Page 151. " Felix looked in vain for any means of crossing the channel "
Medieval Italian Port based on painting by Guardi Francesco
Public DomainMedieval Italian Port based on painting by Guardi Francesco - Credit: Public Domain

Jefferies made two unsuccessful attempts to travel overseas, and Felix's experience at the port of Aisa, when he is ignored and thwarted in his attempts to cross the water, might be a fictionalisation of his own frustrated effort to 'cross the threshold'.

In November 1864, at the age of sixteen, he and a cousin, James Cox, ran off to France, intending to walk to Russia. Cox, slightly older than Jefferies, worked for the Great Western Railway and had a little money saved. After crossing the channel, they soon found that their schoolboy French was insufficient and returned to England. Before they reached Swindon, they noticed an advertisement for cheap crossings from Liverpool to America and set off in this new direction. The tickets however, did not include the cost of food; and the boys were forced to return to Swindon after an attempt to pawn their watches had drawn the attention of the police.

Jefferies and his cousin made poor argonauts. He found more success in his imagination: his juvenile hero Bevis, rigs a boat and sails 'The New Sea', which is undoubtedly based upon Coate Water, near his childhood home.