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In Pursuit of Spring Paperback – 29 Sep 2002
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About the Author
Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was an important poet, essayist and novelist. Possibly best known for his poem Adlestrop, he is now regarded as a pre-eminent figure in rural and landscape writing. He was killed at the Battle of Arras, where he is buried. Little Toller also published The South Country.Alexandra Harris is the author of Weatherland, Modernism on Sea, Virginia Woolf and Romantic Moderns, which won the Guardian First Book Award. She lectures at Liverpool University. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Now to the cover itself. Much as I love the paintings of Van Gogh, why, oh why, choose a French painting for the cover of what is a quintessentially English book? The logic escapes me!
In the introduction, the anonymous editor says: "Graham Hill Classics is honoured to present the Centenary Edition of 'In Pursuit of Spring'. Hope you enjoy reading it." Well, apparently not honoured enough to take the necessary care with its compilation. And, yes, I did enjoy reading it, in between being furious at the mistakes. A very poor effort, Graham Hill; Edward Thomas deserves better.
As I read through this work I found my views as to the quality of it changing from time to time I’d find myself coming across some really wonderful descriptive prose and then a page or two of mundane reading and I was never going to appreciate the pieces of literary criticism by Thomas (not my chosen form of reading at all, although I did enjoy the piece about W H Hudson), which to my mind are more likely to appeal to the academic and student readership. The secret I found was to take the reading very slowly and in that way I appreciated the prose much more than trying to read at speed. There are a number of passages that I have re-read and I am sure that at some point I will read the book again from cover to cover. Bearing in mind the changes to the English countryside since the book was written and also the author’s death at Arras only four years after his experiences, there are bound to be feelings of poignancy when reading of his quest for spring. I especially couldn’t help but wonder if the young soldier ‘hand in hand’ with his girlfriend and the seventeen year old youths ‘playing marbles’ in the street also met their fate on the battle fields of Europe. There is a passage describing an old man showing all the signs of poverty whilst mingling with ladies in furs on the Streets of London, which to my find would have fit quite well into Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets of London many years later. Some things don’t change!
I was easily able to relate the changes in the countryside to my own experience of change during my own lifetime, albeit that the latter were in Northern England, so knowledge of the counties covered during the walk may be an advantage to some readers, but certainly is not an essential requirement to enjoying this work.
A few too many mentions of rookeries, with no real extensive description of one, but a book well worth reading if you’re willing to take it slowly and enjoy the subtle coming of spring. I enjoyed this read very much. I’m hoping I can now find a good quality copy of the author’s Icknield Way. Perhaps a reprinting of that one would be a good project for Little Toller to consider.
Above all we sense the man himself - reflective, original in his approach and reasonably even-tempered and content, it seems. That was a surprise to me as I had always understood 1913 to be his most unhappy year.
There is a chapter on three poets, one of whom is Hardy. Fascinating to think that at that very time Hardy was writing his best poems, the Emma sequence. I would love to know what Thomas would have said about these poems on the theme of guilt for mis-treating your wife! More important is the chapter on Coleridge at Nether Stowey, a poet and critic he admired so much - (oh dear, another appalling husband, the worst of the lot!)
As Thomas moved further west, away from London, the writing becomes more relaxed, unfussy, closer to the voice of the poems. It's great to observe the development and I'm really sorry that as a student of and writer on Thomas - '[[ASIN:0956424236 A Conscious Englishman] -I haven't read it before.
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