     the water has shrunk from beneath it, leaving it hollow--and on the
     stile is a crust of rime, cold to the touch, which he brushes off
     in getting over. Overhead the sky is clear--cloudless but pale--and
     the stars, though not yet fading, have lost the brilliant glitter
     of midnight. Then, in all their glory, the idea of their globular
     shape is easily accepted; but in the morning, just as the dawn is
     breaking, the absence of glitter conveys the impression of
     flatness--circular rather than globular. But yonder, over the elms,
     above the cowpens, the great morning star has risen, shining far
     brighter, in proportion, than the moon; an intensely clear metallic
     light--like incandescent silver.

     "The shadows of the trees on the frosted ground are dull. As the
     footpath winds by the hedge the noise of his footstep startles the
     blackbird roosting in the bushes, and he bustles out and flies
     across the field. There is more rime on the posts and rails around
     the rickyard, and the thatch on the haystack is white with it in
     places. He draws out the broad hay-knife--a vast blade, wide at the
     handle, the edge gradually curving to a point--and then searches
     for the rubber or whetstone, stuck somewhere in the side of the
     rick. At the first sound of the stone upon the steel the cattle in
     the adjoining yard and sheds utter a few low 'moos,' and there is a
     stir among them. Mounting the ladder, he forces the knife with both
     hands into the hay, making a square cut which bends outwards,
     opening from the main mass till it appears on the point of parting
     and letting him fall with it to the ground. But long practice has
     taught him how to balance himself half on the ladder, half on the
     hay. Presently, with a truss unbound and loose on his head, he
     enters the yard, and passes from crib to crib, leaving a little
     here and a little there. For if he fills one first there will be
     quarrelling among the cows, and besides, if the crib is too
     liberally filled, they will pull it out and tread it under foot."

Here is the portrait from his book of the Red Deer:

     "There is no more beautiful creature than a stag in his pride of
     antler, his coat of ruddy gold, his grace of form and motion. He
     seems the natural owner of the ferny coombes, the oak woods, the
     broad slopes of heather. They belong to him, and he steps upon the
     sward in lordly mastership. The land is his, and the hills; the
     sweet streams and rocky glens. He is infinitely more natural than
     the cattle and sheep that have strayed into his domains. For some
     inexplicable reason, although they, too, are in reality natural,
     when he is present they look as if they had been put there, and
     were kept there by artificial means. They do not, as painters say,
     shade in with the colours and shape of the landscape. He is as
     natural as an oak, or a fern, or a rock itself. He is earth-born,
     autochthon, and holds possession by descent. Utterly scorning
     control, the walls and hedges are nothing to him; he roams where he
     chooses, as fancy leads, and gathers the food that pleases him.
     Pillaging the crops, and claiming his dues from the orchards and
     gardens, he exercises his ancient feudal rights, indifferent to the
     laws of house-people. Disturb him in his wild stronghold of oakwood
     or heather, and as he yields to force, still he stops and looks
     back proudly. He is slain, but never conquered. He will not cross
     with the tame park deer; proud as a Spanish noble, he disdains the
     fallow deer, and breeds only with his own race. But it is chiefly
     because of his singular adaptation and fitness to the places where
     he is found that he obtains our sympathy. The branching antlers
     accord so well with the deep, shadowy boughs and the broad fronds
     of the brake; the golden red of his coat fits to the foxglove, the
     purple heather, and later on to the orange and red of the beech;
     his easy-bounding motion springs from the elastic sward; his limbs
     climb the steep hill as if it were level; his speed covers the
     distance, and he goes from place to place as the wind. He not only
     lives in the wild, wild woods and moors, he grows out of them as
     the oak grows from the ground. The noble stag, in his pride of
     antler, is lord and monarch of all the creatures left in English
     forests and on English hills."

What do we purblind mortals see when we walk through a wood in winter?
Listen to what Jefferies saw in January, when the woods are at their
very brownest, and all Nature seems wrapped in winter sleep:

     "Some little green stays on the mounds where the rabbits creep and
     nibble the grasses. Cinquefoil remains green though faded, and wild
     parsley the freshest looking of all; plantain leaves are found
     under shelter of brambles, and the dumb nettles, though the old
     stalks are dead, have living leaves at the ground. Gray-veined ivy
     trails along, here and there is a frond of hart's-tongue fern,
     though withered at the tip, and greenish-gray lichen grows on the
     exposed stumps of trees. These together give a green tint to the
     mound, which is not so utterly devoid of colour as the season of
     the year might indicate. Where they fail, brown brake fern fills
     the spaces between the brambles; and in a moist spot the bunches of
     rushes are composed half of dry stalks, and half of green. Stems of
     willow-herb, four feet high, still stand, and tiny long-tailed tits
     perch sideways on them. Above, on the bank, another species of
     willow-herb has died down to a short stalk, from which springs a
     living branch, and at its end is one pink flower. A dandelion is
     opening on the same sheltered bank; farther on the gorse is
     sprinkled with golden spots of bloom. A flock of greenfinches
     starts from the bushes, and their colour shows against the ruddy
     wands of the osier-bed over which they fly. The path winds round
     the edge of the wood, where a waggon-track goes up the hill; it is
     deeply grooved at the foot of the hill. These tracks wear deeply
     into the chalk just where the ascent begins. The chalk adheres to
     the shoes like mortar, and for some time after one has left it each
     footstep leaves a white mark on the turf. On the ridge the low
     trees and bushes have an outline like the flame of a candle in a
     draught--the wind has blown them till they have grown fixed in that
     shape. In an oak across the ploughed field a flock of wood-pigeons
     have settled; on the furrows there are chaffinches, and larks rise
     and float a few yards farther away. The snow has ceased, and though
     there is no wind on the surface, the clouds high above have opened
     somewhat, not sufficient for the sun to shine, but to prolong the
     already closing afternoon a few minutes. If the sun shines
     to-morrow morning the lark will soar and sing, though it is
     January, and the quick note of the chaffinch will be heard as he
     perches on the little branches projecting from the trunks of trees
     below the great boughs. Thrushes sing every mild day in December
     and January, entirely irrespective of the season, also before

Here is Cider-land:

     "The Lower Path, after stile and hedge and elm, and grass that
     glows with golden buttercups, quietly leaves the side of the double
     mounds and goes straight through the orchards. There are fewer
     flowers under the trees, and the grass grows so long and rank that
     it has already fallen aslant of its own weight. It is choked, too,
     by masses of clogweed, that springs up profusely over the sight of
     old foundations; so that here ancient masonry may be hidden under
     the earth. Indeed, these orchards are a survival from the days when
     the monks laboured in vineyard and garden, and mayhap even of
     earlier times. When once a locality has got into the habit of
     growing a certain crop, it continues to produce it for century
     after century; and thus there are villages famous for apple or pear
     or cherry, while the district at large is not at all given to such

     "The trunks of the trees succeed each other in endless ranks, like
     columns that support the most beautiful roof of pink and white.
     Here the bloom is rosy, there white prevails: the young green is
     hidden under the petals that are far more numerous than leaves, or
     even than leaves will be. Though the path really is in shadow as
     the branches shut out the sun, yet it seems brighter here than in
     the open, as if the place were illuminated by a million tiny lamps
     shedding the softest lustre. The light is reflected and apparently
     increased by the countless flowers overhead.

     "The forest of bloom extends acre after acre, and only ceases where
     hedges divide, to commence again beyond the boundary. A
     wicket-gate, all green with a film of vegetation over the decaying
     wood, opens under the very eaves of a cottage, and the path goes by
     the door--across a narrow meadow where deep and broad trenches,
     green now, show where ancient stews or fishponds existed, and then
     through a farmyard into a lane. Tall poplars rise on either hand,
     but there seem to be no houses; they stand in fact a field's
     breadth back from the lane, and are approached by footpaths that
     every few yards necessitate a stile in the hedge.

     "When a low thatched farmhouse does abut upon the way, the blank
     white wall of the rear part faces the road, and the front door
     opens on precisely the other side. Hard by is a row of beehives.
     Though the modern hives are at once more economical and humane,
     they have not the old associations that cling about the straw domes
     topped with broken earthenware to shoot off the heavy downfall of a

     "Everywhere the apple-bloom; the hum of bees; children sitting on
     the green beside the road, their laps full of flowers; the song of
     finches; and the low murmur of water that glides over flint and
     stone so shadowed by plants and grasses that the sunbeams cannot
     reach and glisten on it. Thus the straggling flower-strewn village
     stretches along beneath the hill and rises up the slope, and the
     swallows wheel and twitter over the gables where are their
     hereditary nesting-places. The lane ends on a broad dusty road,
     and, opposite, a quiet thatched house of the larger sort stands,
     endways to the street, with an open pitching before the windows.
     There, too, the swallows' nests are crowded under the eaves,
     flowers are trained against the wall, and in the garden stand the
     same beautiful apple-trees."

Let us witness, with him, the dawn of a summer day:

     "The star went on. In the meadows of the vale far away doubtless
     there were sounds of the night. On the hills it was absolute
     silence--profound rest. They slept peacefully, and the moon rose to
     the meridian. The pale white glow on the northern horizon slipped
     towards the east. After a while a change came over the night. The
     hills and coombes became gray and more distinct, the sky lighter,
     the stars faint, the moon that had been ruddy became yellow, and
     then almost white.

     "Yet a little while, and one by one the larks arose from the grass,
     and first twittering and vibrating their brown wings just above the
     hawthorn bushes, presently breasted the aërial ascent, and sang at
     'Heaven's Gate.'

     "Geoffrey awoke and leaned upon his arm; his first thought was of
     Margaret, and he looked towards the copse. All was still; then in
     the dawn the strangeness of that hoary relic of the past sheltering
     so lovely a form came home to him. Next he gazed eastwards.

     "There a great low bank, a black wall of cloud, was rising rapidly,
     extending on either hand, growing momentarily broader, darker,
     threatening to cover the sky. He watched it come up swiftly, and
     saw that as it neared it became lighter in colour, first gray, then
     white. It was the morning mist driven along before the breeze,
     whose breath had not reached him yet. In a few minutes the wall of
     vapour passed over him as the waters rolled over Pharaoh. A puff of
     wind blew his hair back from his forehead, then another and
     another; presently a steady breeze, cool and refreshing. The mist
     drove rapidly along; after awhile gaps appeared overhead, and
     through these he saw broad spaces of blue sky, the colour growing
     and deepening. The gaps widened, the mist became thinner; then
     this, the first wave of vapour, was gone, creeping up the hillside
     behind him like the rearguard of an army.

     "Out from the last fringe of mist shone a great white globe. Like
     molten silver, glowing with a lusciousness of light, soft and yet
     brilliant, so large and bright and seemingly so near--but just
     above the ridge yonder--shining with heavenly splendour in the very
     dayspring. He knew Eosphoros, the Light-Bringer, the morning star
     of hope and joy and love, and his heart went out towards the beauty
     and the glory of it. Under him the broad bosom of the earth seemed
     to breathe instinct with life, bearing him up, and from the azure
     ether came the wind, filling his chest with the vigour of the young

     "The azure ether--yes, and more than that! Who that has seen it can
     forget the wondrous beauty of the summer morning's sky? It is
     blue--it is sapphire--it is like the eye of a lovely woman. A rich
     purple shines through it; no painter ever approached the colour of
     it, no Titian or other, none from the beginning. Not even the
     golden flesh of Rubens' women, through the veins in whose limbs a
     sunlight pulses in lieu of blood shining behind the tissues, can
     equal the hues that glow behind the blue.

     "The East flamed out at last. Pencilled streaks of cloud high in
     the dome shone red. An orange light rose up and spread about the
     horizon, then turned crimson, and the upper edge of the sun's disk
     lifted itself over the hill. A swift beam of light shot like an
     arrow towards him, and the hawthorn bush obeyed with instant
     shadow; it passed beyond him over the green plain, up the ridge and
     away. The great orb, quivering with golden flames, looked forth
     upon the world."

The finest of all the papers written by Jefferies--as I have already
said--is that called "The Pageant of Summer." It came out in _Longman's
Magazine_. I know nothing in the English language finer, whether for the
sustained style or for the elevation of thought which fills it. Herein
Jefferies surpassed himself as well as all other writers who have
written upon Nature. This is perhaps because he fills the "Pageant"
which he describes with human love and human regrets. Without the life
and presence of man, what is the beauty of Nature worth? I should like
to quote it all--nay, to those who have read it again and again, the
words live in the memory like the lines of Wordsworth's "Ode to
Immortality," and like them they fill the heart with tenderness and the
eyes with tears. It is published in the last but one of his books, "The
Life of the Fields," which everybody should make haste to possess, if
only for this one paper. It opens quietly--with the rushes:

     "Green rushes, long and thick, standing up above the edge of the
     ditch, told the hour of the year as distinctly as the shadow on the
     dial the hour of the day. Green and thick and sappy to the touch,
     they felt like summer, soft and elastic, as if full of life, mere
     rushes though they were. On the fingers they left a green scent;
     rushes have a separate scent of green, so, too, have ferns, very
     different to that of grass or leaves. Rising from brown sheaths,
     the tall stems enlarged a little in the middle, like classical
     columns, and heavy with their sap and freshness, leaned against the
     hawthorn sprays. From the earth they had drawn its moisture, and
     made the ditch dry; some of the sweetness of the air had entered
     into their fibres, and the rushes--the common rushes--were full of
     beautiful summer. The white pollen of early grasses growing on the
     edge was dusted from them each time the hawthorn boughs were shaken
     by a thrush. These lower sprays came down in among the grass, and
     leaves and grass-blades touched.

     "It was between the May and the June roses. The may-bloom had
     fallen, and among the hawthorn boughs were the little green bunches
     that would feed the redwings in autumn. High up the briars had
     climbed, straight and towering while there was a thorn, or an ash
     sapling, or a yellow-green willow to uphold them, and then curving
     over towards the meadow. The buds were on them, but not yet open;
     it was between the may and the rose.

     "As the wind, wandering over the sea, takes from each wave an
     invisible portion, and brings to those on shore the ethereal
     essence of ocean, so the air lingering among the woods and
     hedges--green waves and billows--became full of fine atoms of
     summer. Swept from notched hawthorn-leaves, broad-topped
     oak-leaves, narrow ash sprays and oval willows; from vast elm
     cliffs and sharp-taloned brambles under; brushed from the waving
     grasses and stiffening corn, the dust of the sunshine was borne
     along and breathed. Steeped in flower and pollen to the music of
     bees and birds, the stream of the atmosphere became a living thing.
     It was life to breathe it, for the air itself was life. The
     strength of the earth went up through the leaves into the wind. Fed
     thus on the food of the Immortals, the heart opened to the width
     and depth of the summer--to the broad horizon afar, down to the
     minutest creature in the grass, up to the highest swallow. Winter
     shows us Matter in its dead form, like the primary rocks, like
     granite and basalt--clear but cold and frozen crystal. Summer shows
     us Matter changing into life, sap rising from the earth through a
     million tubes, the alchemic power of light entering the solid oak;
     and see! it bursts forth in countless leaves. Living things leap in
     the grass, living things drift upon the air, living things are
     coming forth to breathe in every hawthorn bush. No longer does the
     immense weight of Matter--the dead, the crystallized--press
     ponderously on the thinking mind. The whole office of Matter is to
     feed life--to feed the green rushes, and the roses that are about
     to be; to feed the swallows above, and us that wander beneath them.
     So much greater is this green and common rush than all the Alps.

     "Fanning so swiftly, the wasp's wings are but just visible as he
     passes; did he pause, the light would be apparent through their
     texture. On the wings of the dragon-fly as he hovers an instant
     before he darts there is a prismatic gleam. These wing textures are
     even more delicate than the minute filaments on a swallow's quill,
     more delicate than the pollen of a flower. They are formed of
     matter indeed, but how exquisitely it is resolved into the means
     and organs of life! Though not often consciously recognised,
     perhaps this is the great pleasure of summer, to watch the earth,
     the dead particles, resolving themselves into the living case of
     life, to see the seed-leaf push aside the clod and become by
     degrees the perfumed flower. From the tiny mottled egg come the
     wings that by-and-by shall pass the immense sea. It is in this
     marvellous transformation of clods and cold matter into living
     things that the joy and the hope of summer reside. Every blade of
     grass, each leaf, each separate floret and petal, is an inscription
     speaking of hope. Consider the grasses and the oaks, the swallows,
     the sweet blue butterfly--they are one and all a sign and token
     showing before our eyes earth made into life. So that my hope
     becomes as broad as the horizon afar, reiterated by every leaf,
     sung on every bough, reflected in the gleam of every flower. There
     is so much for us yet to come, so much to be gathered, and enjoyed.
     Not for you or me, now, but for our race, who will ultimately use
     this magical secret for their happiness. Earth holds secrets enough
     to give them the life of the fabled Immortals. My heart is fixed
     firm and stable in the belief that ultimately the sunshine and the
     summer, the flowers and the azure sky, shall become, as it were,
     interwoven into man's existence. He shall take from all their
     beauty and enjoy their glory. Hence it is that a flower is to me so
     much more than stalk and petals. When I look in the glass I see
     that every line in my face means pessimism; but in spite of my
     face--that is my experience--I remain an optimist. Time with an
     unsteady hand has etched thin crooked lines, and, deepening the
     hollows, has cast the original expression into shadow. Pain and
     sorrow flow over us with little ceasing, as the sea-hoofs beat on
     the beach. Let us not look at ourselves but onwards, and take
     strength from the leaf and the signs of the field. He is indeed
     despicable who cannot look onwards to the ideal life of man. Not to
     do so is to deny our birthright of mind....

     "It is the patient humble-bee that goes down into the forest of the
     mowing-grass. If entangled, the humble-bee climbs up a sorrel stem
     and takes wing, without any sign of annoyance. His broad back with
     tawny bar buoyantly glides over the golden buttercups. He hums to
     himself as he goes, so happy is he. He knows no skep, no cunning
     work in glass receives his labour, no artificial saccharine aids
     him when the beams of the sun are cold, there is no step to his
     house that he may alight in comfort; the way is not made clear for
     him that he may start straight for the flowers, nor are any sown
     for him. He has no shelter if the storm descends suddenly; he has
     no dome of twisted straw well thatched and tiled to retreat to. The
     butcher-bird, with a beak like a crooked iron nail, drives him to
     the ground, and leaves him pierced with a thorn; but no hail of
     shot revenges his tortures. The grass stiffens at nightfall (in
     autumn) and he must creep where he may, if possibly he may escape
     the frost. No one cares for the humble-bee. But down to the
     flowering nettle in the mossy-sided ditch, up into the tall elm,
     winding in and out and round the branched buttercups, along the
     banks of the brook, far inside the deepest wood, away he wanders
     and despises nothing. His nest is under the rough grasses and the
     mosses of the mound, a mere tunnel beneath the fibres and matted
     surface. The hawthorn overhangs it, the fern grows by, red mice
     rustle past....

     "All the procession of living and growing things passes. The grass
     stands up taller and still taller, the sheaths open, and the stalk
     arises, the pollen clings till the breeze sweeps it. The bees rush
     past, and the resolute wasps; the humble-bees, whose weight swings
     them along. About the oaks and maples the brown chafers swarm, and
     the fern-owls at dusk, and the blackbirds and jays by day, cannot
     reduce their legions while they last. Yellow butterflies, and
     white, broad red admirals, and sweet blues; think of the kingdom of
     flowers which is theirs! Heavy moths burring at the edge of the
     copse; green, and red, and gold flies: gnats, like smoke, around
     the tree-tops; midges so thick over the brook, as if you could haul
     a netful; tiny leaping creatures in the grass; bronze beetles
     across the path; blue dragonflies pondering on cool leaves of
     water-plantain. Blue jays flitting, a magpie drooping across from
     elm to elm; young rooks that have escaped the hostile shot
     blundering up into the branches; missel thrushes leading their
     fledglings, already strong on the wing, from field to field. An egg
     here on the sward dropped by a starling; a red ladybird creeping,
     tortoise-like, up a green fern frond. Finches undulating through
     the air, shooting themselves with closed wings, and linnets happy
     with their young....

     "Straight go the white petals to the heart; straight the mind's
     glance goes back to how many other pageants of summer in old times!
     When perchance the sunny days were even more sunny; when the stilly
     oaks were full of mystery, lurking like the Druid's mistletoe in
     the midst of their mighty branches. A glamour in the heart came
     back to it again from every flower; as the sunshine was reflected
     from them, so the feeling in the heart returned tenfold. To the
     dreamy summer haze love gave a deep enchantment, the colours were
     fairer, the blue more lovely in the lucid sky. Each leaf finer, and
     the gross earth enamelled beneath the feet. A sweet breath on the
     air, a soft warm hand in the touch of the sunshine, a glance in the
     gleam of the rippled waters, a whisper in the dance of the shadows.
     The ethereal haze lifted the heavy oaks and they were buoyant on
     the mead, the rugged bark was chastened and no longer rough, each
     slender flower beneath them again refined. There was a presence
     everywhere though unseen, on the open hills, and not shut out under
     the dark pines. Dear were the June roses then because for another
     gathered. Yet even dearer now with so many years as it were upon
     the petals; all the days that have been before, all the
     heart-throbs, all our hopes lie in this opened bud. Let not the
     eyes grow dim, look not back but forward; the soul must uphold
     itself like the sun. Let us labour to make the heart grow larger as
     we become older, as the spreading oak gives more shelter. That we
     could but take to the soul some of the greatness and the beauty of
     the summer!

     "I cannot leave it; I must stay under the old tree in the midst of
     the long grass, the luxury of the leaves, and the song in the very
     air. I seem as if I could feel all the glowing life the sunshine
     gives and the south wind calls to being. The endless grass, the
     endless leaves, the immense strength of the oak expanding, the
     unalloyed joy of finch and blackbird; from all of them I receive a
     little. Each gives me something of the pure joy they gather for
     themselves. In the blackbird's melody one note is mine; in the
     dance of the leaf shadows the formed maze is for me, though the
     motion is theirs; the flowers with a thousand faces have collected
     the kisses of the morning. Feeling with them, I receive some, at
     least, of their fulness of life. Never could I have enough; never
     stay long enough--whether here or whether lying on the shorter
     sward under the sweeping and graceful birches, or on the
     thyme-scented hills. Hour after hour, and still not enough. Or
     walking the footpath was never long enough, or my strength
     sufficient to endure till the mind was weary. The exceeding beauty
     of the earth, in her splendour of life, yields a new thought with
     every petal. The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the
     only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay
     among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable
     Time. Let the shadow advance upon the dial--I can watch it with
     equanimity while it is there to be watched. It is only when the
     shadow is _not_ there, when the clouds of winter cover it, that the
     dial is terrible. The invisible shadow goes on and steals from us.
     But now, while I can see the shadow of the tree and watch it
     slowly gliding along the surface of the grass, it is mine. These
     are the only hours that are not wasted--these hours that absorb the
     soul and fill it with beauty. This is real life, and all else is
     illusion, or mere endurance. Does this reverie of flowers and
     waterfall and song form an ideal, a human ideal, in the mind? It
     does; much the same ideal that Phidias sculptured of man and woman
     filled with a godlike sense of the violet fields of Greece,
     beautiful beyond thought, calm as my turtle-dove before the lurid
     lightning of the unknown. To be beautiful and to be calm, without
     mental fear, is the ideal of nature. If I cannot achieve it, at
     least I can think it."

May we not say indeed, that never any man has heretofore spoken of
Nature as this man speaks? He has given new colours to the field and
hedge; he has filled them with a beauty which we never thought to find
there; he has shown in them more riches, more variety, more fulness,
more wisdom, more Divine order than we common men ever looked for or
dreamed of. He has taught us to look around us with new eyes; he has
removed our blindness; it is a new world that he has given to us. What,
what shall we say--what can we say--to show our gratitude towards one
who has conferred these wonderful gifts upon his fellow-men?



In the history of literature one happens, from time to time, upon a book
which has been written because the author had no choice but to write it.
He was compelled by hidden forces to write it. There was no rest for
him, day or night, so soon as the book was complete in his mind, until
he sat down to write it. And then he wrote it at a white heat. For
eighteen years, Jefferies says, he pondered over this book--he means,
that he brooded over these and cognate subjects from the time of
adolescence. At last his mind was full, and then--but not till then--he
wrote it.

Those who have not read it must understand at the outset that it is the
book of one who dares to question for himself on the most important
subject which can occupy the mind. To some men--very young men
especially--it seems an easy thing to question and to go on following
the questions to their logical end. An older man knows better; he has
learned, perhaps by his own experience, that to carry on unto the end
such an inquiry, fearless of whither it may lead, is an act requiring
very great courage, clearness and strength of mind, and carelessness of
other men's opinion. It is, in fact, an act which to begin and to carry
through is beyond the courage and the mental powers of most. I do not
mean the so-called intellectual process gone through by every young man
who takes up the common carping and girding at received forms of
religion, and boldly declares among an admiring circle that he renounces
them all--I mean a long, patient, and wholly reverent inquiry by
whatever line or lines may be possible to a man. For it must not be
forgotten that, though there are many lines of independent research and
inquiry, there are few men to whom even one is actually possible. This,
however, we do not openly acknowledge; every person, however illiterate
and untrained, considers himself, not only free, but also qualified, to
be an advocate, or an opponent, of religion. Freedom of thought is so
great a thing that one would not have it otherwise. As for the lines of
inquiry, scientific men, of whom there are few, apply scientific methods
to certain books held sacred by the Church, with whatever results may
happen; some scientific men, after this research, find that they can
remain Christians, others resigning, at least, the orthodox form of that
faith. Scholars of language, mythology, Oriental antiquities, of whom
also there are comparatively few, may approach the subject by these
lines. Others, like the late Mr. Cotter Morison, the like of whom are
rare, may consider the subject in relation to the history, development,
and proved effect of certain doctrines upon humanity. Others, again,
assuming that the pretensions of priests essentially belong to the
Christian religion, may compare these pretensions with those of other
and older religions. Again, the difficulty or impossibility of
reconciling statements in so-called inspired works, the incongruity of
ancient Oriental customs as compared with modern and European
ideas--these and many other points, all of which require a scholar to
deal with them, may furnish lines of investigation. But, indeed, the
modes of attack may be indefinitely varied. On all sides, doctrinal
religion has been, and is daily, attacked; at all points it has been,
and is daily, defended to the full satisfaction of the defenders. The
assailants can never perceive that they are beaten off at every point;
the defenders can never be made to understand that their stronghold has
been utterly demolished.

The Religious Problem at the present moment has been, in fact, so far
advanced that research, defence, or attack by persons not qualified by
special education in one or other of these lines is absolutely futile.
For the greater number, dulness of perception, ignorance, want of early
training, self-conceit, and that sheer incapacity either to perceive or
to tell the truth which seems to be a special firmity of the age, make
research impossible, attack futile, and defence powerless. And even for
those who seem to have the right to lead, the fact that we are born into
the ideas of our time, as well as into its creeds and traditions, is a
dire obstacle to clearness of vision. We are surrounded, from birth
upwards, by a network of ideas, many false, many conventional, many mere
prejudices. But, such as they are, they tear the flesh if we try to
break through them; by reason of these bonds we cannot march straight,
we cannot see clearly. Education, reading, the literature, and the
common talk of the day, so far from helping us, seem only to raise up
thicker clouds about us which we cannot disperse, neither can we pass
through them.

Does, then, this act of superlative courage, demanded by fearless
inquiry, always lead the man who has achieved it towards atheism or
agnosticism? Not so. The history of the Churches shows that there have
been many men who have embarked upon such an inquiry honestly and
boldly, and have come out of it armed and strengthened with a natural
religion upon which they have been able to graft a Christianity far
deeper, stronger, and more real than that which is commonly taught in
the pulpits, the schools, the catechisms, and the litanies of the
Churches. But, as we said before, such an inquiry is not possible for
every man.

In Jefferies' "Story of My Heart" we have a tale half told. You may read
in it, if you will, the abandonment, rather than the loss, of his early
faith; you cannot read in it, but you shall hear, if you persist to the
end of this volume, how he found it again. But the man who has once
thrown off the old yoke of Authority can never put it on again.
Henceforth he stands alone, yet not alone, for he is face to face with
his God.

Again, the network of custom and tradition which lies around us contains
all our friends as well as ourselves. Those who are unlucky (or lucky)
enough to break through and to get outside it have to separate
themselves from their friends; they have to find new friends--which is
difficult--new companions, at least. And then the novel position is a
kind of standing challenge to old friends. The old equality is gone,
because, if the new philosopher is right, he is intellectually far
above his associates. And since friendship cannot endure the loss of
equality, the ties of years are severed. Instead of the warmth of
friendship, one feels, with the coldness, the reproach of isolation.
This is a consideration, however, which would weigh little with
Jefferies, who lived, of free choice, in isolation.

Again, many men find a sufficient support on the great questions of
faith--which they seldom or never formulate to themselves--in the fact
that certain men, whom they very deeply venerate, believe in certain
doctrines. That such a man as Dean Stanley, for instance--a scholar, a
man of unblemished life, whose purity of soul and natural nobility of
character lifted him high above the average of man--was also a devout
Christian, and a pillar of the Church of England, has been, and is
still, a solid guarantee to thousands who remember his example that the
religion which was able to light his feet through the valley of death,
and to sustain his heart while life was ebbing, must be true. This is a
kindly and a natural aid to faith. And it is another illustration of
the immense, the boundless influence of example. The mediæval scholar
believed in the Christian religion because even the horrible scandals of
Rome could not destroy it. The modern Churchman modestly and humbly
believes his creed mainly because men very greatly his superiors in
learning and in elevation of soul believe it, and find in it their
greatest consolation, and their only hope. Jefferies had no such
reverence. The great leaders of the Church came not to the Wiltshire
Downs. His own reason should suffice for himself. Was he, therefore,
presumptuous? While any rags of Protestant independence and freedom of
thought yet linger among us, let us, a thousand times, say, No!

Other men, as is well known, take refuge in Authority. This seems so
easy as to be elementary in its simplicity. Authority does not interfere
with the practical business of life, with the getting as much wealth as
we can, and as much enjoyment as we can, while life lasts. And after
death Authority kindly assures us that all shall be done for us to
ensure ultimate enjoyment of more good things. We cannot, certainly,
all seek into the origins and causes of things; some must listen and
obey. There is the Authority of example; there is also the Authority of
Church rule and discipline. But Jefferies was one of those who cannot
listen and obey.

Most books which deal with the difficulties and the loss of faith deal
also largely at the outset with the bitterness and the agonies of the
soul when doubt begins; with the long discussions based upon premises
which are first questioned tentatively, and then wholly denied; with the
consequent estrangement of friends; with the laying down of one set of
shackles in order to take up another, as when a man, after infinite
heart-searchings, exchanges one little sect for another.

Others, again, who think it necessary to put aside their religion, do so
with a curious rage. They vehemently despise, and have no words too
strong for their contempt of those who refuse to follow them. As for the
doctrines themselves, they are--these renegades cry aloud--unworthy the
consideration of any who have the least pretensions to intellect.
Everybody knows this kind. The pervert--the renegade--is the fiercest of
persecutors, the most intolerant in practice. The bitterness in his mind
is caused, or it is increased, by the galling fact that though he is a
rebel, he is always, whatever sect he has abandoned, an unsuccessful
rebel. His old king yet reigneth; he cannot dethrone that king; it is
impossible for him; at the most he can but seduce from their allegiance
a few, and for all his railing the loyal subjects of that king remain

Jefferies, for his part, has no agonies of soul to chronicle, nor does
he watch for and set down the stages of unbelief, nor does he tell us of
any arguments with friends. The local curate is never considered or
consulted; friends are neglected; and he is not in the least degree
angry with those who remain loyal to their old religion.

In point of fact, this remarkable book never mentions the old religion
at all. This is a very singular--even an unique--method of treatment.
There is no question of the common lines of research: not one of them is
followed. The author begins, and he goes on, with the assumption that
there is no religion at all which need be considered. On the broad downs
the only bell ever heard is the distant sheep-bell, the only hymn of
praise is the song of the lark. He has wandered among these lonely hills
until he has forgotten the village church and all that he was taught
there. Everything has clean escaped his memory. It is not that the old
teaching no longer guides his conduct; the old teaching no longer lives
at all in his mind.

He has communed so much with Nature that he is intoxicated with her
fulness and her beauty. Nothing else seems worth thinking of. He lies
upon the turf and feels the embrace of the great round world.

     "I used to lie down in solitary corners at full length on my back,
     so as to feel the embrace of the earth. The grass stood high above
     me, and the shadows of the tree-branches danced on my face. I
     looked up at the sky, with half-closed eyes to bear the dazzling
     light. Bees buzzed over, sometimes a butterfly passed, there was a
     hum in the air, greenfinches sang in the hedge. Gradually entering
     into the intense life of the summer days--a life which burned
     around as if every grass-blade and leaf were a torch--I came to
     feel the long-drawn life of the earth back into the dimmest past,
     while the sun of the moment was warm on me.... This sunlight linked
     me through the ages to that past consciousness."

Again, he says that, wandering alone, he spoke in his soul to the earth,
the sun, the air, and the distant sea far beyond sight:

     "I thought of the earth's firmness--I felt it bear me up; through
     the grassy couch there came an influence as if I could feel the
     great earth speaking to me. I thought of the wandering air--its
     pureness, which is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me
     something of itself. I spoke to the sea, though so far, in my mind
     I saw it, green at the rim of the earth and blue in deeper ocean; I
     desired to have its strength, its mystery and glory."

Everything is so full of life, everything around him, the grass-blades,
the flowers, the leaves, the grasshoppers, the birds; all the air is so
full of life that he himself seems to live more largely only by being
conscious of this multitudinous life. And at length he prays. He prays
for a deeper and a fuller soul, that he may take from all something of
their grandeur, beauty, and energy, and gather it to himself. In
answer--let us think--to this prayer there was granted unto him a
Vision. To every man who truly meditates and prays, there comes in the
end a Vision--a Vision of a Flying Roll; a Vision of Four Chariots; a
Vision of a Basket of Summer Fruit. To this man came the Vision, rarely
granted, of the infinite possibilities in man. He saw how much greater
and grander he might become, how his senses might be intensified, how
his frame might be perfected, how his soul might become fuller. Morning,
noon, and night he sees this Vision, and he prays continually for that
increased fulness of soul which is the chief splendour of his Vision.

     "Sometimes I went to a deep, narrow valley in the hills, silent and
     solitary. The sky crossed from side to side, like a roof supported
     on two walls of green. Sparrows chirped in the wheat at the verge
     above, their calls falling like the twittering of swallows from the
     air. There was no other sound. The short grass was dried gray as it
     grew by the heat; the sun hung over the narrow vale as if it had
     been put there by hand. Burning, burning, the sun glowed on the
     sward at the foot of the slope where these thoughts burned into me.
     How many, many years, how many cycles of years, how many bundles of
     cycles of years, had the sun glowed down thus on that hollow? Since
     it was formed how long? Since it was worn and shaped, groove-like,
     in the flanks of the hills by mighty forces which had ebbed. Alone
     with the sun which glowed on the work when it was done, I saw back
     through space to the old time of tree-ferns, of the lizard flying
     through the air, the lizard-dragon wallowing in sea foam, the
     mountainous creatures, twice elephantine, feeding on land; all the
     crooked sequence of life. The dragon-fly which passed me traced a
     continuous descent from the fly marked on stone in those days. The
     immense time lifted me like a wave rolling under a boat; my mind
     seemed to raise itself as the swell of the cycles came; it felt
     strong with the power of the ages. With all that time and power I
     prayed: that I might have in my soul the intellectual part of it;
     the idea, the thought. Like a shuttle the mind shot to and fro the
     past and the present, in an instant."

            *       *       *       *       *

     "Full to the brim of the wondrous past, I felt the wondrous
     present. For the day--the very moment I breathed, that second of
     time then in the valley, was as marvellous, as grand, as all that
     had gone before. Now, this moment, was the wonder and the glory.
     Now, this moment, was exceedingly wonderful. Now, this moment, give
     me all the thought, all the idea, all the soul expressed in the
     cosmos around me. Give me still more, for the interminable
     universe, past and present, is but earth; give me the unknown soul,
     wholly apart from it, the soul of which I know only that when I
     touch the ground, when the sunlight touches my hand, it is not
     there. Therefore the heart looks into space to be away from earth.
     With all the cycles, and the sunlight streaming through them, with
     all that is meant by the present, I thought in the deep vale and

Presently, the vague yearning--this passionate prayer for the
realization of a splendid Vision--takes a more definite shape:

     "First, I desired that I might do or find something to exalt the
     soul, something to enable it to live its own life, a more powerful
     existence now. Secondly, I desired to be able to do something for
     the flesh, to make a discovery or perfect a method by which the
     fleshly body might enjoy more pleasure, longer life, and suffer
     less pain. Thirdly, to construct a more flexible engine with which
     to carry into execution the design of the will."

As for the soul, his prayer was for the life beyond this.

     "Recognising my own inner consciousness, the psyche, so clearly,
     death did not seem to me to affect the personality. In dissolution
     there was no bridgeless chasm, no unfathomable gulf of separation;
     the spirit did not immediately become inaccessible, leaping at a
     bound to an immeasurable distance. Look at another person while
     living; the soul is not visible, only the body which it animates.
     Therefore, merely because after death the soul is not visible is no
     demonstration that it does not still live. The condition of being
     unseen is the same condition which occurs while the body is living,
     so that intrinsically there is nothing exceptional, or
     supernatural, in the life of the soul after death. Resting by the
     tumulus, the spirit of the man who had been interred there was to
     me really alive, and very close. This was quite natural, as natural
     and simple as the grass waving in the wind, the bees humming, and
     the larks' songs. Only by the strongest effort of the mind could I
     understand the idea of extinction; that was supernatural, requiring
     a miracle; the immortality of the soul natural, like earth.
     Listening to the sighing of the grass I felt immortality as I felt
     the beauty of the summer morning."

Three things, he says, were found twelve thousand years ago by
prehistoric man: the existence of the soul, immortality, the Deity.
Since then, nothing further has been found. Well, he would find
something more. What is it he would find? It can only be discovered by
one who has that fulness of the soul for which he prays.

     "As I write these words, in the very moment, I feel that the whole
     air, the sunshine out yonder lighting up the ploughed earth, the
     distant sky, the circumambient ether, and that far space, is full
     of soul-secrets, soul-life, things outside the experience of all
     the ages. The fact of my own existence as I write, as I exist at
     this second, is so marvellous, so miracle-like, strange, and
     supernatural to me, that I unhesitatingly conclude I am always on
     the margin of life illimitable, and that there are higher
     conditions than existence. Everything around is supernatural;
     everything so full of unexplained meaning."

It is only by the soul that one lives. As for Nature, everything in her
is anti-human. Nothing in Nature cares for man. The earth would let him
perish, and would not trouble, for his sake, to bring forth food or
water. The sun would scorch and burn him. He cannot drink the sea. The
wild creatures would mangle and slay him. Diseases would rack him. The
very things which most he loves live for themselves, and not for him. If
all mankind were to die to-morrow, Nature would still go on, careless of
his fate. There is no spirit, no intelligence in Nature. And in the
events of human life, everything, he says, happens by pure chance. No
prudence in conduct, no wisdom or foresight, can effect anything. The
most trivial circumstance--the smallest accident is sufficient to upset
the deepest plan of the wisest mind. All things happen by chance. This,
then, is the melancholy outcome of all his passionate love of Nature. It
is to this conclusion that he has been brought by his solitary communion
with Nature. Man is quite alone, he says, without help and without hope
of guidance. The Deity--but, then, what does he mean by a Deity? He
means, I think, only the popular and vulgar conception--suffers
everything to take place by chance. Yet there is, there must be, because
he feels it and sees it, something higher and beyond. "For want of words
I write soul."

The book is full of this Vision of the Life beyond the present; he
tries, but sometimes in vain, to clothe his Vision with words. It never
leaves him. It is with him in the heart of London, where the tides of
life converge to the broad area before the Royal Exchange. If he goes to
see the pictures in the National Gallery, it is with him. If he looks at
the old sculpture in the Museum, it is still with him. Always the dream
of the perfect man superior to death and to change; perfect in physical
beauty, perfect in mind.

     "I went down to the sea. I stood where the foam came to my feet,
     and looked out over the sunlit waters. The great earth bearing the
     richness of the harvest, and its hills golden with corn, was at my
     back; its strength and firmness under me. The great sun shone
     above, the wide sea was before me, the wind came sweet and strong
     from the waves. The life of the earth and the sea, the glow of the
     sun filled me; I touched the surge with my hand, I lifted my face
     to the sun, I opened my lips to the wind. I prayed aloud in the
     roar of the waves--my soul was strong as the sea and prayed with
     the sea's might. 'Give me fulness of life like to the sea and the
     sun, to the earth and the air; give me fulness of physical life,
     mind equal and beyond their fulness; give me a greatness and
     perfection of soul higher than all things, give me my inexpressible
     desire which swells in me like a tide, give it to me with all the
     force of the sea.'

     "Then I rested, sitting by the wheat; the bank of beach was between
     me and the sea, but the waves beat against it; the sea was there,
     the sea was present and at hand. By the dry wheat I rested; I did
     not think; I was inhaling the richness of the sea; all the strength
     and depth of meaning of the sea and earth came to me again. I
     rubbed out some of the wheat in my hands, I took up a piece of clod
     and crumbled it in my fingers--it was a joy to touch it--I held my
     hand so that I could see the sunlight gleam on the slightly moist
     surface of the skin. The earth and sun were to me like my flesh and
     blood, and the air of the sea life.

     "With all the greater existence I drew from them I prayed for a
     bodily life equal to it, for a soul-life beyond my thought, for my
     inexpressible desire of more than I could shape even into idea.
     There was something higher than idea, invisible to thought as air
     to the eye; give me bodily life equal in fulness to the strength of
     earth, and sun, and sea; give me the soul-life of my desire. Once
     more I went down to the sea, touched it, and said farewell. So deep
     was the inhalation of this life that day, that it seemed to remain
     in me for years. This was a real pilgrimage."

There is much more--a great deal more--in this remarkable book; but what
follows is mostly an amplification of what has gone before. He dwells
upon the striving after physical perfection, the sacred duty of every
man and woman to enrich and strengthen their physical life, by care,
exercise, and in every possible way.

     "I believe all manner of asceticism to be the vilest
     blasphemy--blasphemy towards the whole of the human race. I believe
     in the flesh and the body, which is worthy of worship--to see a
     perfect human body unveiled causes a sense of worship. The ascetics
     are the only persons who are impure. Increase of physical beauty is
     attended by increase of soul beauty. The soul is the higher even by
     gazing on beauty. Let me be fleshly perfect."

Do not misunderstand him. This intense craving after physical
perfection, this yearning after beauty, is not a sensual craving. It is
not the Greek's love of perfect form, though Jefferies had this love, as
well. It is far more than this; it means, in the mind of this man, that
without perfection of the body there can be no perfect life of the soul.

In that letter where the Apostle Paul speaks at length of Death and the
Resurrection, he concludes with the assurance--he writes for his own
consolation, I think, as well as that of his disciples--that the body,
as well as the soul, shall live again; but the body glorified, made
perfect and beautiful beyond human power of thought, to be wedded to the
soul purified beyond human power of understanding. Is it not strange
that this solitary questioner, longing and praying for a deeper and
fuller understanding--a fuller soul--should also have arrived at the
perception of the wonderful truth that the perfect soul demands the
perfect body? In his mind there are no echoes ringing of Paul's great
Vision--the whole of his old creed, all of it, has fallen from him and
is lost: it is his own Vision granted to himself. How? After long and
solitary meditation on the hillside, as in the old times great Visions
came to those who fasted in their lonely cells and solitary caves. Great
thoughts come not to those who seek them not. The mind which would
receive them must be first prepared. The example of Jefferies, whose
great thoughts only came to him after long years of meditation apart
from man, may make us understand the Visions which used to reward the
monk, the fakir, the hermit of the lonely laura.

Then he goes back to his theory that everything happens by chance. So
long as men believe that everything is done for them, progress is
impossible. Once grasp the truth that nothing is done for man, and that
he has everything to do for himself, and all is possible. Still, this is
not a proof that chance rules the world. And, again, the fact that man,
alone of created beings, is able to grasp this, or any other truth, is
not that gift everything in itself?

     "Nothing whatsoever is done for us. We are born naked, and not even
     protected by a shaggy covering. Nothing is done for us. The first
     and strongest command (using the word to convey the idea only) that
     nature, the universe, our own bodies give is to do everything for
     ourselves. The sea does not make boats for us, nor the earth of her
     own will build us hospitals. The injured lie bleeding, and no
     invisible power lifts them up. The maidens were scorched in the
     midst of their devotions, and their remains make a mound hundreds
     of yards long. The infants perished in the snow, and the ravens
     tore their limbs. Those in the theatre crushed each other to the
     death-agony. For how long, for how many thousand years, must the
     earth and the sea, and the fire and the air, utter these things and
     force them upon us before they are admitted in their full

     "These things speak with a voice of thunder. From every human being
     whose body has been racked by pain, from every human being who has
     suffered from accident or disease, from every human being drowned,
     burned, or slain by negligence, there goes up a
     continually-increasing cry louder than the thunder. An
     awe-inspiring cry dread to listen to, which no one dares listen to,
     against which ears are stopped by the wax of superstition, and the
     wax of criminal selfishness:--These miseries are your doing,
     because you have mind and thought, and could have prevented them.
     You can prevent them in the future. You do not even try.

     "It is perfectly certain that all diseases without exception are
     preventible, or if not so, that they can be so weakened as to do no
     harm. It is perfectly certain that all accidents are preventible;
     there is not one that does not arise from folly or negligence. All
     accidents are crimes. It is perfectly certain that all human beings
     are capable of physical happiness. It is absolutely
     incontrovertible that the ideal shape of the human being is
     attainable to the exclusion of deformities. It is incontrovertible
     that there is no necessity for any man to die but of old age, and
     that if death cannot be prevented life can be prolonged far beyond
     the farthest now known. It is incontrovertible that at the present
     time no one ever dies of old age. Not one single person ever dies
     of old age, or of natural causes, for there is no such thing as a
     natural cause of death. They die of disease or weakness which is
     the result of disease, either in themselves or in their ancestors.
     No such thing as old age is known to us. We do not even know what
     old age would be like, because no one ever lives to it."

This remarkable book is a record almost, if not quite, unique. The
writer is not a man of science; he has not been trained in logic and
dialectics, he is not a scholar, though he has read much. But he can
think for himself, and he has the gift of carrying on the same line of
thought unwearied, persistent, like a bloodhound on the scent, year
after year. And as a record it is absolutely true; there are no
concealments in it, no affectations; it is all true. He has gone to
Nature--the Nature he loves so well--for an answer to the problems that
vex his soul. Nature replies with a stony stare; she has no answer. What
is man? She cares nothing for man. Everything, so far as she knows, and
so far as man is concerned, takes place by chance. Then he gets his
Vision of the Perfect Soul, and it fills his heart and makes him happy,
and seems to satisfy all his longings. And the old Christian teaching,
the prayer to the Father, the village church and its services, the quiet
churchyard--where are they? Out on the wild downs you do not see or hear
of them at all. They are not in the whisper of the air, or in the rustle
of the grass-blades; they are not in the sunshine; they are not in the
cloud; they are not in the depths of the azure sky.

And so he concludes:

     "I have only just commenced to realize the immensity of thought
     which lies outside the knowledge of the senses. Still, on the hills
     and by the sea-shore, I seek and pray deeper than ever. The sun
     burns southwards over the sea and before the wave runs its shadow,
     constantly slipping on the advancing slope till it curls and covers
     its dark image at the shore. Over the rim of the horizon waves are
     flowing as high and wide as those that break upon the beach. These
     that come to me and beat the trembling shore are like the thoughts
     that have been known so long; like the ancient, iterated, and
     reiterated thoughts that have broken on the strand of mind for
     thousands of years. Beyond and over the horizon I feel that there
     are other waves of ideas unknown to me, flowing as the stream of
     ocean flows. Knowledge of facts is limitless, they lie at my feet
     innumerable like the countless pebbles; knowledge of thought so
     circumscribed! Ever the same thoughts come that have been written
     down centuries and centuries.

     "Let me launch forth and sail over the rim of the sea yonder, and
     when another rim arises over that, and again and onwards into an
     ever-widening ocean of idea and life. For with all the strength of
     the wave, and its succeeding wave, the depth and race of the tide,
     the clear definition of the sky; with all the subtle power of the
     great sea, there rises an equal desire. Give me life strong and
     full as the brimming ocean; give me thoughts wide as its plain;
     give me a soul beyond these. Sweet is the bitter sea by the shore
     where the faint blue pebbles are lapped by the green-gray wave,
     where the wind-quivering foam is loath to leave the lashed stone.
     Sweet is the bitter sea, and the clear green in which the gaze
     seeks the soul, looking through the glass into itself. The sea
     thinks for me as I listen and ponder: the sea thinks, and every
     boom of the wave repeats my prayer.

     "Sometimes I stay on the wet sands as the tide rises, listening to
     the rush of the lines of foam in layer upon layer; the wash swells
     and circles about my feet, I lave my hands in it, I lift a little
     in my hollowed palm, I take the life of the sea to me. My soul
     rising to the immensity utters its desire-prayer with all the
     strength of the sea. Or, again, the full stream of ocean beats upon
     the shore, and the rich wind feeds the heart, the sun burns
     brightly;--the sense of soul-life burns in me like a torch.

     "Leaving the shore, I walk among the trees; a cloud passes, and the
     sweet short rain comes mingled with sunbeams and flower-scented
     air. The finches sing among the fresh green leaves of the beeches.
     Beautiful it is, in summer days, to see the wheat wave, and the
     long grass foam-flecked of flower yield and return to the wind. My
     soul of itself always desires; these are to it as fresh food. I
     have found in the hills another valley grooved in prehistoric
     times, where, climbing to the top of the hollow, I can see the sea.
     Down in the hollow I look up; the sky stretches over, the sun burns
     as it seems but just above the hill, and the wind sweeps onward. As
     the sky extends beyond the valley, so I know that there are ideas
     beyond the valley of my thought; I know that there is something
     infinitely higher than Deity. The great sun burning in the sky,
     the sea, the firm earth, all the stars of night are feeble--all,
     all the cosmos is feeble; it is not strong enough to utter my
     prayer-desire. My soul cannot reach to its full desire of prayer. I
     need no earth, or sea, or sun to think my thought. If my
     thought-part--the psyche--were entirely separated from the body,
     and from the earth, I should of myself desire the same. In itself
     my soul desires; my existence, my soul-existence is in itself my
     prayer, and so long as it exists so long will it pray that I may
     have the fullest soul-life."



There is a very delightful old story which used to be given to children,
though I have not seen it for a long time in the hands of any children.
It was called "The Story without an End." A child wandered among the
flowers, who talked to him. That is the whole story. There were coloured
pictures in it. The story began without a beginning, and it came to a
sudden stop without an ending.

It is perhaps upon a reminiscence of this old story that Jefferies has
based nearly all his own. They are very delightful, especially the
shorter stories; but they seldom have any end. There is sometimes, but
not often, a story; there is generally only a succession of
scenes--some delightful, all beautiful, and all original in the sense
that nobody except Jefferies could possibly have written any of them.
The child wanders. That is all. Some day, when the worth of this writer
is universally recognised, these scenes and stories will be detached
from the papers with which they are published, and issued in separate
form, as beautifully illustrated as the art of the next generation--this
will not take place for another generation--will allow.

For instance, Guido--they called him Guido because they thought that in
childhood Guido the painter must have greatly resembled this boy--runs
along the grassy lane at the top of a bank between the fir-trees till he
comes to a wheat-field. Then he climbs down into this field, and sees
the most wonderful things: lovely azure corn-flowers--"curious flowers
with knobs surrounded with little blue flowers, like a lady's bonnet.
They were a beautiful blue, not like any other blue, not like the
violets in the garden, or the sky over the trees, or the geranium in the
grass, or the bird's-eyes by the path." Then he wanders on, starting a
rabbit, scaring a hawk, and listening to the birds. Presently he sits
down on the branch of an oak, with his feet dangling over a streamlet.
Then he remembers--children do remember things in the strangest
way--that if he wants to hear a story, or to talk with the grass, he
really must not try to catch the butterflies. So he touches the rushes
with his foot, and says, "Rush, rush, tell them I am here." Immediately
there follows a little wind, and the wheat swings to and fro, the
oak-leaves rustle, the rushes bow, and the shadows slip forwards and
back again. After this, of course, the nearest wheat-ear begins to talk.
Now the wheat has been so long growing for the use of man that it has
grown to love him. Think of that! And it pains the wheat to see so much
misery and needless labour among the people. Of course, we cannot expect
a wheat-ear to know that little boys do not understand the problems of
poverty and labour.

     "'There is one thing we do not like, and that is, all the labour
     and the misery. Why cannot your people have us without so much
     labour, and why are so many of you unhappy? Why cannot they be all
     happy with us as you are, dear? For hundreds and hundreds of years
     now the wheat every year has been sorrowful for your people, and I
     think we get more sorrowful every year about it, because, as I was
     telling you just now, the flowers go, and the swallows go, the old,
     old oaks go, and that oak will go, under the shade of which you are
     lying, Guido; and if your people do not gather the flowers now, and
     watch the swallows, and listen to the blackbirds whistling, as you
     are listening now while I talk, then Guido, my love, they will
     never pick any flowers, nor hear any birds' songs. They think they
     will, they think that when they have toiled, and worked a long
     time, almost all their lives, then they will come to the flowers,
     and the birds, and be joyful in the sunshine. But no, it will not
     be so, for then they will be old themselves, and their ears dull,
     and their eyes dim, so that the birds will sound a great distance
     off, and the flowers will not seem bright.

     "'Of course, we know that the greatest part of your people cannot
     help themselves, and must labour on like the reapers till their
     ears are full of the dust of age. That only makes us more
     sorrowful, and anxious that things should be different. I do not
     suppose we should think about them had we not been in man's hand so
     long that now we have got to feel with man. Every year makes it
     more pitiful, because then there are more flowers gone, and added
     to the vast numbers of those gone before, and never gathered, or
     looked at, though they could have given so much pleasure. And all
     the work and labour, and thinking, and reading, and learning that
     your people do ends in nothing--not even one flower. We cannot
     understand why it should be so. There are thousands of wheat-ears
     in this field, more than you would know how to write down with your
     pencil, though you have learned your tables, sir. Yet all of us
     thinking, and talking, cannot understand why it is when we consider
     how clever your people are, and how they bring ploughs, and
     steam-engines, and put up wires along the roads to tell you things
     when you are miles away, and sometimes we are sown where we can
     hear the hum, hum, all day of the children learning in the school.
     The butterflies flutter over us, and the sun shines, and the doves
     are very, very happy at their nest, but the children go on hum, hum
     inside this house, and learn, learn. So we suppose you must be very
     clever, and yet you cannot manage this. All your work is wasted,
     and you labour in vain--you dare not leave it a minute.

     "'If you left it a minute it would all be gone; it does not mount
     up and make a store, so that all of you could sit by it and be
     happy. Directly you leave off you are hungry, and thirsty, and
     miserable like the beggars that tramp along the dusty road here.
     All the thousand years of labour since this field was first
     ploughed have not stored up anything for you. It would not matter
     about the work so much if you were only happy; the bees work every
     year, but they are happy; the doves build a nest every year, but
     they are very, very happy. We think it must be because you do not
     come out to us and be with us and think more as we do. It is not
     because your people have not got plenty to eat and drink--you have
     as much as the bees. Why, just look at us! Look at the wheat that
     grows all over the world; all the figures that were ever written in
     pencil could not tell how much, it is such an immense quantity. Yet
     your people starve and die of hunger every now and then, and we
     have seen the wretched beggars tramping along the road. We have
     known of times when there was a great pile of us, almost a hill
     piled up; it was not in this country, it was in another warmer
     country, and yet no one dared to touch it--they died at the bottom
     of the hill of wheat. The earth is full of skeletons of people who
     have died of hunger. They are dying now this minute in your big
     cities, with nothing but stones all round them, stone walls and
     stone streets; not jolly stones like those you threw in the water,
     dear--hard, unkind stones that make them cold and let them die,
     while we are growing here, millions of us, in the sunshine with the
     butterflies floating over us. This makes us unhappy; I was very
     unhappy this morning till you came running over and played with

     "'It is not because there is not enough: it is because your people
     are so short-sighted, so jealous and selfish, and so curiously
     infatuated with things that are not so good as your old toys which
     you have flung away and forgotten. And you teach the children hum,
     hum, all day to care about such silly things, and to work for them,
     and to look to them as the object of their lives. It is because you
     do not share us among you without price or difference; because you
     do not share the great earth among you fairly, without spite and
     jealousy and avarice; because you will not agree; you silly,
     foolish people to let all the flowers wither for a thousand years
     while you keep each other at a distance, instead of agreeing and
     sharing them! Is there something in you--as there is poison in the
     nightshade, you know it, dear, your papa told you not to touch
     it--is there a sort of poison in your people that works them up
     into a hatred of one another? Why, then, do you not agree and have
     all things, all the great earth can give you, just as we have the
     sunshine and the rain? How happy your people could be if they would
     only agree! But you go on teaching even the little children to
     follow the same silly objects, hum, hum, hum, all the day, and they
     will grow up to hate each other, and to try which can get the most
     round things--you have one in your pocket.'

     "'Sixpence,' said Guido. 'It's quite a new one.'

     "'And other things quite as silly,' the Wheat continued. 'All the
     time the flowers are flowering, but they will go, even the oaks
     will go. We think the reason you do not all have plenty, and why
     you do not do only just a little work, and why you die of hunger if
     you leave off, and why so many of you are unhappy in body and mind,
     and all the misery is because you have not got a spirit like the
     wheat, like us; you will not agree, and you will not share, and you
     will hate each other, and you will be so avaricious, and you will
     _not_ touch the flowers, or go into the sunshine (you would rather
     half of you died among the hard stones first), and you will teach
     your children hum, hum, to follow in some foolish course that has
     caused you all this unhappiness a thousand years, and you will
     _not_ have a spirit like us, and feel like us. Till you have a
     spirit like us, and feel like us, you will never, never be happy.'"

Was not that a fine talk for the child to have with the wheat-ear? And
there is more of it, a great deal more in this story without an end
which you will find in the book called "The Open Air."

Again, another boy--not Guido by any means, nor in the least like
Guido--had been sent to gather acorns. He gathered a few, dropped them
into his bag, and lay down in the warm corner by the root of the tree to
sleep. There his grandmother found him, and there she beat him.

     "A wickeder boy never lived: nothing could be done with the
     reprobate. He was her grandson--at least, the son of her daughter,
     for he was not legitimate. The man drank, the girl died, as was
     believed, of sheer starvation: the granny kept the child, and he
     was now between ten and eleven years old. She had done and did her
     duty, as she understood it. A prayer-meeting was held in her
     cottage twice a week, she prayed herself aloud among them, she was
     a leading member of the sect. Neither example, precept, nor the rod
     could change that boy's heart. In time perhaps she got to beat him
     from habit rather than from any particular anger of the moment,
     just as she fetched water and filled her kettle, as one of the
     ordinary events of the day. Why did not the father interfere?
     Because if so he would have had to keep his son: so many shillings
     a week the less for ale.

     "In the garden attached to the cottage there was a small shed with
     a padlock, used to store produce or wood in. One morning, after a
     severe beating, she drove the boy in there and locked him in the
     whole day without food. It was no use, he was as hardened as ever.

     "A footpath which crossed the field went by the cottage, and every
     Sunday those who were walking to church could see the boy in the
     window with granny's Bible open before him. There he had to sit,
     the door locked, under terror of stick, and study the page. What
     was the use of compelling him to do that? He could not read. 'No,'
     said the old woman, 'he won't read, but I makes him look at his

     "The thwacking went on for some time, when one day the boy was sent
     on an errand two or three miles, and for a wonder started willingly
     enough. At night he did not return, nor the next day, nor the next,
     and it was as clear as possible that he had run away. No one
     thought of tracking his footsteps, or following up the path he had
     to take, which passed a railway, brooks, and a canal. He had run
     away, and he might stop away: it was beautiful summer weather, and
     it would do him no harm to stop out for a week. A dealer who had
     business in a field by the canal thought indeed that he saw
     something in the water, but he did not want any trouble, nor indeed
     did he know that someone was missing. Most likely a dead dog; so he
     turned his back and went to look again at the cow he thought of
     buying. A barge came by, and the steerswoman, with a pipe in her
     mouth, saw something roll over and come up under the rudder: the
     length of the barge having passed over it. She knew what it was,
     but she wanted to reach the wharf and go ashore and have a quart of
     ale. No use picking it up, only make a mess on deck, there was no
     reward--'Gee-up! Neddy.' The barge went on, turning up the mud in
     the shallow water, sending ripples washing up to the grassy meadow
     shores, while the moorhens hid in the flags till it was gone. In
     time a labourer walking on the towing-path saw 'it,' and fished it
     out, and with it a slender ash sapling, with twine and hook, a worm
     still on it. This was why the dead boy had gone so willingly,
     thinking to fish in the 'river,' as he called the canal. When his
     feet slipped and he fell in, his fishing-line somehow became
     twisted about his arms and legs, else most likely he would have
     scrambled out, as it was not very deep. This was the end; nor was
     he even remembered. Does anyone sorrow for the rook, shot, and hung
     up as a scarecrow? The boy had been talked to, and held up as a
     scarecrow all his life: he was dead, and that is all. As for
     granny, she felt no twinge: she had done her duty."

There is another chapter among these papers which is a real story. It
is, I am certain, a true story, because the plot is not at all in the
manner of Jefferies. It is called, grimly, "Field Play." The "Story of
Dolly" it should be called--of hapless Dolly--of Dolly the village
beauty. Would you like to see how Jefferies can describe a beautiful

     "So fair a complexion could not brown even in summer, exposed to
     the utmost heat. The beams indeed did heighten the hue of her
     cheeks a little, but it did not shade to brown. Her chin and neck
     were wholly untanned, white and soft, and the blue veins roamed at
     their will. Lips red, a little full perhaps; teeth slightly
     prominent, but white and gleamy as she smiled. Dark-brown hair in
     no great abundance, always slipping out of its confinement and
     straggling, now on her forehead, and now on her shoulders, like
     wandering bines of bryony. The softest of brown eyes under long
     eyelashes; eyes that seemed to see everything in its gentlest
     aspect, that could see no harm anywhere. A ready smile on the face,
     and a smile in the form. Her shape yielded so easily at each
     movement that it seemed to smile as she walked. Her nose was the
     least pleasing feature--not delicate enough to fit with the
     complexion, and distinctly upturned, though not offensively. But it
     was not noticed; no one saw anything beyond the laughing lips, the
     laughing shape, the eyes that melted so near to tears. The torn
     dress, the straggling hair, the tattered shoes, the unmended
     stocking, the straw hat split, the mingled poverty and
     carelessness--perhaps rather dreaminess--disappeared when once you
     had met the full untroubled gaze of those beautiful eyes.
     Untroubled, that is, with any ulterior thought of evil or cunning;
     they were as open as the day, the day which you can make your own
     for evil or good. So, too, like the day, was she ready to the

The miserable, hapless fate of poor Dolly, the horrible tragedy of her
life and death, is told with relentless truth and fidelity. In Arcadia
such things may happen, and, I suppose, do constantly happen. The story
belongs properly to the chapter on English country life last quarter of
the nineteenth century, which, when it is written, will, I think, be
taken altogether from the works of Jefferies and Thomas Hardy.

"The Story of Bevis" is the story of Guido writ large. It is also the
story of Jefferies himself as a boy. Observe, most writers of fiction,
if they were proposing to write the story of a boy, would first create
an imaginary boy, and then surround him with imaginary adventures,
invented on purpose for that boy. Jefferies does nothing of the kind. It
is not his method. He remembers his own boyhood--the most delightful
part of it--when he played with his brother and his cousin upon the
shores of the lake behind the farmhouse, and made his canoe, and paddled
about the water exploring the creeks and islets, the bays and harbours
of that wonderful coast. The boy, Bevis, is, in fact, himself.
Therefore, he does all the things that Jefferies and his brother did in
their boyhood. Bevis even makes a raft, and, when the raft is made, he
sails down the Mississippi as far as Central Africa, where, of course,
he encounters savages, and has to fight them. To discover an unknown
island on such a voyage is an adventure certain to be met with. To build
a hut, to provision a cave, and to dwell for a while upon that island is
another adventure equally certain when one goes to Central Africa, and
there is no reason at all why such a story should ever have any end.
Consequently, there is none--only a full stop, and then a line with
"Finis" written under it. In fact, there never was such a book of boy's
make-believe. Observe, if you please, a thing which shows the real
genius of the writer. It is that you feel, all the time you are reading
the book, the village itself only a quarter of a mile from Central
Africa. The bailiff, and the dogs, and the village lads are always
coming across us in the midst of the Central African jungle in the most
natural and absurd way. For boys, as Jefferies remembered, are never
quite carried away by their own imaginations. There are many very fine
passages in the book, which has only one fault--it is three times as
long as it should have been. The conception is delightful. In the
execution the author has not known when to stay his hand. Perhaps one of
those limitations of which I have spoken already was an imperfect
faculty of selection. For boys, the story should have been compressed
into one volume. One cannot understand, indeed, how his publishers
consented to put forth the book in three-volume novel form. Nobody,
after the first chapter, could possibly accept it as a three-volume
novel. But it contains many very striking and beautiful and poetic

For instance, Bevis watches the sunrise:

     "The sun had not yet stood out from the orient, but his precedent
     light shone through the translucent blue. Yet it was not blue, nor
     is there any word, nor is a word possible to convey the feeling
     unless one could be built up of signs and symbols like those in the
     book of the magician, which glowed and burned to and fro the page.
     For the blue of the precious sapphire is thick to it, the turquoise
     dull: these hard surfaces are no more to be compared to it than
     sand and gravel. They are but stones, hard, cold, pitiful: that
     which gives them their lustre is the light. Through delicate
     porcelain sometimes the light comes, and it is not the porcelain,
     it is the light that is lovely. But porcelain is clay, and the
     light is shorn, checked, and shrunken. Down through the beauteous
     azure came the Light itself, pure, unreflected Light, untouched,
     untarnished even by the dew-sweetened petal of a flower,
     descending, flowing like a wind, a wind of glory sweeping through
     the blue. A luminous purple glowing as Love glows in the cheek, so
     glowed the passion of the heavens.

     "Two things only reach the soul. By touch there is indeed emotion.
     But the light in the eye, the sound of the voice! the soul trembles
     and like a flame leaps to meet them. So to the luminous purple
     azure his heart ascended."

In "Wood Magic" Jefferies carries on the story of "Bevis" and of
"Guido." The creatures all talk to the boy, which makes going into the
fields and woods a much more delightful thing than it is to other boys,
to whom they will not address one single word. There is a wicked weasel,
for instance, caught in a gin, who tells such abominable lies as one may
expect from a weasel. There is also a fable about a magpie and a jay,
which fails, somehow, to arrest the reader. But when you have got
through the business with the creatures--I do not care in the least for
them unless Bevis is with them--you presently arrive at a most
delightful chapter where Bevis is instructed by the wind. It is such a
wise, wise wind, it knows so much. If Bevis will only remember the half
of what the wind has taught him!

     "'Bevis, my love, if you want to know all about the sun, and the
     stars, and everything, make haste and come to me, and I will tell
     you, dear. In the morning, dear, get up as quick as you can, and
     drink me as I come down from the hill. In the day go up on the
     hill, dear, and drink me again, and stay there if you can till the
     stars shine out, and drink still more of me.

     "'And by-and-by you will understand all about the sun, and the
     moon, and the stars, and the Earth which is so beautiful, Bevis. It
     is so beautiful, you can hardly believe how beautiful it is. Do not
     listen, dear, not for one moment, to the stuff and rubbish they
     tell you down there in the houses where they will not let me come.
     If they say the Earth is not beautiful, tell them they do not speak
     the truth. But it is not their fault, for they have never seen it,
     and, as they have never drank me, their eyes are closed, and their
     ears shut up tight. But every evening, dear, before you get into
     bed, do you go to your window--the same as you did the evening the
     Owl went by--and lift the curtain and look up at the sky, and I
     shall be somewhere about, or else I shall be quiet in order that
     there may be no clouds, so that you may see the stars. In the
     morning, as I said before, rush out and drink me up.

     "'The more you drink of me, the more you will want, and the more I
     shall love you. Come up to me upon the hills, and your heart will
     never be heavy, but your eyes will be bright, and your step quick,
     and you will sing and shout----'

     "'So I will,' said Bevis, 'I will shout. Holloa!' and he ran up on
     to the top of the little round hill, to which they had now
     returned, and danced about on it as wild as could be.

     "'Dance away, dear,' said the Wind, much delighted. 'Everybody
     dances who drinks me. The man in the hill there----'

     "'What man?' said Bevis, 'and how did he get in the hill; just tell
     him I want to speak to him.'

     "'Darling,' said the Wind, very quiet and softly, 'he is dead, and
     he is in the little hill you are standing on, under your feet. At
     least, he was there once, but there is nothing of him there now.
     Still it is his place, and as he loved me, and I loved him, I come
     very often and sing here.'

     "'When did he die?' said Bevis. 'Did I ever see him?'

     "'He died just about a minute ago, dear; just before you came up
     the hill. If you were to ask the people who live in the houses,
     where they will not let me in (they carefully shut out the sun,
     too), they would tell you he died thousands of years ago; but they
     are foolish, very foolish. It was hardly so long ago as yesterday.
     Did not the Brook tell you all about that?

     "'Now this man, and all his people, used to love me and drink me,
     as much as ever they could all day long and a great part of the
     night, and when they died they still wanted to be with me, and so
     they were all buried on the tops of the hills, and you will find
     these curious little mounds everywhere on the ridges, dear, where I
     blow along. There I come to them still, and sing through the long
     dry grass, and rush over the turf, and I bring the scent of the
     clover from the plain, and the bees come humming along upon me. The
     sun comes, too, and the rain. But I am here most; the sun only
     shines by day, and the rain only comes now and then.'

            *       *       *       *       *

     "'There never was a yesterday,' whispered the Wind presently, 'and
     there never will be to-morrow. It is all one long to-day. When the
     man in the hill was you were too, and he still is now you are here;
     but of these things you will know more when you are older, that is
     if you will only continue to drink me. Come, dear, let us race on
     again.' So the two went on and came to a hawthorn-bush, and Bevis,
     full of mischief always, tried to slip away from the Wind round the
     bush, but the Wind laughed and caught him.

     "A little further and they came to the fosse of the old camp. Bevis
     went down into the trench, and he and the Wind raced round along it
     as fast as ever they could go, till presently he ran up out of it
     on the hill, and there was the waggon underneath him, with the load
     well piled up now. There was the plain, yellow with stubble; the
     hills beyond it and the blue valley, just the same as he had left

     "As Bevis stood and looked down, the Wind caressed him and said,
     'Good-bye, darling, I am going yonder, straight across to the blue
     valley and the blue sky, where they meet; but I shall be back
     again when you come next time. Now remember, my dear, to drink
     me--come up here and drink me.'

     "'Shall you be here?' said Bevis; 'are you quite sure you will be

     "'Yes,' said the Wind, 'I shall be quite certain to be here; I
     promise you, love, I will never go quite away. Promise me
     faithfully, too, that you will come up and drink me, and shout and
     race and be happy.'

     "'I promise,' said Bevis, beginning to go down the hill; 'good-bye,
     jolly old Wind.'

     "'Good-bye, dearest,' whispered the Wind, as he went across out
     towards the valley. As Bevis went down the hill, a blue harebell,
     who had been singing farewell to summer all the morning, called to
     him and asked him to gather her and carry her home, as she would
     rather go with him than stay now autumn was near.

     "Bevis gathered the harebell, and ran with the flower in his hand
     down the hill, and as he ran the wild thyme kissed his feet and
     said, 'Come again, Bevis, come again.' At the bottom of the hill
     the waggon was loaded now; so they lifted him up, and he rode home
     on the broad back of the leader."

There is one more story. I must not quote it, because it is too long,
but I cannot pass it over in silence. It will be found in "Nature Round
London." It is the story of a trout, and it has always filled me with
the most profound and most sincere admiration. So little did Jefferies
understand that he was here working out a picture of the most original
kind, of the deepest interest, that he actually divides it in two, goes
off to something else, and then returns to it. His inexhaustible mind
scattered its treasures about as lavishly as Nature herself scatters
abroad her flowers and her seeds, and with almost as little care about
arrangement, selection, and grouping.



I think that I have never read, in all the sad chronicles of hapless
authors, anything more pitiful than the history of the last years of
this life so short, yet so rich in its sheaves of golden grain and piles
of purple fruit. Everything possible of long-continued torture,
necessity of work, poverty, anxiety, and hope of recovery continually
deferred, are crammed into the miserable record which closes this

Jefferies fell ill in December, 1881, five years and a half before the
end. He was attacked by a disease for which an operation of a very
severe and painful nature is the only cure. It is, however, one which,
in the hands of a skilful surgeon, is generally successful. Horrible to
relate, in his case, the operation proved unsuccessful, and had to be
repeated again and again. Four times in twelve months the dreadful
surgeon's knife was used upon this poor sufferer. For a whole year he
could do no work at all. The modest savings of the preceding years were
spent upon the physicians and the surgeons, and in the maintenance of
his household, while the pen of the breadwinner was perforce resting.
Before he was able to take pen in hand again, he was reduced to
something approaching destitution. You shall read directly how, when he
recovered, hope immediately returned, and he was once more happy in the
thought that now he could again work, though it was to begin the world
once more. Alas! the interval of hope was brief indeed. Another, and a
more mysterious disease attacked him. He felt an internal pain
constantly gnawing him; he could not eat without pain; he grew daily
weaker; he was at last no longer able to walk; he could only crawl.

Henceforth his days and nights were a long struggle against suffering,
with a determination, however, to go on with his work. Nothing more
wonderful than the courage and resolution of this man. As in youth he
had resolved to succeed somehow, though as yet ignorant of the better
way, so now he _would_ not be beaten by pain. His very best work, the
work which will cause him to live, the work which places him among the
writers of his country, to be remembered and to be read long after the
men of his generation are dead and forgotten, was actually done while he
was in this suffering. The "Pageant of Summer," for example: well, the
"Pageant of Summer" reads as if it were the work of a man revelling in
the warmth of the quivering air; of a man in perfect health and
strength, body and mind at ease, surrendered wholly to the influence of
the flowers and the sunshine, at peace, save for the natural sadness of
one who communes much with himself on change, decay, and death. And yet
the "Pageant of Summer" was written while he was in deadly pain and
torture. Again, between 1883 and 1886 he published those collections of
papers called "Life in the Fields" and "The Open Air." He also wrote
"Red Deer," "Amaryllis," and a quantity of papers which have yet to be
collected and published. If, even for a moment, he had an interval of
strength, his busy pen began again to race over the paper, hasting to
set down the thoughts that filled his brain.

His disease was discovered, after a period of intense suffering, to be
an ulceration of the small intestine. It was weakness induced by this
disease, which caused other complications, under which he gradually

I suppose that Jefferies could never be considered a strong man. As a
boy, tall, active, nervous, he was muscularly weaker than his younger
brother. At the age of eighteen he showed symptoms which caused fear of
a decline. Perhaps his intense love of the open air indicated the kind
of medicine which he most needed. When he could no longer go into the
open air he died. Perhaps, too, the consciousness of physical weakness,
the sense of impending early death, caused him to yearn with so much
longing after physical perfection and the fuller life which he clearly
saw was possible. Those who are doomed to die young--as has been often
observed--have the deepest sense and the keenest enjoyment of life.

Still, though not a strong man, he was apparently a healthy man. He
lived at all times a simple and a healthy life; there was nothing to
show that he was going to be struck down by so cruel an illness.

The period of greatest suffering seems to have been in the year 1884.
The weakness following it set in some time during the year 1885.

He writes to Mr. Charles Longman in May of the latter year:

     "Your suggestion"--that he should write a year-book of Nature--"of
     a diary out of doors would no doubt make a good book, and I shall
     give serious thought to it. My great difficulty is the physical
     difficulty of writing. Since the spine gave way, there is no
     position in which I can lie or sit so as to use a pen without
     distress. Even a short letter like this is painful. Consequently, a
     vast mass of ideas go into space, for I cannot write them down."

In August he returns to the subject:

     "Many thanks for your kind letter and interest in my weakness. I
     sometimes rather need moral support of this sort, for after so long
     the spirits show signs of flagging, and the way seems endless. Such
     sympathy, therefore, helps me very much.... I should have liked to
     have written the book you proposed. I made several attempts, but it
     never satisfied me. I am glad, at all events, that you have
     forgiven my unintentional nonfulfilment of the promise. Even yet,
     perhaps, I may do something in that direction. Professor Gamgee,
     under whom I have been lately, says that complete recovery would
     follow a few weeks' basking in South Africa, or, failing that,
     Southern Europe. There is plenty of energy in me still. I sometimes
     dream of using the rifle--a dream, indeed, to a man who can with
     difficulty drag himself across a field."

In June he writes to his friend, Mr. C.P. Scott, of the _Manchester

     "Since I last wrote to you I have been very seriously ill. The
     starvation went on and on, and no one could relieve it, till I had
     to stay in the bedroom, and finally went to bed, fainting nearly
     all day and night, and yet craving for food, half delirious, and in
     the most dreadful state. How I endured I cannot tell. At last I had
     Dr. Kidd down from London, and in forty-eight hours his treatment
     checked the disease. I got downstairs, next, out of doors in a
     Bath-chair, and now I can walk two hundred yards. But I am still
     the veriest shadow of a man--my nerves are gone to pieces--and he
     warns me that it will take months to effect a cure. Of that,
     however, he is certain. Under his advice I have left Eltham, and am
     staying here (Rotherfield, Sussex) till a cottage can be found for
     me near Tunbridge Wells.... My last piece of MS. appears in
     _Longman_ this month, and I have now no more left, having exhausted
     all I wrote when able. At least, there remains but one
     piece--'Nature in the Louvre.' It is about a beautiful statue that
     interested me greatly, and which seems to have escaped notice in
     England. I think you would like the ideas expressed in it."

At this time it was suggested that he should make an application to the
Royal Literary Fund. He writes both to Mr. Longman and to Mr. Scott in
the strongest terms upon the subject. I do not, for my own part, in the
least agree with Jefferies in his wholesale condemnation of that useful
society, and therefore have the less hesitation in printing what he says
of it:

                                                     'August 18, 1885.

     "You have put before me a very great temptation. It is impossible
     for you to know how great, for there can be no doubt that it is the
     winter that is my enemy. Last winter I was indoors six months--in
     fact, it was eight before I really got out of doors, most of this
     time helpless, sitting in an easy chair before the fire, my feet on
     a pillow, and legs wrapped up in a railway-rug, up and down stairs
     on hands and knees, and unable even to dress myself. Even now it
     tears me to pieces even to walk a short distance. So that to pass
     next winter in warmth seems almost like life, besides the great
     possibility of complete recovery. There would be also the pleasure
     of the sights and scenes of Algiers or South Africa. In short, it
     has been a very great temptation, and I am sure it was most kind of
     you to think of me. But the Royal Literary Fund is a thing to
     accept aid from which humiliates the recipient past all bounds; it
     is worse than the workhouse. If long illness ultimately drove me to
     the workhouse, I should feel no disgrace, having done my utmost to
     fight with difficulties. Everyone has a right to that last relief.
     If this fund were maintained by pressmen, authors, journalists,
     editors, publishers, newspaper proprietors, and so on, that would
     be quite another matter. There would be no humiliation--rather the
     contrary--and in time one might subscribe some day and help someone
     else. It is no such thing. It is kept up by dukes and marquises,
     lords and titled people, with a Prince at their head, and a vast
     quantity of trumpet-blowing, in order that these people may say
     they are patrons of literature! Patrons of literature! Was there
     ever such a disgrace in the nineteenth century? Patrons of
     literature! The thing is simply abominable! I dare say if I were a
     town-born man I should not think so, but to me it wears an aspect
     of standing insult.

     "No doubt we ought to combine--all who have ever touched a
     pen--then we could assist each other in a straightforward and manly

     "The temptation to me is very great indeed, because there is no
     question that I have been slowly sinking for years for want of some
     such travel or stimulus working through the nervous system. But I
     have made up my mind to say no. I would rather run the risk of
     quitting this world altogether next winter than degrade myself in
     that way.

     "I am trying all I can to move altogether to the neighbourhood of
     the sea. Possibly, even Dorset or Devon might answer; or, failing
     that, I may try to pay a short visit to Schwalbach, and see if the
     natural iron medicine of a mineral spring may do what compound
     physic cannot. But I fancy the sea residence would be preferable.

     "Change is the only thing that as yet has affected me, which seems
     to point conclusively to an exhausted system rather than to

To Mr. Scott he writes in a similar strain. It galls him to think of
being "patronized," and, indeed, if that were the view taken by the
council of the Royal Literary Fund, I, for one, should be the first to
agree with him. But it is not. Jefferies was wrong about the supporters
of the Fund which is, in fact, assisted by everybody who ever makes any
success in literature, and by every writer of any distinction either in
letters or in other fields. He adds, however, a paragraph in which I
cordially agree, and to the carrying out of the suggestion contained in
it some of us have, during the last three years, devoted a great deal of
time and effort.

     "We ought, of course, to have a real Literary Association, to which
     subscription should be almost semi-compulsory. We ought to have
     some organization. Literature is young yet--scarce fifty years
     old. The legal and medical professions have had a start of a
     thousand years. Our profession is young yet, but will be the first
     of all in the time to come."

He goes on to speak of his health:

     "Ever since Christmas I have been trying to move to the sea-coast,
     but I cannot effect it. I cannot stick to work long enough to
     produce any result, the extreme weakness will not let me, so that I
     cannot do anything. Whatever I wish to do, it seems as if a voice
     said, 'No, you shall not do it. Feebleness forbids.' I think I
     should like a good walk. No. I think I should like to write. No. I
     think I should like to rest. No. Always No to everything. Even
     writing this letter has made the spine ache almost past endurance.
     I cannot convey to you how miserable it is to be impotent; to feel
     yourself full of ideas and work, and to be unable to effect
     anything; to sit and waste the hours. It is absolutely maddening."

In November he writes again. He is at Crowborough, where the fine air at
first seemed to be restoring him. He could walk about in the field at
the back of the house.

     "Suddenly I went down as if I had been shot. All the improvement
     was lost, and now I have been indoors three months, steadily
     becoming weaker and more emaciated every day. It is, in fact,
     starvation. They cannot feed me, try what they will. No one would
     believe what misery it is, and what extreme debility it produces.
     The worst of all is the helplessness. Often I am compelled to sit
     or lie for days and think, think, till I feel as if I should become
     insane, for my mind seems as clear as ever, and the anxiety and
     eager desire to do something is as strong as in my best days. There
     is an ancient story of a living man tied to a dead one, and that is
     like me; mind alive and body dead. I fear that my old friends will
     give me up in time, because I cannot travel the path of friendship
     now, and the Cymric proverb says that it soon grows covered with

A letter, dated June 19, 1886, is too sad to be quoted. His dependence
on others, even for the putting on of his clothes, his longing for the
sea-coast, which he thinks is certain to do him good, his lament over
the poverty which, through no fault of his own, has fallen upon him,
fill up this melancholy letter. Day and night there is no cessation of

Help of all kinds was forthcoming from friends whom one must not name:
money, the offer of a house on the sea-coast; but there was the
difficulty of travelling. How was he to be moved? This difficulty was
got over, and he went to Bexhill for a time, returning to Crowborough in
September. The sea had done him good. On the night of his return, he
enjoyed a tranquil sleep for some hours, and awoke without pain.

Among the letters sent to me by Mr. Scott is one from a well-known
physician who had been consulted on the case.

     "There is no doubt," he says, "that there is some tuberculous
     affection of his lungs, though, so far as I have been able to make
     out, this does not seem to be at all in an active state.

     "The serious complaints which make his life a misery to him I
     believe to be purely functional. He strikes me as being a very
     marked example of hysteria in man, though in his case, as in many
     among women, the commoner phenomena of hysteria are absent. I am
     surprised to hear that he spoke warmly of my treatment, for he
     would not admit to his ordinary attendant, nor to me, that his
     symptoms had undergone any palliation whatever. He is prejudiced
     against any treatment, and the result, according to him, always
     agrees with his prediction."

Evidently an extremely difficult and nervous patient to treat. But that
might be expected. In October of 1886, Mr. Scott proposed to raise a
fund among the friends and admirers of his works which should be devoted
to sending him to a warmer climate. He consented, though with pain and
bitterness of soul. "I have written," he says, "fourteen books." He
enumerates them. "Scarcely anyone living has done so much." Yet he
forgets to consider for how small and select an audience he has written.
"All of them have been praised by the reviews. I cannot help feeling it
hard, after so much work, to come to such disgrace." It was hard, it was
cruelly hard. While the pensions of the Civil List--a breach of trust if
ever there was one--are bestowed upon daughters of distinguished
officers and widows of civil servants, such a man as Jefferies, for
whose assistance the grant is yearly asked and voted, is left to starve.
It is indeed cruelly hard on literature that the rulers of the country
should be so blind, so deaf, so pitiless--so dishonest. They made Burns
a gauger. Well: that was something. Could they not have made Jefferies a
police-constable, for instance? They gave him nothing: it would have
been useless to ask any Government to give anything: they wanted all the
money for persons for whom it was never intended. There never has
been--there is not now--not even at a time when Prime Ministers and
ex-Cabinet Ministers write articles for monthly magazines, any
Government which has had the least concern for, knowledge of, or touch
with, literature, or its makers. Authors must develop and increase their
own Society, and then they will not have to ask the Government for any
Civil Pension list at all, and ministers may go on asking for the grant
for the support of science and letters, and giving it all to their own
creatures, and to the daughters, widows, and sisters of officers. It is
hard, it is cruelly hard, as Jefferies said: it is a hardship and a
disgrace to all of us that such a man as Jefferies should "come to such

Well, the fund was raised, quietly, among the private friends of its
promoters. But it came too late for the Algerian or South African
expedition. The sick man was sent, however, to the seaside; to a house
at Goring, on the Sussex coast. From this place he wrote to Mr. Scott a
little history of his illness, the nature of which I have already
sketched. The description by a highly-sensitive man, then in a most
nervous condition, of the horrible pain which he had been enduring is
most terrible to read, and is altogether too terrible to be quoted. I
dare not quote the whole of this dreadful story of long-continued
agony. Take, however, the end of it. At last his wounds were somehow
made to heal.

     "Now imagine my joy. The wounds were well at last. I was free. I
     could walk and sit--actually sit down. I could work. I was very
     faint and ill, but fresh air would soon set that right. All these
     expenses had swallowed up a large share of my savings, and I had
     practically to begin life again. But I did not mind that. I went to
     work joyously.

     "Now judge again of my disappointment. Within two months--in
     February--I was seized with a mysterious wasting disease,
     accompanied by much pain. I gradually wasted away to mere bones. By
     degrees this pain increased till it became almost insupportable. I
     can compare it to nothing but the flame of a small spirit lamp
     continually burning within me. Sometimes it seemed like a rat
     always gnaw, gnaw, night and day. I had no sleep. Everything I ate
     or drank seemed to add fuel to the flame. The local doctors could
     do nothing, so I went to London again, and in the course of the
     two years and more that it lasted I was under five of the leading
     London physicians. Altogether I had some forty prescriptions, and
     took something like sixty drugs, besides being put on diet. It was
     not the slightest use, and it became evident that they had no idea
     what was really the matter with me. The pain went on, burn, burn,
     burn. If I wrote a volume I could not describe it to you, this
     terrible scorching pain, night and day. There is nothing in medical
     books like it, except the pain that follows corrosive sublimate
     which burns the tissues. It was at times so maddening that I
     dreaded to go a few miles alone by rail lest I should throw myself
     out of the window of the carriage. I worked and wrote all this
     time, and some of my best work was done in this intense agony. I
     received letters from New Zealand, from the United States, even
     from the islands of the Pacific, from people who had read my
     writings. It seemed so strange that I should read these letters,
     and yet all the time, to be writhing in agony.

     "At last, in April, 1885, nature gave way, and I broke down
     utterly, and could only lie on the sofa in a fainting condition. In
     a few days I became so helpless and weak that there appeared little
     chance of my living. Someone suggested that Dr. Kidd should be sent
     for. He came on Sunday morning, and found me nearly ended. I was
     fainting during the examination. He discovered that it was
     ulceration of the intestines. You know how painful an ulcer is
     anywhere--say on your lip--now for over two years this ulceration
     had been burning its way in the intestines.

     "He put me on milk diet, malt bread, malt extract, malted food,
     meat shredded and pounded in a mortar, raw beef, and so on. In
     forty-eight hours the pain was better. For three weeks I improved
     and hoped. I think that had the diet been then altered to the
     ordinary food, I might have made a recovery; instead of which it
     was kept up for nine weeks, at the end of which I had lost all the
     improvement, and was so weak that I could but just crawl up and
     down stairs. I attribute my subsequent exhaustion to the continued
     use of milk, which has the effect of destroying nervous energy."

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       'Oct. 22, 1886.

     "I have been obliged to set all aside from extreme feebleness.
     During the last four weeks, indeed, the weakness and emaciation
     have become very great, so much so that I almost fancy the bones
     waste. But what I feel most is the loss of fresh air from inability
     to go out. The last two days have been dry, so that I have been
     able to get up and down by the house a little.

     "Still, I should have managed somehow to write to you were it not
     for the great dislike I feel to this begging business. You must not
     take offence at this, though you may think me very foolish. I keep
     putting it off and putting it off, till now I suppose I must do it,
     or stay the winter indoors in helplessness. To-day I have written
     to obtain the information necessary to fill up the form you sent.

     "In September, 1885, my spine seemed suddenly to snap. It happened
     in ten minutes--quite suddenly. It felt as if one of the vertebræ
     had been taken away. It was no doubt a form of paralysis. I had to
     take to the sofa again, and was confined to the house for over
     seven months, quite helpless. I could not undress myself. At
     Christmas, other troubles set in; the local doctor gave me up. He
     told my wife that nothing could be done for me, and that the only
     hope was in my keeping in good spirits. The misery of that dreadful
     winter will never be forgotten. At length nature seemed to revive a
     little, and I got downstairs, and soon after Miss Scott came to see
     me, and you sent me to the sea. On returning from the sea I slowly
     lost ground again. In the summer I had an attack of vomiting
     blood--of itself enough to alarm most people. By October I was
     confined indoors again. At last I got down here.

     "Besides all these sufferings I had another trial--a loss by
     death--one that I cannot dwell upon;"--it was the death of his
     youngest child--"but it broke me down very much.

     "Of the loss of all my savings I need not say much. But it is
     difficult to begin the world afresh"--alas! he was just about to
     end the world--"even with good health.

     "With truth I think I may say that there are few, very few, perhaps
     none, living who have gone through such a series of diseases. There
     are many dead--many who have killed themselves for a tenth part of
     the pain--there are few living.

     "My wearied and exhausted system constantly craves rest. My brain
     is always asking for rest. I never sleep. I have not slept now for
     five years properly, always waking, with broken bits of sleep, and
     restlessness, and in the morning I get up more weary than I went to
     bed. Rest, that is what I need. You thought naturally that it was
     work I needed; but I have been at work, and next time I will tell
     you all of it. It is not work, it is _rest_ for the brain and the
     nervous system. I have always had a suspicion that it was the
     ceaseless work that caused me to go wrong at first.

     "It has taken me a long time to write this letter; it will take you
     but a few minutes to read it. Had you not sent me to the sea in
     the spring I do not think that I should have been alive to write

Was there ever a more miserable tale of slow torture? Parts of it--the
parts relating to his operations--I have omitted. Enough remains.
Picture to yourself this tall, gaunt man reduced to a skeleton, not able
to use his pen for more than a few minutes at a time, his spine broken
down, spitting blood, lying back on the sofa, his mind full of splendid
thoughts which he _cannot_ put upon paper, dictating sometimes when he
was strong enough, resolved on making money so as to save himself the
"disgrace" of applying to the Literary Fund, full of pain by day and
night, growing daily weaker, but never losing heart or hope--is there in
the whole calamitous history of authors a picture more full of sadness
and of pity than this?

He writes again on January 10, 1887. He is no worse. The letter is about
money matters--that is to say, he has no money.

On February 2 he writes again. He has been able to dictate a little.

     "I hope to be able to do more work after a time; when the weather
     becomes sufficiently warm for me to sit out of doors. With me the
     power to write is almost entirely dependent upon being out of
     doors. Confined indoors, I have nothing to write, and I cannot
     express my ideas if they do occur to me so boldly. You have no idea
     what a difference it makes. A little air and movement seem to
     brighten up the mind and give it play. I am in hope, too, that as
     the warmth comes on the sea will help me more. Up to the present
     the winter has gone well."

The last letter to Mr. Scott was written on March 23. He is pleased and
surprised to hear that the fund raised for him amounts to so much.
Perhaps it will enable him to go abroad presently. Meantime, he has had
a relapse--an attack of hæmorrhage--"and then so feeble that I have not
been able to dictate. This loss of time worries me more than I can tell

And so with thanks to this good friend, Richard Jefferies lays down his
pen for the last time. The busy hand which has written so much will
write no more. He can no longer dictate. His very feebleness will soon
be past, and he will be at rest, whether in the unconscious clay-cold
rest of the dark grave, or in that better life of the Fuller Soul of
which he had so great and glorious a Vision--who knoweth?

       *       *       *       *       *

You have read the life of Richard Jefferies. You have seen how the
country lad, ill-educated, slenderly provided with books or friends,
formed in early life a resolution to succeed in letters. The resolution
was formed when as yet he had no knowledge or thought of style. You have
read how he fought long years against ill-success, against the ridicule
and coldness of his friends, but still kept up his courage; how he did
succeed at length, yet not at all in the way that at first he hoped.
That way would have taken him along the paths trodden by those who write
romances and stories to beguile their brothers and sisters, and to cheat
them into forgetfulness of their disappointments and anxieties; that
way, by which he wished to go, would have led him quickly to the ease
of fortune which at all times he ardently desired. It is foolish, and
worse than foolish, to pretend that any man--even the best of men, even
the most philosophic of men--desires poverty, which is dependence;
therefore one does not blame this man for desiring fortune. The way,
however, by which he succeeded was a far higher and a nobler way, though
he understood not that at first.

You have seen, also, not only that his early life was that of an obscure
reporter for a little country paper, but that his first ambition was
altogether for the making of money rather than for the production of
good work. The love of good work, as such, grew gradually in him. At
first it is not apparent at all. At first we have nothing but a
commonplace lad, poor, and therefore eager to make money, and fondly
thinking that it can be made by writing worthless and commonplace
stories. Nothing in his early life has been concealed. You have read his
very words, where they could be recovered. They are in no way remarkable
words; they are generally, in fact, commonplace. Nothing, except a
steady and consistent belief in his own future, the nature of which he
does not even suspect, reveals the power latent in his mind. There is
nothing at all in these early utterances to show the depths of poetry in
his soul. Nay, I think there were none of these depths in him at first.
So long as he worked among men, and contemplated their ways, he felt no
touch of poetry, he saw no gleam of light. Mankind seemed to him sordid
and creeping; either oppressor or oppressed. Away from men, upon the
breezy down and among the woods, he is filled with thoughts which, at
first, vanish like the photographs of scenery upon the eye. Presently he
finds out the way to fix those photographs. Then he is transformed, but
not suddenly; no, not suddenly. When he discovers the Gamekeeper at
Home, he begins to be articulate; with every page that follows he
becomes more articulate. At first he draws a faithful picture of the
cottager, the farmer, the gamekeeper, the poacher; the pictures are set
in appropriate scenery; by degrees the figures vanish and the setting
remains. But it is no longer the same; it is now infused with the very
soul of the painter. The woods speak to us, through him; the very
flowers speak and touch our hearts, through him. The last seven years of
his life were full, indeed, of pain and bodily torture; but they were
glorified and hallowed by the work which he was enabled to do. Nay, they
even glorify and hallow all the life that went before. We no longer see
the commonplace young country reporter who tries to write commonplace
and impossible stories--we watch the future poet of the "Pageant of
Summer" whose early struggles we witness while he is seeking to find
himself. Presently he speaks. HE HAS FOUND HIMSELF; he has obtained the
prayer of his heart; he has been blessed with the FULLER SOUL.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the last, during the long communings of the night when he lay
sleepless, happy to be free, if only for a few moments, from pain, the
simple old faith came back to him. He had arrived long before, as we
have seen, at the grand discovery: that the perfect soul wants the
perfect body, and that the perfect body must be inhabited by the
perfect soul. To this conclusion, you have seen, he was led by Nature
herself. Now he beheld clearly--perhaps more clearly than ever--the way
from this imperfect and fragmentary life to a fuller, happier life
beyond the grave. He had no need of priest; he wanted no other assurance
than the voice and words of Him who swept away all priests. The man who
wrote the "Story of My Heart;" the man who was filled to overflowing
with the beauty and order of God's handiwork; the man who felt so deeply
the shortness, and imperfections, and disappointments of life that he
was fain to cry aloud that all happens by chance; the man who had the
vision of the Fuller Soul, died listening with faith and love to the
words contained in the Old Book.

       *       *       *       *       *

What follows is written by his friend, Mr. J.W. North, who was with him
during the last days.

     "It was in the early summer, two or three months before his death,
     that I saw Jefferies for the last time alive. He had then been
     living at Goring for some short time, and this was my first visit
     to him there. I was pleased to find that his house was far
     pleasanter than the dreary and bleak cottage which he had rented at
     Crowborough. It had a view of the sea, a warm southern exposure,
     and a good and interesting garden: in one corner a quaint little
     arbour, with a pole and vane, and near the centre a genuine
     old-fashioned draw-well. Poor fellow! Painfully, with short
     breathing, and supported on one side by Mrs. Jefferies and on the
     other by myself, he walked round this enclosure, noticing and
     drawing our attention to all kinds of queer little natural objects
     and facts. Between the well and the arbour was a heap of rough,
     loose stones, overgrown by various creeping flowers. This was the
     home of a common snake, discovered there by Harold, and poor
     Jefferies stood, supported by us, a yard or so away and peered into
     every little cranny and under every leaf with eyes well used to
     such a search until some tiny gleam, some minute cold glint of
     light, betrayed the snake. Weakness and pain seemed forgotten for
     the moment--alas! only for the moment. Uneasily he sat in the
     little arbour telling me how his disease seemed still to puzzle the
     doctors; how he felt well able in mind to work, plenty of mental
     energy, but so weak, _so fearfully weak_, that he could no longer
     write with his own hand; that his wife was patient and good to help
     him. He had nobody to come and talk with him of the world of
     literature and art. Why couldn't I come and settle by? There was
     plenty to paint. Though Goring itself was one of the ugliest places
     in the world, there was Arundel, and its noble park, and river, and
     castle close by. I must go and see it the very next day, and see
     whether I could not work there, and come back every day and cheer
     him. I was the best doctor, after all.

     "Poor fellow! I did not then know or believe that he was so utterly
     without sympathetic society except his devoted wife. It was so. I
     am one of the dullest companions in the world; but I had sympathy
     with his work, and knowledge, too, of his subjects. Well, nothing
     would do but that I must go to Arundel the next day, and Mrs.
     Jefferies must show me the town. 'He would do well enough for one
     day. A good neighbour would come in, and with little Phyllis and
     the maid he would be safe.'

     "Therefore we went to Arundel (a short journey by train), and on
     coming back found him standing against the door-post to welcome us.

     "I have seldom been more touched than by my experience of that
     evening, finding, amongst other things, that he had partly planned
     and insisted on this Arundel trip to get us away so that he might,
     unrebuked, spend some of his latest hard earnings in a pint of
     'Perrier Jouet' for my supper.

     "Do you know Goring churchyard? It is one of those dreary,
     over-crowded, dark spots where the once-gravelled paths are green
     with slimy moss, and it was a horror to poor Jefferies. More than
     once he repeated the hope that he might not be laid there, and he
     chose the place where his widow at last left him--amongst the
     brighter grass and flowers at Broadwater.

     "He died at Goring at half-past two on Sunday morning, August 14,
     1887. His soul was released from a body wasted to a skeleton by six
     long weary years of illness. For nearly two years he had been too
     weak to write, and all his delightful work, during that period, was
     written by his wife from his dictation. Who can picture the torture
     of these long years to him, denied as he was the strength to walk
     so much as one hundred yards in the world he loved so well? What
     hero like this, fighting with Death face to face so long, fearing
     and knowing, alas! too well, that no struggles could avail, and,
     worse than all, that his dear ones would be left friendless and
     penniless. Thus died a man whose name will be first, perhaps for
     ever, in his own special work."

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     'Monday, Aug. 15,

     "... I went yesterday, expecting once more to speak with him. I
     found him lying _dead, twelve hours dead_. I saw him with Mrs.
     Jefferies and their little Phyllis. A pitiful sight to see them
     kiss the poor cold face! God help them! All through his last days
     his wife was with him _day and night_; a young country girl, who
     behaved nobly all through, was her only help.... His long, long
     illness of six years (four years before at Eltham he looked near
     death)--this long, wearisome time had almost persuaded many who
     knew him not intimately that his illness was partly imaginary. He
     proved it otherwise. A soldier who in health, high spirits, and
     excitement, rides to what appears certain death is called a hero:
     glory and honours are heaped upon him; but what is that compared
     with years of fighting without cessation, and the _absolute
     certainty_ of defeat always present to the mind? I asked Mrs.
     Jefferies if he had made a will. She said: 'No; surely it would
     have been useless, we have nothing. A woman singly, strong as I am,
     could rough it; but if something can be done for the children--.'
     Something shall be done. I had to call at my framemaker's to put
     off an appointment. I told him roughly what had happened to me
     yesterday. He had never heard of Jefferies, and knew nothing of his
     work; but he said, 'I shall be glad if anything can be done if you
     will put us down for two guineas.' All those who are country born
     and bred, and have a heart inside their body, have always
     recognised and admired poor Jefferies' writing. Shall I say what I
     think and _know_, that in all our literature until now he has never
     had a rival, and that it is most likely he will never be equalled?
     In a hundred years he will be only more truly appreciated than at
     present. The number of men who combine the love and the knowledge
     of literary work is more limited, perhaps, in this age than in any
     previous one. Few people, again, of intelligence and refinement of
     heart and mind live completely in the country, and much, very much
     of his work, will be always unintelligible to those who cannot
     exist in a country-house unless it is full of frequently-changing
     guests. I have been trying by a different art for thirty
     years--equal to almost the whole of his life on earth--to convey an
     idea to others of some such subjects, and I feel with shame that in
     the work of half a year I do not get so near the heart and truth of
     Nature as he in one paragraph. With strict charge that it should
     not leave my hands, Mrs. Jefferies lent me the proof of an article
     which appeared in _Longman's Magazine_ in spring, 1886. It was the
     very last copy he wrote with his own hand. Since then his wife
     wrote from his dictation. Read this quotation from it, which
     touched me greatly yesterday:

     "'I wonder to myself how they can all get on without me; how they
     manage, bird and flower, without ME, to keep the calendar for them.
     For I noted it so carefully and lovingly day by day.'

     "And this:

     "'They go on without me, orchis-flower and cowslip. I cannot number
     them all. I hear, as it were, the patter of their feet--flower and
     buds, and the beautiful clouds that go over, with the sweet rush of
     rain and burst of sun glory among the leafy trees. They go on, and
     I am no more than the least of the empty shells that strew the
     sward of the hill.'

     "One thing I saw in one of his last note-books: 'Three great giants
     are against me--disease, despair, and poverty.'

     "One thing more. His wife said that their time had been for long
     spent in prayer together and reading St. Luke.

     "Almost his last intelligible words were, 'Yes, yes; that is so.
     Help, Lord, for Jesus' sake. Darling, good-bye. God bless you and
     the children, and save you all from such great pain.'

            *       *       *       *       *

     "He was buried at Broadwater, by Worthing, Sussex.

     "In the gentlest, sweet, soft, sunny rain he was borne along the
     path to his grave in the grass, and when the last part of the
     service for the dead had been read, well and solemnly, and we
     turned away leaving him for ever on earth, the large tears from
     heaven fell thick and fast, and over and over again came to me the
     saying, 'Happy are the dead that the rain rains on.' The modest
     home-made wreath of wild wood-clematis and myrtle my wife had sent
     pleased me by happy symbolism--for as the myrtle is, so will his
     memory be, 'for ever green.'

         "Mourn, little harebells, o'er the lea;
          Ye stately foxgloves fair to see;
          Ye woodbines hanging bonnilie
              In scented bowers;
          Ye roses on your thorny tree,
              The first o' flowers.

         "Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year;
          Ilk cowslip-cup shall kep a tear;
          Thou Summer, while each corny spear
                Shoots up its head,
          Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear
              For him that's dead."




(_The Dates of the First Editions only are given._)

Alfred Bull, Victoria Street, Swindon, 1873. Handbook.

Coate, Swindon, 1873.

JACK BRASS, EMPEROR OF ENGLAND. T. Pettit, and Co., 23, Frith
Street, Soho, 1873. Pamphlet.

THE SCARLET SHAWL. Tinsley Bros., 1874. 1 vol. novel.

RESTLESS HUMAN HEARTS. Tinsley Bros., 1875. 3 vols.

SUEZ-CIDE. John Snow and Co., Ivy Lane, 1876. Pamphlet.

WORLD'S END. Tinsley Bros., 1877. 3 vols.

GAME-KEEPER AT HOME. Smith and Elder, 1878. 1 vol.

AMATEUR POACHER. Smith and Elder, 1881.

WILD LIFE IN A SOUTHERN COUNTY. Smith and Elder, 1879. 1 vol.

GREENE FERNE FARM. Smith and Elder, 1880. 1 vol.

HODGE AND HIS MASTERS. Smith and Elder, 1880. 2 vols.

ROUND ABOUT A GREAT ESTATE. Smith and Elder, 1880. 1 vol.

WOOD MAGIC. Cassell, 1881. 1 vol.

BEVIS. Sampson Low and Co., 1882. 3 vols.

NATURE NEAR LONDON. Chatto and Windus, 1883. 1 vol.

STORY OF MY HEART. Longmans, 1883. 1 vol.

THE DEWY MORN. Chapman and Hall, 1884. 2 vol. novel.

LIFE OF THE FIELDS. Chatto and Windus, 1884. 1 vol.

RED-DEER. Longmans, 1884. 1 vol.

AFTER LONDON. Cassell, 1885. 1 vol.

THE OPEN AIR. Chatto and Windus, 1885. 1 vol.

AMARYLLIS AT THE FAIR. Sampson Low and Co., 1887. 1 vol.



MY OLD VILLAGE. _Longman's Magazine_, October, 1887.

HOURS OF SPRING. _Longman's Magazine_, 1885.

APRIL GOSSIP. _St. James's Gazette._

SOME APRIL SWEETS. _Pall Mall Gazette._

THE MAKERS OF SUMMER. _Pall Mall Gazette._

WALKS IN THE WHEATFIELDS. _English Illustrated Magazine._

SOMERSET IN JUNE. _English Illustrated Magazine_, October, 1887.

BIRDS' NESTS. _St. James's Gazette._


NATURE IN THE LOUVRE. _Magazine of Art._

NATURE AND BOOKS. _Fortnightly Review._


COUNTRY PLACES. _Manchester Guardian._

THE JULY GRASS. _Pall Mall Gazette._

THE COUNTRY-SIDE. _Manchester Guardian._

WINDS OF HEAVEN. _Chambers' Journal._

THE COUNTRY SUNDAY. _Longman's Magazine_, June, 1887.

SWALLOW-TIME. _Standard._

HOUSE-MARTINS. _Standard._

AMONG THE NUTS. _Standard._

LOCALITY AND NATURE. _Pall Mall Gazette._

FIELD WORDS AND WAYS. _Chambers' Journal._

COTTAGE IDEAS. _Chambers' Journal._


THE TIME OF YEAR. _Pall Mall Gazette._


JUST BEFORE WINTER. _Chambers' Journal._

MY CHAFFINCH. _Pall Mall Gazette._



SIR,--The Wiltshire agricultural labourer is not so highly paid as those
of Northumberland, nor so low as those of Dorset; but in the amount of
his wages, as in intelligence and general position, he may fairly be
taken as an average specimen of his class throughout a large portion of
the kingdom.

As a man, he is usually strongly built, broad-shouldered, and massive in
frame, but his appearance is spoilt by the clumsiness of his walk and
the want of grace in his movements. Though quite as large in muscle, it
is very doubtful if he possesses the strength of the seamen who may be
seen lounging about the ports. There is a want of firmness, a certain
disjointed style, about his limbs, and the muscles themselves have not
the hardness and tension of the sailor's. The labourer's muscle is that
of a cart-horse, his motions lumbering and slow. His style of walk is
caused by following the plough in early childhood, when the weak limbs
find it a hard labour to pull the heavy-nailed boots from the thick clay
soil. Ever afterwards he walks as if it were an exertion to lift his
legs. His food may, perhaps, have something to do with the deadened
slowness which seems to pervade everything he does--there seems a lack
of vitality about him. It consists chiefly of bread and cheese, with
bacon twice or thrice a week, varied with onions, and if he be a milker
(on some farms) with a good "tuck-out" at his employer's expense on
Sundays. On ordinary days he dines at the fashionable hour of six or
seven in the evening--that is, about that time his cottage scents the
road with a powerful odour of boiled cabbage, of which he eats an
immense quantity. Vegetables are his luxuries, and a large garden,
therefore, is the greatest blessing he can have. He eats huge onions
raw; he has no idea of flavouring his food with them, nor of making
those savoury and inviting messes or vegetable soups at which the French
peasantry are so clever. In Picardy I have often dined in a peasant's
cottage, and thoroughly enjoyed the excellent soup he puts upon the
table for his ordinary meal. To dine in an English labourer's cottage
would be impossible. His bread is generally good, certainly; but his
bacon is the cheapest he can buy at small second-class shops--oily,
soft, wretched stuff; his vegetables are cooked in detestable style, and
eaten saturated with the pot-liquor. Pot-liquor is a favourite soup. I
have known cottagers actually apply at farmers' kitchens, not only for
the pot-liquor in which meat has been soddened, but for the water in
which potatoes have been boiled--potato-liquor--and sup it up with
avidity. And this not in times of dearth or scarcity, but rather as a
relish. They never buy anything but bacon; never butcher's meat.
Philanthropic ladies, to my knowledge, have demonstrated over and over
again even to their limited capacities that certain parts of butchers'
meat can be bought just as cheap, and will make more savoury and
nutritive food; and even now, with the present high price of meat, a
certain portion would be advantageous. In vain; the labourers
obstinately adhere to the pig, and the pig only. When, however, an
opportunity does occur, the amount of food they will eat is something
astonishing. Once a year, at the village club dinner, they gormandize to
repletion. In one instance I knew of a man eating a plate of roast beef
(and the slices are cut enormously thick at these dinners), a plate of
boiled beef, then another of boiled mutton, and then a fourth of roast
mutton, and a fifth of ham. He said he could not do much to the bread
and cheese; but didn't he go into the pudding! I have even heard of men
stuffing to the fullest extent of their powers, and then retiring from
the table to take an emetic of mustard and return to a second gorging.
There is scarcely any limit to their power of absorbing beer. I have
known reapers and mowers make it their boast that they could lie on
their backs and never take the wooden bottle (in the shape of a small
barrel) from their lips till they had drunk a gallon, and from the feats
I have seen I verily believe it a fact. The beer they get is usually
poor and thin, though sometimes in harvest the farmers bring out a taste
of strong liquor, but not till the work is nearly over; for from this
very practice of drinking enormous quantities of small beer the labourer
cannot drink more than a very limited amount of good liquor without
getting tipsy. This is why he so speedily gets inebriated at the
alehouse. While mowing and reaping many of them lay in a small cask.

They are much better clothed now than formerly. Corduroy trousers and
slops are the usual style. Smock-frocks are going out of use, except for
milkers and faggers. Almost every labourer has his Sunday suit, very
often really good clothes, sometimes glossy black, with the regulation
"chimney-pot." His unfortunate walk betrays him, dress how he will.
Since labour has become so expensive it has become a common remark among
the farmers that the labourer will go to church in broadcloth and the
masters in smock-frocks. The labourer never wears gloves--that has to
come with the march of the times; but he is particularly choice over his
necktie. The women must dress in the fashion. A very respectable draper
in an agricultural district was complaining to me the other day that the
poorest class of women would have everything in the fashionable style,
let it change as often as it would. In former times, if he laid in a
stock of goods suited to tradesmen, and farmers' wives and daughters, if
the fashion changed, or they got out of date, he could dispose of them
easily to the servants. Now no such thing. The quality did not matter so
much, but the style must be the style of the day--no sale for remnants.
The poorest girl, who had not got two yards of flannel on her back, must
have the same style of dress as the squire's daughter--Dolly Vardens,
chignons, and parasols for ladies who can work all day reaping in the
broiling sun of August! Gloves, kid, for hands that milk the cows!

The cottages now are infinitely better than they were. There is scarcely
room for further improvement in the cottages now erected upon estates.
They have three bedrooms, and every appliance and comfort compatible
with their necessarily small size. It is only the cottages erected by
the labourers themselves on waste plots of ground which are open to
objection. Those he builds himself are indeed, as a rule, miserable
huts, disgraceful to a Christian country. I have an instance before me
at this moment where a man built a cottage with two rooms and no
staircase or upper apartments, and in those two rooms eight persons
lived and slept--himself and wife, grown-up daughters, and children.
There was not a scrap of garden attached, not enough to grow half a
dozen onions. The refuse and sewage was flung into the road, or filtered
down a ditch into the brook which supplied that part of the village with
water. In another case at one time there was a cottage in which twelve
persons lived. This had upper apartments, but so low was the ceiling
that a tall man could stand on the floor, with his head right through
the opening for the staircase, and see along the upper floor under the
beds! These squatters are the curse of the community. It is among them
that fever and kindred infectious diseases break out; it is among them
that wretched couples are seen bent double with rheumatism and
affections of the joints caused by damp. They have often been known to
remain so long, generation after generation, in these wretched hovels
that at last the lord of the manor having neglected to claim quit-rent,
they can defy him, and claim them as their own property, and there they
stick, eyesores and blots, the fungi of the land. The cottages erected
by farmers or by landlords are now, one and all, fit and proper
habitations for human beings; and I verily believe it would be
impossible throughout the length and breadth of Wiltshire to find a
single bad cottage on any large estate, so well and so thoroughly have
the landed proprietors done their work. On all farms gardens are
attached to the cottages, in many instances very large, and always
sufficient to produce enough vegetables for the resident. In villages
the allotment system has been greatly extended of late years, and has
been found most beneficial, both to owners and tenants. As a rule the
allotments are let at a rate which may be taken as £4 per annum--a sum
which pays the landlord very well, and enables the labourer to
remunerate himself. In one village which came under my observation the
clergyman of the parish has turned a portion of his glebe-land into
allotments--a most excellent and noble example, which cannot be too
widely followed or too much extolled. He is thus enabled to benefit
almost every one of his poor parishioners, and yet without destroying
that sense of independence which is the great characteristic of a true
Englishman. He has issued a book of rules and conditions under which
these allotments are held, and he thus places a strong check upon
drunkenness and dissolute habits, indulgence in which is a sure way to
lose the portions of ground. There is scarcely an end to the benefits of
the allotment system. In villages there cannot be extensive gardens, and
the allotments supply their place. The extra produce above that which
supplies the table and pays the rent is easily disposed of in the next
town, and places many additional comforts in the labourer's reach. The
refuse goes to help support and fatten the labourer's pig, which brings
him in profit enough to pay the rent of his cottage, and the pig, in
turn, manures the allotment. Some towns have large common lands, held
under certain conditions; such are Malmesbury, with 500 acres, and
Tetbury (the common land of which extends two miles): both these being
arable, etc. These are not exactly in the use of labourers, but they are
in the hands of a class to which the labourer often rises. Many
labourers have fruit trees in their gardens which, in some seasons,
prove very profitable. In the present year, to my knowledge, a labourer
sold £4 worth of apples; and another made £3 10s. of the produce of one
pear-tree, pears being scarce.

To come at last to the difficult question of wages. In Wiltshire there
has been no extended strike, and very few meetings upon the subject, for
the simple reason that the agitators can gain no hold upon a county
where, as a mass, the labourers are well paid. The common day-labourer
receives 10s., 11s., and 12s. a week, according to the state of supply
and demand for labour in various districts, and, if he milks, 1s. more,
making 13s. a week, now common wages. These figures are rather below the
mark; I could give instances of much higher pay. To give a good idea of
the wages paid, I will take the case of a hill farmer (arable,
Marlborough Downs), who paid this last summer during harvest 18s. per
week per man. His reapers often earned 10s. a day; enough to pay their
year's rent in a week. These men lived in cottages on the farm, with
three bedrooms each, and some larger, with every modern appliance, each
having a garden of a quarter of an acre attached and close at hand, for
which cottage and garden they paid 1s. per week rent. The whole of these
cottages were insured by the farmer himself, their furniture, etc., in
one lump, and the insurance policy cost him, as nearly as possible, 1s.
3d. per cottage per year. For this he deducted 1s. per year each from
their wages. None of the men would have insured unless he had insisted
upon doing it for them. These men had from six to eight quarts of beer
per man (over and above their 18s. per week) during harvest every day.
In spring and autumn their wages are much increased by forced work,
hoeing, etc. In winter the farmer draws their coal for them in his
waggons, a distance of eight miles from the nearest wharf, enabling them
to get it at cost price. This is no slight advantage, for, at the
present high price of coal, it is sold, delivered in the villages, at
2s. per cwt. Many who cannot afford it in the week buy a quarter of a
cwt. on Saturday night to cook their Sunday's dinner with, for 6d. This
is at the rate of £2 per ton. Another gentleman, a large steam
cultivator in the Vale, whose name is often before the public, informs
me that his books show that he paid £100 in one year in cash to one
cottage for labour, showing the advantage the labourer possesses over
the mechanic, since his wife and child can add to his income. Many
farmers pay £50 and £60 a year for beer drunk by their labourers--a
serious addition to their wages. The railway companies and others who
employ mechanics do not allow them any beer. The allowance of a good
cottage and a quarter of an acre of garden for 1s. per week is not
singular. Many who were at the Autumn Manoeuvres of the present year
may remember having a handsome row of houses, rather than cottages,
pointed out to them as inhabited by labourers at 1s. per week. In the
immediate neighbourhood of large manufacturing towns 1s. 6d. a week is
sometimes paid; but then these cottages would in such positions readily
let to mechanics for 3s., 4s., and even 5s. per week. There was a great
outcry when the Duke of Marlborough issued an order that the cottages on
his estate should in future only be let to such men as worked upon the
farms where those cottages are situated. In reality this was the very
greatest blessing the Duke could have conferred upon the agricultural
labourer; for it insured him a good cottage at a nearly nominal rent and
close to his work; whereas in many instances previously the cottages on
the farms had been let at a high rate to the mechanics, and the labourer
had to walk miles before he got to his labour. Cottages are not erected
by landowners or by farmers as paying speculations. It is well known
that the condition of things prevents the agricultural labourer from
being able to pay a sufficient rent to be a fair percentage upon the sum
expended. In one instance a landlord has built some cottages for his
tenant, the tenant paying a certain amount of interest on the sum
invested by the landlord. Now, although this is a matter of arrangement,
and not of speculation--that is, although the interest paid by the
tenant is a low percentage upon the money laid out, yet the rent paid by
the labourers inhabiting these cottages to the tenant does not reimburse
him what he pays his landlord as interest--not by a considerable margin.
But then he has the advantage of his labourers close to his work, always
ready at hand.

Over and above the actual cash wages of the labourer, which are now very
good, must be reckoned his cottage and garden, and often a small
orchard, at a nominal rent, his beer at his master's expense,
piecework, gleaning after harvest, etc., which alter his real position
very materially. In Gloucestershire, on the Cotswolds, the best-paid
labourers are the shepherds, for in that great sheep country much trust
is reposed in them. At the annual auctions of shearlings which are held
upon the low farms a purse is made for the shepherd of the flock, into
which everyone who attends is expected to drop a shilling, often
producing £5. The shepherds on the Wiltshire downs are also well paid,
especially in lambing time, when the greatest watchfulness and care are
required. It has been stated that the labourer has no chance of rising
from his position. This is sheer cant. He has very good opportunities of
rising, and often does rise, to my knowledge. At this present moment I
could mention a person who has risen from a position scarcely equal to
that of a labourer, not only to have a farm himself, but to place his
sons in farms. Another has just entered on a farm; and several more are
on the high-road to that desirable consummation. If a labourer possesses
any amount of intelligence he becomes head carter or head fagger, as the
case may be; and from that to be assistant or underbailiff, and finally
bailiff. As a bailiff he has every opportunity to learn the working of a
farm, and is often placed in entire charge of a farm at a distance from
his employer's residence. In time he establishes a reputation as a
practical man, and being in receipt of good wages, with very little
expenditure, saves some money. He has now little difficulty in obtaining
the promise of a farm, and with this can readily take up money. With
average care he is a made man. Others rise from petty trading, petty
dealing with pigs and calves, till they save sufficient to rent a small
farm, and make that the basis of larger dealing operations. I question
very much whether a clerk in a firm would not find it much more
difficult, as requiring larger capital, to raise himself to a level with
his employer than an agricultural labourer does to the level of a

Many labourers now wander far and wide as navvies, etc., and perhaps
when these return home, as most of them do, to agricultural labour, they
are the most useful and intelligent of their class, from a readiness
they possess to turn their hand to anything. I know one at this moment
who makes a large addition to his ordinary wages by brewing for the
small inns, and very good liquor he brews, too. They pick up a large
amount of practical knowledge.

The agricultural women are certainly not handsome; I know no peasantry
so entirely uninviting. Occasionally there is a girl whose nut-brown
complexion and sloe-black eyes are pretty, but their features are very
rarely good, and they get plain quickly, so soon as the first flush of
youth is past. Many have really good hair in abundance, glossy and rich,
perhaps from its exposure to the fresh air. But on Sundays they plaster
it with strong-smelling pomade and hair-oil, which scents the air for
yards most unpleasantly. As a rule, it may safely be laid down that the
agricultural women are moral, far more so than those of the town. Rough
and rude jokes and language are, indeed, too common; but that is all. No
evil comes of it. The fairs are the chief cause of immorality. Many an
honest, hard-working servant-girl owes her ruin to these fatal mops and
fairs, when liquor to which she is unaccustomed overcomes her. Yet it
seems cruel to take from them the one day or two of the year on which
they can enjoy themselves fairly in their own fashion. The spread of
friendly societies, patronized by the gentry and clergy, with their
annual festivities, is a remedy which is gradually supplying them with
safer, and yet congenial, amusement. In what may be termed lesser morals
I cannot accord either them or the men the same praise. They are too
ungrateful for the many great benefits which are bountifully supplied
them--the brandy, the soup, and fresh meat readily extended without
stint from the farmer's home in sickness to the cottage are too quickly
forgotten. They who were most benefited are often the first to most
loudly complain and to backbite. Never once in all my observation have I
heard a labouring man or woman make a grateful remark; and yet I can
confidently say that there is no class of persons in England who receive
so many attentions and benefits from their superiors as the agricultural
labourers. Stories are rife of their even refusing to work at disastrous
fires because beer was not immediately forthcoming. I trust this is not
true; but it is too much in character. No term is too strong in
condemnation for those persons who endeavour to arouse an agitation
among a class of people so short-sighted and so ready to turn against
their own benefactors and their own interest. I am credibly informed
that one of these agitators, immediately after the Bishop of
Gloucester's unfortunate but harmlessly intended speech at the
Gloucester Agricultural Society's dinner--one of these agitators mounted
a platform at a village meeting and in plain language incited and
advised the labourers to duck the farmers! The agricultural women
either go out to field-work or become indoor servants. In harvest they
hay-make--chiefly light work, as raking; and reap, which is much harder
labour; but then, while reaping, they work their own time, as it is done
by the piece. Significantly enough, they make longer hours while
reaping. They are notoriously late to arrive, and eager to return home
on the hayfield. The children help both in haymaking and reaping. In
spring and autumn they hoe and do other piecework. On pasture farms they
beat clots or pick up stones out of the way of the mowers' scythes.
Occasionally, but rarely now, they milk. In winter they wear gaiters,
which give the ankles a most ungainly appearance. Those who go out to
service get very low wages at first from their extreme awkwardness, but
generally quickly rise. As dairymaids they get very good wages indeed.
Dairymaids are scarce and valuable. A dairymaid who can be trusted to
take charge of a dairy will sometimes get £20 besides her board
(liberal) and sundry perquisites. These often save money, marry
bailiffs, and help their husbands to start a farm.

In the education provided for children Wiltshire compares favourably
with other counties. Long before the passing of the recent Act in
reference to education the clergy had established schools in almost
every parish, and their exertions have enabled the greater number of
places to come up to the standard required by the Act, without the
assistance of a School Board. The great difficulty is the distance
children have to walk to school, from the sparseness of population and
the number of outlying hamlets. This difficulty is felt equally by the
farmers, who, in the majority of cases, find themselves situated far
from a good school. In only one place has anything like a cry for
education arisen, and that is on the extreme northern edge of the
country. The Vice-Chairman of the Swindon Chamber of Agriculture
recently stated that only one-half of the entire population of Inglesham
could read and write. It subsequently appeared that the parish of
Inglesham was very sparsely populated, and that a variety of
circumstances had prevented vigorous efforts being made. The children,
however, could attend schools in adjoining parishes, not farther than
two miles, a distance which they frequently walk in other parts of the

Those who are so ready to cast every blame upon the farmer, and to
represent him as eating up the earnings of his men and enriching himself
with their ill-paid labour, should remember that farming, as a rule, is
carried on with a large amount of borrowed capital. In these days, when
£6 an acre has been expended in growing roots for sheep, when the
slightest derangement of calculation in the price of wool, meat, or
corn, or the loss of a crop, seriously interferes with a fair return for
capital invested, the farmer has to sail extremely close to the wind,
and only a little more would find his canvas shaking. It was only
recently that the cashier of the principal bank of an agricultural
county, after an unprosperous year, declared that such another season
would make almost every farmer insolvent. Under these circumstances it
is really to be wondered at that they have done as much as they have
for the labourer in the last few years, finding him with better
cottages, better wages, better education, and affording him better
opportunities of rising in the social scale.

                                          I am, Sir, faithfully yours,
                                                    RICHARD JEFFERIES.

  Coate Farm, Swindon,
    _November 12_.



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  _BY H.F. WOOD._
    The Passenger from Scotland Yard.


    The Forlorn Hope.
    Land at Last.

    Paul Ferroll.
    Why Paul Ferroll Killed his Wife.

           *       *       *       *       *


  Jeff Briggs's Love Story. By BRET HARTE.
  The Twins of Table Mountain. By BRET HARTE.
  Mrs. Gainsborough's Diamonds. By JULIAN HAWTHORNE.
  A Dream and a Forgetting. By ditto.
  A Romance of the Queen's Hounds. By CHARLES JAMES.
  Kathleen Mavourneen. By Author of "That Lass o' Lowrie's."
  Lindsay's Luck. By the Author of "That Lass o' Lowrie's."
  Pretty Polly Pemberton. By the Author of "That Lass o' Lowrie's."
  Trooping with Crows. By C.L. PIRKIS.
  The Professor's Wife. By L. GRAHAM.
  A Double Bond. By LINDA VILLARI.
  Esther's Glove. By R.E. FRANCILLON.
  The Garden that Paid the Rent. By TOM JERROLD.
  Curly. By JOHN COLEMAN. Illustrated by J.C. DOLLMAN.
  Beyond the Gates. By E.S. PHELPS.
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  Jack the Fisherman. By E.S. PHELPS.
  Doom: An Atlantic Episode. By JUSTIN H. MCCARTHY, M.P.
  Our Sensation Novel. Edited by JUSTIN H. MCCARTHY, M.P.
  Bible Characters. By CHAS. READE.
  The Dagonet Reciter. By G.R. SIMS.
  Wife or No Wife? By T.W. SPEIGHT.
  By Devious Ways. By T.W. SPEIGHT.
  The Silverado Squatters. By R. LOUIS STEVENSON.



Obvious typesetting errors have been corrected. Questionable or vintage
spelling has been left as printed in the original publication.
Inconsistencies in spelling have been normalized.

Punctuation (commas, periods and colons) has been normalized or supplied
as needed for consistency in the formatting of the List of Books
following the main text.

Page 203: A comma has been supplied, presumably missed in typesetting
(evidenced by a blank space in original publication). Shown in brackets
in the following: "... unequal to the subject--too low[,] pedestrian,
and creeping...."

Page 229: Transcribed "this" as "his". As originially printed: "Unto
this last."

Page 17 (List of Books): Transcribed "ARMOY" as "ARMORY". As originially
printed: "BY A.E. SWEET and J. ARMOY KNOX".

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Eulogy of Richard Jefferies" ***

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