1914: Don’t be overly nostalgic about the summer of 1914, warned Paul Fussell in The Great War and Modern Memory. And yet, in almost the same breath, he described it as “the most idyllic for many years”: a time for strolling in the countryside, a time for sipping tea at wicker tables under shady trees, a time when books could be left outdoors all night without fear of rain.
It was the summer when, one afternoon of heat, the poet Edward Thomas’s express train tarried at a station in the Cotswolds. “Then we stopped at Adlestrop,” Thomas jotted in his notebook, “thro the willows cd be heard a chain of blackbirds songs at 12.45 & one thrush & no man seen, only a hiss of engine letting off steam.
“Stopping outside Campden by banks of long grass willow herb & meadowsweet, extraordinary silence between the two periods of travel . . .”
Sources: Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (2000), pp. 23–4; Adlestrop Revisited: An Anthology Inspired by Edward Thomas’s Poem, ed. Anne Harvey (1999), p. 11