Many years ago, aged about 12, I became interested in bird watching. Browsing through nature books in my local library I came across a book published the previous year. Called “Happy Countryman”, I took it home.
The first few words of Roberts’ lyrical and atmospheric writing forever hooked me into natural history. The wonderful descriptions of his exploration throughout the British Isles in the first half of the 20th century also included aspects of country life tied to nature; rural traditions that have long since disappeared.
To digress momentarily, I’m currently reading “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, an eye-opening and fascinating history of humankind, a book IMHO everyone ought to read. It brought to mind a short passage in “Happy Countryman”, about man and the natural world, written well before the mainstream environmental movement appeared. Written in the early 1950s, it could have been written today…
“…Always it seems, the so called lesser creature must be subservient to the whim of man, put on this planet either to conform to whatever pattern he decrees, or be destroyed. Mankind will never know true humility so long as he regards himself as Earth’s supreme arbiter. Who are we to decide which creature shall, or shall not, live its life in peace…every living thing has its niche in a vast natural pattern. Reflect that man is the only species that wantonly interferes with the pattern, and witness the chaotic state to which he has brought the world.”
Roberts’ pen and ink sketches are beautifully observed…
I borrowed it from the library annually until I left Liverpool in the 1970s. Attempts to get the book for myself were unsuccessful, until on-line bookshops appeared. And now I still read it annually.
And for the many naturalists out there, copies of the book can still be found in online bookshops. The full title is “Happy Countryman” by E L Roberts published 1956 by Herbert Jenkins, London.