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THE MEMORY OF THE FAITHFUL WIFE,
DURING WHOSE BRIEF COMPANIONSHIP ON EARTH
THESE ESSAYS WERE COMMENCED;
THEY ARE NOW, IN THEIR AMENDED FORM, WITH DEEP SORROW
EPOPS.-"Epopoi ! popopoi! popoi ! popoi !
Flock hither, flock hither, flock hither,
Hilloah! Hilloah !
For all our tribes are gathering,
Cary's Birds of Aristophanes, Act I.
The history of the present volume is very simple, and, it may be, runs parallel with that of many other works on higher subjects. The Author, with his Wife (now removed from worldly trouble), and his Child, were living in a small suburban house, that had a little back-garden attached to it. As a harmless amusement they procured a few Fowls to keep, although totally ignorant of their ways and doings. In aid of this ignorance books were procured—to little purpose. The difficulty of obtaining instruction from others led to closer observation on our own part, and a more eager grasp at the required knowledge. By degrees, a few water-fowl were added to the collection ; but the only watering-places on the spot were tubs and milk-pans. A neighbour, however, obligingly permitted the flock of strange fowl to be driven to a small pond, a few score yards off. They throve, and duly increased ; but still little help was to be had from books. Encyclopædias, though in them the Natural History department is almost alwayswell executed, were little satisfactory. “ Anser, see Goose ;” “Goose,
see Anser,” is scarcely an exaggeration of what often fell out. Several current Poultry-books were purchased, which proved to be compilations of matter, valuable indeed in the hands of an editor practically acquainted with his subject; but these works are full of errors, grossly evident even to learners, and of contradictions that must strike any attentive reader, even though he had never seen a feathered creature in his life.
But a student is sometimes the best teacher of any branch of knowledge, as far as he has himself advanced in it, because he has a fresh recollection of the questions which gave him the most trouble to solve ; and therefore notes were made, mentally, and on paper, from time to time. It was afterwards encouragingly suggested that the publication of them might be ventured upon, as being possibly acceptable to people requiring such information. They were offered to the editor of the Gardeners' Chronicle, readily accepted, favourably received by the readers of that valuable paper-a class of persons whose good opinion I must think it an honour to have obtainedand the reader now holds in his hands the entire results of my present experience in that department of Natural History, in addition to what has been already published in the Agricultural Gazette. It is hoped that the need of some attempt of the kind, from some quarter, will conciliate a lenient criticism of the many errors and deficiencies with which the Author may doubtless be chargeable, whatever pains he may have taken to guard against them.
Poultry has been too much undervalued as a means of