sunshine 1941 front    
First edition, Faber, 1941  

The book


Critical reception


Book covers



First published Faber & Faber, August 1941 (3s 6d)

Reprinted March 1944, March 1945, July 1947













There is no copy of the first edition in HW's archive, only the 1947 reprint, or 'Fourth impression'. It is interesting to note that although the dust wrapper makes it clear that the book is published as a part of Faber's Sesame Books series, there is no mention of the series in the book itself.



The book:


The book contains a selected passage from eighteen of HW's previously published books. (Excluded are The Star-bornOn Foot in Devon and Devon Holiday.) Not to be confused with the American edition of The Labouring Life which carries the same title (1933), this slim war-time compendium evidently proved very popular. It is one of the very few books by HW not to carry his iconic owl colophon at the end.


I have not found any information about this book within HW's archive papers, but it has to have been dealt with before HW left for the epic wood-cutting episode in Devon in mid-July 1941 (see In The Woods).  The Story of a Norfolk Farm had been published in February 1941 and was a best seller, with reprints in March and again in November (and every year of the war), while Genius of Friendship: T. E. Lawrence appeared at the end of November 1941 (possibly 1 December).


It is a most charming selection, and gives an excellent introduction to HW's work. Possibly for us today the chief interest of the book lies in the short notes written by HW which preface each selection, giving the reader a continuous biographical and working mode flow. I've given below the Contents page and the first page of each piece (the extract from The Labouring Life has a 3-page preface):



sunshine contents



sunshine 1



sunshine 2



sunshine 3



sunshine 4



sunshine 5



sunshine 6



sunshine 7



sunshine 8



sunshine 9



sunshine 10



sunshine 11



sunshine 12a


sunshine 12c


sunshine 12d



sunshine 13



sunshine 14



sunshine 15



sunshine 16



sunshine 17



sunshine 18






Critical reception:


There are no reviews kept within the literary archive. The only one that has come to my notice is unattributed (but most probably the Eastern Daily Press) and anonymous; it is date-stamped 2 September 1941:


Henry Williamson anthology


This book may be described as a Henry Williamson anthology of prose. The many people who regard this writer as a “local author”, since he came to live and farm in Norfolk, will note that the brief narrative from his recent book about that farming venture is one of the best in this new volume. It is the narrative, which readers of “The Story of a Norfolk Farm” will remember well, about a rat colony and a dubious rat poisoner who gives place to modern scientific efficiency, and behind this little story is pictured the whole scene of English farming, the decay into which it had then drifted, and the then far-off hope of better days.


For those who are not familiar with Mr. Williamson’s varied writings, this series of excerpts is not a bad introduction. It starts with an early sketch, “The Old Farm House,” progressing to “The Dream of Fair Women,” and thence to the Hawthornden Prize work “Tarka the Otter,” and his later Devon sketches. An agreeable collection, in which the thinker and theorist sometimes contrasts oddly with the man who at one time seemed set on a hermit-naturalist’s life, and a deftly chosen series of many-sided essays and narratives.






Book covers:



First edition, 1941:



sunshine 1941 cover


sunshine 1941 back




Reprint, Faber, 1947 – the same design but on cheaper paper; the list of Sesame Books has been expanded:



sunshine 1947 back sunshine 1947 cover





Back to 'A Life's Work'