For Edward Thomas, Richard Jefferies (1848-87) was more than a nature writer: he was a guiding spirit of the English landscape who affected a profound influence upon Thomas' own writings. From his boyhood days, Thomas regarded Jefferies' The Amateur Poacher (1879) among his favourite books for its eerie capture of 'the free air-open', and as Thomas himself grew into an adept chronicler of the English countryside he would return to his mentor with this astute critical biography. First published in 1909, Richard Jefferies is a subtle account of the nineteenth-century writer's life and an illuminating study of a body of work which Thomas once described as 'a gospel, an incantation'.
Edward Thomas was born in Lambeth, London, in 1878, and educated at St Paul's College and Lincoln College, Oxford. Though his reputation is built on his poetry - which he took up at the suggestion of his friend Robert Frost - he was also a prolific writer of prose, much of it dedicated to capturing his love of the English countryside. Thomas voluntarily enlisted in the Artists' Rifles in 1915 and was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1916. He was killed in action at Arras on 9 April 1917. He is buried in France and commemorated in Westminster Abbey.