(6 November 1848-14 August 1887)
Born at Coate near Swindon and educated at Sydenham in Kent, Richard Jefferies began work as Journalist on the North Wilts Herald 1866 moving on to the Wiltshire and Gloucester Herald a few years later. He married Jessie Baden at Chiseldon Church on 8 July, 1874 and they had two children.
His earliest works were undistinguished histories of Malmesbury, Swindon and Cirencester. However, he also published a guide for journalists – Reporting, Editing and Authorship – in 1873. A first novel – The Scarlet Shawl – appeared in 1874 another – Restless Human Hearts - in 1875 and another – Worlds End in 1877. The novels, and other published fictions of this early period, were never acclaimed and Jefferies turned increasingly to his nature writings and topical essays for his main income. Perhaps his first step on the road to success came in 1878 with publication in the Pall Mall
Gazette of the first chapter of The Game Keeper at Home. This established a style of writing for which Jefferies is chiefly remembered – reflections of country life, minute observation of nature and engaging observations on life. The success of Gamekeeper at Home was repeated with further serialised works: Wild Life in a Southern County (1878), Hodge at his Work (1879), The Amateur Poacher (1879) and Round about a Great Estate (1880).
His reputation enhanced, Jefferies returned to fiction with Green Ferne Farm, published in 1880 and followed this with further fictionalised works: Wood Magic (1881), Bevis, the Story of a Boy (1882), Story of My Heart (1883), The Dewy Morn (1883), After London (1885), and Amaryllis at the Fair (1887). However, he never ceased with his observational works and some of his best writing can be found in: Nature Near London (1883), The Life of the Fields (1884), Red Deer (1884) and
The Open Air (1885). Collections of his periodical essays were published posthumously.
Unfortunately, despite a life spent mainly out of doors, Jefferies was never robust of constitution. Indeed, many of his later works were produced while suffering the agonies of Tuberculosis. He died in Goring on 14 August, 1887 at the age of 38.
Jefferies connections with Salisbury are slight, but there are busts here in the Council Offices and in the Cathedral. Salisbury Journal published details of a fund established by the writer’s friend, the artist J W North, to support the family following Jefferies’ untimely death.
Looker, S J. Richard Jefferies man of the Fields. 1965.
Salt, Henry. Richard Jefferies A Study. 1894.
Thomas, E. Richard Jefferies. His life and Work. 1909.
Besant, W. The Eulogy of Richard Jefferies. 1888.