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PREFACE.

NATURAL Hiftory, confidered in its utmost extent, comprehends two objects. First, that of difcovering, afcertaining, and naming all the various productions of Nature. Secondly, that of defcribing the properties, manners, and relations, which they bear to us, and to each other. The first,

which is the moft difficult part of the fcience, is fyftematical, dry, mechanical, and incomplete. The fecond is more amufing, exhibits new pictures to the imagination, and improves our relish for existence, by widening the profpect of Nature around us.

Both, however, are neceffary to those who would understand this pleafing fcience in its utmost extent. The first care of every enquirer, no doubt, fhould be, to fee, to vifit, and examine every ob→ ject, before he pretends to infpect its habitudes or its hiftory. From feeing and obferving the thing itself, he is moft naturally led to fpeculate upon its ufes, its delights, or its inconveniencies.

Numberlefs obftructions, however, are found in this part of his pursuit, that fruftrate his diligence and retard his curiofity. The objects in Nature are fo many, and even thofe of the fame kind are exhibited in fuch a variety of forms, that the enquirer finds himself loft, in the exuberance before him, and like a man who attempts to count the ftars unasfifted by art, his powers are all distracted in barren fuperfluity.

To remedy this embarrassment artificial systems have been devised, which grouping into maffes thofe parts of Nature more nearly refembling each other, re

fer

fer the enquirer for the name of the fingle object he defires to know, to fome one of those general diftributions, where it is to be found by further examination. If, for inftance, a man fhould in his walks meet with an animal, the name and confequently the hiftory of which he defires to know, he is taught by fyftematic writers of Natural Hiftory to examine its moft obvious qualities, whether a quadrupede, a bird, a fish, or an infect. Having determined it, for explanation fake, to be an infect, he examines whether it has wings; if he finds it poffeffed of thefe, he is taught to examine whether it has two or four; if poffeffed of four, he is taught to obferve, whether the two upper wings are of a fhelly hardnefs, and ferve as cafes to thofe under them; if he finds the wings compofed in this manner, he is then taught to pronounce, that this infect is one of the beetle kind; of the beetle kind there are three different claffes, diftinguifhed from each other by their feelers; he examines the infect before him, and finds that the feelers are elevated or knobbed at the ends; of beetles, with feelers thus formed, there are ten kinds, and among thofe, he is taught to look for the precife name of that which is before him. If, for inftance, the knob be divided at the ends, and the belly be streaked with white, it is no other than the Dor or the Maybug, an animal, the noxious qualities of which give it a very diftinguished rank in the hiftory of the infect creation. In this manner afyftem of Natural Hiftory may, in fome measure, be compared to a dictionary of words. Both are folely intended to explain the names of things; but with this difference, that in the dictionary of words we are led from the name of the thing to its definition, whereas in the fyftem of Natural Hiftory, we are led from the definition to find out the name.

Such

Such are the efforts of writers, who have compofed their works with great labour and ingenuity, to direct the learner in his progrefs through Nature, and to inform him of the name of every animal, plant, or foffil fubftance, that he happens to meet with; but it would be only deceiving the reader, to conceal the truth, which is, that books. alone can never teach him this art in perfection; and the folitary ftudent can never fucceed. Without a mafter and a previous knowledge of many of the objects in Nature, his book will only ferve to confound and difguft him. Few of the individual plants or animals that he may happen to meet with, are in that precise state of health, or that exact period of vegetation, whence their defcriptions were taken. Perhaps he meets the plant only with leaves, but the fyftematic writer has defcribed it in flower. Perhaps he meets the bird before it has moulted its first feathers, while the fyftematic defcription was made in the ftate of full perfection. He thus ranges without an inftructor, confufed and with fickening curiofity from fubject to fubject, till at laft he gives up the purfuit, in the multiplicity of his disappointSome practice, therefore, much inftruction and diligent reading are requifite to make a ready and expert Naturalift, who fhall be able, even by the help of a fyftem, to find out the name of every object he meets with. But when this tedious, though requifite part of ftudy is attained, nothing but delight and variety attend the rest of his jour ney. Wherever he travels, like a man in a country where he has many friends, he meets with nothing but acquaintances and allurements in all stages of his way. The mere uninformed fpectator paffes on in gloomy folitude, but the Naturalift, in every plant, in every infect, and every pebble, finds fomething to entertain his curiofity, and excite his fpe

ments.

culation.

VOL. IV.

I

Hence

Hence it appears, that a fyftem may be confidered as a dictionary in the ftudy of Nature. The antients, however, who have all written moft delightfully on this fubject, feem entirely to have rejected thofe humble and mechanical helps of fcience. They contented themfelves with feizing upon the great outlines of hiftory, and paffing over what was common, as not worth the detail; they only dwelt upon what was new, great, and furprizing, and fometimes even warmed the imagination at the expence of truth. Such of the moderns as revived this fcience in Europe, undertook the talk more methodically, though not in a manner fo pleafing. Aldrovandus, Gefner, and Johnson feemed defirous of uniting the entertaining and rich descriptions of the antients with the dry and fyftematic arrangement, of which they were the firft projectors. This attempt, however, was extremely imperfect, as the great variety of Nature was, as yet, but very inadequately known. Neverthelefs, by attempting to carry on both objects at once; firft, of directing us to the name of the things, and then, giving the detail of its history they drew out their works into a tedious and unreasonable length; and thus mixing incompatible aims, they have left their labours, rather to be occafionally confulted, than read with delight by pofterity.

The later moderns, with that good fenfe which they have carried into every other part of fcience, have taken a different method in cultivating Natural Hiftory. They have been content to give, not only the brevity, but alfo the dry and difgufting air of a dictionary to their fyftems. Ray, Klin, Briffon, and Linnæus, have had only one aim, that of pointing out the object in Nature, of discovering its name, and where it was to be found in thofe authors, that treated of it in a more prolix and fatisfactory manner. Thus Natural Hiftory at present is carried

on

on in two distinct and feparate channels, the one ferving to lead us to the thing, the other conveying the hiftory of the thing as fuppofing it already known.

The following Natural Hiftory is written with only fuch an attention to fyftem as ferves to remove the reader's embarraffments, and allure him to proceed. It can make no pretenfions in directing him to the name of every object he meets with; that belongs to works of a very different kind, and written with. very different aims. It will fully answer my design, if the reader, being already poffeffed of the name of any animal, fhall find here a fhort, though fatisfactory history of its habitudes, its fubfiftence, its manners, its friendships and hoftilities. My aim has been to carry on juft as much method, as was fufficient to fhorten my descriptions by generalizing them, and never to follow order where the art of writing, which is but another name for good fenfe, informed me that it would only contribute to the reader's embarraffment.

Still, however, the reader will perceive that I have formed a kind of fyftem in the hiftory of every part of Animated Nature, directing myfelf by the great and obvious diftinctions that the herself feems to have made, which, though too few to point exactly to the name, are yet fufficient to illuminate the fubject, and remove the reader's perplexity. Mr. Buffon, indeed, who has brought greater talents to this part of learning than any other man, has almost entirely rejected method in claffing quadrupedes. This, with great deference to fuch a character, appears to me running into the oppofite extreme; and, as fome moderns have of late spent much time, great pains, and fome learning, all to very little purpose, in fyftematic arrangement, he feems fo much difgufted by their trifling, but oftentatious efforts, that he defcribes his animals al

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