Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers: First and Second Revised Proof Copies
Category: First Edition
Georgeham, No Publisher. 1927.
The first and second revised proof copies of Tarka the Otter; 8vo; the pair uniformly bound in contemporary blue half crushed morocco, spines lettered in gilt. Both volumes have original water colour designs to the boards, the first has a re-curing pattern of otters, leaves and a bridge, the second has a painting of a single otter to front and back board. The first proof has numerous marginalia and amendments in blue ink in the author's hand, intermittently stamped 'this marked proof to be returned'. The first word has been changed from "Twilight" to "Dimmity". Both Sir John Fortescue and T. E. Lawrence thought 'dimmity' a little precious but Williamson retained it for the first edition. The second proof has a title page supplied in green ink by Williamson and notes to the first page, including the statement that this page is probably the worst page in the work. 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". Despite inquiries with the Henry Williamson Society I have been unable to establish the artist who illustrated the boards.