B 0 0 S.
MEN AND, BIRDS, AT TELE LAND'S END.* THE proper study, of a naturalist is man, the reader of Mr. Hudson's singularly. attractive book may very well decide.
Mr. Hudson has written more than one delightful book about birds, and there is much in the present volume which can be set beside the best he has written ; but none. of his studies of bird life are happier than his quietly recorded." impressions" of the Cornishmen themselves and the Cornish character, • with all its strange emotions and contradictions, and its com- plete severance from standards which are half the creed- of
other Englishmen. Indeed, if we had to choose between the chapters on birds and the quiet and penetrating studies of human nature which make up much less than half the book, it would be the. birds which. would. come second. Without the men, Mr. Hudson would have written another good book.; without the birds, he would still have written a book of, depth and power.
What is the index—or can. you find an indexto the astonishingly complex character of the Cornishman ? Mr.
Hudson begins with the.superficial impression left on visitors to Cornwall who have stayed only a short time, and have come away to say the pleasantest possible things about the country and the people. They have not seen all that residmits
see, or believe they see. They are charmed and misled by the exceedingly friendly and pleasant demeanour towarda. strangers
which is almost universal, seeing in it only the outward expression of- divers delightful qualities. Those who live with the people, if they happen to be Saxons, discover that the friendliness is a manner, and that when you penetrate beneath it you come upon a character wholly un-Saxon. That is not to say in so many words, of course, that what is un-Saxon is unlikeable, but that it is different, that there is a barrier somewhere. And Mr. Hudson's opening picture is a very pleasant one. The Cornish are in some ways a most attractive people. They "are not, and never have been, intemperate generally ; for one reason, because they are of a singularly happy disposition, lively, and sociable, with a very intense love of their families and homes; and secondly, because of the idyllic conditions in which they exist, and always have existed, in a country thinly populated, without big towns, with the healthiest, most equable and genial climate in Britain."
Could there be better foundations of character P Mr. Hudson goes further with them, and makes a discovery. They have no sense of humour, Or, rather, their sense of humour is different from others'. They take what is said to them very literally. A friend of Mr. Hudson, the vicar of a Cornish parish, even after twenty years' intimate relations with. his parishioners, occasionally forgot this. One day a man from a neighbouring hamlet met him in the. village. "Why, Mr. So-and-so," exclaimed the vicar, shaking' hands with him, "it's a hundred years since I saw your They talked in a friendly manner and separated, but the man spent most of the day in asking his friends to solve the puzzle. "He said. it were a hundred years since he saw me—now what did, parson mean by that?" Another story begins with a for gotten jest. Years ago, in South America, a number of guests were telling stories of native wit which they had met with on their travels. One of the best was the reply given to a
man travelling through the stoniest district be had ever been in. He asked a native whether he could tell him "where the
people of these parts procure stone with which to build their houses." The reply given set the table in a roar ; unfortu- nately Mr. Hudson has forgotten what it was. He thought he would try to get an answer to the same question from a
Cornishman digging in a rocky ploughed field. The, man got quite angry ; couldn't his questioner use his eyesP It was
explained to him that the question Was asked ihi fun, and he received the explanation with seriousness. Later, Mr. Hudson told the story to others ; they received it coolly. The last one was a farmer. "He listened attentively, then, after an interval of silence, remarked, 'Yes, I see; the Man did not understand your question in the sense you meant. It was 4. joke and he took it seriously; I see."
* The Land's End : a Naturalist's Impressions. in West Cornwall,. By W, U. Hudson. With 49 IlluttrstIdai by A. L.' Mini: Leaden Hutchinson and Co. [10s. 6d. lista
• - Unhappily his search after characteristics led Mr. Hudson -'to more gloomy conclusians than the discovery that the: .Cornish sense of humour is different from his own. -The book- has a message, and it is one which cannot be neglected by: -Cornishmen anxious for the honour of their county ; which,
uttered deliberately bye writer of the standing of Mr. Hudson,: -.cannot possibly be ignored. It is less an accusation than a .plain statement of fact ; if it challeng es contradiction, it: -also asserts that the crime is condoned. Into Mr. Hudson's.
general examination of the charge brought against the Cornish' that they are cruel, that their softer, kinder manners are a'
, mere veneer, we cannot here enter fully. "If it were not for. -the watch kept on them and the altered conditions generally' they would go gladly back to the ancient trade of wrecking,": was part of a sadden outburst from one who had seen much
-of the rougher Cornishmen for many years; and an anecdote' told to Mr. Hudson by an "English" inhabitant illuminates:
that dark Baying. He had just watched the rescue of a crew, Iron a ship on the rooks; another ship was riding perilously' -near the same spot, when the wind fell and the sun came out.'
A man watching broke into curses on the wind and waves ; he was one of the very men who had been foremost in the rescue.'
Mr. Hudson, on the whole, will not allow the charge. So many gifts-have been accidentally thrown on Cornish coasts Ivy the wind and waves, wreckage has been so large a part of -Cornishmen's livealor so many years, that they are not to be _judged by inland standards. But the specific instance of -.cruelty to which be was witness himself he does not attempt'
-4o explain. In the hard winter weather the semi-migrant. .birds—thrushes, blackbirds, robins, and so forth—erowd - further and further south and west in their search for food, -.until the shore of Cornwall stops them. This is the reception 1--the starving birds meet with :— "Each person buys a handful of small 48h-hooks, manufactured -lor the purpose and sold, a dozen for a penny, by a tradesman in -- the town. Ten to- twenty baited hooks are fastened with short --threads to a string, two or three feet long, called a teagle,' and • placed on a strip of ground from which the snow has been cleared. -"To these Strips of mould or turf the birds fly and seize the hooks, - And so blind to danger are they made by hunger that they are . not deterred by the frantic struggles of those already hooked. Many birds succeed in freeing themselves by breaking the thread in their struggles, but Always with that bit of barbed bent wire in their mouths or stomachs, which must eventually cause their -death. In one garden where food was placed for the birds and - their hunters kept out, eleven dead and dying birds were,pieked up in one day among the shrubs, all with hooks in their gullets."
TJet us add that we do not quote an even more dreadful :passage. It is painful to write such things down; indeed, the -- chapter in which Mr. Hudson deals with birds in winter at Ives is more painful reading than any we have seen - 'treating of British birds. But such things need to be written --down and known, and Mr. Hudson has been asked by Cornish-
men to make the facts public, to help if he can to end the . hideous business. It is. incredible that it will not be ended.
If Mr. Hudson's book results in abolishing the teagle, it - will be the most successful be has written. It is successful in
- other ways, particularly, as those who are familiar with Birds and Man and Nature in Downland will expect, in the observa-
tion of curious and amusing incidents of the life of the gulls r-and daws, cormorants and gannets, which are the familiar' -birds of St. Ives and Penzance and the sea-coast towns of the I Land's End. "I was a little like gulls in my habits," Mr.
Hudson writes ; he was about the cliffs on fine days, and: inland in rough weather, but always out of doors. We hear
little of Penzance and Newlyn and Nousehole, except of their inhabitants as Cornishmen. But it is as a study of the Cornish character, with all its strange inconsistencies and inversions, - that the book will take its place among the best and most -discerning that have been written of rough, natural man.