I recently picked up a biography of Flora Thompson at a National Trust second hand bookshop. Many properties seem to have these now and they must generate some useful extra income. The biography is by Gillian Lindsay, published by Hale in 1990.
It is many years since I first read the ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ trilogy, very much enjoying the description of nineteenth century rural life in Oxfordshire. Since then, of course, we have had the very popular TV series of the same name, starring Julia Sawalha as Dorcas Lane, the Postmistress. Many of those storylines were complete fabrication, but the series broadly conveyed the flavour of the books, and I for one enjoyed it for the costumes and settings if nothing else.
At the end of her biography Gillian Lindsay quotes from Flora’s last book ‘Still Glides the Stream’:
“We come, we go, and, as individuals, we are forgotten. But the stream of human life goes on, ever changing, but ever the same, and as the stream is fed by well-springs hoarded by Nature, so the stream of humanity is fed by the accumulated wisdom, effort and hard-won experience of past generations.”
This quotation certainly struck a chord with me. In a sense, is this not what family history is about? Is it not at least partly about acknowledging that wisdom, effort and experience of our ancestors? Of course, what we do strive to do as family historians is to ensure that those individuals are not forgotten, as Flora Thompson suggested.
I have been fascinated to read of her life beyond rural Oxfordshire. I had no idea that she had worked in Post Offices in Essex and then in Graysott, Hampshire, before moving once married to Bournemouth and then to Liphook. I have found a link to a walk on the commons near Grayshott and Liphook, taking in the places where she loved to walk and which fed her nature writing. I hope it will be possible to follow this trail sometime. http://www.johnowensmith.co.uk/flora/florwalk.htm
Flora loved her family: her daughter Winifred trained as a nurse, her eldest son Basil emigrated to Australia and her youngest son Peter, who was in the Merchant Navy, was tragically killed in WW2 when his ship The Jedmoor, was topedoed in September 1941.
Although Flora Thompson was a prolific writer, it was not until 1986 that her nature essays ‘The Peverel Papers’ (which were originally published in the ‘Catholic Fireside’ in the 1920s) were published in book form. I was also ignorant of another book, ‘Heatherley’, which is an account of her time in Grayshott. Today I managed to find a copy on the shelves of my local library, so I am looking forward to reading it.
Flora Thompson died on 21 May 1947 and is buried in Dartmouth.