The new book and domestic events

Sir Richard Acland
Sir Richard Acland founded The Common Wealth

14/1/44    Every now and then you ask me a question about something which I have forgotten or avoided writing about for the reason that it is too long and dull on paper. Such a one is your question about Common Wealth. Obviously this is a thing which we would examine together but also it is something which I cannot reach conclusions about myself. I think that to some extent I deliberately refrain from thought on political questions partly because I am ultimately more prepared to follow you than anything else and partly because I have an instinct that any of our political conclusions should be formed together and not separately. Having said that I personally think Common Wealth worthy of respect for its aims and principles though probably tactically rather woolly and made up of people who are mostly slightly intellectually discredited. Certainly the Tories aren’t frightened of Sir Richard Acland. I think they despise him and are morally probably wrong but in effect probably right. The fact that Common Wealth occasionally win a bye-election I think only means that people are angered and bored by the political truce and that Labour is slowly cutting its own throat.


It’s a lovely day and I’ve been round the farm with the dogs. You have no idea how lovely this life is when it is lovely – satisfactory in every way.

16/1/44    I’m immensely excited at the moment about my book – that is about the actual writing of it. I must discuss it with you because you are the only person who understands that to say what you think about yourself is not necessarily conceited.

First of all it turns out I’ve been absolutely right in putting it off so long. For two reasons. First there is now so much material the damn thing writes itself. Second one cannot write if one is being harried from pillar to post. At least I can’t. I can’t just settle down in the evening. It’s not that I need so much time to think it’s that I must have some basis of ease of body and mind before anything happens at all. Then it seems to pour out. And this is the first time for years that I can reasonably live like that. I’ve got the farm deliberately slightly overstaffed – land girls – and as there is no terrible urgency about anything at the moment – thanks to the combine and a breakdown of the crawler tractor which necessitated the ploughing being done on contract – I’m leaving the management of the farm to Highman – who I may say is blossoming under the treatment.

Nanny is here now and Win has turned out to be a treasure above all price and so with old naggy Nora away there’s peace in the house. For the first time that I can ever remember. And the book just flows. But this is what I particularly want to say to you because it’s so interesting. In as far as I can do it at all it’s a gift. You remember how surprised you were when you read A to F and how you especially commented on the facility and economy of phrase. Well I thought that out a good bit. But this time I haven’t had the time. I sit down with a good idea of the material I’m going to use but no idea of anything else and what is so extraordinary is that I then tap out – not fumblingly and with corrections but straight on to the typewriter – incredibly explicit sentences turned exactly right and full of words I hardly knew I knew. And I am as surprised as anyone else could possibly be. Of course I hope it’s true and not just me that thinks so. I wish you were here though I shouldn’t do it at all if you were. So often one achieves a sort of glow while writing which is misleading and later one finds it isn’t so good at all.

I am interested in the farm too. You see I’m sure we’re making money now but as I spend it all on capital works we don’t know it or notice it. But one day the capital works must stop and alongside of that they ought also to produce more income. Suppose that some day the question became not “Are we going to sell the farm?” but “Can we afford to sell the farm?” How very queer that would be. In the meantime I have two cars, a secretary, men to do any odd jobs, Nanny and two half-time women in the house. And in the ordinary way it would take a hell of a lot of money to earn that. And I’m temporarily (I’m sure only temporarily) in danger of becoming conceited.

book cover of Four years harvest by Frances Donaldson
Four Years harvest, published by Fabers

19/1/44   My beloved – I am working like a maniac on my book. It’s funny how things come out. I am doing a chapter on ley farming and I meant merely to say in fairly temperate words that the ley lets one down in July and August in this district. Owing to a rather good bit of quite unintended descriptive writing I’ve given an absolutely damning picture of what actually happens. And yet every word I’ve said is true and not really overstated – in fact the descriptiveness arose out of the strength of my feelings last summer. So what do I do now? As an artist (so to speak – I don’t really claim to be one) I am horrified at the idea of cutting it. As a friend of Stapes and what is more important as an advocate of the ley I’m a trifle horrified at the idea of letting it stand.

I shall in fact let it stand for the moment because I find that my artistic feelings can stand mutilation quite calmly once I get at a sufficient distance from the work. So if I decide it ought to be cut I’ll cut it later. But I do find that there is some truth in what writers often say – that you don’t completely control your own output. It leads off by itself in the most surprising way and if you wrote the same chapter on a different day you might get quite different results. I feel one ought to have one’s horoscope worked out before starting.

I’ve taken a day off from the book today as, as a result of my hard work, I’m rather outwritten. I’ve got Bonzo back because he would eat Pat’s ducks. Pat didn’t seem to think it would matter if he ate mine. So now I’ve got Meg, Bonzo, Bubbles who is about to have puppies and a loaned greyhound bitch called Minta who killed Tinker Rouser Edward Stubbins (kitten) with one crack of her alligator jaws and so is not too popular.

I wish you could see the children right now. They are at the best they have ever been (though T. has started being bossy with the men again and made Highman lose his temper the other day which is a thing it is given to very few people to do. One queer thing is that you don’t know Highman who is about the most loving, genial, loveable, faithful, hardworking, loyal and heavenly employee you’re ever likely to have.)

Thomas and Rose Donaldson standing by the car
Thomas and Rose standing by the car

21/1/44    Thomas went off to school today. You will be relieved to hear that he was quite pleased to go. The holidays though very good were rather long and he was getting bored. Rose had to have a treat because I wouldn’t take her with us and T. said to Nanny “I don’t really mind if you give her two treats if you can think of them because I know I shall have lots of fun”.


I was thinking last night about the nightmare quality life always has. I was in bed. I was very comfortable and the light was still on and the room is very pretty and yet there was something wrong and I had a very well known sense of un-ease. And it was simply that you weren’t there. And I am always haunted by this feeling so that I can practically never say I am happy. And it seems all wrong and a thoroughly bad experience. Do you think the time has now come when you can push to get home in the sort of way you never would have before? Almost everyone who gets home has I find and is quite honest about it.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Woman's War