The Henry Williamson Society



  Recently added web pages
  2020 Dates for your diary
  Henry Williamson and his work – the views of critics
  Front Page News – archive


Henry Williamson

The writer Henry Williamson was born in London in 1895.

Naturalist, soldier, journalist, farmer, motor enthusiast and author of over fifty books, his descriptions of nature and the First World War have been highly praised for their accuracy. In 1957 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature and a Fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters.

He is best known as the author of Tarka the Otter, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature in 1928 and was filmed in 1977. By one of those extraordinary coincidences, Henry Williamson died while the crew were actually filming the death scene of Tarka.

Here in the Henry Williamson Society's website you can explore the man, his life, and his place in English Literature and history.

If you enjoy browsing through the pages of this website and wish to support the work of the Henry Williamson Society in furthering the appreciation of Henry Williamson’s writings, please consider either becoming a member of the Society or making a donation towards the maintenance of our website.



Anne Williamson has written an illuminating and considered essay about Henry Williamson's personal beliefs, In Search of Truth – Henry Williamson’s credo. We feel that her essay deserves a wide readership and are very pleased to present it on this website.

Web pages added in the last twelve months:
September 2020

Posthumous collections – these are the collections of newspaper and magazine

articles and essays, introductions to other books etc. by HW, published by the Society –

15 books in all, comprising, in published date order:

*  Days of Wonder (Contributions to the Daily Express, 19661971)

*  From a Country Hilltop (Contributions to Home Magazine, 1958–1962; and The

Sunday Times, 1962–1964)

*  A Breath of Country Air (2 vols) (Contributions to the Evening Standard, 1944–1945;

and 'Quest', 15 linked pieces in Woman's Illustrated and Eve's Own, 1946)

*  Spring Days in Devon, and Other Broadcasts (Transcripts of 22 BBC talks)

*  Pen and Plough: Further Broadcasts (Transcripts of 21 BBC talks; with a checklist

of all HW's known BBC radio broadcasts)

*  Threnos for T. E. Lawrence, and Other Writings

*  Green Fields and Pavements: A Norfolk Farmer in Wartime (Contributions to the

Eastern Daily Press, 1941–1944)

*  The Notebook of a Nature-lover (Selected contributions to the Sunday Referee,


*  Words on the West Wind: Selected Essays from The Adelphi, 1924–1950

*  Henry Williamson: A Brief Look at His Life and Writings in North Devon in the

1920s and '30s (A short anthology, edited by Tony Evans)

*  Indian Summer Notebook: A Writer's Miscellany 

*  Heart of England: Contributions to the Evening Standard, 19391941

*  Chronicles of a Norfolk Farmer: Contributions to the Daily Express, 1937–1939

*  Stumberleap, and Other Devon Writings: Contributions to the Daily Express,


*  Atlantic Tales: Contributions to The Atlantic Monthly, 19271947

August 2020 The Gale of the World (the last in the 15-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series)
April 2020 The Scandaroon
March 2020 Collected Nature Stories
December 2019 The Henry Williamson Animal Saga
August 2019 Book reviews (by HW; all known reviews or notices, covering 101 books)



2020 Dates for your diary:


9–11 October: Autumn Meeting and AGM. Details are available via the link. Please note that all items on the programme are subject to change and/or cancellation subject to the Government Guidelines prevailing at the time.


— November: Southern Area Meeting, at the Harlequin Centre, Redhill. It is with great regret that this meeting has been cancelled, Covid-19 restrictions making it impractical.


2021  Dates for your diary:


Saturday, 6 March: Study Day, at the Swedenborg Hall, London. Theme: Henry Williamson and Conservation. Click on either link for the programme.





A major resource on our website is the series A Life's Work, now complete. This is a descriptive bibliography of Henry Williamson's writings, title by title, and includes also significant essays and a trio of BBC films: The Survivor, No Man's Land and The Vanishing Hedgerows. Written by Anne Williamson and utilising rare archive material, A Life's Work is not a bibliography in the strict sense of the word, but an illustrated description of each book – a synopsis of its plot; the circumstances behind Henry’s writing of it; Henry’s life at that time; and its critical reception. Anne Williamson is uniquely placed to write this, having both such an intimate knowledge of the writings and access to Henry’s journals, diaries, photographs and other archive material; we are fortunate indeed in being able to work with her in publishing this work. Her considerations of books, collections, essays and other material (there are 82 pages) are now complete.


Among the many titles covered are the tetralogy The Flax of Dream, and its constituent volumes, The Beautiful Years, Dandelion Days, The Dream of Fair Women and The Pathway, together with The Star-born; an entry on HW's early contributions to The Weekly Dispatch as a novice reporter; the 'nature' books; and the individual volumes comprising the 15-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. Other books include Henry's best-known and best-loved work Tarka the Otter, The Wet Flanders Plain, The Patriot's Progress and The Gold Falcon.


Users of this website are encouraged to explore this unique resource.








February 2020 The Henry Williamson Society's biennial Schools Writing Competition, which has now been running since 2006, is now open. Entries close on 12 February 2021. For further details click on the link or use the menu bar on the left.













8 August 2018 Today marks the centenary of the opening day of the Battle of Amiens, the first action of the 100-day offensive that brought an end to the Great War. In 1928, ten years after, Henry Williamson was asked by the Daily Express to write a series of articles – there were nine published in all, but also three unpublished – about 'the principal events of the last hundred days of the war'. They make remarkable reading, and are given an effective immediacy, for Williamson wrote them as reportage. 


The articles are:


August 8, 1918: 'The Last Hundred Days of the War' (unpublished typescript)

August 11, 1918: 'The Last 100 Days' (Daily Express, August 11, 1928)

August 18, 1918: 'With the 4th Army' (Daily Express, August 18, 1928)

August 21, 1918: 'The Last Hundred Days' (unpublished manuscript, with transcript)

August 23, 1918: 'Tanks in Action' (Daily Express, August 23, 1928)

August 27, 1918: 'Last Hundred Days'(unpublished manuscript, with transcript)

September 1, 1918: 'So why fight on?' (Daily Express, September 1, 1928)

September 26, 1918: 'Breaking through . . .' (Daily Express, September 26, 1928)

September 29, 1918: 'We break through the Line'(Daily Express, September 29, 1928)

October 27, 1918: 'Towards the armistice'(Daily Express, October 27, 1928)

October 31, 1918: 'Sick of the war . . .'(Daily Express, October 31, 1928)

November 4, 1918: 'There is talk of peace . . .' (Daily Express, November 3, 1928)




June 2018 — 


salar the salmon audio small   

Salar the Salmon is released as an audiobook, read by James Murray and published to raise funds for the Atlantic Salmon Trust, an organisation that since 1967 has raised awareness of the plight of salmon both inland and at sea, and encouraged and advocated conservation. All proceeds received by the publishers will go to the Trust: the Henry Williamson Literary Estate has waived its royalties for this worthy cause, while reader, producers and studio have all given their services without fee. The audiobook is available either as a 6-disc set of audio CDs from Strathmore Publishing (price £20 including P&P in the UK, £25 overseas), or as a download from (price £14.99). The run time is 6 hours 52 minutes.





25 May 2018 —  To comply with the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 which has now come into force, we have reviewed and revised the Society's Privacy Notice. Click on the link to read this. There is also a link to the Privacy Notice at the foot of every page on this website.




31 January 2018 Tarka the Otter (Putnam, 1927) is the runner up in a poll organised by the The Arts and Humanities Research Council to find the UK's favourite nature book, the BBC's Winterwatch programme announced this evening. In third place is Rob Cowen's Common Ground (Hutchinson, 2015), the winner being Winterwatch presenter Chris Packham's Fingers in the Sparkle Jar (Ebury Press, 2016). Thanks to all those who voted for Tarka!





BBC's Desert Island Discs: Henry Williamson appeared on Desert Island Discs on Saturday, 11 October 1969, and the programme has only been heard since on private recordings of variable quality made at the time of the broadcast. The BBC has now added the complete programme to its online Desert Island Discs collection of interviews, a most welcome addition.





BBC's I Was There: The Great War Interviews features poignant personal stories from people who took part in the First World War, one of whom is Henry Williamson. It uses archive material recorded for the landmark BBC television series The Great War (made and shown in 26 episodes in 1964 by Gordon Watkins, who was a friend of HW and at one time a member of the HWS), but not used then; they are now broadcast for the first time. The BBC has made available on iPlayer The Great War Interviews: thirteen full-length interviews that were originally recorded for the series; interviewees included Norman Macmillan (infantryman turned fighter pilot, and author of Into the Blue and Offensive Patrol); Charles Carrington (who, writing as Charles Edmonds, published A Subaltern’s War); and Cecil Lewis (author of the classic memoir of the air war, Sagittarius Rising). Click on the link for Henry Williamson's interview, which lasts almost half-an-hour.





OUT OF PRINT JOURNALS: The contents of earlier journals (nos 1 to 30) have been scanned. Articles are available as PDFs from either the Journal Contents page or the Author and Article Title indexes, and may be downloaded or printed as desired. While this service is free of charge, those availing themselves of it may wish to make an appropriate donation by using the Donate button above. Selected articles from later journals have also been scanned.





Members of the Society are invited to submit their favourite passage (200–750 words) from any of Henry Williamson's books for inclusion in the new webpage that we are developing of extracts from his works.





Henry Williamson and his work: a selection of the views of writers and critics, in no particular order:–



Richard Williamson 'Portrait of an author in North Devon', Western Morning News, 24 May 1963. Click on link for the full article.

Ted Hughes, in his address at the memorial service for Henry Williamson, 1 December 1977, on Tarka the Otter

In the confrontations of creature and creature, of creature and object, of creature and fate – he made me feel the pathos of actuality in the natural world . . . I now know that only the finest writers are ever able to evoke it . . . It is not usual to consider [Henry Williamson] as a poet. But I believe he was one of the truest English poets of his generation.
Michael Morpurgo, Introduction to Salar the Salmon, 2010 It is a rare gift indeed for a storyteller to be poet as much as a storyteller, to tell a tale so deeply engaging that the reader wants to know what will happen and never want it to end, and yet at the same time tells it in such a way as to leave a reader wide-eyed with amazement at the sheer intensity of feeling that can be induced by the word-magic of a poet. Henry Williamson is just such a story-maker poet.
Charles Causley, letter to Henry Williamson, 1959 

Well, now – LOVE AND THE LOVELESS really is something.  I admire the rest of the novels in this series greatly – but, for me, this one is the finest so far of a fine bunch. . . . I haven’t come across anything that captures with such a magnificent fusion of straight fact and burning poetic imagination and sensibility and sensitivity the extraordinary climate of the times. I put the book with the very best of the first world-war stories: with Siegfried's Infantry Officer, the Graves autobiography, Aldington's Hero.  Grasping the sheer muck of fact as you have I'm not sure you haven’t out of it created a greater work of art then the lot of ’em.  It's ahead of Blunden's Undertones (this has always seemed to me muted, muffled) and up there with the very best, and with Owen's poems. 

George D. Painter

Here is an unrolling map of the labyrinth of three generations, our fathers, ourselves and our children, and the thread leading to the mystery - monster or divinity? - at the centre. In my belief ... the whole cycle [of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight] will ultimately be recognized as the great historical novel of our time, its subject as the total experience of twentieth-century man. 

John Middleton Murry

This will be in its entirety one of the most remarkable English novels of our time ... It is amazingly rich in all the living detail of a swiftly changing society; the characters are drawn with such loving sympathy and such firmness of imaginative outline that we are entirely absorbed by their vicissitudes. We are apprehensive for them, we are relieved; we rejoice and are sorrowful; we are angry and we understand and we laugh and laugh again. To be able to do this with us is the novelist's supreme gift ... I believe it is high time we awoke to the splendour and scope of his effort and achievement in A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. Begin with The Dark Lantern and read on; you will be the richer for it. 

T. E. Lawrence, letter to Edward Garnett, 1928

If I'd known he was so practiced I wouldn't have dared write him.
Malcolm Elwin, 1957 He emerges as one of the most impressively gifted and lavishly creative among writers of modern fiction.
James Hanley, on Young Phillip Maddison How well Mr Williamson conveys all the secret thoughts and doings of boys, living lives that are all heights and depths. Magically he suggests the era by subtle description.
Allan Wykes, review of The Innocent Moon in the Sunday Times To follow Mr Williamson through all the tones and tempers of his chronicle is to emerge with a sense – insistent and triumphant – of having been brushed by experience.
Michael Bradbury, review of The Power Of The Dead in Punch What emerges is a deep sense of truthfulness and accuracy and a complexity of experience.
Walter de la Mare, letter to Putnams, 1926 I have always thought that Williamson had a tinge of that very rare quality, or whatever it may be, called genius; and I feel convinced that in time it will be more fully recognised . . .
George D. Painter, 1959 It will be among the accepted facts of English literary history that our only two great novelists writing in the second quarter of the twentieth century, after the deaths of Lawrence and Joyce, were John Cowper Powys and Henry Williamson.
L. A. G. Strong, 1945 Few writers hold so surely the balance between outer and inner truth; fewer so generously share their vision with their reader.
John Galsworthy, letter to Edward Garnett, 1926 Do you know the work of Henry Williamson? It's uneven but at it's best extraordinarily good I think.
John Betjeman, review of The Dark Lantern in the Daily Telegraph There is a magic about this book . . . this excursion into a late Victorian suburb and merchant materialism is unexpected and it is as genuine and affectionate as it is accomplished.
General Sir Hubert Gough, letter to Henry Williamson I have re-read your story of our Fifth Army [A Test to Destruction], and was greatly moved. It made me realise once again what a wonderful people the British are.
Times Literary Supplement review of The Golden Virgin It is difficult to know which to admire the more, the skill of the characterisation or the art by which the character is subordinated to the theme without contrivance and without loss of humanity . . . The contrast between the tenderness of youth and the cruelty of war is most effectively described.
George D. Painter, review of How Dear is Life in The Listener Mr Williamson's prose is like sunlight and clear air; and then, when necessary, it has the taste of fear in the mouth, the terrible beauty of life on the edge of the abyss.
Kenneth Allsop, review of It Was The Nightgale in the Daily Mail The sad beauty of the love story laces a huge exquisitely worked tapestry of period and people.
Ernest Wycherley, review of A Solitary War in the Daily Express This astonishing sequence [A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight]. It is a major mark he is making on the modern novel.
Frank Swinnerton, 1937 Henry Williamson . . . seems to spend his days up to his waist or neck in a Devonshire river, watching the habits of otters, salmon and other wild creatures.
Cecil Beaton, diary entry, July 1970 The long days of reading are perhaps at an end (I have bitten into so many varied books, E. M. Forster, Thackeray, Henry Williamson and a 'How to Learn Italian) for we have personalities and places to cope with from now on. Then reading H. Williamson's 'Donkey Boy' filled me with adoration and unexpected tears.
Paul Scofield, in Castaways' Choice: 50 Castaways choose their Desert Island Book, Folio Society J. W. Fortescue, in his introduction to Henry Williamson's story [Tarka the Otter], wrote that 'our powers of observation are necessarily limited' and that 'our powers of imagination are always confined within the bounds of our human experience'. Nevertheless observation and imagination are still our only means of entering the daily life of the creatures of the wild, and such qualities are possessed in abundance by Williamson. The hero of Williamson's book is an otter, but other forms of life in the wild – insects, fish, flowers, grasses and birds – also claim his attentive devotion. Every sentence in this extraordinary book either summons the remembrance of something seen and known, or dazzles with a fresh observation; the perceptions are ceaseless, the longing for a natural order of things is unforgettably moving. It is both a celebration and a threnody.

We will add to these opinions from time to time. Submissions to the webmaster of further examples are welcomed.




Please note: This site is actively maintained, and new content is added regularly.



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