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Richard Jefferies' Letters to Aunt Ellen

In his letters to Aunt Ellen Harrild, written between 1856 and 1873, Richard Jefferies recalls his memories of Sydenham where he lived with his aunt during early childhood. He recounts his uncle’s ‘electric machine’, Christmas parties at Round Hill House and visits to Hastings and Lewes with his aunt and the young Baxters. Richard also describes early bouts of ill-health – no doubt, the early symptoms of tuberculosis that eventually killed him. In others he confided his failings, humiliations, ambitions and plans as a young man. His letters reveal his naϊvety and are very touching.


Cover image of Jefferies Farm at Coate: oil painting by Kate Tryon circa 1910.


These letters are published in full for the first time with the permission of the British Library.  The book was published on 6 November 2009 in softback and includes illustrations and photographs of people and places portrayed in the letters.

Since the book was published, two further letters were purchased by the Richard Jefferies Society in 2011. An updated electronic version of the text can now be downloaded free in pdf format (1.5MB)


   Richard Jefferies' Letters to Aunt Ellen

      Petton Books

      Soft-back with 30 illustrations in black and white.

      ISBN: 978-0-9563751-0-0          

     UK Price £4.50. Second class postage UK £1. 

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Richard Jefferies: an Index of themes, thoughts and observations

Richard Jefferies: an Index of themes, thoughts and observations provides a basic index to the principal elements in Jefferies’ published work (the latter are also listed in the book in date order of publication). It is partly a word-index (e.g. names of species) and partly a subject-index (e.g. Nature and Man, Farming, Religion) – the emphasis is on the non-fictional writings but where fictional works are explored, the Index includes passages where Jefferies makes personal statements or observations that connect with his main themes.


Where possible, the Index refers to the most commonly available edition of Jefferies’ works. The book has been printed in hard-back as a companion book to The Forward Life of Richard Jefferies.


Richard Jefferies: an Index of themes, thoughts and observations

By Hugoe Matthews and Phyllis Treitel

Published in 2008 by Petton Books.

Hardback, 250 pages.

ISBN:  978-0-9522813-2-0 

Price £15.  Postage (UK): £2.50


The Forward Life of Richard Jefferies

The Forward Life of Richard Jefferies: a chronological study documents events or facts pertinent to Richard Jefferies’ life that can be dated with reasonable accuracy.  The information is placed in chronological order from the date of marriage of his parents to his death.  It is a most useful reference book and a good read. 


The Forward Life of Richard Jefferies: a chronological study

By Hugoe Matthews and Phyllis Treitel

Published in 1994 by Petton Books.

Hardback (green cloth cover), 244 pages.

ISBN:  978-0-9522813-0-9 

Price £12.  Postage (UK): £2.50


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The Interpreter: a biography of Richard Jefferies

For over forty years, Audrey Smith’s biography of Richard Jefferies has been hidden away.  In 2007 her son, John, discovered the volume of research undertaken by his mother that included this work.  He donated a copy of the typescript to the Richard Jefferies Society and noted that: “Though time has moved on, at the least the material will act as a snapshot of the state of Richard Jefferies’ studies at the time, and of course she might still have filled a gap in the knowledge by accessing sources now unavailable to present researchers.”


The Interpreter:  a biography of Richard Jefferies

By Audrey Smith

Published in 2008 by Blue Gate Books.

ISBN:  978-0-9555874-3-6 

Softback, 200 pages.

Introduction by Prof Eric Jones, illustrations & photographs.

Price £5.  Postage (UK): £1.50.


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Adventures in the Vale of the White Horse: Jefferies Land

Adventures in the Vale of the White Horse: 'Jefferies Land' by Kate Tryon

Kate Tryon visited ‘Jefferies Land’ six times in the early 1900s. She was an ardent admirer of the nature writing of Richard Jefferies and followed his philosophy of life. Having re-read his works many times, she wanted to capture scenes on canvas that had inspired the author’s words set around Jefferies’ birthplace and home – a small dairy farm at Coate set in the foothills of the North Wessex Downs. Her first visit to north Wiltshire took place in 1910. She wrote: ‘The lark, the nightingale and Richard Jefferies – those are the three things that brought me to England.’ Her ‘adventures’ are told through the third person of Eleanor Hale of Boston, albeit that some of the events relate to Kate’s later visits to the area.

 The book is a charming memoir – the writing is fluent, relaxed and often amusing. She knows her Jefferies thoroughly and her quotes and allusions are always apposite. As an American she takes a wry, oblique but deeply affectionate look at English rural society just before the outbreak of the First World War and dispenses much valuable information about the people and places she meets.   The artist’s grand-daughter, Kate Schneider, visited Coate in September 1997. She donated her grandmother’s manuscript. Sheila  Povey, who showed the American visitor around the Richard Jefferies Museum, has documented the memoir and added photographs and pictures that only enhance this delightful tale.  

The memoir is published in a limited edition of 100 copies one hundred years after it was written. There are about 100 photographs and illustrations, mostly the work of Kate Tryon herself. 27 of her original oil-paintings are reproduced in colour.  

The Richard Jefferies Society has also published a booklet entitled "Walks in Jefferies Land" by Kate Tryon that is supplied with all purchases of the book. Mrs Tryon dated this manuscript 1912 and she records that it was only half-finished. The booklet can be downloaded free here.

Adventures in the Vale of the White Horse: Jefferies Land
            By Kate Tryon

Soft-back, 240pp with 100 photographs - 27 in colour

            ISBN: 978-0-9563751-1-7

Published by Petton Books on 14 August 2010

            Price £12; UK Postage and Packing £1.50

Phyllis Hargrave's Letters to Samuel Looker



Phyllis (she never used her first name) was born on 6th December 1880 in Surbiton to Richard and Jessie Jefferies.  Along with her mother and brother she stayed with J W North at Beggarnhuish House, Somerset after her father died. In the 1891 census, aged 10, she was living at Townley Park Villa, Dulwich with her mother and brother Harold aged 15. By 1901, the address was 257 Chesterfield Road, Ashford – just Jessie and Phyllis recorded as living there.  

In 1916, her cousin recalls staying with Aunt Jessie at Bearley (4 miles from Stratford, 10 from Leamington)  – where Phyllis married Alfred Hargrave on 24 April 1916.

 Three houses in Perranporth are known to have been her mother’s home: Glen Cottage, then Overdale at Cox (that Phyllis and her husband had built for their home), and Penlu where her mother died in 1926. Phyllis moved to Seaford (Dendra, Blatchington Street) and then stayed (?) with her cousin Christine Billing (Wayside, Homefield Road, Seaford) where she finally died in 1958, as did her cousin Helen Billing who died in the same year just six months earlier than Jessie.

 Samuel Looker mentions that he corresponded with Phyllis for over 25 years (Man of the Fields, p xviii). Her letters to him are reproduced, as written, with little punctuation. She never included the year in which letters are written. As such the years given are best guess estimates. The collection was amongst the Looker archives purchased by the Richard Jefferies Society in November 2011 from the wife of Looker’s grandson.

The letters are available as a pdf file here (1MB).


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