Caroline published three books. The first in 1903 was The Luck of Barerakes, described as a “regional novel” rather as Thomas Hardy was – though I hasten to add that I am not making a direct comparison. In this case the region is North Yorkshire in the late 18th century and onwards. It is a gloomy story of several generations of a family (the Heseltynes) of rather lazy, incompetent and violent hill farmers, contrasted with their more industrious neighbours. All the dialogue is in thick dialect, so it takes a little while to get into the book. Her mother Mary was from working-class rural Yorkshire stock, uncomfortably transposed to the middle-class south, which surely must have been the inspiration for the novel.
If I have made it sound rather unattractive, I’d say that I did quite enjoy reading it – there’s a good story, decent characterisation, and it finishes with an epilogue in which the author herself appears as a “modern” visitor to the same area, and meets a Heseltyne who is now, a century later, a civilised descendent of this unfortunate brood. It was published by Heinemann, and I wonder why she did not persist with this sort of writing – perhaps it was hard going even for the reading audience of her time, and didn’t sell well enough.
Second, many years later in 1925, was Country Homespun. She had of course been writing in the interim, for this is based on articles she had written for several periodicals. The origin of the book is summarised in a “Note” at the start of the book, which reads:
WHILE the appearance in The Times of the essay entitled “Play without Mates” suggested to the Publisher the idea of a book mainly concerned with commonplace matters and country interests, this unpretending volume could never have been written without the practice gained and the background of suggestion provided by seven years’ happy work in The Agricultural Gazette over the signature of “Countrywoman”
This, subject to revision, with much added matter, and with one or two articles of a series published in The Daily Dispatch, under a general title of “As One Woman to Another,” is now offered to the reader in a new form; together with the thanks and acknowledgments of the writer to the various Editors concerned, for their leave to republish.
There are five main sections – Of Retiring to the Country, The Simpler Life, Of Country Occupations and Amusements, Of Men and Women, and Philosophy of Sorts. Each consists of a group of separate articles, all with philosophical tendencies. She was proselytising the simple life long before the late twentieth century enthusiasms for escaping the city. It seems certainly to have been a life she lived herself – at some point I have not yet fixed she moved from the outer parts of London to live in Somerset, and it was in Somerset that she died in 1945.
Finally in 1934 came Nine Lives, which apparently came about because of the immense popularity of the cat chapters in Country Homespun. This was sufficient to persuade the publisher to get her to expand the subject of cats to book length, again using material from The Times, and now also from The Farmer and Stockbreeder, for which she had also been writing. This is the only illustrated book amongst her output, most of the photographs for which were of course provided by her brother Ernest.