Merryn Williams is pleased to get hold of the first – albeit brief – biography of the much admired Cornish poet Charles Causley.


All Cornwall Thunders at my Door
A Biography of Charles Causley
by Laurence Green
Cornovia Press, £10.99.


This is the first biography of Charles Causley, who died ten years ago this November.  I wouldn’t call it the definitive biography – it is rather short – but it will be invaluable to whoever eventually writes it.  Andrew Motion recommends it to ‘everyone who loves Causley’s poems’, and that emphatically includes me.

Causley himself said that his biography would contain ‘no scandal or goings on …. It’s the poetry that’s important, not the tiny details of my life’.  He dated a few young women before the war, but there is no evidence of any serious relationship.  Green gives us one or two names, as well as many extracts from Causley’s diary, which covers his years in the Navy, and is not especially interesting.  He knows the poet’s landscape, Cornwall and Devonshire, very well indeed, and provides the basic information about Causley’s family (about whom he wrote much in his later years) and the outward facts of his life.  And there are several splendid photographs.  I was fascinated to see the one of his youthful parents which inspired a major poem, ‘A Wedding Portrait’.

charles causley 1979 robert tilling3What emerges is that Causley was not only a major poet but also a truly good man.  He took endless trouble with his pupils, some of them problem children like Timothy Winters (‘Unusually for the time, he never used any form of corporal punishment’), and cared for his mother for several years after her stroke.  With all these responsibilities, he found time to leave a solid shelf of work which includes some of the greatest poems of the century – ‘By St Thomas Water’, ‘Seven Houses’, ‘Eden Rock’.

I was sorry, by the way, to hear that Mr Green had a ‘horrible and expensive’ time getting copyright permission.  People are a lot more likely to buy Causley’s books if they are allowed to read his poems first.