From the archive
And in his famous “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad,” he added:
If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia?… I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and…toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable.
His endearing and quirky tastes, his inexhaustible and loving attention to all aspects of the natural world, crop up constantly in his correspondence. The Letters are full of disarming non sequiturs: for instance, he interrupts some reflections on the Spanish Inquisition to note the daily visit that a hedgehog pays to his bathroom. While away from home in 1939, he writes to the friend who looks after his cottage: his apprehensions regarding the looming war give way without transition to concerns for the growth of his vegetables and for the mating of his goat:
I hope Muriel’s mating went through. It is a most unedifying spectacle, by the way, if you happened to watch it…. Did my rhubarb come up, I wonder? I had a lot, & then last year the frost buggered it up.