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The Naturalist in Nicaragua   By: (1832-1878)

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First Page:

THE NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA

BY

THOMAS BELT

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ANTHONY BELT, F.L.S.

HOC SOLUM SCIO QUOD NIHIL SCIO.

THE NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA

BY

THOMAS BELT.

EVERYMAN, I WILL GO WITH THEE, & BE THY GUIDE IN THY MOST NEED TO GO BY THY SIDE.

LONDON: PUBLISHED BY J.M. DENT & SONS LTD. AND IN NEW YORK BY E.P. DUTTON & CO.

INTRODUCTION.

In the "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," edited by his son, Mr. Francis Darwin (volume 3 page 188), the following passage occurs:

"In the spring of this year (1874) he read a book which gave him great pleasure, and of which he often spoke with admiration, "The Naturalist in Nicaragua," by the late Thomas Belt. Mr. Belt, whose untimely death may well be deplored by naturalists, was by profession an engineer, so that all his admirable observations in natural history, in Nicaragua and elsewhere, were the fruit of his leisure. The book is direct and vivid in style, and is full of description and suggestive discussions. With reference to it my father wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker: 'Belt I have read, and I am delighted that you like it so much; it appears to me the best of all natural history journals which have ever been published.'"

Now that the book so highly recommended by such an authority is about to be introduced to a public which has hitherto only known it by hearsay, it will be interesting to inquire into the reason of its appreciation by such men as Darwin and Hooker and Lyell, Huxley, and Wallace, with other leaders of the scientific world of that day, might be quoted to the same effect and to give some particulars of the author's short active life.

The Belts were an old family which had been established at Bossal in Yorkshire since the reign of Richard II. The main line died out some twenty years ago, but about the beginning of the eighteenth century a member of the family went to the Tyne to join the well known ironworks of Crawley at Winlaton. He and his descendants remained with the firm for over a century, and he was the great great grandfather of the grandfather of Thomas Belt born at Newcastle on Tyne on November 27, 1832.

Thomas was the fourth child of a family of seven. His mother possessed a singularly sweet and beautiful disposition; his father, much given to hobbies, was stern and unbending, and he himself combined an almost womanly gentleness with a quiet determination that unflinchingly faced all obstacles. With a high sense of personal honour, unassuming and even tempered, he was only roused to anger by acts of oppression or wanton cruelty. Then his indignation, though not loud, was very real, and he acted with a promptitude which would hardly have been expected from his usually placid demeanour. A story is told of how one day sitting at table he saw through the window a man belabouring a woman. Without saying a word, he rushed out, pinioned the offender by the elbows and, running him to the top of a steep slope in the street, gave him a kick which sent him flying down the declivity. The incident is recalled merely as an illustration of his practical way of dealing with difficulties which stood him in good stead in many an out of the way corner of the world when contending with obstacles caused either by the perversity of man or the forces of nature. He never carried fire arms even when travelling in the most unsettled districts, and his firm but conciliatory manner overcame opposition in a wonderful way. In ordinary life he was the kindest and most considerate of men, and his transparent sincerity made friends for him everywhere. Nor was he ever happier than when assisting others in those pursuits which occupied his own leisure.

The interesting question as to what led Belt to become a naturalist is difficult to answer. "Environment" nowadays accounts for much, but none of his brothers and all the family had a similar bringing up showed any inclination for what with him became the ruling passion of his life. And yet, in a wider sense, "environment" had probably something to do with it... Continue reading book >>




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