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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/841

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THE FELICITY OF NATURALISTS.

THE FELICITY OF NATURALISTS.

THERE is something very charming, especially to sedentary persons, in a sketch such as that of Mr. Frank Buckland, which has just appeared in "Macmillan," from the pen of Mr. Spencer Walpole. It is not that the sketch is at all particularly good as literature; it is as good as it needed to be, but we read a hundred papers as good every year. Nor is it that Mr, Buckland's career was in any way suggestive of any tranquil or attractive sort of idyl. He was a man of business and a man of bustle, knew how to hurry, and from a curious kind of carelessness was very often in the state known as flurry. He could not keep anything he wanted, unless it were alive, and when over-bothered by human stupidity, such as that of the railway officials, who taxed a monkey as a dog and exempted a tortoise as a "hinsect," he could get very hot indeed. He lived a more or less commonplace though very active and useful life, working very hard as Fishery Commissioner, and chief contributor to "Land and Water," and correspondent-general to the practical naturalists of the United Kingdom, making the money he wanted, spending it as he liked, with a good deal of waste of silver, and generally demeaning himself as a valuable and bustling member of the community. He was not of the lotos-eaters, but of the breezy-bodies. The charm lies in the sense which the narrative evokes, that a very happy career, a life in which depression, and low spirits, and trouble generally are unknown, is quite possible to men. We have noticed that specialty in the lives of naturalists very often before, and begin to believe that it is to a quite separate degree peculiar to them. It is not unlikely that it should be so, for many of the great conditions of happiness are present in their lives. It is essential to true happiness to have some pursuit which strongly interests you; and the naturalist has his pursuit, which never tires him, never fails him, and can never come to an end. The author requires subjects and leisure, the painter models, the student books and reasons for study; but the naturalist is always ready, always engaged, always getting his result, even if it be a negative one, and never has the smallest prospect of getting to the end of his occupation. No matter how small may be the subdivision of the natural kingdom to which he attends, it is more extensive than his life will be. Not only does no man know all there is to be known about ants, or spiders, or minnows, but no man hopes to know, except by study of the knowledge of other men also, accumulated through ages. Most men get satiated or "weary," as they put it, of their businesses; but who ever heard of a true naturalist retiring? The longest life, the hardest voyages, the most endless collections, will not satiate the curiosity of a conchologist about the colors, let alone the convolutions and the texture of his brilliant favorites.