Nature's Serial Story Ch. 8 [8/13]
E P Roe
Natural History, Ornithology, Observation, Microscopy, Feeling, Anti-Scientism, Entomology, Botany, Natural Law
On her eighteenth birthday, Amy Winfield is given 'a powerful opera-glass' by Webb Clifford so that she can observe the many different birds around them. Webb, who is later described as 'a walking encyclopædia of out-door lore' (239), tells Amy that he too would like to use the glass to view the natural world in the same sympathetic manner that she does, reflecting 'I've been using the microscope too much—prying into nature [...] with the spirit of an anatomist' (235). Another gift of an apiary leads to a discussion of the botanical value of different types of soil during which Webb tells his brother Leonard that 'A great many think the ashes simply produce conditions in the soil which generate the clover', to which Len replies 'Out of nothing? That would not be simple at all, and if any one could prove it he would make a sensation in the scientific world'. At this point, their truculent younger brother Burt comments, 'Now Len here's your chance [...]. Just imagine what a halo of glory you would get by setting the scientific world agape with wonder!', to which Leonard retorts dryly, 'I could make the scientific world gape in a much easier way'. (237) Later, Webb, realising that he is falling in love with Amy, reflects unhappily that his 'nature had its hard, practical, business side, but he had never been content with questions of mere profit and loss. He not only wanted the corn, but the secret of the corn's growth and existence. The search into Nature's hidden life, so that he could see through her outward forms the mechanism back of all, and trace endless diversity to simple inexorable laws, had been his pride and solace', and he now acknowledges that 'Amy's coming [...] had awakened the poetic side of his temperament, and while this had taken nothing from the old, it had changed everything' (243).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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