The Worm Forgives the Plough, originally published in 1973, is here presented with an introduction by Robert Macfarlane. During the Second World War, John Stewart Collis volunteered to leave his comfortable life as an academic to work on the land for the war effort. His account of this time perfectly captures the soft-handed, city-dweller's naivety and wonder both at the workings of nature and the toughness of life on a farm. It's set in the south of England and comprises exquisitely written sections on whatever happens to take Collis' fancy and inspire his thoughtful curiosity, ranging from humorous sketches of the characters he works alongside; mini-essays such as 'Contemplation upon Ants', The Mystery of Clouds', 'Colloquy on the Rick', 'Meditation while Singling Mangolds', 'The Garden of Eden'; and, celebrations of the earthworm, pea and potato. His mind ranges far and wide through literature science and philosophy as well as amazing descriptive writing, which makes for a book that is as uncategorisable as it is enchanting.
John Stewart Collis was born in 1900. His father was a Dublin solicitor and Collis was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford. In 1925 he published a biography of George Bernard Shaw and he later went on to write other biographical works and also became a pioneer of the ecological movement in Britain. During the Second World War his wife and daughters were evacuated to the United States and he worked for the Land Army as an agricultural labourer – accompanied by his beloved dog, Bindo. His memoirs and meditations on rural life, While Following the Plough (1946) and Down to Earth (1947) were first published together as The Worm Forgives the Plough in 1973, which has become a classic of nature writing.