Sunday, 15 May 2011

Other People's Stories

When you have a lasting friendship with someone, you cannot help but be drawn into their lives. Their history becomes your history, in part. Just as your history sometimes becomes drawn into other people's lives. When I volunteer at the "Big House" I find myself being drawn into its history, as inexorably as ice cream melts in the sun. Without history, the house is just a shell. I try to make it come alive for the people who visit it and know nothing of its past.

Just so are we drawn into the lives of people we read about - probably why there is such a celebrity cult these days - not that that interests me one jot, as I am forever drawn backwards into the past. Read enough about someone's life, and you begin to identify with them, feel that you know them, experience what they did, through their writing, their letters, their emotions.

I am currently a besotted fly on the wall in Edward Thomas's life, reading as much about him, by him, as I can, to try and understand him, for he was a very complex character. The more I read, the closer I feel to his time and place, though not necessarily to his enigmatic character, which was ever clouded by the darkness of his depression.

Thomas Hardy fascinates me, but in a totally different way. I feel distanced from him, as a person, but connected to him through place - areas of Dorset which are very familiar to me. Folk history too, which is drawn through the fabric of his writing like fine lace through a wedding ring.

So it mattered to me to visit Thomas Hardy's childhood home recently (and Stinsford, where his heart, and his family are buried and which will be tomorrow's post), and I am currently on a sort of pilgrimage of places near to me in Wales which Edward Thomas knew and loved and I will share in due course - though I am beginning to think he needs a blog to himself!


  1. You have stated this very well--as usual. It can be almost painfully intimate to read the journals or essays of a beloved writer or historical figure. Reading the three huge volumes of Lucy Maude Montgomery's journals did that for me--a much more complex and darker character than her stories for young people would have indicated. It is hard to come "back to earth" after immersing oneself into such a peron's life.
    I look forward to more of your thoughts.

  2. Although I enjoy Edward Thomas' writing I actually know very little about him as a person, hopefully I shall get to know him better through your posts. Hardy doesn't attract me at all but the countryside where he lived does, I visited Stinsford church while I was in Dorset and it will be interesting to read your post as other people always see things and places differently which can give a different perspective. It is absolutely true that you get drawn into people's lives once you start to learn about them, I've always found this with family history, my own and other people's as well. Great post Jennie.

  3. Thank you both. At present, I find it very difficult to fix myself in the real world as in my head I am living 100 years ago - it is as if a bramble in his soul has snagged part of mine and will not let go.

  4. The Adlestrop man? I THINK that's all I've ever read. Maybe I should go looking for more.

    It always fascinates me when someone becomes wrapped up in a writer's works and life because I think you can tell who you can get on with if you look at the books on their bookshelves.

  5. Aye - interesting post BB. Not someone i know a lot about. I'll be interested to read what comes next.

    {Love the wild garlic photo header by the way!}