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most in the order they happen to come before him. This want of method seems to be a fault, but he can lose little by a criticism, which every dull man can make, or by an error in arrangement, from which the dullest are the most usually free.
In other respects, as far as this able philosopher has gone, I have taken him for my guide. The warmth of his style and the brilliancy of his imagination are inimitable. Leaving him, therefore, without a rival in these, and only availing myself of his information, I have been content to describe things in my own way; and though many of the materials are taken from him, yet I have added, retrenched, and altered as I thought proper. It was my intention at one time, whenever I differed from him, to have mentioned it at the bottom of the page; but this occurred so often, that I soon found it would look like envy, and might, perhaps, convict me of those very errors which I was wanting to lay upon him.
I have therefore, as being every way his debtor, concealed my dissent, where my opinion was dif ferent; but wherever I borrow from him, I take care at the bottom of the page to express my obligations. But though my obligations to this writer are many, they extend but to the smallest part of the work, as he has hitherto completed only the History of Quadrupedes. I was therefore left to my reading alone, to make out the History of Birds, Fishes, and Insects, of which the arrangement was so difficult, and the necessary information so widely diffused, and so obscurely related when found, that it proved by much the most laborious part of the undertaking. Thus having made use of Mr. Buffon's lights in the first part of this work, I may, with some share of confidence, recommend it to the public. But what shall I say of that part,
where I have been entirely left without his assistance? As I would affect neither modesty nor confidence, it will be sufficient to say, that my reading upon this part of the subject has been very extensive; and that I have taxed my scanty circumstances in procuring books which are on this subject of all others the most expensive. In consequence of this industry, I here offer a work to the public, of a kind, which has never been attempted in ours, or any other modern language, that I know of. The ancients, indeed, and Pliny in particular, have anticipated me, in the present manner of treating Natural History. Like those historians who described the events of a campaign, they have not condescended to give the private particulars of every individual that formed the army; they were content with characterising the generals, and describing their operations, while they left it to meaner hands to carry the muster roll. I have followed their manner, rejecting the numerous fables which they adopted, and adding the improvements of the moderns, which are so numerous that they actually make up the bulk of Natural History.
The delight which I found in reading Pliny, first inspired me with the idea of a work of this nature. Having a taste rather classical than scientific, and having but little employed myself in turning over the dry labours of modern system-makers, my earliest intention was to translate this agreeable writer, and by the help of a commentary to make my work as amusing as I could. Let us dignify Natural History never so much with the grave appellation of a useful science, yet still we must confess that it is the occupation of the idle and the speculative, more than of the ambitious part of mankind. My intention was to treat what I then conceived to be an idle subject, in an idle manner; and not to hedge round
plain and simple narratives with hard words, accumulated distinctions, ostentatious learning, and dis quisitions that produced no conviction. Upon the appearance, however, of Mr. Buffon's work, I dropped my former plan and adopted the present, being convinced by his manner, that the best imita, tion of the ancients was to write from our own feelings, and to imitate Nature.
It will be my chief pride, therefore, if this work may be found an innocent amusement for those who have nothing else to employ them, or who require a relaxation from labour. Professed Naturalists will, no doubt, find it superficial; and yet I should hope that even these will discover hints, and remarks, gleaned from various reading, not wholly trite or elementary; I would wish for their approbation. But my chief ambition is to drag up the obscure and gloomy learning of the cell to open inspection: to strip it from its garb of austerity, and to shew the beauties of that form, which only the industrious and the inquisitive have been hitherto permitted to approach.