Bog-Myrtle and Peat: “The free, far-stretching moorland—That is the land for me!” by Flora Thompson

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Bog-Myrtle and Peat: “The free, far-stretching moorland—That is the land for me!”

Flora Jane Timms was born on December 5th, 1876 in Juniper Hill in northeast Oxfordshire, the eldest of twelve children to Albert Timms, a stonemason, and Emma, a nursemaid. Only she and five siblings survived.

Flora was educated at the parish school in the village of Cottisford and described as 'altogether her father's child'.

When she was 14, In 1891, Flora moved to start work as a counter clerk at the post office in Fringford, a village about 4 miles northeast of Bicester. It was to be the first in a series of jobs at various other post offices, including those at Grayshott, Yateley, and later Bournemouth.

By 1896 Flora was a regular contributor to The Catholic Fireside on her thoughts and activities in the Countryside and many of her works from here were published as The Peverel Papers.

In 1903 she married John William Thompson, a post office clerk and telegraphist from the Isle of Wight, at Twickenham Parish Church. After the marriage they moved to Bournemouth to settle down and build a life together. A daughter, Winifred Grace, was born in 1903, followed by two sons, Henry Basil, in 1909 and Peter Redmond in 1918.

Flora was a self-taught writer but had taken some time to establish her career. Her early married life may have also required setting writing aside for some time but in 1911 she won a competition in The Ladies Companion for a 300-word essay on Jane Austen.

In 1921 she published her only book of poetry, Bog-Myrtle and Peat, and, by the following year, 1922, she was thinking of writing about her childhood in what would later become her defining works.

Meanwhile she continued to write extensively, publishing short stories together with magazine and newspaper articles.

In 1925 she published a travel guide to Liphook, Bramshott and Neighbourhood.

Flora also had a great interest and knowledge, again self-taught, as a naturalist. Many of her works on the subject were published and later anthologised.

In 1938 Flora at last sent several essays on her country childhood to Oxford University Press. The publisher accepted them, and they were 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. Together the books are a lightly disguised story of the author's own youth, describing life in a hamlet, a village, and a country town in the 1880s.

The death of her younger son during the Second World War affected her deeply and overshadowed her final years.

Flora Thompson died on 21st May 1947, at age 70, of a heart attack in Brixham, and is buried at Longcross Cemetery, Dartmouth in Devon.

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 as her lifelong interests took shape, the longing for education and culture and the desire to become a writer; and her last completed book Still Glides the Stream.

Publisher: Copyright Group ISBN: 9781787379350 Pages: 12