Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

perceive she was not entirely displeased with this interruption.

In a few hours the whole transaction seemed entirely forgotten, and we have all since enjoyed those satisfactions which result from a consciousness of making each other happy. My son and his fair partner are fixed here for life; the man in black has given them up a small estate in the country, which, added to what I was able to bestow, will be capable of supplying all the real, but not the fictitious demands of happiness. As for myself, the world being but one city to me, I do not much care in which of the streets I happen to reside; I shall therefore spend the remainder of my life, in examining the manners of different countries, and have prevailed upon the man in black to be my companion. They must often change, says Confucius, who would be constant in haffliness or oisdom.

Adieu.

[ocr errors][graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][graphic]
[graphic]

PR E FA C E.

OF all the studies which have employed the industrious or amused the idle, perhaps Natural History deserves the preference ; other sciences generally terminate in doubt, or rest in bare speculation, but here every step is marked with certainty, and while a description of the objects around us teaches to supply our wants, it satisfies our curiosity, The multitude of Nature's productions, however, seems at first to bewilder the inquirer, rather than excite his attention; the various wonders of the animal, vegetable, or mineral world, seem to exceed all powers of computation, and the science appears barren from its amazing fertility. But a nearer acquaintance with this study, by giving method to our researches, points out a similitude in many objects which at first appeared different; the mind by degrees rises to consider the things before it in general lights, till at length it finds Nature, in almost every instance, acting with her usual simplicity. Among the number of Philosophers, who, undaunted by their supposed variety, have attempted to give a description of the productions of Nature, Aristotle deserves the first place. This great philosopher was furnished by his pupil Alexander, with all that the then known world could produce to complete his design. By such parts of his work as have escaped the wreck of time, it appears that he understood Nature more clearly, and in a more comprehensive manner than even the present age, enlightened as it is with so many later discoveries, can boast. His design appears vast, and his knowledge extensive; he only con:

[graphic]

siders things in general lights, and leaves every subject

when it becomes too minute or remote to be useful.

In his History of Animals, he first describes man, and

Imakes him a standard with which to compare the deviations in every more imperfect kind that is to follow. But if he has excelled in the history of each, he, together with Pliny and Theophrastus, has failed in the exactness of their descriptions. There are many

creatures described by those Naturalists of antiquity,

which are so imperfectly characterized, that it is im” possible to tell to what animal now subsisting we can refer the description. This is an unpardonable nego lect, and alone sufficient to depreciate their merits, but their credulity and the mutilations they have suffered by time, have rendered them still less useful, and justify each subsequent attempt to improve what they have left behind. The most laborious, as well as the most voluminous Naturalist among the moderns is Aldrovandus. He was furnished with every requisite for making an extensive body of Natural History. He was learned and rich, and during the course of a long life indefatigable and accurate. But his works are insupportably tedious and disgusting, filled with unnecessary quotations and unimportant digressions. Whatever learning he had he was willing should be known, and, unwearied himself, he supposed his readers could never tire ; in short, he appears an useful assistant to those who would compile a body of Natural History, but is utterly unsuited to such as only wish

to read it with profit and delight. Gesner and Johnson, willing to abridge the volumi

nous productions of Aldrovandus, have attempted to reduce Natural History into method, but their efforts have been so incomplete as scarcely to deserve mentioning. Their attempts were improved upon some

[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »