Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2019
Chapter 3 examines the formal realism of “reverent natural history,” describing the formal properties of natural histories in ways that we have assumed were the sole province of the realist novel’s descriptive operations. The focus is on P. H.Gosse’s seashore trilogy, including A Naturalist’s Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, The Aquarium, and Tenby. These formal properties include: the prevalence of detail that the inductive process and theological orientation that the texts encourage; the quality of dilation as a function of reverence; and how detail, dilation, and minuteness are formal and thematic attributes of these natural histories, which reflect a religiosity that goes beyond the overt references to design arguments. The chapter’s second half focuses on two natural environments of the seashore naturalist: the aquarium and the tide-pool. These environments are read as literary figures, as heightened sites of metonymic display.