on Natural History, Chiefly Ornithology was published
in three series. The first volume was published in 1837, the second
in 1844, and the third in 1857. Waterton included an account of such
of his travels and adventures as are not mentioned in the Wanderings
in South America. In 1871 a selection from the three volumes was
produced by Norman Moore (1). This work
also included a life of Charles Waterton.
once remarked to me that the naturalist, as well as the poet, might
be said to be born, not made. An examination of the works on Natural
History, and of the proceedings of zoological societies, confirms this
opinion. The number of writers is great, but the permanent value of
the productions is small, and bears about the same proportion to their
bulk that a phial of attar of roses
does to the bushels of flowers from which it is extracted. Many pursue
science as a means of accumulating wealth, more, perhaps, as a ladder
to notoriety. The former class cannot stop to consider details and arguments
which will not yield a pecuniary return. The latter live in fear of
being forestalled, and publish half-made observations and crude theories,
lest some other competitor in the race of vanity should snatch from
them the applause.
They frequently attain the riches or the celebrity for which they strive.
Their reputation is great for a time, but its decay is as rapid as its
growth, and a few years after their death their works sleep like the
authors - in dust.
This is so usual a result, that some persons have supposed this ephemeral
quality to be an inherent disadvantage of scientific work. But the conclusion
is mistaken. Science, pursued for its own sake, with patient research
and prolonged thought, will always yield discoveries that will descend
to succeeding generations. It is because Waterton belongs to that select
body of men who have studied nature with no other object than to find
out truth, that his works are valuable and will endure. His observations
are so accurate that
they delight the profoundest philosopher, and so simply described, that
the least learned can understand them. Most of these essays might be
read with profit even in village schools. They would open the eyes of
the children to the treasures of the fields, and would teach them humanity
to bird, beast, and reptile.
Although the naturalist be born, not made, still the history of human
knowledge shows that the more generally a subject is studied, the more
abundantly will latent genius be drawn forth. When architecture was
the pursuit of a vast number of cultivated minds throughout Europe,
the Gothic cathedrals were the result. In our own century, a similar
concentration of thought upon mechanics has been productive of no less
astonishing effects. And probably when scientific education has spread
through the land, Watertons and Whites will not be so scarce as they
To walk with Waterton in his beautiful park was one of the greatest
delights I have experienced. I hope that the reader may enjoy a kindred
pleasure by walking in the fields with these essays in his mind, and
watching the sights which Waterton describes.
ST BARTHOLOMEW'S HOSPITAL,
here to read an article about Charles Waterton from The Illustrated
London News dated 24th August 1844, following the publication of
the second volume of Essays on Natural History.
Essays on Natural History by Charles Waterton. Edited, with a Life of
the Author, by Norman Moore, B.A., Frederick Warne & Co., London,