Friday, March 25, 2016

Ben Tubbs Adventures published for the first time

Ben Tubbs Adventures is Richard Jefferies’ earliest extant work of any length, probably written in his late teens.  It is a quest novel of voyage and adventure, and his first essay in a genre to which he was naturally drawn. It was probably influenced by the greatest quest story of them all, Homer’s Odyssey, one of Jefferies’ favourite books as a boy.

It is likely that Jefferies wrote it for his personal amusement and the entertainment of family and friends. For students of Jefferies, the novel is of interest.

The humour and Ben’s pranks in the early chapters of the book are juvenile and immature but fitting for a boy’s story. The descriptions of the slaves on the slave-ships are racist in the extreme and painful to read. However the later chapters, that treat Ben’s adventures in America, show some sparks of Jefferies’ real writing talent. He describes the prairies with great sensitivity.

The book is published for the first time (April 2016), in paperback (200pp)and is available through the Richard Jefferies Society at a cost of £8 plus postage (rrp £12). Go to:  There is an excellent introduction by Andrew Rossabi and this is worth reading in its own right.

Ben Tubbs Adventures (Petton Books: Norfolk, 2016). ISBN: 9780956375179.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

John Lister-Kaye awarded inaugural Richard Jefferies Society Writers' Prize

John Lister-Kaye awarded inaugural Richard Jefferies Society Writers' Prize

Sir John Lister-Kaye has been awarded the inaugural Writers’ Prize by the Richard Jefferies Society for Gods of the Morning, his critically acclaimed celebration of a natural year through the lives of British birds. His ninth book, it will be released in paperback this week.

The Richard Jefferies Society was founded to commemorate Richard Jefferies, a Victorian writer best known for his groundbreaking work on natural history, rural life and agriculture. The Society’s Writers’ Prize, founded in memory of John Webb – lifelong lover of Jefferies’ writing, commenced in 2015, with the prize of £500 awarded for any length or format of writing on themes or topics broadly consistent with Jefferies’ writing. Also shortlisted for the prize in 2015 were Common Ground by Rob Cowen and The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy.

Gods of the Morning follows a year through the turning of the seasons, exploring the habits of the Highland animals, and in particular the birds – Lister-Kaye’s gods of the morning, for whom he has nourished a lifelong passion. It is an affectionate and wise celebration of the British landscape and the birds that come and go through the year, a lyrical reminder of the relationship we have lost with the seasons and a call to look afresh at the natural world around us.

Published in hardback last year, it has received praise from critics and writers across the industry including Helen MacDonald, Mark Cocker, Patrick Barkham and Chris Packham, widespread glowing reviews, and was selected as the Waterstones Scottish Book of the Month.

Lister-Kaye commented: ‘I am delighted to receive this award, particularly since I have been an enthusiast for Richard Jefferies’ nature writing for many years.  His contribution to the genre and to the general appreciation of our wildlife and countryside is immense, so I am very proud to be the inaugural winner of this important prize.’

John Price, the Society’s Chairman, added: ‘Gods of the Morning is a book by a man who is as familiar with his local Scottish wildlife and countryside as Richard Jefferies had been with his Wiltshire local environment; and both authors also had the ability to describe some of the local human population in deft terms. An outstanding first winner of the Richard Jefferies Society Writers' Prize, Lister-Kaye is able to convey the joy of nature in an uncomplicated and eloquent fashion.’

Sir John Lister-Kaye is one of Britain's best-known naturalists and conservationists. He is the author of nine books on wildlife and the environment, including At the Water's Edge, and has lectured all over the world. He has served prominently in the RSPB, the Nature Conservancy Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In 2003 he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation. He lives with his wife and family among the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, where he runs the world-famous Aigas Field Centre.

Sir John Lister-Kaye (left), John Price (right) - March 2016


Gods of the Morning, by John Lister-Kaye, is published by Canongate.

Hardback £14.99 / Paperback £9.99 / Ebook £12.99

Monday, February 08, 2016


The Farmer’s World (Petton Books, Feb. 2016) is now available. The book comprises all the articles (nearly 90) by Jefferies published in The Live Stock Journal and Fancier's Gazette in the late 1870s, along with a masterly introduction by Professor Eric Jones.

The articles are forthright, almost campaigning, often urging readers to reconsider their conservative ways, to be innovative, to seek commercial opportunities and to tackle waste. ‘Middlemen’ were regularly disparaged, traditional methods of distribution questioned and imaginative schemes suggested to bring producer and consumer closer together. Jefferies also displayed a surprising ability in figures and a good grasp of mechanical engineering, explaining with clarity the workings of newly invented farming machinery. The essays collected here demonstrate Jefferies’ expertise in trade-paper journalism and contrast sharply with his later, lyrical work. He was a modernist of his time, and declares: ‘agriculture has become far too wide for the brain of any one man’.

The soft-back book can be purchased from the Richard Jefferies Society for £10 plus postage.