Littell's Living Age/Volume 130/Issue 1678/Miscellany

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Many people would be amazed at the notion of a "forest" without trees; but those who have either studied the old forest laws or have mastered the geography of the New Forest on the spot know that at all events there may be large parts of a forest wholly treeless. "Silvam habet in foresta" is a Domesday phrase, showing that, though there were woods within the forest, yet the forest itself was not all wood. Still one is a little startled at finding any one bold enough to deny that a forest could contain any trees at all. We find such a daring person in a coachman spoken of in Mr. Frank Buckland's "Log-book of a Fisherman and Zoologist" "At one place the tourist asked 'what they called yon hills.' 'Eh, but that's just a deer-forest,' says the coachman. 'Deer-forest,' said Mr. Tourist, 'but I see no trees.' 'Trees,' said coachee, 'but, man, who ever heard of trees in a forest?'" Mr. Buckland, with rather curious logic, adds, "In a true etymological sense I believe the coachman's definition of a 'forest' was right, for I find the following definition in a dictionary: 'Forest, in geography, a huge wood; or a large extent of ground covered with trees.'" Then the dictionary adds some of the usual derivations, among which the Latin foreſta and the German frost may be safely corrected into foresta and forst. The New Forest and the Domesday record thereof, though they hardly bear out the coachman's doctrine that there can be no trees in a forest, quite upset the tourist's doctrine that there can be no forest without them. According to the most likely etymology, foresta is from foris, foras, an outside place, outside many things, especially outside the ordinary law. There was some one who could not see the wood for the trees. To be unable to see the forest for the wood is a very likely case indeed. In Mr. Buckland's story the wood was not there, so the coachman was able to see the forest. But it is certain that the forest might have been there, though there had been a reasonable amount of wood to hide it from the coachman and to suggest it to the tourist.

Pall Mall Gazette.