« НазадПродовжити »
this quietness that the invisible becomes visible. The vacant field gradually grows full of living things. In the hedges unsuspected birds come to the surface of the green leaf to take breath. Over the pond brilliantly coloured insects float to and fro, and the fish that never seem to move from the dark depths do move and come up in sight. Be very careful not to go too far; keep round the skirts of home near the garden, or in the nearest field, else you will jump over the very best ; for it is a fact that the greatest variety of information is generally gathered in a very small compass. I have noticed that people are never so astonished as when some fact of natural history is unexpectedly pointed out to them, where it must have been for a long time under their very eyes. There are people who have never seen a humble bee drill a hole in the nectary of a snap-dragon, and yet have whole gardens full of flowers. At least, do not go out of your own locality much for some time.
The mass of this book was collected in the little Surrey parish of Selborne. They say the place is very much the same as when he was there a hundred years ago, for the country changes very slowly ; the people, too, move slow, and their memories linger long-memories never seem to die out. I suppose in a modern villa people would hardly understand what was meant by the allusion to batscreeping down chimneys and gnawing the bacon. Of old time, in all country houses, sides of bacon were hung up to smoke in the fumes of the great wood fires, so that a bat might come down and eat the edge. Bacon is not so much cured like this now; but in any country house they would at once understand what was meant. Those who follow the studies of Mr. White outof-doors will find very little altered, and can take up the picture as he left it, and begin to fill in the endless touches which make nature.
If the great observer had put down what he saw of the people of his day just as he has put down his notes of animals and birds, there would have been a book composed of extraordinary interest. Walking about among the cottages, he saw and heard all their curious ways, and must have been familiar with their superstitions ; indeed, there are scattered notices of these as of the shrew ash. He knew the farmers and the squires; he had access everywhere, and he had the quickest of eyes. It must ever be regretted that he did not leave a natural history of the people of his day. We should then have had a picture of England just before the beginning of our present era, and a wonderful difference it would have shown. The gallows-trees grew far too plentifully at the cross roads in those days, and the laws were inhuman, men were put to death like wild beasts : in fact, they seemed to look on man as a species of wolf that could only be tamed by stretching its neck. Let us not wish for the good old times of Gilbert White,-they are gone ; but his fields and hedges remain to us more peaceful now than ever.
Perhaps the Naturalist's Calendar is that part of the book that will be found most valuable to those who take up this study. The dates are not the same every year of course, and that is what makes the interest if you keep a pocket-book founded on this model and look back in a year or two. aid you will miss very little. I did not come across Mr. White's book till late in the day, when it was, in fact, too late, else this Calendar would have been of the utmost advantage to me. Such data, though they may refer to apparently trivial details, often prove in after years the basis of important scientific conclusions. I have said nothing of the different aspect that has 'been cast on natural history in our days by the works of Darwin and the general drift of modern science. the natural history of White with the natural history of our time would require a large space. Better, perhaps, take them apart and read the Natural History of Seiborne as it was written.
NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE.
LETTERS TO THOMAS PENNANT.
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 fifty-one, and near mid-way 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-leham, 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 of the south-west consists of a vast hill of chalk, rising three hundred feet above the village, and is divided into a sheep-down, the high wood and a long hanging wood, called The Hanger. The covert of this eminence is altogether beech, the most lovely of all forest trees, whether