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there were a very large number of these, including many of our most beautiful and curious flowers, and I felt that I must get some other book by which I could learn something about these also. But I knew of no suitable book, I did not even know that any British floras existed, and having no one to help me, I was obliged to look among the advertisements of scientific or educational publications that came in my way. At length, soon after we came to Neath, David Rees happened to bring in an old number of the Gardener's Chronicle, which I read with much interest, and as I found in it advertisements and reviews of books, I asked him to bring some more copies, which he did, and I found in one of them a notice of the fourth edition of Lindley's “Elements of Botany," which, as it was said to contain descriptions of all the natural orders, illustrated by numerous excellent woodcuts, I thought would be just the thing to help me on. The price, ros. 6d., rather frightened me, as I was always very short of cash; but happening to have so much in my possession, and feeling that I must have some book to go on with, I ordered it at Mr. Hayward's shop.
When at length it arrived, I opened it with great expectations, which were, however, largely disappointed, for although the larger part of the book was devoted to systematic botany, and all the natural orders were well and clearly described, yet there was hardly any reference to British plants-not a single genus was described, it was not even stated which orders contained any British species and which were wholly foreign, nor was any indication given of their general distribution or whether they comprised numerous or few genera or species. The inclusion of all the natural orders and the excellent woodcuts illustrating many of them, and showing the systematic characters by dissections of the flowers and fruits, were, however, very useful, and enabled me at once to classify a number of plants which had hitherto puzzled me. Still, it was most unsatisfactory not to be able to learn the names of any of the plants I was observing, so one day I asked Mr. Hayward if he knew of any book that would help me. To my great delight he said he
had Loudon's “Encyclopædia of Plants," which contained all the British plants, and he would lend it to me, and I could copy the characters of the British species.
I therefore took it home to Bryn-coch, and for some weeks spent all my leisure time in first examining it carefully, finding that I could make out both the genus and the species of many plants by the very condensed but clear descriptions, and I therefore copied out the characters of every British species there given. As Lindley's volume had rather broad margins, I found room for all the orders which contained only a moderate number of species, and copied the larger orders on sheets of thin paper, which I interleaved at the proper places. Having at length completed this work for all the flowering plants and ferns, and also the genera of mosses and the main divisions of the lichens and fungi, I took back the volume of Loudon, and set to work with increased ardour to make out all the species of plants I could find. This was very interesting and quite a new experience for me, and though in some cases I could not decide to which of two or three species my plant belonged, yet a considerable number could be determined without any doubt whatever.
This also gave me a general interest in plants, and a catalogue published by a great nurseryman in Bristol, which David Rees got from the gardener, was eagerly read, especially when I found it contained a number of tropical orchids, of whose wonderful variety and beauty I had obtained some idea from the woodcuts in Loudon's Encyclopædia. The first epiphytal orchid I ever saw was at a flower show in Swansea, where Mr. J. Dillwyn Llewellyn exhibited a plant of Epidendrum fragrans, one of the less attractive kinds, but which yet caused in me a thrill of enjoyment which no other plant in the show produced. My interest in this wonderful order of plants was further enhanced by reading in the Gardener's Chronicle an article by Dr. Lindley on one of the London flower shows, where there was a good display of orchids, in which, after enumerating a number of the species, he added, “and Dendrobium Devonianum, too delicate and beautiful for a flower of earth.” This and other references to
and descriptions of them gave them, in my mind, a weird and mysterious charm, which was extended even to our native species, and which, I believe, had its share in producing that longing for the tropics which a few years later was satisfied in the equatorial forests of the Amazon.
But I soon found that by merely identifying the plants I found in my walks I lost much time in gathering the same species several times, and even then not being always quite sure that I had found the same plant before. I therefore began to form a herbarium, collecting good specimens and drying them carefully between drying papers and a couple of boards weighted with books or stones. My brother, however, did not approve of my devotion to this study, even though I had absolutely nothing else to do, nor did he suggest any way in which I could employ my leisure more profitably. He said very little to me on the subject beyond a casual remark, but a letter from my mother showed me that he thought I was wasting my time. Neither he nor I could foresee that it would have any effect on my future life, and I myself only looked upon it as an intensely interesting occupation for time that would be otherwise wasted. Even when we were busy I had Sundays perfectly free, and used then to take long walks over the mountains with my collecting box, which I brought home full of treasures. I first named the species as nearly as I could do so, and then laid them out to be pressed and dried. At such times I experienced the joy which every discovery of a new form of life gives to the lover of nature, almost equal to those raptures which I afterwards felt at every capture of new butterflies on the Amazon, or at the constant stream of new species of birds, beetles, and butterflies in Borneo, the Moluccas, and the Aru Islands.
It must be remembered that my ignorance of plants at this time was extreme. I knew the wild rose, bramble, haw. thorn, buttercup, poppy, daisy, and foxglove, and a very few others equally common and popular, and this was all. I knew nothing whatever as to genera and species, nor of the large numbers of distinct forms related to each other and grouped into natural orders. My delight, therefore, was great when I was now able to identify the charming little eyebright, the strange-looking cow-wheat and louse-wort, the handsome mullein and the pretty creeping toad-fax, and to find that all of them as well as the lordly foxglove, formed parts of one great natural order, and that under all their superficial diversity of form there was a similarity of structure which, when once clearly understood, enabled me to locate each fresh species with greater ease. The Crucifers, the Pea tribe, the Umbelliferæ, the Compositæ, and the Labiates offered great difficulties, and it was only after repeated efforts that I was able to name with certainty a few of the species, after which each additional discovery became a little less difficult, though the time I gave to the study before I left England was not sufficient for me to acquaint myself with more than a moderate proportion of the names of the species I collected.
Now, I have some reason to believe that this was the turning-point of my life, the tide that carried me on, not to fortune but to whatever reputation I have acquired, and which has certainly been to me a never-failing source of much health of body and supreme mental enjoyment. If my brother had had constant work for me so that I never had an idle day, and if I had continued to be similarly employed after I became of age, I should most probably have become entirely absorbed in my profession, which, in its various departments, I always found extremely interesting, and should therefore not have felt the need of any other occupation or study.
I know now, though I was ignorant of it at the time, that my brother's life was a very anxious one, that the difficulty of finding remunerative work was very great, and that he was often hard pressed to earn enough to keep us both in the very humble way in which we lived. He never alluded to this that I can remember, nor did I ever hear how much our board and lodging cost him, nor ever saw him make the weekly or monthly payments. During the seven years I was with him I hardly ever had more than a few shillings for
personal expenses; but every year or two, when I went home, what new clothes were absolutely necessary were provided for me, with perhaps ten shillings or a pound as pocketmoney till my next visit, and this, I think, was partly or wholly paid out of the small legacy left me by my grandfather. This seemed very hard at the time, but I now see clearly that even this was useful to me, and was really an important factor in moulding my character and determining my work in life. Had my father been a moderately rich man and had supplied me with a good wardrobe and ample pocket-money; had my brother obtained a partnership in some firm in a populous town or city, or had established himself in his profession, I might never have turned to nature as the solace and enjoyment of my solitary hours, my whole life would have been differently shaped, and though I should, no doubt, have given some attention to science, it seems very unlikely that I should have ever undertaken what at that time seemed rather a wild scheme, a journey to the almost unknown forests of the Amazon in order to observe nature and make a living by collecting. All this may have been pure chance, as I long thought it was, but of late years I am more inclined to Hamlet's belief, when he said
“There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Of course, I do not adopt the view that each man's life, in all its details, is guided by the Deity for His special ends. That would be, indeed, to make us all conscious automata, puppets in the hands of an all-powerful destiny. But, as I shall show later on, I have good reasons for the belief that, just as our own personal influence and expressed or unseen guidance is a factor in the life and conduct of our children, and even of some of our friends and acquaintances, so we are surrounded by a host of unseen friends and relatives who have gone before us, and who have certain limited powers of influencing, and even, in particular cases, almost of determining, the actions of living persons, and may thus in a great variety of indirect ways modify the circumstances and character of