Richard Jefferies

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So long as men firmly believe that everything is fixed for them, so long is progress impossible.

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. His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction.



The Amateur Poacher (1881)


Full text online at the Internet Archive, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1881.

  • Let us get out of these indoor narrow modern days, whose twelve hours somehow have become shortened, into the sunlight and the pure wind. A something that the ancients called divine can be found and felt there still.
    • "Matchlock v. Breechloader", p. 240

Full text online at the Internet Archive, London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1883.

  • [A] watch keeping correct time is no guarantee that the bearer shall not suffer pain. The owner of the watch may be soulless, without mind-fire, a mere creature. No benefit to the heart or to the body accrues from the most accurate mechanism.
    • Chapter II, p. 28
  • Realising that spirit, recognising my own inner consciousness, the psyche, so clearly, I cannot understand time. It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come;it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life. Here this moment, by this tumulus, on earth, now; I exist in it. The years, the centuries, the cycles are absolutely nothing; it is only a moment since this tumulus was raised; in a thousand years more it will still be only a moment. To the soul there is no past and no future; all is and will be ever, in now. For artificial purposes time is mutually agreed on, but there is really no such thing. The shadow goes on upon the dial, the index moves round upon the clock, and what is the difference? None whatever. If the clock had never been set going, what would have been the difference? There may be time for the clock, the clock may make time for itself, there is none for me.
    • Chapter III, pp. 38–39
  • There is nothing human in nature. The earth, though loved so dearly, would let me perish on the ground, and neither bring forth food nor water. Burning in the sky the great sun, of whose company I have been so fond, would merely burn on and make no motion to assist me. Those who have been in an open boat at sea without water have proved the mercies of the sun, and of the deity who did not give them one drop of rain, dying in misery under the same rays that smile so beautifully on the flowers. In the south the sun is the enemy; night and coolness and rain are the friends of man. As for the sea, it offers us salt water which we cannot drink. The trees care nothing for us; the hill I visited so often in days gone by has not missed me. The sun scorches man, and will in his naked state roast him alive. The sea and the fresh water alike make no effort to uphold him if his vessel founders; he casts up his arms in vain, they come to their level over his head, filling the spot his body occupied. If he falls from a cliff the air parts; the earth beneath dashes him to pieces.
    • Chapter IV, pp. 55–56
  • [A] great part, perhaps the whole, of nature and of the universe is distinctly anti-human. The term inhuman does not express my meaning, anti-human is better; outre-human, in the sense of beyond, outside, almost grotesque in its attitude towards, would nearly convey it. Everything is anti-human. How extraordinary, strange, and incomprehensible are the creatures captured out of the depths of the sea! The distorted fishes; the ghastly cuttles; the hideous eel-like shapes; the crawling shell-encrusted things; the centipede-like beings; monstrous forms, to see which gives a shock to the brain. They shock the mind because they exhibit an absence of design. There is no idea in them.
    • Chapter IV, pp. 57–58
  • There is nothing human in the whole round of nature. All nature, all the universe that we can see, is absolutely indifferent to us, and except to us human life is of no more value than grass. If the entire human race perished at this hour, what difference would it make to the earth? What would the earth care? As much as for the extinct dodo, or for the fate of the elephant now going.
    • Chapter IV, p. 57
  • There is nothing human in any living animal. All nature, the universe as far as we see, is anti-, or ultra-human, outside, and has no concern with man. These things are unnatural to him. By no course of reasoning, however tortuous, can nature and the universe be fitted to the mind. Nor can the mind be fitted to the cosmos. My mind cannot be twisted to it; I am separate altogether from these designless things. The soul cannot be wrested down to them. The laws of nature are of no importance to it. I refuse to be bound by the laws of the tides, nor am I so bound. Though bodily swung round on this rotating globe, my mind always remains in the centre. No tidal law, no rotation, no gravitation can control my thought.
    • Chapter IV, p. 62
  • There being nothing human in nature or the universe, and all things being ultra-human and without design, shape, or purpose, I conclude that no deity has anything to do with nature. There is no god in nature, nor in any matter anywhere, either in the clods on the earth or in the composition of the stars. For what we understand by the deity is the purest form of Idea, of Mind, and no mind is exhibited in these. That which controls them is distinct altogether from deity. It is not force in the sense of electricity, nor a deity as god, nor a spirit, not even an intelligence, but a power quite different to anything yet imagined. I cease, therefore, to look for deity in nature or the cosmos at large, or to trace any marks of divine handiwork. I search for traces of this force which is not god, and is certainly not the higher than deity of whom I have written. It is a force without a mind. I wish to indicate something more subtle than electricity, but absolutely devoid of consciousness, and with no more feeling than the force which lifts the tides.
    • Chapter IV, pp. 63–64
  • With the great sun burning over the foam-flaked sea, roofed with heaven—aware of myself, a consciousness forced on me by these things—I feel that thought must yet grow larger and correspond in magnitude of conception to these. But these cannot content me, these Titanic things of sea, and sun, and profundity; I feel that my thought is stronger than they are. I burn life like a torch. The hot light shot back from the sea scorches my cheek—my life is burning in me. The soul throbs like the sea for a larger life. No thought which I have ever had has satisfied my soul.
    • Chapter VI, p. 107
  • The problem of my own existence also convinces me that there is much more. The questions are: Did my soul exist before my body was formed? Or did it come into life with my body, as a product, like a flame, of combustion? What will become of it after death. Will it simply go out like a flame and become non-existent, or will it live for ever in one or other mode? To these questions I am unable to find any answer whatsoever. In our present range of ideas there is no reply to them. I may have previously existed; I may not have previously existed. I may be a product of combustion; I may exist on after physical life is suspended, or I may not. No demonstration is possible. But what I want to say is that the alternatives of extinction or immortality may not be the only alternatives. There may be something else, more wonderful than immortality, and far beyond and above that idea. There may be something immeasurably superior to it As our ideas have run in circles for centuries, it is difficult to find words to express the idea that there are other ideas. For myself, though I cannot fully express myself, I feel fully convinced that there is a vast immensity of thought, of existence, and of other things beyond even immortal existence.
    • Chapter VIII, pp. 131–132
  • In human affairs everything happens by chance—that is, in defiance of human ideas, and without any direction of an intelligence. A man bathes in a pool, a crocodile seizes and lacerates his flesh. If any one maintains that an intelligence directed that cruelty, I can only reply that his mind is under an illusion. A man is caught by a revolving shaft and torn to pieces, limb from limb. There is no directing intelligence in human affairs, no protection, and no assistance. Those who act uprightly are not rewarded, but they and their children often wander in the utmost indigence. Those who do evil are not always punished, but frequently flourish and have happy children. Rewards and punishments are purely human institutions, and if government be relaxed they entirely disappear. No intelligence whatever interferes in human affairs. There is a most senseless belief now prevalent that effort, and work, and cleverness, perseverance and industry, are invariably successful. Were this the case, every man would enjoy a competence, at least, and be free from the cares of money. This is an illusion almost equal to the superstition of a directing intelligence, which every fact and every consideration disproves.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 133–134
  • How can I adequately express my contempt for the assertion that all things occur for the best, for a wise and beneficent end, and are ordered by a humane intelligence! It is the most utter falsehood and a crime against the human race. Even in my brief time I have been contemporary with events of the most horrible character; as when the mothers in the Balkans cast their own children from the train to perish in the snow; as when the Princess Alice foundered, and six hundred human beings were smothered in foul water; as when the hecatomb of two thousand maidens were burned in the church at Santiago; as when the miserable creatures tore at the walls of the Vienna theatre. Consider only the fates which overtake the little children.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 134–135
  • Human suffering is so great, so endless, so awful that I can hardly write of it. I could not go into hospitals and face it, as some do, lest my mind should be temporarily overcome. The whole and the worst the worst pessimist can say is far beneath the least particle of the truth, so immense is the misery of man. It is the duty of all rational beings to acknowledge the truth. There is not the least trace of directing intelligence in human affairs. This is a foundation of hope, because, if the present condition of things were ordered by a superior power, there would be no possibility of improving it for the better in the spite of that power. Acknowledging that no such direction exists, all things become at once plastic to our will.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 135–136
  • So long as men firmly believe that everything is fixed for them, so long is progress impossible.
    • Chapter IX, p. 136
  • If you argue yourself into the belief that you cannot walk to a place, you cannot walk there. But if you start you can walk there easily. Any one who will consider the affairs of the world at large, and of the individual, will see that they do not proceed in the manner they would do for our happiness if a man of humane breadth of view were placed at their head with unlimited power, such as is credited to the intelligence which does not exist. A man of intellect and humanity could cause everything to happen in an infinitely superior manner.
    • Chapter IX, p. 136
  • [T]hat which is thoughtlessly credited to a non-existent intelligence should really be claimed and exercised by the human race. It is ourselves who should direct our affairs, protecting ourselves from pain, assisting ourselves, succouring and rendering our lives happy. We must do for ourselves what superstition has hitherto supposed an intelligence to do for us. Nothing whatsoever is done for us. We are born naked, and not even protected by a shaggy covering. Nothing is done for us. The first and strongest command (using the word to convey the idea only) that nature, the universe, our own bodies give is to do everything for ourselves. The sea does not make boats for us, nor the earth of her own will build us hospitals. The injured lie bleeding, and no invisible power lifts them up. The maidens were scorched in the midst of their devotions, and their remains make a mound hundreds of yards long. The infants perished in the snow, and the ravens tore their limbs. Those in the theatre crushed each other to the death-agony. For how long, for how many thousand years, must the earth and the sea, and the fire and the air, utter these things and force them upon us before they are admitted in their full significance?
    • Chapter IX, pp. 137–138
  • These things speak with a voice of thunder. From every human being whose body has been racked by pain, from every human being who has suffered from accident or disease, from every human being drowned, burned, or slain by negligence, there goes up a continually increasing cry louder than the thunder. An awe-inspiring cry dread to listen to, which no one dares listen to, against which ears are stopped by the wax of superstition, and the wax of criminal selfishness:— These miseries are your doing, because you have mind and thought, and could have prevented them. You can prevent them in the future. You do not even try.
    • Chapter IX, p. 138
  • It is perfectly certain that all diseases without exception are preventible, or if not so that they can be so weakened as to do no harm. It is perfectly certain that all accidents are preventible; there is not one that does not arise from folly or. negligence. All accidents are crimes. It is perfectly certain that all human beings are capable of physical happiness. It is absolutely incontrovertible that the ideal shape of the human being is attainable to the exclusion of deformities. It is incontrovertible that there is no necessity for any man to die but of old age, and that if death cannot be prevented life can be prolonged far beyond the farthest now known. It is incontrovertible that at the present time no one ever dies of old age. Not one single person ever dies of old age, or of natural causes, for there is no such thing as a natural cause of death. They die of disease or weakness which is the result of disease, either in themselves or in their ancestors. No such thing as old age is known to us. We do not even know what old age would be like, because no one ever lives to it.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 139–140
  • Our bodies are full of unsuspected flaws, handed down it may be for thousands of years, and it is of these that we die, and not of natural decay. Till these are eliminated, or as nearly eliminated as possible, we shall never even know what true old age is like, nor what the true natural limit of human life is. The utmost limit now appears to be about one hundred and five years, but as each person who has got so far has died of weaknesses inherited through thousands of years, it is impossible to say to what number of years he would have reached in a natural state. It seems more than possible that true old age—the slow and natural decay of the body apart from inherited flaw—would be free from very many, if not all, of the petty miseries which now render extreme age a doubtful blessing. If the limbs grew weaker they would not totter; if the teeth dropped it would not be till the last; if the eyes were less strong they would not be quite dim; nor would the mind lose its memory.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 140–141
  • [N]ow we see eyes become dim and artificial aid needed in comparative youth, and teeth drop out in mere childhood. Many men and women lose teeth before they are twenty. This simple fact is evidence enough of inherited weakness or flaw. How could a person who had lost teeth before twenty be ever said to die of old age, though he died at a hundred and ten? Death is not a supernatural event; it is an event of the most materialistic character, and may certainly be postponed, by the united efforts of the human race, to a period far more distant from the date of birth than has been the case during the historic period. The question has often been debated in my mind whether death is or is not wholly preventible; whether, if the entire human race were united in their efforts to eliminate causes of decay, death might not also be altogether eliminated.
    • Chapter IX, p. 141
  • I am obliged by facts and incontrovertible argument to conclude that death is not inevitable to the ideal man. He is shaped for a species of physical immortality. The beauty of form of the ideal human being indicates immortality—the contour, the curve, the outline answer to the idea of life. In the course of ages united effort long-continued may eliminate those causes of decay which have grown up in ages past, and after that has been done advance farther and improve the natural state. As a river brings down suspended particles of sand, and depositing them at its mouth forms a delta and a new country; as the air and the rain and the heat of the sun dessicate the rocks and slowly wear down mountains into sand, so the united action of the human race, continued through centuries, may build up the ideal man and woman. Each individual labouring in his day through geological time in front must produce an effect. The instance of Sparta, where so much was done in a few centuries, is almost proof of it.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 144–145
  • The truth is, we die through our ancestors; we are murdered by our ancestors. Their dead hands stretch forth from the tomb and drag us down to their mouldering bones. We in our turn are now at this moment preparing death for our unborn posterity. This day those that die do not die in the sense of old age, they are slain. Nothing has been accumulated for our benefit in ages past. All the labour and the toil of so many millions continued through such vistas of time, down to those millions who at this hour are rushing to and fro in London, has accumulated nothing for us. Nothing for our good. The only things that have been stored up have been for our evil and destruction, diseases and weaknesses crossed and cultivated and rendered almost part and parcel of our very bones. Now let us begin to roll back the tide of death, and to set our faces steadily to a future of life. It should be the sacred and sworn duty of every one, once at least during lifetime, to do something in person towards this end. It would be a delight and pleasure to me to do something every day, were it ever so minute. To reflect that another human being, if at a distance of ten thousand years from the year 1883, would enjoy one hour's more life, in the sense of fulness of life, in consequence of anything I had done in my little span, would be to me a peace of soul.
    • Chapter IX, pp. 145–146
  • United effort through geological time in front is but the beginning of an idea. I am convinced that much more can be done, and that the length of time may be almost immeasurably shortened. The general principles that are now in operation are of the simplest and most elementary character, yet they have already made considerable difference. I am not content with these. There must be much more—there must be things which are at present unknown by whose aid advance may be made. Research proceeds upon the same old lines and runs in the ancient grooves. Further, it is restricted by the ultra-practical views which are alone deemed reasonable. But there should be no limit placed on the mind. The purely ideal is as worthy of pursuit as the practical, and the mind is not to be pinned to dogmas of science any more than to dogmas of superstition. Most injurious of all is the continuous circling on the same path, and it is from this that I wish to free my mind.
    • Chapter X, pp. 147–148
  • [N]othing has as yet been of any value, however good its intent. There is no virtue, or reputed virtue, which has not been rigidly pursued, and things have remained as before. Men and women have practised self-denial, and to what end? They have compelled themselves to suffer hunger and thirst; in vain. They have clothed themselves in sackcloth and lacerated the flesh. They have mutilated themselves. Some have been scrupulous to bathe, and some have been scrupulous to cake their bodies with the foulness of years. Many have devoted their lives to assist others in sickness or poverty. Chastity has been faithfully observed, chastity both of body and mind. Self-examination has been pursued till it ended in a species of sacred insanity, and all these have been of no more value than the tortures undergone by the Indian mendicant who hangs himself up by a hook through his back. All these are pure folly.
    • Chapter X, pp. 154–155
  • Asceticism has not improved the form, or the physical well-being, or the heart of any human being. On the contrary, the hetaira is often the warmest hearted and the most generous. Casuistry and self-examination are perhaps the most injurious of all the virtues, utterly destroying independence of mind. Self-denial has had no result, and all the self-torture of centuries has been thrown away. Lives spent in doing good have been lives nobly wasted. Everything is in vain. The circle of ideas we possess is too limited to aid us. We need ideas as far outside our circle as ours are outside those that were pondered over by Augustus Caesar.
    • Chapter X, pp. 155–156
  • The most extraordinary spectacle, as it seems to me, is the vast expenditure of labour and time wasted in obtaining mere subsistence. As a man, in his lifetime, works hard and saves money, that his children may be free from the cares of penury, and may, at least, have sufficient to eat, drink, clothe, and roof them, so the generations that preceded us might, had they so chosen, have provided for our subsistence. The labour and time of ten generations, properly directed, would sustain a hundred generations succeeding to them, and that, too, with so little self-denial on the part of the providers as to be scarcely felt. So men now, in this generation, ought clearly to be laying up a store, or, what is still more powerful, arranging and organising that the generations which follow may enjoy comparative freedom from useless labour. Instead of which, with transcendent improvidence, the world works only for to-day, as the world worked twelve thousand years ago, and our children's children will still have to toil and slave for the bare necessities of life. This is, indeed, an extraordinary spectacle.
    • Chapter X, pp. 156–157
  • That twelve thousand written years should have elapsed, and the human race—able to reason and to think, and easily capable of combination in immense armies for its own destruction—should still live from hand to mouth, like cattle and sheep, like the animals of the field and the birds of the woods; that there should not even be roofs to cover the children born, unless those children labour and expend their time to pay for them; that there should not be clothes, unless, again, time and labour are expended to procure them; that there should not be even food for the children of the human race, except they labour as their fathers did twelve thousand years ago; that even water should scarce be accessible to them, unless paid for by labour! In twelve thousand written years the world has not yet built itself a House, nor filled a Granary, nor organised itself for its own comfort. It is so marvellous I cannot express the wonder with which it fills me. And more wonderful still, if that could be, there are people so infatuated, or, rather, so limited of view, that they glory in this state of things, declaring that work is the main object of man's existence—work for subsistence—and glorying in their wasted time. To argue with such is impossible; to leave them is the only resource.
    • Chapter X, pp. 157–158
  • This our earth this day produces sufficient for our existence. This our earth produces not only a sufficiency, but a superabundance, and pours a cornucopia of good things down upon us. Further, it produces sufficient for stores and granaries to be filled to the roof-tree for years ahead. I verily believe that the earth in one year produces enough food to last for thirty. Why, then, have we not enough? Why do people die of starvation, or lead a miserable existence on the verge of it? Why have millions upon millions to toil from morning to evening just to gain a mere crust of bread? Because of the absolute lack of organisation by which such labour should produce its effect, the absolute lack of distribution, the absolute lack even of the very idea that such things are possible. Nay, even to mention such things, to say that they are possible, is criminal with many. Madness could hardly go farther.
    • Chapter X, pp. 158–159
  • That selfishness has all to do with it I entirely deny. The human race for ages upon ages has been enslaved by ignorance and by interested persons, whose object it has been to confine the minds of men, thereby doing more injury than if with infected hands they purposely imposed disease on the heads of the people. Almost worse than these, and at the present day as injurious, are those persons incessantly declaring, teaching, and impressing upon all that to work is man's highest condition. This falsehood is the interested superstition of an age infatuated with money, which having accumulated it cannot even expend it in pageantry. It is a falsehood propagated for the doubtful benefit of two or three out of ten thousand. It is the lie of a morality founded on money only, and utterly outside and having no association whatever with the human being in itself. Many superstitions have been got rid of in these days; time it is that this, the last and worst, were eradicated.
    • Chapter X, pp. 159–160
  • At this hour, out of thirty-four millions who inhabit this country, two-thirds—say twenty-two millions—live within thirty years of that abominable institution the poorhouse. That any human being should dare to apply to another the epithet 'pauper' is, to me, the greatest, the vilest, the most unpardonable crime that could be committed. Each human being, by mere birth, has a birthright in this earth and all its productions; and if they do not receive it, then it is they who are injured, and it is not the 'pauper'—oh, inexpressibly wicked word!—it is the well-to-do, who are the criminal classes. It matters not in the least if the poor be improvident, or drunken, or evil in any way. Food and drink, roof and clothes, are the inalienable right of every child born into the light. If the world does not provide it freely—not as a grudging gift but as a right, as a son of the house sits down to breakfast—then is the world mad. But the world is not mad, only in ignorance—an interested ignorance, kept up by strenuous exertions, from which infernal darkness it will, in course of time, emerge, marvelling at the past as a man wonders at and glories in the light who has escaped from blindness.
    • Chapter X, pp. 160–161
  • This our earth produces not only a sufficiency and a superabundance, but in one year pours a cornucopia of good things forth, enough to fill us all for many years in succession. The only reason we do not enjoy it is the want of rational organisation. I know, of course, and all who think know that some labour or supervision will be always necessary, since the plough must travel the furrow and the seed must be sown; but I maintain that a tenth, nay, a hundredth, part of the labour and slavery now gone through will be sufficient, and that in the course of time, as organisation perfects itself and discoveries advance, even that part will diminish. For the rise and fall of the tides alone furnish forth sufficient power to do all the labour that is done on the earth automatically. Is ideal man, then, to be idle? I answer that if so I see no wrong, but a great good. I deny altogether that idleness is an evil, or that it produces evil, and I am well aware why the interested are so bitter against idleness—namely, because it gives time for thought, and if men had time to think their reign would come to an end. Idleness—that is, the absence of the necessity to work for subsistence—is a great good.
    • Chapter XI, pp. 162–163
  • I hope succeeding generations will be able to be idle. I hope that nine-tenths of their time will be leisure time; that they may enjoy their days, and the earth, and the beauty of this beautiful world; that they may rest by the sea and dream; that they may dance and sing, and eat and drink. I will work towards that end with all my heart. If employment they must have—and the restlessness of the mind will insure that some will be followed—then they will find scope enough in the perfection of their physical frames, in the expansion of the mind, and in the enlargement of the soul. They shall not work for bread, but for their souls. I am willing to divide and share all I shall ever have for this purpose, though I think that the end will rather be gained by organisation than by sharing alone.
    • Chapter XI, pp. 163–164
  • For grief there is no known consolation. It is useless to fill our hearts with bubbles. A loved one gone is gone, and as to the future—even if there is a future—it is unknown. To assure ourselves otherwise is to soothe the mind with illusions; the bitterness of it is inconsolable. The sentiments of trust chipped out on tombstones are touching instances of the innate goodness of the human heart, which naturally longs for good, and sighs itself to sleep in the hope that, if parted, the parting is for the benefit of those that are gone. But these inscriptions are also awful instances of the deep intellectual darkness which presses still on the minds of men. The least thought erases them. There is no consolation. There is no relief. There is no hope certain; the whole system is a mere illusion. I, who hope so much, and am so rapt up in the soul, know full well that there is no certainty.
    • Chapter XI, pp. 165–166
  • The tomb cries aloud to us—its dead silence presses on the drum of the ear like thunder, saying, Look at this, and erase your illusions; now know the extreme value of human life; reflect on this and strew human life with flowers; save every hour for the sunshine; let your labour be so ordered that in future times the loved ones may dwell longer with those who love them; open your minds; exalt your souls; widen the sympathies of your hearts; face the things that are now as you will face the reality of death; make joy real now to those you love, and help forward the joy of those yet to be born. Let these facts force the mind and the soul to the increase of thought, and the consequent remission of misery; so that those whose time it is to die may have enjoyed all that is possible in life. Lift up your mind and see now in this bitterness of parting, in this absence of certainty, the fact that there is no directing intelligence; remember that this death is not of old age, which no one living in the world has ever seen; remember that old age is possible, and perhaps even more than old age; and beyond these earthly things—what? None know. But let us, turning away from the illusion of a directing intelligence, look earnestly for something better than a god, seek for something higher than prayer, and lift our souls to be with the more than immortal now.
    • Chapter XI, pp. 166–167
  • From space to the sky, from the sky to the hills, and the sea; to every blade of grass, to every leaf, to the smallest insect, to the million waves of ocean. Yet this earth itself appears but a mote in that sunbeam by which we are conscious of one narrow streak in the abyss. A beam crosses my silent chamber from the window, and atoms are visible in it; a beam slants between the fir-trees, and particles rise and fall within, and cross it while the air each side seems void. Through the heavens a beam slants, and we are aware of the star-stratum in which our earth moves. But what may be without that stratum? Certainly it is not a void. This light tells us much, but I think in the course of time yet more delicate and subtle mediums than light may be found, and through these we shall see into the shadows of the sky. When will it be possible to be certain that the capacity of a single atom has been exhausted. At any moment some fortunate incident may reveal a fresh power. One by one the powers of light have been unfolded.
    • Chapter XI, pp. 168–169
  • I have been obliged to write these things by an irresistible impulse which has worked in me since early youth. They have not been written for the sake of argument, still less for any thought of profit, rather indeed the reverse. They have been forced from me by earnestness of heart, and they express my most serious convictions. For seventeen years they have been lying in my mind, continually thought of and pondered over. I was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe, and indefinable aspirations filled me. I found them in the grass fields, under the trees, on the hill-tops, at sunrise, and in the night There was a deeper meaning everywhere. The sun burned with It, the broad front of morning beamed with it; a deep feeling entered me while gazing at the sky in the azure noon, and in the star-lit evening.
    • Chapter XII, pp. 181–182
  • Leaving the shore I walk among the trees; a cloud passes, and the sweet short rain comes mingled with sunbeams and flower-scented air. The finches sing among the fresh green leaves of the beeches. Beautiful it is, in summer days, to see the wheat wave, and the long grass foam-flecked of flower yield and return to the wind. My soul of itself always desires; these are to it as fresh food. I have found in the hills another valley grooved in prehistoric times, where, climbing to the top of the hollow, I can see the sea. Down in the hollow I look up; the sky stretches over, the sun burns as it seems but just above the hill, and the wind sweeps onward. As the sky extends beyond the valley, so I know that there are ideas beyond the valley of my thought; I know that there is something infinitely higher than deity. The great sun burning in the sky, the sea, the firm earth, all the stars of night are feeble—all, all the cosmos is feeble; it is not strong enough to utter my prayer-desire. My soul cannot reach to its full desire of prayer. I need no earth, or sea, or sun to think my thought. If my thought-part—the psyche—were entirely separated from the body, and from the earth, I should of myself desire the same. In itself my soul desires; my existence, my soul-existence is in itself my prayer, and so long as it exists so long will it pray that I may have the fullest soul-life.
    • Chapter XII, pp. 187–188

After London; or, Wild England (1886)


Full text online at the Internet Archive, London: Cassell, 1886.

  • The old men say their fathers told them that soon after the fields were left to themselves a change began to be visible.
    • Chapter I, "The Great Forest", p. 1

Quotes about Jefferies

  • The tradition of John Burroughs, which you seek to keep alive through these awards, is a long and honorable one. It is a tradition that had its beginnings in even earlier writings. On the other side of the Atlantic it flowered most fully in the works of Richard Jefferies and W. H. Hudson; and in this country the pen of Thoreau - as that of John Burroughs himself-most truly represented the contemplative observer of the world about us. These four, I think, were the great masters. To those of us who have come later, there can scarcely be any greater honor than to be compared to one of them. Yet if we are true to the spirit of John Burroughs, or of Jefferies or Hudson or Thoreau, we are not imitators of them but-as they themselves were - we are pioneers in new areas of thought and knowledge. If we are true to them, we are the creators of a new type of literature as representative of our own day as was their own.
    • Rachel Carson 1950s speech included in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1998)