In 1980, after I’d spent time studying in York, England, my sister gave me a copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. I’d kept diaries on and off over the years and continue to do so today, but nothing will ever match this masterpiece filled with poetry, personal observations and thoughts, plus enchanting watercolors.
Written in 1906, the book wasn’t actually discovered and published until 1977. Ms. Holden passed away in 1920.
Printed on yellowish paper, each page has darkened edges that give the reproduction an aged appearance–making me feel as if I’m holding the original in my hands.
She included her daily wonders and wanders, and poems and quotes that caught her whimsy. She was a teacher and a thinker who captured the physical world of the flora and fauna that surrounded her and combined it with a sprinkle of her own soul.
On the opening page for March, she quotes Bryant:
“The story March is come at last
With wind, and cloud, and changing skies;
I bear the rushing of the blast
That through the snowy valley flies.
Ah! passing few are they who speak
Wild stormy month in praise of thee;
Yet though they winds are loud and bleak
Though art a welcome month to me.
For thou, to northern lands again
The glad and glorious sun dost bring
And thou hast joined the gentle train,
And wear’s the gentle name of Spring.
And in thy reign of blast and storm
Smiles many a long, bright summer day
When the changed winds are soft and warm
And heaven puts on the blue of May.”
As I sit here this morning , I gaze upon trees whose limbs are embraced in snow and twigs glazed with a coating of ice while the rain falls. Since daybreak, the male cardinal has been singing at regular intervals. On March 12, 1906, Ms. Holden noted: “After a wet, windy day, we wake this morning to a regular snow storm, the air was full of whirling flakes, but in the midst of it all I heard a Sky-lark singing.”
Though she doesn’t know it, Ms. Holden has long been one of my mentors as she explored, catalogued and enjoyed nature. I can only hope to continue to pursue the daily wonderment she knew so well in my own way. I’m grateful to her and to her family for publishing the book posthumously. (Apparently there is a new edition, but I love my 1977 version) And to my sister for giving me this gem so many years ago.
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, written and illustrated by Edith Holden, published 1977, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.