The Interpretation of Nature formed the subject of a course of Lowell Lectures which I had the honour of delivering in Boston last year, and of an article in the May number of the Contemporary Review. Of that article this little book is an expansion. I have introduced a few passages from a series of papers which appeared in the Monist in 1897 and succeeding years, and have utilised, in Section X., parts of an Address given at the International Congress of Arts and Science during the St. Louis Exposition. Were so small a volume worthy of such an inscription I would dedicate it to my many American friends, to whose kindness and courtesy I owe so much.
Insects are creatures which seem to defy the imagination with the strangeness of their form and their extraordinary habits. What a contrast to the vertebrates, which form the other culminating point of the animal kingdom! No doubt there are cruel and voracious species among the higher animals; some of them are frankly hostile to us, and many are remarkable for their instincts and their industry. But where do we find the forms and the singularity of habits which are the appanage of the articulates!
Canada, in a great belt that runs from sea to sea, across the southern territory of her dominion, is the civilised, rapidly growing country which we all know to-day. Therein, in out-of-the-way places where mankind pass not too often, there are still quantities of big game and fur-bearing animals and wild-fowl to delight the lover of nature and solitude. But it is not of such places that I write in this narrative-not of the outdoor places that are within reach of those who inhabit the populated south country of Canada; for the wanderings which it has been my good fortune to experience, and which henceforth I will endeavour to describe, were through a part of the great unpeopled North, which even to-day comprises more than half of the large Dominion of Canada.
This book is a simple account of the ripe experience of ten years spent in Central Africa, which is the tract of country known as Nyasaland and North-Eastern Rhodesia. The former protectorate used to be known as British Central Africa, and the latter territory is now amalgamated with North-Western Rhodesia, known collectively as Northern Rhodesia, to distinguish it from Southern Rhodesia, which embraces the old-time territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland.