The Happy Countryman
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O More Than Happy Countryman
Essay Collection
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Word Count
Country Life Ltd.
Publication Year
Document Types
Nature Writing
Social Commentary
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 Gardenerand 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 in The 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). Two of the essays were published separately prior to appearance in the 1943 collection, " O More Than Happy Countryman" having appeared in The Field (London) on May 24, 1941 and "Sea Days, Sea Flowers" having appeared in The Saturday Book, 1941-1942 in October 1941 (and reprinted in 1984 in a limited edition by the Snake River Press). "The Great House" was likewise reprinted in a limited edition in 1984 by the same press. Reviews: Times Literary Supplement (May 8, 1943, p. 224, Marjorie Hessell Tiltman, attached) Contains: Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori; The Great House; Sea Days, Sea Flowers; Mr. Pimpkins; The Future Garden; The Garden on Leave' The New Country; The Old Tradition; The Green Hedges; O More Than Happy Countryman.


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