Richard Jefferies

If ever there was an inspired work, a real book of prophecy, such a one is Jefferies’s Story of my Heart, in which, with his gaze fixed on a future society, where the term pauper (“inexpressibly wicked word”) shall be unknown, he speaks in scathing condemnation of the present lack of just and equitable distribution, which keeps the bulk of the human race still labouring for bare substance and shelter. – Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages

After he left Eton, Salt became interested in Jefferies, and in 1894, four years after his Thoreau biography, he published Richard Jefferies: His Life & His Ideals. An ardent naturalist himself, Salt felt a great affinity for Jefferies, who had also put aside orthodox religion and traditional social and econonic views. Salt skillfully put Jefferies in the tradition of Thoreau and Shelley.

It was a model study which, decades after it was published, still helps readers understand Jefferies.

Salt seems to have enjoyed the controversy, which developed over his skepticism about Jefferies supposed deathbed conversion to Christianity. However, Salt did not lose sight of the fact that it was not as a Rationalist but a poet-naturalist that Jefferies would be remembered. Salt’s book is successful in its delineation of Jefferies as poet-naturalist.