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judged it my indispensable duty to make, should give pain. The offer to print any reply to my arguments which might be sent me, exculpates me, I conceive, from all charges of a personal nature; and it would grieve me much, if my dislike to their doctrines and language, has, in any instance, betrayed me to infringe upon the courtesy and decorum which ought uniformly to characterise such discussions. To enter into any compromise with error, would be unpardonable weakness and delinquency; but to endeavour, by contempt or abuse, to hurt the feelings of the person judged to be in error, would exhibit the character of a bully or a ruffian.
VI. The classification of Naturalists according to the character of their works, which closes this introduction, is an imperfect attempt to direct the student in his choice of books, according to his peculiar wants and wishes.
VII. In the body of the work, I have made very considerable alterations in the arrangement. The author, in the first edition, seems to have aimed at giving, as far as the letters of the alphabet would permit, all the species of a genus together; hence under DUCK, we had DUCK-EIDER, DUCK-KING; and under GULL, we had GULL-HERRING, GULL-LAUGHING, &c., an unnecessary awkwardness, attended with no apparent advantage. The arrangement of these in a straight-forward manner, has cost no little trouble. In the article WARBLER, again, this principle led the author to include birds, which are not now arranged with Warblers, such as the HEDGE SPARROW; and the placing of two birds together because they resembled each other, with the distinction only of greater and lesser, served to propagate confusion. I have, therefore, adopted for the PETTY CHAPS-GREATER, the continental name FAUVETTE; for the PETTY CHAPS-LESSER, the provincial name CHIFF-CHAFF; and for the WHITE THROAT-LESSER, the continental name, BABILLARD. In many other instances, I have adopted the provincial name in preference to one of book origin, the latter often consisting of several words, and being therefore awkward in a Dictionary. Any supposed inconvenience arising from these changes, is obviated by all the known names being inserted in their due order in the alphabet, and also under
the lists of synonimes; and still further to obviate any inconvenience in reference, I have added an alphabetical Index of the generic and specific names adopted in the body of the work.
VIII. Recently, it has been the chief business of those who call themselves Naturalists, to alter and invent names, sometimes with, but often with no advantage. Having small inclination to employ myself in such task-work, I have made extremely few alterations in this respect, and I have only changed five names, which served to propagate error or absurdity :-such as ANORTHURA, for Troglodytes; FRINGILLA SPIZA, for F. cælebs; MOTACILLA LOTOR, for M. alba; CORVUS PREDATORIUS, for C. frugilegus; and NYCTICHELIDON, for Caprimulgus. To say that these erroneous names are only distinctive appellations, implying no more error than the surname of White to a negro, or of King to a scavenger, is at once to confess the imperfection of what is called scientific nomenclature.
IX. The new matter, which is marked by one before and another after it, consists of communications made by Colonel Montagu himself to the Linnæan Transactions, &c., always given in the first person plural; of numerous facts and details from eminent living naturalists, both British and Foreign; of several which have fallen under my own observation, always given in the first person singular; and of new characters of genera, chiefly from Temminck, it being considered an improvement to introduce these instead of Colonel Montagu's, many of which are somewhat obsolete.
PLAN OF STUDY.
"THAT the principal aim of a Naturalist ought to be to multiply observations," is laid down as a leading rule by M. Levaillant, one of the very few who have preferred reading the page of Nature in the woods and fields, to the inferior study of cabinets and books; and hence he was stigmatized, as another enthusiastic and genuine observer, Audubon, is at present, by cabinet naturalists, as a romancer unworthy of credit. "Theories," adds M. Levaillant, “are more easy and more brilliant than observations; but it is by observation alone that science can be enriched, while a single fact is frequently sufficient to demolish a system."* To all this I most cordially subscribe; while I recommend whoever feels little interest in field study, to read the works of Audubon, Knapp, Levaillant, Ray, Reaumur, Wilson, and White, from whom if he catch no portion of the ardour which inspired them in their beautiful researches, he may conclude that he is too cold and too callous ever to become a Naturalist.
The young Naturalist indeed will find it not only more easy and delightful, but greatly more improving, to take his first lessons in the fields, by observing the animated scene which creation everywhere displays, when
Comes forth her work of gladness to contrive
than to sit down to study the descriptions given in books, or
* Histoire Naturelle des Peroquets, i. 20. One of the few valuable works on Natural History, which I found in the Library of the Paris Museum, that is not in our Library of the British Museum; both, I am sorry to say, being equally deficient in this department.
+ Childe Harold, Canto iii. 30.
to fill his memory with the terms of a system. It is, indeed, greatly to be regretted that the study of THINGS is so much thrown into the back ground, by the almost exclusive attention now bestowed upon WORDS. These ought to go hand in hand, for nothing can be more preposterous than compelling a boy to store up a number of words in his memory which he does not, and cannot understand; while, on the other hand, he cannot be supposed to retain a distinct or lasting recollection of things and facts without names and words, the only sort of pegs upon which they can be permanently hung. Upon this principle it is surprising at how early an age children can be instructed in the most interesting parts of Natural History; a subject beautifully touched by Coleridge in his verses to the nightingale—
"That strain again!
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
And if that Heaven
Besides the pleasure which always results from the attention of youth to natural objects, a habit of distinguishing between things of different, or of similar forms, colours, and characters, is acquired, and may be made the foundation of an accuracy of judging, of high value as an intellectual endowment. It is probable that it may be exceedingly difficult for persons arrived at manhood to acquire this power of discriminating objects, whose general similarity of appearance deceives a common observer into a belief of their identity; though a little care on the part of a parent or a teacher, will render it comparatively easy. The training up young people in this mode of observation, is of much more importance to them, than exercising their memory exclusively upon books, which is the usual routine procedure.
* Sibylline leaves, 209.
By the latter method, the memory may, no doubt, be highly improved; but it is, almost without exception, at the expense of the judgment, which, by the method here recommended, is the chief faculty exercised. The memory of children is in many cases too ready, and it might be more advantageous to check than to foster it, like a hot-house plant, into premature growth, which is certain to be followed by premature decay; while, at the same time, every chance of originality and independence of mind must be utterly extinguished. It was remarked by Aristotle, that precocious prizers, at the Olympic games, were rarely afterwards distinguished, and every day's experience proves the correctness of his observation. It would not, indeed, be difficult to demonstrate, that the mode here recommended of discriminating the objects of Natural History, is a more efficient instrument for exercising the judgment, than even mathematics; at least when they are taught on the plan so frequently followed in our schools and Universities, of merely committing to memory, or, what is the same thing, conning over, the demonstrations of Euclid, or Sir Isaac Newton; instead, as is done on the continent, of pupils inventing the diagram, and working out the demonstration of a proposition, as much as possible, by their own efforts. The consequence of this leading-string system has been, that it has nearly extinguished the mathematical reputation of Britain, formerly so high; it being as impossible to make a Newton by parroting the Principia, as to make a Milton by committing to memory the Paradise Lost. In the same way in Natural History; the trusting to books alone, which, in so many cases, are the compilations of men altogether ignorant of the subject, has virtually placed the authority of a few names (Linnæus for example, and some of his disciples) far above nature itself, and has thereby checked the progress of original and independent observation. We may well say with Lactantius, that "they make shipwreck of their wisdom who thus adopt, without judgment, the opinions of their ancestors, and allow themselves to be led by others like a flock of sheep."
In books (whose principal use I shall presently advert to) we can only obtain knowledge at second hand, and this, like
Sapientiam sibi adimunt, qui sine ullo judicio inventa majorum probant, et ab aliis pecudum more ducuntur.-Lactantius, Divin. Institut. ii. 7.