“Why do I keep this voluminous journal?” Francis Kilvert asked himself. “Partly because life appears to me such a curious and wonderful thing that it almost seems a pity that even such a humble and uneventful life as mine should pass all together away without some such record as this …”
Kilvert’s Diary was an effort to tell the story of his life as well as to picture rural society, which Victorians were prone to idealise. Kilvert’s loving portraits of landscapes and country characters were often juxtaposed with the grimmest scenes of squalor and suffering.
John Toman presents here the first thorough examination of Kilvert’s writing and offers a complete revaluation of the man and his work, tracing the literary and religious influences that brought him to write in the way that he did. This study takes account of Kilvert’s education at his uncle’s school, his reading of travel guides, his devotion to such figures as Wordsworth, William Barnes, and the Revd. Frederick Robertson, his visits to key locations, his parochial work, the role played by Romanticism and Evangelicalism in his outlook, and the significance of walking as the driving force of his writing.
For those unfamiliar with the Diary, Kilvert’s Diary and Landscape is an ideal introduction; it will also take those who already know and love Kilvert back to his diary with renewed interest and deepened insight. This new study has much to offer readers interested in cultural and landscape history, literature, religion and the Victorian period.
It is hoped that this study of Kilvert and landscape, which may be regarded as the second part of a revaluation of the diarist that began with my Kilvert: The Homeless Heart (2001), contributes to our appreciation of his complexity.
From the Author’s Introduction