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Henry Williamson Biography

(1895–1977), The Flax of Dream, The Beautiful Years, Dandelion Days, The Dream of Fair Women

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

English author, born in south London, the son of a bank clerk. He served in the army during the First World War, an experience which made him antipathetic towards his fellow men. At the war's close he was a journalist for a short time, and published the first volume of his quartet The Flax of Dream (The Beautiful Years, 1921; Dandelion Days, 1922; The Dream of Fair Women, 1924; The Pathway, 1928). In 1921 he moved from London to North Devon where he lived like a hermit and often slept in the open. This gave him an insight into the natural world which he used to invaluable effect in Tarka the Otter (1927), his enduring claim to fame. Much influenced by the work of Richard Jefferies (184887), his métier was as a chronicler of the natural world. He wrote several books which are deemed classics of animal literature, including The Peregrine's Saga (1923) and Salar the Salmon (1935). As a conventional novelist he was less successful. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he published the 15-volume autobiographical series entitled A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (195169), a politically controversial work in which the main character, Phillip Maddison, comes to espouse the beliefs of Sir Oswald Mosley, Hitler's principal advocate in Britain. During the 1930s Williamson himself adopted the Mosleyite line and at the outbreak of war was briefly interned. In counter-balance, A Patriot's Progress (1930) was among the most potent anti-war fictions of its time. Williamson's friendship with T. E. Lawrence is recorded in Genius of Friendship (1941).

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