New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1962. First American edition. Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. Mild toning to bright, unclipped original dust jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #1481
"THE HOLIEST EARTH IN ENGLAND"
First American edition of the Flowering Hawthorn—the story of "the coming of Christianity to the English-speaking world"—illustrated by Clare Leighton with eight wood-engravings. Printed in the same year as the first British edition by Hawthorn Books of New York "on the occasion of its tenth anniversary" as a publisher.
Written shortly after his conversion to Catholicism, Hugh Ross Williamson's legends of the advent of Christianity in the British Isles centers on Glastonbury Abbey (the famed "Second Rome") and the hawthorn tree that flowers at Easter and again at Christmas. The text is decorated by Clare Leighton with eight splendid wood-engravings: I. Joseph of Arimathea planting the hawthorn staff on Weary-all Hill, II. Joseph of Arimathea landing on the coast of Cornwall, III. "And there he built with wattles from the marsh a little lonely church in days of yore." IV. Sir Bedevere committing King Arthur's sword Excalibur to the lake, V. St. Dunstan composing the music which he himself played on the harp, VI. The ruins of Glastonbury at night, with the Wordsworth poem in mind, VII. A local zealot blinded by a chip whilst attempting to cut down the hawthorn tree on Weary-all Hill, VIII. The flowering hawthorn blessed by a vision of the hand of the Virgin Mary.
Williamson turned from his Noncomformist upbringing and became an Anglican clergyman in 1942. He was also a journalist and a historian (under the influence of G.K. Chesterton, R.H. Benson, and T.S. Eliot), known primarily for his biographies. His conclusions often conflicted with the accepted traditions of Anglicanism and the resulting controversies left Williamson feeling isolated. "Ross Williamson was a Church of England clergyman at the time he wrote many of his controversial historical studies, a fact which led him increasingly to question the nature of his own position" (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). Williamson remained a committed Anglo-Catholic until another controversy (this time over the Church of England's validation of orders in the Church of South India) drove him, at last, into the arms of Rome. In October of 1955, Hugh Ross Williamson, together with his wife, was received into the Church at Farm Street by Father Basil Fitz-Gibbon, S.J. Pearce. Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief.