Monday, October 15, 2012

Copyright seeking - ripples spreading from a stone thrown in the water.

A republished early blog on sources, following a recent comment.

I'm in a dilemma about the way to approach this. Perhaps it needs two posts, a formal one, summarising the information that Frank sent me from the Society of Authors, and an informal, personal one about my own experience. I will begin with that.

But first, the ripple effect and more of the Malvern weekend. Through seeking permission to cite from Robert Frost's letters I encountered  Linda Hart, lecturer, reviewer and author of  'Once they lived in Gloucestershire' an anthology of the six Dymock poets with introductions to each ( Green Branch Press, 1995, 2000.)


She is an American living in England and a specialist on Frost, especially his vital English years, 1912 - 1915, when he was first published and began to be recognised.
Robert Frost    
Linda has written an account of these years for performance, The English Years of Robert Frost, vividly telling of the family's arrival in England and their experiences first in  Beaconsfield(above) then in the Leadington area,  with Gabriel Woolf marvellously dramatising both poems and letters. The Sunday performance was at the Coach House Theatre, Malvern, and there was a packed house.

 I realised for the first time just how funny Frost could be, how he must have lit up any gathering; it must surely have had a great and positive impact on Thomas, maybe as much as the serious sharing of ideas and poetic theories did. A new discovery of Linda's, a letter telling of his views on the English climate, brought the house down. It was a great informative entertainment and it would be very well worth performing elsewhere.


Frank expected me, as author and knowing the relevant publishers and connections, to do the work of obtaining permission myself. From the Society of Authors guidelines I see this is normal practice, and I felt I was in the best position to do it. It was a kind of coming-out, looking the world in the face and leaving the solitary hermitage of writing. Unexpectedly, it opened  up contacts that were really helpful.

A novel like mine is entirely dependant on other books, and I'm not alone. You can't fail to notice how many recent and not-so-recent novels concern historical figures - Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, Colm Toibin's The Master being the great ones. Many more not so illustrious.

I drew from Edward and Helen Thomas, of course, and from Eleanor Farjeon and Robert Frost.

The Thomas consent was easy and very informal - Richard Emeny, chairman of the Edward Fellowship, spoke to the literary executor, Thomas's granddaughter, and passed on to me her response:   'She can quote whatever she likes.'
 I did need to obtain a written letter from her eventually to scan to the New York Public Library, concerning an unpublished (I believe) letter from a 21 year-old Edward to Edna Clarke-Hall, of whom more later.

 Eleanor Farjeon's 'Edward Thomas, The Last Four Years', is her sensitive account of their friendship and her love for him. The literary agent is David Higham Associates. A request could be made online, but I also wrote saying:

'[that format] did not really fit, in that I want to follow Colm Toibin's approach in his The Master -
' I wish to acknowledge that I have peppered the text with phrases and sentences from the writings of Henry James and his family'.
 In my case it would be Edward Thomas and his friends. Where there are phrases that are famous at least to Edward Thomas enthusiasts I have not changed the wording, as in Eleanor's greeting to Edward after his enlistment, ' I don't know why, but I'm glad' and 'Edward , do you know what you are fighting for?'

I  gave the publisher's name and details of how the book would be published. Georgia Glover of Higham wrote asking for an approximate number of words quoted directly, which after trawling through I was able to give her.  And six additional lines from a poem.  I was also in touch with Anne Harvey -  author,  actress with the loveliest voice I've ever heard,  expert on Farjeon. She is the executor of the  Eleanor Farjeon Estate.
 We had some correspondance about the poem, one that Eleanor kept to herself but which shows how much she suffered through her love of Edward, as well as taking  happiness from it. She confirmed for me that I had the context right. Another good result of the ripples.

Just a few days later Georgia Glover sent me formal agreement , with terms and conditions and an invoice for £78.00.   A model of straight-forward efficiency.

The Robert Frost permission had to come from the States. That's for tomorrow.

A Poem?  Or prose, from  Edward Thomas's correspondance with his agent Frank Cazenove? But I will just go for some stanzas from An Old Song 1, as it conveys his interest in folk music, Richard Jefferies and  subversion, in his youth at least.

An  Old Song

I roamed where nobody had a right but keepers and squires, and there
I sought for nests, wild flowers, oak sticks, and moles, both far and near,
And had to run from farmers, and learnt the Lincolnshire song:
'Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.'

I took those walks years after, talking with friend or dear,
Or solitary musing; but when the moon shone clear                          
I had no joy or sorrow that could not be expressed
By 'Tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.'

Since then I've thrown away a chance to fight a gamekeeper;
And I less often trespass, and what I see or hear
Is mostly from the road or path by day: yet still I sing:
'Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night  in the season of the year.'


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