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A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
THE REV. GILBERT WHITE.
It is impossible for any one to read that charming book, “The Natural History of Selbourne,” or Selborne, as it is now generally spelt, without wishing to know something of its author, the Rev. GILBERT WHITE. We regret, however, that from his secluded habits in his favourite village, and the monotony of his life, little is known of him. That little we will now lay before our readers, which we are the better enabled to do from having had in our possession for some years the Diaries of Mr. White, which he kept with great care and neatness. From these Diaries, a pretty correct idea may be formed of Mr. White's habits of life. It is evident that he was strongly attached to the charms of rural life, and the tranquillity afforded by his favourite village, where “he spent the greater part of his time in literary occupations, and especially in the study of nature.”
Gilbert White was born at Selborne, at the house where he afterwards lived and died, on the 18th of July, 1720. This ho ise was then the residence of his grandmother, his
father residing at Compton, in Surrey. Gilbert White's father was the grandson of Sir Sampson White (knighted by Charles the Second, on his coronation), to whose memory a handsome monument is placed in St. Mary's Church, Oxford.
In the year 1731, his father came to Selborne to reside, when Gilbert White was eleven years of age. His father, John White, was the only son of Gilbert White, vicar of Selborne, and married Anne, only child of the Rev. Thomas Holt, rector of Streatham, in Surrey. Mr. John White was a barrister of the Middle Temple, but did not practise after his marriage. Gilbert, and three of his brothers, Thomas, John, and Henry, all much interested in the study of Natural History, were probably indebted to their father for their early lessons in their favourite pursuits. The brickpath at the back of the house, in the paddock, at Selborne, was laid down by him upwards of a century since, that in his old age he might be able to walk into his field in the early morning without wetting his feet. It remains to this day; the bricks having been double-burned especially for this purpose. He desired in his will that no monument should be erected to him, “not desiring to have his name recorded, save in the book of life.”
Every thing relating to the family of Gilbert White must be interesting. His father was born in 1688, and died in 1759. And of his brothers, one of them, Thomas, was a Fellow of the Royal Society. To him, Gilbert was indebted for very many suggestions for his work; and to his influence the public owe whatever pleasure they may have derived from its perusal, as it was only with much persuasion that the philosopher of Selborne could be induced to pass through the ordeal of criticism, having a great dread of reviewers.
This dread was in some degree removed by his brother