Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/847

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827
LITERARY NOTICES.

Wanderings in South America, the Northwest of the United States, and the Antilles, in the Years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824, with Original Instructions for the Perfect Preservation of Birds, etc., for Cabinets of Natural History. By Charles Waterton, Esq. New edition. Edited, with Biographical Introduction and Explanatory Index, by the Rev. J. G. Wood, with One Hundred illustrations. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. 1879. Pp. 520. Price, $6.50.

This elegant volume opens with an interesting biographical sketch of the distinguished traveler, whose "Wanderings" has long been the delight of all lovers of natural history. From this sketch we learn that Charles Waterton was born in 1782, in Yorkshire, England. He was descended from a long line of distinguished ancestors, and in early boyhood began to develop that love of nature, power of observation, and originality of character for which he was afterward so celebrated. When ten years old he was sent away to school, and, although the first journey described in his book did not commence till twenty years later, his "wanderings" may be said to have begun at this time. In spite of the stern discipline to which he was subjected, his activity, enterprise, and love of adventure, led him into all sorts of scrapes, from which, however, he generally contrived to escape without serious harm. Such was his attempt to ride a cow, over whose horns he was quickly pitched; at another time he undertook a sail on the horse-pond in a wash-tub, with the usual fate of such daring navigators. Running away from school to go birds'-nesting, and throwing his pursuers off the track by hiding under the litter in a pig-sty, was another characteristic performance.

At fourteen he was transferred to a higher school, where, ranking among the foremost as a scholar, he also found peculiar opportunities for indulging his love of fun and freedom. His teachers early perceiving the bent of his disposition, were sagacious enough to give it fair play, by permitting him to use a portion of his time in carrying on a war of extermination against the rats that infested the place in enormous numbers. His success with these led to an extension of hostilities to the foxes, polecats, and rooks, that were also numerous in the neighborhood; he likewise held the post of organ-blower and foot-ball maker to the "entire satisfaction of the public." At eighteen he left school, remained a year at home, and then took a trip to Spain, where he learned the Spanish language. While visiting relatives in the city of Malaga, he suddenly found himself a prisoner, owing to an outbreak of the plague, which led to measures of rigid quarantine. He took the disease, but fortunately, owing to his simple mode of life and strong constitution, recovered from the attack. Fourteen thousand people perished in the city during that epidemic. Though the port was closed, and all avenues of egress carefully guarded, he succeeded in escaping from the city in time to avoid a second epidemic in the following year, which carried off thirty thousand more of the city's population. Returning to England, he spent some time there in recovering his shattered health, and then started for Demerara, in South America, to take charge of an estate belonging to his family. There he remained for eight years, when, owing to the death of relatives, the property passed into other hands. He now began his famous travels, setting out on his first journey from the town of Stabroek "to travel through the wilds of Demerara and Essequibo, a part of ci-devant Dutch Guiana, in South America." "The chief objects in view," he says, "were to collect a quantity of the strongest wourali poison; and to reach the inland frontier fort of Portuguese Guiana." With this start, which was made in April, 1812, the record of Waterton's observations and experiences known as the "Wanderings" begins.

The special objects of this journey were both attained, and a large amount of interesting information on other matters also gathered, but fatigue and exposure had told on the health of the "wanderer," and he found it necessary to return to England, where he remained for the next three years. In the spring of 1816, his health now being fully restored, he again started for South America, landing first at Pernambuco, and sailing thence after a brief stay for Cayenne in French Guiana. The forests of Demerara were, however, his objective point, and without delay he plunged into their wilds a second time, staying several months, and