Gilbert White: Natural History & Journals

How could I overlook one of the most *celebrated* journal keepers, based in Jane Austen’s own county of HAMPSHIRE?

Gilbert White (18 July 1720-26 June 1793) lived in Selborne, Hampshire – inheriting upon his father’s death “The Wakes,” which is now a museum. Selborne is ten miles south of Basingstoke.

Although he was curate for Selborne, it is White’s observations of nature and the countryside that brought him the lasting fame he now “enjoys.” His 1789 book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne has really been in print ever since. His journals are what interest me the most, however; the daily tidbits of a life.

Gilbert White Journals

Top on the list of Gilbert White-related websites is THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE, which features “a fairly complete transcription of forty years of the personal journals.” In December (2018), I got caught up in his last year’s entries, 1793. I also found the entires of Timothy the Tortoise as entrancing as others have done (Timothy features in his own books, for instance!) The online entries are well-presented.

For those who love books, the 3-volume set of White’s journals, published (in full) in the late 1980s in an edition edited by Francesca Greenoak; illustrated by Clare Roberts. Sydney Padua calls this edition “gorgeous,” “huge,” and “lovely to hold.”

The Gilbert White House Museum has online the “original manuscript” of White’s book, written as a set of letters to Thomas Pennant, and others.

Gilbert White manuscript

The handwriting is consistent and easy to read, but, as you can see, contains “corrections” and “insertions.”

To sum up the man, I turn to Tom Clark, who writes: “All evidence indicates he [Gilbert White] was a cheerful, witty, mild and endlessly curious man.”

EXTRAS:

  • Tom Clark’s Beyond the Pale includes photos of The Wakes and the countryside, and cites some Gilbert White diary entries
  • Basic Information on Gilbert White, including a portrait, from the Gilbert White House Museum site: Who is Gilbert White?
  • Amy M. King, “Publication of Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne, 1789″
  • Rhian Williams, “Gilbert White’s Eighteenth Century Journals as ‘Everyday’ Ecology” (from Isle: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 24, No. 3, 2017) (viewed online or as PDF)
  • A fascinating look at the written descriptions of Gilbert White, as well as extant and inauthentic portraits, in The Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society (vol. 43, 1987): “Likenesses of the Reverend Gilbert White,” by J.E. Chatfield. (article is PDF)
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2 comments on “Gilbert White: Natural History & Journals

  1. pennyhampson2 says:

    I visited Selborne last year and would highly recommend it, both for the White connection and the Oates Collections.

    • Hi Penny – it does look to be an extensive site, between the house and the garden, and (as you say) the Oates Collections.

      I must admit to be no gardener at all, so people with a bit of background in gardening (which category I bet you fall into!) must get an extra special something out of the journals, book(s), and especially a visit!

      Thanks for visiting the blog, and for commenting. k

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