The Fireside Book (of David Hope)

We're missing a deer. The Fireside Book of David Hope 1975.

The first Fireside Book of David Hope (“A picture and a poem for every mood, chosen by David Hope”) was printed and published by D C Thomson & Co Ltd (Dundee and London).  The copy which L owns and treasures has “Christmas 1967” hand-written inside the front cover, although the book itself is not dated.  This copy (below) came into the TVC household decades after its birth, when P found it in a second-hand bookshop.

fireside-34Our very first Fireside Book was given to L for Christmas 1972.  The dust jacket of this 1973 edition tells how well-loved it has been.  It has been admired, treasured and memorised.
fireside-31How evocative those images are – they were the cultured, fairyland England of my childhood imagination –
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Some of these poems are in my mind to this day. “Deep in heaven now I lie, while the white clouds billow by…”
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Although I was given one or two more of these precious tomes during my childhood –  I remember having a library full – years later, as an adult, I found an issue which I didn’t have.  Then P discovered a few.  One day he came home with an astonishing pile hidden behind his back.

“England” to me then was the numinous, the picturesque, Oxford, the past and the future.  Fay Inchfawn, John Betjeman, Eleanor Farjeon, Edna Jaques – these great invokers of an England which never existed wrote these poems for me, and artists unknown illustrated them.  Themes emerge across the years – the allure of the wild hills, the longing of a urbanite for the countryside, the cosy home on a cold night.
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I felt an occasional jolt when I learnt that a poem which I thought belonged exclusively in my Fireside books, is owned by the world –
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The books even granted me a glimpse of my future husband –
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Every month (April is a favourite) and season (autumn rules) has its poems.  Deer, robin redbreasts and snow are essential to the  Christmas illustrations. Cricket (“The Game that’s Never Done” – how true), lawnbowls, gardening, visiting, rambling, gazing about in a pensive manner, reading and sailing are our pastimes.  Jody the tabby kitten, Hamish the Scotch terrier (who is chasing rabbits in heaven) and faithful horses are our friends.

My initial reluctance to look at the later editions when they came into my hands was, sadly, justified. The nostalgic, pretty sentiment of The Fireside Books of the 70s and 80s has almost entirely gone but its replacements are not improvements.

Some changes are laudable – by 1996 an index has appeared (although it is ugly) and some of the artists are named (although others are communally referred to as ‘staff artists’). By 2008 the Fireside Books are no longer “of David Hope”.

As  early as 1989, there are occasional odd touches.  The readership seems to be changing – brides have become grandmothers, shining up one’s cosy home is now just a lot of housework and melancholic musing gives way to bereavement; although surely not even a grieving stair-scrubbing nanna would accept that the “shy” Regency Place goes wandering off at night…

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“…I can imagine, one fine night,

When the air is cool and the moon is bright,

Regency Place will stealthily glide

Away to the sleeping countryside;

Return it will, by a secret lane,

To its native fields and streams again.”

We at TVC  do not have the early 1990’s editions, but by the late 1990s the binding has faltered and the art (for the most part) is weird and somehow resentful…
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…poorly executed…

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….hideous, murky and slapdash…

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That’s not to say that the earlier artwork was always terrific. In 1982 these lumpen freaks represented The Girls of Donegal, fairer than those of all Ireland and North America –
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…and this picture was used not once but twice (1974 and 1977)…
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There was this chap in 1983…

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and this one in 1977…
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For all their twee silliness, The Fireside Books before a certain date are worth 5 stars for their sense of the profound, their attention to detail and their beauty. Hope is not lost. The TVC collection is not complete.  Volumes from the 1970s and 1980s wait out there for us and when we find them, the nostalgia will be real.

16 Comments

  1. Reply

    Aron Hardt

    August 6, 2017

    Sumptuously atavistic!!

  2. Reply

    Miss Melanie

    August 10, 2017

    I feel like I missed out as I've not seen a Fireside Book before despite growing up in dear old Blighty. Must look out for them - they look enchanting!

  3. Reply

    Tzar

    May 15, 2019

    Please there's a certain David Hope, frequently credited for most of the poems in The Friendship Book of Francis Gay, a thought for each day in 1975 (the only copy I have).
    I've tried seeing other poems by him but barely anything comes up in searches.

  4. Reply

    Karen Sharp

    July 26, 2019

    I have recently had a copy of the 1967 edition of The Fireside book come into my possession. I'm wondering if it is collectable and if so who would I contact.

    • Reply

      Lesley Jakobsen

      July 26, 2019

      Hi Karen, if you look online, you will see Fireside Books for sale everywhere and, - fortunately for us, but unfortunately for you - they do not fetch big prices. So keep and cherish this lovely little curio!

  5. Reply

    Ann

    August 19, 2019

    I’m looking for the The Fireside Book by David Hope that has the poem” a women’s work is never done” etc.

  6. Reply

    Ken

    December 3, 2019

    Karen, I have been collecting The Fireside books since the early seventies.
    I would be prepared to buy your copy off you if you wish.
    Regards, Ken

  7. Reply

    Jodi Coyle

    January 4, 2020

    I picked up three of these today for $1 each at an op shop. Nearly overlooked them because I thought the title was weird, but glad I picked up to flick through. I got 1976, 1977 and 1978. Mostly bought them for the illustrations.

  8. Reply

    Sheila Lymn

    March 10, 2020

    can any one help what is the poem about arranging flowers "in an Androit way ?she always had the right container !!!!!think it might have been in the fireside book of flowers ,I would love to know it again thank you xx

  9. Reply

    Sheila Lymn

    March 10, 2020

    can any one help what is the poem about arranging flowers "in an Androit way ?she always had the right container !!!!!think it might have been in the fireside book of flowers ,I would love to know it again thank you xx think the poem is by David Hope

  10. Reply

    Polly Grey

    April 1, 2020

    Hi I'm looking for the year of the Fireside Book of David hope that featured the Kiplin poem 'The Way Through The woods' It would be in the 1970 and was a treasured book from childhood unfortunately lost in a move from North America to UK.
    Many Thanks

    • Reply

      Lesley Jakobsen

      April 2, 2020

      Hi Polly, we haven't found the Kipling poem in any Fireside books we have from the 1970s and the 1980s (we don't have the complete set though). if we turn it up, we will post a note.

    • Reply

      Lesley Jakobsen

      April 2, 2020

      Meanwhile, here's the poem:
      "THEY shut the road through the woods
      Seventy years ago.
      Weather and rain have undone it again,
      And now you would never know
      There was once a road through the woods
      Before they planted the trees.
      It is underneath the coppice and heath,
      And the thin anemones.
      Only the keeper sees
      That, where the ring-dove broods,
      And the badgers roll at ease,
      There was once a road through the woods.
      Yet, if you enter the woods
      Of a summer evening late,
      When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
      Where the otter whistles his mate,
      (They fear not men in the woods,
      Because they see so few.)
      You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
      And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
      Steadily cantering through
      The misty solitudes,
      As though they perfectly knew
      The old lost road through the woods.
      But there is no road through the woods."

  11. Reply

    Polly Grey

    April 16, 2020

    Thank you lesley that is much appreciated

  12. Reply

    Katrina Robinson

    June 18, 2020

    Just replying rather late to the party to:

    Ann August 19, 2019
    I’m looking for the The Fireside Book by David Hope that has the poem” a women’s work is never done” etc.

    Ann, it's in the 1972 edition which I just got through the post today. Hopefully you've found it now in any case. Lovely illustration of a contented-looking woman feeding free-range chickens by a thatched cottage.

    Best wishes, Katrina Robinson

  13. Reply

    Lesley Jakobsen

    June 24, 2020

    Thanks for that Katrina


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