VICTORIANS WERE IN LOVE WITH natural history. David Allen describes their passion as a series of crazes – over geology, over shells, and over ferns, as in pteridomania (mania over ferns) – to cite just a very few examples. Lynn Merrill, on the other hand, delineates a more comprehensive, cultural romance, one extending over many years. Whatever we choose to call this love, we are still in the process of discovering just how deep and lasting it was. Like many love affairs, it was marked at first by a blush enthusiasm and fascination with otherness. This was followed by curiosity and a rage to risk self in the quest to know more about the other – and sometimes, as a result, by ridiculous missteps. Think of George Eliot and George Henry Lewes sloshing around at the seashore, ill-equipped but determined to find out enough to write about what they were trying to capture and study. Or recall Mary Kingsley out in Africa in a canoe propelled by several Congolese, tumbling out of the boat but saving her trusted copy of Albert Günther's 1880 Introduction to the Study of Fishes, tenacious in her desire to bring back labeled specimens to the British Museum of Natural history. Earlier, in a similarly resolute quest to record birdlife, John and Elizabeth Gould globe-trotted to the extent that they put Elizabeth's life and their growing family at risk. And people like explorer/naturalist Thomas Bowdich died of fever for their fervor over natural history, in Bowdich's case as he worked to detail facts about specimens in Porto Santo, off the coast of West Africa. Bowdich left a wife to fend for herself and their family via her own study of natural history, and one result was Sara Bowdich Lee's beautifully illustrated Fresh-Water Fishes of Great Britain (1828). The romance with nature certainly cut across class and gender barriers. Stonecutter Hugh Miller could lose himself as easily in geological pursuits as could Charles Darwin or Sir Charles Lyell and Marianne North's passion for plants may well have matched or exceeded that of Kew's famous botanist, Sir Joseph Hooker.