« PreviousContinue »
the last of his own family, and without children, died four years afterwards in 1707, and was buried on 29th October, at Kington St. Michael, Wilts. Mr. Lluyd, the Librarian, died in 1709.
William Aubrey died intestate. His circumstances appear to have been straitened, for his "principal creditor, Thomas Stokes,” took out Administration of his goods and chattels on the 24th of November following his death. Mr. Stokes was at that time a landowner at Kington St. Michael : and as all books and papers of William Aubrey's would necessarily fall into his hands, the first step was to trace the family of Mr. Stokes and make enquiry of them. This has been done; the descendants of Mr. Stokes of Kington St. Michael have since resided at Stanshawe's Court, near Yate. Co. Glouc: but the present representative, after making every reference in his power is unable to find any thing to shew that the MS. was ever in the possession of his ancestors.
After so long an interval as 150 years inquiry may be thought hopeless. That it is in any of our Public Libraries is hardly to be supposed, manuscripts of this character in those repositories being generally well known. But it is not impossible, perhaps not improbable, that it may be still in existence somewhere, and most likely in the county of Wilts. If on a shelf, and labelled “Hypomnemata Antiquaria,” it may have been passed over many times without the slightest conception that it contained a History of Wiltshire. At all events, merely as a literary fact, it should be known that such an additional volume of Aubrey's work did once exist. LEIGH-DELAMERE RECTORY,
J. E. JACKSON. CHIPPENHAM, January 1st, 1860. P.S. Since the above was in type, my attention has been called to an important Note in Rev. Thos. Warton's History of Kiddington 4to. 1783, p. 44; in which Mr. Warton is speaking of Alderton House in Wilts, then the seat of George Montagu, Esq.; but formerly belonging to Thos. Gore, Esq., a friend of Aubrey's. He says, “In Aubrey's time many old escocheons of painted glass were remaining in the great Hall of the Manor House, which he (Aubrey) has drawn in his Manuscript History of Wiltshire, now (i.e. 1783) partly preserved in the Library there (i.e. at Alderton), and partly in the Ashmolean Museum." From this it would appear that Mr. Warton had personally consulted in the Library at Alderton, in the year 1783, a Volume of Aubrey's MSS: which must surely have been the Volume now enquired for. The Alderton Library was dispersed by Sale about the year 1815.
On the Ornithology of Wilts.
No. 10.-INSESSORES (Perchers). Continued from vi. 182.
Conirostres (cone billed).
come now to the second great division of the Perching
birds, and having examined all those whose soft notched bill proclaims the insect nature of their food, we have arrived at those exhibiting a harder and more conical shaped beak, bespeaking at once that grain forms the principal part of their diet. As we proceed with the families of this tribe, we shall see this typical characteristic develop itself more and more, till we come to some species armed with such strong sharp-pointed beaks, as to be enabled to break the very stoutest seeds and even the stones of many fruits, as well as to pierce the hard ground, in search of food : but (as I before pointed out) nature makes no rapid strides from one distinct kind to another, but only gradually and step by step leads us on : thus, insensibly as it were, and through many connecting links joining together genera and species, the most opposite to one another in appearance and habits.
ALAUDIDÆ (The Larks). We cannot have a better proof of what I have just said, than in the family we now proceed to consider, standing at the head of the Conirostral tribe, and bearing so great an affinity in many respeots to the last family of the Dentirostres, viz: the Pipits ; for the Larks, though to a certain extent grain consumers, yet feed on insects as well; and though they have a short strong bill, yet it is styled by Selby and Yarrell Subconic, rather than conical, proving the exact position they hold.
“Sky lark” (Alauda arvensis). Intimately associated in the minds of all with blue sky, bright sunshine, open down, and aerial music, is the very name of this favorite songster: all its motions
VOL. VII.NO. XIX.
betoken such excessive happiness in unconstrained liberty, such intense appreciation of freedom, as it mounts upwards higher and higher, and soaring into the clouds, pours forth such strains as ravish mortals below, that it is positively painful to see it incarcerated in a cage, and to reflect how its heart must throb, and how intensely it must pine to burst its prison bars, and soar away out of sight of its persecutors, singing a hymn of gladness and gratitude at its escape : it remains with us the whole year, and is essentially one of our down birds, preferring open arable lands to more enclosed districts: towards autumn it associates in flocks and frequents stubble and turnip fields : it never perches on trees, but walks or runs on the ground very swiftly, which it is enabled to do by means of the very long straight hind claw, which gives it a firm footing on the ground. It sings in descending, as well as in ascending, and while hovering in the air; and anon as some fright or sudden impulse seizes it, down it will come like a stone to the earth, and away amongst the corn to its nest; but only to soar upwards again presently, singing more merrily than before; and we may hear it carolling away long after we have lost sight of the rapidly diminishing speck retreating into the clouds, for “Excelsior” is ever the motto of this aspiring bird.
“Wood lark” (Alauda arborea). Very like its congener, but considerably smaller, with a shorter tail, and a white line over the eye and round the back of the head, this species is sparingly soattered through the County, frequenting woods, as its name implies, and singing sweetly while perched on some tree, as well as while sailing about on the wing: indeed it has generally the reputation of excelling the Skylark in song, though I am scarcely willing to allow this : it is a permanent resident with us, and in food and nesting closely resembles the preceding. I have before mo many notes of its occurrence from various localities both in North and South Wilts, proving that it is generally distributed throughout the County.
EMBERIZIDÆ. (The Buntings). Members of this family may at once be distinguished from all others by a hard bony oblong knob in the upper mandible, which
is narrow and smaller than the lower one : they are somewhat clumsy in form, with large heads and short necks, and heavy in flight; they eat grain and seeds in the winter, but in the summer insects and their larvæ form no small portion of their food. “Snow Bunting.”
(Plectrophanes nivalis). This native of northern regions seldom comes so far South as Wiltshire, though it appears pretty regularly every winter on our Eastern and Northern coasts, and I have met with it in considerable numbers on the shores of the “ Wash” in Norfolk : at that season, however, its plumage is reddish brown above and dull white beneath, and so much do individuals 'vary from one another in hue as well as in the distribution of their colours, that they have often been erroneously divided into several species, receiving the sobriquet of “Tawny” and “Mountain ” Bunting, according to their sex and age and garb : but it is in summer plumage and in the extreme North that this bird is to be seen in perfection, arrayed in its attractive dress of deep black and pure white, and haunting the highest and most desolate fjelds of Scandinavia: and there I have been so fortunate as to meet with it on several occasions, now flitting from one lichen covered rock to another, now running quickly over the snow, seeming to delight in those wild in hospitable regions, so congenial to its habits, but so little to the taste of most members of the animal kingdom. I have never seen it in this County, but I learn from Mr. Withers that it has been occasionally killed in various localities, and brought to him for preservation; and Mr. Elgar Sloper of Devizes informs me that he has seen several which had been killed on Salisbury Plain : I should therefore suppose it to be an occasional and not very infrequent straggler, though by no means a regular winter visitant here.
“ Common Bunting.” (Emberiza miliaria.) Though extremely common, especially in the vast tracks of arable land on our downs, this bird from its great similarity of plumage to the Skylark is seldom recognized by ordinary observers : and yet its more bulky shape and heavier gait and more awkward flight should at once distinguish it from its more sprightly companion: it has little or no song, but may be seen perched on the topmost spray
low hedge, uttering its somewhat harsh screaming note. It is the largest of the family, and remains with us throughout the year: it is known also as the “Corn Bunting" and the “Bunting lark.”
" Blackheaded Bunting” (Emberizu schæniclus) called also the Reed Bunting from the localities it frequents, and the Reed Sparrow from its general resemblance to our common House Sparrow. This bright handsome bird may be met with sparingly wherever there is water: indeed I have often seen it frequenting a dry ditch, and have found its nest at some distance from the nearest stream: it delights however in moist wet places, abounding in sedge and reeds and coarse grass, and here you may generally see its black head standing out in contrast with its white collar.
“ Yellow Bunting” (Emberiza citrinella) well known to every body as the Yellow Hammer, though here we have an instance of
general error so universally propagated that any effort to correct it would seem almost hopeless : yet in truth Yellow Ammer is the correct word, ammer being the German term for Bunting, which is undoubtedly meant by the generic name we ordinarily employ, prefixing an unnecessary and meaningless H after the manner of certain of our provincial countrymen. The Yellow Bunting may be met with in every hedge and wood during the summer, and in winter it may be seen in flocks on the bushes and in the open fields, occasionally resorting to the stack yard in severe weather; and a very beautiful bird it is with golden yellow head and chesnut and yellow plumage, and highly would it be prized was it not so common : but alas ! with birds as with human beings, we are apt to overlook the brightest and best, if they are ever before our eyes, whereas we highly prize and bestow abundant attention on the inferior and less deserving, if only occasionally seen by us.
“Cirl Bunting” (Emberiza cirlus). Montagu first discovered this bird as British, and Yarrell says that it is “ generally found on the coast, and does not often appear to go far in-land ;” but here for once our grand master in Ornithology is at fault, and indeed“ quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus ;” for in addition to many notices of its occurrence in all parts of the County, North and South, from various observers on whose accuracy I can rely, I