Flora Thompson


Thompson, Flora Jane (1876-1947), writer, was born in Juniper Hill, a hamlet in north-east Oxfordshire, 5 December 1876, the eldest child in the family of four daughters and two sons of Albert Timms, a stonemason, originally from Buckingham, and his wife Emma, a nursemaid, daughter of John Dibber from Stoke Lyne, an 'eggler', who took his pony and cart around local farms, collecting eggs and selling them in the market town.

Her favourite brother Edwin, born in 1879, was to die in 1916 during the battle of the Somme.  After elementary education at the village school in Cottisford she became, at the age of fourteen, an unofficial post-office counter clerk in the Oxfordshire village of Fringford.  Until her marriage in 1903 she worked in post offices in Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hampshire.

In 1911 she won a magazine essay competition and went on to write short stories, newspaper articles, and during the 1920s two long series of articles for the Catholic Fireside magazine.  In alternate months she wrote nature articles and literary pieces.  She was a dedicated if self-taught naturalist.  An anthology of her nature articles called The
Peverel Papers was published in 1986.  The literary articles were the result of her home study of literature-she had grown up during the establishment of the free library system in Britain, which she used extensively to supplement her elementary education. 

Her first published book was Bog Myrtle and Peat (1921), a volume of poems which she was persuaded to submit for publication by her friend and literary mentor Dr Ronald Campbell Macfie.  In 1938 she sent essays on her country childhood to the Oxford University Press.  These were published as Lark Rise (1939), the story of the Oxfordshire hamlet where she was born. Over to Candleford (1941) was followed by Candleford Green (1943). These popular books were issued as the trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford (1945), with a perceptive introduction by H. J. Massingham [q.v.]

Flora Thompson was a reserved woman of little confidence who was astonished when reviewers praised her work and Sir Arthur Bryant [q.v.] rated her books as high as Cranford.  The books, which have become classics of country writing, evoke the vigorous life of a hamlet, a village, and a country town in the England of the 1880s.  They are social history but also the lightly disguised story of Flora Thompson's youth.  Her last book, Still Glides the Stream, was published posthumously in 1948.

In 1903 she married John William Thompson, a post-office clerk and telegraphist from the Isle of Wight, son of Henry Thompson, formerly a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy.  They had two sons and one daughter.  In 1941 her much-loved younger son Peter was lost at sea when the ship on which he served was torpedoed in mid-Atlantic; she never recovered from this loss.  She died 21 May 1947 in Brixham, Devon.

[Margaret Lane, Flora Thompson, 1976; Gillian Lindsay, Flora Thompson: the Story of the Lark Rise Writer, 1990.]
Supplied by John Owen Smith
http://www.headley1.demon.co.uk/flora/  [information on Flora Thompson]

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