« PreviousContinue »
the learner, who wishes to attain a fcience, finds himself in a labyrinth of words, of which he cannot fee the end, or difcern the ufe: Rouffeau followed a different plan; and many lecturers purfue one, which refembles it. They begin with fhowing and examining the great families, or thofe natural claffes, which the untutored obferver could not fail of forming from the most fuperficial view.
• What books can you recommend, that inay enable me to acquire a competent knowledge of botany? is a question that has frequently been asked me. To the learned I can readily anfwer, the works of Linnæus alone will furnish you with all the knowledge you have occafion for, or if they are deficient in any point, will refer you to other authors, where you may have every fatisfaction that books can give you. But I am not very folicitous to relieve thefe learned gentlemen from their embarraffment; they have refources enough, and know how to help themselves. As to the unlearned, if I were to fend them to the translations of Linnæus's works, they would only find themfelves bewildered in an inextricable labyrinth of unintelligible terms, and would only reap difguft from a study that is perhaps more capable of affording pleasure than any other. If I were to bid them fit down, and ftudy their grammar regularly; fo dry and forbidding an outfet might difcourage the greater num ber; and few would enter the temple through a veftibule of fo unpromifing an appearance. A language however must be acquired; but then it may be done gradually; and the tedium of it may in fome measure be relieved by carrying on at the fame time a ftudy of facts, and the philofophy of nature. This feems to have been Rouffeau's idea, and I have endeavoured not to lofe fight of it, in my continuation of his eight inge
These were the objects of Rouffeau and his continuator, and they have attained them with great fuccefs. The elements of the fcience are explained with clearness and fimplicity; the terms are fo judiciously scattered, that they are learned with eafe, while the ftudent acquires information in the science itself; and the language, free and unembarraffed by affected or injudicious ornament, is raised above didactic dulnefs, by the addition of pleafing circumftances, not foreign to the subject. The fyftem of Linnæus is confidered as floral only, and we have not the flightest hint of the fexual diftinctions: the words andria, and gynia, are fupposed to refer to the parts of a flower, not to the organs of an animated being. We need not add, that this mode of explanation meets with our fullest approbation; not that we oppose the sexual fyftem, but because it has no connection with the elements, and cannot always be explained with propriety.
The tranflation from Rouffeau is executed with peculiar heatness, and the notes are intended to correct some mistakes, or to explain what may not appear clear. The eight Letters of this author extend only to the great families, with an Introduction, containing an exact, and, with the affiflance of Mr. Martyn's notes, a correct hiftory of botany. We fhall felect a part from Mr. Rouffeau, which gives a proper view of his own plan.
I comprehend, (comprehend is not the best word in this fituation) that you may not be pleafed at taking fo much pains, without knowing the names of the plants which you examine. But I own fairly, that it did not enter into my plan, to fpare you that little chagrin. It is pretended that botany is merely a fcience of words, which only exercifes the memory, and teaches the names of plants. For my part, I know not any reasonable study, which is a mere fcience of words; and to which of thefe fhall we give the name of botanift, to him who. has a name or a phrafe ready when he fees a plant, but without knowing any thing of its ftructure; or to him, who being well acquainted with this ftructure, is ignorant nevertheless of the arbitrary name which the plant has in this or that country? If we give our children nothing but an amusing employment, we lofe the best half of our defign, which is, at the fame time that we amufe them, to exercife their understandings, and to accustom them to attention. Before we teach them to name what they fee, let us begin by teaching them how to fee. This fcience, which is forgot in all forts of education, should make the most important part of it. I can never repeat it often enough, teach them not to pay themfelves in words, nor to think they know any thing of what is merely laid up in their memory.
However, not to play the rogue with you too much, I give you the names of fome plants, with which you may easily verify my defcriptions, by caufing them to be shown you. For inftance, if you cannot find a white dead-nettle, when you are reading the analysis of the labiate or ringent flowers; you have nothing to do but to fend to an herborist for it fresh gathered, to apply my defcription to the flower, and then having examined the other parts of the plant, in the manner which I fhall hereafter point out, you will be infinitely better acquainted with the white dead-nettle, than the herborift who furnished you with it will ever be during his whole life; in a little time however we fhall learn how to do without the herborist: but first we must finish the examination of our tribes ; and now I come to the fifth, which at this time is in full fructification."
The tribes of plants, examined by Rouffeau, are the Liliaceous, the Cruciform, Papilionaceous, Labiate, Ringent, Perfonate, and Umbellate, the compound, the fruit-trees, or the
cofandria of Linnæus. The last letter is on the method of preparing a hortus ficcus.
Mr. Martyn, in the fame familiar manner, examines the different claffes and orders of Linnæus; fo that a perfon must be very dull who, with this book only in his hand, cannot conquer a science, whofe afpect is at first rugged and deformed, but whofe very deformities will be found of the greatest ufe, and contribute to the pleafure which it is fo ca pable of affording.
We fhall take a fpecimen of our author's manner, with little choice, for there is little reafon for a preference. We open at the Hexandria Monogynia, chiefly compofed, of the Lily tribe; and we shall take that part. of it which relates to fome well-known flowers. We need scarcely obferve, fince it will be fufficiently obvious, that in our author's familiar, w had almoft faid carelefs, manner, there is a precifion, which would add a credit to the moft diftinguished botanist. We have formerly remarked that a man of real fcience is feldom found loofe and incorrect, in his lighteft moments.
The tulip and fome others which I fhall now prefent to you, sagree with the lily in having naked, unprotected corols. The tulip, unbounded in the variety of colour, in the cultivated ftate of its gaudy flowers, has an inferior bell-shaped corol of : fix petals; and no ftyle, but only a triangular fligma, fitting clafe to a long, prifmatic germ. The fpecies is diftinguished by its fhort lance-fhaped leaves, and its upright flowers, from, the Italian tulip, whofe flowers nod a little, have longer and (narrower lance-fhaped leaves, yellow corols never varying in colour, ending in acute points, and having a fweet fcent. The common colour of the eastern tulip, in a state of nature, is ered. This, when broken into ftripes by culture, has obtained the imaginary value of a hundred ducats for a fingle root, among the Dutch florifis.
• How different is the fweet, the elegantly-modeft lily of the valey, from the flaunting beauty of the tulip! the pure, bellhaped corol, is divided at top into fix fegments, which are bent back a little and the feed-veffel is not a capfule, as in I most of this clafs, but a berry, divided however into three cells, in each of which is lodged one feed: this berry, before it - ripens, is fpotted. I doubt not but that you have often, fearched for it in vain, because this plant feldom produces its fruit: the reason is, that it runs very much at the root, and increases fo A much that way, as almost entirely to forget the other. I have feen large tracts covered with it, in the remote receffes of woods, without a fingle berry; and the way to obtain them, is to imprison the plant within the narrow circuit of a pot, when by preventing it from running at the root, it will take to incafing by the red berry. This fpecies is diftinguished from
Solomon's-feal, and others of the genus, by the flowers growing on a scape or naked ftalk; it has only two leaves, which take their rife immediately from the root.
The hyacinth is one of the most favoured plants of the florifts. In the natural state, wherein you feldom fee it, the corol is fingle, and cut into fix fegments; and there are three pores or glands, at the top of the germ, exuding honey. The fpecies from whence all the fine varieties take their rife, has the corols funnel-fhaped, divided half-way into fix fegments, and fwelling out at bottom. This must not be confounded with the wild hyacinth or blue-bells of the European woods, which has longer, narrower flowers, not fwelling at bottom, but rolled back at their tips; the bunch of flowers is alfo longer, and the top of it bends downwards. This is frequently found with white corols.'
We congratulate the English botanift on this valuable guide, which, with the Litchfield tranflation of Linnæus' Syftem, will facilitate his access to this delightful kingdom. But we proteft, with our author, against thefe Letters being read inan eafy chair at home; they can be of no use but to those who have a plant in their hands.
Botany is not to be learnt in the closet; you muft go forth into the garden or the fields, and there become familiar with Nature herfelf; with that beauty, order, regularity, and inexhaustible variety which is to be found in the ftructure of vegetables; and that wonderful fitnefs to its end, which we perceive in every work of creation, when our limited understandings, and partial observations, give us a juft view of it.'
An Attempt towards an improved Verfion, a Metrical Arrangement, and an Explanation of the Twelve Minor Prophets. By William Newcome, D. D. Bishop of Waterford. 4to. 10s. 6d. Jerved. Robinfon.
AN endeavour to elucidate the twelve minor prophets is no
lefs arduous than commendable, as they are generally allowed to be the moft obfcure part of the Hebrew Scriptures. The learned author briefly ftates the nature of those difficulties, and then enumerates the peculiar advantages which now offer themselves to the patient inveftigator towards afcertaining their fenfe, and understanding their allufions. He particularly mentions Dr. Kennicott's Collation of Hebrew MSS. as eminently useful, and forming an invaluable acceffion to all external helps.' Like bishop Lowth, in his tranflation of Isaiah, he has given a metrical form to his verfion on the fuppofition of its concordance with the poetical arrangement of the original. Like him, he feldom enters into any laboured VOL. LX. Aug. 1785.
difquifitions concerning the fcope and tendency of particular predictions, but chieny confines himself to the faithful reprefentation of the prophet's words-that most neceffary bafis for the illuftrations and expofitions of future commentators. His purport, likewise, after that judicious divine's example, feems to be, not only o render the meaning in a literal manner, but to preserve the form of construction, the peculiar turn and caft of the original, as far as the nature of our language will allow. And, in general, as Addifon has obferved, the Hebrew idioms run into the English tongue with a particular grace and beauty, and give force and energy to our expreffions.'
One defign, fays the author, of engaging in the present arduous province was to recommend, and, in a fmall degree, to facilitate, an improved English verfion of the fcriptures; than which nothing could be more beneficial to the cause of religion, or more honourable to the reign and age in which it was pa tronised and executed. The reafons for its expediency are, the mistakes, imperfections, and many invincible obfcurities of our prefent verfion; the acceffion of various helps fince the execution of that work; the advanced ftate of learning; and our emancipation from flavery to the Maforetic points, and to the Hebrew text as abfolutely uncorrupt.'
He then fubjoins fome directions how the plan for a uniform tranflation fhould be adjufted, and lays down various rules, to the number of fifteen, as neceffary to be adopted in fuch an undertaking: thefe rules are elucidated by explanatory obfervations; and we do not apprehend that any exceptions can be poffibly made against them. The accomplishment of the twelfth indeed, is, we believe, in the opinion of many, more to be wished than expected,- The critical fenfe of paffages fhould be confidered, and not the opinions of any denomination of Chriftians whatever. The tranflators fhould be philologifts, and not controverfialifts.' We will, however, hope the beft, and gladly subscribe our teftimony to the author's candour in this paffage, as we do to his ingenuity and foundnefs of judgment in others. In thefe rules he obviates fome objections that might be made against the undertaking; and fhews, as indeed the prefent performance fufficiently evinces, that if they are properly adhered to,
A new version would be as fimple, natural, and majestic, as beautiful, affecting, and fublime, as that in prefent ufe; with the additional recommendation of being more pure, exact, and intelligible. It is true, that nothing of this kind can be undertaken without temporary offence to the prejudiced and ignorant. But the opinion of thefe will foon be outweighed by the judgment of the reafonable and well-informed. The real