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can a system be built, before the constituent materials are half of them procured?
I should scarcely have felt disposed thus to put forward any immediate answer to the strictures in question, had it not been for a supposition that the reviewer's mask was here worn by one to whom the botanists of England are under weighty obligations; but who, on this occasion, was not the less stepping out of his own chosen and familiar road. The answer has been made, in reply to the question of usefulness, construing this in a moral or public sense; but if it were designed to have only an individual application, the reply must be put on the same ground, by reference to individual tastes. One class of minds derive their intellectual gratification from direct or simple observation almost exclusively; a second class of minds are more pleased by occupying themselves with the relations between objects or events. If plants become the objects of interest, the former minds describe and classify them; while the latter may feel little interest in descriptions and classifications, yet derive much pleasure from tracing the relations established between plants and animals, or between plants and their geographical positions. For one of these to object to the studies of the other, would be as sensible a proceeding as it would be for the historian to find fault with the moral philosopher, or for the anatomist to censure the physiologist, each because the other had a different taste and pursuit.
Should the preceding reply be deemed insufficient, I must further plead that others are guilty of a similar neglect of answering the "cui bono" by anticipation. Dr. Lindley's Introduction to Botany is divided into seven "Books." The sixth of these is devoted exclusively to the "Geography; or the Distribution of Plants upon the Surface of the Globe;" "Organography," and "Physiology," are the subjects treated of in the first and second
Books; and it thus appears that the author has held the Geography of Plants to be a division or department of Botany equivalent to the other two very important departments just named. Yet Dr. Lindley does not explain why the subject is brought forward thus prominently, even in writing an "Introduction." In treating of it, he says, "I shall confine myself to an exposition of the positive facts which appear to have been hitherto distinctly ascertained." Now my "Remarks" might be exactly characterised by the sentence quoted. They differ from Dr. Lindley's sketch, in relating only to the plants of one country instead of to those of several scattered parts of the globe. They are also facts much more "distinctly ascertained" than are several of the statements copied into Dr. Lindley's work. And they are addressed to persons who are presumed to feel some interest in the subject, and who no more require to be told the use of such facts, than the practical botanist requires to have his "Synopsis of the British Flora" prefaced by a dissertation on the utility of knowing plants and their names. I may now request my reviewer to put his query to Dr. Lindley, and ask why the required information is not to be found in his "Introduction to Botany," where the subject occupies a position so prominent? And having thus shifted the burden to one of the pillars of botany, I shall be content to take refuge under the roof which that pillar may support.
Before concluding this lengthy Preface, I wish to offer a few suggestions for the consideration of any future writer on the topography of our native plants. Perhaps the arrangement into county lists might be advantageously changed in a future Botanist's Guide. The boundaries are often artificial and very irregular, and are otherwise inconvenient to botanical purposes. Local Floras or Catalogues are already pretty numerous, and they are
increasing. A Guide might be advantageously made by adopting just so many divisions, or centres, as there are local lists published for; all intervening spaces being temporarily added to the district of the nearest Flora or Catalogue. A series of nearly complete local lists would be thus obtained, such as might be readily and usefully compared with each other; and the book would be made of more portable size, and could be sold at a smaller price, than one in which the lists were more numerous. This hint applies only to works whose plan is two-fold, like that of the present volumes. If designed to be used solely as guides for collectors, the completeness of the local lists is of little moment, and only such stations should be included as are explicitly described, and relating to the rarest plants: counties or still smaller divisions of the surface might then be taken. An useful pocket Guide might be made by selecting such localities from the lists in these volumes, with the addition of other well-described stations. The price of such a work would not exceed four or five shillings, and being within the reach of many more persons, it might repay its expences. Should any botanist feel disposed to act on this suggestion, I shall be happy to give him more explicit information respecting any of the stations followed by my own initials.
As for local catalogues that are designed to include only lists of species, they could be printed for a few shillings, on either of the following plans; and in this condensed form they would be valuable contributions to such botanical periodicals as it is wished to make into works of regular reference, instead of being filled only with the fleeting intelligence of the day; provided always, as the lawyers write, the said lists were drawn up by competent persons, and with due care and knowledge. One method would be that of referring to the nearest
local Flora or Catalogue published, and simply enumerating the species of each tract wanting in the other. In this way, we might print the equivalent of a county list on a single octavo page. Another method would be to have a list of three to five hundred of the commonest plants, as a general standard of reference; the local list in this case being shewn by naming all the other species found in the tract under consideration, and also specifying any of these common ones which might be wanting there. A county list need seldom exceed two or three pages on this plan. The species excluded from these volumes, on account of the frequency of their occurrence, amount to 556, and are shewn by two lists in my 'Geography of British Plants.' The names of these make up the bulk of most local lists, and the repetition of them might be avoided, by a simple reference to those lists, except for such of the plants as are absent, which would average about three dozen in a county.
Thames Ditton, Surry,
The first impression of this volume was completed in March 1837; and it was intended to be published on the 31st of that month. A few days before that date, the whole impression was destroyed by an accidental fire, on the premises of the printer. A reprint became necessary, and an opportunity appears to have been thus afforded for the introduction of many additions, supplied to the editor since the printing of the former impression commenced. Unfortunately, he had already made other
engagements which have entirely prevented him giving up the time requisite to arrange the additional matter, and introduce it here. In consequence, the work appears as written in the autumn of 1836; the only choice being either a reprint without additions or the non-publication of the volume. A copy of proofs being in the editor's hands sufficient for his own use, he would have preferred not to reprint the volume; but a sense of obligation to the friends who have favoured him with so much of its contents, in the expectation of such being made public, renders it incumbent upon him to have the book published. The work of Mr. Francis, mentioned on page xvi, has been published, and by the numerous localities, indicated for the ferns and allied orders, will supply the omission of them in this Guide.