Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers
Category: First Edition
London, Privately Printed for Subscribers at the Chiswick Press. 1927.
Limited edition; 8vo; contemporary half vellum top edge gilt, others uncut, morocco label to spine. Number 76 of 100 copies, signed by Henry Williamson, with his owl device, further inscribed on the front free end paper 'Charles Robert Hibbert Esq. with affectionate regard from Henry Williamson Christmas 1927.' Hibbert was Williamson's father-in-law and this copy seems to have been uniquely bound for him, with this half vellum and entitled 'Cheriton Edition' to the morocco label. In order to obtain information about otters Williamson took to following the local hunt, the Cheriton Otter Hounds, who hunted otters along the Rivers Taw and Torridge. Williamson met his future father in law on one of these otter-hunting expeditions, when they discovered their mutual love of the writer Richard Jefferies. Charles Hibbert was one of the hunt officials and he appears with his daughter as a character in Tarka. Although Williamson's reputation as a writer was affected by his support for Oswald Mosley, Tarka has continued to be an influential work. American writer and environmental campaigner Rachel Carson wrote that Williamson's work had "deeply influenced" her and said that Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon would be two of three books she might take to a desert island. Ted Hughes, who became friends with Williamson, repeatedly cited reading the book as an important experience for him. As well as being an inspiration for nature writers, Tarka is now viewed as an allegory of war. Anne Williamson his daughter in law writes: "Surely when Henry Williamson first experienced the activity of otter-hunting he must in his own mind have immediately equated it to his recent traumatic experiences of the Great War. Without doubt, he could not have written Tarka with such intensity if he had not endured the experience of attack and counter-attack in battle".