Thursday, August 22, 2013

....Then two come along at once.

Both the Edward Thomas Fellowship and the Friends of the Dymock Poets  Newsletters arrived yesterday.

There is so much meat in both, but I will mention a few things. I turned first to the FDP as I expected a review of A Conscious Englishman, and there it was, a full page review, and opposite a page-long review of Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways. That was particularly pleasing.

The reviewer is James Riding, unknown to me, a cultural and historical geographer. That seems an interesting starting point, and I was delighted with the review. I liked it all. To cite a  few lines:

'The journey to becoming a poet is written in a tremendously heart-felt and rigorously researched manner and bound up in this wrangling is the fateful decision to go to war. It is a tale of love and the absence of love. A love of landscape, of nature, of place, of community; a love of words, a love between friends, unrequited love, lost love from youth, and a love that can never be wholly given-

That I could not return
All that you gave
And could not ever burn
With the love you have...
With only gratitude
Instead of love-
A pine in solitude
Cradling a dove.'

 'The book ...does not make the mistake of saying anything definitive as some biographies have. It follows a well-known historical time-line that anyone with an interest in Edward Thomas will already know, with minute details and little tales from archival material scattered through to surprise and delight even the most knowledgeable.'

There is so much to read in the FDP Newsletter - I especially valued Lynne Ardrey's account of Anna Stebbings talk on the Dymock field notebooks:

'Thomas jotted down records of buildings, birds, flowers and cloud formations, so that one has the effect of an artist's sketchbook, with precise details: the exact colour of the pigs in the orchard at Ryton, the distant sound of the nightingales along Ledbury road.'

He gave an account of the malodorous privy at Oldfields, all cobwebs, flies and other wild-life. Mmmmh - I didn't know that and it's rather an eye-opener as I had pictured the Chandlers as  a very civilised farming couple with a well-run home.

The notebooks are in the New York Public Library Berg collection and Anna needed to see them as part of her doctorate thesis.  Part of her theme is the Frost/Thomas friendship and I really hope the thesis will be published.

It's very well worth joining the FDP - information is on

Then there is the rather larger, slightly glossier

This edition has a real scoop - I had heard the news last March but now it's gone public.

twenty one books from Edward and Helen's personal library, lost for decades, have been found. It's a long story - in brief, Helen's need to move to smaller accommodation led to the books being stored by friends and after her death in the '60's their whereabouts was forgotten.
There is a fascinating account by Edward's grand-daughter about Helen's life up to and after the Second World War.

Some of the books are exceptionally important - the Shakespeare sonnets that Edward took to the Front. The book is inscribed, 'To Edward from Helen Jan 11th 1917' - just before his embarkation for France.

North of Boston by Robert Frost, inscribed 'Edward Thomas from Robert Frost May 1914.
Both of them feature in my novel.

Several gifts from Eleanor Farjeon, a gift to Helen from John Middleton Murry in 1926 - did Helen meet Katherine Mansfield then? If so I did not know it.

Most moving, a copy of Thomas's first book of poems inscribed by Helen 'from my Beloved to me ' - in October , several months after he was killed.

Much more. I'll look at more of the contents  from the rest of the Newsletter next time.

On the rear is a happy picture of the Steep church window's engraving  in progress after the original  was destroyed. The artist is Tony Gilliam.

To join the ETF    look at their website -

Both organisations have a very low membership fee, plenty of activities and these great journals , which welcome contributions.


I hadn't realised how strongly this poem demonstrate the relationship between Edward and Helen Thomas, even though there are question-marks as to the addressee, if any one person.
It seems to me it begins addressed to his mother and then moves to Helen, mirroring the circumstances of its composition. Initially he noted Balham (parents address) then crossed that out and wrote 'Going home'. (to Steep)

No One So Much As You

No one so much as you
Loves this my clay,
Or would lament as you
Its dying day.

You know me through and through
Though I have not told,
And though with what you know
You are not bold.

None ever was so fair
As I thought you:
Not a word can I bear
Spoken against you.

All that I ever did
For you seemed coarse
Compared with what I hid
Nor put in force.

My eyes scarce dare meet you
Lest they should prove
I but respond to you
And do not love.

We look and understand,
We cannot speak
Except in trifles and
Words the most weak.

For I at most accept
Your love, regretting
That is all: I have kept
Only a fretting

That I could not return
All that you gave
And could not ever burn
With the love you have,

Till sometimes it did seem
Better it were
Never to see you more
Than linger here

With only gratitude
Instead of love -
A pine in solitude
Cradling a dove.

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