Richard Jefferies was a West Countryman who spent the first twenty-nine years of his life in the same neighbourhood. He as born at Coate Farmhouse, in Coate, in 1848. Coate was a small hamlet, a mile or two from the town of Swindon, on the Hungerford Road. The son of a farmer, and the descendant of a long line of farming folk - although he himself never cared for practical farming - Jefferies inherited a love of the countryside and a paternal passion for the acquirement of rustic lore.
At seventeen years of age, Jefferies became a reporter on a Swindon newspaper and later he joined the staff of The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard. He began to try to write fiction, with indifferent success. It was not until 1872, when twenty-four years of age, that Jefferies achieved some measure of success with the publication by The Times of two letters on the condition of the Wiltshire labourer. The Times not only published the letters but wrote a leader on the subject which led to discussion, and brought Jefferies name to the favourable notice of other editors and his short writing career began.
He married Jessie Baden and had three children. He left Wiltshire and moved to Surbiton, then Eltham, then Brighton and then Crowborough in 1886. By now his health had deteriorated and his last essays, and his best, were dictated to his wife when he was too weak to hold a pen. In 1887 he moved to Goring-in-Sea where he died at the age of thirty nine.
"Like Wordsworth, in the presence of nature Jefferies has a heart that listens and receives. He writes his nature studies with fidelity and love, in the only way that nature studies should be written, with his eye on the object." John Clare
Field and Hedgerow was published in 1889, two years after Jefferies' death. The book was put together with considerable taste and judgement by his widow. Some of the work included appeared in periodicals not long before his death, and other pieces were printed posthumously in the same way shortly afterwards. The essays are divided as a whole between the West Country and Sussex, with some memories of places in Surrey.
The twenty-eight essays and one poem which form the contents of Field and Hedgerow offer a rich feast of diversity of theme and treatment. Twelve essays of the whole number are of the first order, and eight of these, Hours of Spring, The July Grass, Winds of heaven, Walks in the Wheat-fields, Just before Winter, Nature in the Louvre, Summer in Somerset and An English Deer-park, he never surpassed.