Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Old House at Coate: A new website about Richard Jefferies

I have come across a new website dedicated to this blog's hero Richard Jefferies. It is a the results of a collaboration between the Richard Jefferies Society, Swindon Borough Council and something called Forward Swindon. If this means that the council has given up its plans to allow housing to encroach upon the landscape around Coate Water, I for one will be delighted.

The Old House at Coate says that
Jefferies was a prolific writer and naturalist who, as well as working for the Swindon Advertiser, published works on a variety of subjects, from detailed accounts of his beloved countryside, through children's books illustrated by E. H Shepard, to post-apocalyptic sci-fi!
That sci-fi was After London, published in 1885. I don't know enough about the genre to know how influential it has been, but the opening chapter is one of the finest things Jefferies ever wrote.

It is not strictly accurate to say that Jefferies wrote children's books. Both Wood Magic and Bevis were published as adult novels, in the three-volume format favoured by the lending libraries of the day. Only in the 20th century were they repackaged as children's books, complete with illustrations by Shephard.

If you want to know more, I have my Masters dissertation on these three books somewhere.

1 comment:

Pete said...

I live about 7 mins jog from Coate and the Jefferies museum - and have spent a few hours helping clear the old garden. I thought the walled garden/orchard delightful and there's a nice panoramic view of the back garden at The Richard Jefferies Society Hard to imagine when you're looking at that that you're next to a dual carriageway with a filling station across the road (and a pub next door, of course).

Incidentally, should you have whet the appetite of any of your readers, many of Jefferies' books, including the ones you mention, are available for free download from Project Gutenberg - including Kindle versions, incidentally.