The Weekly Dispatch
THE WEEKLY DISPATCH
|Privately printed edition, 1969|
|Reprinted, HWS, 1983|
|E-book edition, HWS, 2013|
(HW’s contributions to this Sunday newspaper)
Collected, edited and printed by John Gregory, 1969 (7 copies only)
Published by the Henry Williamson Society, 1983
Revised edition, e-book only, HWS, 2013
This small booklet comprises the articles that HW wrote for The Weekly Dispatch during the period July 1920 to 2 January 1921 when employed by the editor Bernard Falk, and carefully gathered together by John Gregory in 1969, approved by HW. The background to this ‘labour of love’ is explained in the introductions to the 1983 and 2013 editions.
Having been demobilised on 9 September 1919, HW subsequently found it very difficult to adjust to civilian life, although he was already writing hard. He was in a state of deep nervous tension, verging on breakdown, from his experiences in the First World War and found life in the family home with its restrictions and criticisms extremely irritating. His maternal grandfather, Thomas Leaver, a director of a large stationery firm in Rosebery Avenue, in the Holborn area of London, approached (via a colleague, Vansittart Bowater, of the paper firm) Lord Northcliffe of The Times newspaper, and obtained for HW a job as a canvasser in the Classified Advertisement Department. HW did not find this work congenial, but it did provide him with a good introduction to Fleet Street and the ways of that world.
He was soon placing short items in various newspapers, and in July 1920 was given the chance to produce ‘On the road’ a short weekly column of ‘light car’ notes in The Weekly Dispatch; he supplemented these with other stories, some real and some made-up, and a few nature sketches under the title of ‘The Country Week’.
However, The Weekly Dispatch was in financial difficulty and unfortunately (or possibly fortunately!) HW was dismissed, the work finally drying up as the year turned into 1921. His journal records that he was paid £2/2/- (2 guineas) a week, which would seem to have been quite a good rate. HW wrote an evocative essay of his time as a novice reporter, ‘The Confessions of a Fake Merchant’, which was first published in The Book of Fleet Street (1930), edited by T. Michael Pope, and reprinted in HWS journals nos. 8 and 9 (1983/84).
This collection is of great importance in the hierarchy of HW’s writing career, and we are indebted to John Gregory for the patience, time and diligence with which he has pursued his self-appointed task of collecting together, not just this slim volume, but over many years the major part of HW’s articles and essays published in a variety of publications on an amazing range of subjects: giving us an equally amazing series of book titles.
The Weekly Dispatch articles are interesting as illuminating, as if snapshots, life in 1920, but particularly they give us an insight into HW’s growth as a writer.
The collection was revised and reissued by the HWS in 2013, with a new introduction by John Gregory, as an e-book, with the new title of On the Road, this column forming the major part of the book.
HW stuck cuttings of some of these early efforts in newspapers such as the Evening News and Observer, as well as the Weekly Dispatch – some amusingly marked ‘true’ or ‘fake’ – in his ‘Richard Jefferies’ journal, in which he recorded his thoughts from February 1920 to mid 1922, as illustrated below: