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many facilities to the gratification of a taste for the study of plants. The great number of botanical works composed and published among us, in the lapse of a very few years past, are infallible signs of the popularity of botany, both as an object of scientific inquiry and of elegant recreation.
As a science, I will not affirm that botany is entitled to a very elevated rank, even when regarded in the most comprehensive points of view in which it is capable of being presented to us. İndeed it ranges, I am ready to admit, within a peculiarly limited scope, and treads in an humble path. Natural history, as a whole department of knowledge, must yield preeminence to nobler kinds of learning; and the history of the inanimate productions of the earth will not challenge equality with that of things instinct with feeling, motion, and intelligence. The physiology of vegetables abounds in curious subjects of investigation, interesting to such as love the contemplation of nature in all the varying forms which she assumes. Their economical uses, also their medicinal properties, deserve an ample share of the philosophical observer's attention. But he must be unduly partial to the object of his own individual taste, who can compare in dignity the study of botany, especially descriptive botany, to the study of the heavenly bodies, for instance, and of the stupendous powers of nature, by which the stars and planets, each in itself a world for the mere naturalist, are wheeled along their orbits. Who would think of ranking botany with any of those physical sciences which teach all the properties of matter, whether organized or unorganized, and which embrace the entire vegetable kingdom within their comprehensive laws; governing not more the motions of the massive globe, than the budding of the frailest flower that springs from its surface ? Botany, indeed, is but the study of a single one of the numerous forms of organized matter, and therefore it can at most only exhibit examples of the application of the great laws of universal nature. Again,-surely animated nature is a far higher study than inanimate. The hand of the Creator is less visibly stretched forth in the creation of a vegetable, even of the noblest tree which shoots upward its tall trunk and spreads abroad its ample foliage, the pride of a tropical forest, than it is in the formation of the eagle which soars high above it,—the bird of beautiful plumage or harmonious voice, which seeks shelter in its branches,—the lordly lion, who couches at its foot,-or man himself, whose finely compacted frame, nice organization, and erect shape, would mark him as the master of all other created beings, of whom earth is the common mother, did not the wonderful powers of his intellect still more decisively indicate his supremacy. And in the same degree, that the study of intel
lectual man himself, of his passions, dutics, actions, and the infinitely diversified subjects of examination which his social relations unfold, is, above all, most interesting to us,-in the same degree that mind is more attractive to the philosopher than matter--must the moral sciences ever assert their superior importance over botany, as well as over the other physical sciences.
I speak not thus in disparagement of botany ; but only for the purpose of assigning its true value to it, and to avoid being misunderstood as over-rating its importance, in expressing a great, and, I think, a well-grounded partiality, for this delightful and fascinating study. Its influence on the mind is altogether beneficial. It may not be so powerful an instrument of mental discipline as the exact sciences. It may not liberalize and expand the comprehension of the understanding, or enlarge our faculties, like the pursuits which have given to the Platos and Aristotles, the Bacons and Newtons, a glorious name to endure through the ages of time. But nothing is better calculated to indue the mind with useful habits of analysis and arrangement than botany, so rigidly are all its parts reduced to order by the modern systems of classification. This effect is not produced, as some undistinguishing admirers of botany have seemed to imagine, by the influence of the regularity of nature in the structure and distribution of plants ; because, strikingly as she makes this quality manifest in them, it is one which is alike common to all her works. There is not less of curious regularity in the crystallization of a gem, than in the development of the loveliest lily's petals. The tiniest insect, that whirs upon the midnight air, has an anatomy as exact and systematic as the structure of the majestic palm. The same beautiful order pervades all created things. The hand of nature operates according to unchangeable laws. Her very vagaries are systematic. In her most fantastic moments, when she seems to scatter abroad her productions in wild prodigality of confusion, there is a never failing regularity of plan discernible beneath all her apparent caprice. The study of botany, therefore, does not unfold to the careful observer any stronger proofs of order than the rest of the material universe ; and the same spirit of classification, which it imparts, might be acquired, and is daily acquired, in the study of other branches of natural history.
Still, botany, in my estimation, holds forth attractive allurements, which well account for its popularity in comparison with its sister sciences. The subjects of it, in the first place, are much more accessible, and more within our control, than any other natural productions, except minerals. The flowers of the field are spread open beneath our fcet. They do not dive into the recesses of the deep, nor wing their path through the trackless
realms of air, to elude our search. They are fixed to their localities on the earth, and there we are sure to find them in their appointed seasons. Again, the short periodical growth of the larger portion of plants enables us, with little labour, to study their regularly returning development through all its stages. In mineralogy, we may amuse ourselves, it is true, with the process of crystallizing a few salts ; but the great mass of things in the mineral kingdom are of slow production, and the meanest stone in our cabinets probably might have seen generation after generation of men arise and depart in the course of its own tardy progress to maturity. We may sow the seed, on the contrary, and watch the speedier increase of the vegetable, as it issues from the earth, sends out its leaves, blooms into the gay tints of summer, yields its fruit, and having thus performed the great act appointed of nature for all living things, the reproduction of its species, decays and perishes beneath our eye. We may do the same in some sort with animals; but far less easily than with vegetables. A ménagerie of wild beasts is not quite so manageable an establishment as a green-house; nor even a quiet collection of anatomical preparations so handy as a hortus siccus. Besides, it is impossible to study the history of sentient beings without some degree of cruelty, which, however justifiable, nay laudable, when exercised by philosophers in scientific investigations, is undoubtedly to be counted among the repulsive circumstances in the study of a great part of natural history. You cannot enter upon the first elements of zoology or ornithology, without destroying, or at least imprisoning, the free tenants of the woods. Nay, the very classification of most animals in the systems of natural bistory, presupposes some kuowledge of their anatomy. And although I profess not to feel any of that morbid sensibility, which shudders at the empalement of an unoffending bug by the prudent entomologist ; and although I cannot grant, with the poet, that
the poor beetle, which we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies; yet, cæteris paribus, I must think the study of plants more agreeable, certainly more suitable to delicate and youthful minds, than a study where the constant sacrifice of life is indispensable. And there is something of grossness, of ungrateful toil, involved in the most moderate attention to all other branches of natural history, which deserves to be had in consideration in estimating their relative claims to general popularity.
For the sedentary student, there is nothing so admirably adapted to the purposes of recreation as botany. It requires just so much attention of the mind as to occupy without fatiguing it, to
furnish it with a gentle stimulus to activity, witlrout agitating or straining its faculties by too powerful an impulse. Addressing the senses not less than the understanding, acting on the mind through the medium of external perception, and exciting the memory more strongly than the judgment, it is precisely the kind of study needed as a relief in the intervals of severer intellectual labour. Nor is this the least of its excellencies in the present relation. The votary of botany is called forth by it from the solitude and confinement of his study, he is torn from that sedentary life, which, combined with constant exercise of the mind in abstract speculations, weighs so heavily on the health and spirits. Exercise ought to enter into every scholar's religion. And yet all students, I apprehend, experience the greatest repugnance to taking regular exercise from a mere sense of duty as a bodily regimen. We ne an additional motive to stimulate us. There is something in the practices of the ancients, in the oral instructions given by their philosophers in the perambulations of the Porch, in the wisdom gained by their youth, not in the debilitating vigils of nocturnal research in the student's cell, but under the face of heaven, and drunk in with the living eloquence of the orator's lips, amid Athenian groves, or under the cool shades of the Tusculan plane-tree,—there is something in all this, which, to me, seems not more delightful to the imagination, than consonant to the dictates of nature. Modern learning is most generally drawn from the pages of books. The lectures of our universities constitute but a small portion of the intellectual aliment, which the modern scholar, the modern advocate, the modern gentleman, nay, the modern man of business, requires. Day after day, and year after year, he must pore over the printed records of human knowledge, condemned to a mode of life, which, however necessary in refined existence, and however capable nature may have made our bodies of recovering from its deleterious effects, certainly is not a state which she designed as the properest one for the human constitution. She did not make man sedentary; she made him, says the great Roman, to stand erect towards heaven. “Primum eos humo exeitatos, celsos et erectos constituit, ut deorum cognitionem, cælum intuentes, capere possent." Now the study of botany is to be pursued with advantage only in the wild woods and fertile meadows, where the vegetable world flourishes in the luxuriance of unstinted nature; and it therefore impels the naturalist to active, invigorating exercise in the open air, and exercise of a kind the most useful to the body and the most useful to the mind.
For myself, I shall never cease to be grateful to botany, were it only for many a delightful ramble, into which it has led me,
amid rural scenes of tranquillity, beauty, and peace ; where, dropping the burdens of life, and throwing off the oppression which sedentary occupation loads upon the spirits, I have passed from green valley to green valley, exultingly hailing, at every step, the discovery of some lovelier and rarer floweret, whose acquisition imparted a temporary triumph, I do no say greater, but how much more innocent, than the triumphs gained in prouder conquests. And how revivifying it is, in the heat of summer, when the whole sky seems to swim in a sea of dazzling light, to quit ihe world of brick and mortar in our cities, for the cool, refreshing shades of the country, whither the botanist is summoned. Art may present you with the spectacle of riches and power springing out of her persevering efforts. She may point to the curious fabrics wrought by her fingers, and the wonderful machinery set in motion by her skill. She may tell you how the enterprise of her children has prompted them to descend into the bowels of the earth for jewels and precious metals, and plough the faithless seas for the spice of eastern climes. She may show you the busy haunts of men enlivened by her activity, and place before you the marble palace and the city thronged with the gorgeous specimens of human genius, to illustrate the splendor of her success. But, notwithstanding all this, there is a lavish and careless profusion of beauty and grandeur in the productions of Nature, which the narrow art of man strives in vain to emulate. We shall leave the sublimest exercise of human power, the most faultless exhibitions of human genius, to find all its sublimity shrink into littleness, and all its beauty seem lifeless and tame, when compared with the works of nature. And amid these it is, that the ardent lover of botany seeks the gratification of his taste. His favourite haunts are the mountain-side clothed in its everlasting forests, the margin of the sun-bright lako spotted with islets and embosomed in picturesque hills, or the banks of the stream winding along amid gay fields fertilized by its waters, where his imagination and his heart are equally elevated and improved by the contemplation of God's magnificent creations.
These are among the considerations, which recommend this charming science to the studious lover of nature, to the female sex, who are in a manner debarred the study of all other branches of natural history, and to persons of whatever class or condition of life, who seek relaxation from more arduous pursuits in the examination of the beauties of the vegetable world. It is foreigu to my present purpose to inquire how largely a knowledge of the properties and uses of plants contributes to the solid comforts of life. I leave this to the pen of professional writers, and to the pages of works devoted to medicine or the useful arts.