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When the Green Woods Laugh
Page Count
Word Count
Michael Joseph
Woman's Own
Publication Year
Document Types
Comic Fiction
Larkin Family Novels
available as ebook

London: Michael Joseph, 1960; Original dust jacket by James Broom-Lynne.
Boston, Toronto: Little Brown and Company (an Atlantic Monthly Press Book), 1961 (with the title Hark, Hark, The Lark!).
Serialized in Woman's Own (4 weekly parts, July 1960, the first part appearing in the issue dated "week ending July 9," the second in the issue "ending" July 16, and assumedly the remaining parts in the issues ending July 23 and 30).

Publicized as completing the trilogy of the Larkin family (which however grew to a series of five novels), this book both celebrates the Larkin love of the English countryside and pokes fun at urban myths about country life. William Blake's "Laughing Song" in Songs of Innocence is quoted at the front of the volume and provides the book's title. Pop Larkin's womanizing, or more precisely his disinterest in the viper-like Corinne Perigo, brings him legal trouble, which he naturally escapes. The novel ends, as did its predecessors, in a grand party, this time to christen a garish new swimming pool and to celebrate Mariette's pregnancy.

The New Statesman finds the book lacking: "Mr. Bates, sketching out the old bucolic vulgarities — peanut pate and manure, promiscuity and thick gravy, Schiaparelli bath oil and the blue-tiled outdoor swimming pool — baffles me. If he's joking, then he's stale; if he's deep, he's too oblique." Similarly the Spectator says "if the remaining prophecies of Brave New World are ever fulfilled, the authorities should now know where to go for their soma: Mr. Bates at 12s. 6d. a time." The Times Literary Supplement says "to anyone who respected Mr. Bates's talent as a serious novelist or his spontaneous Uncle Silas humour, the Larkin interlude is disturbing and sad—a crude travesty of the whole pastoral tradition. The New York Times instead protested the completion of the series: "Like Wodehouse's Jeeves, Bates' Larkins must continue in their own delightful milieu—in this case the Kentish countryside."


  • Books and Bookmen (August 1960, p. 35, Ian Norrie, attached)
  • New Statesman (July 23, 1960, p. 132, Paul West, attached)
  • New York Times (February 5, 1961, p. BR4, Beverly Grunwald, attached)
  • Spectator (July 22, 1960, p. 141, John Coleman, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (July 29, 1960, p. 477, Marigold Johnson, attached)
  • Blackwoods Magazine (December, 1960, p. 582, attached)
  • Daily Telegraph (July 22, 1960, p. 16, Kenneth Young, attached)
  • Sunday Times (July 17, 1960, p. 26, J.D. Scott, attached)