Newly discovered photographs by poet Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas is known for his poems written as World War One raged across Europe, including the bucolic and beguiling Adlestrop. Yet a recent discovery by photographer Rob Hudson has revealed a delightful set of photographs taken by Thomas on a 130-mile bicycle ride from London to the Quantock Hills in Somerset.
The journey was made in 1913 and recorded in Thomas's book In Pursuit of Spring, considered by some his best work of prose. The journey was his way of reconnecting with the countryside following a period living in the capital.
The pictures are snaps of the road, yet the passage of a hundred years of history changes our perception of them. The last breath of a country about to change forever, or a romantic wish for something lost, perhaps.
"The power of this tale lies in its moment in history, Easter 1913, just before the outbreak of World War One," says Hudson.
"While there were suspicions of war, Thomas was certainly unaware of the terrible tragedy that was about to engulf the world."
Thomas himself would be killed at the Battle of Arras on 9 April 1917 - Easter Monday - just a few months after arriving in France. His death was all the more tragic as he was not required to sign up, being 37 years old and married. Yet, like many, he felt the need to act.
Hudson says: "When asked why he'd enlisted, he reputedly picked up a handful of soil, and said simply, 'For this.'"
Rob Hudson's discovery of these pictures hidden among the manuscripts of the Edward Thomas Archive adds another layer to Thomas's life, offering a chance to see the things he experienced on that journey, the villages and points of interest that sparked his pen into action.
Hudson remarks on the quality of the images.
"Even the visual failings add to the poignancy. The darkness of some of the early images (a result of poor weather or technical errors?) creates for us, with the benefit of hindsight, a feeling of foreboding.
"As the journey progressed and the weather improved the photographs noticeably lighten.
"This was surely not intentional, but it does add to our viewing experience from the perspective of history.
"These are shadowy glimpses into the mind of the photographer and history obscures as much as it adds the false perspective of time."
Here is a small selection of pictures from the series that have been reprinted in a new version of In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas, published by Little Toller Books.
In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas is published by Little Toller Books. All photographs courtesy Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University, and the Estate of Edward Thomas.