23 june 2010

Earthworms obtain & encrease (sic) in the grass-walks, where in levelling they were dug down more than 18 inches. So that they were either left in the soil, deep as it was removed: or else the eggs or young remained in the turf. Worms seem to eat the earth; also brick-dust lying among the earth, as appears by their casts. They delight in slopes, probably to avoid being flooded, & perhaps supply slopes with mould, as it is washed away by rains. They draw straws, stalks of vine-leaves, &c. into their holes, no doubt for the purpose of food. Without worms perhaps vegetation would go on but lamely, since they perforate, loosen, & meliorate the soil, rendering it pervious to rains, the fibres of plants, &c. Worms come out all the winter in mild seasons.

- Gilbert White, 22nd September 1774

Beautiful observation and interpretation here by White, anticipating Darwin by over a century. So much is so well expressed here in such a short journal entry. White the master of the succinct.