her lost sequel to 'Lark Rise to Candleford'
by Flora Thompson
now republished in 1998
What the Press Say
When the young Flora Thompson took up her duties at Grayshott post-office
in 1898, she found to her amazement that her customers included Arthur
Conan Doyle and George Bernard Shaw. The neighbouring settlement of
Hindhead had attracted many eminent Victorians to take up residence,
and the telegraph machine at Grayshott which Flora was employed to operate
was their prime means of communication to the outside world.
In Heatherley, she tells us that as a result of meeting these famous
authors she ‘destroyed her own scraps of writing, saying to herself as
they smoul-dered to tinder that that was the end of a foolish idea.’
Fortunately it did not stop her altogether, and from the perspective of
some forty-five years after the events described, Flora Thompson remembers
with her usual clarity back to a time when bicycles and Kodak cameras were
just becoming popular, and she herself was guilty of crossing the strict
conventions of propriety at the end of the nineteenth century.
From the first chapter of Heatherley
'Laura Goes Farther'
Chapter heading drawing by Hester Whittle
One hot September afternoon near the end of the last century a girl of
about twenty walked without knowing it over the border into Hampshire from
one of its neighbouring counties. She was dressed in a brown woollen frock
with a waist-length cape of the same material and a brown beaver hat
decorated with two small ostrich tips, set upright in front, back to back,
like a couple of notes of interrogation. This outfit, which would no doubt
appear hideous to modern eyes, had given her great moral support on her
train journey. The skirt, cut short just to escape contact with the ground
and so needing no holding up except in wet weather, was, her dressmaker had
assured her, the latest idea for country wear. The hat she had bought on
her way through London that morning. It had cost nine and eleven-pence
three farthings of the pound she had saved to meet her expenses until her
first month’s salary was due in her new post, but she did not regret the
extravagance for it became her brown eyes and hair and would help her, she
hoped, to make a good impression at her journey’s end. "A good first
impression is half the battle", she had been told as a child, and she had
special reasons for wishing to make a good impression today, for she had
lately been somewhat unsettled through taking short holiday-relief
engagements at the post offices where she had worked and this new position,
she hoped, would prove a permanency. Her people at home were beginning to
speak of her as a rolling stone, and rolling stones were not in favour with
country people of that day. The plea that to work, even for a short time,
in one of the larger post offices was a valuable gain in experience did not
appeal to her parents. They looked upon experience as something to be
gathered unconsciously, not a thing to be sought. They preferred
permanence and security . . . .
The text above is taken from
'Heatherley' by Flora Thompson
New version ISBN 1-873855-29-X 180pp
See also information on
'On the Trail of Flora Thompson' by John Owen Smith,
and two new plays about Flora
Thompson's life in Hampshire.
Please contact me if you would like to share information
on the life and works of Flora Thompson.