Richard Jefferies: A Miscellany
John Richard Jefferies (6 November 1848 – 14 August 1887) was an English nature writer, noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels. His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction. Jefferies was often compared with the great English nature writer, Gilbert White.
To some people he is more familiar as the author of the children’s classic Bevis or the strange futuristic fantasy (and now a cult book) After London while he also has some reputation as a mystic worthy of serious study. Since his death his books have enjoyed intermittent spells of popularity, but he is still largely unknown. Jefferies, however, has been an inspiration to a number of more prominent writers and W.H. Hudson, Edward Thomas, Henry Williamson and John Fowles are among those who have acknowledged their debt to him. Interestingly, when Robert Macfarlane asked Guardian readers in 2005 whom they would nominate to form a ‘library of British nature writers’, Jefferies was by far the most nominated.
A collection of his writing to introduce him to the wider public is well overdue, and the editor of this Miscellany, Andrew Rossabi, is by far the best placed to undertake this work. Although the most famous biography of Jefferies is that written by Edward Thomas and published in 1909, Rossabi has recently (2017) published the first volume (of 3) of what will surely be the definitive biography of Jefferies: A Peculiarly English Genius: A biography of Richard Jefferies. The selection of Jefferies’ work that he has collected in this volume will surely help re-establish Jefferies as one of the greatest writers in this genre.