The Public Mind

Edward Thomas's Social Mysticism

in Critical Survey
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According to his biographer R. P. Eckert, Edward Thomas was unaffected by the ‘social changes that seemed to have sprung up, almost overnight, when Edward VII ascended the throne’, preferring instead the work of Thomas Traherne (1637-74), ‘of a past generation, out of place in the company of modern social theory’. Writing in 1936-7, at the height of the Popular Front, Eckert assumed that ‘modern social theory’ was a front organisation for communism. Certainly, Thomas was never a ‘party politician’ – his phrase in the introduction to Richard Jefferies’ The Hills and the Vale (1909) to contrast with Jefferies’ ‘revolutionary’ commitment to the rural poor. He professed in The South Country the same year that ‘Politics … reforms and preservations … I cannot grasp; my mind refuses to deal with them’. But he also numbered himself in The Country (1913) among those ‘not indifferent to movements affecting multitudes’, who ‘may even have become entangled in one or another kind of social net’, and the circles in which he moved at Bedales school, where his wife Helen taught, were socialist, feminist and libertarian in a distinctively Georgian mode.

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