Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.
An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.
6. “I see a land”
“A Land” (1951), Jacquetta’s most famous book, is a book only she could have written. As she said in her preface, “The image I have sought to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece … I see a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation”. Typically, she begins with her own experience, lying on the ground of her back garden in London, which starts reflections on the geology below. The book tapped in to interest in Britain and its history, its distinctive past, its visual heritage, and was itself an appealing artefact, with colour drawings by sculptor Henry Moore. As Diana Collins observed, the book made such unpromising subjects as stones and the mating of reptiles fascinating and meaningful. Jacquetta remarked that the book made a “curiously strong impression” with the public; she received the Kemsley special award for it.
“A Land” can be seen as the first of a trilogy, completed by “Man on Earth” (1954) and “Man and the Sun” (1962). These three books drew on Jacquetta’s academic, scientific background, but went beyond this to inspire readers with her imaginative identification with the growth of human consciousness and mythologies of the sun. Jacquetta believed that natural selection was only the mechanism for the development of consciousness, and that there was “an all-pervading and transcendent significance in human evolution”. Her interest in dualities, complements and contrasts shows in her ideas about the feminine “Old Brain” and the masculine “New Brain”, and the replacement of mother goddesses by sky gods in prehistoric religion.