Thomas Urquhart


For the Beauty of the Earth

Birding, Opera, and Other Journeys

Today, when most personal memoirs involve misery and dysfunction, it is exhilarating to encounter a life of modesty, happiness, and immeasurable stability.

Often when we think of nature writers and naturalists, we think of the rough–hewn rural, rugged, outdoor type wrestled into epiphany by the arms of Mother Nature. Thomas Urquhart found a different path. He combined a classical education with a lifelong passion for opera, literature, and art. And from his earliest days he is a devoted, devotedly amateur naturalist.

In For the Beauty of the Earth Urquhart begins with the lives of his ancestors, among them his grandmother, "a patron saint of lost causes" who cherished her signed photo of Robert E. Lee, his great aunt Catharine, arrested along with Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marianne Moore while protesting what she considered the judicial murder of Sacco and Vanzetti. From the hills and fields of England—both old and new—he takes us to Italy for "birding through the Renaissance," then invites us to the wild landscape of Camargue in Provence, and the villages of Mali in West Africa. Through the years, birding provided Urquhart with opportunities for travel, a practical education, and a passionate place in the natural world.