Llyswen Farm: Peripatetic Poet

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Across one end of our orchard flows a pretty little brook buddling & babbling thro a small romantic dingle to empty itself into the wye; in which with hobbyhorsical industry I have built a cascade of 8 or 9 feet height & am making a rude hermitage (a sequestered summer study) in the dingle beneath … my maxim is, that Seneca and Socrates preach well—but rocks & brooks & waterfalls much better. (John Thelwall to Dr. Crompton, March 1798)

Llyswen Farm lay at the heart of Thelwall’s literary (re)creation, a midpoint between the political and elocutionary periods of his peripatetic life. A comfortable cottage nestled in a hairpin turn of the Wye river in Wales, it occupied an historical, geographical, emotional and vocational borderland: a site of grief, despair and alienation, but equally of necessary and invigorating recess and renewal . Here in an extraordinarily productive and influential 3-year period of creativity and crisis (1798-1801), he attempted to rebuild the “Enchanting retreat” of Alfoxden, and composed a remarkable stream of peripatetic travel essays, lyric effusions and poetic conversations, including a national epic, a dramatic romance, and a Jacobin novel. Here his solitary storm and sorrow was seasoned with visits by and to romantic bards and militant miners; here poet and farmer did hard labour hand-in-hand, under the lengthening shadow of neighbourly prejudice and persecution.

The Llyswen pages encourage contemporary readers to perform comparable re-creative labour within an Archive of Thelwall’s literary works (especially poetry, but also drama and prose critical theory), as well as his travel writings, highlighting the period 1798-1801, but extending throughout his life. In the Forum section, you will find a blog that unites personal and professional, poetic and political musings on Thelwall.

John Thelwall:
Words and Work

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