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O the "Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society” is due the credit of having first made public the ten Letters from Gilbert White to Robert Marsham which are here re
printed. By singular good fortune these letters were discovered amongst other family records in the possession of the Rev. H. P. Marsham, of Rippon Hall, near Norwich, a great grandson of the gentleman to whom they were addressed, and with great liberality he placed them at the disposal of the Society in whose “Transactions” they have been recently published,' together with the corresponding replies from Marsham to White, the originals of which are in the possession of Mr. Bell of Selborne.
Robert Mersham, of Stratton Strawless, Norfolk, to whom these letters were addressed, is already known to most readers of White's writings as a correspondent to whose opinions the latter often referred in terms of respect. His leisure hours were devoted chiefly to arboriculture, and he delighted in making experiments on the growth of forest trees, the results of which he communicated from time to time to the “Philosophical Transactions” of the Royal Society, of which learned body he was a Fellow. The “Indications of Spring," of which he left such a remarkable
1 " Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society," 1876, vol. ii. pp. 133-195.
register, and which has been continued by his family with one slight interruption from the year 1736 to the present time, afforded an annually recurring topic for correspondence, while his taste and opportunities for studying nature, led him to make many observations on rural subjects, the extent and variety of which may be inferred from the comments which they evoked from White. He died in September, 1797.
By a curious coincidence, the only letter from Marsham to White hitherto published (that is, until the Norfolk Society printed those recently discovered) is one dated “Stratton, 24th July, 1790," to which the first of the present series, written on the 13th August of the same year, is, in part at least, a reply.
This letter will be found at p. 356 of the present volume. It first appeared, under the head of Observations on Vegetables, in White's “Calendar of Nature," which was published after his death by Aikin in 1795, and which has been since appended to almost every edition of the “Natural History of Selborne," although it formed no part of the original work.
The tenth letter of the new series is of especial interest, as having been penned only eleven days before White's death, which took place on the 26th June, 1793; and hence it may be regarded as the last of his agreeable essays on Natural History, which to English readers must ever remain as delightful in style as they are instructive in matter.
It only remains to add that the notes appended to the following letters are those which, at the request of the "Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society," were written by me in the spring of the present year, for publication in the above-mentioned “Transactions."
J. E. HARTING. August, 1876.
TO ROBERT MARSHAM, ESQUIRE.
SELBORNE, NEAR ALTon, Hants, Aug. 13, 1790. S an author I have derived much satisfaction from your kind and communicative letter; and am glad to hear that my book has found its way into Norfolk, and that it has
fallen into the hands of so intelligent and candid a reader as yourself, whose good word may contribute to make it better known in those parts. . I am glad that you happened to mention your most estimable friend the late Dr. Stephen Hales,' because he was also my most
1 A memoir of Dr. Stephen Hales, extracted from Butler's “Memoirs of Bishop Hildersley," with an engraving from an original portrait, and a facsimile of his handwriting, will be found in the “Gentleman's Magazine " for Jan., 1799 (p. 9). Born in 1677, this celebrated philosopher and divine was the grandson of Sir Robert, and brother of Sir Thomas Hales, Bart., of Bekesbourne, in the county of Kent. Educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was admitted a Fellow in 1702, he was appointed first to the cure of Teddington, then to the rectory of Porlock, in Somersetshire, and ultimately, in 1722, to the rectory of Farringdon, near Alton, the adjoining parish to that in which Gilbert White resided. In addition to a treatise on “ Vegetable Staticks,” which was translated into French by Buffon, as well as into Italian, German, and Dutch, and a practical work on “Ventilators," he indited numerous sermons and tracts in the cause of temperance, and published several scientific papers in the “ Philosophical Transactions" of the Royal Society, of which learned body he was elected a Fellow in