Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Raymond Sheppard and William Joseph Blyton (W. J. Blyton) (Part One)

I was lucky recently to purchase two framed originals by Raymond Sheppard. The seller had tried to sell them at various auctions houses, but I made him an offer and was over the moon to receive them in the post. Both were published in W. J. Blyton's The Rolling Year: A Farmer's Log (London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1936). I'll feature them in the third article on Blyton. But first who was Blyton?

"Hay Harvest Home" - Frontispiece
In September 1936 The Rolling Year was advertised as "written with unaffected literary grace, as well as firsthand knowledge, the author of Country Airs, here takes you deeper into the joys and mysteries of the country's and farmer's craft, and lets out more secrets of a family's pioneering adventure". By November Blackie had obviously received reviews and replaced their blurb with the following: "somehow there seems more hope in life when one reads such a book...His is a lovely romance" - Yorkshire Weekly Post

"Market Day" p. 44
I read the book over the Christmas holiday and although it has dated language and ideas, the gist of it would resonate with current thinking - the return to permaculture, although a very modern word is obviously not a new concept. Some of the 'sketches' Blyton writes around farming life are brilliant and stay in the memory, particularly those around visitors and workers on the farm and their country ways. His descriptions and meditations of nature are thought provoking and peaceful.

So who was William Joseph Blyton?
"Mr. Blyton went off to be a farmer after twenty years of journalism, and the first book he made out of his experiences, Country Airs, was very well received. If we are not greatly mistaken The Rolling Year, which continues the record, will be equally welcome. It is a book for the townsman, or for the townsman " gone rural." I, a countryman-gone-journalist, find it rattles too "literary for my taste: it says a lot I want to know about the land and life on it, and a lot that I ought to know whether I want to or not. It is an encouraging book, too—but I'm not sure that the dedication is not the most significant thing in it: "To my Son and Daughters, who made it all possible." A word of praise is due to Mr. Raymond Sheppard for his illustrations. - Q.L."  From The Catholic Herald, 30 October 1936, p.4
"A paradise of solitude" p. 72
I did some more digging now that I had his full name and found a fascinating character. Let's start with the end of his life which was tragically short.

The Times Wednesday, May 17, 1944; pg. 7
This obituary appeared in The Times Wednesday, May 17, 1944; pg. 7 and a shorter biography in the Tablet, "the international Cathlolic news weekly" of 1944:

Tablet 12 May 1944 p250
I left the second person mentioned in the article for the curious! So we know now he was a journalist who couldn't write about the return to farming without being 'authentic' as we now say. He wrote pamphlets for the Catholic Truth Society and was quoted in the supplement to "Roads to Rome" - with the sub-title "A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day"*. Follow the link to a Word document at the bottom of that page for an overview of Blyton's catholic writings where you'll read the following and more:

Blyton, William Joseph – journalist and author; b. 1887; c[onverted]. 1923; d. 1944; worked as a journalist; until World War II a farmer in Surrey; a leading spirit in Marydown Catholic land colony; returned to journalism; editor of the Ransomer 1926-1932; wrote novels and non-fiction about country life and religious issues; writer of several Catholic Truth Society pamphlets and contributor to many journals
We know that Blyton was the Honorary Secretary of the Marydown Farming Association (Tablet 21 December 1935 p87) and that the Association started on 1 August 1933 in Elstead, near Goldalming. the history of this initiative appears to be thin on the ground but does turn up in Church, nation and race: Catholics and antisemitism in Germany and England, 1918-1939


"Spring Fever! The thunder of flying hooves" p.120
"Milking Time" p.144

"An old water wheel" p. 178
"Man doth not live by bread alone" p. 216
"The Sire of Gods and men with hard decrees
Forbids our plenty to be born with ease" p. 262

W. J. Blyton select bibliography

The Witness from Outside. [Excerpts on Roman Catholicism from Protestant writers.] London : Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, [1924]
The Law of Self-Sacrifice in Nature, Man, and God. London : Ernest Benn, 1930.
The Modern Adventure. [Essays.] London : Burns, Oates & Co., [1930] - The Modern Adventure here dealt with is not political or geographical; still less is it the 'adventure' of one sort of novel. It is the religious quest at the the core of life, so much more crucial, exciting and, to many, more tantalising. Give a man his moorings on spiritual facts and he will soon think straight on issues like world-peace, social and international solidarity, economic justice, family loyalties, and the primal decencies. He will use the ground won - not to go to sleep on, but to think and act from.
Gale Warning. London : Burns, Oates & Co., 1931.
Country Airs London : Blackie, 1935. - After 20 years of journalism, the author, a London editor, abandoned Fleet Street in order to make a living out of the land. With a family to support and a derelict farm to break in, it was a lively and highly speculative adventure,chequered by many ups and downs,all of which are described with rare literary charm
The Rolling Year: A Farmer's Log London ; Glasgow : Blackie & Son, 1936.
English Cavalcade [Essays on English literature and the English countryside.] London : John Murray, 1937.
Arrows of Desire. [Essays.] London : Hutchinson & Co., [1938] - Prewar musings on social conditions and political events and personalities
Anglo-German Future. London : Hutchinson & Co., [1939] - 185 pgs of text which was published in June 1939 and argues from the position of a supporter of appeasement or at least one who hopes against hope that war will not come
Landfalls and Windfalls: a personal record. [With plates.] London : John Murray, 1940.
To Happier Days. London : John Murray, 1941.
Cakes, Ale and Virtue. A modern's testament. London : Hutchinson & Co., [1944]

So You're Going Farming!. London : Quality Press, 1946.
English Language and Literature (The New Educational Library) by Michael Blacon, W. J. Blyton, Richard Church, Sir John Ervine,et al. London: Odhams (1948)

[CORRESPONDENCE] Young nations in a hurry,  Saturday review of politics, literature, science and art Vol: 126 no.3293 (Dec 7, 1918): p.1129.
[CORRESPONDENCE] A question of ancestry Saturday review of politics, literature, science and art Vol:127 No.3310 (Apr 5, 1919): pp.325-326. 

Journal articles and pamphlets
  • More Tributes to the Church from Non-Catholics (Guilt of Our Lady of Ransom.), 1925
  • The future of the countryside, Fortnightly review: pp494-504. , Oct 1930
  • Religion - Town, and Country. Published by Dublin Review, Volume 188, Jan 1931
  • Relativity and Knowledge Published by London: Catholic Truth Society . 1934
  • William Cobbett,  The English Review, Aug 1935
  • The Second Renaissance, The Cornhill Magazine Sep 1935
  • This was a man, The Cornhill Magazine Aug 1936 
  • Pastoral, The Cornhill Magazine Oct 1936 
  • Threatened beauty,  The English Review, Vol: LXIII No. 6, Dec 1936
  • England's Waste Lands The National Review Vol. 108:648, Feb 1937
  • Wordsworth view of Europe in 1837, The National Review Vol. 109:657, Nov 1937
  • Cindrellas of the bookshelf: I: Wander-years at home The Cornhill Magazine Mar 1937
  • Cindrellas of the bookshelf: II: Sorcery in words, The Cornhill Magazine Apr 1937
  • The English idea in histories, The English Review, Vol: LXIV No. 7, July 1937
  • Historians In The Making. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 268, 1937
  • Government And The Individual. Published by Quarterly Review, 1937, Volume 269.
  • Will Juggernaut survive?  The National Review Vol. 110:662, April 1938
  • Toll for the brave, The Cornhill Magazine Nov 1938 
  • Some Moderns And The Bible. Published by Quarterly Review, 1938, Volume 271
  • Time and Apple Platt Farm, The Cornhill Magazine Aug 1939
  • Old Germanies For New. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 271- 273, 1939
  • The Roots Of A Nation. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 271-273, 1939
  • The Response To Crisis: Some Contrasts. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 276- 277, 1941
  • Britain's Cultural past and present Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 278- 279, 1942
  • Old English: A Revaluation Published by Dublin Review, Volume 210, 1942
  • The Coming Society: A Glimpse. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 280, 1943
  • Prelude For Politicians. Published by Quarterly Review, Volume 281, 1943

Part Two of this article on W. J. Blyton will focus on the other book that Sheppard illustrated by him: English Cavalcade

*A request to Joseph Kelly to use his biography, “William Joseph Blyton, 1887-1944,” written in Catholic Life, September 2003, p.15 was not answered unfortunately. If that changes, I shall update this article
***If anyone can scan a copy of the cover of Rolling Year for me I'd be very grateful***

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