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The Country Heart
Essay Collection
Page Count
Word Count
Michael Joseph
Publication Year
Document Types
Social Commentary
Rural Living

London: Michael Joseph, 1949. Drawings by John Minton. The copyright page states that the work is "a revised and amended edition of O! More than Happy Countryman and The Heart of the Country" (as Eads notes, the exclamation point and the omission of "In" as the first word of the second title are both errors); an estimated word count for the two earlier works, the revised edition, and two new chapters indicate that possibly Bates reduced the texts by at most 1500 words and that otherwise any revisions were likely to have been small substitutions and alterations. The woodcuts of C.F. Tunnicliffe were replaced by drawings by John Minton. An excerpt from the volume was published in Richard Church's The Little Kingdom: A Kentish Collection (1964) with the title "Wealden Beauty." After the newly-written "Introduction: Yesterday" appear "Part One," containing the fourteen essays that made up In the Heart of the Country, "Part Two" containing the ten essays that made up O More than Happy Countryman, and lastly the "Epilogue: Tomorrow." In the introduction, written at Christmas (1948), Bates contrasts the countryside of his childhood with that after two wars; he finds "the things that make up so much of this book" to be largely destroyed and asks whether they are "merely the tender trivialities of one man's recollection or are they eternal things?...They are very dear to me and I am frightened of the answer." The epilogue, despite being subtitled "Tomorrow," begins with fond reminiscences of Bate's maternal grandfather and paternal great-grandmother and reflections on how they represented the best of the English countryside -- "English rural aristocrats of the finest type: gentle, decent, honest, fine to look at, upright and proud" (although Bates uses the term "aristocrats" despite their poverty, hard work, and lack of education). Bates reflects on the continuity of country life for centuries, with industrialization and mechanization bringing slow but unspectacular change, until after the first world war, when the full effect of the internal combustion engine was felt by both town and country. He considers the fusion of town and country to be "one of the few hopeful things in a fairly hopeless world," feeling that in a world increasingly focused on destruction, there must occur a "rediscovery of country life and the countryside" because of the creative power of agriculture. While appreciating what urban life can offer to rural dwellers, he also speculates that the worst examples of prefab urban developments have produced "the means of destroying themselves" through the atom bomb. "Are we really witnessing, not symbolically but actually, the destruction of an era, and being drawn back, with corresponding force, to a life that is closer to earth, the element which sustains us?" Contains: Introduction: Yesterday; Part One: Sudden Spring; Fisherman's Luck; Overture to Summer; Fruit Blossom Time; "Clouded August Thorn; Strange Battlefields; The Great Snow; A Summer Spring; "...Bring Forth May Flowers;" Victorian Garden; Wealden Beauty; The Strangeness of Fish; The Parish Pump; Flowers and Downland; Part Two: 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; Epilogue: Tomorrow.