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  Henry Williamson and his work – the views of critics
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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 writings, 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 and upkeep 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.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO: a celebration of anniversaries
November, 1923:

The Peregrine's Saga and Other Stories of the Country Green is published by William Collins. With this collection of sixteen vivid short stories, or nature essays, including tales of badger, raven, swallows, foxes, owls, humans, a mouse, a weed, and peregrine falcons, Henry Williamson begins to establish his reputation as a nature writer. These stories portray nature with a stark realism, natural life as it really is, but also with a tender, lyrical insight.


October, 1922:
Dandelion Days, the second novel in the projected Flax of Dream tetralogy, is published by William Collins.
July, 1922:
The Lone Swallows, Henry Williamson's first collection of essays, is published by William Collins.
October, 1921:
Henry Williamson's first novel, The Beautiful Years, is published by William Collins.
Early March, 1921:
In early March 1921 Henry Williamson left his family home at 11 Eastern Road, Brockley, in south-east London, and mounting his beloved Norton Brooklands Road Special motorcycle, rode off down ‘to my lovely cottage’ – Skirr Cottage in Georgeham, North Devon, a remote village situated just above the sea of Putsborough Sands and Baggy Point, and looking out over the estuary of the Taw and Torridge rivers and on to Braunton Burrows.


As Anne Williamson wrote in her 1995 biography Henry Williamson: Tarka and the Last Romantic, he was:


drawn by the magnetism of that ancient area; drawn by the happiness he had felt before the war [he first visited in May 1914] and on subsequent visits; drawn by his Shapcote forebears to his ancestral home.


To mark this event, Anne has made available HW’s own words written at that time which, apart from the opening sentence, are now published for the first time. HW did not really record the actual date of this momentous event. During that period he was writing his every thought into a large folio-sized book-keeping-type journal – known for reference purposes as his ‘Richard Jefferies Journal’. After his searing experiences of the Great War he was finding living in his family home extremely limiting and frustrating, while two major love affairs had come to naught. But he had also had several articles accepted and published in various prestigious literary journals of the era, and he had just heard that his first book had been accepted for publication. In a long Journal entry dated 1 March 1921 he noted:


As soon as I can I am going down to Devon, to my lovely cottage.


And at the end of another longish entry for 12 March, which is mainly about a meeting ’the other night’ at The Tomorrow Club (a literary club in London to which he belonged), we read:


I am now in Devon. I’ve left London; all my eggs are in my own basket of literature; and I’ve got £12 in the bank. Meanwhile I work.


(The impression one gets is that he has been in Devon for a least a day or two already.)


The country is beautiful. Celandines star the hedgebanks and they seem to be much larger than those in the Bromley district. Today I heard about thirty linnets singing in a hedgerow and their song was sweet. The tiny white flower of the wild strawberry is in flower and the primroses are unfurling their moth-pale petals from their coverings. At nightfall Venus relures the Western rafters of heaven, and a young moon sinks into the sea beyond Lundy. The dark moon is visible above it looking like a round shield of tarnished brass, polished at its lower rim. Rooks by day are busy in the elm-trees near the church [his cottage was next to the churchyard, separated by a small stream] and partridge fly in pairs over the ruddy ploughlands. Stone chats have paired and so have the gulls . . .


The owls are still in my cottage; beautiful mascots!


There is no entry for 13 March, but that for 14 March reads:


I do my own cooking in a “double-cooker” – God bless the man who invented double cookers. Tonight I stole some pine-logs from the Rector; at the moment of writing they are sizzling in my fireplace behind – the open one. . . .


The countryside is very beautiful. Yesterday I watched two kids being born, the mother goat bleated in pain, but two hours alter the three were jolly happy, the kids skipping about. Birth is a beautiful thing; I mean the mother love and the soft innocence of the born. Death is a great anti-climax for the body, but we hope the first rung in the new climax for the soul.


This evening I watched the sun going down into a grey sea beyond “Clawbay” [Croyde Bay]. The colour of the “slaughtered sun” changed every moment; first rufous; then vermilion, then tawny, reflecting on the cloud galleons that drifted up from the south west by Lundy Island; they faded, and a purple vapour seemed to frame his end, becoming gradually a stain like that of a child’s mouth after blackberry eating.


The entry continues with his latest ideas for the book he was currently writing – the next volume of what was eventually to be his early tetralogy The Flax of Dream.


The words quoted above, written in his most private journal at the outset of his writing career. show his unique ability to describe the minutiae of nature – and his deep love for the countryside of Devon which lasted to the very end of his life.




At the time the Daily Express was publishing a series of short 250-word nature sketches by HW entitled ‘In the Country’, and the first reference to his move from London came in his next essay on the following Saturday, 19 March:


This west country by the sea is swept by great rushings of salt wind coming from the booming Atlantic; the fields are rich brown, and no wheat has yet risen from the earth. In some places they are still ploughing, and hundreds of seagulls float and wheel behind the turned shining furrow, ousting the rooks, whose legitimate prey are the wireworms and chafer grubs exposed by the dull share.


Flittering and whistling in the rear, grey and pied wagtails ("dishwashers") search for the sleeping beetle pupae left by those amber-eyed pirates, the herring gulls. In the distance the seabirds look like wind-rifted feathers.


Already the first migrant has called in the hazelwood, an olive-dun chiffchaff from across the world – smaller than a sparrow, and with fragile wings, the impulse of love and life amid the greeneries of England has brought this tiny messenger to us. The "hedgerows" (built of stone) are pale with primroses and the white wild strawberry blossom, and in sheltered places the red campion is unfurling its colour.


Two pairs of ravens are nesting on the headland, and the peregrine falcons, mightiest fliers, are mounting in nuptial flight high into the pile snow of the clouds, stooping and slipping at one another, and with wrapped pinions hurtling towards the crested breakers, mad with joy at the coming of golden days.


At night the stars are brilliant in the dusky profound, Venus a blaze of soft light, the young moon like a silver curven goosequill dipping into the darkness far beyond the ocean.



Skirr Cottage in 1921, with HW's mother Gertrude standing by the door
Skirr Cottage interior

The interior, with an indistinct Mabs Baker sitting at the table,

open fireplace behind




Web pages added recently:
February 2023

HWS Journal no. 34, 'Reality in War Literature' (1998) is now available online in

the form of PDFs of the various articles. It has been out of print for some

considerable time.

November 2022

A Time-line concerning the writing of The Peregrine's Saga, by Anne Williamson:

a time-line of the various early newspaper articles and stories about peregrine

falcons that formed the backbone of the five stories that became The Peregrine's

Saga. It is added as an Appendix to The Peregrine's Saga main page within Anne's

survey of Henry Williamson's entire oeuvre, A Life's Work.

October 2022

Adventures with Alvis Silver Eagle DR6084, by Alex and Elspeth Marsh: a very full

history of Henry Williamson's legendary Silver Eagle post-Second World War: its

restoration and adventurous travels overseas, with 70 photographs. This article is

also published, with rather fewer photographs, in HWSJ 58, September 2022.

January 2022

Henry Williamson, mainly known as a nature writer and author of over sixty books, 

had a possibly little-known aspect to his character: he was mad about motors. His

passion, from bicycle to Aston Martin via Alvis Silver Eagle, is chronicled by Anne

Williamson in five chapters, or 'laps', all of which are now available online, as

Henry Williamson: Mad about Motors.

The laps consist of:

LAP 1: On two wheels

LAP 2: Two wheels plus an engine (Nortons) 

LAP 3: Four wheels (Peugeot to Alvis Silver Eagle, via Auto Union)

LAP 4: Moving up a gear (Aston Martin to MG Magnette)

LAP 5: The car that never was (Bédélia)

April 2021

HW’s involvement in, and attendance at, The World Wildlife Fund Second

International Congress, held in London on 16, 17 and 18 November 1970.

We present this page as a tribute to HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to mark

his work in the conservation of nature – a subject also close to the heart of HW.

February 2021

Richard Calvert Williamson: An Illustrated Profile of the Society's Late President

– a page that is long overdue

January 2021

'RAR': Bird Artist of Cley (Richard Richardson, a talented bird artist and well-known

ornithologist, drew many of the illustrations for HW's articles in the Daily Express

during the late 1960s – see Days of Wonder. What readers of these articles could

not have known was the connection between Richardson and the Williamson family,

and in particular HW's son Richard, which forms a most interesting story in its own

right, told here by Anne Williamson.)




2024 Dates for your diary


1012 May (NOTE CHANGE OF DATE FROM THAT PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED): Our Spring Meeting this year is in Dorset, last visited by the Society in 2007, where we will be staying at the Best Western Hotel Rembrandt in Weymouth. We will be visiting Thomas Hardy's home at Max Gate, and T. E. Lawrence's house at Clouds Hill, lunching at Moreton in between. We look forward to meeting members there. Full details of the programme and accommodation are here.


1113 October: Autumn weekend and Annual General Meeting at the Park Hotel, Barnstaple. Details will be announced in due course.




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.








September 2023  The winner and runners up of the 2023 Schools Writing Competition are announced, and the winning entries are available here.




July 2023  The publishers of the newly published Finding W. H. Hudson by Conor Mark Jameson are offering Society members and other users of this website a discount of 25% off the published price – see below for details. Their blurb reads:


An imposing, life-size oil painting dominates the main meeting room at the RSPB’s base in the heart of England: ‘the man above the fireplace’ – always present, rarely mentioned. Curious about the person in the portrait, the author began a quest to rediscover William Henry Hudson (1841–1922).

This book traces the unassuming field naturalist’s path through a dramatic and turbulent era: from Hudson’s journey to Britain from Argentina in 1874 to the unveiling by the prime minister of a monument and bird sanctuary in his honour 50 years later, in the heart of Hyde Park – a place where the young immigrant had, for a time, slept rough. At its core, this extraordinary story reveals Hudson’s deep influence on the creation of his beloved Bird Society by its founding women, and the rise of the conservation movement. It reveals the strange magnetism of this mysterious man from the Pampas – unschooled, battle-scarred and once penniless – that made his achievements possible, and left such a profound impression on those who knew him.

By the end of his life, Hudson was a household name through his luminous and seminal nature writing, and the Bird Society had at last reached the climax of a 30-year campaign, working to create the first global alliance of bird protectionists. A century after Hudson’s death, this is a long-overdue tribute to perhaps our most significant – and most neglected – writer-naturalist and wildlife campaigner.






April 2023  


shadow cover small  

The Society is delighted to announce the posthumous publication of Richard Williamson's A Shadow in the Clouds: Looking for the snow leopard in Afghanistan (Skirr Books, paperback, 273pp, £6.50). The book tells the story of Richard Williamson’s extraordinary journey to the Wakhan area of eastern Afghanistan in 1972. Undertaken at less than a week’s notice at film producer David Cobham’s request, Richard’s brief was to explore the possibilities of the BBC sending out a camera team to the area, liaising with a scientist already in the field, and to write a shooting script for a film about the Marco Polo sheep and the fabled snow leopard in the Pamir Mountains. He accompanied a small hunting party, the last of the season before the winter snows arrived, travelling first by truck, then horses, and finally yaks to reach their primitive camp, high in the Pamirs, where the cold and altitude sickness took its toll. Richard vividly describes not only the privations suffered by the party, but the natural world around them, in which he alone seems interested. As he writes, ‘this unexpected, almost accidental trip to the remote wilderness of the Wakhan gave me the chance to experience in some measure the hardships of the lives of the people who lived here. Above all it gave me the chance to see for myself what it was really like, to watch animals and birds I had never thought to see. But I still had not achieved my real heart’s desire – to see the creature I most wanted – that elusive shadow of the clouds – the snow leopard.’




April 2023 We have just received this news from the UK Wild Otter Trust:


There is planning for a housing development in Chilpark, Fremington, North Devon, which is connected to the Tarka Trail via a permissive path. The UK Wild Otter Trust has put in a very strong objection since confirming otters are in the area of the proposed build site. We would be very grateful for any support in protecting this iconic species.

Please feel free to read objections and leave a comment on the portal.




August 2022  Country Life, in its issue dated 17 August, features on its cover 'How Tarka the Otter changed Nature writing'. This perceptive two-page feature (pp. 62–3) is in their 'Britain's greatest masterpieces' series, and is by Jack Watkins. Included are comments by T. E. Lawrence, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy and Ted Hughes. Two short quotations give the flavour:


In the 21st century, the cameraman, both still and moving, has taken the place of the writer as the most trusted observer of wildlife. However, in the days before sophisticated photography and documentary film-making were possible, the pen was still king, which is why, on first publication in 1927, Tarka the Otter was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. . . .


The book's opening is surely among the best in fictional Nature writing. 'Twilight over meadow and water, the eve-star shining above the hill, and Old Nog the heron crying kra-a-ark! as his slow dark wings carried him down to the estuary' is so visual and true that it says more than hours of wildlife film.




February 2022 


Flights of the Mind small   

Just published is Richard Williamson's first collection of poetry, Flights of the Mind, published by Yew Tree Publishing (paperback, 72 pages, £3.00). The 68 poems contained in his book form an anthology of his musings about nature – dormouse, butterfly, clouds – but chiefly about birds: their lives, habits, and myths. Pam Waugh, an early reviewer, writes: 'Richard’s powers of observation are without equal. As a lifelong naturalist his knowledge and experience of birds has developed from early childhood. He knows how birds live and die, how they react, their fears and their joys. He will transport you into an atmospheric world of different landscapes, full of the colours of night and day, dawn and dusk; sometimes a corner, quiet and peaceful, sometimes a vast and wild space. Often you will hear music. In the midst of these vivid landscapes you will find birds – a very wide range of birds. Richard’s poetry is enhanced by the inclusion of seven beautiful linocuts by his friend John Davis, each one illustrating a poem.'


David Macfarlane, who saw an early draft, commented: 'What I read was a revelation to me. I was amazed at the range, and completeness, of Richard’s observations, revealed in the several formats to broaden the range and appeal of his work. In short, I quickly realised the uniqueness of vision and wider appeal [of the poems than to just] an audience of bird watchers.'


The collection is available now through the Society (click on the link above)





February 2022  Paul Reed, well-known military historian and long-time member of the Society, has released a new podcast, Henry Williamson's War. At an hour long, this is a lengthy podcast, but it is an excellent survey of HW's war and his 'war books', particularly the five books of the 15-volume Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series that cover the Great War: How Dear is Life, A Fox under My Cloak, The Golden Virgin, Love and the Loveless, and A Test to Destruction. Paul considers HW to be


a master of description, a great writer, a truly great writer, who described the battlefields, he chronicled them through his Ancient Sunlight saga in a way that few have done. Williamson was, for me, and always will be, that great chronicler of the Old Front Line.





December 2021 Charles Tunnicliffe at 120: Macclesfield, birthplace of Tunnicliffe in 1901, is holding Inspired by Nature, #Tunnicliffe120, an exciting programme of events across the town, from 1st December 2021 through to Spring 2022, that puts a spotlight on the creative life of one Macclesfield’s most famous sons.


Macclesfield Town Council, Cheshire East Council, The Silk Museum, LIT festival, Cheshire East Library, and Cheshire Archives and Local Studies are working together to present exhibitions, talks and creative workshops that explore Tunnicliffe’s passion for nature and bring it up to date with a VR trail, a flora and fauna light trail across the town centre, plus a schools’ competition. Full details of these events are given via the link above.





June 2021 The results of the Henry Williamson Society's biennial Schools Writing Competition for 2020: we are pleased to publish on our website the winning entry and the two runner-up entries. Our congratulations to the three entrants, and our thanks to all who took part.





22 February 2021 Newspaper sighting: 'Book a Stroll!', in 'i': a two-page spread in which Henry Eliot 'offers six ideas for indulgent armchair excursions, together with suggested walking routes'. One of the six walks is at Great Torrington, Devon, based on Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, with the following (not entirely accurate) description:


After serving as a machine-gunner in the First World War, during which he suffered trench foot, dysentery, anaemia and gassing, Henry Williamson moved to rural North Devon, where he lived for the rest of his life. His most popular book is Tarka the Otter, which describes Tarka's short, perilous but beautiful life in "the country of the two rivers".


Where to walk: Visit Beam Aqueduct, where Tarka is born, and explore the River Torridge, following the Tarka Trail north to Braunton Burrows and Morte Point on the coast. Look out for oolypuggers, (bulrushes); pollywiggles (tadpoles); and appledranes (wasps buzzing inside a ripe apple.


Henry Eliot is the presenter of a new literary podcast, 'On the Road with Penguin Classics'.





February 2021 New in our online shop is the National Portrait Gallery's postcard of Edward Seago's 1942 iconic portrait of Henry Williamson. Available in packs of 10 at only £1.50 plus postage and packing.





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.

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