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This report is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

What Should We Do with Andrew Young?
Mountain or Dead Mole:
John Greening
At any given point in literary history, there are certain writers who seem to have been left behind by the tide. So, Lady Mary Wroth plods on with her sonnet cycles fifty years after they have gone out of fashion or John Clare churns out his rhyming couplets as if the eighteenth century had never ended. And in our own era there is Andrew Young. Born in 1885 in Elgin, Scotland, but frequently claimed as an archetypally English nature writer, he is remembered for his miniatures, the exquisite scrimshaw of a parson-poet who spent the last two decades of his life (he died in 1971) in rural Sussex, contemplating dead moles and shepherds' huts, visiting churches and hunting for wild flowers. Young still turns up in anthologies of nature poetry, but the full-on rhymes, the occasional archaism and above all the attention to a scarcely remembered lexicon of rural life mean that he is easily dismissed as one of those poets who will be abandoned on the tideline.

Andrew Young was out of key with his time from the start. It is hard to reconcile the image of a stationmaster's son descended 'from a long line of illiterate shepherds' who became a Presbyterian, then an Anglican minister and amateur naturalist, with the more troubling image of a Beardsleyan art aficionado who hated the countryside but loved to haunt Paris's Latin Quarter and attended five performances of Richard Strauss's Salome. He came to disown his early work (not published until ...


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