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Through the Woods: The English Woods — April to April
Essay Collection
Page Count
Word Count
Victor Gollancz
Publication Year
Document Types
Film & Television
Nature Writing
available as ebook

London: Victor Gollancz, 1936 (October). New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936. With engravings by Agnes Miller Parker.
Dedication: "To All Woodlanders."

The book's format matches that of Clare Leighton's Four Hedges published in the previous year by Gollancz and much praised by Bates.

Bates's first major non-fiction work (Flowers and Faces was published the previous year in a limited edition) is an appreciation of the woods over the course of a year. He writes of trees and flowers, birds and animals, and the yearly transformation of nature from Spring to Spring; also about poachers, hunters, and keepers, mushroom hunting, and country visits in his youth to Jennie Waters, his mother's great aunt, and owner of the Chequers pub in Yeldon and to Joseph Betts, model for Uncle Silas. In his final chapter, he anticipates the environmental movement in calling woods "oases of wild life in a too-ordered, too-civilised country. They are the green islands left high and dry by the waters of town and suburb. In so small a country they are trebly precious. Without them the English countryside, man-made for the greater part, would be nothing."

Richard Church in the New Statesman and Nation states that "it is no exaggeration to say that now, at least in the power of evoking the scent, touch, sound and movement of the English scene, Mr. Bates is comparable to W.H. Hudson" (whom Bates greatly admired). Other reviewers had nothing but praise for both prose and engravings, and the book came with a wrapper bearing the statement by George Bernard Shaw that "A look through these miraculous engravings is better than a real woodland walk. You can actually feel the fur and smell the leaves."

In 1974 the RSPB produced an award-winning documentary based on the book titled "A World Within Itself."

A new edition of the book, with the original illustrations and an introduction (attached pp. 11-23) by Laura Beatty, was issued by Little Toller Books in 2012.


  • John O'London's Weekly (October 30, 1936, p. 216, attached)
  • New Statesman and Nation (January 2, 1937, p. 22, Richard Church, attached)
  • New York Times (December 6, 1936, p. BR6, attached)
  • Print Collector's Quarterly (December 1936, p. 95-96, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (November 21, 1936, p. 951, Brenda Colvin, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (November 21, 1936, p. 954, Alan Francis, attached)
  • American Forests (January, 1937, p. 41, attached)

Contains: The Wood in April; The Other Wood; Trees in Flower; Flowers and Foxes; Oaks and Nightingales; The Villain; Woods and Hills; The Height of Summer; Woods and the Sea; Poachers and Mushrooms; The Heart of Autumn; Winter Gale and Winter Spring; Snows of Spring; Primroses and Catkins; The Darling Buds of March; The Circle is Turned. Of these, the following were published (in part or in full) prior to being included in the collection:

Short excerpts from two chapters were reprinted in a 1941 anthology called The House of Tranquility (these being "Buds of March," an excerpt from "The Darling Buds of March," and "The Heart of Autumn," an excerpt from the chapter of the same name.

Excerpts were printed in 1974 in Living as: