That it was possible for one man to do so much excellent field work, to write so many meritorious volumes, and to paint such a multitude of remarkable pictures must be attributed in no small part to his rare physical strength—for do not intellectual and physical vigor usually go hand in hand and beget power of achievement? Audubon was noted for these qualities. As a worker he was rapid, absorbed and ardent; he began at daylight and labored continuously till night, averaging fourteen hours a day, and, it is said, allowed only four hours for sleep.
In American ornithology, in which he holds so illustrious a place, it was not his privilege to be in the strict sense a pioneer, for before him were Vieillot, Wilson and Bonaparte; and contemporaneous with him were Richardson, Nuttall, Maximilian, Prince of Wied, and a score of lesser and younger lights—some of whom were destined to shine in the near future.
Audubon was no closet naturalist—the technicalities of the profession he left to other—but as a field naturalist he was at his best and had few equals. He was a born woodsman, a lover of wild nature in the fullest sense, a keen observer, an accurate recorder, and, in addition, possessed the rare gift of instilling into his writings the freshness of nature and the vivacity and enthusiasm of his own personality.
His influence was not confined to devotees of the natural sciences, for in his writings and paintings, and in his personal contact with men of affairs, both in this country and abroad, he exhaled the freshness, the vigor, the spirit of freedom and progress of America—and who shall attempt to measure the value of this influence to our young republic?
Audubon's preeminence is due, not alone to his skill as a painter of birds and mammals, nor to the magnitude of his contributions to science, but also to the charm and genius of his personality—a personality that profoundly impressed his contemporaries, and which, by means of his biographies and journals, it is still our privilege to enjoy. His was a type now rarely met—combining the grace and culture of the Frenchman with the candor, patience, and earnestness of purpose of the American. There was about him a certain poetic picturesqueness and a rare charm of manner that drew people to him and enlisted them in his work. His friend, Dr. Bachman, of Charleston, tells us that it was considered a privilege to give to Audubon what no one else could buy. His personal qualities and characteristics appear in some of his minor papers—notably the essays entitled 'Episodes.' These serve to reveal, perhaps better than his more formal writings, the keenness of his insight, the kindness of his heart, the poetry of his nature, the power of his imagination, and the vigor and versatility of his intellect.