A lost classic made new

Review of “The Story of My Heart by Richard Jefferies: As Rediscovered by Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams.”

 

The Story of My Heart by Richard Jefferies: As Rediscovered by Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams
Richard Jefferies, Terry Tempest Williams, Brooke Williams
233 pages,
softcover: $21.95.
Torrey House Press, 2014.

First published in 1886, The Story of My Heart, by Richard Jefferies, is a slim, mystical volume — a nature writer’s exploration of his own soul.

Three years ago, well-known naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams and her writer husband, Brooke, stumbled upon an old copy of the book in an independent bookstore in Maine. They were immediately caught by its stunning prose.

“My heart was dusty,” Jefferies writes in the opening paragraph, “parched for want of the rain of deep feeling; my mind arid and dry, for there is dust which settles on the heart as well as that which falls on a ledge.” Who was this eloquent writer from another century, they wondered?

Their search for the answer would lead the pair to England and thence to France and the Louvre, as well as on a journey into their own hearts. Jefferies, it turns out, was an English nature writer, essayist and journalist. And he did not lack 20th century admirers; Rachel Carson supposedly kept two books by her bedside: Thoreau’s Walden, and Jefferies’ book.

The Williamses’ quest culminated in this sincerely felt tribute, The Story of My Heart by Richard Jefferies: As Rediscovered by Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams.

Jefferies’ writings, the Williamses note, are relevant today: He was a great proponent of exercise, for example, in particular daily walking, as well as of the benefits of being idle. But his real message was a spiritual one, urging the reader to “go higher than a god; deeper than a prayer.”

After each chapter by Jefferies, Brooke Williams balances the Victorian prose with a chapter of his own commentary. He sees in Jefferies a kindred spirit, someone he could imagine being friends with today. “This story,” he writes, “is about living in this modern world, vastly different from the natural world we evolved into.”

As Terry Tempest Williams writes in the introduction, readers who have never heard of Jefferies before may “rediscover what it feels like to fall back in love with the world.”

Torrey House Press and the Williamses have done a great service for the 21st century with this reissue. The Story of My Heart speaks across the ages, and belongs on the same shelf as Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Muir, Beston and Leopold. 

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...