18 OCTOBER 1940, Page 24

The Squire of Walton Hall. By Philip Gosse. (Cassell. tcs.)

CHARLES WATERTON'S century-old book of South American travel is probably little read today. But the eccentric author is not forgotten, and Mr. Gosse's painstaking memoir of him will interest many people. A wealthy Yorkshire squirt who did not hunt, or shoot, or entertain, was, of course, an oddity, but Waterton was an extreme ascetic and an adept even in old age at athletic exercises such as tree-climbing. A passionate lover of birds, he was no scientist ; a great traveller, he added little or nothing to what was known of the Orinoco basin, whose forests he described. One feels that with his exceptional opportunities he might have made more of his life. Yet Waterton was obviously well satisfied with his own achievements, and took as an insult any suggestion that his knowledge of animals was incomplete. Mr. Gosse quotes freely from Waterton's books and letters. and, does not fail to give among the illustrations the " Nondeser:pt' —a monkey's head so manipulated in the stuffing as to look like a man—with which Waterton delighted to puzzle or shock his readers and friends.