A History of the Earth, and Animated Nature


A History of the Earth, and Animated Nature is a work of natural history by Oliver Goldsmith. First published in 1774 in eight volumes, it attempted to bring together a history of the earth with a description of its geographical features and many of its species. Many further editions of the work were published in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century. These were often abridged versions of the original, in three, four or six volumes. This four-volume abridged edition, with coloured illustrations, is from 1824. 

The author of A History of the Earth, Oliver Goldsmith, was a novelist, poet and journalist as well as the author of many works of natural history. He is now best known for his 1766 novel, The Vicar of Wakefield.

A History of the Earth and George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss

In The Mill on the Floss (1860) Maggie Tulliver reads A History of the Earth as a young child. She describes its contents to the semi-literate miller, Luke:

elephants, and kangaroos, and the civet cat, and the sun-fish, and a bird sitting on its tail… There are countries full of those creatures, instead of horses and cows… Shouldn’t you like to know about them, Luke?’ (Book I, Ch.4)

Animated Nature (as Maggie calls it) teaches her about the world beyond her own home, and Maggie’s early enjoyment of it, alongside Pug’s Tour, hints at her hunger for new experiences, as well as her intelligence and love of learning.

Full title:
A History of the Earth, and Animated Nature
estimated 1824, London
Book / Illustration / Image
Oliver Goldsmith
Held by:
British Library

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