I’m doing this at the instigation of my friend and fellow narrator Xe Sands. In a moment of inspiration some weeks back she decided to introduce #GoingPublic as a hashtag to Twitter (I can’t really explain the details of hashtags, if you know twitter you’ll understand and if you don’t it really doesn’t matter that much). Suffice to say, it is an opportunity for narrators (and, I guess, just about anyone) to record a piece of literature or poetry that is in the public domain (so no copyright issues) for people to listen to without charge – and the links are promoted via Twitter and #GoingPublic.
So this is my offering. It’s from a book I’ve long wanted to record. In fact, many moons ago I thought of doing it as a solo production and offering it for a fee for download via my website. But in the end, I think offering extracts for free is a better way of getting this ‘out there’.
Many years ago I worked for a group that took the name “Lectures at a Loss” founded by two producers at BBC Radio Brighton (Keith Slade and Ivan Howlett, both now deceased) who created shows using actors to read texts on stage with a slide show behind (merging pictures using two projectors) as well as music. There were shows about the Cutty Sark that took place aboard the Cutty Sark (a clipper ship) at Greenwich and a show about Aubrey Beardsley (an artist of the late victorian era with connections to Brighton). There was also one about Richard Jefferies that I particularly enjoyed working on (I just helped with the set up and background stuff – although in the Cutty Sark show I did have a line or two…”Millet, Sir!” was one of them).
The Richard Jeffries ‘lecture’ made a big impact on me and as I became a narrator I promised myself that one day I’d seek out his writings and try to present them in audiobook format… so far “The Story of My Heart” is the only book I have in my possession…. So here are the opening pages from that book – I strongly suggest listening to Vaughan-Williams’ composition “A Lark Ascending” while listening to this (I’d have mixed it in myself, but…copyright).
John Richard Jefferies (6 November 1848 – 14 August 1887) was an English nature writer, noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels. The novelist and historian Walter Besant wrote of his reaction on first reading Jefferies: “Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw them not.”
In December 1881, Jefferies began to suffer from his until then undiagnosed tuberculosis. After a series of painful operations, he moved to West Brighton to convalesce. About this time he wrote his extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Heart (1883). He had been planning this work for seventeen years and, in his words, it was ‘absolutely and unflinchingly true’. It was not an autobiography of the events of his life, but an outpouring of his deepest thoughts and feelings.
I hope you enjoy listening to it.