A new book provides insight into the travels of Robinson Jeffers and his family. | Monterey County NOW Intro


Aga Popęda here with some short stories from the poet Robinson Jeffers (born 1887, Allegheny, Pa.; died 1962, Carmel), which we in Monterey County like to call our own, and perhaps a recommendation for an important addition to your personal library.

There’s a new book on the market that sheds light on the biography and inner life of the Central Coast California bard and her family. The Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation has just announced the publication of the first volume of the Jeffers Family Travel Diariesthe family record of a seven-month trip to Ireland, Scotland and England in 1929.

During the visit, the family – Robinson, his wife Una and their twelve-year-old twin sons, Donnan and Garth – kept a travel diary, spurred on by Una’s desire to faithfully chronicle their road trips through villages, towns and countryside, each member giving their impressions, generously enriched by Una’s and Robinson’s deep interest and knowledge of the literature, art, architecture, folklore, and history of the places visited. Additionally, the diary gives an intimate portrait of the family’s interactions, each member’s personality, and the mutual interests and love that bind them together as a family.

“Published now in full in a beautiful and meticulous editionthis first volume of the Travel Diaries is a collective portrait that is our richest single source of the family life of America’s most powerful modern poet,” Jeffers scholar Robert Zaller wrote of the volume.

This isn’t the first time an account of Jeffers’ family travels has been published.. In 1954, Ward Ritchie Press in Los Angeles published only 300 copies of Visits to Ireland: Una Jeffers’ travel diaries. Compiled and prefaced by Jeffers, it also chronicles the Jeffers’ family trip to Ireland in 1929 and consists of entries written by Una, Donnan, Garth and Robinson himself. This trip led Jeffers to work on poems that became his Descent to the Dead (1931), devoted to the subject of mortality and supposedly inspired by this pilgrimage to the Old World. The edition was designed by Ritchie with woodcuts by Paul Landacre and is now a collector’s item.

The new book is much more accessible. The 182-page publication includes photographs taken by Una and Robinson, drawings from the original journal, and the foreword he wrote to the original volume. The foreword is a fine example of Jeffers’ prose and a glimpse of his love and admiration for his wife.

Jeffers rarely left Tor House, his Carmel Point home, except for trips initiated by Una. She loved Ireland and encouraged her family to return there in 1937, on another months-long trip that also included Scotland and England. In 1948, Una and Robinson traveled alone, the trip being cut short by Robinson’s near-fatal battle with pleurisy. And in 1956 Donnan, his wife Lee, their two young children and Robinson returned to Ireland. Travel diaries of these trips will also be published by Tor House Press in subsequent volumes.

The volume’s editor is Deborah Whittlesey Sharp, who has been associated with the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation for 18 years., serving as a tour guide and then trustee. Sharp earned her BA and MA in English Literature from Mills College and most recently taught at Monterey Peninsula College.

The volume is now available via the Tor House, as well as local bookstores Pilgrim’s Way and River House Books.

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