Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

A Humanitarian Botanist – Flowers at Home

The Times, June 20, 1922

THE CALL OF THE WILDFLOWER. By H. S. SALT. (Allen and Unwin. 6s. net.)

Botanist is a title which Mr. Salt expressly disowns, as he tells us in one of these reprinted papers; but he is one nevertheless, and his pages will be enjoyed most by botanists, though anyone who likes to roam the English countryside ought to be able to read them with pleasure.

But botany, all the same, suggests the museum, or the formal garden, or the hortus siccus, and these things revolt Mr. Salt’s humanitarian spirit; he will have none of them, but insists that if we want to make the acquaintance of flowers, we must not compel them to dwell with us and be admired, but must go and visit them in their own shy homes. At any rate that is his method, and it has led him to make pilgrimages in many parts of England—Sussex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland, the Lake counties, North Wales, and elsewhere, to mountains, downs, valleys, marshes, foreshores, and chalkpits. “Seek and ye shall not need to find” is his motto; and he admits that, sought as he has, he has never yet seen the snow saxifrage or the mousetail; a flower-lover’s happiest success is often accidental.

Mr. Salt writes in his usual humour, which those who have read other books of his will recognize. He writes also in a public-minded spirit; the flora of a country, he holds, is the property of the people, and from this doctrine two corollaries depend. Picking and stealing must be discouraged, and, on the other hand, access to beautiful places must not be denied, nor need the notice “Trespassers will be prosecuted” be too seriously heeded.

Mr. Salt is an inveterate trespasser, and it is only when he trespasses and is challenged that he assumes the name of botanist, for under the cloak of the formal science which he otherwise abjures he finds that as a rule the prohibition is relaxed in his favour. This is a most useful tip. Between the pungency of Mr. Salt’s numerous diatribes as a reformer and the gentle Virgilian manner with which he describes his inanimate friends, his pages carry us to a conclusion which comes all too soon.