Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Buckland, Francis Trevelyan

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BUCKLAND, FRANCIS TREVELYAN (1826–1880), naturalist, was born at Christ Church, Oxford, 17 Dec. 1826. His father, William Buckland, D.D. [q. v.], afterwards dean of Westminster, was canon of Christ Church at the time of his birth. His mother was Mary, daughter of Benjamin Morland of Abingdon, Berkshire. From his boyhood Buckland was an ardent lover of strange pets, and many practical jokes were played at Christ Church by and upon his tame monkeys and bear. He was educated first at Cotterstock, North Hants (1835–7), then at Laleham under his uncle, John Buckland, who married a sister of Dr. Arnold (1837–9), afterwards at Winchester from 1839 to 1844, and finally at Christ Church, Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. 18 May 1848. Devoting himself to medicine he worked hard at St. George's Hospital, especially at anatomy, first as a student from 1848 to 1851, and as house-surgeon in 1852 and 1853. He became assistant-surgeon in the 2nd life guards 14 Aug. 1854. Being chiefly quartered in London, he eagerly embraced every opportunity of examining curious specimens of natural history, singular animals, abnormal growths, and the like. These observations were described in his four series of ‘Curiosities of Natural History.’ Cherishing a deep reverence for John Hunter, after a search, says Dean Stanley, ‘of sixteen dreary days’ in the vaults of St. Martin's Church, Charing Cross, he discovered the coffin of that famous surgeon, whose remains, when thus brought to light, were duly interred in Westminster Abbey, 28 March 1859. Another happy chance put him in possession of the great anatomist's oaken bedstead. It was also due to his sagacity that Izaak Walton's well-known autograph, together with the date 1658, was discovered scratched by the angler on the marble monument of Isaac Casaubon, in Poets' Corner. On the establishment of the ‘Field’ newspaper in 1856, Buckland joined the staff, and wrote largely in the paper till 1865, when he seceded and commenced (1866) a weekly journal of his own, ‘Land and Water,’ in which most of his later writings appeared. He was a good salmon-fisher, but, probably from want of leisure, was not equally skilled in fly-fishing for trout. With much zeal he applied himself to the many economical questions affecting the artificial supply of salmon, the length of the close season, the condition of the different salmon rivers of the kingdom, and similar investigations, gradually becoming the highest authority on the subjects of pisciculture. In 1867 he was appointed an inspector of salmon fisheries. No more congenial post could have been offered him, and thenceforth he devoted all his energies not merely to the duties of his office, but to the elucidation of every point connected with the history of the salmon, and endeavoured in every way to improve the condition of the British fisheries and of fisher-folk in general. These objects involved frequent visits to the rivers and coasts of the country, when he was ever a welcome guest among high and low, and was thus continually adding to his stores of information. In order to interest people in his favourite subject he established about 1865 at the South Kensington Museum a large collection of fish-hatching apparatus, models of fish-passes, casts of fish, implements of fishing, and the like. This exhibition, to which Buckland was constantly adding, was the first successful effort to direct the attention of the nation towards pisciculture, and at length expanded into the International Fisheries Exhibition of 1883.

Genial, sagacious, enthusiastic, always prone to look at the humorous side of a subject, Buckland aimed rather at enlisting the sympathies of others in his favourite studies than at acquiring the name of a profound writer on science. He held the ordinary usages of society in supreme contempt when they appeared to interfere with his zeal for experiment and research in natural history, and his friends love to recall him, now wading into some icy cold river to capture salmon for the purpose of artificial breeding, now smoking and in his shirt sleeves as he arranged his curiosities at South Kensington, and now again humorously dilating in his house in Albany Street on the habits of the pet animals which generally ran loose about his rooms. Numberless as were his personal friends, they were few compared with those who knew and loved him from his books, owing to the unstudied eloquence of all he wrote and the attractive manner in which he descanted on his favourite pursuits. Nothing in the animal or vegetable world came amiss to his insatiable love of nature; he would dwell with warm appreciation upon the adaptation of every animal and every part of its frame to its surroundings, point out the singularities of every specimen that came before him, and thus draw others unconsciously to the practical study of natural history. The native birds, beasts, and fishes lost a friend and protector when Buckland died. Under his love of nature and the extreme interest which he took in biological studies lay a profound but childlike faith.

Buckland's last fishery report was presented on 31 March 1880. His health was then breaking. During the following months he prepared new specimens for his museum, which he determined to leave to the nation. In June he underwent an operation for dropsy. He died on 19 Dec. 1880. Five days after he was buried at Brompton cemetery.

Besides numerous papers on fish, birds, &c., in the ‘Field’ and ‘Land and Water,’ and an article on ‘Rats’ in the ‘Quarterly Review,’ Buckland in his capacity of inspector of salmon fisheries reported annually on the salmon fisheries, and published a book on ‘Fish Hatching’ in 1863. He also wrote reports on the Scotch salmon fisheries in 1871, on the Norfolk fisheries in 1875, on the crab and lobster fisheries in 1877, the Scotch herring fisheries in 1878, and the sea fisheries in 1879. The books by which he is best known are his ‘Curiosities of Natural History,’ 4 vols., 1857–72; the ‘Logbook of a Fisherman and Zoologist,’ 1875; an edition of White's ‘Natural History of Selborne,’ with original notes, 1876; and the ‘Natural History of British Fishes,’ 1881. A gathering from his papers selected by himself was published posthumously in 1882 under the title of ‘Notes and Jottings from Animal Life.’ His life was published in 1885 by Mr. G. C. Bompas, his brother-in-law.

[Private information; Westwood and Satchell's Bibliotheca Piscatoria; Life by Bompas.]

M. G. W.