A Life's Work
A LIFE'S WORK: a descriptive bibliography of the writings of Henry Williamson
prepared by Anne Williamson
Please note: This 'descriptive bibliography' is an ongoing work in progress; new books, essays and collections will be added regularly, building up an unrivalled online resource.
This annotated list of Henry Williamson’s writings is not meant to be an academic definitive bibliography, with exhaustive technical notes of every edition, which tends to be of interest purely to collectors and researchers. Such information can be found in the excellent volume:
Hugoe Matthews, Henry Williamson: A Bibliography (Halsgrove, 2004)
Rather it is offered in the spirit of an overview of the writings, with descriptive notes which will give an idea of the content and flavour of the various books and their critical reception; provide a useful background to Henry Williamson’s life’s work; and provide a companion to my biographical volumes (for details see elsewhere in this site).
It is therefore, perforce, of a general nature: readers wanting or needing detailed criticism or analyses should consult the various critical writings and particularly the many and varied articles within the Henry Williamson Society Journals (all listed within this website).
I would like to point out here that the reviews quoted have had to be gathered together from all over the place. They used to arrive folded up very small in tiny Durrant's envelopes. To begin with HW (or a.n. other) carefully pasted them into scrapbooks, but by the mid nineteen-thirties this practice had ceased. It seems that then they were just thrown into any box that was handy, often still in their envelopes (especially in later years). It has been quite a lengthy task just finding and sorting and filing them. Thus it is inevitable that many are still missing.
The range of Henry Williamson’s total life’s work is extensive: over fifty books and many articles and short stories in newspapers and magazines, of which the major number have been gathered together and published by the Henry Williamson Society.
Henry Williamson’s writing falls into fairly clear main groups. The most obvious group contains his nature writings, of which Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon are the most well-known examples; but also includes The Peregrine’s Saga, The Old Stag, and The Phasian Bird. Secondly, there are those books which are concerned with the First World War: The Wet Flanders Plain and The Patriot’s Progress, and several volumes of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. A further grouping concerns the social history aspect of his work, as in The Village Book and The Labouring Life, and, although fictional novels, much of The Flax of Dream series and the various volumes of the Chronicle. Farming is a theme throughout. But all these various aspects can be found cross-hatched in any one book.
Although inevitably some readers are interested only in one particular aspect, to truly comprehend Henry Williamson’s achievement it is necessary to take account of all his writing, for it is only then that one can grasp the full extent of this complex and contradictory man. He was a man of difficult temperament, but he had a depth of talent that he used to the full. The whole of life (including that of the animal and plant world, and indeed much that is unseen but of the soul and mind) can be found within his writings, particularly the social history of the first half of the twentieth century.
Henry Williamson presented a selection of his manuscripts concerned with his ‘West Country’ writings to the University of Exeter in 1965. Some idea of the importance of Henry Williamson within the writing hierarchy can be seen in the fact that after his death the main bulk of his manuscripts and typescripts were accepted by the Nation under the National Heritage Scheme. He was the first author to be accorded that honour. These were all also deposited at Exeter University. The remainder of his extensive and important personal archive (letters, diaries, photographs, etc.) are being presented to Exeter University by courtesy of his Literary Estate (his family). The Henry Williamson Society's own archive is also kept at Exeter. Copyright of all his writings, whether published or unpublished, belongs to the Henry Williamson Literary Estate and remains until seventy years after his death, i.e. August 2047. Copyright enquiries can be directed here.