This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
A gentleman and his daughter have written us a joint letter, iuvoking information as to the best books that are accessible regarding the fishes and insects, shells, etc., which inhabit the sea in their vicinity.
This subject has been wonderfully popularized of late, especially in England, and we have students of various grades of research in America, but none of the latter have produced a book readable by the unlearned in technical names. There is a volume, however, which every lover of nature may and should read with pleasure, entitled "Glaucus; or the Wonders of the Shore," by a no less successful author in other walks of literature, - Charles Kingsley, author of "Hypatia" etc. It has been republished in Boston by Ticknor & Fields, and is so simply elegant in its language as to be readily understandable. The other writers on the subject are E. Forbes, Goese,* and a few others whose books have not been reprinted, but we hope a sufficient demand will be created by admiration for Kingsley's book to induce the same publishers to issue at least Mr. Gosse's.
How insensible to "the Wonders of the Shore" are nearly all the summer visitors to the sea, is happily set forth by Kingsley, and he then leads the uninitiated to admire the curious creatures which have been placed on the shore in so attractive a manner that we wish space was at our command to insert in these pages the whole neat little duodecimo.
Speaking of the Mermaid's head, Echinus miliaris, our author says," conceive a Crystal Palace whereof each separate joist, girder, and pane grows continually without altering the shape of the whole, and you have conceived one of the miracles embodied in that little sea egg, which the Divine Word has, as it were to justify to man His own immutability, furnished with a shell capable of enduring fossil for countless ages, that we may confess Him to have been as great as when first His spirit brooded on the deep, as He is now, and will be through all worlds to come.
"And often," he continues in his happy manner, "standing on the shore at low tide, has one longed to walk on and in under the waves, as the water-ousel does in the pools of the mountain burn, and see it all for a moment." This may come to pass, and has even been practised by the use of proper clothing; but make your catalogue complete if you can of all that you can find, yet how small the number compared with the multitudinous natives of the sea! From the bare rocks above high-water mark, down to abysses deeper than ever plummet sounded, is life - everywhere life; fauna after fauna, and flora after flora, arranged in zones, according to the amount of light and warmth which each species requires, and to the amount of pressure which they are enabled to endure. The rocks have their peculiar little univalves, their lichenlike sea-weeds, in myriads; lower down, the region of the Fuci (bladder weeds) has its own tribes of periwinkles and limpets; below again, the region of the corallines and Algae furnishes food for yet other species who graze on its watery meadows, and beneath all, and still so high as to be uncovered at low spring-tides, the zone of the Laminarise (the great tangles and oar weeds) is most full of every imaginable form of life.
* A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast. The Marine Aquarium, etc. See also Professor Harvey's Sea Side Book. Mr. Gosse has also published "The Canadian Naturalist" which we have never met with.
"Of all the blessings," says Kingsley, "which the study of nature brings to the patient observer, let none be classed higher than this; - that the further he enters into those fairy gardens of life and birth the more he learns the awful and yet most comfortable truth, that they do not belong to him, but one greater, wiser, lovelier than he; and as he stands silent with awe, amid the pomp of nature's ever-busy rest, hears as of old,' The Word of the Lord God walking among the trees of the garden in the cool of the day.'"
We are sure our correspondents will be delighted with this book; they may collect these curious "Wonders of the Shore," and keep such as will survive the treatment in Aquariums with advantage and pleasure, but their enjoyment will be immensely increased when they learn to observe them with an approach even to science. and Mr. Kingsley will give them ideas of study that will make a pursuit and an enjoyment for even a long life-time.
We know of several Marine Aquariums which are "self-supporting," requiring very rarely a change of the water, that are kept at a great distance from the sea; and truly beautiful and interesting they are, - quite a step in advance of those filled with fresh water, and it may be hoped that while their number increases, the study of natural history that should accompany them will also progress.