Voices from the past

by Angela Macmillan

One of the great things about the Internet is the wealth of material that would never see the light of day without it. One such wonderful thing is this recollection by Walter de la Mare of an interview with Thomas Hardy. Walter de la Mare is an old man at the time of the recording and there is something quite wonderful about listening to this very Edwardian voice, speaking to you across 50 years. He describes going to Max Gate to meet Thomas Hardy and being surprised to find not a dour old pessimist but an affable old gentleman. Walter de la Mare has never been fashionable in the academic world but his poems continue to delight the old and young. ‘The Listeners’ – ‘ “Is there anybody there?” said the traveller’, is the most requested poem of Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Walter de la Mare, Selected Poems is an excellent new collection of his best work edited by the poet Matthew Sweeney and published by Faber and Faber, 2006.

de la Mare as fiction writer is not so well known these days. Fortunately Hesperus Press have recently collected and published three of his short stories (‘Missing’, ‘The Almond Tree’ and ‘Crewe’) with the added bonus of a foreword by Russell Hoban. If you enjoy Missing (Modern Voices), see if you can find a copy of his brilliant dark short story ‘Seaton’s Aunt’