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The Author of the following Letters, takes the liberty, with all proper deference, of laying before the public his idea of parochial history, which, he thinks, ought to consist of natural productions and occurrences as well as antiquities. He is also of opinion that if stationary men would pay some attention to the districts on which they reside, and would publish their thoughts respecting the objects that surround them, from such materials might be drawn the most complete county-histories, which are still wanting in several parts of this kingdom, and in particular in the county of Southampton.

And here he seizes the first opportunity, though a late one, of returning his most grateful acknowledgments to the reverend the President and the reverend and worthy the Fellows of Magdalen College in the University of Oxford, for their liberal behaviour in permitting their archives to be searched by a member of their own society, so far as the evidences therein contained might respect the parish and priory of Selborne. To that gentleman also, and his assistant, whose labours and attention could only be equalled by the very kind manner in which they were bestowed, many and great obligations are also due.

Of the authenticity of the documents above-mentioned there can be no doubt, since they consist of the identical deeds and records that were removed to the College from the Priory at the time of its dissolution; and, being carefully copied on the spot, may be depended on as genuine; and, never having been made public before, may gratify the curiosity of the antiquary, as well as establish the credit of the history.

If the writer should at all appear to have induced any of his readers to pay a more ready attention to the wonders of the Creation, too frequently overlooked as common occurrences; or if he should by any means, through his researches, have lent an helping hand towards the enlargement of the boundaries of historical and topographical knowledge; or if he should have thrown some small light upon ancient customs and manners, and especially on those that were monastic, his purpose will be fully answered. But if he should not have been successful in any of these his intentions, yet there remains this consolation behind—that these his pursuits, by keeping the body and mind employed, have, under Providence, contributed to much health and cheerfulness of spirits, even to old age :—and, what still adds to his happiness, have led him to the knowledge of a circle of gentlemen whose intelligent communications, as they have afforded him much pleasing information, so, could he flatter himself with a continuation of them, would they ever be deemed a matter of singular satisfaction and improvement.

GIL. WHITE.

Selborne, January 1st, 1788.

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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF
SELBORNE

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