BOOKS ON NATURE AND NATURAL HISTORY.* EXIGENCIES of space, and
the prolific crop which the publishing season has produced, compel us to notice very briefly a large number of books that have little in common, except that they treat of Nature and natural history. We do so with regret, for several of the works now before us deserve a longer review. We promised -ourselves real pleasure from reading The South Country, by Mr. Edward Thomas. and we have not been disappointed. For twenty years the biographer of Richard Jefferies has wandered on foot through the country between the Thames and the sea, from Kent to Somerset. He describes himself as "unlearned, incurious, but finding deepest ease and joy out of doors." Farms and fields he loves, and also alehouses and the company one finds there. It is a bad thing to overdo praise, therefore we will neither compare Mr. Thomas's style to Stevenson's nor his attitude to Borrow's. But the happiness of his phrases often delights the reader, and the tales of the farmer turned shopkeeper, the London clerk doing odd work on a farm in summer, and the old soldier become umbrella-mender have in them something truly Borrovian. There is nothing of the guide-book here, nor is there any forcing of natural history down the reader's throat. We are led on from descriptions of the South Downs and of the song of birds to country fairs and the names that please the ear when sales of underwood are advertised on the doors of barns. Sometimes, but very rarely, a passage seems a trifle pretentious. But we must not forget what Mr. Thomas says of the critics : "They will misunderstand—it is
• (1) The South Country. By Edward Thomas. London: J. M. Dent and. Sons. [3s. 6d. net.]—(2) Mentories of the Months: Fifth Series. By Sir Herbert Maxwell, Bart. London: Edward Arnold. [7s. 6d.]—(3) Man and Nature on Tidal Waters. By Arthur H. Patterson. With 31 Illustrations. London : Methuen and Co. [68.]—(4) Kings in Exile. By Charles G. D. Roberts. Fully Dlustrated. London: Ward, Lock, and Co. [6s.]—(5) In an Indian .Tungle. By Skene Dlitt. Illustrated by Nell Parsons. London: Robert Culley. [3s. 6d. net.]—(8) Buffet: a Trek Ox. By Stanley Portal Hyatt. Illustrated by Carton Moore-Park. London: Andrew Melrose. [6s. net1—(7) Nature Walks and Talks. By T. Carreras. With more than 100 Illustrations. London : S. W. Partridge and Co. [2s. 6d.]—(8) Mighty Hunters. By Ashmore Bussan. With 12 Illustrations by Alfred Pearse. London : Longmans and Co. [6s.]—(9) Nature Stalking for Boys. By W. Percival Westell, F.L.S. Introduction by Sir R. S. S. Baden-Powell. 4 Coloured Plates and 100 Illustrations by Rev. S. N. Sedgwick, M.A. London M. Dent and Sons. [3s. 6d. net.]—(10) The Book of Birds. By Horace G. Groner. With Coloured Plates and numerous Black-and-White Illustrations and Photographs. London: Andrew Melrose. [6s. net.]— (11) Ant Communities, and How they are Governed. By Henry Christopher McCook. Illustrated from Nature. London: Harper and Brothers. [7s. 6d. net.)— (12) Indian Insect Life. By H. Maxwell-Lefroy, F.E.S., F.Z.S., Assisted by F. M. Howlett, B.A., F.E.S. London : W. Thacker and Co. [30s. net.]— (13) Field and Woodland Plants. By W. S. Furneaux. With 8 Plates in Colour, numerous Illustrations by Patten Wilson, and Photographs from Nature by the Author. London: Longmans and Co. [6s. net.]—(14) Trees and Shrubs of the British Isles: Native and Acclimatised. By C. S. Cooper, F.R.H.S., and W. Percival Westell, F.L.S. Illustrated by C. F. Newel. 2 vols. London: J. M. Dent and Sons. [21s. net.]--(15) Nature Photography for Beginners. By E. J. Bedford. With Coloured Frontispiece and nearly 100 Photographs from Nature by the Author. Same publishers. f 7s. 6i1. net.1 their &a:d _There ±are,- a few ,sentences, me must confess;
that we do not understand in a book of remarkable charm and originality.
Pleasant in its way, but very different in style and tone, is the book of another Nature-lover. Sir Herbert Maxwell in publishing the fifth series of Memories of the Months thinks it only decent to apologise for offering another volume of these "desultory notes." Probably the greatest praise which the reviewer can pay him is to say that there are no signs of deterioration. The bulk of the present volume has appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette. Sir Herbert is a prolific writer who pours forth notes and essays on animals, plants, sport, gardening, and country life ; yet his writing is never stale or thin. Unlike most writers of the same kind, he never spins out what he has to say. His latest volume is readable from beginning to end ; and though it is at best journalistic literature, many amateurs of natural history will read it through with amusement, and also with instruction. It is needless to add that the apology in the preface is quite uncalled for.
Mr. A. H. Patterson has so firmly established his reputation as a Norfolk naturalist that, though we should like to devote space to Man and Nature on Tidal Waters, it will suffice to recommend his new book. No one knows Breydon Water and the fishing, shrimping, eel-catching population of Yar- mouth better than he, and he manages to produce a new and delightful volume without repeating himself. River pollution has injured mussel-dredging, the Yarmouth whale- fishery is dead, and trawl-fishing is in a bad way. Punt. gunning, decoying, and wild-fowling are not what they were. We must be grateful to Mr. Patterson for recording some tales of the old Breydoners before they are forgotten. Some of the best chapters describe the talks that go on between " Pintail " Thomas, " Cadger " Brown, " Fiddler " Goodens, and their comrades in the little alehouses with small panes and red curtains on Yarmouth North Quay. Those who love the Broads and wherrymen, or Yarmouth bloaters and shrimps, will read with pleasure the gossiping chapters that only Mr. Patterson can write.
Next must be noticed three good books, all animal biogra- phies, but each different from the rest. Mr. Charles Roberts is one of the ablest writers of animal stories that we have. Kings in Exile is proof that he has by no means exhausted the subject. There are ten tales of animals in the volume, and it would be hard to say which is the best. Mr. Roberts has in this book left the backwoods and taken for his theme animals in captivity. So we have stories of the old bull bison in a "zoological park," the octopus in an aquarium, the per- forming puma that escapes from a circus, the caged eagle, and the bear in a travelling menagerie. Everything from Mr. Roberts's pen is written with power, and often with a certain amount of pathetic sentiment. As animal stories of this kind go, the book is an extremely good one, and it will certainly appeal to those who have got pleasure from the author's earlier books on wild life.
We now pass to India. There are some well-written descriptions of forest life in the pages of In an Indian Jungle, by " Skene Dha." First we have the story of Bodo.' the buffalo from the days when he was a little calf until he perishes after a terrific battle with a pair of tigers. Then follow some events in the life of a wild dog. Perhaps one of the best stories is that of the Rajah's state elephant, who recounts his own history. Bhaloo ' the bear comes next, and then follows the tale of a boar and pig-sticking in the plains of the Deccan. Lastly comes the story of a mahseer. Having escaped many perils, from the dynamite of the native, a foreman of his gang on the railway, to the hook of the angling sahib, he is last heard of rising with a monstrous swirl where the railway bridge crosses Mother Ganges near Moghal Serai. These animal stories are written with spirit, and, we suspect, after intimate personal experience of the Indian jungle.
Bifl'el: a Trek Ox, by Mr. Stanley Portal Hyatt, is an attractive book which transports us to South Africa. Biffel was born in Mashonala,nd under the shadow of a kopje. Later we follow him when he becomes one of the team of oxen belonging to Spencer Mayne, an English trader. There are in this book good pictures of life on trek over the high-veld. and the love of Amous, the Basuto, for Biffel ' is pathetic. In the end the great ox dies just as his owner makes ts
fortune by a mining speculation. The story is very readable, and a profusion of clever little sketches by Mr. Carton Moore-Park deserve special praise. Altogether, Mr. Hyatt has produced an original and exceptionally well-written animal biography.
Several books for boys and girls must be noticed next. Nature Walks and Talks may be recommended as a sound book for the young naturalist. Mr. T. Carreras tells us that his aim has been to assist the youthful wanderer in the country to make "a more thorough and intellectual study" of the animals be will come across. We do not doubt that he will succeed. The bulk of the book is devoted to ento- mology: beetles, gall-flies, wild bees, wasps, and flies are chiefly treated of, and their habits and structure explained. There are good chapters, too, on land snails, slugs, and fresh- water mussels. The information is sufficiently accurate and the illustrations are clear and numerous. The whole book may be praised, for it is an exceedingly cheap work of popular zoology.
There are some verily splendid stories of Mexican sport and adventure in Mighty Hunters, by Mr. Ashmore Russan. Carson, "El Cazador Grande," has numbered forty-seven jaguars to his rifle, and is ready for any emergency. Mrs. Carson, "La Senora Elena," is equally happy at home cleaning the Winchester repeaters or living in the forest on a " tortilla " and a drink of water a day. Follow these two into a country where " tigrea " haunt the forests, where " bandoltros " are expected on the roads, and Indians mutter " Muerte a los Cachutecos," and you will not be disappointed Tarantulas fall to our mighty hunter's rifle as easily as alligators. Carson shoots off a bit of each of a brigand's ears just to give him a fright. The Mexican-Spanish atmo- sphere and language are always impressive. "Buenos dies, Senores! Quien sabe P Vamos." And so we must take leave of a splendid book for boys.
Considering what an opportunity the subject offers, the next work on our list is disappointing. Nature Stalking for Boys is a new book by Mr. W. Percival Westell, a prolific writer on popular natural history. It will teach the Boy Scouts, and other boys as well, something about animals and plants, and make them observe many things that are always before their eyes. The ways of beasts, the migration of birds, the habits of insects, the nature of a few plants, are all touched on after a fashion. Mr. Sedgwick has a chapter of hints on simple Nature photography, and General Sir R. Baden-Powell appends a facsimile autograph to a page of introduction for Boy Scouts. There are besides a great number of small and rather amateurish photographs. That of the "Female great crested grebe and young" appears to be a photograph of a merganser, and the "Shells of fresh-water snails" are shells of land snails.
A very superior work comes next. The Book of Birds, by Mr. Horace G. Groser, is a well-illustrated volume and attractively written for children. Some chapters deal with one species only, as that on the bustard or the robin ; others treat of a whole family, such as owls, bumming-birds, finches, and vultures. There is a great deal of ornithological informa- tion accurately set out in a popular fashion and no twaddle or padding. Mr. George Rankin's coloured plates are fairly successful, but that of the redbreast is an exception. Among a great number of photographs of living birds in the Zoological Gardens, Mr. W. S. Berridge's work is con spicnously excellent. This is one of the best " bird-books " for the young that have recently appeared.
We descend from birds to insects. Ant Communities, by Mr. H. C. McCook, a well-known American writer on entomology, will not only interest the scientific myrme- cologist, but also the general reader. The more one studies the communal organisation of insects, the more amazing do the problems that confront us appear. Mr. McCook, whose earliest studies were inspired by the veteran Dr. Forel, of Zurich, confesses after years of observation that he can only answer many questions in phrases that drape our ignorance. There is, he thinks, an impassable gulf between ant instinct and human intellect. In every ant the self-directing faculty is well-nigh perfect, and each individual is a law unto itself. Of personal benevolence to other ants of the same community there is none. Here he disagrees with Lord Avebury. We have elaborate government and no visible rulers at all. It is a form of socialism where, unlike what happens in a human commonwealth, we find perfect self-devotion of the individual to the whole community. How is this attained? The book is well illustrated, and deals in a very interesting fashion with some of the natural history of ant commonwealths.
A magnificent volume on Indian Insect Life, by Mr. Marwell- Lefroy, assisted by Mr. Howlett, can only be mentioned and very shortly described. It is a great contribution to entomo- logical knowledge, and admirably illustrated with coloured and uncoloured plates. Both authors are entomologists attached to the Imperial Department of Agriculture for India, and the work is published under the authority of the Indian Government.
Turning to two popular botanic books, in Field and Woodland Plants we have a new volume in the young naturalists' "Outdoor World Series." Mr. Furneanx has happily combined popular instruction with sound botany, and the beginner who works through this guide to our commoner plants will learn much, and, what is more important, will have nothing to unlearn. Latin names are given, but technical terms are few, and there is a glossary. After a general intro- duction on the characters of plants, pollination of flowers, classification, and means of identification, Mr. Furneaux describes several hundred of our most abundant herbs, trees, and shrubs. About twenty chapters are arranged partly according to seasons and partly according to the habitats of the plants. We doubt whether this method really helps the young or the old naturalist, but it has certain obvious recom- mendations. The plates are numerous, and the uncoloured figures, which are photographs from Nature and from drawings, are effective and clear.
Trees and Shrubs of the British Islands, by Mr. C. S. Cooper and Mr. W. Percival Westell, is a finely got up work in two handsome volumes. The' illustrations, coloured and uncoloured drawings by Mr. C. F. Newell, me extremely good. After an introduction of some length, from which a deal of gush on "the mission of the trees," the beauties of spring, and similar topics might have been omitted, we have chapters on injurious insects and fungoid pests. Then follows a description of over five hundred native and acclimatised trees and shrubs. This portion of the work is well done and botanically accurate. Each volume is rather unwieldy as a book of reference, but contains much that will he of interest and of service to horticulturists, foresters, and lovers of trees.
Lastly, we have a work which will probably spread the epidemic of writing and illustrating Nature-books. Photo- graphy plays a great part nowadays in illustrating natural history books. Those who are desirous of practising one of the most fascinating and harmless pastimes will find instructive information in Nature Photography for Beginners. Mr. Edward J. Bedford is such an enthusiast that he thinks The Natural History of Selborne would have been more interesting if Gilbert White had been a photographer. To our thinking, the notion of a charming eighteenth-century classic illustrated with a camera is detestable. But that is a matter of taste. The Nature photographer will find chapters on apparatus and general practical photographic work, and Mr. Bedford also gives many hints on how to observe and photograph ordinary natural objects, such as nests, birds, insects, and plants. The style is chatty and popular, and the illustrations consist of nearly a hundred excellent photographs. Most of these are stereoscopic, and must be looked at laboriously through leiases provided with the book. We do not by any means hope to see this kind of illustration become popular.