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A Countryman’s Quartet (Without Slipcase)
Adrian Bell, A Countryman's Autumn Notebook
Adrian Bell, A Countryman's Spring Notebook
Adrian Bell, A Countryman's Summer Notebook
Adrian Bell, A Countryman's Winter Notebook
  • Dimensions: 170 x 110 mm
  • Publication date: 15 September 2024
  • Binding: Cloth hardback
  • Trimmings: Silk ribbon, head- & tailband; blocking to spine

A Countryman’s Quartet (Without Slipcase) - Release date: 15 September 2024

Adrian Bell
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When, in 1950, Adrian Bell was commissioned by his local paper to write a weekly column about life in the Suffolk countryside, where he had settled to farm soon after the First World War, he can hardly have imagined that these little essays would still be enjoyed by readers all over the world more than seventy years later.

But it is extraordinary how clearly Bell’s writing and his concerns still speak to us today. Though he was recording a world that was fast disappearing, giving these beautifully observed little pieces an extra element of nostalgia, they are never sentimental. His approach to the countryside was well ahead of his time, for he saw how the shift towards industrial agriculture – running, as he put it, ‘a factory with the roof off’ – was leading to a decline in natural diversity and the breaking up of rural communities. Reading the Notebooks is like taking a stroll with a man who knows the East Anglian countryside like the back of his hand but always finds something new and interesting to look at, an escape into a lost world and also a call to look around us today and do things differently.

For all those who have loved our editions of Bell’s seasonal writings but missed out on the first book in the series they are now available as a quartet.

A Countryman’s Winter Notebook

As frost snuffs out the brilliant shows of dahlias in cottage gardens, Bell takes pleasure in this season when the world falls quiet, when there is time to plan and to remember, to see the old year out and look forward to the new. He watches the dance of a dead leaf caught in a spider’s web, plucks the last rose from his garden, stirring up thoughts of summers past. He watches skating on a frozen pond and observes how on the ice even a hardworking farmer is ‘endowed with the motion of a bird, the grace of a seagull, the speed of a swallow’. As his son Martin Bell observes in his preface, these pieces are ‘not really journalism but prose poems about the natural life around him’.

 A Countryman’s Spring Notebook

Bell captures beautifully the arrival of spring in the East Anglian landscape – the drills and harrows busy on the upland fields, primroses along the lanes, an expedition to buy seeds for the vegetable garden from an old-fashioned seed merchant. As always with Bell the past mingles with the present. He remembers stopping one spring day at a country pub and watching a local farmer halt outside on his cob to drink a mug of ale that the landlord took out to him: ‘There in the sunlight of that warm March, the ale glinting golden in his glass – it was like leisurely old England come again.’ Here are evocations of an East Anglian spring so vivid you can smell the sweet air and hear the far-off call of a cuckoo.

A Countryman’s Summer Notebook

In the third volume of this seasonal quartet, Bell takes us into the summer countryside, to smell the hawthorn in ‘hedges suddenly become cliffs of white’, to linger in quiet churches, wander through country towns, and hear the voices of the craftsmen and women, the farmers and farm labourers, whose lives are rooted in the Suffolk soil. ‘Flowers and conversations are the best pleasures I know,’ he writes. In these lovely glimpses of summer in the Suffolk landscape, he gives us both, from his meeting with an old farmer whose words ‘were like something out of the Bible’ to the sight of daisies ‘glad as confetti in the long grass’.

A Countryman’s Autumn Notebook

‘You can stand in the windless calm of an autumn evening and hear the heartbeat of the countryside,’ Bell writes, and it’s that steady, persistent, unchanging heartbeat that we can clearly hear in this final selection from his columns for the Eastern Daily Press. Now it is harvest-time, ‘work is hard while the sun shines and every arm, leg and wheel is wanted’. The evenings are drawing in, the floor of his summer house is carpeted with fallen leaves, while on the lawn a cock pheasant and a rook at the top of a tree engage in a syncopated duet. Bell meets the harvesters at the end of their long day: ‘Something like a ghostly full moon came looming towards me through the dusk. It was a mushroom the size of a dinner plate which the last man was carrying home.’



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