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JULY, 1831.

Vol. XXX.


John Wilson,


The present Age, which, after all, been the gradual extension of its is a very pretty and pleasant one, is study from stale books, written by feelingly alive and widely awake to men, to that book ever fresh from the manifold delights and advantages the hand of God. And the second with which the study of Natural -another yet the same-has been Science swarms, and especially that the gradual change wrought by a phibranch of it which unfolds the cha- losophical spirit in the observation, racter and habits, physical, moral, delineation, and arrangement of the and intellectual, of those most inte- facts and laws with which the science resting and admirable creatures- is conversant, and which it exhibits in Birds. It is familiar not only with the most perfect harmony and order. the shape and colour of beak, bill, Students now range for themselves, claw, talon, and plume, but with according to their capacities and the purposes for which they are de- opportunities, fields, woods, rivers, signed, and with the instincts which lakes, and seas; and proficients, no guide their use in the beautiful eco- longer confining themselves to mere nomy of all-gracious Nature., We nomenclature, enrich their works" remember the time when the very with anecdotes and traits of characword Ornithology would have requi- ter, which, without departure from red interpretation in mixed com- truth, have imbued bird-biography pany; and when a naturalist was with the double charm of reality looked on as a sort of out-of-the- and romance. way but amiable monster. Now, one How we come to love the Birds of seldom meets with man, woman, Bewick, and White, and the two or child, who does not know a hawk Wilsons, and Montagu, and Mudie, from a handsaw, or even, to adopt the and Knapp, and Selby, and Swainson, more learned reading, from a heron- and Syme, and Audubon, and many shaw; a black swan is no longer er- others, so familiar with their haunts roneously considered a rara avis any and habits, their affections and their more than a black sheep; while the passions, till we feel that they are Glasgow Gander himself, no longer indeed our fellow creatures, and apocryphal, has taken his place in part of one wise and wonderful the national creed, belief in his ex- system !

If there be sermons in istence being merely blended with stones, what think ye of the hymns wonder at bis magnitude, and some and psalms, matin and vesper, of the surprise perhaps among the scien- lark, who at heaven's gate sings, tific, that he should be as yet the of the wren, who pipes her thankssole specimen of that enormous An- givings as the slant sunbeam shoots

athwart the mossy portal of the cave, The chief cause of this advance in whose fretted roof she builds her ment of knowledge in one of its nest above the waterfall ? most delightful departments, has Ay, these, and many other blame.





less idolaters of Nature, have wor

scheme of revelation of the sublime shipped her in a truly religious spi- varieties of the inferior—as we choose rit, and have taught us their religion. to call it-creation of God, you find Nor have our poets been blind or high attempts in a humble spirit radeaf to the sweet Minnesingers of the ther to illustrate tendencies, and woods. Thomson, and Cowper, and uses, and harmonies, and order, and Wordsworth, have loved them as - design. With some glorious excepdearly as Spenser, and Shakspeare, tions, indeed, the naturalists of the and Milton. All those prevailing poets day gone by, shewed us a science have been themselves“ musical and that was but a skeleton-nothing melancholy" as nightingales, and of- but dry bones; with some inglorious ten from the inarticulate language of exceptions, indeed, the naturalists the groves, have they breathed the of the day that is now, have been enthusiasm that inspired the finest desirous to shew us a living, breathof their immortal - strains. ing, and moving body, to explain, as “Lonely wanderer of Nature," must far as they might, its mechanism and every poet be—and though often its spirit. Ere another century elapse, self-wrapt his wanderings through a how familiar may men be with all spiritual world of his own, yet as the families of the flowers of the some fair flower silently asks his eye field, and the birds of the air, with to look on it, some glad bird his ear all the interdependencies of their chasolicits with a song, how intense is racters and their kindreds, perhaps then his perception, his emotion how even with the mystery of that inprofound, his spirit being thus ap- stinct which now is seen working pealed to, through all its human sen- wonders, not only beyond the power sibilities, by the beauty and the joy of reason to comprehend, but of imaperpetual even in the most solitary gination to conceive ! wilderness !

Take up, we say, what book you Our moral being owes deep ob- will, and such is its spirit. There, ligation to all who assist us to study for example, are these two unprenature aright; for believe us, it is tending, but enlightened volumes, bigh and rare knowledge, to know “ The British Naturalist," by Mr and to have the true and full use of Mudie, which, we need not add, we our eyes. Millions go to the grave recommend to all students, and how in old age without ever having learn- much more real knowledge do they ed it; they were just beginning per- contain than many ambitious works haps to acquire it when they sighed we could mention made up of words to think that “they who look out of words—words — and words, too, the windows were darkened ;” and as fuzionless as chips-chips-chips? that, while they had been instructed This contribution to natural history, how to look, sad shadows had fall- he tells us at once, is sanctioned by en on the whole face of Nature, and no name or authority, and pretends that the time for those intuitions was to no systematic arrangement. He gone for ever. But the science of does not fear to say that the dictum seeing has now found favour in our of authority, and the divisions of eyes; and blessings are with them system, are the bane of study to the and eternal praise” who can dis.' people at large; and is it not, we cover, discern, and describe the least add, the people at large, whom the as the greatest of nature's works, people in few should seek to inwho can see as distinctly the finger struct in the wisdom that framed of God in the lustre of the little the world ? True it is, as Mr Mudie humming-bird murmuring round a says, that the dictum of authority rerose-bush, as in that of the star of presses the spirit of enquiry, and that Jove, so beautiful and large,” shining in the divisions of system the parts sole in heaven.

are so many, and so scattered, that Take up now almost any book you the whole cannot be understood. It may on any branch of Natural His

were as easy to tell the hour from the tory, and instead of the endless, dry

disjointed movements of a number of details of imaginary systems and clas- watches jumbled together in a box, sifications, in which the ludicrous lit- as to find“ how Nature goes,” from tlenesses of man's vain ingenuity used the mere dissection of her works. to be set up as a sort of symbolical " I do not want to hear the barangue

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of the exhibiter; I want to see the exhi- were the men that breathed the spirit of bition itself, and that he shall be quiet, natural science over the country. But and let me study and understand that in the science and the spirit have been semy own way. If I meet with any object parated ; and though the learned have that arrests my attention, I do not wish gone on with perhaps more vigour than to run over the roll of all objects of a si- ever, the people have fallen back. They milar kind; I want to know something see the very entrance of knowledge guardabout the next one, and why they should ed by a hostile language, which must be be in juxtaposition. If, for instance, I vanquished in single combat before they meet with an eagle on a mountain cliff, I can enter; and they turn away in deshave no desire to be lectured about all pair." the birds that have clutching talons and That accomplished and philosocrooked beaks. That would take me phic naturalist, Professor Rennie, from the book of Nature, which is before

in one of his dissertations prefixed me-rob me of spectacle, and give me to his edition of Montagu's Ornionly the story of the exhibiter, which I thological Dictionary of British Birds, have no wish either to hear or to remem

has lately laid before the public a ber. I want to know why the eagle is plan of study, according to the meon that cliff, where there is not a thing thod he has pursued in his own refor her to eat, rather than down in the plain, where prey is abundant; I want

searches, which beautifully embodies

the spirit of these remarks. So simalso to know what good the mountain itself does,—that great lump of sterility ple is it, that it appears some inge

nious friend, to whom he shewed it and cold ; and if I find out, that the cliff is the very place from which the eagle

in manuscript, objected to it that it can sally forth with the greatest ease and

was no plan of study at all. What is success, and that the mountain is the

its method ? Why this and no more parent of all those streams that gladden

but then how much! First, to obthe valleys and plains, I am informed.

serve a fact or circumstance in the Nay, more, I see a purpose in it—the

fields, then to endeavour to discover working of a Power mightier than that the design it was intended to serve of man. My thoughts ascend from moun- by the great Creator, and subsetains to masses, wheeling freely in abso. quently to examine the statements lute space. I look for the boundary: I to be met with in books, in order to dare not even imagine it: I cannot re- compare them with what you have sist the conclusion - This is the build. actually observed.

On this plan, ing of God.'

he rightly says, any person with a “ Wherever I go, or whatever I meet, little care may become a tolerably I cannot be satisfied with the mere know- good naturalist, the first walk he ledge that it is there, or that its form, takes in the fields, without much texture, and composition, are thus or thus; knowledge of books; on the oppoI want to find out how it came there, site and too current plan, much stu-' and what purpose it serves; because, as

dy is indispensable to enable any all the practical knowledge upon which

person to master the theory or systhe arts of civilisation are founded has

tem, in relation to which the ob.' come in this way, I too may haply glean a little. Nor is that all : wonderful as

served facts are supposed to have man's inventions are, I connect myself

their whole value and importance. with something more wonderful and more

He agrees with the leading rule laid lasting; and thus I have a hope and stay,

down by the illustrious M. Levailwhether the world goes well or ill; and

lant, that the principal aim of a naa: the very feeling of that, makes me better

turalist ought to be to multiply obable to bear its ills. When I find that

servations that theories are more the barren mountain is a source of ferti.

easy and more brilliant indeed than lity, that the cold snow is a protecting

observations; but it is by observamantle, and that the all-devouring sea is

tion alone that science can be ena fabricator of new lands, and an easy

riched, while a single fact is frepathway round the globe, I cannot help

quently sufficient to demolish a systhinking that that, which first seems only

tem. Levaillant was himself one who an annoyance to myself, must ultimately preferred reading the page of nature involve a greater good..

in the woods and fields to the inferior “ This was the application given to study of cabinets and books-and Natural History in the good old days of hence, Professor Rennie observes, the Derbams and the Rays; and they he was stigmatized, as another en


thusiastic and genuine observer, Au- the wings of a dove, for already is it dubon, is at present, by cabinet na- at rest. On this principle, it is inturalists, as a romancer unworthy of deed surprising at how early an age credit. 'Tis ever so. People sitting children can be instructed in the in their own parlour, with their feet most interesting parts of natural on the fender, or in the sanctum of history; and in illustration of that, some museum, staring at stuffed spe- Professor Rennie aptly quotes a few cimens, imagine themselves natural- of Coleridge's beautiful lines to the ists; and in their presumptuous and Nightingale :insolent ignorance, which is often to

“ That strain again! tal, scorn the wisdom of the wander- Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe, ers of the woods, who have for many Who, capable of no articulate sound, studious and solitary years been Mars all things with his imitative lisp, making themselves familiar with all How he would place his hand beside his the beautiful mysteries of instinctive life.

His little hand, the small forefinger up, Take two boys and set them re

And bid us listen! and I deem it wise spectively to pursue the two plans To make him Nature's child.” of study. How puzzled and per- Compare the intensity and truth plexed will be the one who pores of any natural knowledge insensibly over the “ interminable terms” of a acquired by observation in very early system in books, having, meanwhile, youth, with that corresponding to it no access to, or communion with na. picked up in later life from books ! ture! The poor wretch is to be pi- In fact, the habit of distinguishing tied-nor is he any thing else than a between things as different, or of si. slave. But the young naturalist, who milar forms, colours, and characters, takes his first lessons in the fields, ob- formed in infancy, and childhood, and serving the unrivalled scene which boyhood, in a free intercourse and creation everywhere displays, is communion with Nature, while we perpetually studying in the power of are merely seeking and finding the delight and wonder, and laying up divine joy of novelty and beauty perknowledge which can be derived petually occurring before our eyes from no other source. The rich boy in all her haunts, may be made the is to be envied, nor is he any thing foundation of an accuracy of judgelse than a king. The one sits be- ment of inappreciable value as an wildered among words, the other intellectual endowment. We must walks enlightened among things; the all have observed with Professor one has not even the shadow, the Rennie, how exceedingly difficult it other more than the substance-the is for persons arrived at manhood very essence and life of knowledge; to acquire this power of discrimiand at twelve years old he may be nating objects whose general simia better naturalist than ever the mere larity of appearance deceives a combookworm will be, were he to out- mon observer into a belief of their live old Tommy Balmer.

identity; though a little care on the In education-late or early-for part of a parent or teacher will ren.. heaven's sake let us never separate der it comparatively easy. things and words. They are mar- So entirely is this true, that we ried in nature; and what God hath know many observant persons, that put together let no man put asunder is, observant in all things intimately

'tis a fatal divorce. Without things, related with their own pursuits, and words accumulated by misery in with the experience of their own the memory, had far better die than early education, who, with all the drag out an useless existence in the pains they could take in after life, dark; without words, their stay and have never been able to distinguish support, things unaccountably disap- by name, when they saw them, above pear out of the storehouse, and may half-a-dozen, if so many, of our be for ever lost. But bind a thing British singing birds; while as to with a word, a strange link, stronger knowing them by their song, that is than any steel, and softer than any wholly beyond the reach of their unsilk, and the captive remains for instructed ear, and a shilfa chants to ever happy in its bright prison-house, them like a yellow-yoldrin. On seenor would it flee away had it even ing a small bird peeping out of a hole in the eaves, and especially on hear- of the day on the sands of the desert, ing him chatter, they shrewdly sus- the sea-beach, or isolated rocks. Acpect him to be a sparrow, though it commodate them with shelter, and does not by any means follow that in a couple of days the shore will be their suspicions are always verified, stinking-nor will a single sea-fowl as our friend not unfrequently turns -all addled in the yellow-ever out altogether another animal-fur- chip the shell. Of what" little openther the deponent sayeth not; and ing of the nest” does the perverse though, when sitting with her white and purblind old Monops prate ? breast so lovely, out of the “auld The wren's ? or the eagle's? But the clay-bigging,” in the window-corner, wren (Miss Kitty) most frequently he cannot mistake Mistress Swallow, builds her domicile out of the futter yet when flitting in fly-search over of leaves; on old mossy stumps, on the lake, and ever and anon dipping house-walls, or the living rock; and her wing-tips in the lucid coolness, when in hedges, she would laugh at 'tis an equal chance that he misnames the idea of this dotard providing the her Miss Martin.

little opening of her nest that lies We could give a hundred—a thou. concealed below, with a double row sand—ten thousand instances of the of leaves; for hang the globe in the most astonishing ignorance shewn sunshine or the storm, and St Caeven by naturalists of considerable therine will sit within, unscared and reputation-book and cabinet na- unscathed, counting her beads-perturalists-with regard to facts fall- haps a score-counting them with ing under the most obvious, and, as her fine-feeling breast that broods one might think, the most universal in bliss over the priceless pearls. observation of men, whether natu- As for the Eagle, the little opening ralists or not, who have seen the of bis nest doth verily not lie conprudence and propriety of walking cealed below a covering of a double with their eyes open. But Profes- row of leaves; but, eighteen feet in sor Rennie quotes, and remarks on circumference, (we have measured one in itself quite sufficient for our one,) it lies unconcealed, except by purpose, from the “highly lauded its height from your ogles, mayhap article” Ornithology, in Rees's Cy- a mile or a league, on a cliff-platform, clopædia.—"Birds of the same spe- occasionally no doubt hidden in cies," says the author, “collect all clouds; and men, who speak what the same materials, arrange them in is now called the English tongue, call the same manner, and make choice it an Eyrie. of similar situations for fixing the . If the old gentleman be not yet places of their temporary abodes. quite dead—and if he be, then we Wherever they dispose them, they appeal to the most scientific of his always take care to be accommodated surviving descendants—he is hereby with a shelter; and if a natural one · humbly requested to have the gooddoes not offer itself, they very in- ness to inform us of the name of this geniously make a covering of a dou- ingenious bird; and to tell us, in a ble row of leaves, down the slope postscript, if ever, in all his born of which the rain trickles, without days, he saw a bird's nest of any kind entering into the little opening of whatever, on cliff or castle, ground the nest that lies concealed below." or grove, in bush, tree, hedge, or old What precious nonsense! What a man's beard. pack of confusion! Does the Cyclo- But what constant caution is perpædist, or rather the Cyclops, for he petually necessary during the natucould have “had but one eye, and ralist's perusal even of the very best that was no piercer,” here speak of books ! From the very best we can all birds, or but of some particular only obtain knowledge at second species?

hand, and this, like a story circulated In either case alike is he a dolt. among village gossips, is more apt to If of all birds, then he forgets, when gain in falsehood than in truth, as it speaking of the care they always passes from one to another; but in take to be accommodated with shel- field study, we go at once to the ter, the númerous families which lay fountain-head, and obtain our facts their eggs on the bare ground, lea- pure and unalloyed by the theories ving them exposed the greater part and opinions of previous observers.

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