Another thing I found when fossicking in that cupboard was a scrap of paper on which was scribbled the following:
11 Petiver, Buddle & Doody. 48 Withering. 53 Rousseau’s wife. 56 Huttonian theory. 63/64 Buckland. 76 Robert Dick – biscuit. 77/78 McGillivray’s journey. 80 Philip Gosse diary entry. 82 Buckland concealed hammer on the Sabbath. 129 Discovery of plankton.
Deploying my Holmesian deductive skills, I worked out that these were notes I had made, long ago, when reading The Naturalist In Britain : A Social History by David Elliston Allen (1976). Seeking enlightenment, I located the volume on the teetering bookshelves, and turned to the relevant pages. In some cases, it is no longer clear to me what sparked my interest. Others, however, I was extremely pleased to be reminded of. Here are the relevant quotes:
“Rousseau’s extreme short-sight was such that at the best of times he saw the landscape as a blur, while his wife, in similar fashion, never knew which day of the week it was and never even learned to tell the time.”
“In many ways [Buckland] was undeniably a very curious person: an oddly truncated man… He sported childish jests and puns, devised peculiar contraptions, went in for the weirdest kinds of food… It was typical of him that he drove round in a special kind of carriage, strengthened in an ostentatious manner… he carried around a mysterious blue bag… he led his students on excursions into the field wearing quite incongruously formal clothes.”
“Robert Dick… ‘the Botanist of Thurso’ made it his regular practice to walk all day, for up to forty miles, with one ship’s biscuit as his only sustenance.”
“Philip Henry Gosse became so lost in his work that he registered the birth of his only child with the remarkable entry in his diary: ‘Received green swallow from Jamaica. E delivered of a son.'”