Waterton emerges from this biography as a conglomeration of an Ivan Sanderson and a Will Beebe of today's naturalists- a von...

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THE STRANGE LIFE OF CHARLES WATERTON

Waterton emerges from this biography as a conglomeration of an Ivan Sanderson and a Will Beebe of today's naturalists- a von Humboldt- a Cook -- a Darwin of the past, with just a touch of Baron Munchaumen to make him a better spinner of tales. Certainly a pioneer among traveling English naturalists, his achievements have perhaps stood the test of time and memory less well than his eccentricities. The famous Peale portrait is known to many who know nothing of the man. A Roman Catholic in the early 19th century when to be a Catholic meant a certain degree of ostracism politically and socially, Waterton was educated by priests, and carried his Catholicism as a strangely contradictory banner throughout his life. It was the cause often of his quarrels with authority- and indirectly the reason for some of his eccentricities. The main part of this biography, however, follows his journeyings, his jungle adventures in the Guianas, in other parts of South America and the Caribbean islands: his definite contributions to knowledge of the action of snake poisons, of quinine, of curare and other drugs; his advanced theories (and practices) in taxidermy; his experiences as a naturalist and the records he contributed to science, often not substantiated until years later. His adventures always seemed to have the exaggerations of his own eccentricities and make odd reading. No wonder he was challenged and doubted in his lifetime. A long life- recorded in the too little known Autobiography, Essays and Wanderings in South America, and in his Yorkshire crony's intimate record- Dr. Hobson's Charles Waterton, His Home, Habits and Handiwork, this unique biography will bring him into public mind once again, though interest in it will perhaps be largely directed to those who enjoy naturalists' stories and curious tales.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Duell, Sloan & Pearce

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949