Bird Watching (UK) - - Profile Gilbert White -

Like most of the vil­lage, Sel­borne church is a shrine to Gil­bert White. His grand­fa­ther was vicar and the nat­u­ral­ist him­self served the church as a cu­rate. The church­yard be­gins in the heart of the vil­lage be­neath the cel­e­brated hanger (a wood on the side of a steep hill) and falls away east­wards to dis­tant fields and woods. Bird­song con­stantly fills the Hamp­shire air. White’s tomb­stone lies just north of the chan­cel, marked as he wished with the sim­plest of in­scrip­tions, ‘G.W. 26th June 1793’. Inside the church, there are two White me­mo­rial win­dows in the south aisle. That on the south wall is a big work of 1920, por­tray­ing the vil­lage and church, with St Fran­cis preach­ing to ev­ery bird men­tioned in the di­aries – a great source of fun for chil­dren who can point them all out. The mov­ing east win­dow, erected in the 1930s, has clear glass and per­mits a view of na­ture be­yond, but in­cludes roundels of Rab­bits, a tur­tle, a Hedge­hog and a bat. It is among the loveli­est of 20th Cen­tury win­dows. De­spite these nu­mer­ous me­men­toes, noth­ing will im­mor­talise White more than his sem­i­nal work. It has been long held to be the fourth-most pub­lished book in the English lan­guage af­ter the Bible, the works of Shake­speare and John Bun­yan’s The Pil­grim’s Progress. True or not, it is some statis­tic.

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