[Henry Williamson, English author best-remembered for his 'Tarka the Otter'.] 77 pages of typescript from ‘A Fox Under My Cloak’, the fifth novel in the sequence ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight’, with extensive autograph emendations and deletions.

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), English novelist best-remembered for his 'Tarka the Otter'
Publication details: 
Undated. In envelopes with postmarks of 10 March 1955 (Georgeham) and 15 March 1955 (Barnstaple). The second with his autograph address: 'H. Williamson / Georgeham, N. Devon.'
SKU: 24763

Asee image of[339]See Williamson’s entry by his daughter-in-law Anne Williamson in the Oxford DNB, together with her 1995 biography of him. The present tranche of material gives a marvellous insight into the working processes of a fine - perhaps even a great - English writer, in addition to showing the gestation of one of the finest novels of the First World War. ‘A Fox Under My Cloak’, published in 1955, is the fifth volume of the fifteen semi-autobiographical parts in the sequence ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight’ (1951-1969), described by George Painter as ‘the great historical novel of our time’. The material consists of a total of seventy-seven 4to pages of heavily-reworked typescript, along with a single page of autograph text and a typed page carrying a divisional title, with each of the 79pp. on a separate leaf. The material comprises Williamson’s autograph (and occasionally typed) emendations to various passages in an earlier typed draft, from the first chapter of the novel to the twenty-fifth (of thirty), and constitutes in total around 10 per cent of the entire novel. At the end of this description is a list of the typescript paginations (hereafter TS), several of which are amended in autograph, together with the corresponding paginations in the published version (PV). The material is in two 4to envelopes (both recorded delivery, with red wax seal), each addressed (one in autograph, the other printed on a label) to 'Mrs Tippett / East Barton / North Petherwin / Launceston / Cornwall'. (In her 1995 biography Anne Williamson notes that at this time Williamson 'had two typists working for him [..] It would seem that Elizabeth Tippett did the first typing from the manuscript and perhaps major revisions'. Williamson himself is quoted as characterizing Tippett as 'percipient'.) Both envelopes with stamps and postmarks, the first (containing 43pp of typescript) dated 10 March 1955 (including the autograph page and divisional title); and the second (containing 36pp) 15 March 1955. The second envelope also contains the corresponding 36pp of revised typescript, each page on a separate leaf. Neither envelope carries any covering letter, although the first envelope does contain one page, 322A, headed with pencil instructions for ‘Mrs T’, and the reverse of the autograph page it contains has a note from Williamson to himself: ‘Insert scene with Viccy & Bee at loggerhead: & the bedroom scene.’ The emendations throughout are extensive, with deletions in red and blue pencil, autograph emendations in red, black and blue ink, occasional typed emendations in red, and additions in the margins and at the foot of pages. There is some evidence that further minor changes were made in proof, which makes the present material all the more valuable. The longest passage among the material is a reworking of almost all of Chapter 9, ‘In Clover’ (PV pp.129-142), whose sixteen pages of heavily-amended typescript are followed by a page of original autograph text for insertion on the last page, present on p.141 of the published version. The following examples give some indication of the extensive nature of Williamson’s revisions. The most heavily-revised page is 168D(b), with the following passage entirely deleted from the text as it appears at PV p.137 (additions are given in square brackets): ‘[...] magazine stories he had read, always the hero tipped lavishly / the old family retainer / on departure. The butler took his hat, and led him to a large room, opening the door, [to] standing back, [there] and saying discreetly, “Mr Maddison, Madam!” and he was walking forward to shake Aunt Beatrice by the hand. Then Aunt Viccy, [thin and] pale as ever, who was sitting beside a log and coal fire with [in] a polished steel hearth, [gave him her hand, and a slight smile. “Well Phillip, so you’ve come back from the war. Let me look at you. Are you quite recovered?” Her voice was gentle, but he] could not be [feel] at ease. He stuttered when Aunt Viccy spoke to him. Aunt Bee looked much older than he had remembered her; her face was bigger, so were her arms; and he saw [he spoke, sitting on the edge of a chair by the fire, conscious of] the smoothed out wrinkles on her eyes the skin around her [Aunt Beatrice’s] eyes, which were [eyes. They were eyes] of a startling [frightening] china-blue, and frightening because [they] [the eyes above her smiling mouth, as she held his hand, they revealed, like the eyes of Helena Rolls, also of that rare blue,] clear and limpid, and showing the terrible he thought, the luring and ever-eluding [inscrutable] soul of Woman. Her [The] skin [of her face] was very smooth, [like the slender white skin of her wrist and forearm. He felt small, almost guilty, as she looked at him, so gently; he felt, in a way, nearer to Aunt Viccy, who was not so affectionate in her regard, but kindly. He felt rigid, he spoke jerkily, trying to overcome his uneasiness. Everything was too comfortable.] as though she washed her face only in milk. He did not know why he thought that at the moment of seeing the beautiful Honey Bee, as Father sometimes spoke of her, and was astonished when, later that night, she told him that she had never washed her face in water, or used soap, since she was a “Cornish urchin”, but always in milk.’ Another significant deletion, TS p.168H, from text as present, PV p.140: ‘[...] him, In the old days, Little Freddy had ignored him. [not noticed him very much, if at all; now he said, “Hullo, aren’t you he Chap who challenged Carpentier in the trenches?” Without aiting for a reply, he went on to explain as he flipped] / “I’m not fit” he said [explained], flipping a violet cachou into his mouth, [that he was not fit.] “Otherwise I’d have gone long ago. Glad to be home again?” [Well Hollis, I’ve got a fine proposal for you -”] / Uneasy in the presence of the three men, [Little Freddy,] yet gratified that they were [had not tried to take] taking notice of him, Phillip raised his bowler and departed, [remembering just in time to give a] giving a wave of the hand to Edgar [as he went] through the glass door.’ The page of autograph, headed ‘Insertion on page 168-H at [point]’ is of the text published on p.141 from ‘“What’s the matter, are you feeling under the weather?”’ to ‘Well, you will have’. It is not a fair copy, and carries a number of additions and deletions. One sentence, which is not marked for deletion, does not feature in the published version: ‘Perhaps it as [something] to do with “the goddess”.’ A good example of a reworked passage is on TS p.474. The original typescript reads: ‘No-one on the staff in a balls-up like this can have the slightest idea of what is happening beyond rail-head. I aksed the Colonel to let me take the company along the empty trenches to the Bois Carre, and to hell with all staff orders, on the principle of Nelson and his blind eye at Trafalgar; and what is the result? I am saying nothing against Colonel Mobray. He is a white man. Help yourself to a swig of old man whiskey. Boon! Send for Boon, s’ar major. Another bottle, Boon.”’ The autograph revision is at PV p.317: ‘So I asked permission to lead all available reserves through the Bois Carré, and so get behind the Lone Tree position, and pinch it off. And what was the result? Pass me the bottle. Hell! Who’s drunk it? Boon! Boon! Where the devil is Boon? Send for Boon, s’ar major!” / “Here, sir!” / “Good. Another bottle, Boon.”’ A final example of Williamson’s revisions is at TS p.489. The original typescript reads: ‘reinforce the front” said Phillip. “I’ll return to Le Rutoire, and report that you have gone on. I’ll tell you -- send a runner to Lone Tree, hen you have reached your objective, that is, reinforced the firing line, whatever it is -- send a runner, no two runners at a hundred yards interval between them -- to Lone Tree, to await orders from your Adjutant. I will confirm this arrangement to your Adjutant. I’d come with you no, but I’m supposed to be attached to the Royal Engineers, and ought to report the condition of my emplacements. For all I know, my C.O. will put me under arrest for not having taken my gas blokes back this morning.” / “Oh hardly that, surely? By the way, aren’t these our prisoners?”’ The extensive autograph revision of this passage is to be found at PV p.326, between ‘the Lens-La Bassée road’ and ‘aren’t these your prisoners?’ To end these examples, a couple of interesting deletions. Firstly, from TS p.164, to a passage published at PV p.131: ‘“[...] the whizz-bangs are the only whistling I ever heard in France.” [...] “I was out quite near Bairnsfather. He began to draw his stuff first on the walls of Russian Farm, behind Plugstreet, near La Hutte Château near Wulverglem.” / “Ah, that explains your toasting fork joke, sir!” / “What I would like, if you have it, is a good strong coke bucket.”’ And this deletion, TS p.528, ends the examples: ‘He’s with the Brigadier --” [“Strawballs” took Phillip to the Brigadier.] / “Crasher” looked very old and bloody irritable, thought Phillip. His brigade major, with tall crown of cap, long nose, and long face with wispy moustache, looked more than ever like the Crown Prince.’ (This was to feature before ‘“Strawballs” looked thinner’, PV p.344.) In the following, the chapter and page numbers for the TS pages are followed in square brackets by the pages the same text appears in the PV. ENVELOPE ONE (postmarked 10 March 1955): pages paginated 19 [1, 20-1], 31 [2, 27-8], 36-9 [2, 30-2], 160 [divisional title, 127], 161-7, 168A, 168B, 168C, 168D(a), 168D(b), 168E, 168F, 168G, 168H (with page of autograph ‘Insertion on page 168-H’) [the previous sections, from 161 to 168H, are PV 9, 129-42], 206 [11, 168], 212 [11, 171-2], 214-7 [11, 173-5], 239 [12, 189-190], 247 [13, 194-5], 322A, 322B, 323-4 [the previous sections, from 322A to 324, are PV 16, 241-4], 390B [17, 262-3], 402-3 [17, 270-1], 407-9 [17, 273-5], 418 [18, 281-2]. ENVELOPE TWO (postmarked 15 March 1955): pages paginated 339-40 [17, 256-7], 395-6 [17, 266], 397 [18, 267], 401 [18, 269-270], 404-6 [18, 271-3], 412 [18, 276-7], 414-5 [18, 278-9], 419-20 [18, 282-3], 452-3 [20, 303-5], 456 [20, 306], 460-1 [21, 308-9], 463 [21, 310], 465-6 [21, 311-2], 473-4 [21, 316-8], 478-9 [21, 320-1], 488-9 [22, 325-6], 519 [23, 340], 528-31 [24, 344-6], 551 [24, 356], 566-7 [25, 364-5].