Take A Peak Into Edwardian Lady Edith Holden’s Journal Entries about April

Before April moves too far toward May, I want to share a few pages from illustrated journals that were created by Edith Holden, who wrote both The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. I have had both of these books in my library for years. I especially like the way that Holden illustrates her pages with watercolor. In several ways, Edith Holden reminds me of Beatrix Potter, and Beatrix Potter is no doubt one of my all-time heroes.

Edith Holden was born in 1871 and she died in 1920.

Like Potter, Holden spent her childhood romping through the forests and drawing and painting nature. When she became an adult, she created several illustrated journals. Her watercolored entries tended toward rewriting and illustrating the words of famous writers before her, but she also added a few of her own monthly observations, as follows:

“April 1 Very still grey day.  I went to a little spinney to see a large bush of the Great Round-leaved Willow, which is a perfect picture just now, covered all over with great golden catkins, that light up the copse like hundreds of little fairy lamps.  The bees were humming all round, busy gathering pollen.

“4 Third day of bright sunshine.  I found another field of wild Daffodils today.  The sun has brought out the green leaf-buds on the trees and hedges very rapidly, there is a marked difference in the Sycamore and Hawthorn the last few days; and Larch is beginning to hang his tassels forth.”

I am an avid gardener, and I also paint and write. For many years, I have been interested in illustrated garden journaling. This month [April of 2023], I am in the process of relocating to Water Valley, Mississippi–to a house that has no garden and very little landscaping. I am in the process of starting over again, and I intend to journal my way through that evolution.

This week, I’ll begin to move my garden and my art studio to my new home. It may take a couple of weeks, but soon, I hope to document in writing and art my new life and my new garden. As always, Edith Holden’s journals inspire me.

Following is one of Edith Holden’s watercolors in one of her journals:

“7 Another glorious day.  Cycled to Knowle, on the way found some March Marigolds and Blackthorn in blossom.  The Tadpoles have come out of their balls of jelly and career madly about the aquarium wagging their little black tails.  A Gudgeon which had put into the aquarium has made a meal of a good many of them.  Ground  Ivy in blossom.

“9  Travelled down to Stoke Bishop near Bristol.  The low-lying fertile lands round the Avon in Worcestershire were golden with Marsh Marigolds, and as we went through Gloucestershire the banks were starred with primroses and I saw a good many Cowslips.  The Plum and Damson trees were all in bloom.

Edith Holden wrote a few comments about her own observations of nature, but she also quoted other writers who inspired her.

And following is one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poems that she copied in the April portion of one of her journals:

“The young lambs are bleating in the meadows,
The young birds are chirping in the nest,
The young fawns are playing with the shadows,
The young flowers are blowing toward the west —
Go out, children, from the mind and from the city;
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do;
Pluck your handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty,
Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through!” – The City of the Children – E.B. Browning

Image from Nature Notes page 35 – Primroses [also called Cowslips] are in front of the bunny

The yellow flowers in the above painting with the bunny are primroses. Primroses are also called cowslips.

To the Cowslip

“Of all spring joys the dearest is to drink thy breathe again freshest of flowers;
The bluebell lights the copse the primrose paves the glen;
But thy frank beauty over-tops in open fields
The new-born grass, to meet the kiss of sun and wind and showers
And yields Springs’ essence from those fire red drops
That dyed the breast of Imogen.
Sun-freckled art thou as the child who kneeleth down to snap thy sturdy stem;
And fill with thy pure gold Her snowy-aproned lap; White treasury of wealthy untold;
Deftly she makes In bountiful profusion piled A regal ball of them,
And takes for sceptre one that high doth hold His head in pride of April sap.
My earliest love of flowers, how good to lay my sunburnt face
In grass so lush It shames the name of green;
And fold in one embrace The clustered heads of all I glean,
And kiss the pure Or mid their golden flush Immure
The splendour of some cowslip queen,Who reigned apart in loftier grace.” – Alfred Hayes

“Oh; how this spring of love resembleth The uncertain glory of an April day!
Which now shows all of the beauty of the sun  And by and bye a cloud takes all away.” –
Two Gents of Verona – Shakespeare

“Soon o’er their heads blithe April airs shall sing;
A thousand wild flowers round them shall unfold;
The green buds glisten in the dews of spring,
And all be vernal rapture as old.” – J Keble.

“Come  forth ye blossoms! – over hill and lea,
A breathe of sweetness wantons with the sea,
And mid the smiles and tears of tender Spring,
Ye cups and stars that strew the fair, green field,
Ye wings of gold the prickly gorses yield;
Ye perisive bells to purple pageants born,
Ye milk-white may-buds of the mantling thorn;
Ye violet gems and eyes of sapphire blue;
Wan, flushing wind-flowers and shy elfin crew
Of every crannied wall, — come forth! –and fling
Young vernal showers around me while I sing;” – A Song of Salutation – E.M. Holden

“10 Travelled on, to Deusland on Dartmoor.  Primroses thick all along the line.

“11 Glorious day.  Went for a stroll round the fields in the morning and gathered Primroses, some of them the largest I ever saw  The Wild Strawberry, Early Vetch Wood Sorrel and Greater Stitchwort are in blossom here.  In the afternoon, I went up onto the moor to bring home a pony and a foal.  Both are delightfully picturesque in their shaggy winter coats, and I hope to begin their portraits tomorrow.  Up on the moor the  world seemed to be made up of sky and gorse, – such acres of fragrant, golden blossom under a sky of cloudless blue.  I saw Wall butterflies fluttering about in the sunshine.

“’I come, I come! Ye have called me long,
I come o’er the mountains with light and song!
Ye may trace my step o’er the wakenig earth,
By the winds that tell of the violets’ birth,
By the primrose stars in the shadowy grass
By the green leaves opening as I pass.
I have passed o’er the hills of the stormy North;
And the larch has hung all his tassels forth
The fisher is out on the sunny sea,
And the reindeer bound thro’ the pasture free,
And the pine has a fringe of softer green,
And the moss looks bright where my step has been.’” – Mrs. Hemans

“’And wind-flowers and violets
Which yet join not scent to hue
Crown the pale year weak and new.” – Shelley

“’Long as there’s a sun that sets Primroses will have their glory
Long as there are violets, They will have a place in story.” – Wordsworth

“’Now lav’rocks wake the merry morn Aloft on dewy wing;
The merle in his noontide bower Makes woodland echoes ring
The mavis wild wi’ many a note sings drowsy day to rest;
In love and freedom they rejoice wi’ care nor thrall oppress’d.
Now blooms the lily on the bank, The primrose down the brae;
The hawthorn’s budding in the glen And mild-white is the slae;” – Burns


Image from Nature Notes April pg.41

“April 12 Painted the pony and colt all morning in the field very hot sun and cool breeze.  Saw a beautiful Peacock butterfly and found some Purple Orchis in flower.


“13 Good Friday.  Went to Burrator and down into Meavy Glen.  Everything is very dry; a good storm of rain would bring out many more flowers now.  Down in the glen beside the Meavy, the Primroses and Wood-sorrel were very plentiful, growing among the boulders some of the young Sycamore trees are in full flower and leaf.  While we were resting on the bank of the river, we saw a Heron rise through the trees on the opposite slope and sail away over the wood, the pink and grey tints of his legs and plumage, sowing up very distinctly against the brown background of bare trees.  We came home across the moor.  In many parts the Gorse blossom was glorious, but on Yanadon Down there were great black stretches where the gorse had been burnt:

“14 Saw the first Swallow and a Yellow Brimstone Butterfly.

“15. Easter Sunday.  Another brilliant day.  Saw a pair of House Martins, watched some Trout in the Leet and found a Chaffinch’s nest nearly finished in a young Hawthorn.

“17.  Pink Campion in bloom.  Walking through the fields, came upon quite a grove of young Cherry-trees in blossom, growing all along the top of one of the banks.  The wall-banks that divide the fields here and run along the lanes are beginning to be enamelled with little flowers and ferns, and on the broad tops, crowned with low hedges, the Blue-bells are coming up very thickly.  The Blackthorn bushes ae a wonderful sight just now, their masses of snowy blossom making a striking contrast with the deep gold of the Gorse.  Miss B. had some lovely Pasque Flowers sent her from Oxfordshire this morning.

“19.  Bright sun and strong North East wind.  Set out for a walk to Lowry.  Going over Yannakon Down we saw a young Hare lying in its form among the gorse bushes.  It lay quite still till we had all but trodden on it, when it dashed off among the heather ad gorse.  Going down the long, steep lane to Lowry, we found some pink Milk-wort, Tormentil and Germander.  Speedwell in flower on the bank.  Opposite the Leatman’s little white, thatched cottage we turned off the road, over the leat, and across the marshy gorse-covered ground that stretches down to the edge of the lake.  Here the Gorse and Blackthorn blossom was very fine and in the bogs we found Marsh Violets and the Small Water Crowfoot but there are very few of the bog-flowers out as yet:  We also found a good many blossoms of the Lousewort.  At the edge of the leat, on the shady side, the icicles were hanging in the clusters on the long moss that overhung the water.  In Lowry Lane just below the quarry I saw one of the prettiest Blackbird’s nests I have ever seen; it was all made of moss and placed in the fork of a Gorse bush, growing close beside the road.  The mother bird was sitting on the nest and gazed at us with her bright, black eyes, but never stirred from her post.

“In the afternoon went to Huckworthy Bridge that spans the river Walkham; Down hill all the way.  In the meadows beside the river I was surprised to find the blue Alkanet already in blossom just where I found it in July last year. over the overhanging bank beside the river; The Primroses were thick along the field-banks and I gathered Cuckoo flowers, Red Campion and Bluebells and Bullace; on the way home saw Horn-beam tree in flower.

“April 20 Today I saw and heard the Chiff-chaff for the first time this year.  A number of them to have arrived in the neighbourhood, as I saw three different birds, I also saw Stone-chats for the first time on the moor.








“April 23.  Bright and cold….Watched the sun set behind the hills, from the top of Yannadon Dow.  Gorgeous gold and purple clouds, near the horizon and up above, clear golden sky!  While we were watching it, a Hawk suddenly sailed into the sea of gold above the setting sun and remained stationary, poised on quivering wings for quite a long time, then it suddenly dived down into the purple shadows of the plantation just below.

“25.  Found two more Chaffinch’s nests today, and a Hedge Sparrow’s nest with four eggs.  The Willow Wren has put in his appearance here the last day or two.  A native of Dousland showed me a bank covered with gorse and briars, where he said he was sure a Bramble Finch was building.  I only know this bird by reputation, so mean to go again and watch for it.

“27.  Found two wren’s nests, both built of moss, one in the side of a haystack, the other in a bank.  Saw a swift.

28.  Showers of hail and sleet.

29.  Heavy snow shower in the night; when I looked out this morning the landscape was all white; the distant tors [hils-Jacki’s note] veiled in a mist of driving sleet.  Bright sunshine later, with fine effects of sunlight on the distant tors covered with snow.

30.  Cold north east wind, with frequent showers, but bright intervals.  The latter part of April has been very cold and stormy.



Posted in AprilEdith Holden’s WritingEpisode 4 | Tagged  






Edith Holden was an incredible illustrator during the late 19th & early 20th centuries. In another post, I discuss how I have used her books [nature journals] for the past couple of years to help teach my students how to draw; how to create and maintain an art journal; and how to better appreciate nature. In this post, I want to salute Holden’s picturesque writing.  I have masters degrees in both writing and visual art; and I wrote a thesis about William Blake, the 18th century poet who also illustrated his work.  I have long been drawn to people who are both authors and illustrators.  When I write, I form mental pictures to help me recreate my image in words.  This is called picture writing.  I teach children in my small art school; and during pretty weather, we go outside; observe something; draw it; and then write about it.  Writing, drawing, and painting reinforce each other.  They increase a person’s power of observation, and that not only improves one’s art–it also increases intelligence.