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Gilbert White. 1720-1793
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The Clergyman Naturalist

One of Three Known Likenesses of Gilbert White
With permission of The British Library.

Gilbert White (1720-1793) was born and died in Selborne, Hampshire, England. He was later to become famed as a great naturalist, and put Selborne on the map with his book 'The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne'. He was ordained as a priest after graduating from Oriel College, Oxford; but never actually practiced in Selborne, and instead focused on writing about natural history to pay his way. Gilbert's home in Selborne was a small building that at one stage had been a butchers; and in 1756 he apparently planted four lime trees in order to 'hide the sight of blood and filth from ye windows'. You can still visit his gardens today.

The Naturalist's Summer Evening Walk
equidem credo, quia sit divinitus illis
Ingenium. Virgil

WHEN day declining sheds a milder gleam,
What time the may-fly haunts the pool or stream;
When the still owl skims round the grassy mead,
What time the timorous hare limps forth to feed;
Then be the time to steal adown the vale,
And listen to the vagrant cuckoo's tale;
To hear the clamorous curlew call his mate,
Or the soft quail his tender pain relate;
To see the swallow sweep the dark'ning plain
Belated, to support her infant train;
To mark the swift in rapid giddy ring
Dash round the steeple, unsubdu'd of wing:
Amusive birds!- say where your hid retreat
When the frost rages and the tempests beat;
Whence your return, by such nice instinct led
When spring, soft season, lifts her bloomy head?
Such baffled searches mock man's prying pride,
The God of Nature is your secret guide!

While deep'ning shades obscure the face of day,
To yonder bench leaf-shelter'd let us stray,
Till blended objects fail the swimming sight,
And all the facing landscape sinks in night;
To hear the drowsy beetle come brushing by
With buzzing wing, or the shrill cricket cry;
To see the feeding bat glance through the wood;
To catch the distant falling of the flood;
While o'er the cliff th'awaken'd churn-owl hung
Through the still gloom protracts his chattering song;
While high in air, and pois'd upon his wings,
Unseen, the soft enamour'd woodlark sings:
These, Nature's works, the curious mind employ,
Inspire a soothing melancholy joy:
As fancy warms, a pleasing kind of pain
Steals o'er the cheek, and thrills the creeping vein!

Each rural sight, each sound, each smell, combine;
The tinkling sheep-bell, or the breath of kine;
The new-mown hay that scents the swelling breeze,
Or cottage-chimney smoking through the trees.
The chilling night-dews fall:--away, retire;
For see, the glow-worm lights her amorous fire!
Thus, e'er night's veil had half obscur'd the sky,
Th'impatient damsel hung her lamp on high:
True to the signal, by love's meteor led,
Leander hasten'd to his Hero's bed.

Gilbert White

The Natural History of Selborne

a page at the

an article with photograph
at the

the page at the

complete e-text at
Project Gutenberg

a lovely account of an
inheritance, Gilbert White
and a 46 year old tortoise,
all broughtto you by
Valerie Martin on her
delightful This is Findon
website