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Gilbert White's beautifully written evocation of the natural world of Selborne has remained enduringly popular since its first publication in 1788-9. What explains the fascination of this work? Gilbert White made many original contributions to science, but these were minor by comparison with those of giants like Darwin and Mendel. Yet his book, more than any other, has shaped our everyday view of the relations between human beings and nature. In it he suggests that the lives of birds and animals have their own richness and rhythm, and in demonstrating this belief with accuracy and percipience he struck a new note in nature writing. He once commented, 'The investigation of the life and conversation of animals is a concern of much more trouble and difficulty, and is not to be attained but by the active and inquisitive, and by those that reside much in the country.' Gilbert White was all of these things, and through his delightful 'parochial history' Selborne becomes, in David Elliston Allen's phrase, 'the secret, private parish inside each one of us'.