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A FEW warm sunny days in April, flying swiftly over our heads, like swallows twittering of the coming summer, stirred in my breast irrepressible longings to quit the moil and turmoil of London for the bright and breezy coast. As I hurried through the noisy crowded streets, or sauntered through the comparatively quiet lanes of the environs, and looked at the summerlike sky above, I began to understand the migration of birds, and to feel something of what they must feel when certain dim but imperious influences of atmosphere and temperature urge them to quit their present homes, and traverse many a weary league of foam in search of a resting-place awaiting them somewhere with a warmer smile. I too was impatient to take wing. Of course, I had potent reasons to enlighten the dim instinct. Was I not a "rational being," and quite above acting purely upon blind instinct"? It is true that constantly I asked myself
"Why, though ill at ease,
That was the very word. I lan-
Frequent were the debates, many the references to " Bradshaw," manycounselled the voices of friends, till finally Ilfracombe was fixed on, rather, it must be confessed, in the teeth of every one's advice. "Devonshire is so relaxing," was the unanimous warning. But I was not profoundly convinced that a relaxing climate was the worst possible for
me, and I was profoundly convinced
The sea was an old playfellow.
spect of its inhabitants, the sea was
to have observed one until scientific interest in them had been awakened.
In stating thus frankly my own ignorance, for the reassurance of any reader who, being on an equal level, may not be discouraged from attempting a serious study of sea-side marvels, if he knows how to set to work, I ought to add, that studies of Comparative Anatomy had for many years prepared me for the study of marine animals; so that I came to the coast prepared, hungry for knowledge, and ready with general ideas to throw light on particular facts. It is not necessary for the student of Natural History that he should come thus prepared; and in this paper I will endeavour to make clear to him all that he will find necessary, assuming that he starts from zero; but if the fascinating study of Natural History is to receive its deepest significance and highest enjoyment, it must be on a background of severe science. You may hunt for animals, keep them in glass tanks and vases, watch their habits, and make pets of them, but with the Scalpel and the Microscope these pleasures are converted into august studies, carrying the mind into those arcana where the early Beginnings are revealed--where Life, reduced to its simplest expression, seems invested with even deeper and more thrilling mystery.
This, then, is Ilfracombe! The reader is perfectly familiar with the sort of perfume which arises from comparisons; therefore let Ilfracombe be compared with no other spot.
"None but itself can be its parallel." Make a landscape of it by framing, and excluding it from all the rest of England; is it not enchanting? At first I knew not how much of the delight with which its beauty thrilled me might not be owing to the mere effect of comparison and novelty. After the metropolis, any broadening blue of sea, any bold headland or straggling reef, naturally excites usand novelty is in itself an integer in all travelling enjoyment. But familiarity only served to deepen my sense of the beauty of Ilfracombe; the very last look was taken with a reluctance springing from unsatiated desire; and on reaching Tenby, also a char
spot, the overpowering sense of disappointment assured me that Ilfracombe was the enchantress she had seemed. I will not describe Ilfracombe, and for two reasons: 1st, it would occupy all the space at my disposal; and, 2d, which perhaps is as good a reason as the other, I have no descriptive power. Had I the power, the picture would be tempting, for the charms of the place are manifold. The country all round is billowy with hills, which rarely seem to descend into valleys. The paradox may move your scepticism; you may bring excellent reasons, physical, geological, and geographical, to prove that wherever there are hills there must be valleys. Nevertheless, the abstract force of what must be vanishes before the concrete force of what is; and at Ilfracombe you will find hills abounding, hills rising upon hills, but not always making valleys. What the French picturesquely call the mouvement du terrain, which suggests hills in motion like the waves, is here seen on every side; and these waving slopes are in springtime pale with primroses, or flaming with furze. If you get sight of a bit of earth to vary the verdure, it is of that rich red-brown marl which warms the whole landscape. If you climb one of those hills, the chances are that you come upon a rugged precipice sheer over the sea, unless a green slope leads gently down to it. These breezy hills, and the soft secluded valleys (there are valleys), and the matchless lanes which intersect the land with beauty, afford endless walks of varied delight. The consumption of shoe-leather- not to mention tissue is immense. The lanes of Devonshire are celebrated; but what Shakespeare's works are to the criticisms which celebrate them, these lanes are to their reputation. Were I to enter one of them, and begin describing it, we should never get down to the shore, whither I see your impatient footsteps tend. To the shore, then! and as we pass, we can take a glimpse at the town.
Handsome the town of Ilfracombe is not; nor, although picturesquely placed, has it a very picturesque appearance, except under certain lights,
tain points. The colour
of the houses is pale dingy grey; the lines are all rectangular and mean. Overtopping the whole town in ugliness and pretension, no less than in altitude, are two terraces, which make two factory-like lines of building on the slope of the green hill. You see at a glance that the flounces and shaved poodles live there. Yet, as I said, there were lights under which the town looked well; but what will not light transform into beauty One evening, after a shower, I was called away from the microscope to look at the town under the light of the setting sun, some peculiar arrangement of the clouds, with a vivid rainbow, having thrown a delicious evening tinge, quite Italian, over the houses piled on the sides of the hill, and merged the ugliness of their forms in exquisite floods of colour. In this fight Ilfracombe looked handsome. It looked resplendent, like a stupid man in the splendour of a noble deed.
If unblessed with the fatal (but agreeable) gift of beauty, the little town of Ilfracombe, as a compensation, is uncursed with appearances of pretension. Except on those two unfortunate terraces, it gives itself no airs of fashion, no demure hypocrisies of respectability. It has no magnificent hotels; it has no popular preacher. It makes nobody miserable. Simplex munditiis; a plain face, but clean and honest, sirs! I was continually reminded of some small German town, and the simple honesty and obligingness of the people helped the resemblance. As we enter from the Braunton road, there is a white-washed inn, now untenanted, of the most primitive structure, and bearing the words
painted in tall brown letters, all along the frontage, which I never passed without some vague reminiscence of Germany rising up, so exactly does this turn of the road repeat many turns of road I have come upon in my wanderings. An avenue of mountain-ash, with their bright red clusters brilliant against the hot blue sky, or rows of plum-trees with their purple fruit, pleasing the eye and refreshing the palate during the dusty
walk, would have made the illusion complete.
Let us pass this inn, and turn up the steep hill, on the summit of which stands the handsome church; we then descend the slope which leads to the Baths. On the other side of the hedge upon our left rise the soft uplands, and a little behind them the majestic Seven Tors, which with their shaggy heads towards the sea, and their soft swelling slopes of green towards the land, remind us of some mighty animal which has reared itself on its fore-paws to gaze at the yet mightier ocean. From these uplands you perpetually hear the cry, day and night, of the landrail - just like the creaking of a wicker-basket-so that you begin to wonder when that unmusical bird takes its repose. On your right hand, the clear Wilder stream babbles incessantly to the wild-flowers nodding over its ripples. Accompanied by this music we reach the Baths, and come upon a tunnel, dark, indeed, but with a gleam of light at the end--so we enter. How cool, not to say cold! The eye is getting familiar with the darkness when we emerge, and oh! what a thrill runs along the sentient paths to our souls as the blue of the sea bursts upon us. We lean upon a parapet of rock, and see the waves running up the rugged face of the cliffs, and falling back in spray. An inarticulate gasp does duty for the highest eloquence. It is enough to drink in with our eyes the scene before us; more than an incoherent exclamation would be out of place. Another tunnel invites us; through it we pass, and come upon a wooden bridge overarching an ugly-looking spot bearing the name of Tracy's Cave, which has of course its devout legend to tell, if you are willing to listen. Let the legend be what it may, the place is grim, and at first we tread cautiously as we pass over the bridge of logs; but soon familiarity reconciles us to this as it does to small-pox and the income-tax. Before reaching this we have come upon another opening, leaned upon another parapet, and had another gaze at the sunset gleaming over the sea. We now step on the wild and rugged shore.
And what a shore! Precipitous
walls and battlements of rock rise on each side, making a bay; before us, sharply-cut fragments of dark rock start out of the water for some distance. Every yard of ground here is a picture. The whole coast-line is twisted and waved about into a series of bays and creeks, each having a character of its own; and whether you stand on the Tors, and look along the coast or on the shore, and look up at the rocks, it is always some new aspect, something charming for the eye to rest upon. The rock is grauwacke or clay-slate, with occasional streaks of quartz, and the stratification is very various. Look at that reef round and along which the stealthy tide is crawling; see how the back of it is ridged with sharp sudden lines cutting against the sky --and cutting you when you stumble on them; or look at that sombre precipice over which the gull is floating broad-winged, uttering its piteous cry, or startling you with its strange mocking laugh. Follow it a little further and the eye rests on a purpletinted wall of rock, from the sides of which jut ledges covered with vegetation. The soil here is so generous, that Nature seems to be bursting into life through every crevice and on every inch.
There is, however, one serious drawback at Ilfracombe- the complete absence of sands. I scorn to allude to the accompanying deficiencies of starfishes, lugworms, &c., found on sandy shores; but the want of a beach whereon to loll or stroll-and in the quiet hours of moonlight to wander nourishing one's middle age, sublime with the fairy tales of science and the long results of time-was really a drawback. However, sands are poor hunting-grounds; let us take consolation in that, and enjoy the positive excellencies of this place.
The evening of my arrival was spent in reconnoitring the coast and its promises. What a flutter agitated me as I bent over the many rockpools, clear as crystal, and sometimes enclosing perfect landscapes in miniature with their algæ! It seemed as if I should have nothing to do but stoop and fill my jars with treasures; for I had read in numerous books descriptions from which the inference
was, that nothing could be easier than collecting "marine store." "You stroll along the beach and pick up so-and-so," is the pleasant phrase of these writers, wishing, we must suppose, to make science appear easy. Now the truth should be told. It was quickly forced on my conviction that, although after a gale you may go down to the shore and find many things, dead, which you will carry home with interest-for "'tis an ill wind that blows nobody molluscs' yet hunting among the rocks is not easy nor always safe, nor certain to be successful. You must make up your mind to lacerated hands, even if you escape bruises, to utter soakings, to unusual gymnastics in wriggling yourself into impossible places. You can only do this at certain tides. And, after all, you may return emptyhanded, unless you are very modest in your desires. I did, indeed, behold a stout gentleman, who had been reading Mr Gosse, severely deluding himself into the idea that he was
collecting," because he was gasping among boulders with a pickle bottle in one hand and a walking-stick in the other; but I am not firmly persuaded that he carried home much worth his trouble.
Let me mention the proper equipment for a day's hunting, and you will see that the pickle-jar and walking-stick theory is primitive, but somewhat too simple. It is necessary to take with you from London, or any other large town, in or near which you may live, a geologist's hammer (let it be of reasonable size), and a cold chisel, the longer the better; to these add an oyster-knife, a paper-knife, a landing-net, and, if your intentions are serious, a small crowbar. Let us now go to market for a basket. It must be tolerably large, and flat-bottomed. Having made that small investment, we turn into the chemist's and buy up all the wide-mouthed phials he will sell us-those used for quinine are the best; but as he probably will only have two or three to sell, we must take what we can get. The short squat bottles, with wooden caps, now sold for tooth-powder, are very convenient. We lay hands on half-a-dozen of these, and having laid in three or four earthenware jars
tay y 16 detract in our diction, they en jab-pote, we return home v, gara eu electing basket, is done in this primitive faction: A loop of string serves to xop a large fam-pot at one end of the toare, at the other end another kep momtains a large phial; at one *56 a 1oop is made for hammer and owl; opposite are two more phials. Mr Góesé, in his Aquarium, I think, describes the basket he uses; but as you must order this to be made for you, my plan is sufficiently serviceare, and costs no trouble. The Rev. George Tugwell so well and so honourably known to all the anemones of Devonshire-has invented a charming kind of basket for those who can wait to have one made.* The basket ready, we are now equip ped. No; there is still one little implement. A piece of brass wire, the end twisted into a ring of two or three inches diameter, to which is fastened a canvass bag, makes a convenient little net to be used in pools too small to admit the landing-net.
The brief note in my journal which records the results of my first visit always amuses me when it catches my eye, "On the rocks. Found Some Actinize and Serpulæ." The idea of finding serpule will make even the amateur smile as he remembers how difficult it is to avoid these swarming annelids, whose shells, sharp as lancets, cut the hands in fifty different places before many stones are turned; but to my inexperienced eye there were only the empty shells of these serpula to be found, until I came upon some in the water with their little fans expanded, and these were pounced on with great eagerness. The actinia spoken of is the common Smooth Anemone
not even the strawberry variety (if you will face a long name, it is Mesembryanthemum) and this, which I bagged with great glee, I soon learned to pass by with no more regard than if it had been sea-weed. So much of our enjoyment depends on the difficulty of obtaining it, that these actiniæ, which I still hold to be exquisitely beautiful, and far more intrinsically beautiful than very many
of the rare species, to obtain which one nearly dislocates one's limbs, wriggling through crevices, or runs a risk of catching one's death" by standing in a pool dripped on from a thousand orifices abovethese actinie, I say, are left untouched because they are abundant, and do not demand the chisel Perverse, ungrateful human nature! What should we not think of daylight, or of woman's patient love, if it were not given with such generous abundance? Ask the prisoner, or the man who has scarcely known the mother's ceaseless tenderness, the wife's surpassing love! The coquette knows this by instinct, and she draws adventurous seekers after her. What a coquette is the Daisy (Actinia bellis, who displays her cinq-spotted bosom, beautiful as Imogen's, in the crystal pool. You are on your knees at once; but no sooner is your hand stretched towards her, than at the first touch she disappears in a hole. Nothing but chiselling out the piece of rock will secure her; and after all, your labour is the price paid for the capture, and the captive is priced accordingly; if as much labour had been given to the smooth anemone she would have seemed as lovely in your eyes.
There is something sad in the fugitive keenness of pleasure. I shall never feel again the delight of getting my first actinia. No rare species can give that peculiar thrill. There is a bloom on the cheek which the first kiss carries away, and which never again meets the same lips. No partridge is worth the first which falls by your gun; no second salmon is ever landed with the same pride as the first. Even printer's ink has a perfume when your "first proofs arrive. Who will revive within me that flutter which deprived me of all coolness and presence of mind, as first I saw the long grey serpent-like tentacles of Anthea cereus waving to and fro in a clear pool? Who will restore the enthusiasm of that moment when my eye first rested on a clump of Clavelince almost as translucent as the water in which they stood? And wherefore, three weeks
He has described it in his forthcoming Manual of Sea Anemones.