Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Contracts, Rights  and Permissions and Robert Frost's granddaughter.

Frank sent me a clutch of PDF files from the Society of Authors : guides to all these matters which I read and applied as I thought necessary. It will all be checked by his legal adviser before publication.

 I was already alerted to permissions  through talking to Richard Emeny - that was when I first learned that you can't libel the dead, quite a relief. But I knew there were snares to dodge and that the best way to do that was to be open, truthful, alert and prompt. Some persistence is called for too.

Writing this has made me reflect on the enormous difference between Robert Frost's publishing experience and Edward Thomas's; a sad reflection.

 True, Robert was  fortyish when he had his first volume, A Boy's Will, published, and he had agreed to a 'fool's contract' in London from which he had to free himself, with difficulty. But once back home in America his poetry publication blossomed. He teased Ellery Sedgwick, Editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who'd once turned down his poems. The publisher Henry Holt helped Robert by introducing him to Ellery and to other writers and editors. Holt have been Frost publishers and Executors since then.
Henry Holt

Edward had no poetry published in his lifetime other than two he inserted in his This England anthology as Edward Eastaway, though many had been accepted before his death. ( I do know of one other, maybe two. Of course he had a great  list of prose works that are gaining more recognition - check out OUP and Guy Cuthbertson.)

So, back to Henry Holt and company.
 As I understand it, in the USA anything published pre-1923 is out of copyright. Not written but published before 1923, and with the  letters I wanted to quote, that is the crucial difference. I'm not a trained scholar and I wanted to be sure that these letters written to Edward were in the clear.

Of course Holt is a huge operation and there was a long delay; no reply came after the stated eight week waiting time was passed.

I happened to have sent a question to the  Robert Frost Society- their reviews carry  articles by Frost's granddaughter, another  Lesley after her mother, and a writer. I'd read her book years before.

 I was surprised and pleased when she got in touch with me. As a postcript to an email reply I added my concern about getting an answer from Holt:  she said she had no say in it  herself,  but she could prompt some action, perhaps.  She did.

I was asked to send considerably more detail and separate it into an attachment rather than buried  in an email- a useful hint and something I should have worked out for myself. I have also realised that I needed to be much more accurate in being able to cite and date my sources, fiction or not fiction.

Edna Clarke-Hall

Another contact with the States was a pleasure; with the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, which holds a great many Thomas manuscripts including his field notebooks.
 It concerned a letter to Edna.

When I'd searched the Internet for her several years ago, following a hint from Guy Cuthbertson, there were only three entries, two about her paintings for sale and one, when I'd linked  with ET, about a letter held in the New York Public Library.

Try googling Edna Clarke-Hall now!

Back then the librarian sent me photocopies of the three pages by post, but I was not to copy them or
otherwise use them.

Now  I needed to have permission to quote from the letter. I am surprised it has never been published - it says a lot about Edward's stoical, droll sense of humour as a husband/father/struggling writer at 21. And about his attraction to Edna.
The permission came and I was so pleased I've kept the envelope as a trophy.

I have worries about Edna, big worries. I think they may come under the heading of Moral Rights, or Privacy. Hers, not mine.

The Poem:

The Manor Farm is one of the two poems Edward did have published, in This England. A February poem, but we've had frost and it has the  characterisic  Thomas focus on the  everlasting.

The Manor Farm
The rock-like mud unfroze a little and rills
Ran and sparkled down each side of the road
Under the catkins wagging in the hedge.
But earth would have her sleep out, spite of the sun;
Nor did I value that thin glilding beam
More than a pretty February thing
Till I came down to the old Manor Farm,
And church and yew-tree opposite, in age
Its equals and in size. The church and yew
And farmhouse slept slept in a Sunday silentness.
The air raised not a straw. The steep farm roof,
With tiles duskily glowing, entertained
The mid-day sun; and up and down the roof
White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one.
Three cart-horses were looking over a gate
Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails
Against a fly, a solitary fly.
The Winter's cheek flushed as if he had drained
Spring, Summer, and Autumn at a draught
And smiled quietly. But 'twas not Winter—
Rather a season of bliss unchangeable
Awakened from farm and church where it had lain
Safe under tile and thatch for ages since
This England, Old already, was called Merry.

(I realise that publishing a blog has Copyright issues, hence I removed the Nash picture from my second page and put Marc up instead. I acknowledge not knowing or being able to trace the ownership of the hundred year-old or so pictures I have used and apologise unreservedly.)

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