The Joy of November (Snippets 38)


Winter Landscape with Iceskaters, by Hendrick Avercamp (c. 1608)

William Howitt (1792-1879) was a prolific writer, principally of non-fiction, who wrote on a variety of topics over the course of his life: religion, literature, spiritualism, travel, history.  He was perhaps best known for his books on rural life.  One of the most charming is A Country Book: for the field, the forest, and the fireside, published in 1859.  It contains one chapter per month, each focussing on country life at the relevant time of the year.  Sometimes November can seem like a melancholy time of year, with the long winter stretching ahead, but here is what Howitt had to say on the subject:

In Nature there is nothing melancholy.

In nature there is no season which has not its charms. To healthy frames and minds at ease, there will never cease to be inspiring music in the wild winds of November, as something that we love to gaze upon in the gloomy strife of the elements. How much poetry is there in the sound of tempests as we are seated over the evening fire; nay, the terrors of winter would be no terrors, if men were well provided for that season. On the contrary, all would delight, warmly clad, to rush forth into the clear, clasping air, and feel the blood tingle in the veins at the healthy influence of cold; would sally forth to the pleasures of skating, walking, riding, or the many duties which life in town and country presents. Who does not remember the pleasures and active labours of winters gone by, as amongst the most delightful portions of past life. No, truly —

In Nature there is nothing melancholy.

God has framed us to draw enjoyment from every change that comes, and every wind that blows.

To those who, fortunately, possess health and contentment, November is far from deficient in enjoyment, in spite of clouds, fogs, and storms. True, the flowers are gone; the long grass stands amongst the woodland thickets withered, bleached, and sere; the fern is red and shrivelled amid the green gorse and broom; the plants which waved their broad white umbels to the summer breeze, like skeleton trophies of death, rattle their dry and hollow stalks to the autumnal winds. The brooks are brimful; the rivers, turbid and covered with masses of foam, hurry on in angry strength, or pour their waters over the champaign. Our very gardens are sad, damp, and desolate; their floral splendours are dead, and naked stems and decaying leaves have taken the place of verdure. But what of that? If the heart be strong and sound, all the light and heat, the joy and beauty of the whole seasons have retreated with it, and in the very gloom and silence, amid fogs and winds and whirling leaves, it finds the food of intensest life, and the power of poetry. In its sternest moods, the season presents solemn thoughts, and awakens solemn feelings. Great philosophical minds have in all ages borne but one testimony to the charms of its quietude. In the profound repose of the country at this season the mourner seeks to indulge the passion of grief, as a solemn luxury. In it the projector of some great work of art or literature labours to mature his plans, and, hidden from all eyes, to achieve that which shall make his name familiar to all ears. The mists that sweep over the moors, the clouds that hang on the mountains, the darkness that broods over sea or forest, give wings to the imagination, and clothe the passion of the muser with all the language and colours of sublimity.

No, there is no melancholy, no sadness there. It is when we turn to the crowded masses of living humanity that we perceive the suffering, and hear the wail of wretchedness. It is time that we awoke from every delusion of selfishness, that we made up our minds to be “men and brothers.”

November leads in winter. Snows often set in towards the end of the month, and not man only, but the whole race of wild creatures have prepared for it. Moles have made up their nests for the winter. Frogs have sunk to the bottom of ponds and ditches, and buried themselves in mud and sleep. The lizard, the badger, the hedgehog, have crept into holes in the earth, and remain torpid till spring. The bats have hung themselves up by the heels in old barns, caves, and deserted buildings, and, wrapping themselves in the membranes of their fore-feet, doze winter away. Squirrels, rats, and mice, shut themselves up in their winter stores, and the dormouse has betaken itself to slumber. How many of God’s human creatures would rejoice to do the same!


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12 Responses to The Joy of November (Snippets 38)

  1. What a beautiful ode to November! I will try to think of it that way from now on instead of the doom and gloom I normally put on it! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leya says:

    Love this painting – wish it was hanging on my wall.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this — thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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