Nature's Serial Story Ch. 3 [3/13]
E P Roe
Meteorology, Fear, Feeling, Anti-Scientism, Botany, Horticulture, Comparative Anatomy, Reading, Taxonomy, Amusement
During a discussion about the fearful power of an impending thunder storm, the maternal Mrs Leonard exclaims, 'I have more faith in the presence of little children than in the protection of lightning rods', and she says to Webb Clifford, 'I suppose you think my sense of security has a very unscientific basis?'. Webb, however, replies that 'certain phases of credulity [...] I would not disturb for the world', although he murmurs, 'What children an accurate scientist would call us!'. (441) After the various members of the Clifford family calm each other's fears during the tumultuous storm, Amy tells Webb that 'Your science is all very well [...] but the heart demands something as well as the head' (442). The next morning, Webb and his mother 'initiate' Amy into the 'mysteries of [...] flowers' by giving her practical advice on the care of plants, with instructions such as 'roots need a circulation of air and a free exhalation of moisture', and Webb explains that the 'stomata, or breathing pores [...] on both sides of the leaf in most plants [...] introduce the vital atmosphere through the air-passages of the plant, which correspond in a certain sense to the throat and lungs of an animal' (442–43). After this, Amy begins to consult Mrs Clifford's 'several volumes on the cultivation of flowers' and she 'read all she could find in regard to the species and varieties represented in the little flower-room. It became a source of genuine amusement to start with a familiar houseplant and trace out all its botanical relatives, with their exceedingly varied character and yet essential consanguinity', and she proclaims that 'These plant families [...] are as curiously diverse as a human family. Group them together and you can see plainly that they belong to each other, and yet they differ so widely' (444).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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