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a different method in cultivating natural history. They have been content to give, not only the brevity, but also the dry and disgusting air of a dictionary to their systems. Ray, Klein, Brisson, 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 those authors that treated of it in a more prolix and satisfactory manner. Thus, natural history, at present, is carried on in two distinct and separate channels, the one serving to lead us to the thing, the other conveying the history of the thing, as supposing it already known.

The following natural history is written with only such an attention to system as serves to remove the reader's embarrassments, and allure him to proceed. It can make no pretensions 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 possessed of the name of any animal, shall find here a short, though satisfactory history of its habitudes, its subsistence, its manners, its friendships, and hostilities. My aim has been to carry on just as much method as was sufficient to shorten my descriptions by generalizing them, and never to follow order where the art of writing, which is but another name for good sense, informed me that it would only contribute to the reader's embarrassment.

Still, however, the reader will perceive, that I have formed a kind of system in the history of every part of animated nature, directing myself by the great and obvious distinctions that she herself seems to have made, which, though too few to point exactly to the name, are yet sufficient to illuminate the subject, and remove the reader's perplexity. M. Buffon, indeed, who has brought greater

talents to this part of learning than any other man, has almost entirely rejected method in classing quadrupeds. This, with great deference to such a character, appears to me running into the opposite extreme; and, as some moderns have of late spent much time, great pains, and some learning, all to very little purpose, in systematic arrangement, he seems so much disgusted by their trifling, but ostentatious efforts, that he describes his animals almost in the order they happen to come before him.

This want of method seems to be a fault, but he can lose little by a criticism which every dull man can make, or by an error in arrangement, from which the dullest are the most usually free.

In other respects, as far as this able philosopher has gone, I have taken him for my guide. The warmth of his style, and the brilliancy of his imagination, are inimitable. Leaving him, therefore, without a rival in these, and only availing myself of his information, I have been content to describe things in my own way, and though many of the materials are taken from him, yet I have added, retrenched, and altered, as I thought proper. It was my intention, at one time, whenever I differed from him, to have mentioned it at the bottom of the page; but this occurred so often, that I soon found it would look like envy, and might, perhaps, convict me of those very errors which I was wanting to lay upon him.

I have, therefore, as being every way his debtor, concealed my dissent, where my opinion was different; but wherever I borrow from him, I take care at the bottom of the page to express my obligations. But, though my obligations to this writer are many, they extend but to the smallest part of the work, as he has hitherto completed only the history of quadrupeds. I was, therefore, left to

my reading alone, to make out the history of birds, fishes, and insects, of which the arrangement was so difficult, and the necessary information so widely diffused, and so obscurely related when found, that it proved by much the most laborious part of the undertaking. Thus, having made use of M. Buffon's lights in the first part of this work, I may, with some share of confidence, recommend it to the public. But what shall I But what shall I say of that part, where I have been entirely left without his assistance? As I would affect neither modesty nor confidence, it will be sufficient to say, that my reading upon this part of the subject has been very extensive; and that I have taxed my scanty circumstances in procuring books, which are on this subject, of all others, the most expensive. In consequence of this industry, I here offer a work to the public, of a kind which has never been attempted in ours, or

any other modern language that I know of. The ancients, indeed, and Pliny in particular, have anticipated me in the present manner of treating natural history. Like those historians who described the events of a campaign, they have not condescended to give the private particulars of every individual that formed the army; they were content with characterising the generals, and describing their operations, while they left it to meaner hands to carry the muster-roll. I have followed their manner, rejecting the numerous fables which they adopted, and adding the improvements of the moderns, which are so numerous, that they actually make up the bulk of natural history.

The delight which I found in reading Pliny, first inspired me with the idea of a work of this nature. Having a taste rather classical than scientific, and having but little employed myself in turning over the dry labours of modern system-makers, my earliest intention was to translate this

agreeable writer, and, by the help of a commentary, to make my work as amusing as I could. Let us dignify natural history ever so much with the grave appellation of a useful science, yet still we must confess, that it is the occupation of the idle and the speculative, more than of the ambitious part of mankind. My intention was to treat what I then conceived to be an idle subject, in an idle manner; and not to hedge round plain and simple narratives with hard words, accumulated distinctions, ostentatious learning, and disquisitions that produced no conviction. Upon the appearance, however, of M. Buffon's work, I dropped my former plan and adopted the present, being convinced by his manner, that the best imitation of the ancients was to write from our own feelings, and to imitate nature.

It will be my chief pride, therefore, if this work may be found an innocent amusement for those who have nothing else to employ them, or who require a relaxation from labour. Professed naturalists will, no doubt, find it superficial; and yet I should hope, that even these will discover hints and remarks, gleaned from various reading, not wholly trite or elementary; I would wish for their approbation. But my chief ambition is to drag up the obscure and gloomy learning of the cell to open inspection; to strip it from its garb of austerity, and to show the beauties of that form, which only the industrious and the inquisitive have been hitherto permitted to approach.

PREFACE

TO THE

BEAUTIES OF ENGLISH POETRY.

FIRST PRINTED IN THE YEAR MDCCLXVII.

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