What is it that makes England English? What are the quintessentially English qualities? The author makes no claim to have discovered the definitive answer, but suggests that, "like a thread that is only golden when the sun shines on it, that which is most precious to the English is that which is commonly taken for granted". This book invites a reappraisal. The book suggests that qualities which have been very dear to the English over the ages, even though they have been covered over from time to time, are freedom, justice and truth. These qualities have found their expression in the development of the language, with its innate rhythms and simple structures, embodied in a literary tradition of extraordinary variety and richness. They are evident in the tenets of the Common Law and the unwritten constitution of a free nation. They may be traced through a spiritual heritage distinct from dogma and sectarian bigotry. There is also a reminder of the part man has played in shaping the beauty of the countryside, a landscape that reflects the English character.
At a time of bewildering change in the affairs of the world and the nation, this book gives readers an opportunity to reflect on those things which could be endangered by neglect and ignorance. The text is accompanied by ninety of Valerie Petts's paintings in that most English of art media, the watercolour. Together, word and picture celebrate the beauty and character of both rural and urban England, and invite readers to consider the English nation anew.