PERTINACITY in an endeavour to carry out the results of a fixed idea has almost always been regarded as a virtue, even when the principle involved has seemed to be hopelessly mistaken, and thus the adherents of the Stuart and other lost causes still find sympathisers at the present day; but when none can doubt the value of the idea, the pertinacity with which it is supported, provided that obstinacy is left out, becomes a virtue that in these practical days is not easily exaggerated. Such pertinacity is conspicuously exhibited by the authors of the book before us, Mr. Harvie-Brown and his worthy coadjutor, Mr. Buckley. This “Vertebrate Fauna of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides” is the fifth of a series of volumes, the inception of which is vastly creditable to its founder, the gentleman first named, and to all concerned in its production—even to the printer's devil and the binder's apprentice. Some of its predecessors have before received notice in these columns;1 but it has perhaps never been made clear to the readers of NATURE that this series of books is placing the zoology of the northern Kingdom on a footing which has not been attained, nor is likely to be attained in the southern part of the island, even though there exist particular English works—but this solely so far as ornithology is concerned—of merit superior to any one of the Scottish productions, the volume on Orkney, which is of remarkable excellence, being perhaps an exception. It is not difficult, however, to account to a considerable extent for this superiority: the proportion of persons with a taste for natural history to the general population being presumably the same in both parts of Great Britain, the enormously greater population of England would naturally furnish a larger number than Scotland is able to show. This is not said in derogation of the northern kingdom. It has always been rich in botanists; and, among zoologists, the single name of William Macgillivray is enough to cover it with renown. However much his merits, and especially his originality, may have been obscured or underrated in his life-time, he has already been recognised by those who have taken the trouble to inform themselves, and especially by American writers, as the most original British worker in regard to the vertebrate division of animals, since the incomparable pair—Willughby and Ray. But of Macgillivray this is not the place to speak particularly. On some other occasion we hope we may say more of him, a man whose work by some unhappy fate failed to impress his contemporaries, and whose posthumous volume was oppressed by princely patronage—well-meant but ill-advised. He had little or no experience of “Argyll and the Inner Hebrides,” and really does not now come into our story.1
A Vertebrate Fauna of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides.
By J. A. Harvie-Brown T. E. Buckley. (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1892.)
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