Shop H.E. Bates Online
O More Than Happy Countryman
Essay Collection
Page Count
Word Count
Country Life Ltd.
Publication Year
Document Types
Nature Writing
Social Commentary
Character: Mr Pimpkin(s)
Rural Living

London: Country Life Limited, 1943. Illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe.

In the tradition of Bates's previous volumes of nature essays, and illustrated by the same artist who collaborated on The Seasons & the Gardener and In the Heart of the Country, these ten essays, eight of which not previously published in serial form, take their collective title from Virgil. Bates writes in the midst of war and his military service, appreciating a countryside and way of life that the war will forever change. Not wishing to return to "a rural life governed by privilege," he nevertheless acknowledges the creativity and beauty created by that life and asks "have we anything to put in its place?" He considers Victorian town planning and coastal development, remembers childhood visits to the seaside, and contemplates the nature of the English character and tradition. In perhaps the most timely essay, he puts his faith in education as the only means towards a "new countryside" that is economically and nutritionally healthy, and free of the indifference rife in country life.

As in previous books, he writes about flowers, rock gardens, fruit trees, fishing, and garden plans. He bemoans the defects of the hired "jobbing" gardener (introducing the figure of Mr. Pimpkins, who reappears inThe Country of White Clover and A Love of Flowers), writes expansively about the plains, stone architecture, and above all hedges that constitute the "real beauty of the English countryside," and discusses town and country relations. Anecdotes and observations of soldiers and air-battles distinguish this collection from Bates's previous nature writing.

The essays were included, in revised form, as part two of The Country Heart (1949), and reprinted as The Happy Countryman in 1985 (London: Robinson Publishing) and again with that title in 2014 (London: Unicorn Press).

The title essay appeared originally with an exclamation point after the initial word in the title, presumably in error, and one repeated in the publisher's statement when the contents were reprinted in The Country Heart.

Harold Hobson, in the Sunday Times, wrote that 'in this latest collection of essays, Mr. Bates is at his very best, humorous, easy, knowledgeable, wide in his range of interest and reference, and burning with an immense zeal for country life, which he considers the finest existence in the world.' A reviewer in Punch wrote that 'of all authors writing now he has perhaps the happiest knack of bringing the color and fragrance of a garden so clearly to the reader's mind that it almost seems that they are also reaching his eyes and his nose.'


  • Times Literary Supplement (May 8, 1943, p. 224, Marjorie Hessell Tiltman, attached)
  • Punch (July 7, 1943, p. 19, attached)
  • Sunday Times (June 6, 1943, p. 3, Harold Hobson, attached)


  • Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori
  • The Great House (reprinted by the Snake River Press, 1984)
  • Sea Days, Sea Flowers (First printed in The Saturday Book, 1941-1942, October 1941 and reprinted by the Snake River Press, 1984)
  • Mr. Pimpkins (First printed in The Field, November 14, 1942 titled Mr. Pimpkin Obliges!)
  • The Future Garden
  • The Garden on Leave
  • The New Country
  • The Old Tradition
  • The Green Hedges
  • O More Than Happy Countryman (First printed in The Field, May 24, 1941)


The below reviews and articles are available in PDF format.