“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
About the Author
John Toman spent thirty years in education as teacher, lecturer, and schools inspector. He is married with five children and lives in Bristol.
For many years, he read and re-read Kilvert’s Diary and walked ‘Kilvert Country.’ During the last fifteen years, he has made an intensive study of the Diary and of Kilvert’s background.
Note on Sources
1. To Mind the Living of the Dead
2. Spirit, Song and Sacrament
3. The Cornish Dream
4. The Religion of Gratitude
6. The Very Culture of the Feelings
7. Mountain Beauties
8. Superstition and Dreams
9. Mountains and Mystery
10. The Spirit of the Dream
Endorsements and Reviews
A thoroughly researched and annotated work, this book deals intensively with many aspects of Kilvert’s life and writings. An excellent work, essential for all who seek further elucidation of the times, life and work of Francis Kilvert.
John Tomam’s mission in this new book is to rescue Kilvert from this ‘niche’ status and restore him to the mainstream of literary history.
Copious quotations from Kilvert himself in this well-written book wiil help to win a new generation of readers for the Diaries.
Wadham College Gazette
John Toman’s landscape interpretation of the Diary is quite wonderful, rich in its scholarship and adventurous in its treatment.
Kilvert Society Journal
A welcome new study of a volcanic diarist … Toman takes up the gauntlet in this must-have encyclopaedic work, running to an incredible 72 pages of fascinating footnotes, citing more than 800 works.
John Toman’s Kilvert’s Diary and Landscape is the first extensive analysis of Kilvert’s prose and a detailed treatment of the rural writer’s Diary. Toman delves into the diarist’s background and influences to present new insights into the writer and the culture in which he wrote.
The Year’s Work in English Studies, Vol 90, Issue 1