Francis Trevelyan Buckland
Most of those whose lives are sketched in this volume lived to be old
men; but Frank Buckland, the pet and pride of thousands in England, died
in his prime, almost at the beginning of his fame; a man of whose life
our "Popular Science Monthly" says, "None more active, varied, and
useful is recorded in scientific biography."
He was the oldest son of the Dean of Westminster, Dr. William Buckland,
and was bo
n December 17, 1826, at Christ Church, Oxford, of which
cathedral his father was canon at that time.
"I was told," says Frank, in later years, "that, soon after my birth, my
father and my godfather, the late Sir Francis Chantry, weighed me in the
kitchen scales against a leg of mutton, and that I was heavier than the
joint provided for the family dinner that day. In honor of my arrival,
my father and Sir Francis went into the garden and planted a birch tree.
I know the taste of the twigs of that birch tree well. Sir Francis
Chantry offered to give me a library. 'What is the use of a library to a
child an hour old?' said my father. 'He will live to be sorry for that
answer,' said Sir Francis. I never got the library.
"One of my earliest offences in life was eating the end of a carriage
candle. For this, the birch rod not being handy, my father put me into a
furze bush, and therein I did penance for ten minutes. A furze bush does
not make a pleasant lounge when only very thin summer garments are
The father, Dean Buckland, was distinguished as a man of letters, and
for his geological research. The mother, as is often the case with sons
of genius, was a remarkable woman, who idolized her boy, and who
received in return an affection unusual in its intimacy and confidence.
She began to write about him early, in her journal. "At two and a half
years of age," she says, "he never forgets either pictures or people he
has seen. Four months ago, as well as now, he would have gone through
all the natural history books in the Radcliffe Library, without making
one error in miscalling a parrot, a duck, a kingfisher, an owl, or a
On taking him to see the camelopard and kangaroos in Windsor Park, she
says, "He ran about with the latter and the other live animals without
the least fear, though he got thrown down by them. He is a robust,
sturdy child, sharp as a needle, but so volatile that I foresee some
trouble in making him fix his attention."
When three and a half, she says, "he certainly is not at all premature;
his great excellence is in his disposition, and apparently very strong
reasoning powers, and a most tenacious memory as to facts. He is always
asking questions, and never forgets the answers he receives, if they are
such as he can comprehend. If there is anything he cannot understand, or
any word, he won't go on till it has been explained to him. He is always
wanting to see everything made, or to know how it is done; there is no
end to his questions, and he is never happy unless he sees the relations
between cause and effect."
At four he began collecting specimens of natural history. At this time a
clergyman brought some fossils to Dr. Buckland. Calling his son, who was
playing in the room, the Dean said, "Frankie, what are these?"
"They are the vertebrae of an ichthyosaurus," lisped the child, unable to
Mrs. Buckland gave her boy a small cabinet, which now bears this
inscription: "This is the first cabinet I ever had; my mother gave it to
me when about four years old, December, 1830. It is the nucleus of all
my natural-history work. Please take care of the poor old thing."
"In his early home at Christ Church," says Frank Buckland's
brother-in-law, George C. Bompas, in his interesting life of the
naturalist, "besides the stuffed creatures, which shared the hall with
the rocking-horse, there were cages full of snakes, and of green frogs,
in the dining-room, where the sideboard groaned under successive layers
of fossils, and the candles stood on ichthyosauri's vertebrae.
Guinea-pigs were often running over the table, and, occasionally, the
pony, having trotted down the steps from the garden, would push open the
dining-room door, and career round the table, with three laughing
children on his back; and then, marching through the front door, and
down the steps, would continue his course round Tom Quad.
"In the stable yard and large wood-house were the fox, rabbits,
guinea-pigs, and ferrets, hawks and owls, the magpie and jackdaw,
besides dogs, cats, and poultry, and in the garden was the tortoise (on
whose back the children would stand to try its strength), and toads
immured in various pots, to test the truth of their supposed life in
The boy Frank naturally developed a taste for natural history in the
midst of such surroundings. At nine years of age, he was sent to school
at Cotterstock, in Northamptonshire, and at twelve was elected scholar
of Winchester College.
He tells an interesting experience on his entrance. "Immediately after
chapel, the old stager boys all came round the new arrivals, to examine
and criticise them. I perfectly recollect one boy, H., to whose special
care my poor confiding mother had entrusted her innocent, unsuspecting
cub, coming up to me with a most solemn face, and asking me if I had
brought with me a copy of the school-book, 'Pempe moron proteron.' I
said I had not. 'Then,' said he, 'you must borrow one at once, or the
doctor,' i. e. Dr. Moberly, the head master, 'will be sure to flog you
to-morrow morning, and your college tutor, one of the praefects, will
also lick you.'
"So he sent me to another boy, who said he had lent his 'Pempe moron
proteron,' but he passed me on to a third, he on to a fourth; so I was
running about all over the college till quite late, in a most terrible
panic of mind, till at last a good-natured praefect said, 'Construe it,
you little fool.' I had never thought of this before. I saw it directly:
Pempe (send) moron (a fool) proteron (further). So the title of
this wonderful book, after all, was, 'Send a fool further.' I then went
to complain to H.; he only laughed, and shied a Donnegan's Lexicon at my
"A few nights afterwards," says Frank, "I dreamt I was wandering on the
seashore, and that a crab was pinching my foot. Instantly awakening, I
experienced a most frightful pain in my great toe. I bore it for a
while, until at last it became so intense that I had to jump up with a
howl of agony; all was quiet, but the pull continued, and I had to
follow my toe and outstretched leg out of bed. I then found a bit of
netted whipcord tight round it; but the whipcord was so ingeniously
twisted among the beds, that it was impossible to find out who had
pulled it. I returned to bed as savage as a wounded animal. The moment I
was settled, the boys all burst into a shout: 'Toe fit tied! By Jove,
what a lark!' This barbarous process is called 'toe fit tie' because
there is a line in Prosody which begins, 'To fit ti, ut verto verti.'
Hence the origin of this Winchester custom."
A school friend says of Frank at this time: "Imagine a short, quick-eyed
little boy, with a shock head of reddish brown hair (not much amenable
to a hair-brush), a white neck-cloth tied like a piece of rope with no
particular bow, and his bands sticking out under either ear as fancy
pleased him,--in fact, a boy utterly indifferent to personal appearance,
but good-tempered and eccentric, with a small museum in his sleeve or
cupboard, sometimes a snake, or a pet mouse, or a guinea-pig, or even a
hedge-hog. In the summer he would be always in the hedgerows, after
birds, weasels, or mice, or in the water-meadows, after crayfish,
tomculls, and other fish which hide under stones.... In fact, he was a
Another says: "Frank set up a sort of amateur dispensary or hospital. He
had a patient or two. One man I remember, with a bad hand, who used to
come down to College Gate at twelve o'clock to consult him and be
experimented upon. In his toys (cupboard) he had various bottles and
specimens, one very highly treasured possession being a three-legged
"His own natural disposition was of the sweetest and gentlest. I never
saw him in a passion, though he used to get a good deal teased at one
time for his untidiness. But he always had a bright smile amidst it all,
and was ready to do anything for anybody immediately after. One thing
used to strike me very much about him, and that was his exceeding love
for his mother. Boys are generally reticent upon this point, but Frank
seemed never tired of telling me about his, and how much he owed her....
"In school hours he was a painstaking and conscientious worker, never
leaving his lessons or preparing his task quicker or better than when he
had some pet, a dormouse or sometimes a snake, twisting and wriggling
inside his college waistcoat, which, having found its way out at his
boots, would be carefully replaced under the waistcoat, to go through
the same journey again."
While at Winchester, Frank determined to become a surgeon, and chose as
a parting gift from one of his tutors, instead of Goldsmith's poems,
"Graham's Domestic Medicine." At his request, his parents sent him a
lancet, with which he bled his college mates, if they were courageous
enough to submit to the operation, offering each one sixpence as an
inducement. Nevertheless, when, in vacation, he witnessed an amputation
at the Infirmary, he fainted.
When Frank left Winchester, Bishop Moberly said, "I always had the
utmost satisfaction in him as a school-boy; and I look back with very
great regard to his simple, earnest character, and his devotion to the
studies which have made him so well known. To me he was just what I
always found him, full of curious information, excellently kind-tempered
In 1844, at the age of eighteen, Frank entered Christ Church, Oxford.
Here he turned the court between his college rooms and the canon's
gardens into a menagerie. He owned a young bear, Tiglath Pileser, Jacko
the monkey, an eagle, a jackal, besides marmots, guinea-pigs, squirrels,
and dormice, an adder and other snakes, tortoises, green frogs and a
chameleon. Skeletons and stuffed specimens were numerous.
Many of these pets strayed away. The marmot got into the chapter-house,
and the eagle stationed himself in the chapel doorway, and attacked
those who wished to enter.
Dr. Liddon tells of being invited to Frank's rooms, to breakfast with
him. "The marmots, which had hibernated in the cellar below, had just,
as he expressed it, 'thawed.' There was great excitement; the creatures
ran about the table, as entitled to the honors of the day; though there
were other beasts and reptiles in the room too, which in later life
would have made breakfasting difficult. Speaking of reptiles, one very
early incident in my Oxford life was joining in a hunt of Frank's adder.
It had escaped into Mr. Benson's rooms, and was pursued into the bedroom
by a group of undergraduates, who had, however, different objects in
view. Frank certainly had the well-being of the adder chiefly at heart,
the rest of us, I fear, were governed by the lower motive of escaping
being bitten anyhow--if consistently with the adder's safely, well--if
not, still of escaping. Eventually, the adder was caught, I believe,
without great damage.
"One day I met Frank just outside Tom Gate. His trousers pockets were
swollen out to an enormous size; they were full of slow-worms in damp
moss. Frank explained to me that this combination of warmth and moisture
was good for the slow-worms, and that they enjoyed it. They certainly
were very lively, poking their heads out incessantly, while he repressed
them with the palms of his hands....
"He was certainly one of the most popular men in Christ Church; when he
was in the schools, to be examined viva voce, almost the whole
undergraduate world of Christ Church was there.... He always struck me,
in respect of the most serious matters, as combining strength and
simplicity very remarkably; it was impossible to talk to him and not to
be sure that God, life, death, and judgment were to him solid and
constantly present realities."
Another college friend says: "One evening when I was devoting an hour to
coaching him up for his 'little go,' I took care to tuck up my legs, in
Turkish fashion, on the sofa, for fear of a casual bite from the jackal
which was wandering about the room. After a time I heard the animal
munching up something under the sofa, and was relieved that he should
have found something to occupy him. When our work was finished, I told
Buckland that the jackal had found something to eat under the sofa. 'My
poor guinea-pigs!' he exclaimed; and, sure enough, four or five of them
had fallen victims."
Tiglath Pileser, the bear, had to be sent away from Christ Church. The
dean said, "I hear you keep a bear in college; well, either you or your
bear must go." So Tig was sent to Islip, seven miles from Oxford, a
living held by Dean Buckland, who had now become Dean of Westminster.
The bear did so much mischief at Islip, in grocer's shops and houses,
that he was sent to the zooelogical gardens, where he died in cutting his
Jacko, the monkey, was a source of great amusement, and greatly prized
by young Buckland. "Once, when carrying him on a railway train, in a
lawyer's blue bag," says Mr. Buckland, in his "Curiosities of Natural
History," published some years afterwards, "Jacko, who must needs see
everything that was going on, suddenly poked his head out of the bag,
and gave a malicious grin at the ticket-giver. This much frightened the
poor man, but, with great presence of mind, quite astonishing under the
circumstances, he retaliated the insult, 'Sir, that's a dog; you must
pay for it accordingly.' In vain was the monkey made to come out of the
bag and exhibit his whole person; in vain were arguments in full
accordance with the views of Cuvier and Owen urged eagerly, vehemently,
and without hesitation (for the train was on the point of starting), to
prove that the animal in question was not a dog, but a monkey. A dog it
was in the peculiar views of the official, and three-and-sixpence was
"Thinking to carry the joke further (there were just a few minutes to
spare), I took out from my pocket a live tortoise I happened to have
with me, and, showing it, said, 'What must I pay for this, as you charge
for all animals?' The employe adjusted his specs, withdrew from the
desk to consult with his superior; then returning, gave the verdict with
a grave but determined manner, 'No charge for them, sir; them be
insects.'" Whenever Jacko got loose, he found mischief. One day he
covered a shoe, sole and all, with blacking, and poured what was left in
the bottle inside the shoe. He also rubbed the white kitchen table all
over with black-lead and water.
Young Buckland spent his vacations at the University of Giessen, under
the famous teacher and chemist, Professor Liebig, to whom he became
greatly attached. "Returning in October, 1845, I brought with me," he
says, "about a dozen green tree-frogs, which I had caught in the woods
near the town.... I started at night on my homeward journey by the
diligence, and I put the bottle containing the frogs into the pocket
inside the diligence. My fellow-passengers were sleepy old smoke-dried
Germans. Very little conversation took place, and, after the first mile,
every one settled himself to sleep, and soon all were snoring. I
suddenly awoke with a start, and found all the sleepers had been roused
at the same moment. On their sleepy faces were depicted fear and anger.
What had woke us all up so suddenly?
"The morning was just breaking, and my frogs, though in the dark pocket
of the coach, had found it out, and, with one accord, all twelve of them
had begun their morning song. As if at a given signal, they one and all
of them began to croak as hard as ever they could. The noise their
united concert made seemed, in the closed compartment of the coach,
quite deafening: well might the Germans look angry; they wanted to throw
the frogs, bottle and all, out of the window, but I gave the bottle a
good shaking, and made the frogs keep quiet. The Germans all went to
sleep again, but I was obliged to remain awake, to shake the frogs when
they began to croak. It was lucky that I did so, for they tried to begin
their concert again two or three times.
"These frogs came safely to Oxford, and, the day after their arrival, a
stupid housemaid took off the top of the bottle, to see what was inside;
one of the frogs croaked at that instant, and so frightened her that she
dared not put the cover on again. They all got loose in the garden,
when, I believe, the ducks ate them, for I never heard or saw them
The next autumn, after a short tour in Switzerland, he returned to
Oxford, this time bringing a jar full of red slugs. "They at least were
noiseless and would not croak like frogs. In the opposite corner of the
diligence placidly slumbered a traveller with ample bald head; Frank
also slept, but, waking at midnight, he saw, with horror, that two of
his red slugs had escaped and were crawling over the traveller's bald
pate. What was to be done? To remove them might waken the sleeper. Frank
sat, as it were, on tenter-hooks, until the diligence stopped at the
next stage, when, firmly covering up the jar and what remained of the
slugs, he slipped quietly out of the diligence, resolved to proceed on
his journey by another conveyance next morning, rather than face that
Young Buckland took his degree in 1848, and entered St. George's
Hospital. "My object," he said, "in studying medicine (and may God
prosper it!) is not to gain a name, money, and high practice, but to do
good to my fellow-creatures and assist them in the hour of need.... My
object in life to be a great high-priest of nature, and a great
benefactor of mankind." Wealthy, and of the highest social position, he
had determined not to live for himself, but for the good of others.
He was now twenty-two; genial, full of kindness, democratic in his
feelings, one of "nature's noblemen." At his father's house, the
Deanery, he met Lyell, Davy, Faraday, Sir John Herschel, Guizot, Liebig,
Agassiz, Ruskin, Rogers, Lord Brougham, Sir Robert Peel, Lord John
Russell, Lady Franklin, Lady Shelley, and scores of other distinguished
Here his menagerie was larger than ever. The stuffed forms of Tiglath
Pileser and Billy the hyaena were in the hall. Jenny, a monkey from
Gibraltar, had come to join Jacko, bringing a pet chicken with her,
which lived in her cage, and which she fondled as a nurse does a child.
Here were tailless Manx cats, lizards, snakes, and fifty or sixty rats,
usually kept in the cellar. Young Buckland would often take snakes out
of his pockets to show his friends. "Don't be afraid," he said to a
young lady at a party, as he showed her some snakes; "they won't hurt
you, I've taken out their fangs. Now, do be a good girl, and don't make
a fuss;" and he wreathed one snake around her neck, and one round each
arm. "His sisters were so often bedecked with similar reptilian
necklaces and armlets that they became used to the somewhat clammy,
crawling sensation which is a drawback to such ornaments."
About this time, Buckland wrote an article on the muscles of the arm,
and took it to several periodicals, but none would accept it. Urged by
Mr. White Cooper, the queen's oculist, he wrote an article upon his
rats, which the friend carried to "Bentley's Miscellany." It was
accepted, and thus began his successful authorship. This was
subsequently published in his first book, "Curiosities of Natural
History," in 1857.
He tells of one of his rat families: "One day a poor mother had moved
her young about into several parts of the cage, but could not fix on one
point. I saw what was wanting, she could not obtain cover for them. I
put my hand into the cage, full of tow and cotton wool; she came
instantly and took it out of my hand, and covered up her young. But,
notwithstanding all this care, and although evidently most anxious for
their welfare, this kind mother, obeying, I suppose, some wise law of
nature, devoured during the following night every one of the little ones
of which she had been so careful the preceding day."
After being house-surgeon at St. George's Hospital for some time,
Buckland became assistant surgeon to the Second Life Guards in 1854. He
had already given his first lecture, "The House We Live in," delivered
at a Working Men's Coffee House and Institute established by his mother,
in Westminster, London.
About this time he was nearly fatally poisoned by a cobra. He says, "I
had not walked a hundred yards before, all of a sudden, I felt just as
if somebody had come behind me and struck me a severe blow on the head
and neck, and at the same time I experienced a most acute pain and sense
of oppression at the chest, as though a hot iron had been run in and a
hundred-weight put on the top of it. I knew instantly, from what I had
read, that I was poisoned. I said as much to my friend, a most
intelligent gentleman, who happened to be with me, and told him, if I
fell, to give me brandy and eau-de-luce, words which he kept repeating
in case he might forget them. At the same time I enjoined him to keep me
going, and not on any account to allow me to lie down. I then forgot
everything for several minutes, and my friend tells me I rolled about as
if very faint and weak. He also informs me that the first thing I did
was to fall against him, asking him if I looked seedy. He most wisely
answered, 'No, you look very well.' I don't think he thought so, for his
own face was as white as a ghost; I recollect this much. He tells me my
face was of a greenish yellow color.
"After walking, or rather staggering, along for some minutes, I
gradually recovered my senses, and steered for the nearest chemist's
shop. Rushing in, I asked for eau-de-luce. Of course, he had none, but
my eye caught the words, 'spiritus ammoniae,' or hartshorn, on a
bottle. I reached it down myself, and, pouring a large quantity into a
tumbler with a little water, both of which articles I found on a
soda-water stand in the shop, drank it off, though it burnt my mouth and
lips very much. Instantly I felt relief from the pain at the chest and
head. The chemist stood aghast, and, on my telling him what was the
matter, recommended a warm bath. If I had then followed his advice,
these words would never have been placed on record. After a second
draught at the hartshorn bottle, I proceeded on my way, feeling very
stupid and confused."
In August, 1856, Dean Buckland died, and in November, 1857, Mrs.
Buckland. On December 17, her son wrote in his journal: "Thirty-one
years ago, at 6 A. M., I came into the world, at the old house in
Christ Church, Quadrangle. I am now about half-way across the stage of
life, and thank God I am just beginning to feel my feet. But, oh! what I
have lost since last birthday, the best friend a man can have in the
He did not know that he was very much more than "half-way across the
stage of life already." It is well that we walk by faith rather than
"Oh! blissful, peaceful ignorance,
'Tis blessed not to know;
It keeps me quiet in those Arms
Which will not let me go,
And hushes all my soul to rest
On the Bosom which loves me so.
"So I go on, not knowing--
I would not if I might--
I'd rather walk with God in the dark
Than walk alone in the light;
I'd rather walk with him by faith
Than walk alone by sight."
In 1859, after a laborious search of some weeks in the vaults of St.
Martin's in the Fields, Buckland found the body of John Hunter, the
father of modern physiology, and the coffin was reinterred in
Westminster Abbey. Though a most disagreeable task, he said, "I must not
shrink from doing a thing at first sight disagreeable, or nothing will
ever be accomplished. Nothing like determination and perseverance." The
Leeds School of Medicine presented him a silver medal, as a mark of
respect for his exertions.
In 1860, he helped to organize the Acclimatization Society, formed for
the purpose of varying and increasing the food supply of Great Britain
by introducing new animals and preserving the native fish. He also
became voluntary consulting surgeon at the Zooelogical Gardens, doctoring
the sick, and increasing by his example the tenderness shown to animals.
His life had now become a most active one. He wrote many valuable
articles for the magazines, since issued in books, the "Log Book of a
Fisherman and Zooelogist," and other volumes, and lectured frequently, to
large audiences, on his favorite subjects.
In 1863, after eight years of service in the Life Guards, he resigned,
and began to devote himself more than ever to fish culture. In January
and February of each year he collected the eggs of trout and other fish
from the Rhine, Switzerland, France, and elsewhere, distributing some
throughout the country and artificially hatching others. Fish-hatching
boxes were exhibited in the South Kensington Museum, and at the Crystal
Palace. Trout ova in ice were sent to Australia, where, after incubation
had been suspended for a hundred days, when placed in running water, the
fish came into the world strong and healthy.
In 1864, Buckland made extended investigations in oyster culture;
delivered lectures upon the subject before the British Association of
Bath, the Society of Arts, the London Institution, indeed all through
England and Ireland. He was appointed Scientific Referee to the South
Kensington Museum, giving a course of lectures and of class
demonstration. He sent about sixteen thousand young fish and eggs to the
Horticultural Gardens, and with these he helped to illustrate his
lectures and inform the public.
Through "Land and Water," a paper established by himself and a few
friends, he reached and educated a large constituency.
In 1863, the year previous, he had married Miss Hannah Papes, and made
his home at 37 Albany St., Regent's Park. Here he gathered all his pets,
who found in Mrs. Buckland a person as kind and tender as their master.
Here were brought his favorite monkeys, "Hag" and "Tiny." The latter
came from the Zooelogical Gardens "as good as dead," but, through Mrs.
Buckland's good nursing, she became well and strong.
With these pets, the overworked naturalist had great merriment. He says
in his "Log Book": "When the fire is lighted in the morning, in my
museum, the servants put the monkeys in their night cage before it, and
directly I come down to breakfast I let them out. They are only allowed
to be loose in my museum as they do so much mischief; and in my museum I
alone am responsible for the damage they do. The moment the door of the
cage is opened, they both rush out like rockets, and the Hag goes
immediately to the fender and warms herself like a good monkey; as she,
being older, seems to know that if she misbehaves herself she will have
to be put back into her cage....
"Tiny steals whatever is on the table, and it is great fun to see her
snatch off the red herring from the plate and run off with it to the top
of the book-shelves. While I am getting my herring, Tiny goes to the
breakfast table again, and, if she can, steals the egg; this she tucks
under her arm, and bolts away, running on her hind legs. This young lady
has of late been rather shy of eggs, as she once stole one that was
quite hot, and burnt herself....
"Having poured out the tea, I open the 'Times' newspaper quite wide, to
take a general survey of its contents. If I do not watch her carefully,
Tiny goes behind the chair, on to the book-shelf, and comes crash into
the middle of the 'Times.' Of course, she cannot go through the 'Times';
but she takes her chance of a fall somewhere, and her great aim seems,
to perform the double feat of knocking the 'Times' out of my hand and
upsetting the tea-pot and its contents; or, better still, the tea-pot on
the floor. Lately, I am glad to say, she did not calculate her fall
quite right; for she put her foot into the hot tea and stung herself
smartly, and this seems to have had the effect of making her more
careful for the future. All the day of this misfortune she walked upon
her heels, and not upon her toes as usual.
"The Hag will also steal, but in a more quiet manner. She is especially
fond of sardines in oil, and I generally let her steal them, because the
oil does her good, though the servants complain of the marks of her oily
feet upon the cloth. Sometimes the two make up a stealing party. One
morning I was in a particular hurry, having to go away on
salmon-inspection duty by train. I left the breakfast things for a
moment, and in an instant Tiny snatched up a broiled leg of pheasant and
bolted with it--carried it under her arm round and round the room, after
the fashion of the clown in the pantomime. While I was hunting Tiny for
my pheasant, the Hag bolted with the toast; I could not find time to
catch either of the thieves, and so had to go off without any breakfast.
"Tiny and the Hag sometimes go out stealing together. They climb up my
coat and search all the pockets. I generally carry a great many cedar
pencils; the monkeys take these out and bite off the cut ends.... When I
come home in the evening, tired from a long day's work, I let out the
monkeys, and give them some sweet stuff I bring home for them. By their
affectionate greeting and amusing tricks they make me forget for a while
the anxieties and bothers of a very active life. They know perfectly
well when I am busy, and they remain quiet and do not tease me. The Hag
sits on the top of my head, and 'looks fleas' in my hair, while Tiny
tears up with her teeth a thick ball of crumpled paper, the nucleus of
which she knows is a sugar-plum, one of a parcel sent by Mrs. Owen, the
kind-hearted wife of my friend, Mostyn Owen, of the Dee Salmon Board,
and received through the post in due form, directed, 'Miss Tiny and Miss
Besides these monkeys, a writer tells of another pet which he found when
calling on Mr. Buckland. "'It's a jolly little brute, and won't hurt,'
exclaimed Mr. Buckland, as we were about to retreat from the threshold.
The monkeys had seized the jaguar's tail, and, lifting it up with its
hind legs bodily to the altitude of their cage, were rapidly denuding it
of fur. No animal with any feelings of self-respect would submit
silently to such humiliation, and the jaguar was making the place
hideous with his yells.
"Hearing the cries of her pet, Mrs. Buckland came to the rescue; and it
was amusing to see this child of the forest, with gleaming eyes and
frantic yelps, cast itself at her feet, and nestle meekly in the folds
of her dress; she had nursed it through a very trying babyhood, when Mr.
Bartlett had sent it from the Zoo, apparently dying and paralyzed in the
fore-legs, with a promise of fifteen pounds reward for a cure. That sum
has long since been swallowed up in damages for clothes destroyed and
boots devoured, as the invalid's health and appetite returned."
Mr. Buckland used to say: "Mrs. Buckland can tame any animal in the
world--ecce signum, myself."
In 1867, Mr. Buckland was appointed Inspector of Fisheries. This was the
realization of the wish of his life. He says in his diary, after
receiving the appointment: "When I read this I felt a most peculiar
feeling; not joy, nor grief, but a pleasurable, stunning sensation, if
there can be such a thing. The first thing I did was to utter a prayer
of thanksgiving to Him who really appointed me, and who has thus placed
me in a position to look after and care for His wonderful works. May He
give me strength to do my duty in my new calling!"
Buckland carried forward his work with the greatest zeal and energy. He
writes in his journal: "I am now working from 8 A. M. to 6 P. M., then a
bit in the evening,--fourteen hours a day; but, thank God, it does not
hurt me. I should, however, collapse if it were not for Sunday. The
machinery has time to get cool. The mill-wheel ceases to patter the
water, the mill-head is ponded up, and the superfluous water let off by
an easy, quiet current, which leads to things above."
Salmon, which had formerly abounded in Wales and England, and been used
extensively for food, had almost or altogether ceased to exist in many
rivers. Buckland carefully studied their habits. He put himself, as he
often said, in the place of the salmon. He waded the pools, to feel the
force and direction of the current against which they come up from the
sea into the rivers. He did not spare himself in storm or cold.
"Most fish live either in fresh or in salt water; the salmon inhabits
both. Bred in the higher waters of our rivers, the young salmon of one,
two, or three years' growth make their way down to the sea as smolts,
and return thence, impelled by the instinct of reproduction, to seek the
gravelly spawning beds in the mountain streams. In early spring and
through the summer and autumn months they come from the sea,
bright-coated and silvery, and swim and leap and struggle up the rivers.
Then is the fisherman's harvest. In winter the spawning time comes on,
when the laws of nature and of man alike forbid their capture; for the
fish, at other times so rich a luxury, are now vapid and unwholesome.
Lean and flabby, the males with hooked beaks and scarred in fighting,
the spawned fish, or kelts, rush down again to the sea; whence, after a
while, they return, fresh and silvery, fattened to twice their former
weight, and reenter the rivers as fresh-river fish, the joy alike of the
fisherman and the epicure."
Buckland constructed salmon ladders over the weirs, that the fish might
have free passage from the rivers to the sea. He sent a series of models
of these ladders to the American Fishery Commissioners, with five boxes
of specimen oysters, and a photograph of his museum, with its casts and
curiosities. He helped to obtain proper legislation from Parliament,
both as to fishes and sea-birds; indeed all living things, especially
those aquatic, had his sympathy and help.
The results of his work were soon apparent. The yearly sales of English
and Welsh salmon in Billingsgate market, London, before 1861, averaged
about eight tons only. From 1867 to 1876 the average sale was
eighty-eight tons. The sales of Irish salmon in Billingsgate, three
hundred and fifty tons yearly; of Scotch salmon, over one thousand tons
yearly. Thus was food provided for millions of people.
Everywhere Buckland was the friend of animals. He urged that pigs should
have "pure, clean, wholesome water" to drink. He assisted at the opening
of the Brighton Aquarium, a place which American visitors can never
forget, and aided in the establishing of other aquaria.
In 1873, Mr. Buckland published a "History of British Fishes." All his
books went through many editions. In 1874, at the Jubilee Anniversary of
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, he spoke against
cruelty to seals.
He wrote in the "Times": "Captain David Gray, of the sealing and whaling
ship Eclipse, and myself first brought forward, some three years ago,
the necessity for a close time for Arctic seals. The principal sealing
ground is at Jan Mayen Island, thirteen hundred miles due north from
London.... The ships (sixty sail) arrive at the ice from the 15th to the
20th March, just as the young seals are born. The seal-hunters at once
attack them, and the most horrible cruelty ensues. I quote Captain
Gray's own words to me: 'Last year, the fleet set to work to kill the
seals on March 26, 1874, and in forty-eight hours the fishing was
completely over, the old seals being shot, wounded, or scared away,
while thousands upon thousands of young ones were left crying piteously
for their mothers. These mostly perished of famine in the snow, as they
were not old enough to make worth while the trouble of killing them.
"'If you could imagine yourself surrounded by four or five hundred
thousand babies, all crying at the pitch of their voices, you would have
some idea of the piteous noise they make. Their cry is very like that of
a human infant. These motherless seals collect into lots of five or six,
and crawl about the ice, their heads fast becoming the biggest part of
their bodies, searching, no doubt, to find the nourishment they stand so
much in need of.'"
In 1876, an international close time was established, prohibiting the
killing of seals until after April 3.
Mr. Buckland's reports on crab, lobster, herring, and other fisheries
were most full and interesting. "Before the young crabs are born," he
said, "the mother crab tucks up under her tail her numerous family of
from one to two million coral-like eggs, and she sidles on tiptoe many a
mile from her rocky home to some sandy flat in the deep sea, where her
young family may flourish best. There, or perhaps on returning home, in
early spring, the time for all young things to come forth, the tiny
crabs burst the egg; yet so unlike their parent, that till lately they
were thought some strange animalcula; goggle eyes, a hawk's beak, a
scorpion's tail, a rhinoceros's horn, adorn a body fringed with legs,
yet scarcely bigger than a grain of sand.
"Several strange shapes are assumed in turn ere the young crab attains
the parent form. For the parents of so numerous a family it is well that
nature has provided the young crabs with a strong suit of clothes, which
does not wear out; but it is quickly outgrown. The young crabs shed from
time to time the horny case, even to the finger-nails and eyelids; and
mother Nature straightway provides, underneath, a new, soft, leathery
suit, which quickly hardens into shell. Another marvel is, that the
growth is, as it were, by leaps and bounds; each time it bursts its case
the young crab swells suddenly to twice the size of the discarded shell.
"In crab youth several new suits are annually required. In maturer life
the lady crab, it seems, is content with one new dress each year; yet is
not the romance of life over. In the time of her soft-shelled weakness
and seclusion, a male crab in full armor constantly attends her, guards
her from danger, and solaces her in her retirement. An old crab's shell,
covered sometimes with barnacles, or with oysters of several years'
growth, shows that the patriarch has outlived the change of fashions
which occupied his youth."
The report on herring showed that eight hundred million fish are taken
yearly in Scotland, by more than seven thousand boats.
"The Log-Book of a Fisherman and Zooelogist" was published in 1875, and a
new edition of "White's Natural History of Selborne," to which Buckland
added many original observations. Most of his writing was done on the
cars, on his way to different places to give lectures or attend to
In 1878, he was appointed one of the commissioners to inquire into the
sea fisheries of England and Wales, which furnish so much food for the
people. Over a hundred million soles are sold yearly in London alone,
besides fifty million plaice and whiting, and ten million eels. Mr.
Buckland's correspondence with many countries had become extensive. He
had been elected a member of various societies, and had received many
gold medals, for his wide scientific knowledge and its practical
In December, 1879, he writes, "This Christmas week, I regret to say, I
shall not have the opportunity of spending my time up to my neck in
water, collecting salmon eggs for Australia or New Zealand, from one or
other of our northern rivers, or in one of the southern rivers, getting
trout eggs for the Thames. I must say I very much enjoy collecting
salmon and trout eggs; it is very cold, and, at the same time, very hard
work, but I very much prefer it to indoors and the fireside."
The exposure of this kind of work is seen by his description of it.
"Here is a list of my 'Spawning kit.' First, the waterproof dress; this
very useful garment is in fact a diver's dress, and, when properly put
on, admits not a drop of water. It has, however, one fault, it is apt
to freeze when I am out of the water, and then one feels encased, as it
were, in a suit of inflexible armor. Second, the spawning tins....
Third, a long, shallow basket.... Fourth, house-flannel, cut into
lengths of one yard; this is absolutely necessary to hold the struggling
salmon. Those who are unaccustomed to spawn salmon have an awkward habit
of putting their fingers into the gills of the fish, and if the fish's
gills are injured and bleed, he suffers much from it. I never to my
knowledge killed a fish in my life while spawning it. Fifth, dry towels;
these are most necessary, as the slime from the salmon makes one's hands
very slippery ... besides which, wiping the hands warms them, and, when
working in the water at this time of year, the cold to the hands and
arms is fearful.... Eleventh, ordinary baggage, and especially a bottle
of scented hair-oil, with which to well anoint the chest and arms and
tips of ears, when working in the water; a most excellent and
serviceable plan. I took this hint from the Esquimaux."
Frank Buckland's last Fishery Report was made in March, 1880, containing
an interesting description of the anatomy of the salmon, its food,
habits, and the like.
Mr. Buckland had brought on lung trouble by constant exposure and
tireless energy, and must have foreseen the end. At first it seemed hard
to him that he should be taken in the midst of his best work, but he
said, "God is so good, so very good to the little fishes, I do not
believe he would let their inspector suffer shipwreck at last. I am
going a long journey, where I think I shall see a great many curious
animals. This journey I must go alone."
He had before this written in his diary: "I think it not improbable
that, in a future state, the mind will be allowed a greater scope of
knowledge, and the gates of omniscience will be thrown open to it, so
that those things which it now sees through a glass, darkly, will be
opened to the view and understanding. O most glorious reward, for a mind
occupied here on earth in investigating the wonderful works of the
Creator, from the magnificent and stupendously grand scene of geology,
and the theory of the heavens, to the minute and delicate construction
of a microscopic animalcule, or the immeasurably fine thread of a
He died December 19, 1880, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery, on
His last book, "Notes and Jottings from Animal Life," was published soon
after his death.
No wonder that the noble son of the Dean of Westminster is remembered
and loved. A friend wrote, after his death: "Energy was only one of Mr.
Buckland's characteristics. His kindliness was another. Perhaps no man
ever lived with a kinder heart. It may be doubted whether he ever
willingly said a hard word or did a hard action. He used to say of one
gentleman, by whom he thought he had been aggrieved, that he had
forgiven him seventy times seven already, so that he was not required to
forgive him any more.
"He could not resist a cry of distress, particularly if it came from a
woman. Women, he used to say, are such doe-like, timid things, that he
could not bear to see them unhappy. One night, walking from his office,
he found a poor servant-girl crying in the street. She had been turned
out of her place that morning, as unequal to her duties; she had no
money and no friends nearer than Taunton, where her parents lived. Mr.
Buckland took her to an eating-house, gave her a dinner, drove her to
Paddington, paid for her ticket, and left her in charge of the guard of
the train. His nature was so simple and generous that he did not even
seem to realize that he had done an exceptionally kind action."
To read of such a life as this makes us trust humanity, and reassures us
that there are many, very many noble and lovely characters in the world,
both men and women. While we need good judgment and common sense, so as
to discriminate wisely, we need also the sweet, sunny nature which, with
some measure of ideality, sees rose colors amid the sombre tints of
life. We usually find in other hearts what we cultivate in our own.