Saturday, February 9, 2013

Settings: Edna Clarke-Hall's house near Upminster.

A- Hare Hall                       B- Great House, Hall Lane.
While Edward was at Hare Hall Camp near Gidea Park, East of Romford, he was three and a half miles from Edna Clark-Hall, an hour's walk at most for him. I'm sure he would have avoided the road, even then, and gone through parkland and fields.
The relationship between Edward and Edna was always something I felt very tentative about: having first heard of it, then  learned a little more from Alison Thomas's work, I based everything else on the poems, his and hers.  Matthew Hollis had access to Edna's diary, so long after I had written my novel I was able to see that I hadn't been far out in my speculations - but the account in A Conscious Englishman is fiction, more speculative than anything else in the novel.

It was clear that Edward enjoyed her company - and what a welcome change from the bare barracks hut  her house must have been!

Great House

From A.C.E:
He looked up at the tall chimneys of the fine eighteenth century house, its many sash windows set in mellowed brick walls. William, Edna’s husband, was a very successful barrister. He could imagine Edna in such a house, enjoying its venerable romance. Would he be welcome, he wondered.

He tugged the iron pull and heard the bell deep inside the house, then footsteps coming to the door. He knew suddenly how eager he was to see Edna again and to watch her surprise, and, he hoped, pleasure at seeing him. But Edna was in London that day, the servant who answered the door told him.

After a moment they recognised each other. She remembered Edward from the old days.

‘The mistress has two boys now, Mr Thomas – Justin and Denis. How is your little boy?’

‘Not so little. He’s fifteen and staying away from all this’ – he gestured at his uniform – ‘in America at the moment. But I have daughters too, one just thirteen, the other only five. Well, I’ll look forward to meeting Mr and Mrs Clarke-Hall soon. My apologies to them for arriving with no notice.’
Edna Clark Hall and her beautiful house.
No wonder Edward was drawn  to visit when he could.
Characteristically, Helen wrote to her after Edward's death that she was glad he had been able to have that respite from the spartan uncongenial camp.
There are several poems written at the right  time that I believe refer to Edna. The most obvious one is Celandine. The central stanza is framed by stanzas that emphasise, for me, Thomas knowledge of himself - Edna is a fantasy, almost.

by Edward Thomas
Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.

She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me Februarys before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.

But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Publishing matters: I have to appear on Radio Oxford on the morning of 10th February - a first for me and very scary.

I was delighted to find two reviews on the Amazon site.

The Edward Thomas Fellowship Newsletter arrived today, with a flier about the book and an extract rather in need of proof-reading but never mind. Frank posted (from the Cherwell Boat House, lucky thing) that he was finding lots of orders suddenly arriving as a result.

I received a heart-warming message from Richard Goodman, an American author and teacher I admire and write to occasionally- author of that quietly perfect book, French Dirt, and of New York: a memoir and Bicycle Journeys: through New York after 9/11.

Richard Goodman
And from Dr Keith Green of Sheffield Hallam University, author and composer. He is setting some Thomas poems to music.
My one-time lodger 'Keef''.
It's a really enjoyable spin-off of publishing, I'm finding, how people are pleased for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment