Flora Thompson

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Flora Thompson
Born Flora Jane Timms[1]
(1876-12-05)5 December 1876[1]
Juniper Hill, Oxfordshire, England[1]
Died 21 May 1947(1947-05-21) (aged 70)[1]
Brixham, Devon, England[1]
Resting place Longcross Cemetery, Dartmouth, Devon, England[1]
50°20′55″N 3°35′48″W / 50.348601°N 3.596723°W / 50.348601; -3.596723
Employer Post office
Known for Author and poet
Notable work Lark Rise to Candleford
Spouse(s) John William Thompson[1]
Children 2 sons and 1 daughter

Flora Thompson (5 December 1876 – 21 May 1947) was an English novelist and poet best known for her semi-autobiographical trilogy about the English countryside, Lark Rise to Candleford.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Thompson was born Flora Jane Timms in Juniper Hill in northeast Oxfordshire, the eldest child of Albert and Emma Timms, a stonemason and nursemaid respectively.[1] Albert and Emma had twelve children, but only six survived childhood.[2] The young Flora's early education was at the parish school in the village of Cottisford where she was described as 'altogether her father's child'.[3]

In 1891, at the age of 14, Flora moved to take up a position as counter clerk at the post office in Fringford,[1] a village about 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Bicester, under the tutelage of the postmistress, Mrs Kezia Whitton.[4][5] She later served at various other post offices, including offices at Grayshott, Yateley, and Bournemouth.[6][1]

In 1903 she married John William Thompson, a post office clerk and telegraphist from the Isle of Wight,[1] at Twickenham Parish Church,[6] after which they moved to Bournemouth. The couple had a daughter, Winifred Grace (1903), and two sons, Henry Basil (1909) and Peter Redmond (1918).[7][8]

Thompson's favourite brother, Edwin, was killed near Ypres in 1916.[9]

Literary output[edit]

A self-taught and a largely self-educated writer, Thompson was thinking, as early as 1922, about writing of her childhood.[10] In 1911 she had won an essay competition in The Ladies Companion for a 300-word essay about Jane Austen.[11] She later wrote extensively, publishing short stories and magazine and newspaper articles. She was also a keen self-taught naturalist;[1] many of her nature articles were anthologised in 1986.

In 1938 Thompson sent some essays on her country childhood to Oxford University Press. They were accepted and published in three separate volumes, Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941), and Candleford Green (1943). In 1945 the books were republished as a trilogy under the title Lark Rise to Candleford.[1] The trilogy is a lightly disguised story of the author's own youth, describing life in a hamlet, a village, and a country town in the 1880s.[1]

Two of Thompson's later lesser-known works were published posthumously: Heatherley, recounting her time in the post office at Grayshott at the turn of the 20th century when several of her lifelong interests took shape, the longing for education and culture and the desire to become a writer;[12] and her last book Still Glides the Stream.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

H. J. Massingham said of Thompson in 1944, "...she possesses the attributes both of sympathetic presentation and literary power to such a degree that her claims can hardly be questioned."[13] Thompson's essays have been said to reveal an impressive knowledge of English literature and a gift for writing intelligent but accessible prose for a general audience. She approached novel writing as an artistic process and her descriptions of nature are notably poetic.[14]

Thompson's biographer, Gillian Lindsay, says, "...this girl whose elementary education was not enough to allow her to take a Civil Service examination, had written a classic book, a piece of enduring literature," [15] while Shuckburgh considers that it was her 'passion and control' that made Thompson such a good writer.[12] Her entry in the ODNB says of the trilogy that "Few works better or more elegantly capture the decay of Victorian agrarian England."[1]

Thompson's trilogy has been widely used as a primary source for the social history of the period, although some historians have expressed reservations as to its validity for that purpose.[1]

Death[edit]

The death of Thompson's younger son during the Second World War affected her deeply and overshadowed her final years.[1] She died in 1947 of a heart attack[6] in Brixham, and is buried at Longcross Cemetery, Dartmouth, Devon.[1]

Bibliography[edit]

Verse[edit]

Novels[edit]

Nature articles[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Lindsay, Gillian (2004). Thompson, Flora Jane (1876–1947). The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK, Class: RG14; Piece: 8177; Schedule Number: 134.
  3. ^ Timms, Betty, More Tales from Lark Rise, The Wychwood Press, Charlbury 2012; ISBN 9781902279459.
  4. ^ Lindsay, 2007, page not cited
  5. ^ United Kingdom Census 1881, parish of Fringford
  6. ^ a b c "In the Footsteps of Flora Thompson". Dorset Magazine. 1983. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Ennever family history & ancestry: Flora Jane Thompson (née Timms), authoress". Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  8. ^ Profile, cwgc.org; accessed 18 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Casualty Details". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Lindsay, Gillian The Story of the Lark Rise Writer Robert Hale Ltd, 1990; ISBN 9781873855539
  11. ^ Winton Community Forum: Flora Thompson
  12. ^ a b Introduction, The Peverel Papers - A yearbook of the countryside ed. Julian Shuckburgh, Century Hutchinson London 1986 ISBN 0712612963
  13. ^ Massingham H.J. (1944), Lark Rise to Candleford, Penguin Books, London 1973, ISBN 9780141037196
  14. ^ Hoffman, Ruth Collette. Without Education or Encouragement - The Literary Legacy of Flora Thompson, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Madison, 2009; ISBN 9780838642061
  15. ^ Lindsay, Gillian The Story of the Lark Rise Writer - Robert Hale Ltd, 1990 ISBN 9781873855539

Sources[edit]

  • Lindsay, Gillian (2007). Flora Thompson, the story of the 'Lark Rise' writer. Bordon: John Owen Smith. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-873855-53-9. 

External links[edit]