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Love for Lydia
Page Count
Word Count
Michael Joseph
Woman's Own
Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd
Publication Year
Document Types
Film & Television
Radio Dramatizations
First-Person Narratives
Social Commentary
Evensford (setting)
Character: Richardson
available as ebook
Rushden, Rural Living, Northamptonshire, Journalism, Coming of Age

London: Michael Joseph, 1952; Boston: Little Brown and Company (An Atlantic Monthly Press Book), 1953. Original dust jacket by James Broom-Lynne.
Dedication: "To Laurence" [Pollinger, Bates's literary agent]."
Serialized in Woman's Own in eleven parts in late 1952 (September 25, October 2, October 9, October 16, October 23, October 30, November 6, November 13, November 20, November 27, December 4). According to Woman's Own, serialisation preceded book publication.

A young newspaper reporter and three other young men each fall in love with Lydia, a young woman who has returned to live with her once wealthy family in the town of Evensford. They dance and party as they come of age in the suffocation of small town life in the late 1920s.

The novel is the only fictional work that Bates himself called autobiographical. Evensford is identical in numerous details to Bates's Rushden. It is narrated by Richardson, equally identical in many ways to the young Bates: his living situation, his unsatisfying work as a local reporter (based on Bates job at the Northamptonshire Chronicle), his subsequent job in a warehouse (allowing much time for writing), his stint in London at a bookshop, his hobbies (ice skating, flowers, walking), a mother based on Bates's mother (Lucy Bates), and a father who leads a choir (Albert Bates). An additional connection to Bates's childhood is that the woman who delivers books to Lydia is based on Mrs. Hensman, a teacher who was an important early influence on Bates (Baldwin, 1987, pp. 31-32). Further rooting of the novel in real events is established by Bates twice in his autobiography (The Vanished World, pp. 136-138 and The World in Ripeness, pp. 116-118), where he remembers a reporting assignment at Rushden Hall (the model for the novel's Aspen house) and also recalls a passing glimpse of "a tallish, dark, proud, aloof young girl in a a black cloak lined with scarlet" at the Rushden train station; "I surmised, rightly or wrongly, that she came from the Hall." Strangely, in twice citing the two memories as an example of the need for "a fusion of negative and positive" in the writing of novels, Bates in one telling calls the girl the positive element (the hall being the negative) and in the next telling, reverses himself. A very early story, The Spring Song may conceivably be inspired in part by the same "passing glimpse" that inspired the character of Lydia.

A thirteen-episode television adaptation, produced by London Weekend Television and directed by Tony Wharmby and Christopher Hodson, was first aired in the Fall of 1977; the series featured actors Mel Martin, Christopher Blake, and Jeremy Irons. The novel was dramatized by Vivien Allen for BBC Radio in 2004 in a production starring Tim Piggott Smith, Juliet Aubrey and Jordan Frieder.

The Times Literary Supplement complained that "the characters do not fit into any recognizable social class of those times [the 1920s]...Anyone interested in the English language must read Mr. Bates, one of its outstanding masters. But the mainspring of this tale is the impact of a handsome chauffeur on his social superiors, and a novel based on snobbery...should get the details of social relationships absolutely right." The Times says "the setting and atmosphere are brimming with life. Mr. Bates's deepest passion is for the English countryside, and Love for Lydia conveys a vivid impression of the endless passage of the seasons over town and country in Northamptonshire. He has a craftsman's feeling for words, even if he sometimes overworks them, and the fields in this book will remain in the mind long after Lydia has been forgotten, which is perhaps what the author intends." The New York Times calls it "an honest and skillfully told love story, very much alive with people, and genuinely affecting."


  • Harper's Magazine (March 1953, p. 106, Katherine Jackson, attached)
  • The New York Times (January 18, 1953, p. BR5, Richard Sullivan, attached)
  • The New York Times (January 15, 1953, p. 25, Charles Poore, attached)
  • Saturday Review of Literature (January 17, 1953, p. 14, Constance Morgan, attached)
  • Spectator (October 17, 1952, p. 514, Tangye Lean, attached)
  • The Times (October 11, 1952, p. 8, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (October 10, 1952, p. 657, Alfred Duggan, attached)
  • British Book News (January, 1953, p. 66, attached)
  • Punch (October 15, 1952, p. 493, attached)