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The author has attempted to embody in this volume whatever is most beautiful or poetical in country life and scenery; to exhibit an interesting and delightful feature of natural history, without giving all the learning and deep research of the naturalist; to show the beauty of plants, flowers, and trees, in a clear and simple light, without entering into the details of the botanist ; and to render that descriptive and readable which has usually found a place only in the table of the calendar,--as the painter in producing a picture tries more for general effect than a display of his skill in the minute delineation of every leaf, flower, and blade of grass. The author has portrayed old customs and festivals as they now to his own knowledge exist in many a village in merry England. In writing a work on the country, no author can depend entirely upon himself: he must, of necessity, have recourse to the writings of others : he may add something of his own ; but he must trust more to showing in a new and favourable light that which is already done. He may plunder the strongholds of knowledge, and yet increase its wealth, by scattering that upon the winds which before only the levers of learning could move. Although much of this volume is original, the author puts great trust in the extracts that occasionally enrich his pages, as they often eluci
date matters on which he felt a delicacy to decide ; and he deemed it prudent to insert some of them, even when at variance with his own opinion, after that opinion had been given.
As the author spent the greater portion of his life in the country, and dedicated much of his leisure time to the perusal of the works of the poets and others who have written on rural subjects, he cannot altogether plead incompetence for his task. The unexpected kindness with which his “DAY IN THE Woods” was received, and the praise bestowed upon his humble descriptions of Nature, tempted him in a great measure to the present undertaking. Although he feels undeserving of the high plaudits he has received, he will treasure them in his memory as a meed to which he hopes some day to establish a better claim.
Much as there is already written on the country, it will take some time to embody, even in a form like the present, all that ought to be known: the labours of the naturalist and botanist must be transferred from their deep rivers to shallower streams, where every pebble is rendered visible. In this volume the author has attempted merely to allure his readers to visit the poetry of Nature; to walk over the flowery fields, and only occasionally stoop to exarnine the beauties on which they tread; to wander into old woods, contented with the delight they produce, without looking too closely into their wonders ; to ramble on the banks of rivers, and either read or angle, he cares not which, so that they will but begin to think or look upon the beautiful world in which they live. In a word, he has attempted to put together a work that shall do good, as well as afford pleasure' ;- stir the memories of those
who think that happiness is only to be found in the gay society of cities, and induce them to turn their eyes to the green fields and fragrant woods, and see how much that is pleasant and beautiful they leave
“ To waste its sweetness on the desert air,"
almost wholly unregarded.
An acquaintance with the country, and a love for its beauties and ever-varying scenes, are the foundation-stones of a just appreciation of painting, poetry, and music. We judge of the merits of a picture according to its resemblance to Nature ; of poetry, by the emotions it produces, and the illustrations which it affords of all that is pleasing in earth, air, sea, or sky; of music, as it brings to our ears the sound of waters, the song of birds, or the rustling of the wind among trees and flowers ;-to say nothing of those greater emotions of joy and sorrow, despair and hope, which it produces. Neither are these all : the quiet of country scenery is like a resting-place for the mind; there is a tranquillity that draws the thoughts from the busy world, and makes us conscious that we live for nobler ends than to accumulate wealth. Well did old John Evelyn exclaim, in one of his enthusiastic bursts of eloquence on woods, “Here then is the true Parnassus, Castalia and the Muses ; and at every call in a grove of venerable oaks, methinks I hear the answer of a hundred old Druids, and the bards of our inspired ancestors. In a word, so charmed were poets with those natural shades, that they honoured temples with the names of groves. In walks and shades of trees poets have composed verses which have animated men to heroic and glorious actions. Here orators have made their panegyrics, his
torians their grave relations, and the profound philosophers have loved to pass their lives in repose and contemplation.”
There are many beautiful scraps of poetry scattered over these pages, the selection of which has required considerable care. Some of them, it is hoped, will not be lost upon the reader, as they will serve to prove how much even Genius is indebted to Nature in
“ Giving a local habitation and a name” to its lofty imaginings.
Finally, the designs illustrating this volume are from the pencil of Mr. EDWARD LAMBERT, of whose talents the public have already had a specimen in the splendid print lately published, entitled “THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.” Many of them, independently of their merit as works of art, are faithful illustrations of customs and scenes which can only now be witnessed in a few remote places in the country.
THOMAS MILLER. Elliott's Row, Southwark,
December 21, 1836.
Appearance of the Season.-Wind, sublime descriptions of, in Scripture.