Page:The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 3 (1899).djvu/59

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Flashlights on Nature. By Grant Allen. With 150 Illustrations by Frederick Enock.Geo. Newnes, Lim.

This book is a happy combination of the literary versatility of the author—too little remembered as the writer of 'The Colour-Sense,'—and of the conscientious illustrations of Mr. Enock, who as described by Mr. Grant Allen is "an enthusiastic and observant naturalist, who thinks nothing of sitting up all night if so he may catch a beetle's egg at the moment of hatching; and who will keep his eye to the microscope for twelve hours at a stretch, relieved only by occasional light refreshment in the shape of a sandwich, if so he may intercept some rare chrysalis at its moment of bursting," &c.

These sketches, or "flashlights," are written in the clear and easy style which is usually termed "popular," but which will well repay the perusal of "serious" readers. Under titles which smack of what is sometimes described as "sensational," we find that "a beast of prey" is no other than our old friend "the common garden spider," of which a very full and interesting account is given, and a female of which—"Rosalind"—was observed closely through the whole of a season. This spider was seen to attack and conquer wasps, a subject recently discussed in these pages. The doings of Shrikes are described as "A Woodland Tragedy," and in discussing the capricious character of their distribution in this country, our author accepts a now very general view, "that this relative frequency or scarcity depends upon the distribution of their proper food-insects." Indeed, just as we all know that "an army fights upon its stomach," so we are beginning to understand that "commissariat lies at the bottom of most problems of animal life."

It is a pleasure to meet with an interpreter of nature who can translate her record into plain and happy language, especially when there is so often a tendency to predicate profundity by obscurity; but Mr. Grant Allen's pen is sometimes almost too facile, and literary accomplishments run away with the unadorned natural facts. Thus we read, "In the soft slimy mud, the shoots of the curled pond-weed lie by during the frozen period, hearing the noise of the gliding skates above them"; the mandibles of a "mosquito-larva" are not too happily termed a "big moustache,"