Is ENGLAND BECOMING LESS BEAUTIFUL?
A countryman describes his own country
The Countryman's Bedside Book. By " B. B.," with illuetrations by D. J. Weikins-Pitchford. (Eyre and Spottiswoode, lOs. 6th)
Reviewed by STANLEY B. JAMES
"SO it is that year by year England is becoming Jess lovely," writes the author of these nature-sketches. " The little gated lanes are going to he replaced by tarmac roads and petrol pumps, and now the loathsome chara
banes penetrate even the remote highlands."
_ It is not along three/ tarmac roads that he leads us, but through wintry woods where you step on pine-needles or your
foot crunches into the snow. Sometimes the route is changed and we find ourselves oil the sea-shore, where the waves arc creaming over broken rocks and we can watch the seagulls swooping or riding on marble-streaked waters. And then, again. the scene is. changed and we are tramping purple moorlands so remote and solitary as to give the unaccustomed traveller a momentary spasm of fear.
.QTORIES concerning the habits of birds, 'se' beasts and fishes abound. The gossip of the woods, the whispered news that passes from shivering tree to shivering tree on moonlit nights is here retailed. We overhear the chatter of birds unsuspicious of eavesdroppers We pass among these scenes slowly and observantly, entertained by a voice that never rises above a quiet, conversationat level with stories that the big game hunter and those who read of his adventures may think tame but which the nature-lover will appreciate as reminiselni of unhursied days and nights before the agony and tragedy of war came upon us.
Some may call the book "escapist," but others will value it as pleasantly recreative and calculated to stir us to the performance of harder tasks by reminding us of the charm and beauty of the land for which we are lighting.
The style might be called pedestrian and undistinguished. That, however, would not be quite fair. When he is warmed up in his themes, " B. B." can tell a story or describe a scene in a manner which arrests attention.
IT must be said, however, that the main
value of the book is in the accompanying wood-cuts by D. J. Watkins-Pitchford. There are fourteen full-page plates and numerous headpieces and tailpieces from hins, and every one of them records the impression or a mind sensitive to natural charm. There is one of a stormy sky breaking over .waste moorlands and another of a giant oak over which I have found myself lingering unsatiated by their truth and beauty. This is how nature ought to be illustrated, giving scope to the imaginebon and faithfully capturing the wildness of untrodden ways.
Our world is becoming so tidied up that it is difficult to escape the consciousness of
human handiwork. The city planner follows us into what was once the wilderness. This sophistication of the countryside has deprived us of access to the home of the winds and the abode of brooding silences wherein we may renew our strength. This book will enable us to recover these things, anyway at second-hand.
U is not a Christmas book, nor is there in it any suggestion of the supernatural. Nevertheless, coley the blast and overcivilised would despise it as a Christmas gift.