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:
http://richardjefferiessociety.org. 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.