I could wish our Royal Society would compile a Body of Natural History, the best that could be gather’d together from Books and Observations. If the several Writers among them took each his particular Species, and gave us a distinct Account of its Original, Birth and Education; its Policies, Hostilities and Alliances, with the Frame and Texture of its inward and outward Parts, and particularly those that distinguish it from all other Animals, with their peculiar Aptitudes for the State of Being in which Providence has placed them, it would be one of the best Services their Studies could do Mankind, and not a little redound to the Glory of the All-wise Contriver.
It is true, such a Natural History, after all the Disquisitions of the Learned, would be infinitely Short and Defective. Seas and Desarts hide Millions of Animals from our Observation. Innumerable Artifices and Stratagems are acted in the Howling Wilderness and in the Great Deep, that can never come to our Knowledge. Besides that there are infinitely more Species of Creatures which are not to be seen without, nor indeed with the help of the finest Glasses, than of such as are bulky enough for the naked Eye to take hold of. However from the Consideration of such Animals as lie within the Compass of our Knowledge, we might easily form a Conclusion of the rest, that the same Variety of Wisdom and Goodness runs through the whole Creation, and puts every Creature in a Condition to provide for its Safety and Subsistence in its proper Station.
Tully has given us an admirable Sketch of Natural History, in his second Book concerning the Nature of the Gods; and then in a Stile so raised by Metaphors and Descriptions, that it lifts the Subject above Raillery and Ridicule, which frequently fall on such nice Observations when they pass through the Hands of an ordinary Writer.
[Footnote 1: ‘Bayle’s Dictionary’, here quoted, first appeared in English in 1710. Pierre Bayle himself had first produced it in two folio vols. in 1695-6, and was engaged in controversies caused by it until his death in 1706, at the age of 59. He was born at Carlat, educated at the universities of Puylaurens and Toulouse, was professor of Philosophy successively at Sedan and Rotterdam till 1693, when he was deprived for scepticism. He is said to have worked fourteen hours a day for 40 years, and has been called ‘the Shakespeare of Dictionary Makers.’]
[Footnote 2: Captain William Dampier’s ‘Voyages round the World’ appeared in 3 vols., 1697-1709. The quotation is from vol. i. p. 39 (Ed. 1699, the Fourth). Dampier was born in 1652, and died about 1712.]
[Footnote 3: ‘Essay on Human Understanding’, Bk. II. ch. 9, Sec. 13.]
[Footnote 4: ‘Antidote against Atheism’, Bk. II. ch. 10, Sec. 5.]
[Footnote 5: ‘Disquisition about the Final Causes of Natural Things’, Sect. 2.]