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THE HILLS AND THE VALE




_All rights reserved_




THE HILLS AND THE VALE


BY
RICHARD JEFFERIES


WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
EDWARD THOMAS


LONDON: DUCKWORTH & CO.
3 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN
1909




TO
JOHN WILLIAMS
OF WAUN WEN




CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION ix

CHOOSING A GUN 1

SKATING 22

MARLBOROUGH FOREST 27

VILLAGE CHURCHES 35

BIRDS OF SPRING 43

THE SPRING OF THE YEAR 54

VIGNETTES FROM NATURE 70

A KING OF ACRES 79

THE STORY OF SWINDON 104

UNEQUAL AGRICULTURE 134

VILLAGE ORGANIZATION 151

THE IDLE EARTH 207

AFTER THE COUNTY FRANCHISE 224

THE WILTSHIRE LABOURER 247

ON THE DOWNS 270

THE SUN AND THE BROOK 280

NATURE AND ETERNITY 284

THE DAWN 306




INTRODUCTION


This book consists of three unpublished essays and of fifteen
reprinted from _Longman's Magazine_, _Fraser's Magazine_, the _New
Quarterly_, _Knowledge_, _Chambers's Magazine_, the _Graphic_, and
the _Standard_, where they have probably been little noticed since
the time of their appearance. Several more volumes of this size
might have been made by collecting all the articles which were not
reprinted in Jefferies' lifetime, or in 'Field and Hedgerow' and
'Toilers of the Field,' shortly after his death. But the work in
such volumes could only have attracted those very few of the
omnivorous lovers of Jefferies who have not already found it out.
After the letters on the Wiltshire labourer, addressed to the
_Times_ in 1872, he wrote nothing that was not perhaps at the time
his best, but, being a journalist, he had often to deal immediately,
and in a transitory manner, with passing events, or to empty a page
or two of his note-books in response to an impulse assuredly no
higher than habit or necessity. Many of these he passed over or
rejected in making up volumes of essays for publication; some he
certainly included. Of those he passed over, some are equal to the
best, or all but the best, of those which he admitted, and I think
these will be found in 'The Hills and the Vale.' There are others
which need more excuse. The two early papers on 'Marlborough Forest'
and 'Village Churches,' which were quoted in Besant's 'Eulogy,' are
interesting on account of their earliness (1875), and charming
enough to please those who read all Jefferies' books. 'The Story of
Swindon,' 'Unequal Agriculture,' and 'Village Organization,' will be
valued for their matter, and because they are examples of his
writing, and of his interests and opinions, before he was thirty.
That they are partly out of date is true, but they are worth
remembering by the student of Jefferies and of his times; they do
credit to his insight and even to his foresight; and there is still
upon them, here and there, some ungathered fruit. The later
agricultural articles, 'The Idle Earth,' 'After the County
Franchise,' and 'The Wiltshire Labourer,' are the work of his ripe
years. There were also several papers published not only after his
death, but after the posthumous collections. I have included all of
these, for none of them needs defence, while 'Nature and Eternity'
ranks with his finest work. The three papers now for the first time
printed might have been, but are not, admitted on that ground alone.
'On Choosing a Gun' and 'Skating' belong to the period of 'The
Amateur Poacher,' and are still alive, and too good to destroy. 'The
Dawn' is beautiful.

Among these eighteen papers are examples from nearly every kind
and period of Jefferies' work, though his earliest writing is
still decently interred where it was born, in Wiltshire and
Gloucestershire papers (chiefly the _North Wilts Herald_), except
such as was disinterred by the late Miss Toplis for 'Jefferies
Land,' 'T.T.T.,' and 'The Early Fiction of Richard Jefferies.'
From his early youth Jefferies was a reporter in the north of
Wiltshire and south of Gloucestershire, at political and
agricultural meetings, elections, police-courts, markets, and
Boards of Guardians. He inquired privately or officially into the
history of the Great Western Railway works at New Swindon, of the
local churches and families, of ancient monuments, and he
announced the facts with such reflections as came to him, or might
be expected from him, in newspaper articles, papers read before
the Wiltshire ArchŠological Society, and in a booklet on 'The
Goddards of North Wilts.' As reporter, archŠologist, and
sportsman, he was continually walking to and fro across the vale
and over the downs; or writing down what he saw, for the most part
in a manner dictated by the writing of other men engaged in the
same way; or reading everything that came in his way, but
especially natural history, chronicles, and Greek philosophy in
English translations. He was bred entirely on English, and in a
very late paper he could be so hazy about the meaning of
'illiterate' as to say that the labourers 'never were illiterate
mentally; they are now no more illiterate in the partial sense of
book-knowledge.' He tried his hand at topical humour, and again
and again at short sensational tales. But until he was twenty-four
he wrote nothing which could have suggested that he was much above
the cleverer young men of the same calling. There was nothing fine
or strong in his writing. His researches were industrious, but not
illuminated. If his range of reading was uncommon, it gave him
only some quotations of no exceptional felicity. His point of view
could have given no cause for admiration or alarm. And yet he was
not considered an ordinary young man, being apparently idle,
ambitious, discontented, and morose, and certainly unsociable and
negligently dressed. He walked about night and day, chiefly alone
and with a noticeable long stride. But if he was ambitious, it was
only that he desired success--the success of a writer, and
probably a novelist, in the public eye. His possessions were the
fruits of his wandering, his self-chosen books and a sensitive,
solitary temperament. He might have been described as a clever
young man, well-informed, a little independent, not first-rate at
shorthand, and yet possibly too good for his place; and the
description would have been all that was possible to anyone not
intimate with him, and there was no one intimate with him but
himself. He had as yet neither a manner nor a matter of his own.
It is not clear from anything remaining that he had discovered
that writing could be something more than a means of making party
views plausible or information picturesque. In 1867, at the age of
nineteen, he opened a description of Swindon as follows:

'Whenever a man imbued with republican politics and
progressionist views ascends the platform and delivers an
oration, it is a safe wager that he makes some allusion at least
to Chicago, the famous mushroom city of the United States, which
sprang up in a night, and thirty years ago consisted of a dozen
miserable fishermen's huts, and now counts over two hundred
thousand inhabitants. Chicago! Chicago! look at Chicago! and see
in its development the vigour which invariably follows
republican institutions.... Men need not go so far from their
own doors to see another instance of rapid expansion and
development which has taken place under a monarchical
government. The Swindon of to-day is almost ridiculously
disproportioned to the Swindon of forty years ago....'

Eight years later Jefferies rewrote 'The Story of Swindon' as it is
given in this book, and the allusion to Chicago was reduced to this:

'The workmen required food; tradesmen came and supplied that
food, and Swindon rose as Chicago rose, as if by magic.'

Yet it is certain that in 1867 Jefferies was already carrying about
with him an experience and a power which were to ripen very slowly
into something unique. He was observing; he was developing a sense
of the beauty in Nature, in humanity, in thought, and the arts; and
he was 'not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning
began to come to him from all the visible universe, and undefinable
aspirations filled him.'

In 1872 he discovered part of his power almost in its perfection. He
wrote several letters to the _Times_ about the Wiltshire labourer,
and they were lucid, simple, moderate, founded on his own
observation, and arranged in a telling, harmonious manner. What he
said and thought about the labourers then is of no great importance
now, and even in 1872 it was only a journalist's grain in the scale
against the labourer's agitation. But it was admirably done. It was
clear, easy writing, and a clear, easy writer he was thenceforth to
the end.

These letters procured for him admission to _Fraser's_ and other
magazines, and he now began for them a long series of articles,
mainly connected with the land and those who work on the land. He
had now freedom and space to put on paper something of what he had
seen and thought. The people, their homes, and their fields, he
described and criticized with moderation and some spirit. He showed
that he saw more things than most writing men, but it was in an
ordinary light, in the same way as most of the readers whom he
addressed. His gravity, tenderness and courage were discernible, but
the articles were not more than a clever presentation of a set of
facts and an intelligent, lucid point of view, which were good grist
to the mills of that decade.



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