« НазадПродовжити »
HE NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE consists of a series of letters descriptive of the scenery and other natural objects in a highly interesting district of Hampshire, situated on the outlying
spurs of the South Downs. They are addressed to Mr. Pennant, and the Honourable Daines Barringtoneminent Naturalists of the last century, and are charming examples of free and unrestrained interchange of thought between men of similar habits and pursuits; but their chief claim to notice lies in the interesting observation on the nature and habits of birds. In one of his letters to Mr. Barrington the author tells us how these facts were collected :-“ If there is any merit in these sketches,” he says, “it must be in their exactness. For many months I carried a list in my pocket of the birds that were to be remarked on, and as I rode or walked about, I noted each day the continuance or omission of each bird's song, so that I am as certain of my facts as a man can be of any transaction whatever." In this manner a valuable record of natural incidents was collected, and the faithfulness of the observations is proved by the severe ordeal to which the numerous observing Naturalists of the last half century subjected them; in the course of which most of the author's observations have been confirmed.
But great as the interest of the letters themselves may be; and important as are the observations; tbese are not the only merits of the author. To him belongs the honour of having roused the observing faculties and directed the intellect of his countrymen to note and record natural phenomena coming under their notice. His humble and honourable career suggested a new path for research which was within the reach of thousands; to his example we probably owe the works of our Montagus, Selbys, Kirbys, Knapps, and Watertons. His example helped to substitute for the old “Book Naturalists,” who had been the laureates of science from the days of Pliny, a race of observers who only recorded what they had seen for themselves.
It must not be supposed that we mean any reproach to these authors; their merits are beyond praise, and the world is deeply indebted both to their philosophy and their facts. But it was a philosophy founded chiefly on analogy which, as the author remarks in these letters, “is a very imperfect basis for Natural History."
Of the present edition of this interesting work the Editor has little to remark; it has been printed from the last edition, published by the author's relation, J. White of Fleet Street, in 1822, and the text has been carefully revised; the letters have been arranged in chronological order; and the most important of the “ Miscellaneous Observations” found among the author's papers have been transferred to the letters to which they seemed to belong, but they are distinguished by being in brackets. The notes appended are supplementary to the facts stated by the author, and are the result either of the editor's own observation or reading.
LONDON, November, 1862.
HE parish of Selborne lies in the extreme
eastern corner of the county of Hampshire, bordering on the county of Sussex,
and not far from the county of Surrey, is about fifty miles south-west of London, in latitude 51°, and near midway between the towns of Alton and Petersfield. Being very large and extensive it abuts on twelve parishes, two of which are in Sussex, viz. Trotton and Rogate. If you begin from the south and proceed westward the adjacent parishes are Emshot, Newton Valence, Faringdon, Harteley— Mauduit, Great Ward le ham, Kingsley, Hedleigh, Bramshot, Trotton, Rogate, Lysse, and Greatham. The soils of this district are almost as various and diversified as the views and aspects. The high part to the south-west consists of a vast hill of chalk, rising three hundred feet above the village; and is