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Book Two: The Malevolent Glint




Book One: The Island Fortress:



Surely this title is derivative of the well-known speech from Shakespeare's Richard II:


This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle . . . this fortress built by nature for himself.


(It is a phrase also used by Winston Churchill.)


The section is fronted by two quotations, one from Hitler and one by Churchill. This juxtaposition from the two opposing leaders of Germany and the United Kingdom sets the tone of the book: it is a time of war, and the basic theme of the book is, necessarily, war and the cause and effect of war. (As noted, the actual quotations are discussed in the Appendix.)


A single loose page from one of the early typescripts (it has the appearance of the 1945 typing) is virtually the same as the opening of the book:



lucifer opening ts



Lucifer opens in November 1940 with a set-piece description of the Blitz, at first in general terms as heard and felt by Phillip on the farm. But Phillip feels he wants to experience the actual London Blitz for himself, and when offered the chance to go to London with Albert ('Bert') Close, a local lorry driver, goes along with him. (Bert was introduced as a kindly part-time officer during the brief incarceration of Phillip in Whelk police station. He is based on Eric Perkins, and is depicted exactly as in real life.)


This gives HW the opportunity to describe an actual raid as experienced by the two men, as their lorry slowly makes its way along the road by the docks. There is no evidence whatsoever that HW undertook this trip, so vividly described, although Eric himself no doubt experienced such a journey and described it to HW. HW is doing two things here: covering most plausibly the London Blitz 'first-hand' (which Phillip could not have done from the Norfolk Farm); and introducing Bert Close in preparation for his role later in the story.


Early in 1941 there is an official survey of farms throughout the country: farms to be graded 'A' (first class),'B' (room for improvement), or 'C' (poor). The process is described, and Phillip, feeling nervously inadequate, undergoes another of those rather difficult sets of officials tramping round his land. In due course he is notified that his farm warrants 'B' status about which he feels quite pleased, considering how bad the condition was when he took over. However he is telephoned by his neighbour, Major Case, who informs him that this is an error. Phillip immediately reacts as 'Failure'! But the error actually means an upgrade to 'A' status.


Details of this can be found in Records of the National Farm Surveys of England and Wales, 1941-43, Public Records Office, where the farm and HW are given considerable prominence and, surprising in an official report, includes mention of both The Story of a Norfolk Farm, and Lucifer Before Sunrise.



lucifer farmrecord


lucifer farmrecord hw


lucifer farmrecord hwa



The account of the survey followed by a résumé of the farm to date, followed by description of actual farm work. We learn that Phillip had recently published a book about his farm, Pen and Plough, which had had good reviews. (The Story of a Norfolk Farm was published on 3 April 1941.)


Phillip goes to London to see Melissa Watt-Wilby, now working as a nurse in St George's Hospital. They dine at the 'Elysée', where he had once dined in the First World War. There is an air-raid warning – then a BLUE FLASH: the restaurant has been hit. Melissa helps with the wounded and then returns to duty at the hospital. Phillip makes his way back to his club, but sees a crowd molesting an injured German pilot (who had bailed out of the plane that had bombed them, which has been brought down). He gets the pilot away and hands him over to the proper authorities. (Again there is absolutely no evidence that this incident occurred in real life.)


Chapter Two opens with a philosophical over-view of farming leading into a superb description of Billy the Nelson working the ancient seed-dressing machine. Then the land has to be tilled: but always there are problems.


In May Phillip notes that his overdraft was £865: HW's diary records on 1 July 1941 that his overdraft is £857 – although he can account for a definite £400 to come (royalties for the farm book). He dreads this figure reaching £1000, which would be the end of it all.


Phillip, Lucy and Billy visit 'a well-run farm' of 7,000 acres owned by a Mr Beith, as part of a government scheme: the men all refuse to go. Mr Beith is discovered to be rather autocratic.


Extra seed has to be sown on the barley field by 'fiddle' broadcasting (again, there is a detailed description). But, as always, the way of the men differs from that of the master. Lucy no longer has two maids and, apart from Mrs Valiant, has to do much for herself. Airfields are being built locally, where good money can be earned – so drawing away both men and women from farm and domestic work.


Mrs Valiant's son James is in the Territorial Army. She tells Phillip the news that Rudolf Hess has flown to England. (HW's diary, 13 May 1941, records: 'Mrs. Jarvis, tidying my room, said “Ah, I hope it means peace.”’


Phillip, writing an article on the nightingale, the 'Keatsian Bird' of the chapter heading here, thinks of his 'Gartenfeste' – his sanctuary at Malandine on the south coast of Devon: he hears a nightingale which momentarily heartens him to write, but he leaves for London, the article unfinished. At his club he hears the great pianist Moiseiwitsch playing 'The Lady and the Nightingale,' which gives him the inspiration to finish the article.


Phillip meets up with Becket Scrimgeour (based on the composer Kit à Becket Williams). (This is not recorded in HW's diary so is probably a purely fictional device here.) He then goes on to Malandine (as HW goes to his Ox's Cross Field), and on return to London has lunch with a man who is very recognisably the well-known real-life Major Francis Yeats-Brown, known as 'The Bengal Lancer' for his war exploits. (HW's diary records this on 11 June 1941.)


Back at the Norfolk Farm, Phillip finds a Yeomanry Detachment now in residence, camping. (HW’s diary, 4 June 1941: 'Such a relief from the searchlight crew!')


The novel then tells of a visit from Piers Tofield (HW's friend John Heygate), now a bombardier, to the farm on Saturday, 7 June. (Heygate did not visit in real life – this is a fictional device to keep the thread of Tofield active.) HW's diary for 7 June records:


Yeomanry officers to dinner, Algerian wine, followed by elderberry wine. Nice evening – the wine is excellent for warming the cockles of heart. Adrian Bell here, nice fellow, understands almost everything.


Adrian Bell, farmer and noted country author (and father of reporter and broadcaster Martin Bell), lived near Beccles, Suffolk, and was a friend of HW. He and his wife remained close friends with ILW and son Richard throughout their lives.


A whole chapter is devoted to the true tale of 'Hooly', the young owlet found by the children, which was kept as a pet and especially loved by Jonathan (Richard) – and for which Phillip then has to provide a constant supply of food, shooting first a sparrow, then rabbits: another time-consuming task, although Phillip, as HW, was of course very fond of this owl himself!


Hooly grew rapidly. As the black Wellington bombers began to drone in the twilight sky on their way over the North Sea, Hooly was on the roof ridge awaiting his return . . . suddenly round dark eyes scrutinised him; feathers, beak and gaiter'd legs slithered down the pantiles: and a maniac was on his shoulder, flapping and screaming for food.


It is a charming story but interlaced throughout with details of the war: soldiers in the village, the drone of bombers, and a raid by German Heinkels, with a counter-attack by Spitfires.


The 'Hooly' articles were first published in the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) 'Green Fields and Pavements' series, on 5 and 12 July 1943, and are reprinted in Green Fields and Pavements (ed. John Gregory, HWS, 1995; e-book 2013).


On 22 June 1941 Phillip hears the news from a German station on his radio. (It was fairly common amongst thinking people to listen to German broadcasts at that time.)


Hitler was sending the Wehrmacht into Russia. Once again, as on the tenth of May of the previous year, I was confounded. Hitler had done . . . the very thing he had once said must never occur. I thought of Napoleon and his fate. And 22nd June, 1812, was the day Napoleon had invaded Russia.   


This is the essence of the beginning of Tolstoy's War and Peace. This is an underlying thesis in HW's mind: 'the frustrated mind of the would-be novelist, historian of these times'. HW's diary entry for the day is a shorter version of the novel passage.


As HW ends this chapter he notes: 'While I tried to see it all as in a glass clearly . . .' This is an echo of the well-known biblical phrase: 'we see through a glass darkly' (Corinthians, ch. 13, v. 1). Indeed, the chapter heading in an early typed version is 'FAITH AND HOPE AND CLARITY'. HW always equated 'charity' with 'clarity'.


Hay-making just before mid-summer day 1941 gives an interesting record of this important season on the farm, resulting in a fine crop, 'perhaps two tons to the acre'.


Billy the Nelson (nearly seventy years old and hale, ever ready to do his best) remarked to Phillip: ‘I've never seen the meadows like this since Old Buck's time, forty years gone.’


In an earlier typescript HW noted that:


I called him 'Billy the Hero' after Nelson, in whose honour several inns and alehouses in the District are called The Norfolk Hero.


(Nelson was born at nearby Burnham Thorpe,  about 4½ miles west of Wells, where his father was rector. Today, Norfolk calls itself 'Nelson Country' in the same way that Devon is known as 'Tarka Country'.)


HW's diary states:


Gipsy said an old man in the village, looking at our meadow hay said, ‘A pity Mr. Williamson hasn't 1000 acres. Never seen the meadow looking like that since Farmer Buck's time, forty years ago.’


The novel continues with an optimistic over-view of life in general at that time: a law had been passed requiring everyone had to work, an interesting detail of life at that time.


All had been numbered, classified, regulated, and given Identity Cards. No export of money abroad was allowed. Food and clothes were rationed.


It is noted that rose hip syrup was being made from hedgerow plants to provide vitamin C, a very scarce commodity at this time, for young children, while evacuee boys help on the farm.


This chapter ends:


Now he began to feel a little tremulous, because he had planned a journey with Bert Close, and this required the use of a hundred gallons of petrol which had been allocated by the Fuel Controller at Cambridge, on the understanding that the petrol would be used 'for agricultural purposes only'.


So the book comes to 'Part Two' (of Book One): 'Woodland Idyll', fronted by a quotation from HW's beloved Richard Jefferies (see Appendix).


The following three chapters (Chapters 6–8) tell the story of a visit made to Devon in the summer of 1941 in the company of Bert Close (Eric Perkins) and his girl-friend Poppy (Kathleen Lack) in his hauliers' lorry loaded with equipment, in order to cut down trees to sell for firewood. The episode had already been published as In the Woods (1961 – see entry, where all the background is given), where it was told as fairly straightforward autobiography, but here it is translated into the Chronicle format. The actual details of the two versions are more or less the same, but here in Lucifer HW has expanded and added in points to fit his fictional scenario. The main difference is that here the journey is to South Devon and the action takes place at Malandine, in the field and hut where Phillip and his first wife Barley lived during their brief marriage.


So the trio undertake the long and arduous journey, not getting to Exeter until after midnight in the rain, and where they encounter shadowy figures, airmen returning from leave, wanting a lift back to the nearby airfield, who disappear back into the 'rain-streaked darkness'. (Readers of both versions will recognise how HW has manipulated his real-life material!) Eventually they reach the 'Gartenfeste' and fall asleep on make-shift beds. When Phillip wakes he writes a letter to Melissa at St George's Hospital, telling her he is at his field (which Melissa had visited when Phillip was previously living at Monachorum).


We read of the advertisement Phillip had previously placed in the local newspaper in order to sell his wood (as had HW in real life):



lucifer wood ad



(It is amusing to compare with the original advert – see In the Woods.)


The story follows the original real-life visit faithfully, albeit with additional material, and is altogether a charming interlude in a sombre era.


One addition is an incident concerning George Pole-Cripps and his wife – characters last seen in It Was the Nightingale (Vol. 10 of the Chronicle). The Pole-Cripps are based on Aubrey and Ruth Lamplugh, who were friends of HW in his early days in Georgeham. HW's portrayal of them in the A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight is not very flattering, particularly here, where Pole-Cripps is shown to be somewhat of a charlatan, exaggerating – indeed, lying – about having been involved the Dunkirk evacuation, with an engraved silver-topped walking stick to prove it. Somewhere within HW's archive, I recall, there is a note to the effect that Lamplugh was seen buying this stick in an antique shop in Bideford.


There were several instances of slight discord in real life which feature in In the Woods and are translated here into the story. The incident concerning Ann Thomas (who does not feature here in Lucifer) and the non-emptying of the garbage pail, which is therefore crawling with maggots, is transferred on to Poppy; at which point Melissa arrives accompanied by 'Cousin Sarah'. (Note that 'Melissa' – who is based on Margot Renshaw – was not involved in real life.) Melissa announces that she has been posted to the Far East.


The next morning they go for a swim: 'the sands were set thickly with high poles, against aircraft or gliders landing there.' The bathe is of course reminiscent of the 'midnight phosphorescent' swim that took place in pre-war Norfolk. Phillip and Melissa affirm, or reaffirm, that they belong to each other. She leaves the next morning but asks him if he would employ 'Sarah' on the Norfolk Farm to look after the horses – and in due course Sarah returns with Phillip (as happened in real life).


'Sarah' is Mary de la Casas, whom HW brought back from Devon at the end of the wood-cutting episode. She was not actually Margot's cousin, as Margot informed me rather tartly! As stated, Margot was not present during this episode anyway. Little is learned about 'Sarah' within the novel, other than that she was swarthy and foreign-looking. But at the point Mary leaves the farm, on 19 December 1941, HW recorded in his diary:


to my great relief [her leaving] . . . she was the niece of Mrs. Parker, who caused some of the trouble over the 1922 Tennis-Club expulsion misery . . . [Mary was] rude & dreary . . . half Portuguese . . . her brother was in the Prince of Wales which went down recently with the Renown, & I did my best to comfort her & said he was probably saved.


(There is a slightly intriguing thought-association here: Emmanuel, Comte de Las Casas (1766–1842) and his son acted as secretary to Napoleon Bonaparte while he was incarcerated on the island of St Helena, and later wrote a full account of the great man: Mémorial de Ste. Hélène (8 vols., 1823). Apart from HW's interest in Napoleon via Tolstoy's War and Peace, the name does raise a slight question in the mind.)


The little group return via Flumen Monachorum (where Phillip had lived prior moving to Deepwater, the Norfolk Farm), which would indeed be on the route from Malandine (Milton Sands): HW is establishing 'real' detail into his fictional tale. They break the journey at Oxford, where Phillip and Sarah stay with Martin and Fifi Beausire (HW's close friends Petre Mais and partner Jill – as happened in real life), while Bert and Poppy sleep in the lorry! Here Phillip buys four pounds of chocolate (very rare during the war), only to find on return home that it is actually inedible coloured cattle cake, of which he has a pile in the barn already! (Again, as in real life.)


Lucy is somewhat put out by their arrival, and especially by the extra guest, as Phillip's telegram has not been delivered. Phillip makes an account for the wood-cutting: there was no profit whatsoever, as in real life. (See In the Woods entry.) Lucy tells him Hooly appears to have been shot, but later he finds the bird now resplendent in adult plumage:


How handsome she was in her new browns and blacks and whites.


Hooly now flies away (as in In the Woods and the 'Hooly' articles) – but here Phillip takes it as an omen that he will make a success of the farm.


During Phillip's absence, Lucy's brother Tim and his new wife have made a visit. Tim has left a letter for Phillip, suggesting he should sell the farm now, as his sister Lucy is looking very tired. This is, of course, an indication of Tim's interference within the marriage (as Robin Hibbert indeed interfered within the actual marriage).


Part Three of Book One is headed: 'The Dark and Abysm of Time', a quotation from Shakespeare's The Tempest, while the section is also fronted by a quotation attributed to Field Marshal Jan Smuts and another from Dag Hammarskjöld (see Appendix).


The story line of the novel continues with work on the farm, with the inevitable discovery that the orders Phillip left to cover his absence have not been carried out: Billy, nominally in charge, is too young and too inexperienced to override objections from the stubborn 'old-ways' men. But in due course the harvest is gathered in. Ploughing ensues; not without controversy! More controversy, as Matt does not listen to or carry out Phillip's instructions about eradication of blowflies.


The stallion Palgrave Viking is in the district and is booked to serve Sheba and Beatrice at two guineas each (an interesting insight into the procedure). Matt and Luke both believe that mushrooms come from horse 'spawn', to Phillip's rather scornful and satirical amusement. (Interestingly, looking up the word 'spawn' in idle curiosity I found the word also refers to the white fibrous matter – mycelium – from which fungi are produced. There is also a term 'horse mushrooms' still widely used today. One can see where the old country ideas came from!)


Threshing time: Gladstone Gogney's tackle arrives, but can give Phillip three days only (as in real life). The searchlight camp soldiers detailed (by Government edict) to make up the team of twelve needed to complete the work arrive late, and work is exceedingly slow and poor. Bert and Poppy come to help, but the job is not finished in the set time, so the threshing tackle will have to come back and be set up again at the end of the month.


In early October, after a fracas over a broken rib-roller, Luke (Bob Sutton) hands in his notice. Luke/Bob had worked on the farm since the beginning, and his loss would be sorely missed. Soon after this Sarah (Mary de la Casas) also leaves (HW's diary entry 19 December 1941). Her employment had not been very useful anyway. But now she takes 'Powerful Dick' with her, to help build a wall round her mother's garden in Devon, leaving Phillip (and HW) even shorter on labour just at the time of sugar-beet lifting and all its attendant tasks. Again men from the searchlight station are brought in – some useless but some good workers. Bert Close also again lends a hand. There are further problems over threshing the remaining stacks: Gogney has to work for a 'big man', so the work does not get finished, meaning the cattle will be very short of winter feed.


A contingent of army personnel arrive and settle themselves in, against Phillip's (and HW's in real life) protest, as he has not received any requisition order. They set up camp on the Home Hills, the prime grazing area. He discovers they are supposed to be on the Sheep Walk of the marshes – to no avail. Heavy vehicles tear up the roads, making them worse than when he first arrived. Phillip, desperately tired, gets a throat infection. He sees the farm as a series of First World War montages:


In my low state – actively girding against the war and all that war is, both effect and cause . . . Uncontrollably to my mind arises the crater zones of the Passchendaele morasses: . . . an ocean storm of upheaved earth, scrolled and detonated by shell-bursts: a horror of enslaved living and the sprawled abandonment of German-British death.


Cold and hollow, set in a wasting despair, I lie in bed; but not to rest. I must work. I must write of things I've known before they are lost in death's dateless night . . . [and so the 'dark and abysm of time'.]


It is a harrowing passage.


Phillip's throat infection worsens, and the doctor prescribes Prontosil; he is soon back at work (all as in real life). The District Claims Officer arrives to sort out compensation for the damage caused by the army. The novel details the various items as they inspect the farm – and how each problem is dismissed as 'not so bad as it looks'. After initial tussle of words Phillip resigns himself to the inevitable. (HW's total damages payment was £15. He records that he had a temperature of 101º as he walked round the farm – he then seems to have returned to bed for a day or so, as the MS 'journal' notes on 8 December, 'Out for first time for over a week'.)


As the Claims Officer leaves Phillip sees Billy committing a misdemeanour, and chases him. Billy yells that he will leave and join the RAF: but when Phillip slips and falls, Billy immediately helps him up, and they make up in a rare show of affection.


Phillip decides to ask Bert Close for help and goes to the pub to find him, but he is not there. As he leaves he is set upon by five thugs, and his eyes are badly damaged: Lucy calls the doctor to treat them.


The next incident concerns stolen cockerels: P.C. Bunnied (another of HW's hilarious names!), arriving to investigate, infers that Mrs Maddison's cockerels have been stolen by Mr Maddison. Poppy tells Phillip that it was the gang who had set on him earlier who are saying that Phillip gave them the cockerels as surety against further beating (a mafia-type bribe!). P.C. Bunnied of course believes this cock-and-bull story!


With both Luke and Mary gone, Phillip has to deal with the horses, getting up at dawn to feed and water them so they will be ready for work when the men arrive. While he is dealing with this one morning there is a flurry of gunfire, as German planes attack the Camp. Young Peter comes to help, for which Phillip is very grateful. Eventually Poppy and the men arrive for work: carting sugar-beet. As they leave, so bombers drone through the sky as they depart their airfields for a raid on Germany.


After a rest, Phillip goes back out to plough: the bombers return. Phillip (tired and damaged eye flickering – note this tiny detail: it is shown to be a major problem in the next and final novel) gets his sleeve caught on the tractor wheel and is pulled off; then has to rush after the tractor to save it from self-destruction! We also read that he falls asleep in the straw in the barn while waiting to deal with the horses – and the cat always curls up with him. Such tiny details, but they all give such a vivid 'Constable painting' view of life on the farm at that time: they form an invaluable socio-historic record.


However HW was still far from well, his diary recording again on 18 December: 'Out for first time for over a week'.


Chapter 24 is titled: 'War and Peace' – and has an extra importance. It opens at Christmas 1941: the two older boys Billy and Peter (Windles – Bill – was now nearly 16, John just 14) had been working with Phillip. They have a nice Christmas, the novel mirroring but expanding on HW's diary entry.



lucifer diary24 Dec 1941


lucifer diary25 Dec 1941



Then, after tending the bullocks, Phillip goes to his own room:


to make notes for the series of novels he had been hoping to write for many years past, and which, it seemed now, were likely to remain unwritten.


There follows a ruminating philosophical passage on the decay of his garden (Hammett, who looked after it, has died), his farm, the 'Island Fortress' (the overall title of this Book One) and, of course, Europe.


HW's diary entry for New Year's Eve shows that he was reading War and Peace, and I would presume that he had been doing so while off sick. For Phillip this is a 'first reading'; but HW himself had read the book many years before, when writing his 'Reality in War Literature' essay (see Linhay on the Downs, 1935), as references there show. Here he is thinking about Napoleon as a part of his general thoughts summing up the situation at the end of the year.



lucifer diary30 Dec 1941a



lucifer diary30 Dec 1941b



lucifer diary30 Dec 1941c



(For work entry on New Year's Eve – more or less along same lines as book but which is a more considered passage: n.b. Full Moon on 1 January)


Three pages here in the novel give a very clear idea of his purpose for the Chronicle:



lucifer 206


lucifer 207


lucifer 208


In the 'Reality in War Literature' essay, HW hinted that someone (i.e. himself) would one day write the novel to equal Tolstoy's War and Peace. Here in his 1941 novel time (that is, before he had begun to write his Chronicle – although of course in real life he is now nearing the end of it!) he is now laying a definite claim that his series of novels will be seen as a modern equivalent. (Comparison of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight with War and Peace needs its own separate attention in due course.)


Phillip's thoughts turn more sombre as he listens to first Goebbels' speech on his radio and then Churchill's.


I sit in this armchair, praying for the war to end, for a miracle that will unite Europe in harmony; . . .


What truth is there in the opinions, declamations, diatribes, sneers, boasts, claims and counter-claims of the propagandists? The aetherial voices are at mortal war, and the rounded welkin bleeding  ['welkin' here is the sky].


and later:


The reading of Tolstoi's novel had suggested that no one man or set of men or group or system or financial interests were wholly to blame, but that the causes of war were incalculable in Time. . . .


Some writer of genius . . . would re-create the miseries and hopes of the times as did Tolstoi . . . that Russian nobleman shut himself away for over five years . . . to bring alive within the pages of his story the peasants and the landowners, the ministers and the priests, the battles and the sufferings, the lovers and deaths and joys and tragedies of an entire Russian generation: more, of an entire European age.


He further emphasises:


If I do not survive this war, who will write a novel of our times, transcending War and Peace?


The chapter ends with further rumination on what such a book must consider: 'My unknown writer . . .



lucifer 222



All these thoughts on War and Peace appear to have been added at the actual time of writing Lucifer, that is, during 1965–66: they do not appear in the original 1941–43 manuscript novelised journal, nor in his actual diary which, after detailing the Japanese invasion and the fall of Penang etc., ends somewhat more optimistically.


Part Four of Book One  is headed 'A Cads' War', and fronted with a quotation from Callander, The Athenian Empire and the British (op. cit.) and another from Lord Moran (see Appendix).


HW skips over January: his diary records it as being very cold, born out by a news cutting pasted in.


This meant little farm work got done, and feeding live-stock was a very difficult operation. He complains of feeling ill, and is very depressed about news of the frighteningly rapid advance of the Japanese in the Far East. He decides to have a break, and on 12 February took the train to London.


Thus chapter 15 opens with Phillip making a visit to London, where he meets up with Teddy Pinnegar (Freddy Tranter, from the First World War and the 1939 disastrous trial partnership on the Norfolk Farm). They get on well (it was made clear that the problems were mainly due to 'Mrs Hurt'), but Teddy is rather steamed up about the war situation. Phillip goes on to his club, where the mood is one of depression about the war. He meets up with Becket Scrimgeour (Kit à Becket Williams), who asks him to come for a drink at his club, and then makes a loaded vindictive statement. This former friend, bitter about his own failure to succeed, is no longer a happy man.


Phillip meets 'Francis' for lunch, who says: ‘You are a man of action as well as an artist' (thus echoing the quotation from Lord Moran which heads this section). This is Francis Yeats-Brown, DFC (1886–1944), famous for The Bengal Lancer (winner of James Tait Memorial Prize in 1930), who had written to HW after the publication of The Story of a Norfolk Farm the previous year. HW had written at the close of his depressed and anxious diary entry for 31 December 1941:


Lately I've been cheered by a message from R. Donat who wants to come and stay here: also Yeats-Brown, another fine fellow. It will be grand, after the long littleness of life here, in a dulled and suspicious atmosphere: my farm all messed up by the military, & the mud & ruts all over the road.


One of HW's main personal problems at this time was obviously the lack of intellectual stimulation: and seeing all the work he had done on the farm being ruined by the uncaring military personnel.


Phillip then continues on down to his 'Gartenfeste' at Malandine to write. News of the war is bad. (HW diary, 11 February: 'Singapore fell today'.) Phillip listens to a speech by the Prime Minister at a friend's cottage. (HW had of course continued down to his field at Ox's Cross to be with Ann Thomas in his Hut – and they listened to the speech 'in M's caravan at the top of the field': 'M' being revealed a bit further on in the diary to be Maurice Renshaw, brother of Margot, heir to his father's title, and a staunch friend of HW throughout his life.)


And as in the novel, HW's diary records The Times article declaiming the reasons or causes of the fall of Singapore, in typical journalistic fashion, which stirs up all sorts of ideas in Phillip's mind about causes and effects of the war. Phillip also listens to:


a mild-voiced man describing life in Berlin who turned out to be P. G. Wodehouse . . . Would he, once so popular in Britain, be vilified for this innocent ariel prattle?


Then, having done some writing of 'A Norfolk Farm in War-time', Phillips returns to the farm.


In real life HW left Devon for London on 24 February, and this is when he dined (not lunched as in the novel) with Francis Yeats-Brown. There is no evidence of any speakers at this event – the Lord Hankey details of the novel were possibly culled from a newspaper report; or perhaps Yeats-Brown told him the details. The next day HW attended the wedding of Maurice Renshaw. HW's diary records that he dined with Sir Herbert Morgan and Lady Annaly at Oddeminos, and again the following evening (no clue – but they must have been something to do with the wedding party). He also gives an amusing detail of getting to the wedding by car in company with Lady Renshaw, the groom's mother, and other family members – stopping off for a drink more than once and nearly making themselves late! He then returned to Devon on Friday, 27 February, spending the weekend with Ann, who was then working at the Government set-up at Croyde (which became a NALGO holiday camp later). Ann was also typing letters for Pat Service in the evenings – which caused friction with HW! He went back to London on Monday, 2 March, and on to Norfolk the next day – where he promptly went down with a feverish cold and stayed in bed.


In the novel Phillip goes down again with a septic throat – and given Prontosil again. And as son David (Robert) has also been ill, he decides that the well water is contaminated. He is further depressed by the news of the bombing of the Renault works near Paris, which causes Pétain and the Vichy government to stir up anti-British feeling.


In his weak state he takes Lucy on a survey walk of the farm: initially cheered by healthy lambs, he then sinks into angry depression on finding the corn meal has not been put into the galvanised tubs, and so has been attacked by rats, causing a quarrel between himself and Lucy. This is followed by a small cameo of a rather sleazy 'war-entrepreneur' wanting to buy the caravan stored in the Corn Barn and offering £110. Phillip does not sell.


There is then a supposed entry from his journal, recording how, finding a mess from the kittens in the larder, he lost his temper, killed the kittens, and struck his wife. This brings him to contemplate suicide. This entry does not actually exist in the manuscript novelised journal. HW has gathered together separate incidents into one passage. Things were certainly at a very low ebb at this time, due to the constant problems on the farm, combined with his own ill-health. He did at some point hit his wife in total frustration, causing her nose to bleed. He also actually contemplated suicide two months after the time here, on 3 May ('On this day I sat for 3 hours in my cottage room, by the bed, a pail and a razor blade by me, & my left arm bared.'), after a quarrel about the non-reporting of the death of bullock, which proved the last straw at a time when he was actually ill. He was suffering from cystitis with a high temperature; doctor sent for, Prontosil again, and was then in bed for about ten days.


And the novel tells us that Tim Copleston (Lucy's brother) filed away Phillip's confessional letter as evidence against him. There is no evidence that HW sent a letter to Robin Hibbert at this time – although there is no doubt that Robin did later (in 1945) collect together evidence to be used against HW in a divorce case.


Then, with a complete change of subject, Gladstone Gogney finally returns to finish the threshing. (Diary entry, 12 March: '“Dappy” Daplyn' – Guy Daplyn.) The seed is to be sold in the Corn Hall at Yarwich (Norwich, which is on the River Yar). Phillip, currently without a car as its engine has packed up, and not trusting Cogney, who is selling the corn on his behalf, gets a lift into the market. However Gogney gets him a good price, asking for a day's shooting in return. In real life this was slightly different, as shown by HW's diary entry for 13 March:


Edward Seago, artist, came to tea and I returned to Brook Lodge, his home beyond Norwich for the night.


(Brooke is a village half way between Bungay and Norwich: the home of Seago's parents.) HW then went to Norwich Corn Market the next day from there, and the senior Seagos took him back to the farm on Sunday, 15 March. Although there is no mention, this has to be when Edward Seago painted, or perhaps started, HW's portrait. HW stayed further with Seago and his friend Flying Officer Clegg ('Crasher') near Salisbury on 2 June, where perhaps painting continued. The painting appeared with an accompanying essay in Seago's Peace in War (Collins 1943; the essay was reprinted in HWSJ 31, September 1995).



lucifer seago



The next chapter describes an evening spent with his neighbour Charles Box, waiting for duck at the decoy at dusk. (Box is Cyril Case – for further information see HWSJ 40, September 2004, John Gregory’s essay on the farm shoot, pp. 22‒36). The scene is very authentic, and this is an excellent pen-portrait of the farmer; the conversation between the two men gives a reasoned view of things. Charles Box's advice to Phillip is to sell up.


On his return to the farm however, Lucy is out and Phillip, depressed, refuses the supper left for him (although of course that is exactly what he needs!). A day or two later, there is more duck shooting and he is more optimistic again.


We read now of the Studio, one place which gives Phillip satisfaction of a good job done and where he (as HW) could relax. Ordered to rest, and in freezing weather, he sits there and writes. But farm work goes on, and although very unwell, he has to sort out the feed for the bullocks, as Jack the Jackdaw persistently overfeeds and they are very short on the amount of roots actually needed.


Francis writes to say he wants to come and work on the farm, but Phillip knows this will not work and tactfully puts him off, feeling himself to be a failure. (Apart from being ill, HW's depression was due to the fact that he had begged Ann to come and help as he was near the end of his tether, but she refused.)


Still unwell, but with the weather turned at last, Phillip gets on with the ploughing with the help of Billy. He is cheered by receiving a cheque for over a hundred pounds. (HW's diary, 20 March 1942: 'surprising cheque from Fabers today . . . £335/4/2d. The Norfolk Farm sold 5500 copies during 1941 . . .')


The younger children now get mumps, and so he worries what will happen if they all (i.e. himself!) get infected. However they get on and sow the oats, although there is an annoying interruption as Josiah Harn insists Phillip keeps a promise to plough his land. Sowing the oats on Lower Brock Hanger goes well, all the family help and Phillip for once feels happy: this is how it should be – and the description of this mundane work makes a delightful picture.



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With this work finished, Phillip suggests that Lucy has a break with her brother in Southampton, and after a few days he joins her, having bought a 1938 Ford 8 car, almost new, as the Alvis engine is having a rebore in Yarwich. Billy is left in charge of the farm and Mrs Valiant in charge of the house. Tim and Brenda make him welcome. (HW is sliding the time sequence here – this actually happened in mid-June.) While there, they all drive to see Phillip's father, Richard Maddison, living alone on the Dorset coast (Parkstone, Bournemouth), with whom he has had no contact for some considerable time, and where Phillip hears news of the family. A young girl arrives, very pleasant and obviously a close friend of Richard.


Two days later Phillip and Lucy return to the farm and he writes to his sister Doris with news of their father, and suggests that her two sons come and help on the farm for harvest. Farm work goes well, and there is a slight air of optimism. But this is literally shattered by soldiers practising an attack with live ammunition; they leave all gates open, so the stock escape and create chaos. Two days later his harrow hits a live grenade, luckily not going off. Phillip shows it to the children with a stern warning not to touch – children are known to have died from this curiosity.


So Book One ends. It is useful to state here that in real life at this time HW was engaged in editing into book form the articles written by Lilias Rider Haggard for the Eastern Daily Press, published as Norfolk Life (Faber & Faber, 1943); while HW himself began writing regularly for the EDP from April 1943, articles gathered into Green Fields and Pavements, ed. John Gregory (HWS, 1995; e-book 2013).







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Book Two: The Malevolent Glint