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Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore   By: (1819-1875)

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Glaucus; or The Wonders of the Shore by Charles Kingsley Scanned and proofed by David Price

Glaucus; or The Wonders of the Shore



I CANNOT forego the pleasure of dedicating this little book to you; excepting of course the opening exhortation (needless enough in your case) to those who have not yet discovered the value of Natural History. Accept it as a memorial of pleasant hours spent by us already, and as an earnest, I trust, of pleasant hours to be spent hereafter (perhaps, too, beyond this life in the nobler world to come), in examining together the works of our Father in heaven.

Your grateful and faithful brother in law,



APRIL 24. 1855.


You are going down, perhaps, by railway, to pass your usual six weeks at some watering place along the coast, and as you roll along think more than once, and that not over cheerfully, of what you shall do when you get there. You are half tired, half ashamed, of making one more in the ignoble army of idlers, who saunter about the cliffs, and sands, and quays; to whom every wharf is but a "wharf of Lethe," by which they rot "dull as the oozy weed." You foreknow your doom by sad experience. A great deal of dressing, a lounge in the club room, a stare out of the window with the telescope, an attempt to take a bad sketch, a walk up one parade and down another, interminable reading of the silliest of novels, over which you fall asleep on a bench in the sun, and probably have your umbrella stolen; a purposeless fine weather sail in a yacht, accompanied by many ineffectual attempts to catch a mackerel, and the consumption of many cigars; while your boys deafen your ears, and endanger your personal safety, by blazing away at innocent gulls and willocks, who go off to die slowly; a sport which you feel to be wanton, and cowardly, and cruel, and yet cannot find in your heart to stop, because "the lads have nothing else to do, and at all events it keeps them out of the billiard room;" and after all, and worst of all, at night a soulless RECHAUFFE of third rate London frivolity: this is the life in death in which thousands spend the golden weeks of summer, and in which you confess with a sigh that you are going to spend them.

Now I will not be so rude as to apply to you the old hymn distich about one who

" finds some mischief still For idle hands to do:"

but does it not seem to you, that there must surely be many a thing worth looking at earnestly, and thinking over earnestly, in a world like this, about the making of the least part whereof God has employed ages and ages, further back than wisdom can guess or imagination picture, and upholds that least part every moment by laws and forces so complex and so wonderful, that science, when it tries to fathom them, can only learn how little it can learn? And does it not seem to you that six weeks' rest, free from the cares of town business and the whirlwind of town pleasure, could not be better spent than in examining those wonders a little, instead of wandering up and down like the many, still wrapt up each in his little world of vanity and self interest, unconscious of what and where they really are, as they gaze lazily around at earth and sea and sky, and have

"No speculation in those eyes Which they do glare withal"?

Why not, then, try to discover a few of the Wonders of the Shore? For wonders there are there around you at every step, stranger than ever opium eater dreamed, and yet to be seen at no greater expense than a very little time and trouble.

Perhaps you smile, in answer, at the notion of becoming a "Naturalist:" and yet you cannot deny that there must be a fascination in the study of Natural History, though what it is is as yet unknown to you. Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing "Pteridomania," and are collecting and buying ferns, with Ward's cases wherein to keep them (for which you have to pay), and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem to he different in each new Fern book that they buy), till the Pteridomania seems to you somewhat of a bore: and yet you cannot deny that they find an enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin wool... Continue reading book >>

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