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"The Cowslip Field."
Page Count
Word Count
Argosy (UK)
Flower Grower
News of the World
Publication Year

The opening selection in The Watercress Girl, a collection of stories hearkening back to Bates's boyhood in Rushden and the surrounding countryside.

A young boy and neighbor woman enjoy an afternoon in a "cowslip forest...All the fragrance of the field blew down on him along a warm wind that floated past him to shake from larches and oaks and hedges of may-bloom a continuous belling fountain of cuckoo calls." They make chains and he urges his companion — a plump, dwarfish spinster — to let down her hair; as they leave she seizes him, "swinging him joyfully round her body and finally holding him upside down."

Baldwin (1987, p. 199) cites a letter in which Bates names this and two other tales as his favorite selections from the collection.

News of the World announced the story in advance with the title "The Secret of the Cowslip Field," (billboard poster for news agents attached) but published it with the title "The Cowslip Field," one of a number of stories by "our great short story writers" including ones by Eric Linklater, Victor Canning, Lord Dunsay and Wolf Mankovitz.

In News of the World (August 25, 1957), The Watercress Girl and Other Stories (1959), Seven by Five/The Best of H.E.Bates (1963), The Poison Ladies and Other Stories (1976), A Month by the Lake & Other Stories (1987). Reprinted in The Flower Grower (July 1960). Also reprinted in Argosy (June 1969) with an accompanying note (attached) called "Why I Choose This Story."


The below reviews and articles are available in PDF format.