Monday, July 25, 2005

The way that he went

On Saturday I spoke of Robert Lloyd Praeger, the Irish naturalist, and his classic natural history of Ireland The Way That I Went (1937). At the end of his book he confesses to "old-fogydom," and being out of step with his times. He prefers Mozart to Ravel, Constable to the cubists, Browning to Joyce, he confesses, and is befuddled by the rush and clatter, fuss and noise of the 20th century. He remembers with affection the courteous quakerish naturalists who taught him "the truths that lie at the bottom of all true science." And what are those truths? Praeger does delineate them explicitly, but they infuse his book from beginning to end: curiosity, attention, open-mindedness, deep thinking, skepticism of dogmas, especially those of religion and politics, a fierce love and loyalty to his own people and place, knowing he has much to learn from people and places everywhere.