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Title: The Book of Curiosities

Author: I. Platts

Release Date: February 3, 2013 [EBook #41983]

Language: English

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Remarkable and Astonishing PLACES, BEINGS, ANIMALS, CUSTOMS,
EXPERIMENTS, PHENOMENA, etc., of both Ancient
and Modern Times, on all Parts of the GLOBE: comprising
Authentic Accounts of the most WONDERFUL










[Pg iii]


Abderites, or inhabitants of Abdera, curious account of, 45

Abstinence, wonders of, 67

Act of faith, 638

Adansonia; or, African calabash tree, 378

Agnesi, Maria Gaetana, account of, 120

Agrigentum, in Sicily, ruins of, 540

Air, its pressure and elasticity, 839

Alarm bird, 243

Alexandria, buildings and library of, 549

Alhambra, 559

Alligators, 164

American natural history, 182

Anagrams, 450

Andes, 415

Androides, 701

Anger, surprising effects of, 82

Animalcules, 357

Animal generation, curiosities respecting, 139

Animals, formation of, 142

Animals, preservation of, 144

Animals, destruction of, 150

Animal reproductions, 154

Animals and plants, winter sleep of, 808

Animals, remarkable strength of affection in, 184

Animals, surprising instances of sociality in, 185

Animals, unaccountable faculties possessed by some, 187

Animals, remarkable instances of fasting in, 189

Animal flower, 392

Anthropophagi, or men-eaters, account of, 75

Ants, curiosities of, 290

Ants, green, 311

Ants, white, or termites, 301

Ant, lion, 312

Ants, visiting, 312

Aphis, curiosities respecting, 331

Aqueducts, remarkable, 795

Arc, Joan of, 927

Ark of Noah, 582

Artificer, unfortunate, 745

Artificial figure to light a candle, 830

Asbestos, 402

Athos, mount, 423

Attraction, examples of, 837

Augsburg, curiosities of, 576

Aurora borealis, 684

Automaton, description of, 700


Babylon, 557

Bacon flitch, custom at Dunmow, Essex, 605

Balbeck, ancient ruins of, 538

Bannian tree, 374

Baptism, a curious one, 642

Baratier, John Philip, premature genius of, 125

Barometer, rules for predicting the weather by it, 864

Beards, remarks concerning, 31

Beaver, description of, 156

Beavers, habitations of the, 158

Bee, the honey, 265

Bees, wild, curiosities of, Clothier Bee, Carpenter Bee, Mason Bee, Upholsterer Bee, Leaf-cutter Bee, 277, 278, 279, 280

Bees, account of an idiot-boy and, 283

Bees, Mr. Wildman’s curious exhibitions of, explained, 283

Bells, baptism of, 639

Benefit of clergy, origin and history of, 623

Bird of Paradise, 230

Bird, singular account of one inhabiting a volcano in Guadalope, 246

Bird-catching fish, 196

Bird-catching, curious method of, 260

Birds, method of preserving, 865

Birds, hydraulic, 713

Birds, song of, 261

Birds’ nests, 251

Bisset, Samuel, the noted animal instructor, 124

Bletonism, 95

Blind clergyman of Wales, 903

Blind persons, astonishing acquisitions made by some, 46

Blind Jack of Knaresborough, 900

Blood, circulation of, 24

Blunders, book of, 761

Boa Constrictor, 217

Boat-fly, 342

Body, human, curiosities of the, 13

Bolea, Monte, 418

Books, curious account of the scarcity of, 757

Borrowdale, 458

Bottles, to uncork, 836

Boverick’s curiosities, 713

Bowthorpe oak, 382

Bread-fruit tree, 372

Bread, old, curious account of, 807

Brine, to ascertain the strength of, 839

Brown, Simon, and his curious dedication to queen Caroline, 108

Bunzlau curiosities, 714

Buonaparte, principal events in the life of, 126

Burning spring in Kentucky, 493

Burning and hot springs, 494, 495, 496, 497

Burning, extraordinary cures by, 792

Burning-glasses, 717
[Pg iv]
Bustard, the great, 243

Butterflies, beauty and diversities of, 344

Butterflies, to take an impression of their wings, 866


Camera obscura, to make, 830

Candiac, John Lewis, account of, 113

Candlemas-day, 632

Cannon, extraordinary, 807

Cards, origin of, 767

Carrier, or courier pigeon, 244

Carthage, ancient grandeur of, 542

Case, John, celebrated quack doctor, 113

Catching a hare, curious custom respecting, 601

Caterpillar, 219

Caterpillar-eaters, 220

Cave of Fingal, 452

Cave near Mexico, 457

Centaurs and Lapithæ, 785

Chameleon, particulars respecting, 175

Changeable flower, 387

Cheese-mite, curiosities respecting, 358

Chemical illuminations, 844

Chick, formation of in the egg, 249

Child, extraordinary arithmetical powers of a, 88

Chiltern hundreds, 634

China, great wall of, 579

Chinese, funeral ceremonies of the, 610

Christmas-boxes, origin of, 633

Cinchona, or Peruvian bark, curious effects of, 390

Clepsydra, 706

Clock-work, extraordinary pieces of, 704

Clouds, electrified, terrible effects of, 656

Coal-pit, visit to one, 469

Cocoa-nut tree, 371

Coins of the kings of England, 814

Cold, surprising effects of extreme, 659

Colossus, 570

Colours, experiments on, 867

Colours, incapacity of distinguishing, 56

Combustion of the human body by the immoderate use of spirits, 97

Common house-fly, curiosities of the, 337

Company of Stationers, singular custom annually observed by the, 766

Conscience, instances of the power of, 84

Cormorant, 242

Coruscations, artificial, 849

Cotton wool, curious particulars of a pound weight of, 391

Countenance, human, curiosities of the, 18

Cromwell, A. M. of Hammersmith, a rich miser, 897

Creeds of the Jews, 775

Crichton, the admirable, 911

Crichup Linn, 797

Crocodile, 163

Crocodile, fossil, curiosity of, 165

Cuckoo, curiosities respecting, 240

Curfew bell, why so called, 635

Curious historical fact, 744


Dancer, Daniel, account of, 104

Dajak, inhabitants of Borneo, curious funeral ceremonies of, 612

Deaf, to make the, perceive sounds, 828

Deaths, poetical, grammatical, and scientific, 73

Death-watch, 347

Diamond mine, on the river Tigitonhonha, in the Brazilian territory, 460

Diamond, wonderful, 405

Diana, temple of, at Ephesus, 554

Dictionary, modern, 950

Dimensions, &c. of some of the largest trees growing in England, 382

Diseases peculiar to particular countries, 789

Dismal swamp, 798

Dog, remarkable, 194

Dog, curious anecdotes of a, 195

Dogs, sagacity of, 193

Dreams, instances of extraordinary, 70

Dwarfs, extraordinary, 40


Eagle, the golden, 237

Ear, curious structure of the, 22

Earl of Pembroke, curious extracts from the will of an, 773

Earth-eaters, 908

Earthquakes, and their causes, 499

Eating, singularities of different nations in, 595

Eclipses, 676

Eddystone rocks, 797

Egg, to soften an, 851

Electricity, illumination by, 793

Electrical experiments, 841

Elephant, account of an, 168

Elephant, docility of the, 170

Elwes, John, account of, 104

English ladies turned Hottentots, 744

Ephemeral flies, 343

Ephesus, temple of Diana at, 554

Escurial, 577

Etna, 443

Extraordinary custom, 601

Eye, curious formation of the, 20


Fact, the most extraordinary on record, 744

Fairy rings, 667

Falling stars, 681

Faquirs, travelling, 940

Fasting, extraordinary instances of, 65

Fata Morgana, 665

Feasts, among the ancients of various nations, 614

Female beauty and ornaments, 596

Fiery fountain, 844

Fire-balls, 655

Fire of London, 748

Fire, perpetual, 806

Fisher, Miss Clara, 905

Fishes, air bladder in, 201

Fishes, respiration in, 202
[Pg v]
Fishes, shower of, 203

Flea, account of a, 325

Flea, on the duration of the life of a, 328

Florence statues, 579

Fly, the common house, 337

Fly, the Hessian, 336

Fly, the May, 340

Fly, the vegetable, 341

Fly, the boat, 342

Flying, artificial, 716

Fountain trees, 375

Freezing mixture, to form, 859

Freezing, astonishing expansive force of, 661

Friburg, curiosities of, 575

Friendship, curious demonstrations of, 594

Friendship, true Roman, recipe for establishing, 951

Fright, or terror, remarkable effects of, 82

Frog, the common, 160

Frog-fish, 196

Frosts, remarkable, 533

Flower, the animal, 392

Fruits, injuries from swallowing the stones of, 791

Funeral ceremonies of the ancient Ethiopians, 609

Fungi, 395


Galley of Hiero, 584

Galvanism, 689

Gardens, floating, 580

Gardens, hanging, 558

Garter, origin of the order of the, 623

Gas lights, miniature, 836

Gauts, or Indian Appenines, 421

Giants, curious account of, 39

Giant’s causeway, 590

Gipsies, 732

Glaciers, 529

Glass, ductility of, 720

Glass, to cut, without a diamond, 833

Glass, to write on, by the sun’s rays, 858

Gluttony, instances of extraordinary, 64

Gold, remarkable ductility and extensibility of, 721

Graham, the celebrated Dr. 909

Gravity, experiments respecting the, 838

Great events from little causes, 746

Grosbeak, the social, 234

Grosbeak, the Bengal, 235

Grotto in South America, 445

Grotto del Cani, 446

Grotto of Antiparos, 447

Grotto of Guacharo, 450

Growth, extraordinary instances of rapid, 37

Guinea, explanation of all the letters on a, 768

Gulf stream, 490


Hagamore, Rev. Mr. a most singular character, 896

Hail, surprising showers of, 518

Hair of the head, account of, 28

Hair, instances of the internal growth of, 30

Hair, ancient and modern opinions respecting the, 29

Halo, or corona, and similar appearances, 680

Hand-fasting, 609

Harmattan, 511

Harrison, a singular instance of parsimony, 903

Heat, diminished by evaporation, 839

Hecla, 442

Heidelberg clock, 705

Heinecken, Christian Henry, account of, 114

Hell, opinions respecting, 812

Henderson, John, the Irish Crichton, 883

Henry, John, singular character of, 107

Herculaneum and Pompeii, 536

Herschel’s grand telescope, 713

Hessian fly, 339

Hobnails, origin of the sheriff’s counting, 622

Holland, North, curious practice in, 630

Honour, extraordinary instances of, 80

Horse, remarkable instances of sagacity in a, 192

Human heart, structure of the, 24

Humming bird, 236

Huntingdon, William, eccentric character of, 134

Hurricane, curious particulars respecting a, 511

Husband long absent, returned, 741

Hydra, or polypes, account of, 359


Ice, Greenland or polar, 525

Ice, tremendous concussions of fields of, 528

Ice, showers of, 533

Ignis Fatuus, 644

Improvement of the learned, 765

Incubus, or nightmare, 941

Indian jugglers, 897

Individuation, 780

Indulgences, Romish, 636

Ingratitude, shocking instances of, 78

Inks, various sympathetic, 853 to 857

Insects, metamorphoses of: the butterfly, the common fly, the grey-coated gnat, the shardhorn beetle, 345

Insects blown from the nose, —

Integrity, striking instances of, 77

Inverlochy castle, 574

Island, new, starting from the sea, 491


Jew’s harp, 795

John Bull, origin of the term of, 634


Killarney, the lake of, 487

Kimos, singular nation of dwarfs, 43

Knout, 804

Kraken, 210


Labrador stone, 402

Lady of the Lamb, 601

Lama, 810
[Pg vi]
Lambert, Daniel, account of, 887

Lamps, remarkable, 805

Lamp, phosphoric, 844

Lanterns, feast of, 621

Laocoon, monument of, 556

Leaves, to take an impression of them, 866

Letter, curious, from Pomare, king of Otaheite, to the Missionary Society, 773

Libraries, celebrated, 760

Light produced under water, 850

Lightning, extraordinary properties and effects of, 651

Lightning, to produce artificial, 844

Liquids, to produce changeable-coloured, 858

Liquids, to exchange two in different bottles, 872

Literary labour and perseverance, 756

Lizard, imbedded in coal, 225

Locusts, and their uses in the creation, 349

London, compendious description of, 813

London, intellectual improvement in, 761

Longevity, extraordinary instances of, 96

Louse, 328

Love-letter, and answer, curious, 774

Luminous insects, 319


M‘Avoy, Miss Margaret, 919

Maelstrom, 489

Magdalen’s hermitage, 575

Magic oracle, 845

Magical bottle, 851

Magical drum, 806

Magnetism, 693

Magnetic experiments, 848

Magnify, to, small objects, 882

Mahometan paradise, 811

Maiden, 599

Mammoth, or Fossil Elephant, found in Siberia, 170

Man with the iron mask, 727

Mandrake, 387

Marmot, or the Mountain Rat of Switzerland, 167

Marriage custom of the Japanese, 604

Marriage ceremonies, curious, in different nations, 602

Masons, free and accepted, 737

Mathematical talent, curious instance of, 93

Matrimonial ring, 608

Matter, divisibility of, 793

May-fly, 340

May poles and garlands, the origin of, 629

Memnon, palace of, 552

Memory, remarkable instance of, 86

Metals, different, to discover, 828

Metals, mixed, to detect, 871

Metcalf, John, alias Blind Jack of Knaresborough, 900

Microscopic experiments, 859

Migration of birds, 253

Mills, remarkable, 799

Mint of Segovia, 799

Miraculous vessel, 852

Mirage, account of, 521

Miners, curious effects of, 833

Mite, the cheese, curiosities respecting, 358

Mock suns, 673

Mocking bird of America, 233

Mole, the common, 159

Money, test of good or bad, 834

Monkey, sagacity of a, 192

Monsoons, or trade winds, 512

Monster, 777

Montague, Edward Wortley, 110

Mont Blanc, in Switzerland, 427

Moon, account of three volcanoes in the, 682

Morland, George, account of, 114

Moscow, great bell of, 726

Mosquitoes, and their uses, 355

Mourning, ancient modes of, 613

Mountains, natural descriptions of, 406

Mountains Written, Mountains of Inscription, or Jibbel El Mokatteb, 422

Mount Snowden, excursion to the top of, 412

Mud and Salt, volcanic eruptions of, in the island of Java, 467

Murdering statue, 801

Museum, 566

Mushroom, 395

Mushroom-stone, 402


Names, curious, adopted in the civil war, 772

Naphtha springs, 492

National debt, singular calculation respecting, 816

Natural productions, resembling artificial compositions, 804

Natural history, curious facts in, 247

Nautilus, 197

Navigation, perfection of, 481

Needles, 722

Needle’s eye, 459

News, origin of the word, 762

Newspapers, origin of, 762

New studies in old age, instances of, 763

New year’s gifts, origin of, 633

Niagara, and its falls, 485

Nicholas Pesce, 117

Nitre caves of Missouri, 457

Nokes, Edward, a miser, 888

Numbers, remarkable instance of skill in, 86

Numbers, curious arrangements of, 868, 871

Nuns, particulars respecting, 811

Nuovo, Monte, 419


Oak-tree, remarkable account of, 380

Oakham, custom at, 630

Obelisk, remarkable, near Forres, in Scotland, 573

Okey Hole, 458

Orang-Outang, 178

Origin of ‘That’s a Bull,’ 635

Origin of the old adage respecting St. Swithin, and rainy weather, 635

Ornithorhynchus paradoxus, 166

Ostrich, curiosities of the, 231

Owl, adventure of an, 247
[Pg vii]


Pausilippo, 419

Peacock, the common, 226

Peak in Derbyshire, description of, 409

Peeping Tom of Coventry, 740

Peg, to make a, to fit three differently shaped holes, 872

Pelican, the great, 229

Penance, curious account of a, 643

Performances of a female, blind almost from her infancy, 53

Persons born defective in their limbs, wonderful instances of adroitness of, 54

Peruke, 783

Peru, mines of, 465

Pesce, Nicholas, extraordinary character of, 117

Pharos of Alexandria, 549

Phosphoric fire, sheet of, 669

Phosphorus, 670

Pichinca, 415

Pico, 422

Pigeon, wild, its multiplying power, 245

Pigeon, carrier, or courier, 244

Pin-making, 721

Pitch-wells, 468

Plague, dreadful instances of the, in Europe, 747

Plant, curious, 386

Plants, curious dissemination of, 366

Plants upon the earth, prodigious number of, 367

Plough-Monday, origin of, 632

Poison-eater, remarkable account of, 94

Pompey’s pillar, 547

Pope Joan, 931

Portland vase, 800

Praxiteles’ Venus, 712

Praying machines of Kalmuck, 642

Price, Charles, the renowned swindler, 889

Prince Rupert’s drops, 853

Prolificness, extraordinary instances of, 37

Psalmanazar, George, noted impostor, 112

Pulpit, curious, 801

Pyramids of Egypt, 544


Quaint lines, 772

Queen Charlotte, curious address to, 769

Queen, a blacksmith’s wife become a, 749

Queen Elizabeth’s dinner, curious account of the ceremonies at, 749

Queen Elizabeth, quaint lines on, 772


Recreations, amusing, in optics, &c. 873 to 882

Recreations, amusing, with numbers, 820 to 827

Religion, celebrated speech on, 944

Reproduction, 781

Repulsion, examples of, 837

Respiration, interesting facts concerning, 26

Revivified rose, 858

Rhinoceros, 162

Rings, on the origin of, 606

Rosin bubbles, 851

Royal progenitors, 744

Ruin at Siwa in Egypt, 534


Salutation, various modes of, 598

Sand-floods, account of, 521

Savage, Richard, extraordinary character of, 128

Scaliot’s lock, 712

Scarron, Paul, account of, 119

Schurrman, Anna Maria, 123

Scorpion, 213

Sea, curiosities of the, 471

Sea, on the saltness of, 476

Sea, to measure the depth of the, 829

Sea serpent, American, 218

Seal, common account of, 180

Seal, ursine, 181

Seeds, germination of, 365

Sensibility of plants, 368

Sensitive plant, 369

Seraglio, 564

Serpents, fascinating power of, 219

Sexes, difference between the, 34

Sexes at birth, comparative number of the, 36

Shark, 198

Sheep, extraordinary adventures of one, 190

Shelton oak, description of, 382

Ship worm, 224

Ship at sea, to find the burden of a, 829

Shoes, curiosities respecting, 724

Shoe-makers, literary, 764

Shower of gossamers, curious phenomenon of a, 523

Shrovetide, 630

Silk-mill at Derby, 800

Silk stockings, electricity of, 842

Silkworm, 220

Singular curiosity, 405

Skiddaw, 414

Sleep-walker, 69

Sleeping woman of Dunninald, 70

Smeaton, John, 113

Sneezing, curious observations on, 33

Snow grotto, 451

Solfatara, the lake of, 488

Sound, experiments on, 840

Spectacle of a sea-fight at Rome, 711

Spectacles, a substitute for, 807

Spectre of the Broken, 420

Spider, curiosities of the, 314

Spider, tamed, 316

Spider, ingenuity of a, 316

Spider, curious anecdote of a, 318

Spirits of wine, to ascertain the strength of, 839

Spontaneous inflammations, 786

Sports, book of, 766

’Squire, old English, 925

Stalk, animated, 392

Star, falling or shooting, 401

Stephenson, the eccentric, 895
[Pg viii]
Steel, to melt, 830

Stick, to break a, on two wine-glasses, 871

Stone, the meteoric, 401

Stone, the Labrador, 402

Stone, the changeable, 404

Stone-eater, remarkable account of, 94

Stonehenge, 592

Storks, 229

Storm, singular effects of a, 519

Strasburg clock, 705

Sugar, antiquity of, 390

Sulphur mountains, 424

Sun, diminution of the, 673

Sun, spots in the, 671—to shew ditto, 852

Surgical operation, extraordinary, 791

Swine’s concert, 750

Sword-swallowing, 62

Sympathetic inks, 853 to 857


Tallow-tree, 378

Tantalus’ cup, 852

Tape-worm, 222

Tea, Chinese method of preparing, 388

Telegraph, 708

Temple of Tentira, in Egypt, 550

Tenures, curious, 628

Thermometrical experiments, 863

Thermometer, moral and physical, 817

Thread burnt, not broken, 844

Thunder powder, 836

Thunder rod, 654

Tides, 479

Titles of books, 755

Toad, common, description of, 161

Topham, Thomas, character of, 115

Tornado, description of a, 510

Torpedo, 200

Tortoise, the common, 176

Tree of Diana, 852

Trees, account of a country, in which the inhabitants reside in, 45


Unbeliever’s creed, 776

Unfortunate artificer, 745

Unicorn, 179

Upas, or poison tree, 383


Valentine’s-day, origin of, 632

Van Butchell, Mrs. preservation of her corpse, 902

Vegetable kingdom, curiosities in the, 363

Vegetables, number of known, 367

Vegetable fly, 341

Velocity of the wind, 517

Ventriloquism, 58

Vesuvius, 434, 947

Vicar of Bray, 748

Voltaic pile, to make a cheap, 847

Vulture, Egyptian, 228

Vulture, secretary, 228


Wasp, curiosities respecting the, 285

Watch, the mysterious, 835

Watches, invention of, 707

Water, to boil without heat, 835

Water, to weigh, 834

Water, to retain, in an inverted glass, 835

Waterspout, 663

Waves stilled by oil, 480

Weaving engine, 712

Whale, great northern, or Greenland, 204

Whale fishery, 208

Whig and Tory, explanation of the terms, 776

Whirlpool near Sudero, 489

Whirlwinds of Egypt, 509

Whispering places, and extraordinary echoes, 802

Whitehead’s ship, 712

Whittington, Sir Richard, 932

Wild man, account of a, 76

Wind, velocity of, 517

Winds, remarkable, in Egypt, 507

Wine cellar, curious, 799

Winter in Russia, 524

Wolby, Henry, extraordinary character of, 105

Women with beards, curious account of, 32

Wooden eagle, and iron fly, 711

Writing, origin of the materials of, 751

Writing, minute, 753


Xerxes’ bridge of boats over the Hellespont, 586


Zeuxis, celebrated painter, 116.



[Pg ix]


“Ye curious minds, who roam abroad,
And trace Creation’s wonders o’er!
Confess the footsteps of the God,
And bow before him, and adore.”


It was well observed by Lord Bacon, that “It would much conduce to the magnanimity and honour of man, if a collection were made of the extraordinaries of human nature, principally out of the reports of history; that is, what is the last and highest pitch to which man’s nature, of itself, hath ever reached, in all the perfection of mind and body. If the wonders of human nature, and virtues as well of mind as of body, were collected into a volume, they might serve as a calendar of human triumphs.”

The present work not only embraces the Curiosities of human nature, but of Nature and Art in general, as well as Science and Literature. Surrounded with wonders, and lost in admiration, the inquisitive mind of man is ever anxious to know the hidden springs that put these wonders in motion; he eagerly inquires for some one to take him by the hand, and explain to him the curiosities of the universe. And though the works of the Lord, like his nature and attributes, are great, and past finding out, and we cannot arrive at the perfection of science, nor discover the secret impulses which nature obeys, yet can we by reading, study, and investigation, dissipate much of the darkness in which we are enveloped, and dive far beyond the surface of this multifarious scene of things—The noblest employment of the human [Pg x]understanding is, to contemplate the works of the great Creator of the boundless universe; and to trace the marks of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, throughout the whole. This is the foundation of all religious worship and obedience; and an essential preparative for properly understanding, and cordially receiving, the sublime discoveries and important truths of divine revelation. “Every man,” says our Saviour, “that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” And no man can come properly to Christ, or, in other words, embrace the christian religion, so as to form consistent views of it, and enter into its true spirit, unless he is thus drawn by the Father through a contemplation of his works. Such is the inseparable connection between nature and grace.

A considerable portion of the following pages is devoted to Curiosities in the works of Nature, or, more properly, the works of God, for,

“Nature is but an effect, and God the cause.”

The Deity is the

“Father of all that is, or heard, or hears!
Father of all that is, or seen, or sees!
Father of all that is, or shall arise!
Father of this immeasurable mass
Of matter multiform; or dense, or rare;
Opaque, or lucid; rapid, or at rest;
Minute, or passing bound! In each extreme
Of like amaze, and mystery, to man.”

The invisible God is seen in all his works.

“God is a spirit, spirit cannot strike
These gross material organs: God by man
As much is seen, as man a God can see.
In these astonishing exploits of power
What order, beauty, motion, distance, size!
Concertion of design, how exquisite!
How complicate, in their divine police!
Apt means! great ends! consent to general good!”

[Pg xi]This work also presents to the reader, a view of the great achievements of the human intellect, in the discoveries of science; and the wonderful operations of the skill, power, and industry of man in the invention and improvement of the arts, in the construction of machines, and in the buildings and other ornaments the earth exhibits, as trophies to the glory of the human race.

But we shall now give the reader a short sketch of what is provided for him in the following pages. The work is divided into eighty-seven chapters. The Curiosities respecting Man occupy eleven chapters. The next four chapters are devoted to Animals; then two to Fishes; one to Serpents and Worms; three to Birds; eleven to Insects; six to Vegetables; three to Mountains; two to Grottos, Caves, &c.; one to Mines; two to the Sea; one to Lakes, Whirlpools, &c.; one to Burning Springs; one to Earthquakes; one to Remarkable Winds; one to Showers, Storms, &c.; one to Ice; one to Ruins; four to Buildings, Temples, and other Monuments of Antiquity; and one to Basaltic and Rocky Curiosities. The fifty-eighth chapter is devoted to the Ark of Noah—the Galley of Hiero—and the Bridge of Xerxes. The next six chapters detail at length the various Customs of Mankind in different parts of the World, and also explain many Old Adages and Sayings. The next five chapters exhibit a variety of curious phenomena in nature, such as the Ignis Fatuus; Thunder and Lightning; Fire Balls; Water Spouts; Fairy Rings; Spots in the Sun; Volcanoes in the Moon; Eclipses; Shooting Stars; Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights; &c. &c. The seventieth chapter is on Galvanism. The seventy-first on Magnetism. The next three chapters delineate the principal Curiosities respecting the Arts. Then follow five chapters on some of the principal Curiosities in History; three on the Curiosities of Literature; and five on Miscellaneous Curiosities. An Appendix is added, containing a number of easy, innocent, amusing Experiments and Recreations.

[Pg xii]This is “A New Compilation,” inasmuch as not one article is taken from any book bearing the title of Beauties, Wonders, or Curiosities. The Compiler trusts the work will afford both entertainment and instruction for the leisure hour, of the Philosopher or the Labourer, the Gentleman or the Mechanic. In short, all classes may find in the present work something conducive to their pleasure and improvement, in their hours of seriousness, as well as those of gaiety; and it will afford a constant source of subjects for interesting and agreeable conversation.



[Pg 13]





The Human Body—the Countenance—the Eye—the Ear—the Heart—the Circulation of the Blood—Respiration—the Hair of the Head—the Beard—Women with Beards—Sneezing.

“Come, gentle reader, leave all meaner things
To low ambition, and the pride of kings.
Let us, since life can little more supply
Than just to look about us, and to die;
Expatiate free o’er all this scene of Man,
A mighty maze! but not without a plan.
A wild, where weeds and flow’rs promiscuous shoot;
Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield;
The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore,
Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar:
Eye nature’s walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can,
But vindicate the ways of God to man.”


We shall, in the first place, enter on the consideration of The Curiosities of the Human Body.—The following account is abridged from the works of the late Drs. Hunter and Paley.

Dr. Hunter shows that all the parts of the human frame are requisite to the wants and well-being of such a creature as man. He observes, that, first the mind, the thinking immaterial agent, must be provided with a place of immediate residence, which shall have all the requisites for the union of spirit and body; accordingly, she is provided with the brain, where she dwells as governor and superintendant of the whole fabric.

In the next place, as she is to hold a correspondence with all the material beings around her, she must be supplied with organs fitted to receive the different kinds of impression which[Pg 14] they will make. In fact, therefore, we see that she is provided with the organs of sense, as we call them: the eye is adapted to light; the ear to sound; the nose to smell; the mouth to taste; and the skin to touch.

Further, she must be furnished with organs of communication between herself in the brain, and those organs of sense; to give her information of all the impressions that are made upon them; and she must have organs between herself in the brain, and every other part of the body, fitted to convey her commands and influence over the whole. For these purposes the nerves are actually given. They are soft white chords which rise from the brain, the immediate residence of the mind, and disperse themselves in branches through all parts of the body. They convey all the different kinds of sensations to the mind in the brain; and likewise carry out from thence all her commands to the other parts of the body. They are intended to be occasional monitors against all such impressions as might endanger the well-being of the whole, or of any particular part; which vindicates the Creator of all things, in having actually subjected us to those many disagreeable and painful sensations which we are exposed to from a thousand accidents in life.

Moreover, the mind, in this corporeal system, must be endued with the power of moving from place to place; that she may have intercourse with a variety of objects; that she may fly from such as are disagreeable, dangerous, or hurtful; and pursue such as are pleasant and useful to her. And accordingly she is furnished with limbs, with muscles and tendons, the instruments of motion, which are found in every part of the fabric where motion is necessary.

But to support, to give firmness and shape to the fabric; to keep the softer parts in their proper places; to give fixed points for, and the proper directions to its motions, as well as to protect some of the more important and tender organs from external injuries, there must be some firm prop-work interwoven through the whole. And in fact, for such purposes the bones are given.

The prop-work is not made with one rigid fabric, for that would prevent motion. Therefore there are a number of bones.

These pieces must all be firmly bound together, to prevent their dislocation. And this end is perfectly well answered by the ligaments.

The extremities of these bony pieces, where they move and rub upon one another, must have smooth and slippery surfaces for easy motion. This is most happily provided for, by the cartilages and mucus of the joints.

The interstices of all these parts must be filled up with some soft and ductile matter, which shall keep them in their[Pg 15] places, unite them, and at the same time allow them to move a little upon one another; these purposes are answered by the cellular membrane, or edipose substance.

There must be an outward covering over the whole apparatus, both to give it compactness, and to defend it from a thousand injuries; which, in fact, are the very purposes of the skin and other integuments.

Say, what the various bones so wisely wrought?
How was their frame to such perfection brought?
What did their figures for their uses fit,
Their numbers fix, and joints adapted knit;
And made them all in that just order stand,
Which motion, strength, and ornament, demand?

Lastly, the mind being formed for society and intercourse with beings of her own kind, she must be endued with powers of expressing and communicating her thoughts by some sensible marks or signs, which shall be both easy to herself, and admit of great variety. And accordingly she is provided with the organs and faculty of speech, by which she can throw out signs with amazing facility, and vary them without end.

Thus we have built up an animal body, which would seem to be pretty complete; but as it is the nature of matter to be altered and worked upon by matter, so in a very little time such a living creature must be destroyed, if there is no provision for repairing the injuries which she must commit upon herself, and those which she must be exposed to from without. Therefore a treasure of blood is actually provided in the heart and vascular system, full of nutritious and healing particles; fluid enough to penetrate into the minutest parts of the animal; impelled by the heart, and conveyed by the arteries, it washes every part, builds up what was broken down, and sweeps away the old and useless materials. Hence we see the necessity or advantage of the heart and arterial system.

What more there was of the blood than enough to repair the present damages of the machine, must not be lost, but should be returned again to the heart; and for this purpose the venous system is provided. These requisites in the animal explain the circulation of the blood, a priori.[1]

All this provision, however, would not be sufficient; for the store of blood would soon be consumed, and the fabric would break down, if there was not a provision made by fresh supplies. These, we observe, in fact, are profusely scattered round her in the animal and vegetable kingdoms; and she is furnished with hands, the fittest instruments that could be contrived for gathering them, and for preparing them in their varieties for the mouth.

[Pg 16]But these supplies, which we call food, must be considerably changed; they must be converted into blood. Therefore she is provided with teeth for cutting and bruising the food, and with a stomach for melting it down; in short, with all the organs subservient to digestion: the finer parts of the aliments only can be useful in the constitution; these must be taken up and conveyed into the blood, and the dregs must be thrown off. With this view, the intestinal canal is provided. It separates the nutritious parts, which we call chyle, to be conveyed into the blood by the system of the absorbent vessels; and the coarser parts pass downwards to be ejected.

We have now got our animal not only furnished with what is wanting for immediate existence, but also with powers of protracting that existence to an indefinite length of time. But its duration, we may presume, must necessarily be limited; for as it is nourished, grows, and is raised up to its full strength and utmost perfection; so it must in time, in common with all material beings, begin to decay, and then hurry on into final ruin.

Thus we see, by the imperfect survey which human reason is able to take of this subject, that the animal man must necessarily be complex in his corporeal system, and in its operations.

He must have one great and general system, the vascular, branching through the whole circulation: another, the nervous, with its appendages—the organs of sense, for every kind of feeling: and a third, for the union and connection of all these parts.

Besides these primary and general systems, he requires others, which may be more local or confined: one, for strength, support, and protection,—the bony compages: another, for the requisite motions of the parts among themselves, as well as for moving from place to place,—the muscular system: another to prepare nourishment for the daily recruit of the body,—the digestive organs.

Dr. Paley observes, that, of all the different systems in the human body, the use and necessity are not more apparent, than the wisdom and contrivance which have been exerted, in putting them all into the most compact and convenient form: in disposing them so, that they shall mutually receive from, and give helps to one another: and that all, or many of the parts, shall not only answer their principal end or purpose, but operate successfully and usefully in a variety of secondary ways. If we consider the whole animal machine in this light, and compare it with any machine in which human art has exerted its utmost, we shall be convinced, beyond the possibility of doubt, that there are intelligence and power far surpassing what humanity can boast of.

[Pg 17]One superiority in the natural machine is peculiarly striking.—In machines of human contrivance or art, there is no internal power, no principle in the machine itself, by which it can alter and accommodate itself to injury which it may suffer, or make up any injury which admits of repair. But in the natural machine, the animal body, this is most wonderfully provided for, by internal powers in the machine itself; many of which are not more certain and obvious in their effects, than they are above all human comprehension as to the manner and means of their operation. Thus, a wound heals up of itself; a broken bone is made firm again by a callus; a dead part is separated and thrown off; noxious juices are driven out by some of the emunctories; a redundancy is removed by some spontaneous bleeding; a bleeding naturally stops of itself; and the loss is in a measure compensated, by a contracting power in the vascular system, which accommodates the capacity of the vessels to the quantity contained. The stomach gives intimation when the supplies have been expended; represents, with great exactness, the quantity and quality, of what is wanted in the present state of the machine; and in proportion as she meets with neglect, rises in her demand, urges her petition in a louder tone, and with more forcible arguments. For its protection, an animal body resists heat and cold in a very wonderful manner, and preserves an equal temperature in a burning and in a freezing atmosphere.

A farther excellence or superiority in the natural machine, if possible, still more astonishing, more beyond all human comprehension, than what we have been speaking of, is the distinction of sexes, and the effects of their united powers. Besides those internal powers of self-preservation in each individual, when two of them, of different sexes, unite, they are endued with powers of producing other animals or machines like themselves, which again are possessed of the same powers of producing others, and so of multiplying the species without end. These are powers which mock all human invention or imitation. They are characteristics of the Divine Architect.—Thus far Paley.

Galen takes notice, that there are in the human body above 600 muscles, in each of which there are, at least, 10 several intentions, or due qualifications, to be observed; so that, about the muscles alone, no less than 6000 ends and aims are to be attended to! The bones are reckoned to be 284; and the distinct scopes or intentions of these are above 40—in all, about 12,000! and thus it is, in some proportion, with all the other parts, the skin, ligaments, vessels, and humours; but more especially with the several vessels, which do, in regard to their great variety, and multitude of their several intentions, very much exceed the homogeneous parts.

[Pg 18] ——————————How august,
How complicate, how wonderful, is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such!—
From different natures marvellously mixt;—
Though sully’d and dishonour’d, still DIVINE!

“Come! all ye nations! bless the Lord,
To him your grateful homage pay:
Your voices raise with one accord,
Jehovah’s praises to display.

From clay our complex frames he moulds,
And succours us in time of need:
Like sheep when wandering from their folds,
He calls us back, and does us feed.

Then thro’ the world let’s shout his praise,
Ten thousand million tongues should join,
To heav’n their thankful incense raise,
And sound their Maker’s love divine.

When rolling years have ceas’d their rounds,
Yet shall his goodness onward tend;
For his great mercy has no bounds,
His truth and love shall never end!”

So curious is the texture or form of the human body in every part, and withal so “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that even atheists, after having carefully surveyed the frame of it, and viewed the fitness and usefulness of its various parts, and their several intentions, have been struck with wonder, and their souls kindled into devotion towards the all-wise Maker of such a beautiful frame. And so convinced was Galen of the excellency of this piece of divine workmanship, that he is said to have allowed Epicurus a hundred years to find out a more commodious shape, situation, or texture, for any one part of the human body! Indeed, no understanding can be so low and mean, no heart so stupid and insensible, as not plainly to see, that nothing but Infinite Wisdom could, in so wonderful a manner, have fashioned the body of man, and inspired into it a being of superior faculties, whereby He teacheth us more than the beasts of the field, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of the heaven.

——————Thrice happy men,
And sons of men, whom God hath thus advanc’d;
Created in his image, here to dwell,
And worship him; and, in return, to rule
O’er all his works.


We now proceed to consider The Curiosities of the Human Countenance.—On this subject we shall derive considerable assistance from the same German philosopher that was quoted in the last section. Indeed, we shall make a liberal use of Sturm’s Reflections in our delineations of the Curiosities of the human frame.

[Pg 19]The exterior of the human body at once declares the superiority of man over all living creatures. His Face, directed towards the heavens, prepares us to expect that dignified expression which is so legibly inscribed upon his features; and from the countenance of man we may judge of his important destination, and high prerogatives. When the soul rests in undisturbed tranquillity, the features of the face are calm and composed; but when agitated by emotions, and tossed by contending passions, the countenance becomes a living picture, in which every sensation is depicted with equal force and delicacy. Each affection of the mind has its particular impression, and every change of countenance denotes some secret emotion of the heart. The Eye may, in particular, be regarded as the immediate organ of the soul; as a mirror, in which the wildest passions and the softest affections are reflected without disguise. Hence it may be called with propriety, the true interpreter of the soul, and organ of the understanding. The colour and motions of the eye contribute much to mark the character of the countenance. The human eyes are, in proportion, nearer to one another than those of any other living creatures; the space between the eyes of most of them being so great, as to prevent their seeing an object with both their eyes at the same time, unless it is placed at a great distance. Next to the eyes, the eye-brows tend to fix the character of the countenance. Their colour renders them particularly striking; they form the shade of the picture, which thus acquires greater force of colouring. The eye-lashes, when long and thick, give beauty and additional charms to the eye. No animals, but men and monkeys, have both eye-lids ornamented with eye-lashes; other creatures having them only on the lower eye-lid. The eye-brows are elevated, depressed, and contracted, by means of the muscles upon the forehead, which forms a very considerable part of the face, and adds much to its beauty when well formed: it should neither project much, nor be quite flat; neither very large, nor small; beautiful hair adds much to its appearance. The Nose is the most prominent, and least moveable part of the face; hence it adds more to the beauty than the expression of the countenance. The Mouth and Lips are, on the contrary, extremely susceptible of changes; and, if the eyes express the passions of the soul, the mouth seems more peculiarly to correspond with the emotions of the heart. The rosy bloom of the lips, and the ivory white of the teeth, complete the charms of the human face divine.

Another Curiosity on this subject is, the wonderful diversity of traits in the human countenance. It is an evident proof of the admirable wisdom of God, that though the bodies of men are so similar to each other in their essential parts,[Pg 20] there is yet such a diversity in their exterior, that they can be readily distinguished without the liability of error. Amongst the many millions of men existing in the universe, there are no two that are perfectly similar to each other Each one has some peculiarity pourtrayed in his countenance, or remarkable in his speech; and this diversity of countenance is the more singular, because the parts which compose it are very few, and in each person are disposed according to the same plan. If all things had been produced by blind chance, the countenances of men might have resembled one another as nearly as balls cast in the same mould, or drops of water out of the same bucket: but as that is not the case, we must admire the infinite wisdom of the Creator, which, in thus diversifying the traits of the human countenance, has manifestly had in view the happiness of men; for if they resembled each other perfectly, they could not be distinguished from one another, to the utter confusion and detriment of society. We should never be certain of life, nor of the peaceable possession of our property; thieves and robbers would run little risk of detection, for they could neither be distinguished by the traits of their countenance, nor the sound of their voice. Adultery, and every crime that stains humanity, might be practiced with impunity, since the guilty would rarely be discovered; and we should be continually exposed to the machinations of the villain, and the malignity of the coward: we could not shelter ourselves from the confusion of the mistake, nor from the treachery and fraud of the deceitful; all the efforts of justice would be useless, and commerce would be the prey of error and uncertainty: in short, the uniformity and perfect similarity of faces would deprive society of its most endearing charms, and destroy the pleasure and sweet gratification of individual friendship.

We may well exclaim with a celebrated writer,—

“What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form, and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!”


The next subject is, The Curious Formation of the Eye.—The Eye infinitely surpasses all the works of man’s industry. Its structure is one of the most wonderful things the human understanding can become acquainted with; the most skilful artist cannot devise any machine of this kind which is not infinitely inferior to the eye; whatever ability, industry, and attention he may devote to it, he will not be able to produce a work that does not abound with the imperfections incident to the works of men. It is true, we cannot perfectly become acquainted with all the art the Divine [Pg 21]Wisdom has displayed in the structure of this beautiful organ; but the little that we know suffices to convince us of the admirable intelligence, goodness, and power of the Creator. In the first place, how fine is the disposition of the exterior parts of the eye, how admirably it is defended! Placed in durable orbits of bone, at a certain depth in the skull, they cannot easily suffer any injury; the over-arching eye-brows contribute much to the beauty and preservation of this exquisite organ; and the eye-lids more immediately shelter it from the glare of light, and other things which might be prejudicial; inserted in these are the eye-lashes, which also much contribute to the above effect, and also prevent small particles of dust, and other substances, striking against the eye.[2] The internal structure is still more admirable. The globe of the eye is composed of tunics, humours, muscles, and vessels; the coats are the cornea, or exterior membrane, which is transparent anteriorly, and opake posteriorly; the charoid, which is extremely vascular; the uvea, with the iris, which being of various colours, gives the appearance of differently coloured eyes; and being perforated, with the power of contraction and dilatation, forms the pupil; and, lastly, the retina, being a fine expansion of the optic nerve, upon it the impressions of objects are made. The humours are the aqueous, lying in the forepart of the globe, immediately under the cornea; it is thin, liquid, and transparent; the crystalline, which lies next to the aqueous, behind the uvea, opposite to the pupil, it is the least of the humours, of great solidity, and on both sides convex; the vitreous, resembling the white of an egg, fills all the hind part of the cavity of the globe, and gives the spherical figure to the eye. The muscles of the eye are six, and by the excellence of their arrangement it is enabled to move in all directions. Vision is performed by the rays of light falling on the pellucid and convex cornea of the eye, by the density and convexity of which they are united into a focus, which passes the aqueous humours, and pupil of the eye, to be more condensed by the crystalline lens. The rays of light thus concentrated, penetrate the vitreous humour, and stimulate the retina upon which the images of objects, painted in an inverse direction, are represented to the mind through the medium of the optic nerves.

[Pg 22] ————————The visual orbs
Remark, how aptly station’d for their task;
Rais’d to th’ imperial head’s high citadel,
A wide extended prospect to command.
See the arch’d outworks of impending lids,
With hairs, as palisadoes fenc’d around
To ward annoyance from without.


Who form’d the curious organ of the eye,
And cloth’d it with its various tunicles,
Of texture exquisite; with crystal juice
Supply’d it, to transmit the rays of light;
Then plac’d it in its station eminent,
Well fenc’d and guarded, as a centinel
To watch abroad, and needful caution give?


The next subject is, The Curious Structure of the Ear.

The channel’d ear, with many a winding maze,
How artfully perplex’d, to catch the sound.
And from her repercussive caves augment!

Dark night, that from the eye his function takes,
The ear more quick of apprehension makes;
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the Hearingdouble recompense.

Although the ear, with regard to beauty, yields to the eye, its conformation is not less perfect, nor less worthy of the Creator. The position of the ear bespeaks much wisdom; for it is placed in the most convenient part of the body, near to the brain, the common seat of all the senses. The exterior form of the ear merits considerable attention; its substance is between the flexible softness of flesh, and the firmness of bone, which prevents the inconvenience that must arise from its being either entirely muscular or wholly formed of solid bone. It is therefore cartilaginous, possessing firmness, folds, and smoothness, so adapted as to reflect sound; for the chief use of the external part is to collect the vibrations of the air, and transmit them to the orifice of the ear. The internal structure of this organ is still more remarkable. Within the cavity of the ear is an opening, called the meatus auditorius, or auditory canal, the entrance to which is defended by small hairs, which prevent insects and small particles of extraneous matter penetrating into it; for which purpose there is also secreted a bitter ceruminous matter, called ear-wax. The auditory canal is terminated obliquely by a membrane, generally known by the name of drum, which instrument it in some degree resembles; for within the cavity of the auditory canal is a kind of bony ring, over which the membrana tympani is stretched. In contact with this membrane, on the inner side, is a small bone (malleus) against which it strikes[Pg 23] when agitated by the vibrations of sound. Connected with these are two small muscles: one, by stretching the membrane, adapts it to be more easily acted upon by soft and low sounds; the other, by relaxing, prepares it for those which are very loud. Besides the malleus, there are some other very small and remarkable bones, called incus, or the anvil, as orbiculare, or orbicular bone, and the stapes, or stirrup: their use is, to assist in conveying the sounds received upon the membrana tympani. Behind the cavity of the drum, is an opening, called the Eustachian tube, which begins at the back part of the mouth with an orifice, which diminishes in size as the tube passes towards the ear, where it becomes bony; by this means, sounds may be conveyed to the ear through the mouth, and it facilitates the vibrations of the membrane by the admission of air. We may next observe the cochlea, which somewhat resembles the shell of a snail, whence its name; its cavity winds in a spiral direction, and is divided into two by a thin spiral lamina: and lastly is the auditory nerve, which terminates in the brain. The faculty of hearing is worthy of the utmost admiration and attention: by putting in motion a very small portion of air, without even being conscious of its moving, we have the power of communicating to each other our thoughts, desires, and conceptions. But to render the action of air in the propagation of sound more intelligible, we must recollect that the air is not a solid, but a fluid body. Throw a stone into a smooth stream of water, and there will take place undulations, which will be extended more or less according to the degree of force with which the stone was impelled. Conceive then, that when a word is uttered in the air, a similar effect takes place in that element, as is produced by the stone in the water. During the action of speaking, the air is expelled from the mouth with more or less force; this communicates to the external air which it meets, an undulatory motion; and these undulations of the air entering the cavity of the ear, the external parts of which are peculiarly adapted to receive them, strike upon the membrane, or drum, by which means it is shaken, and receives a trembling motion: the vibration is communicated to the malleus, the bone immediately in contact with the membrane, and from it to the other bones; the last of which, the stapes or stirrup, adhering to the fenestra ovalis, or oval orifice, causes it to vibrate; the trembling of which is communicated to a portion of water contained in the cavity called the vestibulum, and in the semicircular canals, causing a gentle tremor in the nervous expansion contained therein, which is transmitted to the brain; and the mind is thus informed of the presence of sound, and feels a sensation proportioned to the force or to the weakness of the impression[Pg 24] that is made. Let us rejoice that we possess the faculty of hearing; for without it, our state would be most wretched and deplorable; in some respects, more sorrowful than the loss of sight; had we been born deaf, we could not have acquired knowledge sufficient to enable us to pursue any art or science. Let us never behold those who have the misfortune to be deaf, without endeavoring better to estimate the gift of which they are deprived, and which we enjoy; or without praising the goodness of God, which has granted it to us: and the best way we can testify our gratitude is, to make a proper use of this important blessing.


We now proceed to a more particular description of The Curiosities of the Human Heart; and the Circulation of the Blood.

———Though no shining sun, nor twinkling star
Bedeck’d the crimson curtains of the sky;
Though neither vegetable, beast, nor bird,
Were extant on the surface of this ball,
Nor lurking gem beneath; though the great sea
Slept in profound stagnation, and the air
Had left no thunder to pronounce its Maker:
Yet Man at home, within himself might find
The Deity immense, and in that frame
So fearfully, so wonderfully made!
See and adore his providence and power.

With what admirable skill and inimitable structure is formed that muscular body, situated within the cavity of the chest, and called the human heart! Its figure is somewhat conical, and it is externally divided into two parts: the base, which is uppermost, and attached to vessels; and the apex, which is loose and pointing to the left side, against which it seems to beat. Its substance is muscular, being composed of fleshy fibres, interwoven with each other. It is divided internally into cavities, called auricles and ventricles; from which vessels proceed to convey the blood to the different parts of the body. The ventricles are situated in the substance of the heart, and are separated from each other by a thick muscular substance; they are divided into right and left, and each communicates with its adjoining auricle, one of which is situated on each side the base of the heart. The right auricle receives the blood from the head and superior parts of the body, by means of a large vein; and in the same manner the blood is returned to it from the inferior parts, by all the veins emptying their stores into one, which terminates in this cavity; which, having received a sufficient portion of blood, contracts, and by this motion empties itself into the right ventricle, which also contracting, propels the blood into an artery, which immediately conveys it into the lungs, where[Pg 25] it undergoes certain changes, and then passes through veins into the left auricle of the heart, thence into the left ventricle, by the contraction of which it is forced into an artery, through whose ramifications it is dispersed to all parts of the body, from which it is again returned to the right auricle; thus keeping up a perpetual circulation, for, whilst life remains, the action of the heart never ceases. In a state of health the heart contracts about seventy times in a minute, and is supposed, at each contraction, to propel about two ounces of blood; to do which, the force it exerts is very considerable, though neither the quantity of force exerted, nor of blood propelled, is accurately determined. The heart comprises within itself a world of wonders, and whilst we admire its admirable structure and properties, we are naturally led to consider the wisdom and power of Him who formed it, from whom first proceeded the circulation of the blood, and the pulsations of the heart; who commands it to be still, and the functions instantly cease to act.

This important secret of the circulation of blood in the human body was brought to light by William Harvey, an English physician, a little before the year 1600: and when it is considered thoroughly, it will appear to be one of the most stupendous works of Omnipotence.

The blood, the fountain whence the spirits flow,
The generous stream that waters every part,
And motion, vigour, and warm life conveys
To every particle that moves or lives,
——————through unnumber’d tube.
Pour’d by the heart, and to the heart again

Who in the dark the vital flame illum’d,
And from th’ impulsive engine caused to flow
Th’ ejaculated streams through many a pipe
Arterial with meand’ring lapse, then bring
Refluent their purple tribute to their fount:
Who spun the sinews’ branchy thread, and twin’d
The azure veins in spiral knots, to waft
Life’s tepid waves all o’er; or, who with bones
Compacted, and with nerves the fabric strung:
Their specious form, their fitness, which results
From figure and arrangement, all declare
Th’ Artificer Divine!


———The nerves, with equal wisdom made.
Arising from the tender brain, pervade
And secret pass in pairs the channel’d bone.
And thence advance through paths and roads unknown.
Form’d of the finest complicated thread,
The num’rous cords are through the body spread.
These subtle channels, such is every nerve,
For vital functions, sense, and motion serve;—
They help to labour and concoct the food,
Refine the chyle, and animate the blood.

 [Pg 26]

We now proceed to some Curious and Interesting Facts concerning Respiration, or the Act of Breathing.

Anatomists have, not unaptly, compared the lungs to a sponge; containing, like it, a great number of small cavities, and being also capable of considerable compression and expansion. The air cells of the lungs open into the windpipe, by which they communicate with the external atmosphere: the whole internal structure of the lungs is lined by a transparent membrane, estimated by Haller at only the thousandth part of an inch in thickness; but whose surface, from its various convolutions, measures fifteen square feet, which is equal to the external surface of the body. On this extensive and thin membrane innumerable branches of veins and arteries are distributed, some of them finer than hairs; and through these vessels all the blood in the system is successively propelled, by an extremely curious and beautiful mechanism, which will be described in some future article.

The capacity of the lungs varies considerably in different individuals.[3] On a general average, they may be said to contain about 280 cubic inches, or nearly five quarts of air. By each inspiration about forty cubic inches of air are received into the lungs, and at each expiration the same quantity is discharged. If, therefore, we calculate that twenty respirations take place in a minute, and forty cubic inches to be the amount of each inspiration, it follows, that in one minute, we inhale 800 cubic inches; in an hour, the quantity of air inspired will be 48,000 cubic inches; and in the twenty-four hours, it will amount to 1,152,000 cubic inches. This quantity of air will almost fill 78 wine hogsheads, and would weigh nearly 53 pounds. From this admirable provision of nature, by which the blood is made to pass in review, as it were, of this immense quantity of air, and over so extensive a surface, it seems obvious, that these two fluids are destined to exert some very important influence on each other; and it has been proved, by a very decisive experiment of Dr. Priestley’s, that the extremely thin membrane, which is alone interposed, does not prevent the exercise of the chemical affinity which prevails between the air which is received in the lungs, and the blood which is incessantly circulating through them. It must surely, therefore, be of the first importance to health, that the fluid of which we hourly inhale, at least, three hogsheads, should not be contaminated by the suspension of noxious effluvia.

[Pg 27]The purity of the atmosphere may be impaired either by the operation of what some denominate natural causes, or by the influence of circumstances resulting from our social condition. Its chemical constitution is changed by respiration; the vital principle is destroyed, and its place supplied by a highly poisonous gas.

The emanations from the surface of our bodies contribute, in a still greater degree, to vitiate the atmosphere, and to render it less fit for the healthful support of life. Many of the organs which compose our wonderfully complicated frame are engaged in discharging the constituent parts of our bodies, which, by the exercise of the various animal functions, are become useless, and, if retained, would become noxious. Physiologists have instituted a variety of experiments, to ascertain the amount of the exhalations from the surface of the body. Sanctorius, an eminent Italian physician, from a series of experiments performed during a period of thirty years, estimates it as greater than the aggregate of all our other discharges. From his calculations it would appear, that if we take of liquid and solid food eight pounds in the twenty-four hours, that five pounds are discharged by perspiration alone, within that period; and of this, the greater part is what has been denominated insensible perspiration, from its not being cognizable to the senses. We may estimate the discharge from the surface of the body, by sensible and insensible perspiration, as from half an ounce to four ounces per hour.

The exhalations from the lungs and the skin are, to a certain extent, offensive even in the most healthy individuals; but when proceeding from those labouring under disease, they are in a state very little removed from putrefaction.

Animal miasmata, like all other poison, become more active in proportion to the quantity which we imbibe. When, therefore, the air is stagnant, and when many individuals contribute their respective supplies of effluvia to vitiate it, the atmosphere necessarily becomes satured with the poison; and when inhaled, conveys it in a more virulent and concentrated state to the extensive and delicate surface of the lungs.

The collection of animal effluvia in confined places, is the source of the generation and diffusion of febrile infection: but when the miasmata are respired, in a diluted state, the ill effects which they produce, though slower in their operation, are equally certain. They, to a certain extent, pollute the fountain of life, and ultimately break down the vigour of the most robust frame; impairing the action of the digestive organs, engendering the whole train of nervous disorders, and rendering the body more susceptible of disease.

The lungs and the skin may equally become the means of introducing poisonous or infectious matter into the [Pg 28]constitution. The venom of a poisonous animal, the matter of small-pox, and many other contagions, produce their influence through the medium of the skin. Infectious diseases are communicated by the reception of air in our lungs, impregnated with contagious matter. The influence of the constant respiration of air in any degree impure, is fully evinced in the pallid countenances and languid frames of those who live in confined and ill-ventilated places; and the health of all classes of society suffers precisely in proportion to the susceptibility of their constitutions, and according to the greater or less impurities of the air which they habitually respire.

Of the offensive nature of animal effluvia, the senses of every one who enters a crowded assembly, must immediately convince him. When, therefore, we reflect on the state of the air which we breathe in churches, theatres, schools, and all crowded assemblies; and when we consider the amount of the exhalations emitted by each individual, and the very offensive nature of those emitted by many; and when, on the other hand, we take into consideration the importance of air to life, and the great quantity of this fluid which we daily respire, we must be naturally led to the adoption of such measures as would secure in our private dwellings, as well as in our public buildings, a full and unintermitting supply of fresh atmospheric air.

It is curious to observe the influence of habit, in reconciling us to many practices which would otherwise be considered in the highest degree offensive. Thus, while, with a fastidious delicacy, we avoid drinking from a cup which has been already pressed to the lips of our friends, we feel no hesitation in receiving into our lungs an atmosphere contaminated by the breath and exhalations of every promiscuous assembly.

“Were once the energy of air deny’d,
The heart would cease to pour its purple tide
The purple tide forget its wonted play,
Nor back again pursue its curious way.”


The next Subject of Curiosity we shall consider, is, The Hair of the Head.

If we consider the curious structure, and different uses of the hair of our heads, we shall find them very well worth our attention, and discover in them proofs of the wisdom and power of God.

In each entire hair we perceive with the naked eye, an oblong slender filament, and a bulb at the extremity thicker and more transparent than the rest of the hair. The filament forms the body of the hair, and the bulb the root. The large hairs have their root, and even part of the filament, enclosed in a small membraneous vessel or capsule. The size of this[Pg 29] sheath is proportionate to the size of the root, being always rather larger, that the root may not be too much confined, and that some space may remain between it and the capsule. The root or bulb has two parts, the one external, the other internal. The external is a pellicle composed of small laminæ; the internal is a glutinous fluid, in which some fibres are united; it is the marrow of the root. From the external part of the bulb proceed five, and sometimes, though rarely, six small white threads, very delicate and transparent, and often twice as long as the root. Besides these threads, small knots are seen rising in different places; they are viscous, and easily dissolved by heat. From the interior part of the bulb proceeds the body of the hair, composed of three parts; the external sheath, the interior tubes, and the marrow.

When the hair has arrived at the pore of the skin through which it is to pass, it is strongly enveloped by the pellicle of the root, which forms here a very small tube. The hair then pushes the cuticle before it, and makes of it an external sheath, which defends it at the time when it is still very soft. The rest of the covering of the hair, is a peculiar substance, and particularly transparent at the point. In a young hair this sheath is very soft, but in time becomes so hard and elastic, that it springs back with some noise when it is cut. It preserves the hair a long time. Immediately beneath the sheath are several small fibres, which extend themselves along the hair from the root to the extremity. These are united amongst themselves, and with the sheath that is common to them, by several elastic threads; and these bundles of fibres form together a tube filled with two substances; the one fluid, the other solid; and these constitute the marrow of the hair.

The wonders of creating power are seen in every thing, even in the hair that adorns our surface.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.
That, chang’d thro’ all, and yet in all the same;
Great in the earth, as in th’ ethereal frame;
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives thro’ all life, extends thro’ all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent;
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
As full, as perfect, in vile Man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns:
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.

We shall now introduce to our readers some Ancient and Modern Opinions respecting the Hair.

The ancients held the hair a sort of excrement, fed only[Pg 30] with excrementitious matters, and no proper part of a living body. They supposed it generated of the fuliginous parts of the blood, exhaled by the heat of the body to the surface, and then condensed in passing through the pores. Their chief reasons were, that the hair being cut, will grow again, even in extreme old age, and when life is very low; that in hectic and consumptive people, where the rest of the body is continually emaciating, the hair thrives; nay, that it will even grow again in dead carcases. They added, that hair does not feed and grow like the other parts, by introsusception, i. e. by a juice circulating within it, but, like the nails, by juxtaposition. But the moderns are agreed, that every hair properly and truly lives, and receives nutriment to fill it, like the other parts; which they prove hence, that the roots do not turn grey in aged persons sooner than the extremities, but the whole changes colour at once; which shews that there is a direct communication, and that all the parts are affected alike. In strict propriety, however, it must be allowed, that the life and growth of hairs is of a different kind from that of the rest of the body, and is not immediately derived therefrom, or reciprocated therewith. It is rather of the nature of vegetation. They grow as plants do, or as some plants shoot from the parts of others; from which, though they draw their nourishment, yet each has, as it were, its distinct life and economy. They derive their food from some juices in the body, but not from the nutritious juices of the body; whence they may live, though the body be starved. Wulferus, in the Philosophical Collections, gives an account of a woman buried at Nurenberg, whose grave being opened forty-three years after her death, hair was found issuing forth plentifully through the clefts of the coffin. The cover being removed, the whole corpse appeared in its perfect shape; but, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, covered over with thick-set hair, long and curled. The sexton going to handle the upper part of the head with his fingers, the whole fell at once, leaving nothing in his hand but a handful of hair: there was neither skull nor any other bone left: yet the hair was solid and strong. Mr. Arnold, in the same collection, gives a relation of a man hanged for theft, who, in a little time, while he yet hung upon the gallows, had his body strangely covered over with hair.

Before we dismiss this subject, we shall give the following curious Instances of the Internal Growth of Hair.

Though the external surface of the body is the natural place for hairs, we have many well-attested instances of their being found also on the internal surface. Amatus Lusitanus mentions a person who had hair upon his tongue. Pliny and Valerius Maximus say, that the heart of Aristomenes the[Pg 31] Messenian, was hairy. Cællus Rhodiginus relates the same of Hermogenes the rhetorician; and Plutarch, of Leonidas king of Sparta. Hairs are said to have been found in the breasts of women, and to have occasioned the distemper called trichiasis; but some authors are of opinion, that these are small worms, and not hairs. There have been, however, various and indisputable evidences of hairs found in the kidneys, and voided by natural discharge. Hippocrates says, that the glandular parts are the most subject to hair; but bundles of hair have been found in the muscular parts of beef, and in parts of the human body equally firm. Hair has been often found in abscesses and imposthumations. Schultetus, opening the abdomen of a human body, found twelve pints of water, and a large lock of hair swimming loosely in it. It has, however, been found on examination, that some of the internal parts of the body are more subject to an unnatural growth of hair than others. This has long been known to anatomists; and many memorable instances have been recorded by Dr. Tyson, and others. In some animals, hairs of a considerable length have been discovered growing in the internal parts; and on several occasions, they have been found lying loosely in the cavities of the veins. There are instances of mankind being affected in the same manner. Cardan relates, that he found hair in the blood of a Spaniard; Slonatius, in that of a gentlewoman of Cracovia; and Schultetus declares, from his own observation, that those people, who are afflicted with the plica polonica, have very often hair in their blood.


We shall, in the next place, call the reader’s attention to some Curious Remarks concerning the Beard.

A beard gives to the countenance a rough and fierce air, suited to the manners of a rough and fierce people. The same face without a beard appears milder; for which reason, a beard becomes unfashionable in a polished nation. Demosthenes, the orator, lived in the same period with Alexander the Great, at which time the Greeks began to leave off beards. A bust, however, of that orator, found in Herculaneum, has a beard, which must either have been done for him when he was young, or from reluctance in an old man to a new fashion. Barbers were brought to Rome from Sicily, the 454th year after the building of Rome. And it must relate to a time after that period, what Aulus Gellius says, that people accused of any crime were prohibited to shave their beards till they were absolved. From Hadrian downward, the Roman emperors wore beards. Julius Capitolinus reproaches the Emperor Verus for cutting his beard at the instigation of a concubine. All the Roman generals wore beards in Justinian’s time. The pope shaved his beard, which was held a[Pg 32] manifest apostasy by the Greek church, because Moses, Jesus Christ, and even God the Father, were always drawn with beards by the Greek and Latin painters. Upon the dawn of smooth manners in France, the beaus cut the beards into shapes, and curled the whiskers. That fashion produced a whimsical effect: men of gravity left off beards altogether. A beard, in its natural shape, was too fierce even for them; and they could not, for shame, copy after the beaus. This accounts for a regulation, anno 1534, of the University of Paris, forbidding the professors to wear a beard.


Now follows, A curious account of Women with Beards.

Of women remarkably bearded we have several instances. In the cabinet of curiosities at Stutgard, in Germany, there is the portrait of a young woman, called Bartel Graetje, whose chin is covered with a very large beard. She was drawn in 1787, at which time she was but twenty-five years of age. There is likewise, in another cabinet, the same portrait of her when she was more advanced in life, but likewise with a beard. It is said, that the Duke of Saxony had the portrait of a poor Swiss woman taken, remarkable for her long bushy beard; and those who were at the carnival of Venice in 1726, saw a female dancer astonish the spectators, not more by her talents, than by her chin covered with a black bushy beard. Charles XII. had in his army a female grenadier, who wanted neither courage nor a beard to be a man. She was taken at the battle of Pultowa, and carried to Petersburg, where she was presented to the czar, in 1724: her beard measured a yard and a half. We read in the Trevoux Dictionary, that there was a woman seen at Paris, who had not only a bushy beard on her face, but her body likewise covered all over with hair. Among a number of other examples of this nature, that of the great Margaret, the governess of the Netherlands, is very remarkable. She had a very long stiff beard, which she prided herself on: and being persuaded that it contributed to give her an air of majesty, she took care not to lose a hair of it. It is said, that the Lombard women, when they were at war, made themselves beards with the hair of their heads, which they ingeniously arranged on their cheeks, that the enemy, deceived by the likeness, might take them for men. It is asserted, after Suidas, that in a similar case the Athenian women did as much. These women were more men than our Jemmy-Tessamy countrymen. About a century ago, the French ladies adopted a mode of dressing their hair in such a manner, that curls hung down their cheeks as far as their bosom. These curls went by the name of whiskers. This custom, undoubtedly, was not invented after the example of the Lombard women, to fight men.

 [Pg 33]

We shall close this chapter with some curious observations on Sneezing.

The practice of saluting the person who sneezed existed in Africa, among nations unknown to the Greeks and Romans. Strada, in his Account of Monomotapa, informs us, (Prol. Acad.) that when the prince sneezes, all his subjects in the capital are advertised of it, that they may offer up prayers for his safety. The author of the conquest of Peru assures us, that the cacique of Gachoia having sneezed in the presence of the Spaniards, the Indians of his train fell prostrate before him, stretched forth their hands, and displayed to him the accustomed marks of respect, while they invoked the sun to enlighten him, to defend him, and to be his constant guard. The ancient Romans saluted each other on these occasions: and Pliny relates, that Tiberius exacted these signs of homage when drawn in his chariot. Superstition, whose influence debases every thing, had degraded this custom for several ages, by attaching favourable or unfavourable omens to sneezing, according to the hour of the day or night, according to the signs of the zodiac, according as a work was more or less advanced, or according as one had sneezed to the right or to the left. If a man sneezed at rising from table, or from his bed, it was necessary for him to sit or lie down again. ‘You are struck with astonishment,’ said Timotheus to the Athenians, who wished to return into the harbour with their fleet, because he had sneezed; ‘you are struck with astonishment, because among ten thousand there is one man whose brain is moist.’ It is singular enough, that so many ridiculous, contradictory, and superstitious opinions, have not abolished those customary civilities which are still preserved equally among high and low. The reason is obvious: they are preserved, because they are esteemed civilities, and because they cost nothing. Among the Greeks, sneezing was almost always a good omen. It excited marks of tenderness, of respect, and attachment. The young Parthenis, hurried on by her passion, resolved to write to Sarpedon an avowal of her love; she sneezes in the most tender and impassioned part of her letter: this is sufficient for her; this incident supplies the place of an answer, and persuades her that Sarpedon is her lover. Penelope, harassed by the vexatious courtship of her suitors, begins to curse them all, and to pour forth vows for the return of Ulysses. Her son Telemachus interrupts her by a loud sneeze. She instantly exults with joy, and regards this sign as an assurance of the approaching return of her husband. (Hom. Odyss. lib. xvii.). Xenophon was haranguing his troops; a soldier sneezed in the moment when he was exhorting them to embrace a dangerous but necessary resolution. The whole army, moved by this presage, determined to [Pg 34]pursue the project of their general; and Xenophon orders sacrifices to Jupiter the preserver. This superstitious reverence for sneezing, so ancient, and so universal even in the times of Homer, excited the curiosity of the Greek philosophers, and of the rabbins. These last have a most absurd tradition respecting it. Aristotle remounts likewise to the sources of natural religion, because the brain is the origin of the nerves, of our sentiments, sensations, &c. Such were the opinions of the most ancient and sagacious philosophers of Greece; and mythologists affirmed, that the first sign of life Prometheus’s artificial man gave, was by sternutation.





Difference between the Sexes—Comparative Number of the Sexes at a Birth—Extraordinary Prolification—Extraordinary Instances of Rapid Growth—Giants—Dwarfs—Kimos—Curious Account of the Abderites—Account of a Country in which the Inhabitants reside in Trees.


Difference between the Sexes.

O woman, lovely woman! Nature made you
To temper man!—————
Angels are painted fair to look like you.
There’s in you all that we believe of heav’n,
Amazing brightness, purity, and truth,
Eternal joy, and everlasting love!

Under his forming hands a creature grew;
With what all earth or heaven could bestow,
To make her amiable.————
Grace was in all her steps, heav’n in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.

Lavater has drawn the following characteristic distinctions between the male and female of the human species. The primary matter of which women are constituted, appears to be more flexible, irritable, and elastic, than that of man. They are formed to maternal mildness and affection; all their organs are tender, yielding, easily wounded, sensible, and receptible. Among a thousand females, there is scarcely one without the generic feminine signs,—the flexible, the circular, and the irritable. They are the counterpart of man, taken[Pg 35] out of man, to be subject to man; to comfort him like angels; and to lighten his cares. This tenderness, this sensibility, this light texture of their fibres and organs, this volatility of feeling, render them so easy to conduct and to tempt, so ready of submission to the enterprise and power of the man; but more powerful, through the aid of their charms, than man with all his strength. The female thinks not profoundly; profound thought is the power of the man. Women feel more. Sensibility is the power of woman: they often rule more effectually, more sovereignly, than man. They rule with tender looks, tears, and sighs, but not with passion and threats; for if, or when, they so rule, they are no longer women but abortions. They are capable of the sweetest sensibility, the most profound emotion, the utmost humility, and the excess of enthusiasm. In their countenance are the signs of sanctity and inviolability, which every feeling man honours, and the effects of which are often miraculous. Therefore, by the irritability of their nerves, their incapacity for deep inquiry and firm decision, they may easily, from their extreme sensibility, become the most irreclaimable, the most rapturous enthusiasts. Their love, strong and rooted as it is, is very changeable; their hatred almost incurable. Men are most profound; women are more sublime. Man hears the bursting thunder, views the destructive bolt with serene aspect, and stands erect amidst the fearful majesty of the streaming clouds; woman trembles at the lightning, and the voice of distant thunder; and sinks into the arms of man. Woman is in anguish when man weeps, and in despair when man is in anguish; yet has she often more faith than man. Man, without religion, is a diseased creature, who would persuade himself he is well, and needs not a physician; but women without religion are monstrous. A woman with a beard is not so disgusting as a woman who is a free-thinker; her sex is formed to piety and religion: to them Christ first appeared. The whole world is forgotten in the emotion caused by the presence and proximity of him they love. They sink into the most incurable melancholy, as they also rise to the most enraptured heights. Male sensations is more imagination, female more heart. When communicative, they are more communicative than man; when secret, more secret. In general they are more patient, long-suffering, credulous, benevolent, and modest. They differ also in their interior form and appearance. Man is the most firm; woman is the most flexible. Man is the straightest; woman the most bending. Man is serious; woman is gay. Man is the tallest and broadest; woman the smallest and weakest. Man is rough and hard; woman smooth and soft. Man is brown; woman is fair. Man is wrinkly; woman is not. The hair of man is more strong and short; of[Pg 36] woman more long and pliant. The eye-brows of man are compressed; and of woman less frowning. Man has most convex lines; woman most concave. Man has most straight lines; woman most curved. The countenance of man, taken in profile, is more seldom perpendicular than that of woman. Man is most angular; woman most round.

In determining the comparative merit of the two sexes, if it should be found (what is indeed the fact) that women fill up their appointed circle of action with greater regularity than men, the claim of preference must decide in their favour. In the prudential and economical parts of life, they rise far above us.


The following is a very curious calculation of The Comparative Number of the Sexes at a Birth.

The celebrated M. Hufeland, of Berlin, has inserted in his Journal of Practical Medicine, some interesting observations in illustration of the comparative numbers of the sexes at a birth. The number of males born, to that of females, observes the learned Professor, seems to be 21 to 20 over the whole earth; and before they reach the age of puberty, the proportion of the sexes is reduced to perfect equality; more boys than girls die before they are fourteen. After extending his interesting comparison over animated nature in general, Professor Hufeland enters into an inquiry, peculiar to himself, in endeavouring to ascertain the principles and commencement of the equality of the sexes. In some families, says he, equality evidently does not hold. In some, the children are all boys; in others, all girls. He next proceeds to take several families, as 20, 30, 40, or 50, in one place, in conjunction; or small villages of 150 or 300 inhabitants. But even then, the just proportion was not yet established. In some years, only boys, in others only girls were born; nay, this disproportion continued for a series of a year or two; but by uniting ten or fifteen years together, the regular equality appeared. He next considered, that what took place in small populations must take place every year in larger societies; and he accordingly found it confirmed by actual enumeration. He went so far as, by the aid of the minister of state, Schackman, to ascertain the comparative number of boys and girls born in one day over the whole Prussian dominions, and the result corresponded with his anticipations. The general conclusions arrived at by M. Hufeland, are as follow:—

1st. There is an equal number of males and females born in the human race.—2d. The equality occurs every day in a population of ten millions.—3d. Every week in 100,000.—4th. Every month in 50,000.—5th. Every year in 10,000.—6th. And in small societies of several families, every ten[Pg 37] or fifteen years.—7th. That it does not occur in individual families.


The reader will be amused by the following instances of Extraordinary Prolification.

The prolific powers of some individuals among mankind are very extraordinary. Instances have been found where children, to the number of six, seven, eight, nine, and sometimes sixteen, have been brought forth at one birth. The wife of Emmanuel Gago, a labourer near Valladolid, was delivered, the 14th of June, 1799, of five girls. The celebrated Tarsin was brought to bed in the seventh month, at Argenteuil near Paris, 17th of July, 1779, of three boys, each fourteen inches and a half long, and of a girl thirteen inches: they were all baptized, but did not live twenty-four hours. In June, 1799, one Maria Ruiz, of Lucena in Andalusia, was successively delivered of sixteen boys, without any girls: seven of them were alive on the 17th of August following. In 1535, a Muscovite peasant, named James Kyrloff, and his wife, were presented to the Empress of Russia. This peasant had been twice married, and was then seventy years of age. His first wife was brought to bed twenty-one times; namely, four times of four children each time, seven times of three, and ten times of two; making in all fifty-seven children, who were then alive. His second wife, who accompanied him, had been delivered seven times, once of three children, and six times of twins. Thus he had seventy-two children by his two marriages.


We now proceed to narrate some Extraordinary Instances of Rapid Growth.

A remarkable instance of rapid growth in the human species was noticed in France, in 1729, by the Academy of Sciences. It was a lad, then only seven years old, who measured four feet eight inches and four lines high, without his shoes. His mother observed his extraordinary growth and strength at two years old, which continued to increase with such rapidity, that he soon arrived at the usual standard. At four years old he was able to lift and throw the common bundles of hay in stables into the horses’ racks; and at six years old, he could lift as much as a sturdy fellow of twenty. But although he thus increased in bodily strength, his understanding was no greater than is usual with children of his age; and their playthings were also his favourite amusements.

Another boy, a native of Bouzanquet, in the diocese of Alais, though of a strong constitution, appeared to be knit and stiff in his joints, till he was about four years and a half old. During this time, nothing farther was remarkable [Pg 38]respecting him, than an extraordinary appetite, which nothing could satisfy, but an abundance of the common aliments of the inhabitants of the country, consisting of rye bread, chesnuts, bacon, and water. His limbs, however, soon becoming supple and pliable, and his body beginning to expand itself, he grew up in such an extraordinary manner, that at the age of five years he measured four feet three inches. Some months after, he was four feet eleven inches; and at six, five feet, and bulky in proportion. His growth was so rapid, that every month his clothes required to be made longer and wider; yet it was not preceded by any sickness, nor accompanied with any pain. At the age of five years his voice changed, his beard began to appear; and at six, he had as much as a man of thirty; in short, all the unquestionable marks of maturity were visible in him. Though his wit was riper than is commonly observable at the age of five or six, yet its progress was not in proportion to that of his body. His air and manner still retained something childish, though by his bulk and stature he resembled a complete man, which at first sight produced a very singular contrast. His voice was strong and manly, and his great strength rendered him already fit for the labours of the country. At five, he could carry to a great distance, three measures of rye, weighing eighty-four pounds; when turned of six, he could lift up easily to his shoulders, and carry loads of one hundred and fifty pounds weight to a great distance; and these exercises were exhibited by him as often as the curious engaged him thereto by some liberality. Such beginnings made people think that he should soon shoot up into a giant. A mountebank was already soliciting his parents for him, and flattering them with hopes of putting him in a way of making a great fortune. But all these hopes suddenly vanished. His legs became crooked, his body shrunk, his strength diminished, his voice grew sensibly weaker, and he at last sunk into a total imbecility;—thus his rapid maturity was followed by as swift decay.

In the Paris Memoirs, there is an account of a girl, who, when four years old, was four feet six inches in height, and had her limbs well proportioned, and her breasts fully expanded, like those of a girl of eighteen. These things are more singular and marvellous in the northern than in the southern climates, where females come sooner to maturity. In some places of the East Indies, they have children at nine years of age. It seems at first view astonishing, that children of such early and prodigious growth do not become giants; but it appears evident, that the whole is only a premature expansion of the parts; and accordingly, such children, instead of becoming giants, always decay and die apparently of old age, long before the natural term of human life.

 [Pg 39]

As it is our intention in this work to keep as close as possible to facts, we shall not, knowingly, deal in fiction or fable. It is from a most respectable source that we have derived the following Curious Account of Giants.

M. Le Cat, in a memoir read before the Academy of Sciences at Rouen, gives the following account of giants that are said to have existed in different ages. Profane historians have given seven feet of height to Hercules, their first hero; and in our days we have seen men eight feet high. The giant, who was shown in Rouen, in 1735, measured eight feet some inches. The emperor Maximin was of that size. Shenkins and Platerus, physicians of the last century, saw several of that stature; and Goropius saw a girl who was ten feet high. The body of Orestes, according to the Greeks, was eleven feet and a half; the giant Galbara, brought from Arabia to Rome, under Claudius Cæsar, was near ten feet; and the bones of Secondilla and Pusio, keepers of the gardens of Sallust, were but six inches shorter. Funnam, a Scotsman, who lived in the time of Eugene II. king of Scotland, measured eleven feet and a half; and Jacob Le Maire, in his voyage to the Straits of Magellan, reports, that on the 17th of December, 1615, they found at Port Desire, several graves covered with stones; and having the curiosity to remove the stones, they discovered human skeletons of ten and eleven feet long. The Chevalier Scory, in his voyage to the Peak of Teneriffe, says, that they found, in one of the sepulchral caverns of that mountain, the head of a gaunche, which had eighty teeth, and that the body was not less than fifteen feet long. The giant Ferragus, slain by Orlando, nephew of Charlemagne, was eighteen feet high. Rioland, a celebrated anatomist, who wrote in 1614, says, that some years before, there was to be seen, in the suburbs of St. Germain, the tomb of the great giant Isoret, who was twenty feet high. In Rouen, in 1509, in digging in the ditches near the Dominicans, they found a stone tomb, containing a skeleton whose skull held a bushel of corn, and whose shin bone reached up to the girdle of the tallest man there, being about four feet long; and, consequently, the body must have been seventeen or eighteen feet high. Upon the tomb was a plate of copper, whereon was engraved, “In this tomb lies the noble and puissant lord, the Chevalier Ricon De Vallemont, and his bones.” Platerus, a famous physician, declares, that he saw at Lucerne, the true human body of a subject which must have been at least nineteen feet high. Valence, in Dauphiné, boasts of possessing the bones of the giant Bucart, tyrant of the Vivarias, who was slain with an arrow by the Count De Cabillon, his vassal. The Dominicans had a part of the shin bone, with the articulation of his knee, and his figure painted in fresco,[Pg 40] with an inscription, showing “that this giant was twenty-two feet and a half high, and that his bones were found in 1705, near the banks of the Morderi, a little river at the foot of the mountain of Crusal, upon which (tradition says) the giant dwelt.” M. Le Cat adds, that skeletons have been discovered of giants, of a still more incredible height, viz. of Theutobochus, king of the Teutones, found on the 11th of January, 1613, twenty-five feet and a half high; of a giant near Mazarino, in Sicily, in 1516, thirty feet; of another, in 1548, near Palermo, thirty feet; of another, in 1550, of thirty-three feet; of two found near Athens, thirty-three and thirty-six feet; and of one at Tuto, in Bohemia, in 1758, whose leg bones alone measured twenty-six feet! But whether these accounts are credited or not, we are certain that the stature of the human body is by no means fixed. We are ourselves a kind of giants, in comparison of the Laplanders; nor are these the most diminutive people to be found upon the earth.

The Abbé La Chappe, in his journey into Siberia, to observe the last transit of Venus, passed through a village inhabited by people called Wotiacks, who were not above four feet high. The accounts of the Patagonians likewise, which cannot be entirely discredited, render it very probable, that somewhere in South America there is a race of people very considerably exceeding the common size of mankind; and consequently that we cannot altogether discredit the relations of giants, handed down to us by ancient authors, though what degree of credit we ought to give them, is not easy to be determined.


No less true than remarkable is the following Curious Account of Dwarfs.

Jeffery Hudson, the famous English dwarf, was born at Oakham in Rutlandshire, in 1619; and about the age of seven or eight, being then but eighteen inches high, was retained in the service of the Duke of Buckingham, who resided at Burleigh on the Hill. Soon after the marriage of Charles I. the king and queen being entertained at Burleigh, little Jeffrey was served up to table in a cold pie, and presented by the duchess to the queen, who kept him as her dwarf. From seven years till thirty, he never grew taller; but after thirty he shot up to three feet nine inches, and there fixed. Jeffery became a considerable part of the entertainment of the court. Sir William Davenant wrote a poem called Jeffreidos, on a battle between him and a turkey cock; and in 1638 was published a very small book, called the New Year’s Gift, presented at court by the Lady Parvula to the Lord Minimus, (commonly called Little Jeffery,) her majesty’s servant, written by Microphilus, with a little print of Jeffery prefixed. Before [Pg 41]this period, Jeffery was employed on a negociation of great importance: he was sent to France to fetch a midwife for the queen; and on his return with this gentlewoman, and her majesty’s dancing-master, and many rich presents to the queen from her mother Mary de Medicis, he was taken by the Dunkirkers. Jeffery, thus made of consequence, grew to think himself really so. He had borne with little temper the teazing of the courtiers and domestics, and had many squabbles with the king’s gigantic porter. At last, being provoked by Mr. Crofts, a young gentleman of family, a challenge ensued: and Mr. Crofts coming to the rendezvous armed only with a squirt, the little creature was so enraged, that a real duel ensued; and the appointment being on horseback, with pistols, to put them more on a level, Jeffery, at the first fire, shot his antagonist dead. This happened in France, whither he had attended his mistress during the troubles. He was again taken prisoner by a Turkish rover, and sold into Barbary. He probably did not remain long in slavery, for, at the beginning of the civil war, he was made a captain in the royal army; and in 1644, attended the queen to France, where he remained till the Restoration. At last, upon suspicion of his being privy to the Popish plot, he was taken up in 1682, and confined in the Gate-house of Westminster, where he ended his life in the sixty-third year of his age.


Satyr, Great Ape, or Man of the Woods.—Page 178.



A remarkable English dwarf who flourished in the reigns of
Charles the First and Charles the Second. The female figure
is the midwife whom he brought from France for the Queen.


In the memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences, a relation is given by the Count de Tressau, of a dwarf, called Bebe, kept by Stanislaus III. king of Poland; who died in 1764, aged twenty-three, when he measured only thirty-three inches. At his birth, he measured only between eight and nine inches. Diminutive as were his dimensions, his reasoning faculties were not less scanty; appearing indeed not to have been superior to those of a well-taught pointer: but, that the size and strength of the intellectual powers are not affected by the diminutiveness or tenuity of the corporeal organs, is evident from a still more striking instance of littleness, given us by the same nobleman, in the person of Monsieur Borulawski, a Polish gentleman, whom he saw at Luneville, whence he visited Paris, and who, at the age of twenty-two, measured only twenty-eight inches. This miniature of a man, considering him only as to his bodily dimensions, appears a giant with regard to his mental powers and attainments. He is described by the count as possessing all the graces of wit, united with a sound judgment and an excellent memory; so that we may with justice say of M. Borulawski, in the words of Seneca, and nearly in the order in which he has used them, “Posse ingenium, fortissimum ac beatissimum, sub quolibet corpusculo latere.” Epist. 66. Count Borulawski was the son of a Polish nobleman attached to the[Pg 42] fortunes of King Stanislaus, who lost his property in consequence of that attachment, and who had six children; three dwarfs, and three well grown. What is singular enough, they were born alternately, a big one and a little one, though both parents were of the common size. The little count’s youngest sister was much less than him, but died at the age of twenty-three. The count continued to grow till he was about thirty, when he had attained the height of three feet two inches: he lived to see his fifty-first year. He never experienced any sickness, but lived in a polite and affluent manner, under the patronage of a lady, a friend of the family, till love, at the age of forty-one, intruded into his little peaceful bosom, and involved him in matrimony, care, and perplexity. The lady he chose was of his own country, but of French extraction, and the middle size. They had three children, all girls, and none of them likely to be dwarfs. To provide for a family now became an object big with difficulty, requiring all the exertion of his powers (which could promise but little) and his talents, of which music alone afforded any view of profit. He played extremely well upon the guitar; and by having concerts in several of the principal cities in Germany, he raised temporary supplies. At Vienna he was persuaded to turn his thoughts to England, where, it was believed, the public curiosity might in a little time benefit him sufficiently to enable him to live independent in so cheap a country as Poland. He was furnished by very respectable friends with recommendations to several of the most distinguished characters in this kingdom, as the Duchess of Devonshire, Rutland, &c. whose kind patronage he was not backward to acknowledge. He was advised to let himself be seen as a curiosity, and the price of admission was fixed at a guinea. The number of his visitors, of course, was not very great. After a pretty long stay in London, he went to Bath and Bristol; visited Dublin, and some other parts of Ireland; whence he returned by way of Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, to London. He also visited Edinburgh, and some other towns in Scotland. In every place he acquired a number of friends. In reality, the ease and politeness of his manners and address pleased no less than the diminutive yet elegant proportions of his figure, astonished those who visited him. His person was pleasing and graceful, and his look manly and noble. He spoke French fluently, and English tolerably. He was remarkably lively and cheerful, though fitted for the most serious and rational conversation. Such was this wonderful little man—an object of curiosity really worthy the attention of the philosopher, the man of taste, and the anatomist. His life has been published, written by himself.

 [Pg 43]

The following account of a singular nation of dwarfs, is taken from the Monthly Review for 1792, being Vol. 7, of the new series. The subject is a review of “A Voyage to Madagascar; by the Abbé Rochon.” They are called The Kimos.

The Kimos are a nation of pigmies, said to inhabit the mountains in the interior part of the island of Madagascar, of whom tradition has long encouraged the belief:—but Flacourt, in the last century, treated the stories then in circulation with great contempt. The Abbé Rochon, however, has revived them; and has not only given them the sanction of his own belief, but that of M. Commerson, and of M. de Modave, the late Governor of Fort Dauphin. As their opinions are of weight, and as the subject is curious, we shall present our readers with an epitome of the memoirs which these gentlemen drew up concerning the Kimos, and which our author has inserted entire in the body of his work.

“Lovers of the marvellous, (says M. Commerson,) who would be sorry to have the pretended size of the Patagonian giants reduced to six feet, will perhaps be made some amends by a race of pigmies, who are wonderful in the contrary extreme. I mean those half men, who inhabit the interior part of the great island of Madagascar, and form a distinct nation, called, in the language of the country, Kimos. These little men are of a paler colour than the rest of the natives, who are in general black. Their arms are so long, that when stretched out, they reach to the knees, without stooping. The women have scarcely breasts sufficient to mark their sex, except at the time of lying-in; and even then they are obliged to have recourse to cow’s milk, to feed their children.

“The intellectual faculties of this diminutive race are equal to those of the other inhabitants of the island, who are by no means deficient in understanding, though extremely indolent. Indeed, the Kimos are said to be much more active and warlike, so that their courage being in a duplicate ratio of their size, they have never suffered themselves to be oppressed and subdued by their neighbours, who have often attempted it. It is astonishing, that all we know of this nation is from the neighbouring people; and that neither the governors of the Isle of France, of Bourbon, nor the commanders of our forts on the coast of Madagascar, have ever endeavoured to penetrate into this country. It has indeed been lately attempted, but without success.

“I shall however attest, as an eye-witness, that in a voyage which I made in 1770 to Fort Dauphin, M. de Modave, the last governor, gratified my curiosity, by shewing me, among his slaves, a female of the Kimos tribe, about thirty years of age, and three feet seven inches high. She was of a much[Pg 44] paler colour than any other natives of Madagascar that I had seen, was well-made, and did not appear misshapen, nor stinted in her growth, as accidental dwarfs usually are. Her arms were indeed too long, in proportion to her height, and her hair was short and woolly: but her countenance was good, and rather resembled that of an European than an African. She had a natural habitual smile on her face, was good-humoured, and seemed, by her behaviour, to possess a good understanding. No appearance of breasts was observable, except nipples: but this single instance is not sufficient to establish an exception so contrary to the general law of nature. A little before our departure from Madagascar, the desire of recovering her liberty, joined to the fear of being carried into France, stimulated this little slave to run away into the woods.

“On the whole, I conclude, in firmly believing the existence of this diminutive race of human beings, who have a character and manners peculiar to themselves. The Laplanders seem to be the medium between men of the common size and these dwarfs. Both inhabit the coldest countries and the highest mountains upon the earth. These of Madagascar, on which the Kimos reside, are sixteen or seventeen hundred toises, or fathoms, above the level of the sea. The plants and vegetables which grow on these heights, are naturally dwarfs.”

M. de Modave says,—“When I arrived at Fort Dauphin, in 1768, I had a memoir put into my hands, which was ill drawn up, giving an account of a pigmy race of people, called Kimos, who inhabit the middle region of Madagascar, in latitude 22°. I tried to verify the fact, by preparing for an expedition into the country which is said to be thus inhabited: but by the infidelity and cowardice of the guides, my scheme failed. Yet I had such indisputable information of this extraordinary fact, that I have not the least doubt of the existence of such a nation. The common size of the men is three feet five inches. They wear long round beards. The women are some inches shorter than the men, who are thick and stout. Their colour is less black and swarthy than that of the natives; their hair is short and cottony. They forge iron and steel, of which they make their lances and darts; the only weapons that they use. The situation of their country is about sixty leagues to the north-west of Fort Dauphin. I procured a female of this nation, but she was said to be much taller than usual among the Kimos, for she was three feet seven inches in height. She was very thin, and had no more appearance of breasts than the leanest man.”

To these relations, the Abbé Rochon says, he might add that of an officer who had procured a Kimos man, and would have brought him to Europe, but M. de Surville, who commanded[Pg 45] the vessel in which he was to embark, refused to grant his permission.


Respectable historians have presented us with the following curious account of the Abderites, or Inhabitants of Abdera.

It is reported, that in the reign of Cassander, king of Macedon, they were so pestered with frogs and rats, that they were obliged to desert their city for some time: and Lucian tells us, that in the reign of Lysimachus, they were for some months afflicted with a fever of a most extraordinary nature, whose crisis was always on the seventh day, and then it left them; but it so distracted their imaginations, that they fancied themselves players. After this, they were ever repeating verses from some tragedy, and particularly out of the Andromeda of Euripides, as if they had been upon the stage; so that many of these pale, meagre actors, were pouring forth tragic exclamations in every street. This delirium continued till the winter following; which was a very cold one, and therefore fitter to remove it. Lucian, who has described this disease, endeavours to account for it in this way:—Archelaus, an excellent player, acted the Andromeda of Euripides before the Abderites, in the height of a very hot summer. Several had a fever at their coming out of the theatre, and as their imaginations were full of the tragedy, the delirium, which the fever raised, perpetually represented Andromeda, Perseus, Medusa, &c. and the several dramatic incidents, and called up the ideas of those objects, and the pleasure of the representation, so strongly, that they could not forbear imitating Archelaus’ action and declamation: and from these the fever spread to others by infection.


A most respectable writer (Madame De Genlis) has given us the following curious account of a Country, the Inhabitants of which reside in Trees.

A young Spanish adventurer, of the name of Vasco Nugnez, whom a handsome figure, united to a natural wit and courage, advanced to the highest eminence of glory and fortune; pursuing his researches over the Darien, a region abounding in lakes and marshes, arrived in a country where the houses were of a very singular contrivance, being built in the largest trees, the branches of which enveloped the sides, and formed the roof. They contained chambers and closets of a tolerable construction. Each family was separately lodged. Every house had two ladders, one of which reached from the foot to the middle of the tree, and the other from thence to the entrance of the highest chamber: they were composed of cane, and so light as to be easily lifted up, which was done every[Pg 46] night, and formed a security from the attacks of tigers and other wild beasts, with which this province abounds. The chief of the country was in his palace, that is to say—his tree, when the Castilians came among them. On seeing the strangers, he hastened to draw up his ladders, while the Spaniards called to him aloud to descend without fear. He replied, that being unconscious of having offended any one, and having no concern with strangers, he begged he might be suffered to remain undisturbed in his habitation. On this they threatened to cut down or set fire to his tree, and at length obliged him to descend with his two sons. To their inquiries, ‘if he had any gold,’ he replied, that he had none there, because it was of no use to him; but, if they would suffer him to go, he would fetch them some from a neighbouring mountain. The Castilians the more readily believed the promise, as he consented to leave with them his wife and children. But after having waited some days for his return, they discovered that this pretence was only a stratagem to withdraw himself from their hands; that their hostages likewise, during the night, had found an opportunity of escaping by means of their ladders, and that the inhabitants of every neighbouring tree had, in the same manner, fled.





Astonishing Acquisitions made by Blind Persons—Wonderful Performances of a Female, blind almost from Infancy—Wonderful Instances of Adroitness of Persons born defective in their Limbs—Curious Account of Incapacity of distinguishing Colours—Ventriloquism—Sword-swallowing.


Astonishing Acquisitions made by Blind Persons.

We find various recompenses for blindness, or substitutes for the use of the eyes, in the wonderful sagacity of many blind persons, recited by Zahnius, in his ‘Oculus Artificialis,’ and others. In some, the defect has been supplied by a most excellent gift of remembering what they had seen; in others, by a delicate nose, or the sense of smelling; in others, by an exquisite touch, or a sense of feeling, which they have had in such perfection, that, as it has been said of some, they learned to hear with their eyes, so it may be said of these, that they taught themselves to see with their hands. Some have been enabled to perform all sorts of curious and subtle works in[Pg 47] the nicest and most dexterous manner.—Aldrovanus speaks of a sculptor who became blind at twenty years of age, and yet, ten years after, made a perfect marble statue of Cosmo II. de Medicis; and another of clay, like Urban VIII. Bartholin tells us of a blind sculptor in Denmark, who distinguished perfectly well, by mere touch, not only all kinds of wood, but all the colours; and F. Grimaldi gives an instance of the like kind; besides the blind organist, living in Paris, who is said to have done the same. The most extraordinary of all is a blind guide, who, according to the report of good writers, used to conduct the merchants through the sands and deserts of Arabia.

James Bernouilli contrived a method of teaching blind persons to write. An instance, no less extraordinary, is mentioned by Dr. Bew, in the “Transactions of the Manchester Society.” It is that of a person, whose name is John Metcalf, a native of the neighbourhood of Manchester, who became blind at so early an age as to be altogether unconscious of light, and its various effects. His employment in the younger period of his life was that of a waggoner, and occasionally as a guide in intricate roads during the night, or when the common tracks were covered with snow. Afterwards he became a projector and surveyor of highways in difficult and mountainous parts; and, in this capacity, with the assistance merely of a long staff, he traverses the roads, ascends precipices, explores valleys, and investigates their several extents, forms, and situations, so as to answer his purpose in the best manner. His plans are designed, and his estimates formed, with such ability and accuracy, that he has been employed in altering most of the roads over the Peak in Derbyshire, particularly those in the vicinity of Buxton; and in constructing a new one between Wilmslow and Congleton, so as to form a communication between the great London road, without being obliged to pass over the mountain.

Although blind persons have occasion, in a variety of respects, to deplore their infelicity, their misery is in a considerable degree alleviated by advantages peculiar to themselves. They are capable of a more fixed and steady attention to the objects of their mental contemplation, than those who are distracted by the view of a variety of external scenes. Their want of sight naturally leads them to avail themselves of their other organs of corporeal sensation, and with this view to cultivate and improve them as much as possible. Accordingly, they derive relief and assistance from the quickness of their hearing, the acuteness of their smell, and the sensibility of their touch, which persons who see are apt to disregard.

Many contrivances have also been devised by the ingenious,[Pg 48] for supplying the want of sight, and for facilitating those analytical or mechanical operations, which would otherwise perplex the most vigorous mind, and the most retentive memory. By means of these, they have become eminent proficients in various departments of science. Indeed, there are few sciences in which, with or without mechanical helps, the blind have not distinguished themselves. The case of Professor Saunderson at Cambridge, is well known. His attainments and performances in the languages, and also as a learner and teacher in the abstract mathematics, in philosophy, and in music, have been truly astonishing; and the account of them appears to be almost incredible, if it were not amply attested and confirmed by many other instances of a similar kind, both in ancient and modern times.

Cicero mentions it as a fact scarcely credible, with respect to his master in philosophy, Diodotus, that “he exercised himself in it with greater assiduity after he became blind; and, which he thought next to impossible to be performed without sight, that he professed geometry, and described his diagrams so accurately to his scholars, as to enable them to draw every line in its proper direction.”

Jerome relates a more remarkable instance of Didymus in Alexandria, who “though blind from his infancy, and therefore ignorant of the letters, appeared so great a miracle to the world, as not only to learn logic, but geometry also to perfection; which seems (he adds) the most of any thing to require the help of sight.”

Professor Saunderson, who was deprived of his sight by the small-pox when he was only twelve months old, seems to have acquired most of his ideas by the sense of feeling; and though he could not distinguish colours by that sense, which, after repeated trials, he said was pretending to impossibilities, yet he was able, with the greatest exactness, to discriminate the minutest difference between rough and smooth on a surface, or the least defect of polish. In a set of Roman medals, he could distinguish the genuine from the false, though they had been counterfeited in such a manner as to deceive a connoisseur, who judged of them by the eye. His sense of feeling was so acute, that he could perceive the least variation in the state of the air; and, it is said, that in a garden where observations were made on the sun, he took notice of every cloud that interrupted the observation, almost as justly as those who could see it. He could tell when any thing was held near his face, or when he passed by a tree at no great distance, provided the air was calm, and there was little or no wind; this he did by the different pulse of air upon his face. He possessed a sensibility of hearing to such a degree, that he could distinguish even the fifth part of a note; and,[Pg 49] by the quickness of this sense, he not only discriminated persons with whom he had once conversed so long as to fix in his memory the sound of their voice, but he could judge of the size of a room into which he was introduced, and of his distance from the wall; and if he had ever walked over a pavement in courts, piazzas, &c. which reflected a sound, and was afterwards conducted thither again, he could exactly tell in what part of the walk he was placed, merely by the note which it sounded.

Sculpture and painting are arts which, one would imagine, are of very difficult and almost impracticable attainment to blind persons; and yet instances occur, which shew, that they are not excluded from the pleasing, creative, and extensive regions of fancy.

De Piles mentions a blind sculptor, who thus took the likeness of the Duke de Bracciano in a dark cellar, and made a marble statue of King Charles I. with great justness and elegance. However unaccountable it may appear to the abstract philosopher, yet nothing is more certain in fact, than that a blind man may, by the inspiration of the Muses, or rather by the efforts of a cultivated genius, exhibit in poetry the most natural images and animated descriptions even of visible objects, without deservedly incurring the charge of plagiarism. We need not recur to Homer and Milton for attestations to this fact; they had probably been long acquainted with the visible world before they had lost their sight, and their descriptions might be animated with all the rapture and enthusiasm which originally fired their bosoms, when the grand and delightful objects delineated by them were immediately beheld. We are furnished with instances in which a similar energy and transport of description, at least in a very considerable degree, have been exhibited by those on whose minds visible objects were never impressed, or have been entirely obliterated.

Dr. Blacklock affords a surprising instance of this kind; who, though he had lost his sight before he was six months old, not only made himself master of various languages, Greek, Latin, Italian, and French; but acquired the reputation of an excellent poet, whose performances abound with appropriate images and animated descriptions.

Dr. Nicholas Bacon, a blind gentleman, descended from the same family with the celebrated Lord Verulam, was, in the city of Brussels, with high approbation created LL. D. He was deprived of sight at nine years of age by an arrow from a cross-bow, whilst he was attempting to shoot it. When he had recovered his health, which had suffered by the shock, he pursued the same plan of education in which he had been engaged; and having heard that one Nicasius[Pg 50] de Vourde, born blind, who lived towards the end of the fifteenth century, after having distinguished himself by his studies in the university of Louvain, took his degree as D. D. in that of Cologne, he resolved to make the same attempt. After continuing his studies in learning philosophy and law a sufficient time, he took his degree, commenced pleading as counsellor or advocate in the council of Brabant, and has had the pleasure of terminating almost every suit in which he has been engaged to the satisfaction of his clients.

Another instance, which deserves being recorded, is that of Dr. Henry Moyes, in our own country; who, though blind from his infancy, by the ardour and assiduity of his application, and by the energy of native genius, not only made incredible advances in mechanical operations, in music, and in the languages; but acquired an extensive acquaintance with geometry, optics, algebra, astronomy, chemistry, and all other branches of natural philosophy.

From the account of Dr. Moyes, who occasionally read lectures on philosophical chemistry at Manchester, delivered to the Manchester Society by Dr. Bew, it appears, that mechanical exercises were the favourite employment of his infant years: and that at a very early age he was so well acquainted with the use of edge-tools, as to be able to construct little windmills, and even a loom. By the sound, and the different voices of the persons that were present, he was directed in his judgment of the dimensions of the room in which they were assembled; and in this respect he determined with such a degree of accuracy, as seldom to be mistaken. His memory was singularly retentive; so that he was capable of recognizing a person on his first speaking, though he had not been in company with him for two years. He determined with surprising exactness the stature of those with whom he conversed, by the direction of their voices; and he made tolerable conjectures concerning their dispositions, by the manner in which they conducted their conversation. His eyes, though he never recollected having seen, were not totally insensible to intense light: but the rays refracted through a prism, when sufficiently vivid, produced distinguishable effects upon them. The red produced a disagreeable sensation, which he compared to the touch of a saw. As the colours declined in violence, the harshness lessened, until the green afforded a sensation that was highly pleasing to him, and which he described as conveying an idea similar to that which he gained by running his hand over smooth polished surfaces. Such surfaces, meandering streams, and gentle declivities, were the figures by which he expressed his ideas of beauty; rugged rocks, irregular points, and boisterous elements, furnished him with expressions for terror and disgust.[Pg 51] He excelled in the charms of conversation; was happy in his allusions to visual objects, and discoursed on the nature, composition, and beauty of colours, with pertinence and precision.

This instance, and some others which have occurred, seem to furnish a presumption, that the feeling or touch of blind persons may be so improved as to enable them to perceive that texture and disposition of coloured surfaces by which some rays of light are reflected, and others absorbed; and in this manner to distinguish colours.

In music, there are at present living instances of how far the blind may proceed. In former periods we shall find illustrious examples, how amply nature has capacitated the blind to excel, both in the scientific and practical departments of music.

In the sixteenth century, when the progress of improvement both in melody and harmony was rapid and conspicuous, Francis Salinas was eminently distinguished. He was born A. D. 1513, at Burgos in Spain; and was son to the treasurer of that city. Though afflicted with incurable blindness, he was profoundly skilled both in the theory and practice of music. As a performer, he is celebrated by his contemporaries with the highest encomiums. As a theorist, Sir John Hawkins says, his book is equal in value to any now extant in any language. Though he was deprived of sight in his earliest infancy, he did not content himself to delineate the various phenomena in music, but the principles from whence they result, the relations of sound, the nature of arithmetical, geometrical, and harmonical ratios, which were then esteemed essential to the theory of music, with a degree of intelligence which would have deserved admiration, though he had been in full possession of every sense requisite for these disquisitions. He was taken to Rome in the retinue of Petrus Sarmentus, archbishop of Compostella, and having passed twenty years in Italy, he returned to Salamanca, where he obtained the professorship of music, an office at that time equally respectable and lucrative. Having discharged it with reputation and success for some time, he died at the venerable age of seventy-seven.

In the same period flourished Caspar Crumbhom, blind from the third year of his age; yet he composed several pieces in many parts with so much success, and performed both upon the flute and violin so exquisitely, that he was distinguished by Augustus, elector of Saxony. But preferring his native country, Silesia, to every other, he returned to it, and was appointed organist of the church of St. Peter and Paul in Lignitz, where he had often the direction of the musical college, and died June 11, 1621.

[Pg 52]To these might be added Martin Pesenti of Venice, a composer of vocal and instrumental music almost of all kinds, though blind from his nativity; with other examples equally worthy of public attention. But if vulgar prejudice is capable of blushing at its own contemptible character, or of yielding to conviction, those already quoted are more than sufficient to shew the musical jugglers of our time that their art is no monopoly, with which those alone who see are invested, by the irrevocable decree of heaven.

In the Annual Register for 1762, the following narrative of the surprising acquisitions of a blind lady is inserted. “A young gentlewoman of a good family in France, now in her eighteenth year, lost her sight when only two years old, her mother having been advised to lay some pigeon’s blood on her eyes, to preserve them in the small-pox; whereas, so far from answering the end, it eat into them. Nature, however, may be said to have compensated for the unhappy mistake, by beauty of person, sweetness of temper, vivacity of genius, quickness of conception, and many talents which certainly much alleviate her misfortune. She plays at cards with the same readiness as others of the party. She first prepares the pack allotted to her, by pricking them in several parts; yet so imperceptibly, that the closest inspection can scarce discern her indexes: she sorts the suits, and arranges the cards in their proper sequence, with the same precision, and nearly the same facility, as they who have their sight. All she requires of those who play with her, is to name every card as it is played; and these she retains so exactly, that she frequently performs some notable strokes, such as shew a great combination and strong memory. The most wonderful circumstance is, that she should have learned to read and write; but even this is readily believed on knowing her method. In writing to her, no ink is used, but the letters are pricked down on the paper, and by the delicacy of her touch, feeling each letter, she follows them successively, and reads every word with her finger ends. She herself in writing makes use of a pencil, as she could not know when her pen was dry; her guide on the paper is a small thin ruler, and of the breadth of the writing. On finishing a letter, she wets it, so as to fix the traces of her pencil, that they are not obscured or effaced; then proceeds to fold and seal it, and write the direction; all by her own address, and without the assistance of any other person. Her writing is very straight, well cut, and the spelling no less correct. To reach this singular mechanism, the indefatigable cares of her affectionate mother were long employed, who accustomed her daughter to feel letters cut in cards of pasteboard, brought her to distinguish an A from a B, and thus the whole alphabet, and afterwards to spell words; then, by[Pg 53] the remembrance of the shape of the letters, to delineate them on paper; and, lastly, to arrange them so as to form words and sentences. She has learned to play on the guitar, and has even contrived a way of pricking down the tunes, as an assistance to her memory. So delicate are her organs, that in singing a tune, though new to her, she is able to name the notes. In figured dances she acquits herself extremely well, and in a minuet, with inimitable ease and gracefulness. As for the works of her sex, she has a masterly hand; she sews and hems perfectly well; and in all her works she threads her needles for herself, however small. By the watch her touch never fails telling her exactly the hour and minute.”


Diderot gives a very curious account of a blind lady. It is so remarkable, that we shall distinguish it by the separate title of Wonderful Performances of a Female, Blind almost from Infancy.

The name of this remarkable person was, Mademoiselle Melanie de Salignac, a young lady, who had been blind almost from her birth. Her feeling, hearing, and smell, were exquisite. She could distinguish, by the impression of the air, whether it was fine or cloudy, whether she was in an open place or a street, and whether the street was open at the end;—also, whether she was in a room or not, and of what size it was. Having once gone over a house, she became so well acquainted with the different parts, as to be able to warn others of any danger they were exposed to, by the existence of a step, or the lowness of a door. She could thread the smallest needle, with the greatest dexterity; and could execute every sort of needle-work. She played very well at many games at cards, which she distinguished by some little mark, known to herself by the touch, but imperceptible to the sight of any other person. She had learnt, and understood very well, music, geography, geometry, and dancing. She was, indeed, extremely clever; what made her more interesting, she was modest, mild, cheerful, and affectionate. She wrote with a pin, by pricking a sheet of paper, stretched on a frame, and read what she had written, by feeling the pin-marks on the other side of the paper. She could read a book, printed on one side only; some were printed expressly for her, in this manner. In a piece of twelve or fifteen lines, if the number of letters in each word, together with the letter which it began with, was given her, she could tell every word, however oddly composed. “This fact,” says Diderot, “was attested by every one of her family, by myself, and twenty other persons, still alive. She died at the age of twenty-two. She was the daughter of Madame de Blacy, a woman [Pg 54]distinguished for the eminence of her moral qualities,” and moving in a respectable sphere of life.—See Grimn’s Memoirs.


We now proceed to detail the following Wonderful Instances of Adroitness of Persons born defective in their Limbs.

Several instances of such births have occurred, and the wonderful acquirements of persons thus maimed by nature have often been the subject of public astonishment, and proved a source of gain to themselves or their relations.

Giraldus Cambriensis speaks of a young woman born without arms, whom he saw at Chester, in the reign of Henry II. He mentions her working very dexterously with her needle.

Stowe gives an account of a Dutchman born without arms, who in 1581, exhibited surprising feats of activity in London; such as flourishing with a rapier, shooting an arrow near a mark, &c.

Bulwer, in his Artificial Changeling, speaks of John Simons, a native of Berkshire, born without arms or hands, who could write with his mouth; thread a needle; tie a knot; shuffle, cut, and deal a pack of cards, &c. He was shewn in public in 1653.

John Sear, a Spaniard, born without arms, was shewn in London in King William’s reign, who could comb and shave himself, fill a glass, thread a needle, embroider, write six sorts of hands, and play on several instruments of music.

Matthew Buckinger, a German, born without arms or legs, who came to England, wrote a good hand, (many specimens of which are extant,) and performed several wonderful feats. He died in 1722, aged forty-eight.

Thomas Pinnington, a native of Liverpool, born without legs or arms, performed much the same feats as Sear, in 1744, and several years ensuing; since which, a Miss Hawtin, from Coventry, born without arms, and others whose names have not been mentioned, have exhibited themselves at Bartholomew Fair and other places.

Thomas Inglefield, born without arms or legs, at Hook, in Hampshire, (anno 1769) died a few years ago in London. He was not publicly shewn, but got his bread by writing and drawing. There are two portraits of him, one of which was etched by himself.

There was, a short time since, a farmer living at Ditch-heat in Somersetshire, born without arms,—William Kingston, of whom frequent mention has been made in the public papers. He surpasses, according to accounts which seem very well attested, all that have been yet spoken of.

The following account was given a few years since, in the papers, by a person who visited him. “In order to give the[Pg 55] public a satisfactory account of William Kingston,” says the writer, “I went to Ditcheat and the next morning got him to breakfast with me at Mrs. Goodfellow’s, and had ocular proof of his dexterity. He highly entertained us at breakfast, by putting his half-naked feet upon the table as he sat, and carrying his tea and toast between his great and second toe to his mouth, with as much facility as if his foot had been a hand, and his toes fingers. I put half a sheet of paper upon the floor, with a pen and ink-horn. He threw off his shoes as he sat, took the ink-horn in the toes of his left foot, and held the pen in those of his right. He then wrote three lines as well as most ordinary writers, and as swiftly. He writes all his own bills and other accounts. He then shewed me how he shaves himself with the razor in his toes; and he can comb his own hair. He can dress and undress himself, except buttoning his clothes. He feeds himself, and can bring both his meat or his broth to his mouth, by holding the fork or spoon in his toes. He cleans his own shoes, lights the fire, and does almost any domestic business as well as any other man. He can make hen-coops. He is a farmer by occupation. He can milk his cows with his toes, and cuts his own hay, binds it up in bundles, and carries it about the field for his cattle. Last winter he had eight heifers constantly to fodder. The last summer he made all his hay-ricks. He can do all the business of the hay-field (except mowing) as fast and as well with his feet as others can with rakes and forks. He goes to the field, and catches his horse. He saddles and bridles him with his teeth and toes. If he has a sheep among his flock that ails any thing, he can separate it from the rest, and drive it into a corner when nobody else can: he then examines it, and applies a remedy to it. He is so strong in his teeth, that he can lift ten pecks of beans with them. He can throw a great sledge-hammer as far with his feet, as other men can with their hands. In a word, he can nearly do as much without as others can with their arms.

“He began the world with a hen and chickens. With the profit on these he procured a ewe. The sale of these procured a ragged colt (as he termed it) and a sheep, and he now occupies a small farm.”

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” This proverb was never more fully exemplified than in the cases above mentioned. Habit, early acquired and long practised, may render the toes almost as useful as the fingers: the lips are also endued with acute feeling and great flexibility, and may become powerful assistants where the hands are wanting. One lesson, at least, may be taught by this maimed tribe:—that few things are so difficult, that they cannot be acquired by perseverance and application.

 [Pg 56]

While some persons are noted for their extraordinary and wonderful faculties, others are remarkable for defects in natural capacities. The reader will feel interested in the following Curious Account of Incapacity of distinguishing Colours.

Of this extraordinary defect in vision, we have the following instances in the Philosophical Transactions for 1777. One of the persons lived at Maryport in Cumberland. The account was communicated by Mr. Huddart to Dr. Priestley; and is as follows:—“His name was Harris; by trade a shoemaker. I had often heard from others that he could discern the form and magnitude of all objects very distinctly, but could not distinguish colours. This report had excited my curiosity; I conversed with him frequently on the subject. The account he gave was this: That he had reason to believe other persons saw something in objects which he could not see: that their language seemed to mark qualities with precision and confidence, which he could only guess at with hesitation, and frequently with error. His first suspicion of this arose when he was about four years old. Having by accident found in the street, a child’s stocking, he carried it to a neighbouring house to inquire for the owner: he observed the people called it a red stocking, though he did not understand why they gave it that denomination, as he himself thought it completely described by being called a stocking. This circumstance, however, remained in his memory, and together with subsequent observations, led him to the knowledge of this defect. He also observed, that when young, other children could discern cherries on a tree by some pretended difference of colour, though he could only distinguish them from the leaves, by the difference of their size and shape. He observed also, that by means of this difference of colour they could see the cherries at a greater distance than he could, though he could see other objects at as great a distance as they, that is, where the sight was not assisted by the colour. Large objects he could see as well as other persons; and even the smaller ones, if they were not enveloped in other things, as in the case of cherries among the leaves. I believe he could never do more than guess the name of any colour; yet he could distinguish white from black, or black from any light or bright colour. Dove or straw colour he called white, and different colours he frequently called by the same name; yet he could discern a difference between them when placed together. In general, colours of an equal degree of brightness, however they might otherwise differ, he confounded together. Yet a striped ribbon he could distinguish from a plain one; but he could not tell what the colours were with any tolerable exactness. Dark colours, in general, he often mistook for black; but[Pg 57] never imagined white to be a dark colour, nor dark to be a white colour. He was an intelligent man, and very desirous of understanding the nature of light and colours, for which end he had attended a course of lectures in natural philosophy. He had two brothers in the same circumstances as to sight; and two others (brothers and sisters) who, as well as their parents, had nothing of this defect. One of the first mentioned brothers, who is now living, I met with at Dublin, and wished to try his capacity to distinguish the colours in a prism; but not having one by me, I asked him, whether he had ever seen a rainbow? he replied, he had often; and could distinguish the different colours; meaning only, that it was composed of different colours, for he could not tell what they were. I then procured, and shewed him a piece of ribbon: he immediately, and without any difficulty, pronounced it a striped, and not a plain, ribbon. He then attempted to name the different stripes: the several stripes of white he uniformly, and without hesitation, called white: the four black stripes he was deceived in; for three of them he thought brown, though they were exactly of the same shade with the other, which he properly called black. He spoke, however, with diffidence, as to all those stripes; and it must be owned, that the black was not very distinct: the light green he called yellow; but he was not very positive: he said, “I think this what you call yellow.” The middle stripe, which had a slight tinge of red, he called a sort of blue. But he was most of all deceived by the orange colour: of this he spoke very confidently, saying, “This is the colour of grass, this is green.” I also shewed him a great variety of ribbons, the colour of which he sometimes named rightly, and sometimes as differently as possible from the true colour. I asked him, whether he imagined it possible for all the various colours he saw to be mere difference of light and shade; and that all colours could be composed of these two mixtures only? With some hesitation he replied, No, he did imagine there was some other difference. It is proper to add, that the experiment of the striped ribbon was made in the day-time, and in a good light.”

Incredible as the above phenomena may appear, we can add the following fact in confirmation of them, from personal knowledge. There is a gentleman now living in Edinburgh, whose optical nerves have laboured under a defect perfectly similar, since his infancy; but whose powers of vision are in other respects so much superior to those of most other people, that he draws the most striking likenesses, being a limner by profession, and requires for this purpose only once to see the person whose portrait is intended to be drawn, scarcely desiring a single sitting, much less repeated visiting. And what[Pg 58] is still more extraordinary, he can, from such a momentary glance, retain the idea of the features, and even the gait and manner of the person, for years afterwards, so exactly as to be able to finish either a miniature head, or full portrait, at that distant period, as well as if the person were present. His friends, incredulous of this phenomenon, have, by placing his colours out of the order in which he keeps them, sometimes made him give a gentleman a green beard, and paint a beautiful young lady with a pair of blue cheeks.


We now proceed to the consideration of a very remarkable acquirement of man, called Ventriloquism.

This is an art of speaking, by means of which the human voice and other sounds are rendered audible, as if they proceeded from several different places; though the utterer does not change his place, and in many instances does not appear to speak. It has been supposed to be a natural peculiarity; because few, if any persons, have learned it by being taught, and we have had no rules laid down for acquiring it. It seems to have been in consequence of this notion, that the name ‘Ventriloquism’ has been applied to it, from a supposition that the voice proceeds from the thorax or chest. It has seldom been practised but by persons of the lower classes of society; and as it does not seem to present any advantages beyond that of causing surprise and entertainment, and cannot be exhibited on an extended theatre, the probability is, that it will continue amongst them.

Mr. Gough, in his Manchester Memoirs, and in various parts of Nicholson’s Journal, has entertained the opinion that the voice of ventriloquists is made to proceed, in appearance, from different parts of a room, by the management of an echo. But the facts themselves do not support this hypothesis, as a great and sudden variety and change of echoes would be required; and his own judicious remarks, in the same work, on the facility with which we are deceived as to the direction of sound, are adverse to his theory. From numerous attentive observations, it appears manifest that the art is not peculiar to certain individuals, but may with facility be acquired by any person of accurate observation. It consists merely in an imitation of sounds, as they occur in nature, accompanied with appropriate action, of such a description as may best concur in leading the minds of the observers to favour the deception.

Any one who shall try, will be a little surprised to find how easy it is to imitate the noise made by a saw, or by a snuff-box when opened and shut, or by a large hand-bell, or cork-cutter’s knife, a watch while going, and numberless other inanimate objects; or the voices of animals, in their various[Pg 59] situations and necessities, such as a cat, a dog, or a hen enraged, intimidated, confined, &c.; or to vary the character of the human voice by shrillness or depth of tone, rapidity or drawling of execution, and distinctness or imperfection of articulation, which may be instantly changed by holding the mouth a little more opened or more closed than usual, altering the position of the jaw, keeping the tongue in any determinate situation, &c. And every one of the imitations of the ventriloquist will be rendered more perfect by practising them at the very time the sounds are heard, instead of depending on the memory. The leading condition of performance is, that the voices and sounds of the dramatic dialogue to be exhibited, should succeed each other so rapidly that the audience should lose sight of the probability that one actor gives effect to the whole, and that where the business is simple, the aid of scenery or local circumstance should be called in.

We have seen an eminent philosopher of our own time, who had no previous practice of this art, but when speaking on the subject in a mixed company, took up a hat, and folding the flaps together, said, by way of example, “Suppose I had a small monkey in this hat;” and then cautiously putting his hand in, as if to catch it, he imitated the chatter of the supposed struggling animal, at the same time that his own efforts to secure it had a momentary impression on the spectators, which left no time to question whether there was a monkey in it or not: this impression was completed when, the instant afterwards, he pulled out his hand as if hurt, and exclaimed, “He has bit me!” It was not till then that the impression of the reality gave way to the diversion arising from the mimic art; and one of the company, even then, cried out, “Is there really a monkey in the hat?”

In this manner it was that, at the beginning of the last century, the famous Tom King, who is said to have been the first man who delivered public lectures on experimental philosophy in the country, was attended by the whole fashionable world, for a succession of many nights, to hear him “kill a calf.” This performance was done in a separated part of the place of exhibition, into which the exhibiter retired alone; and the imagination of his polite hearers was taxed to supply the calf and three butchers, besides a dog who sometimes raised his voice, and was checked for his unnecessary exertions. It appears, from traditional narrative, that the calf was heard to be dragged in, not without some efforts and conversation on the part of the butchers, and noisy resistance from the calf; that they conversed on the qualities of the animal, and the profits to be expected from the veal; and that, as they proceeded, all the noises of knife and steel, of suspending the creature, and of the last fatal[Pg 60] catastrophe, were heard in rapid succession, to the never-failing satisfaction of the attendants; who, upon the rise of the curtain, saw that all these imaginary personages had vanished, and Tom King alone remained to claim the applause.

A similar fact may be quoted in the person of that facetious gentleman, who has assumed and given celebrity to the name of Peter Pindar. This great poet, laughing at the proverbial poverty of his profession, is sometimes pleased to entertain his friends with singular effusions of the art we speak of. One of these is managed by a messenger announcing to the Doctor (in the midst of company) that a person wants to speak with him: he accordingly goes out, leaving the door a-jar, and immediately a female voice is heard, which, from the nature of the subject, appears to be that of the Poet’s laundress, who complains of her pressing wants, disappointed claims, and of broken promises no longer to be borne with patience. It is more easy to imagine than describe the mixed emotions of the audience. The scene, however, goes on by the Doctor’s reply; who remonstrates, promises, and is rather angry at the time and place of this unwelcome visit. His antagonist unfortunately is neither mollified nor disposed to quit her ground. Passion increases on both sides, and the Doctor forgets himself so far as to threaten the irritated female; she defies him, and this last promise, very unlike the former ones, is followed by payment; a severe smack on the face is heard; the poor woman falls down stairs, with horrid outcries; the company, of course, rises in alarm, and the Doctor is found in a state of perfect tranquillity, apparently a stranger to the whole transaction.

A very able ventriloquist, Fitz-James, performed in public, in Soho-square, about four years ago. He personated various characters by appropriate dresses; and by a command of the muscles of his face he could very much alter his appearance. He imitated many inanimate noises, and among others, a repetition of noises of the water machine at Marli. He conversed with some statues, which replied to him; and also with some persons supposed to be in the room above, and on the landing-place; gave the watchman’s cry, gradually approaching, and when he seemed opposite the window, Fitz-James opened it and asked what the time was, received the answer, and during his proceeding with his cry, Fitz-James shut the window, immediately upon which the sound became weaker, and at last insensible. In the whole of his performance, it was clear that the notions of the audience were governed by the auxiliary circumstances, as to direction, &c. This mimic had, at least, six different habitual modes of speaking, which he could instantly adapt one after the other, and with so much rapidity, that when in a small closet, parted off in the[Pg 61] room, he gave a long, confused, and impassioned debate of democrats (in French, as almost the whole of his performance was;) it seemed to proceed from a multitude of speakers: and an inaccurate observer might have thought that several were speaking at once. A ludicrous scene of drawing a tooth was performed in the same manner.

These examples, and many more which might be added, are sufficient, in proof that ventriloquism is the art of mimicry, an imitation applied to sounds of every description, and attended with circumstances which produce an entertaining deception, and lead the hearers to imagine that the voice proceeds from different situations. When distant low voices are to be imitated, the articulation may be given with sufficient distinctness, without moving the lips, or altering the countenance. It was by a supposed supernatural voice of this kind, from a ventriloquist, that the famous musical small-coal man, Thomas Britton, received a warning of his death, which so greatly affected him, that he did not survive the affright.

The following quotation from Richerand’s Physiology will be sufficient to give the reader a further idea of the mechanism of this singular art. “At first,” says Richerand, “I had conjectured that a great portion of the air driven out by expiration did not pass out by the mouth and nostrils, but was swallowed and carried into the stomach, reflected in some part of the digestive canal, and gave rise to a real echo; but after having attentively observed this curious phenomenon, in Mr. Fitz-James, who represents it in its greatest perfection, I was enabled to convince myself that the name ventriloquism is by no means applicable, since the whole of its mechanism consists in a slow gradual expiration, drawn in such a way that the artist either makes use of the influence exerted by volition over the muscles or parietis of the thorax, or that he keeps the epiglottis down by the base of the tongue, the apex of which is not carried beyond the dental arches.

“He always makes a strong inspiration just before this long expiration, and thus conveys a considerable mass of air into the lungs, the exit of which he afterwards manages with such address. Therefore, repletion of the stomach greatly incommodes the talent of Mr. Fitz-James, by preventing the diaphragm from descending sufficiently to admit of a dilatation of the thorax, in proportion to the quantity of air that the lungs should receive. By accelerating or retarding the exit of the air, he can imitate different voices, and induce his auditors to a belief that the interlocutors of a dialogue, which is kept up by himself alone, are placed at different distances; and this illusion is the more complete in proportion to the perfection of his peculiar talent. No man possesses, to such[Pg 62] a degree as Mr. Fitz-James, the art of deceiving persons who are least liable to delusion, he can carry his execution to five or six different tones, pass rapidly from one to another, as he does when representing an animated dispute in the midst of a popular assembly.”

Some persons are of opinion that the witch of Endor was a ventriloquist, and that she practised this art before King Saul, and deceived him in the resurrection of Samuel; the present writer, however, does not vouch for this opinion.


Another very extraordinary acquirement, and which the present writer has been witness to, is, Sword-swallowing.

This surprising act is performed by the Indian Jugglers; the following account of which, is extracted from Forbes’s Oriental Memoirs.

“I have elsewhere mentioned some feats of the Indian Jugglers: at Zinore I saw one which surpassed every thing of the kind I had before witnessed, I mean the swallowing a sword up to the hilt. Had I not afterwards met with the same set on the island of Salsette, exhibiting before the English chief at Tannah, I should have doubted the evidence of my senses. I witnessed the fact more than once, and am convinced there was no deception. Finding my tale generally disbelieved in Europe, I suppressed it; but having since read a clear and satisfactory account of this extraordinary transaction, drawn up by Mr. Johnson, surgeon in the navy, who, in the year 1804, was an eye-witness of this performance, and having described it as a professional man, I shall transcribe the account from his memoir:—

“‘Having been visited by one of these conjurers, I resolved to see clearly his mode of performing this operation; and for that purpose ordered him to seat himself on the floor of the veranda. The sword he intended to use has some resemblance to a common spit in shape, except at the handle, which is merely a part of the blade itself, rounded and elongated into a little rod. It is from twenty-two to twenty-six inches in length, about an inch in breadth, and about one-fifth of an inch in thickness; the edges and point are blunt, being rounded, and of the same thickness as the rest of the blade; it is of iron or steel, smooth, and a little bright. Having satisfied himself with respect to the sword, by attempting to bend it; and by striking it against a stone, I firmly grasped it by the handle, and ordered him to proceed. He first took a small phial of oil, and with one of his fingers rubbed a little of it over the surface of the instrument; then, stretching up his neck as much as possible, and bending himself a little backwards, he introduced the point of it into his mouth, and pushed it gently down his throat, until my[Pg 63] hand, which was on the handle, came in contact with his lips. He then made a sign to me with one of his hands, to feel the point of the instrument between his breast and navel: which I could do, by bending him a little more backwards, and pressing my fingers on his stomach, he being a very thin and lean fellow. On letting go the handle of the sword, he instantly fixed on it a little machine that spun round, and disengaged a small fire-work, which encircling his head with a blue flame, gave him, as he then sat, a truly diabolical appearance. On withdrawing the instrument, several parts of its surface were covered with blood, which shewed that he was still obliged to use a degree of violence in the introduction.

“‘I was at first a good deal surprised at this transaction altogether; but when I came to reflect a little upon it, there appeared nothing at all improbable, much less impossible, in the business. He told me, on giving him a trifle, that he had been accustomed, from his early years, to introduce at first small elastic instruments down his throat, and into his stomach; that by degrees he had used larger ones, until at length he was able to use the present iron sword.’” Oriental Memoirs, vol. ii. pp. 515-517.

Two of these jugglers have lately visited England, and performed the above exploit, with many others, almost equally surprising, to the satisfaction of crowded audiences.

We may learn from various instances in this chapter the value of perseverance; this will overcome difficulties, which at first appear insuperable; and it is amazing to consider, how great and numerous obstacles may be removed by a continual attention to any particular point. By such attention and perseverance, what may not man effect! Any man, unless he be an absolute idiot, may by these means raise himself to excellence in some branch or other; and what is best of all, by divine assistance, and by unwearied and keen application, he may resist temptation, conquer the evil principle, rise superior to all the difficulties and trials of life, excel in wisdom and goodness, and thus be fitted for a better country, when death summons him away from the present world.

—————————————Man must soar.
An obstinate activity within,
An insuppressive spring, will toss him up,
In spite of fortune’s load. Not kings alone,
Each villager has his ambition too;
No sultan prouder than his fetter’d slave.
Slaves build their little Babylons of straw,
Echo the proud Assyrian, in their hearts,
And cry—“Behold the wonders of my might!”
And why? Because immortal as their lord;
And souls immortal must for ever heave
At something great; the glitter, or the gold;
The praise of mortals, or the praise of heav’n.



[Pg 64]



Instances of Extraordinary Gluttony—Instances of Extraordinary Fasting—Wonders of Abstinence—Sleep Walking—Sleeping Woman of Dunninald—Instances of Extraordinary Dreams—Poetical, Grammatical, and Scientific Deaths—Anthropophagi, or Men-Eaters—Account of a Wild Man.


Instances of Extraordinary Gluttony.

Habitual gluttons may be reckoned among the monsters of nature, and even punishable for endeavouring to bring a famine into the places where they live. King James I. when a man was presented to him who could eat a whole sheep at one meal, asked, “What work could he do more than another man?” and being answered, “He could not do so much,” said, “Hang him, then; for it is unfit a man should live, that eats as much as twenty men, and cannot do so much as one.”

The emperor Clodius Albinus devoured more than a bushel of apples at once. He ate 500 figs to his breakfast, 100 peaches, 10 melons, 20lbs. of grapes, 100 gnat-snappers, and 400 oysters.

Hardi Canute, the last of the Danish kings in England, was so great a glutton, that an historian calls him Bocca di Porco, “Swine’s-mouth.” His tables were covered four times a day with the most costly viands that either the air, sea, or land, could furnish; and as he lived he died; for, revelling at a banquet at Lambeth, he fell down dead.

One Phagon, in the reign of Aurelianus, at one meal, ate a whole boar, 100 loaves of bread, a sheep, and a pig, and drank above three gallons of wine.

One Mallet, a counsellor at law, in the reign of Charles I. ate at one time a dinner provided in Westminster for 30 men. His practice not being sufficient to supply him with better meat, he fed generally on offals, ox livers, hearts, &c. He lived to near 60 years of age, but during the seven last years of his life ate as moderately as other men.

Among the many accounts of extraordinary eaters, there are, perhaps, none that have exceeded those of Nicholas Wood, of Harrison, in Kent, related in Fuller’s Worthies, p. 86, whose enormous appetite appears to exceed all probability.

He ate at one meal a whole sheep, of sixteen shillings price, raw; at another time, thirty dozen of pigeons. At Sir William Sidley’s, in the same county, he ate as much victuals[Pg 65] as would have sufficed thirty men. At Lord Wotton’s mansion-house, in Kent, he devoured, at one dinner, 84 rabbits, which, at the rate of half a rabbit a man, would have served 168 men. He ate to his breakfast 18 yards of black-pudding. He devoured at one meal a whole hog; and after it, being accommodated with fruit, he ate three pecks of damsons.

Gluttony is a most degrading vice. Be sober; be temperate; be virtuous; for

Health consists with temperance alone.
And peace, O Virtue! peace is all thy own.


We shall, with the readers permission, now introduce some Extraordinary Instances of Fasting.

A full account of a very uncommon case is given in the Phil. Trans, vol. lxvii. part I. Janet M‘Leod, an inhabitant in the parish of Kincardine, in Ross-shire, continued healthy till she was fifteen years of age, when she had a pretty severe epileptic fit; after this she had an interval of health for four years, and then another epileptic fit, which continued a whole day and a night. A few days afterwards she was seized with a fever, which continued with violence several weeks, and from which she did not perfectly recover for some months. At this time she lost the use of her eyelids; so that she was under the necessity of keeping them open with the fingers of one hand, whenever she wanted to look about her. In other respects she continued in pretty good health; only she periodically spit up blood in pretty large quantities, and at the same time it flowed from the nose. This discharge continued several years; but at last it ceased; and soon after she had a third epileptic fit, and after that a fever, from which she recovered slowly. Six weeks after the crisis, she stole out of the house unknown to her parents, who were busied in their harvest work, and bound the sheaves of a ridge before she was observed. In the evening she took to her bed, complaining much of her heart (probably meaning her stomach) and her head. From that time she never rose for five years, but was occasionally lifted out of bed. She seldom spoke a word, and took so little food, that it seemed scarcely sufficient to support a sucking infant. Even this small quantity was taken by compulsion; and at last, about Whitsunday, 1763, she totally refused every kind of food or drink. Her jaws now became so fast locked, that it was with the greatest difficulty her father was able to open her teeth a little, in order to admit a small quantity of gruel or whey; but of this so much generally run out at the corners of her mouth, that they could not be sensible any had been [Pg 66]swallowed. About this time they got some water from a noted medical spring in Brae-Mar, some of which they attempted to make her swallow, but without effect. They continued their trials, however, for three mornings; rubbing her throat with the water which ran out at the corners of her mouth. On the third morning, during the operation, she cried out, “Give me more water;” and swallowed with ease all that remained in the bottle. She spoke no more intelligibly for a year, though she continued to mutter some words, for 14 days, which her parents only understood. She continued to reject all kinds of food and drink till July, 1765. At this time her sister thought, by some signs she made, that she wanted her jaws opened; and this being done, not without violence, she called intelligibly for some liquid, and drank with ease about an English pint of water. Her father then asked why she would not make some signs when she wanted to drink? To which she answered,—why should she, when she had no desire? It was now supposed that she had regained the faculty of speech; and her jaws were kept open for about three weeks, by means of a wedge. But in four or five days she became totally silent, and the wedge was removed, because it made her lips sore. She still, however, continued sensible; and when her eyelids were opened, knew every body. This could be guessed from the signs she made. By continuing their attempts to force open her jaws, two of the under fore teeth were driven out; and of this opening her parents endeavoured to avail themselves, by putting some thin nourishing drink into her mouth, but without effect, as it always returned by the corners. Sometimes they thought of thrusting a little dough of oatmeal through this gap of the teeth, which she would retain a few seconds, and then return with something like a straining to vomit, without one particle going down. Nor were the family sensible of any thing like swallowing for four years, excepting the small draught of Brae-Mar water, and an English pint of common water. For the last three years she had no natural discharge, except that once or twice a week she passed a few drops of water.

In this situation she was visited by Dr. Mackenzie, who communicated the account to the Royal Society. He found her not at all emaciated; her knees were bent, and the hamstrings tight, so that her heels were drawn up behind her body. She slept much, and was very quiet; but when awake, kept a constant whimpering like a new-born weakly infant. She never could remain a moment on her back, but always fell to one side or another; and her chin was drawn close to her breast, nor could it by any force be moved backwards. The Doctor paid his first visit in October, 1767; and five years afterwards, viz, in October, 1772, was induced to pay[Pg 67] her a second visit, by hearing that she was recovering, and had begun to eat and drink. The account given him was most extraordinary.

Her parents one day returning from their country labours, (having left their daughter fixed to her bed as usual,) were greatly surprised to find her sitting upon her hams, in a part of the house opposite to her bed-place, spinning with her mother’s distaff. All the food she took at that time was only to crumble a little oat or barley cake in the palm of her hand, as if to feed a chicken. She put little crumbs of this into the gap of her teeth; rolled them about for some time in her mouth; and then sucked out of the palm of her hand a little water, whey, or milk; and this only once or twice a day, and even that by compulsion. She never attempted to speak; her jaws were fast locked, and her eyes shut. On opening her eyelids, the balls were found to be turned up under the edge of the os frontis; her countenance was ghastly, her complexion pale, and her whole person emaciated. She seemed sensible and tractable, except in taking food. This she did with the utmost reluctance, and even cried before she yielded. The great change of her looks, Dr. Mackenzie attributed to her spinning flax on the distaff, which exhausted too much of the saliva; and therefore he recommended to her parents to confine her totally to the spinning of wool. In 1775, she was visited again, and found to be greatly improved in her looks as well as strength; her food was also considerably increased in quantity; though even then she did not take more than would be sufficient to sustain an infant of two years of age.

In the Gentleman’s Magazine, for 1789, p. 1211, is recorded the death of one Caleb Elliot, a visionary enthusiast, who meant to have fasted 40 days, and actually survived 16 without food, having obstinately refused sustenance of every kind.


At the same time that we should guard against superstitious fasting, we should be cautious not to transgress the bounds of temperance. Occasional abstinence is useful and praiseworthy, and we shall now give some instances of The Wonders of Abstinence.

Many wonders are related of the effects of abstinence, in the cure of several disorders, and in protracting the term of life. The noble Venetian, Cornaro, after all imaginable means had proved vain, so that his life was despaired of at 40, recovered, and lived to near 100, by mere dint of abstinence; as he himself gives account. It is indeed surprising to what a great age the primitive Christians of the East, who retired from the persecutions into the deserts of Arabia and[Pg 68] Egypt, lived, healthful and cheerful, on a very little food. Cassian assures us, that the common rate for 24 hours was 12 ounces of bread, and mere water; with this, St. Anthony lived 105 years; James the hermit, 104; Arsenius, tutor of the Emperor Arcadius, 123; S. Epiphanius, 115; Simeon, the Stylite, 112; and Romauld, 130. Indeed, we can match these instances of longevity at home. Buchanan writes, that one Lawrence preserved himself to 140, by force of temperance and labour; and Spottiswood mentions one Kentigern, afterwards called St. Mongah, or Mungo, who lived to 185, by the same means. Abstinence, however, is to be recommended only as it means a proper regimen; for in general it must have bad consequences, when observed without a due regard to constitution, age, strength, &c.

According to Dr. Cheyne, most of the chronical diseases, the infirmities of old age, and the short lives of Englishmen, are owing to repletion; and may be either cured, prevented, or remedied, by abstinence: but then the kinds of abstinence which ought to obtain, either in sickness or health, are to be deduced from the laws of diet and regimen. Among the brute creation, we see extraordinary instances of long abstinence. The serpent kind, in particular, bear abstinence to a wonderful degree. Rattlesnakes are reported to have subsisted many months without any food, yet still retained their vigour and fierceness. Dr. Shaw speaks of a couple of cerastes, (a sort of Egyptian serpents,) which had been kept five years in a bottle close corked, without any sort of food, unless a small quantity of sand, wherein they coiled themselves up in the bottom of the vessel, may be reckoned as such: yet when he saw them, they had newly cast their skins, and were as brisk and lively as if just taken.

But it is even natural for divers species of creatures to pass four, five, or six months’ every year, without either eating or drinking. Accordingly, the tortoise, bear, dormouse, serpent, &c. are observed regularly to retire, at those seasons, to their respective cells, and hide themselves,—some in the caverns of rocks or ruins; others dig holes under ground; others get into woods, and lay themselves up in clefts of trees; others bury themselves under water, &c. And yet these animals are found as fat and fleshy after some months’ abstinence as before.—A gentleman (Phil. Trans. No. 194.) weighed his tortoise several years successively, at its going to earth in October, and coming out again in March; and found that, of four pounds four ounces, it only used to lose about one ounce.—Indeed, we have instances of men passing several months as strictly abstinent as other creatures. In particular, the records of the Tower mention a Scotchman imprisoned for felony, and strictly watched in that fortress[Pg 69] for six weeks; in all which time he took not the least sustenance; for which he had his pardon. Numberless instances of extraordinary abstinence, particularly from morbid causes, are to be found in the different periodical Memoirs, Transactions, Ephemerides, &c. It is to be added, that, in most instances of extraordinary human abstinence related by naturalists, there were said to have been apparent marks of a texture of blood and humour, much like that of the animals above mentioned; though it is not an improbable opinion, that the air itself may furnish something for nutrition. It is certain, there are substances of all kinds, animal, vegetable, &c. floating in the atmosphere, which must be continually taken in by respiration. And that an animal body may be nourished thereby, is evident from the instance of vipers, which, if taken when first brought forth, and kept from every thing but air, will yet grow very considerably in a few days. The eggs of lizards, also, are observed to increase in bulk after they are produced, though there be nothing to furnish the increment but air alone, in like manner as the eggs or spawn of fish grow and are nourished by the water. And hence, say some, it is, that cooks, turnspit dogs, &c. though they eat but little, yet are usually fat.


We shall next offer the reader a few remarks on Sleep-Walking.

Many instances are related of persons who were addicted to this practice. A very remarkable one has been published from a report made to the Physical Society of Lausanne, by a committee of gentlemen appointed to examine a young man who was accustomed to walk in his sleep.

The disposition to sleep-walking seems, in the opinion of this committee, to depend on a particular affection of the nerves, which both seizes and quits the patient during sleep. Under the influence of this affection, the imagination represents to him the objects that struck him while awake, with as much force as if they really affected his senses; but it does not make him perceive any of those that are actually presented to his senses, except in so far as they are connected with the dreams which engross him at the time. If, during this state, the imagination has no determined purpose, he receives the impression of objects as if he were awake; only, however, when the imagination is excited to bend its attention towards them. The perceptions obtained in this state are very accurate, and, when once received, the imagination renews them occasionally with as much force as if they were again acquired by means of the senses. Lastly, these academicians suppose, that the impressions received during this state of the senses, disappear entirely when the person[Pg 70] awakes, and do not return till the recurrence of the same disposition in the nervous system.


Our next article is, A Curious Account of the Sleeping Woman of Dunninald, near Montrose.

The following narrative was communicated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, by Dr. Brewster.

Margaret Lyall, aged 21, daughter of John Lyall, labourer at Dunninald, was first seized with a sleeping fit on the 27th of June, 1815, which continued to the 30th of June; next morning she was again found in a deep sleep: in this state she remained for seven days, without motion, food, or the use of any animal function. But at the end of this time, by the moving of her left hand, and by plucking at the coverlet of the bed and pointing to her mouth, a wish for food being understood, it was given her. This she took; but still remained in her lethargic state till Tuesday the 8th of August, being six weeks from the time she was seized with the lethargy, without appearing to be awake, except on the afternoon of Friday the 30th of June. During the first two weeks, her pulse was generally about 50, the third week about 60, and previous to her recovery, at 70 to 72. Though extremely feeble for some days after her recovery, she gained strength so rapidly, that before the end of August, she began to work at the harvest, on the lands of Mr. Arkley, and continued without inconvenience to perform her labour.

The account is drawn up by the clergyman of the parish, and is accompanied with the medical report of the surgeons who attended; to whose attestations are added those of Mr. Arkley, the proprietor of Dunninald, and Lyall, the father; and the statement is, in every respect, entitled to the fullest credit.


We shall proceed to some Instances of Extraordinary Dreams.

The following account is by no means intended either to restore the reign of superstition, or to induce the reader to put faith in the numberless ridiculous interpretations, given by some pretenders to divination, of the ordinary run of dreams. The absurdity of the many traditional rules, laid down by such persons; such as, that dreaming of eggs prognosticates anger; of the washing of linens, forebodes flitting; of green fields, sickness; of hanging, honour; of death, marriage; of fish, children; and of raw flesh, death, &c. &c. can only be exceeded by the folly of those who put faith in such fooleries. But instances have occurred of particular persons, whose veracity cannot be doubted, having dreams of so singular a nature, and so literally and exactly fulfilled, that it[Pg 71] may be well to mention one or two of them, for the entertainment, at least, of the reader, if they should not contribute to his improvement.—

Mr. Richard Boyle, manufacturer, residing in Stirling, about 1781, dreamed that he saw a beautiful young woman, with a winding sheet over her arm, whose image made a deep impression on his mind. Upon telling his mother the dream, she said, you will probably marry that woman, and if you do, she will bury you. Going to Glasgow in 1783, he met with a young woman in a friend’s house, exactly resembling the person he had dreamed of; and notwithstanding the disheartening interpretation he had got, and the additional discouraging circumstance told him, that she was already engaged with another young man, was sure she was to be his wife, and did not give up his pursuit till he made her his own. The melancholy part of his dream was soon fulfilled. He lived only 15 months with her; a short, but happy period. His widow, during his life, dreamed with equal exactness of her second husband, whom she did not see till three years afterwards, when the sight of him, at church, in Montrose, disturbed her devotion so much, upon recollecting her dream, that she hardly knew a word the minister said afterwards. Within less than two months, they were introduced to each other; and within four, were married.—Another young lady had dreamed so often, and so particularly, about the gentleman who afterwards married her, that at their first meeting, she started back, as if she had seen a ghost.—The editors of the Encyclopedia Perthensis declare they knew the parties concerned in the foregoing relations. But these instances of prophetic dreams, they observe, are trifling, compared to one narrated in the Weekly Mirror, printed at Edinburgh, in 1781, and signed Verax; and which, they say, they quote the more readily, as also, from personal acquaintance with the parties, they know the narrative to be true:

“In June, 1752, Mr. Robert Aikenhead, farmer, in Denstrath, of Arnhall, in the Mearns, about 5 miles north of Brechin, and 7 from Montrose, went to a market called Tarrenty-fair, where he had a large sum of money to receive. His eldest son, Robert, a boy about 8 years of age, was sent to take care of the cattle, and, happening to lie down upon a grassy bank before sun-set, fell fast asleep. Although the boy had never been far from home, he was immediately carried in his imagination to Tarrenty market, where, he dreamed, that his father, after receiving the money, set out on his return home, and was followed all the way by two ill-looking fellows, who, when he had got to the western dykes of Inglis-Mauldy, (the seat of the then Lord Halkerton, afterwards Earl of Kintore,) and little more than a mile from home,[Pg 72] attacked and attempted to rob him. Whereupon the boy thought he ran to his assistance, and, when he came within a gun-shot of the place, called out some people, who were just going to bed, who put the robbers to flight. He immediately awoke in a fright, and, without waiting to consider whether it was a vision or a reality, ran as fast as he could to the place he had dreamed of, and had no sooner reached it, than he saw his father in the very spot and situation he had seen in his dream, defending himself with his stick against the assassins. He therefore immediately realized his own part of the visionary scene, by roaring out, Murder! which soon brought out the people, who running up to Mr. Aikenhead’s assistance, found him victor over one of the villains, whom he had previously knocked down with a stone, after they had pulled him off his horse; but almost overpowered by the other, who repeatedly attempted to stab him with a sword; against which he had no other defence than his stick and his hands, which were considerably mangled by grasping the blade. Upon sight of the country people, the villain who had the sword ran off; but the other not being able, was apprehended and lodged in gaol. Meantime there was no small hue and cry after young Robert, whose mother missing him, and finding the cattle among the corn, was in the utmost anxiety, concluding that he had fallen into some water or peat moss. But her joy and surprise were equally great, when her husband returned with the boy, and told her how miraculously both his money and life had been preserved by his son’s dream; although she was at first startled at seeing her husband’s hands bloody.

“To those who deny the existence of a God, (adds the writer,) or the superintendence of a divine providence, the above narrative will appear as fabulous as any story in Ovid. To those who measure the greatness and littleness of events by the arbitrary rules of human pride and vanity, it will perhaps appear incredible that such a miracle should have been wrought for the preservation of the life of a country farmer. But all who found their opinions upon the unerring rule of right and truth, which assures us that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the permission of our heavenly Father, (and who know, that in the sight of Him, with whom there is no respect of persons or dignities, the life of the greatest monarch on earth, and that of the lowest of his subjects, are of equal value,) will laugh at such silly objections, when opposed to well-attested facts. That the above is one, could be attested upon oath, were it necessary, by Mr. and Mrs. Aikenhead, from whom I had all the particulars above narrated about 15 months ago.—Edinburgh, March 12, 1781.”—Indeed, whoever can persuade himself that such facts as[Pg 73] are stated above, can happen by chance, may easily adopt the system of those philosophers, who tell us that the universe was formed by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.


The title of our next subject is curious,—Poetical, Grammatical, and Scientific Deaths.

The Emperor Adrian, dying, made that celebrated address to his soul, which is so happily translated by Pope, in the following words:

Vital spark of heav’nly flame,
Quit, oh quit this mortal frame.
Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,
Oh the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight?
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death!

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav’n opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?

Lucan, when he had his veins opened by order of Nero, expired reciting a passage from his Pharsalia, in which he has described the wound of a dying soldier. Petronius did the same thing on the same occasion.

Patris, a poet of Caen, perceiving himself expiring, composed some verses which are justly admired. In this little poem he relates a dream, in which he appeared to be placed next to a beggar, when, having addressed him in the haughty strain he would probably have employed on this side of the grave, he received the following reprimand:

“Here all are equal; now thy lot is mine!
I on my dunghill, as thou art on thine.”

Des Barreaux, it is said, wrote, on his death-bed, that sonnet which is well known, and which is translated in the “Spectator.”

Margaret of Austria, when she was nearly perishing in a storm at sea, composed for herself the following epitaph in verse:

“Beneath this tomb is high-born Margaret laid,
Who had two husbands, and yet died a maid.”

She was betrothed to Charles VIII. of France, who forsook her. Being next intended for the Spanish Infant, in her voyage to Spain she wrote these lines in a storm.

[Pg 74]Roscommon, at the moment he expired, with an energy of voice (says his biographer) that expressed the most fervent devotion, uttered two lines of his own version of “Dies Iræ!”

Waller, in his last moments, repeated some lines from Virgil: and Chaucer took his farewell of all human vanities by a moral ode, entitled, “A ballad made by Geffrey Chauycer upon his dethe-bedde lying in his grete anguysse.”

“The muse that has attended my course (says the dying Gleim, in a letter to Klopstock[4]) still hovers round my steps to the very verge of the grave.” A collection of songs, composed by old Gleim on his death-bed, it is said, were intended to be published.

Chatellard, a French gentleman, beheaded in Scotland, for having loved the Queen, and even for having attempted her honour, Brantome says, would not have any other viaticum than a poem of Ronsard. When he ascended the scaffold, he took the hymns of this poet, and for his consolation read that on death; which, he says, is well adapted to conquer its fear. He preferred the poems of Ronsard to either a prayer-book or his confessor: such was his passion.

The Marquis of Montrose, when he was condemned by his judges to have his limbs nailed to the gates of four cities, the brave soldier said that, “he was sorry he had not limbs sufficient to be nailed to all the gates of the cities in Europe, as monuments of his loyalty.” As he proceeded to his execution, he put this thought into beautiful verse.

Philip Strozzi, when imprisoned by Cosmo the First, great Duke of Tuscany, was apprehensive of the danger to which he might expose his friends, (who had joined in his conspiracy against the duke,) from the confessions which the rack might extort from him. Having attempted every exertion for the liberty of his country, he considered it no crime therefore to die. He resolved on suicide. With the point of the sword, with which he killed himself, he first engraved on the mantle-piece of the chimney, this verse of Virgil:

Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor.
Rise, some avenger, from our blood!

Such persons realize that beautiful fiction of the ancients, who represent the swans of Cayster singing at their death; and have been compared to the nightingale singing with a thorn on its breast.

The following anecdotes are of a different complexion: they may perhaps excite a smile. We have given them the title of Grammatical Deaths.

Pere Bouhours was a French grammarian, who had been justly accused of paying too scrupulous an attention to the[Pg 75] minutiæ of letters. He was more solicitous of his words than his thoughts. It is said, that when he was dying, he called out to his friends (a correct grammarian to the last,) “Je Vas, ou je Vais mourir; l’un ou l’autre se dit!

When Malherbe was dying, he reprimanded his nurse for making use of a solecism in her language! And when his confessor represented to him the felicities of a future state in low expressions, the dying critic interrupted him: “Hold your tongue,” he said, “your wretched style only makes me out of conceit with them!”

Several persons of science have died in a scientific manner.—Haller, the greatest of physicians, beheld his end approach with the utmost composure. He kept feeling his pulse to the last moment, and when he found that life was almost gone, he turned to his brother physician, and observed, “My friend, the artery ceases to beat,”—and almost instantly expired.

De Lagny, who was intended by his friends for the study of the law, having fallen on an Euclid, found it so congenial to his disposition, that he devoted himself to mathematics. In his last moments, when he retained no further recollection of the friends who surrounded his bed, one of them, perhaps to make a philosophical experiment, thought proper to ask him the square of 12; the dying mathematician instantly, and perhaps without knowing that he answered it, replied, “144.”

The following lines, from the pen of Mrs. Barbauld, in an address to the Deity, express the desires and hopes of a real Christian in the contemplation of death:

“O when the last, the closing hour draws nigh,
And earth recedes before my swimming eye;
When trembling on the doubtful edge of fate,
I stand, and stretch my view to either state;
Teach me to quit this transitory scene
With decent triumph and a look serene;
Teach me to fix my ardent hopes on high,
And, having liv’d to thee, in thee to die!”


The following article is not of a pleasing description, but nevertheless proper to be inserted in “The Book of Curiosities.” It is Anthropophagi, or Men-eaters:

The Cyclops, the Lestrygons, and Scylla, are all represented in Homer as Anthropophagi, or man-eaters, and the female phantoms, Circe and the Syrens, first bewitched with a show of pleasure, and then destroyed. This, like the other parts of Homer’s poetry, had a foundation in the manners of the times preceding his own. It was still in many places the age spoken of by Orpheus,

“When men devour’d each other like the beasts,
Gorging on human flesh.”

[Pg 76]History gives us divers instances of persons driven by excess of hunger to eat their own relations. And also out of revenge and hatred, where soldiers, in the heat of battle, have been known to be carried to such an excess of rage, as to tear their enemies with their teeth.

The violence of love has sometimes produced the same effect as the excess of hatred.

Among the Essedonian Scythians, when a man’s father died, his neighbours brought him several beasts, which they killed, mixed up their flesh with that of the deceased, and made a feast.

Among the Massageti, when any person grew old, they killed him, and ate his flesh; but if the party died of sickness, they buried him, esteeming him unhappy.

Idolatry and superstition have caused the eating more human flesh, than both love and hatred put together.

There are few nations but have offered human victims to their deities; and it was an established custom to eat part of the sacrifices they offered.

It appears pretty certain, from Dr. Hawkesworth’s account of the voyages to the South Seas, that the inhabitants of New Zealand ate the bodies of their enemies. Mr. Petit has a learned dissertation on the nature and manners of the Anthropophagi. Among other things, he disputes whether or no the Anthropophagi act contrary to nature? The philosophers, Diogenes, Chrysippus, and Zeno, followed by the whole body of Stoics, held it a very reasonable thing for men to eat each other.

According to Sextus Empiricus, the first laws were those made to prevent men from eating each other, as had been done until that time.

The Greek writers represent Anthropophagi as universal before Orpheus.

Leonardus Floroventius informs us, that having fed a hog with hog’s flesh, and a dog with dog’s flesh, he found a repugnance in nature to such food; the former lost all his bristles; the latter its hair, and the whole body broke out in blotches.

If even this horrid practice of eating human flesh originates from hunger, still it must be perpetuated from revenge: as death must lose much of its horror among those who are accustomed to eat the dead; and where there is little horror at the sight of death, there must be less repugnance to murder.


We shall conclude this chapter with An Account of a Wild Man, given by M. Le Roy.

In 1774, a wild man was discovered in the neighbourhood of Yuary. This man, who inhabited the rocks near a forest, was very tall, covered with hair like a bear, very nimble, and of a gay humour. He neither did, nor seemed to intend, harm[Pg 77] to any body. He often visited the cottages, without ever attempting to carry off any thing. He had no knowledge of bread, milk, or cheese. His greatest amusement was to see the sheep running, and to scatter them; and he testified his pleasure at this sight by loud fits of laughter, but never attempted to hurt them. When the shepherds (as was frequently the case) let loose their dogs at him, he fled with the swiftness of an arrow, and never allowed the dogs to come too near him. One morning he came to the cottage of some workmen, and one of them endeavouring to catch him by the leg, he laughed heartily, and then made his escape. He seemed to be about thirty years of age. As the forest is very extensive, and had a communication with a vast wood that belongs to the Spanish territories, it is natural to suppose that this solitary, but cheerful creature, had been lost in his infancy, and subsisted on herbs.





Striking Instances of Integrity—Shocking Instances of Ingratitude—Extraordinary Instances of Honour—Surprising Effects of Anger—Remarkable Effects of Fright, or Terror—Notable Instance of the Power of Conscience.


Striking Instances of Integrity.

A man of integrity will never listen to any reason, or give way to any measure, or be misled by any inducement, against conscience. The inhabitants of a great town offered Marshal de Turenne 100,000 crowns, upon condition he would take another road, and not march his troops their way. He answered them, “As your town is not on the road I intend to march, I cannot accept the money you offer me.”—The Earl of Derby, in the reign of Edward III. making a descent in Guienne, carried by storm the town of Bergerac, and gave it up to be plundered.—A Welsh Knight happening to light upon the receiver’s office, found such a quantity of money, that he thought himself obliged to acquaint his general with it, imagining that so great a booty belonged to him. But he was agreeably surprised, when the Earl wished him joy of his good fortune, and said he did not make the keeping of his word depend on the great or little value of what he had promised.—In the siege of Falisci, by Camillus, General of the Romans, the schoolmaster of the town, who had the children of the senators under his care, led them abroad, under the pretext of recreation, and carried them to the Roman[Pg 78] camp; saying to Camillus, that, by this artifice, he had delivered Falisci into his hands. Camillus, abhorring his treachery, said, “That there were laws for war as well as for peace; and that the Romans were taught to make war with integrity, not less than with courage.” He ordered the schoolmaster to be stripped, his hands to be bound behind his back, and to be delivered to the boys, to be lashed back into the town. The Falerians, hitherto obstinate in resistance, struck with an act of justice so illustrious, delivered themselves up to the Romans; convinced that they would be far better to have the Romans for their allies, than their enemies.


Shocking Instances of Ingratitude.—Herodotus informs us, that when Xerxes, king of Persia, was at Celene, a city of Phrygia, Pythius, a Lydian, who resided there, and, next to Xerxes, was the most opulent prince of those times, entertained him and his whole army with an incredible magnificence, and made him an offer of all his wealth towards defraying the expenses of his expedition. Xerxes, surprised at so generous an offer, inquired to what sum his riches amounted. Pythius answered, that having the design of offering them to his service, he had taken an exact account of them, and that the silver he had by him, amounted to 2000 talents, (about £255,000 sterling), and the gold to 3,993,000 darics (about £1,700,000 sterling). All this money he offered him, telling him, that his revenue was sufficient for the support of his household. Xerxes made him very hearty acknowledgments, and entered into a particular friendship with him, and declined accepting his present. Some time after this, Pythius having desired a favour of him, that out of his five sons, who served in his army, he would be pleased to leave him the eldest, to comfort him in his old age; Xerxes was so enraged at the proposal, though so reasonable in itself, that he caused the eldest son to be killed before his father’s eyes, giving the latter to understand, that it was a favour he spared him and the rest of his children. Yet, this is the same Xerxes who is so much admired for his humane reflection at the head of his numerous army.—The emperor Basilius I. exercised himself in hunting: a great stag running furiously against him, fastened one of the branches of his horns in the emperor’s girdle, and, pulling him from his horse, dragged him a good distance, to the imminent danger of his life; which a gentleman of his retinue perceiving, drew his sword, and cut the emperor’s girdle asunder, which disengaged him from the beast, with little or no hurt to his person. But, observe his reward! “He was sentenced to lose his head for putting the sword so near the body of the emperor; and suffered death accordingly.” (Zonor.[Pg 79] Annal. tom. 3. p. 155.)—In a little work entitled Friendly Cautions to Officers, the following atrocious instance is related. An opulent city, in the west of England, had a regiment sent to be quartered there: the principal inhabitants, glad to shew their hospitality and attachment to their sovereign, got acquainted with the officers, invited them to their houses, and shewed them every civility in their power. A merchant, extremely easy in his circumstances, took so prodigious a liking to one officer in particular, that he gave him an apartment in his own house, and made him in a manner master of it, the officer’s friends being always welcome to his table. The merchant was a widower, and had two favourite daughters: the officer cast his wanton eyes upon them, and too fatally ruined them both. Dreadful return to the merchant’s misplaced friendship! The consequence of this ungenerous action was, that all officers ever after were shunned as pests to society; nor have the inhabitants yet conquered their aversion to a red coat.—We read in Rapin’s History, that during Monmouth’s rebellion, in the reign of James II. a certain person, knowing the humane disposition of one Mrs. Gaunt, whose life was one continued exercise of beneficence, fled to her house, where he was concealed and maintained for some time. Hearing, however, of the proclamation, which promised an indemnity and reward to those who discovered such as harboured the rebels, he betrayed his benefactress: and such was the spirit of justice and equity which prevailed among the ministry, that he was pardoned, and recompensed for his treachery, while she was burnt alive for her charity!—The following instance is also to be found in the same history. Humphrey Bannister and his father were both servants to, and raised by, the Duke of Buckingham; who being driven to abscond by an unfortunate accident befalling the army he had raised against the usurper Richard III. he retired to Bannister’s house near Shrewsbury, as to a place where he might be quite safe. Bannister, however, upon the king’s proclamation promising 1000l. reward to him that should apprehend the duke, betrayed his master to John Merton, high sheriff of Shropshire, who sent him under a strong guard to Salisbury, where the king then was; and there, in the market-place, the duke was beheaded. But Divine vengeance pursued the traitor Bannister; for, demanding the 1000l. that was the price of his master’s blood, Richard refused to pay it him, saying, “He that would be false to so good a master, ought not to be encouraged.” He was afterwards hanged for manslaughter; his eldest son went mad, and died in a hog-sty; his second became deformed and lame; and his third son was drowned in a small puddle of water; his eldest daughter became pregnant by one of his carters, and his second was seized with a leprosy whereof she died. Hist. of[Pg 80] Eng. i. p. 304. Let us guard against this odious vice, ingratitude, being assured that sooner or later the bitter effects of this, as well as of all other sins, will find us out.


Our following article consists of some Extraordinary Instances of Honour.

The Spanish historians relate a memorable instance of inviolable regard to the principles of honour and truth. A Spanish cavalier, in a sudden quarrel, slew a Moorish gentleman, and fled. His pursuers soon lost sight of him, for he had, unperceived, leaped over a garden wall. The owner, a Moor, happening to be in his garden, was addressed by the Spaniard on his knees, who acquainted him with his case, and implored concealment. “Eat this,” said the Moor (giving him half a peach), “you now know that you may confide in my protection.” He then locked him up in his garden, telling him, as soon as it was night he would provide for his escape to a place of greater safety. The Moor then went into his house, where he had but just seated himself, when a great crowd, with loud lamentations, came to his gate, bringing the corpse of his son, who had just been killed by a Spaniard. When the first shock of surprise was a little over, he learned, from the description given, that the fatal deed was done by the very person then in his power. He mentioned this to no one; but, as soon as it was dark, retired to his garden, as if to grieve alone, giving orders that none should follow him. Then accosting the Spaniard, he said, “Christian, the person you have killed is my son, his body is now in my house. You ought to suffer; but you have eaten with me, and I have given you my faith, which must not be broken.” He then led the astonished Spaniard to his stables, mounted him on one of his fleetest horses, and said, “Fly far while the night can cover you; you will be safe in the morning. You are indeed guilty of my son’s blood; but God is just and good; and thank him, I am innocent of your’s, and that my faith given is preserved.” This point of honour is most religiously observed by the Arabs and Saracens, from whom it was adopted by the Moors of Africa, and by them was brought into Spain.—The following instance of Spanish honour may still be in the memory of many living, and deserves to be handed down to the latest posterity. In 1746, when Britain was at war with Spain, the Elizabeth of London, captain William Edwards, coming through the gulf from Jamaica, richly laden, met with a most violent storm, in which the ship sprung a leak, that obliged them to run into the Havannah, a Spanish port, to save their lives. The captain went on shore, and directly waited on the governor, told the occasion of his putting in, and that he surrendered the ship as a prize, and himself and his men as prisoners of war, only [Pg 81]requesting good quarter. “No, Sir,” replied the Spanish governor, “if we had taken you in fair war at sea, or approaching our coast with hostile intentions, your ship would then have been a prize, and your people prisoners; but when, distressed by a tempest, you come into our ports for the safety of your lives, we, though enemies, being men, are bound, as such, by the laws of humanity, to afford relief to distressed men who ask it of us. We cannot, even against our enemies, take advantage of an act of God. You have leave therefore to unload your ship, if that be necessary, and to stop the leak; you may refit her here, and traffic so far as shall be necessary to pay the charges; you may then depart, and I will give you a pass to be in force till you are beyond Bermuda: if after that you are taken, you will then be a lawful prize; but now you are only a stranger, and have a stranger’s right to safety and protection.” The ship accordingly departed, and arrived safe in London.—A remarkable instance of honour is also recorded of an African negro, in captain Snelgrave’s account of his voyage to Guinea. A New-England sloop, trading there in 1752, left her second mate, William Murray, sick on shore, and sailed without him. Murray was at the house of a black, named Cudjoe, with whom he had contracted an acquaintance during their trade. He recovered; and the sloop being gone, he continued with his black friend till some other opportunity should offer of his getting home. In the mean time a Dutch ship came into the road, and some of the blacks coming on board her, were treacherously seized and carried off as slaves. The relations and friends, transported with sudden rage, ran to the house of Cudjoe, to take revenge by killing Murray. Cudjoe stopped them at the door, and demanded what they wanted. “The white men,” said they, “have carried away our brothers and sons, and we will kill all white men. Give us the white man you have in your house, for we will kill him.” “Nay,” said Cudjoe, “the white men that carried away your relations are bad men, kill them when you can take them; but this white man is a good man, and you must not kill him.”—“But he is a white man,” they cried, “and the white men are all bad men, we will kill them all.”—“Nay,” says he, “you must not kill a man that has done no harm, only for being white. This man is my friend, my house is his post, I am his soldier, and must fight for him; you must kill me before you can kill him. What good man will ever come again under my roof, if I let my floor be stained with a good man’s blood?” The negroes, seeing his resolution, and being convinced by his discourse that they were wrong, went away ashamed. In a few days Murray went abroad again with his friend Cudjoe, when several of them took him by the hand, and told him, “they were glad they had not killed him; for, as he was a good[Pg 82] man, their god would have been very angry, and would have spoiled their fishing.”


As it is our intention to record whatever we meet with, that is curious or wonderful, we hesitate not in inserting the following Surprising Effects of Anger.

Physicians and naturalists afford instances of very extraordinary effects of this passion. Borrichius cured a woman of an inveterate tertian ague, which had baffled the art of physic, by putting the patient in a furious fit of anger. Valeriola made use of the same means, with the like success, in a quartan ague. The same passion has been equally salutary to paralytic, gouty, and even dumb persons; to which last it has sometimes given the use of speech. Etmuller gives divers instances of very singular cures wrought by anger; among others, he mentions a person laid up in the gout, who, being provoked by his physician, flew upon him, and was cured. It is true, the remedy is somewhat dangerous in the application, when a patient does not know how to use it with moderation. We meet with several instances of princes, to whom it has proved mortal; e. g. Valentinian I. Wenceslaus, Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, and others. There are also instances wherein it has produced the epilepsy, jaundice, cholera morbus, diarrhœa, &c. In fact, this passion is of such a nature, that it quickly throws the whole nervous system into preternatural commotions, by a violent stricture of the nervous and muscular parts; and surprisingly augments, not only the systole of the heart, and its contiguous vessels, but also the tone of the fibrous parts in the whole body. It is also certain, that this passion, by the spasmodic stricture it produces in the parts, exerts its power principally on the stomach and intestines, which are highly nervous and membraneous parts; whence the symptoms are more dangerous, in proportion to the greater consent of the stomach and intestines with the other nervous parts, and almost with the whole body. The unhappy influence of anger likewise on the biliary and hepatic ducts, is very surprising; since, by an intense constriction of these, the liver is not only rendered scirrhous, but stones also are often generated in the gall-bladder and biliary ducts: these accidents have scarcely any other origin than an obstruction of the free motion and efflux of the bile, by means of this violent stricture. From such a stricture, likewise, proceeds the jaundice, which, in process of time, lays a foundation for calculous concretions in the gall-bladder. By increasing the motion of the fluid, or the spasms of the fibrous parts, by means of anger, a large quantity of blood is forcibly propelled to certain parts; whence it happens, that they are too much distended, and the orifices of the veins distributed there, opened. It is evident, from experience, that anger has a great tendency[Pg 83] to excite enormous hemorrhages, either from the nose, the aperture of the pulmonary artery, &c. The effects of this passion are well described by Armstrong in the following lines:—

“But there’s a passion, whose tempestuous sway
Tears up each virtue planted in the heart,
And shakes to ruin proud philosophy:
For pale and trembling anger rushes in
With falt’ring speech, and eyes that wildly stare,
Fierce as the tiger, madder than the seas,
Desp’rate, and arm’d with more than human strength;
But he whom anger stings, drops, if he dies,
At once, and rushes apoplectic down;
Or a fierce fever hurries him to hell.”


Now follows an account of some Remarkable Effects of Fright, or Terror.

Out of many instances of the fatal effects of fear, the following is selected as one of the most singular:—George Grochantzy, a Polander, who had enlisted as a soldier in the service of the king of Prussia, deserted during the last war. A small party was sent in pursuit of him, and, when he least expected it, surprised him singing and dancing among a company of peasants in an inn. This event, so sudden, and so dreadful in its consequences, struck him in such a manner, that, giving a great cry, he became altogether stupid and insensible, and was seized without the least resistance. They carried him away to Glocau, where he was brought before the council of war, and received sentence as a deserter. He suffered himself to be led and disposed of at the will of those about him, without uttering a word, or giving the least sign that he knew what had happened or would happen to him. He remained immoveable as a statue wherever he was placed, and was wholly regardless of all that was done to him or about him. During all the time that he was in custody, he neither ate, nor drank, nor slept, nor had any evacuation. Some of his comrades were sent to see him; after that, he was visited by some officers of his corps, and by some priests; but he still continued in the same state, without discovering the least signs of sensibility. Promises, entreaties, and threatenings, were equally ineffectual. It was at first suspected that these appearances were feigned; but such suspicions gave way, when it was known that he took no sustenance, and that the involuntary functions of nature were in a great measure suspended. The physicians concluded that he was in a state of hopeless idiocy; and after some time they knocked off his fetters, and left him at liberty to go where he would. He received his liberty with the same insensibility that he had shewn on other occasions; he remained fixed and immoveable, his eyes turned wildly here and there, without[Pg 84] taking cognizance of any object, and the muscles of his face were fallen and fixed, like those of a dead body. He passed twenty days in this condition, without eating, drinking, or any evacuation, and died on the 20th day. He had been sometimes heard to fetch deep sighs; and once he rushed with great violence on a soldier who had a mug of liquor in his hand, forced the mug from him, and having drank the liquor with great eagerness, let the mug drop to the ground.—Among the ludicrous effects of fear, the following instance, quoted from a French author, by Mr. Andrews, in his volume of Anecdotes, shews upon what slight occasions this passion may be sometimes excited in a very high degree, and even in persons the most unlikely to entertain fear. “Charles Gustavus (successor to Christina, queen of Sweden,) was besieging Prague, when a boor of a most extraordinary visage desired admittance to his tent; and being allowed entrance, offered, by way of amusing the king, to devour a whole hog of 100 weight in his presence. The old general, Konigsmarc, who stood by the king’s side, and who, soldier as he was, had not got rid of the prejudices of his childhood, hinted to his royal master that the peasant ought to be burnt as a sorcerer. ‘Sir,’ said the fellow, irritated at the remark, ‘if your majesty will but make that old gentleman take off his sword and his spurs, I will eat him, before I begin the hog.’ Konigsmarc (who had, at the head of a body of Swedes, performed wonders against the Austrians, and who was looked upon as one of the bravest men of the age,) could not stand this proposal; especially as it was accompanied by a most hideous and preternatural expansion of the frightful peasant’s jaws. Without uttering a word, the veteran turned round, ran out of the court, nor thought himself safe until he had arrived at his quarters, where he remained above 24 hours locked up securely, before he had got rid of the panic which had so severely affected him.” Such is the influence of fright or terror.


The following is a notable instance of The Power of Conscience.

It is a saying, that no man ever offended his own conscience, but first or last it was revenged upon him. The power of conscience indeed has been remarked in all ages, and the examples of it upon record are numerous and striking.—The following is related by Mr. Fordyce, in his Dialogues on Education, (vol. ii. p. 501.) as a real occurrence, which happened in a neighbouring state not many years ago. A jeweller, a man of good character and considerable wealth, having occasion, in the way of his business, to travel to some distance from the place of his abode, took along with him a servant, in order to take care of his portmanteau. He had with him[Pg 85] some of his best jewels, and a large sum of money, to which his servant was likewise privy. The master having occasion to dismount on the road, the servant watching his opportunity, took a pistol from his master’s saddle, and shot him dead on the spot; then rifled him of his jewels and money, and, hanging a large stone to his neck, threw him into the nearest canal. With his booty he made off to a distant part of the country, where he had reason to believe that neither he nor his master were known. There he began to trade in a very low way at first, that his obscurity might screen him from observation, and in the course of a good many years seemed to rise, by the natural progress of business, into wealth and consideration; so that his good fortune appeared at once the effect and reward of industry and virtue. Of these he counterfeited the appearance so well, that he grew into great credit, married into a good family, and by laying out his sudden stores discreetly, as he saw occasion, and joining to all an universal affability, he was admitted to a share of the government of the town, and rose from one post to another, till at length he was chosen chief magistrate. In this office he maintained a fair character, and continued to fill it with no small applause, both as a governor and a judge; till one day, as he sat on the bench, with some of his brethren, a criminal was brought before him, who was accused of murdering his master. The evidence came out full, the jury brought in their verdict that the prisoner was guilty, and the whole assembly waited the sentence of the president of the court (which he happened to be that day) with great suspense. Meanwhile he appeared to be in unusual disorder and agitation of mind, and his colour changed often; at length he rose from his seat, and coming down from the bench, placed himself by the unfortunate man at the bar. “You see before you (said he, addressing himself to those who had sat on the bench with him,) a striking instance of the just awards of heaven, which, this day, after 30 years’ concealment, presents to you a greater criminal than the man just now found guilty.” Then he made an ample confession of his guilt, and of all the aggravations: “Nor can I feel (continued he) any relief from the agonies of an awakened conscience, but by requiring that justice be forthwith done against me in the most public and solemn manner.” We may easily suppose the amazement of all the assembly, and especially of his fellow judges. However, they proceeded, upon this confession, to pass sentence upon him, and he died with all the symptoms of a penitent mind. Let it be our constant aim to keep a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man; being assured that,

One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas.



[Pg 86]



Remarkable Instance of Memory—Surprising Instance of Skill in Numbers—Extraordinary Arithmetical Powers of a Child—Curious Instance of Mathematical Talent—Stone Eater—Poison Eater—Bletonism—Longevity.


Remarkable Instance of Memory.

Whence came the active and sagacious mind,
Self-conscious, and with faculties endued
Of understanding, will, and memory,
And reason, to distinguish true from false?
——————Whence, but through an infinite,
Almighty God, supremely wise and just?

Hortensius, one of the most celebrated orators of ancient Rome, had so happy a memory, that after studying a discourse, though he had not written down a single word of it, he could repeat it exactly in the same manner in which he had composed it. His powers of mind in this respect were really astonishing; and we are told, that in consequence of a wager with one Sienna, he spent a whole day at an auction, and, when it was ended, recapitulated every article that had been sold, together with the prices, and the names of the purchasers, in their proper order, without erring in one point, as was proved by the clerk, who followed him with his book.


The following is a very Surprising Instance of Skill in Numbers.

Jedidiah Buxton, was a prodigy, with respect to skill in numbers. His father, William Buxton, was schoolmaster of the parish where he was born, in 1704: yet Jedediah’s education was so much neglected, that he was never taught to write; and with respect to any other knowledge but that of numbers, seemed always as ignorant as a boy of ten years of age. How he came first to know the relative proportions of numbers, and their progressive denominations, he did not remember; but to this he applied the whole force of his mind, and upon this his attention was constantly fixed, so that he frequently took no cognizance of external objects, and, when he did it, it was only with respect to their numbers. If any space of time was mentioned, he would soon after say it was so many minutes; and if any distance of way, he would assign[Pg 87] the number of hair-breadths, without any question being asked, or any calculation expected by the company. When he once understood a question, he began to work with amazing facility, after his own method, without the use of a pen, pencil, or chalk, or even understanding the common rules of arithmetic, as taught in the schools. He would stride over a piece of land, or a field, and tell the contents of it almost as exactly as if one had measured it by the chain. In this manner he measured the whole lordship of Elmton, belonging to Sir John Rhodes, and brought him the contents, not only of some thousands in acres, roods, and perches, but even in square inches. After this, for his own amusement, he reduced them into square hair-breadths, computing 48 to each side of the inch. His memory was so great, that while resolving a question, he could leave off, and resume the operation again, where he left off, the next morning, or at a week, a month, or several months, and proceed regularly till it was completed. His memory would doubtless have been equally retentive with respect to other objects, if he had attended to them with equal diligence; but his perpetual application to figures prevented the smallest acquisition of any other knowledge. He was sometimes asked, on his return from church, whether he remembered the text, or any part of the sermon: but it never appeared that he brought away one sentence; his mind, upon a closer examination, being found to have been busied, even during divine service, in his favourite operation, either dividing some time, or some space, into the smallest known parts, or resolving some question that had been given him as a test of his abilities. As this extraordinary person lived in laborious poverty, his life was uniform and obscure. Time, with respect to him, changed nothing but his age; nor did the seasons vary his employment, except that in winter he used a flail, and in summer a ling-hook. In 1754, he came to London, where he was introduced to the Royal Society, who, in order to prove his abilities, asked him several questions in arithmetic; and he gave them such satisfaction, that they dismissed him with a handsome gratuity. In this visit to the metropolis, the only object of his curiosity, except figures, was to see the king and royal family; but they being at Kensington, Jedidiah was disappointed. During his stay in London, he was taken to see King Richard III. performed at Drury-Lane playhouse; and it was expected, either that the novelty and the splendour of the show would have fixed him in astonishment, or kept his imagination in a continual hurry, or that his passions would, in some degree, have been touched by the power of action, though he did not perfectly understand the dialogue. But Jedidiah’s mind was employed in the playhouse just as it was employed in every other place. During[Pg 88] the dance, he fixed his attention upon the number of steps; he declared, after a fine piece of music, that the innumerable sounds produced by the instruments had perplexed him beyond measure; and he attended even to Mr. Garrick, only to count the words that he uttered, in which, he said, he perfectly succeeded. Jedidiah returned to the place of his birth, where, if his enjoyments were few, his wishes did not seem to be greater. He applied to his labour with cheerfulness; he regretted nothing that he left behind him in London; and it continued to be his opinion, that a slice of rusty bacon afforded the most delicious repast.


The following account of the Extraordinary Arithmetical Powers of a Child, is extracted from the Annual Register of 1812. It is entitled, Some Particulars respecting the Arithmetical Powers of Zerah Colburn, a Child under Eight Years of Age.

“The attention of the philosophical world, (says the writer,) has been lately attracted by the most singular phenomenon in the history of the human mind, that perhaps ever existed. It is the case of a child, under eight years of age, who, without any previous knowledge of the common rides of arithmetic, or even of the use and power of the Arabic numerals, and without having given any particular attention to the subject, possesses, as if by intuition, the singular faculty of solving a great variety of arithmetical questions by the mere operation of the mind, and without the usual assistance of any visible symbol or contrivance.

“The name of the child is Zerah Colburn, who was born at Cabut, (a town lying at the head of Onion river, in Vermont, in the United States of America,) on the 1st of September, 1804. About two years ago (August, 1810,) although at that time not six years of age, he first began to shew those wonderful powers of calculation, which have since so much attracted the attention, and excited the astonishment, of every person who has witnessed his extraordinary abilities. The discovery was made by accident. His father, who had not given him any other instruction than such as was to be obtained at a small school established in that unfrequented and remote part of the country, (and which did not include either writing or ciphering,) was much surprised one day to hear him repeating the products of several numbers. Struck with amazement at the circumstance, he proposed a variety of arithmetical questions to him, all of which the child solved with remarkable facility and correctness. The news of this infant prodigy soon circulated through the neighbourhood; and many persons came from distant parts to witness so singular a circumstance. The father, encouraged by the unanimous opinion of all who[Pg 89] came to see him, was induced to undertake, with this child, the tour of the United States. They were every where received with the most flattering expressions; and in the several towns which they visited, various plans were suggested, to educate and bring up the child, free from all expense to his family. Yielding, however, to the pressing solicitations of his friends, and urged by the most respectable, and powerful recommendations, as well as by a view to his son’s more complete education, the father has brought the child to this country, where they arrived on the 12th of May last: and the inhabitants of this metropolis have for these last three months had an opportunity of seeing and examining this wonderful phenomenon, and verifying the reports that have been circulated respecting him. Many persons of the first eminence for their knowledge in mathematics, and well known for their philosophical inquiries, have made a point of seeing and conversing with him; and they have all been struck with astonishment at his extraordinary powers. It is correctly true, as stated of him, that—‘He will not only determine, with the greatest facility and despatch, the exact number of minutes or seconds in any given period of time; but will also solve any other question of a similar kind. He will tell the exact product arising from the multiplication of any number, consisting of two, three, or four figures, by any other number, consisting of the like number of figures; or any number, consisting of six or seven places of figures, being proposed, he will determine, with equal expedition and ease, all the factors of which it is composed. This singular faculty consequently extends not only to the raising of powers, but also to the extraction of the square and cube roots of the number proposed; and likewise to the means of determining whether it be a prime number (or a number incapable of division by any other number;) for which case there does not exist, at present, any general rule amongst mathematicians.’ All these, and a variety of other questions connected therewith, are answered by this child with such promptness and accuracy (and in the midst of his juvenile pursuits) as to astonish every person who has visited him.

“At a meeting of his friends, which was held for the purpose of concerting the best methods of promoting the views of the father, this child undertook, and completely succeeded in raising the number 8 progressively up to the sixteenth power!!! and, in naming the last result, viz. 281,474,976,710,656, he was right in every figure. He was then tried as to other numbers, consisting of one figure; all of which he raised (by actual multiplication, and not by memory) as high as the tenth power, with so much facility and despatch, that the person appointed to take down the results, was obliged to enjoin him[Pg 90] not to be so rapid! With respect to numbers consisting of two figures, he would raise some of them to the sixth, seventh, and eighth power; but not always with equal facility: for the larger the products became, the more difficult he found it to proceed. He was asked the square root of 106929; and before the number could be written down, he immediately answered 327. He was then required to name the cube root of 268,336,125; and with equal facility and promptness he replied, 645. Various other questions of a similar nature, respecting the roots and powers of very high numbers, were proposed by several of the gentlemen present; to all of which he answered in a similar manner. One of the party requested him to name the factors which produced the number 247,483: this he immediately did, by mentioning the two numbers 941 and 263; which indeed are the only two numbers that will produce it, viz. 5 × 34279, 7 × 24485, 59 × 2905, 83 × 2065, 35 × 4897, 295 × 581, and 413 × 415. He was then asked to give the factors of 36083: but he immediately replied that it had none; which, in fact, was the case, as 36083 is a prime number. Other numbers were indiscriminately proposed to him, and he always succeeded in giving the correct factors, except in the case of prime numbers, which he discovered almost as soon as proposed. One of the gentlemen asked him how many minutes there were in forty-eight years: and before the question could be written down, he replied, 25,228,800; and instantly added, that the number of seconds in the same period was 1,513,728,000. Various questions of the like kind were put to him; and to all of them he answered with nearly equal facility and promptitude, so as to astonish every one present, and to excite a desire that so extraordinary a faculty should (if possible) be rendered more extensive and useful.

“It was the wish of the gentlemen present, to obtain a knowledge of the method by which the child was enabled to answer, with so much facility and correctness, the questions thus put to him; but to all their inquiries upon this subject (and he was closely examined upon this point) he was unable to give them any information. He positively declared (and every observation that was made seemed to justify the assertion) that he did not know how the answers came into his mind. In the act of multiplying two numbers together, and in the raising of powers, it was evident (not only from the motion of his lips, but also from some singular facts which will be hereafter-mentioned) that some operation was going forward in his mind; yet that operation could not, from the readiness with which the answers were furnished, be at all allied to the usual mode of proceeding with such subjects: and, moreover, he is entirely ignorant of the common[Pg 91] rules of arithmetic, and cannot perform, upon paper, a simple sum in multiplication or division. But in the extraction of roots, and in mentioning the factors of high numbers, it does not appear that any operation can take place, since he will give the answer immediately, or in a very few seconds, where it would require, according to the ordinary method of solution, a very difficult and laborious calculation; and moreover, the knowledge of a prime number cannot be obtained by any known rule.

“It has been already observed, that it was evident, from some singular facts, that the child operated by certain rules known only to himself. This discovery was made in one or two instances, when he had been closely pressed upon that point. In one case he was asked to tell the square of 4395: he at first hesitated, fearful that he should not be able to answer it correctly; but when he applied himself to it, he said, it was 19,316,025. On being questioned as to the cause of his hesitation; he replied, that he did not like to multiply four figures by four figures: but, said he, ‘I found out another way; I multiplied 293 by 293, and then multiplied this product twice by the number 15, which produced the same result.’ On another occasion, his highness the duke of Gloucester asked him the product of 21,734, multiplied by 543: he immediately replied, 11,801,562; but, upon some remark being made on the subject, the child said that he had, in his own mind, multiplied 65202 by 181. Now, although, in the first instance, it must be evident to every mathematician, that 4395 is equal to 293 × 15, and consequently that (4395)2 = (293)2 × (15)2; and, further, that in the second case, 543 is equal to 181 × 3, and consequently that 21734 × (181 × 3) = (21734 × 3) × 181; yet it is not the less remarkable, that this combination should be immediately perceived by the child, and we cannot the less admire his ingenuity in thus seizing instantly the easiest method of solving the question proposed to him.

“It must be evident, from what has here been stated, that the singular faculty which this child possesses is not altogether dependent upon his memory. In the multiplication of numbers, and in the raising of powers, he is doubtless considerably assisted by that remarkable quality of the mind: and in this respect he might be considered as bearing some resemblance (if the difference of age did not prevent the justness of the comparison) to the celebrated Jedidiah Buxton, and other persons of similar note. But, in the extraction of the roots of numbers, and in determining their factors, (if any,) it is clear, to all those who have witnessed the astonishing quickness and accuracy of this child, that the memory has little or nothing to do with the process. And[Pg 92] in this particular point consists the remarkable difference between the present and all former instances of an apparently similar kind.

“It has been recorded as an astonishing effort of memory, that the celebrated Culer (who, in the science of analysis, might vie even with Newton himself,) could remember the first six powers of every number under 100. This, probably, must be taken with some restrictions: but, if true to the fullest extent, it is not more astonishing than the efforts of this child; with this additional circumstance in favour of the latter, that he is capable of verifying, in a very few seconds, every figure which he may have occasion for. It has been further remarked, by the biographer of that eminent mathematician, that ‘he perceived, almost at a single glance, the factors of which his formulæ were composed; the particular system of factors belonging to the question under consideration; the various artifices by which that system may be simplified and reduced; and the relation of the several factors to the conditions of the hypothesis. His expertness in this particular probably resulted, in a great measure, from the ease with which he performed mathematical investigations by head. He had always accustomed himself to that exercise; and, having practised it with assiduity, (even before the loss of sight, which afterwards rendered it a matter of necessity,) he is an instance to what an astonishing degree it may be acquired, and how much it improves the intellectual powers. No other discipline is so effectual in strengthening the faculty of attention: it gives a facility of apprehension, an accuracy and steadiness to the conceptions; and (what is a still more valuable acquisition) it habituates the mind to arrangement in its reasonings and reflections.’

“It is not intended to draw a comparison between the humble, though astonishing, efforts of this infant prodigy, and the gigantic powers of that illustrious character, to whom a reference has just been made: yet we may be permitted to hope and expect that those wonderful talents, which are so conspicuous at this early age, may, by a suitable education, be considerably improved and extended; and that some new light will eventually be thrown upon those subjects, for the elucidation of which his mind appears to be peculiarly formed by nature, since he enters the world with all those powers and faculties which are not even attainable by the most eminent, at a more advanced period of life. Every mathematician must be aware of the important advantages which have sometimes been derived from the most simple and trifling circumstance; the full effect of which has not always been evident at first sight. To mention one singular instance of this kind:—The very simple improvement of expressing[Pg 93] the powers and roots of quantities by means of indices, introduced a new and general arithmetic of exponents: and this algorithm of powers led the way to the invention of logarithms, by means of which all arithmetical computations are so much facilitated and abridged. Perhaps this child possesses a knowledge of some more important properties connected with this subject: although he is incapable at present of giving any satisfactory account of the state of his mind, or of communicating to others the knowledge which it is so evident he does possess; yet there is every reason to believe, that, when his mind is more cultivated, and his ideas more expanded, he will be able not only to divulge the mode by which he at present operates, but also point out some new sources of information on this interesting subject.

“The case is certainly one of great novelty and importance; and every literary character, and every friend to science, must be anxious to see the experiment fairly tried, as to the effect which a suitable education may produce on a mind constituted as his appears to be. With this view, a number of gentlemen have taken the child under their patronage, and have formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of superintending his education. Application has been made to a gentleman of science, well known for his mathematical abilities, who has consented to take the child under his immediate tuition: the committee, therefore, propose to withdraw him for the present from public exhibition, in order that he may fully devote himself to his studies. But whether they shall be able to accomplish the object they have in view, will depend upon the assistance which they may receive from the public. What further progress this child made under the patronage and tuition of his kind and benevolent friends, the editor is not, at present, able to ascertain.”


We proceed to a Curious Instance of Mathematical Talent.

A singular instance of early mathematical talent has been made known by Mr. Gough, in the Philosophical Magazine.—Thomas Gasking, the son of a journeyman shoemaker of Penrith, was but nine years of age when the account was written: “he was, (says the writer), however, in consequence of the education given him by his father, (an acute and industrious man,) become well acquainted with the leading propositions of Euclid, reads and works algebra with facility, understands and uses logarithms, and has entered on the study of fluxions. On being examined, he demonstrated propositions from the first books of Euclid; discovered the unknown side of a triangle, from the two sides and the angle given; and solved cases in spherical trigonometry. In algebra, he gave the solutions[Pg 94] of a number of quadratic equations; answered questions which contained two unknown quantities; and applied algebra to geometry. He answered problems relating to the maxima of numbers and of geometrical magnitudes, with ease; and, on many other mathematical points, gave very high promises of future excellence.”


The following remarkable account of a Stone Eater, is given as a fact in several respectable works.

In 1760, was brought to Avignon, a true lithophagus, or stone-eater. He not only swallowed flints of an inch and a half long, a full inch broad, and half an inch thick; but such stones as he could reduce to powder, such as marble, pebbles, &c. he made into paste, which was to him a most agreeable and wholesome food. I examined this man, says the writer, with all the attention I possibly could; I found his gullet very large, his teeth exceedingly strong, his saliva very corrosive, and his stomach lower than ordinary, which I imputed to the vast number of flints he had swallowed, being about five-and-twenty, one day with another. Upon interrogating his keeper, he told me the following particulars: “This stone-eater,” says he, “was found three years ago, in a northern uninhabited island, by some of the crew of a Dutch ship. Since I have had him, I make him eat raw flesh with the stones; I could never get him to swallow bread. He will drink water, wine, and brandy, which last liquor gives him infinite pleasure. He sleeps at least twelve hours in a day, sitting on the ground, with one knee over the other, and his chin resting on his right knee. He smokes almost all the time he is not asleep, or is not eating. The flints he has swallowed, he voids somewhat corroded, and diminished in weight; the rest of his excrements resembles mortar.”


The following account of a Poison Eater is said to be an undoubted fact.

A man, about 106 years of age, formerly living in Constantinople, was known all over that city by the name of Solyman, the eater of corrosive sublimate. In the early part of his life, he accustomed himself, like other Turks, to the use of opium; but not feeling the desired effect, he augmented his dose to a great quantity, without feeling any inconvenience, and at length took a drachm of sixty grains daily. He went into the shop of a Jew apothecary, to whom he was unknown, asked for a drachm of sublimate, which he mixed in a glass of water, and drank directly.

The apothecary was dreadfully alarmed, because he knew the consequence of being accused of poisoning a Turk: but what was his astonishment, when he saw the same man return[Pg 95] the next day for a dose of the same quantity. It is said that Lord Elgin, Mr. Smith, and other Englishmen, knew this man, and have heard him declare, that his enjoyment after having taken this active poison, is the greatest he ever felt from any cause whatever.


We now proceed to give an account of a very extraordinary faculty, entitled Bletonism.

This is a faculty of perceiving and indicating subterraneous springs and currents by sensation. The term is modern, and derived from a Mr. Bleton, who excited universal attention by possessing this faculty, which seems to depend upon some peculiar organization. Concerning the reality of this extraordinary faculty, there occurred great doubts among the learned. But M. Thouvenel, a French philosopher, seems to have put the matter beyond dispute, in two memoirs which he published upon the subject. He was charged by Louis XVI. with a commission to analyze the mineral and medicinal waters of France; and, by repeated trials, he had been so fully convinced of the capacity of Bleton to assist him with efficacy in this important undertaking, that he solicited the ministry to join him in the commission upon advantageous terms. All this shews that the operations of Bleton have a more solid support than the tricks of imposture or the delusions of fancy. In fact, a great number of his discoveries are ascertained by respectable affidavits. The following is a strong instance in favour of Bletonism.—“For a long time the traces of several springs and their reservoirs in the lands of the Abbey de Verveins had been entirely lost. It appeared, nevertheless, by ancient deeds and titles, that these springs and reservoirs had existed. A neighbouring abbey was supposed to have turned their waters for its benefit into other channels, and a lawsuit was commenced upon this supposition. M. Bleton was applied to: he discovered at once the new course of the waters in question; his discovery was ascertained; and the lawsuit terminated.” M. Thouvenel assigns principles upon which the impressions made by subterraneous waters and mines may be accounted for. Having ascertained a general law, by which subterraneous electricity exerts an influence on the bodies of certain individuals, eminently susceptible of that influence, and shewn that this law is the same whether the electrical action arise from currents of warm or cold water, from currents of humid air, from coal or metallic mines, from sulphur, and so on, he observes, that there is a diversity in the physical and organical impressions which are produced by this electrical action, according as it proceeds from different fossile bodies, which are more or less conductors of electrical emanations. There are also artificial processes, which concur[Pg 96] in leading us to distinguish the different conductors of mineral electricity; and in these processes the use of electrometrical rods deserves the attention of philosophers, who might perhaps, in process of time, substitute in their place a more perfect instrument. Their physical and spontaneous mobility, and its electrical causes, are demonstrated by indisputable experiments. On the other hand, M. Thouvenel proves, by very plausible arguments, the influence of subterraneous electrical currents, compares them with the electrical currents of the atmosphere, points out the different impressions they produce, according to the number and quality of the bodies which act, and the diversity of those which are acted upon. The ordinary sources of cold water make impressions proportional to their volume, the velocity of their currents, and other circumstances. Their stagnation destroys every species of electrical influence; at least, in this state they have none that is perceptible. Their depth is indicated by geometrical processes, founded upon the motion and divergence of the electrical rays.


We shall conclude this chapter with some Extraordinary Instances of Longevity.

In October, 1712, a prodigy is said to have appeared in France, in the person of one Nicholas Petours, who one day entered the town of Coutances. His appearance excited curiosity, as it was observed that he had travelled on foot: he therefore gave the following account of himself, viz. That he was one hundred and eighteen years of age, being born at Granville, near the sea, in the year 1594; that he was by trade a shoemaker; and had walked from St. Malo’s to Coutances, which is twenty-four leagues distant, in two days. He seemed as active as a young man. He said, “He came to attend the event of a lawsuit, and that he had had four wives; with the first of whom he lived fifty years, the second only twenty months, and the third twenty-eight years and two months, and that to the fourth he had been married two years; that he had had children by the three former, and could boast a posterity which consisted of one hundred and nineteen persons, and extended to the seventh generation.” He further stated, “that his family had been as remarkable for longevity as himself; that his mother lived until 1691; and that his father, in consequence of having been wounded, died at the age of one hundred and twenty-three, that his uncle and godfather, Nicholas Petours, curate of the parish of Balcine, and afterward canon and treasurer of the cathedral of Coutances, died there, aged above one hundred and thirty-seven years, having celebrated mass five days before his decease. Jacqueline Fauvel, wife to the park-keeper of the bishop of Coutances, (he said,) died in consequence of a fright, in the village of St.[Pg 97] Nicholas, aged one hundred and twenty-one years, and that she was able to spin eight days before her decease.” Among the refugees from this part of France, we have known and heard of many instances of longevity, but certainly none equal to these.





Combustion of the Human Body, produced by the long immoderate Use of Spirituous Liquors. From the Journal de Physique, Pluviose, Year 8: written by Pierre Aime Lair.


In natural as well as civil history, there are facts presented to the meditation of the observer, which, though confirmed by the most convincing testimony, seem, on the first view, to be destitute of probability. Of this kind is that of people consumed without coming into contact with common fire, and of bodies being thus reduced to ashes. How can we conceive that fire, in certain circumstances, can exercise so powerful an action on the human body as to produce this effect? One might be induced to give less faith to these instances of combustion, as they seem to be rare. I confess, that at first they appeared to me worthy of very little credit; but they are presented to the public as true, by men whose veracity seems unquestionable. Bianchini, Mossei, Rolli, Le Cat, Vicq. d’Azyr, and several men distinguished by their learning, have given certain testimony of the facts. Besides, is it more surprising to experience such incineration than to void saccharine urine, or to see the bones softened, or of the diabetes mellitus. This marbific disposition, therefore, would be one more scourge to afflict humanity; but in physics, facts being always preferable to reasoning, I shall here collect those which appear to me to bear the impression of truth; and, lest I should alter the sense, I shall quote them just as they are given in the works from which I have extracted them.

We read in the transactions of Copenhagen, that in 1692, a woman of the lower class, who for three years had used spirituous liquors to such excess that she would take no other nourishment, having sat down one evening on a straw chair to sleep, was consumed in the night-time, so that next morning no part of her was found, but the skull, and the extreme joints of the fingers; all the rest of her body, says Jacobeus, was reduced to ashes.

[Pg 98]The following extract of the memoir of Bianchini, is taken from the Annual Register for 1763:—The Countess Cornelia Bandi, of the town of Cesena, aged 62, enjoyed a good state of health. One evening, having experienced a sort of drowsiness, she retired to bed, and her maid remained with her till she fell asleep. Next morning, when the girl entered to awaken her mistress, she found nothing but the remains of her mistress, in a most horrid condition. At the distance of four feet from the bed was a heap of ashes, in which could be distinguished the legs and arms untouched. Between the legs lay the head, the brain of which, together with half the posterior part of the cranium, and the whole chin, had been consumed; three fingers were found in the state of a coal; the rest of the body was reduced to ashes, and contained no oil; the tallow of two candles was melted on a table, but the wicks still remained, and the feet of the candlesticks were covered with a certain moisture. The bed was not damaged; the bed-clothes and coverlid were raised up and thrown on one side, as is the case when a person gets up. The furniture and tapestry were covered with a moist kind of soot, of the colour of ashes, which had penetrated the drawers and dirtied the linen. This soot having been conveyed to a neighbouring kitchen, adhered to the walls and the utensils. A piece of bread in the cupboard was covered with it, and no dog would touch it. The infectious odour had been communicated to other apartments. The Annual Register states, that the Countess Cesena was accustomed to bathe all her body in camphorated spirits of wine. Bianchini caused the detail of this deplorable event to be published at the time when it took place, and no one contradicted it: it was also attested by Sapio Maffei, a learned contemporary of Bianchini, who was far from being credulous: and, in the last place, this surprising fact was confirmed to the Royal Society of London, by Paul Rolli. The Annual Register mentions also two other facts of the same kind, which occurred in England; one at Southampton, and the other at Coventry.

An instance of the like kind is preserved in the same work, in a letter of Mr. Wilmer, surgeon:—“Mary Clues, aged 50, was much addicted to intoxication. Her propensity to this vice had increased after the death of her husband, which happened a year and a half before: for about a year, scarcely a day had passed, in the course of which she did not drink at least half a pint of rum or aniseed-water. Her health gradually declined, and about the beginning of February she was attacked by the jaundice, and confined to her bed. Though she was incapable of much action, and not in a condition to work, she still continued her old habit of drinking[Pg 99] every day, and smoking a pipe of tobacco. The bed in which she lay, stood parallel to the chimney of the apartment, the distance from it about three feet. On Saturday morning, the 1st of March, she fell on the floor; and her extreme weakness having prevented her from getting up, she remained in that state till some one entered and put her to bed. The following night she wished to be left alone: a woman quitted her at half past eleven, and, according to custom, shut the door and locked it. She had put on the fire two large pieces of coal, and placed a light in a candlestick, on a chair, at the head of the bed. At half after five in the morning, a smoke was seen issuing through the window; and the door being speedily broken open, some flames which were in the room were soon extinguished. Between the bed and the chimney were found the remains of the unfortunate Clues; one leg and a thigh were still entire, but there remained nothing of the skin, the muscles, or the viscera. The bones of the cranium, the breast, the spine, and the upper extremities, were entirely calcined, and covered with a whitish efflorescence. The people were much surprised that the furniture had sustained so little injury. The side of the bed which was next to the chimney, had suffered the most; the wood of it was slightly burnt, but the feather-bed, the clothes, and covering, were safe. I entered the apartment about two hours after it had been opened, and observed that the walls and every thing in it were blackened; that it was filled with a very disagreeable vapour; but that nothing except the body exhibited any strong traces of fire.”

This instance has great similarity to that related by Vicq. d’Azyr, in the Encyclopedie Methodique, under the head of Pathologic Anatomy of Man. A woman, about 50 years of age, who indulged to excess in spirituous liquors, and got drunk every day before she went to bed, was found entirely burnt, and reduced to ashes. Some of the osseous parts only were left, but the furniture of the apartment had suffered very little damage. Vicq. d’Azyr, instead of disbelieving this phenomenon, adds, that there has been many other instances of the like nature.

We find also a circumstance of this kind, in a work entitled, Acta Medica et Philosophica Hafniensia, and in the work of Henry Bohanser, entitled, Le Nouveau Phosphore Enflamme.—A woman at Paris, who had been accustomed, for three years, to drink spirit of wine to such a degree that she used no other liquor, was one day found entirely reduced to ashes, except the skull and the extremities of the fingers.

The Transactions of the Royal Society of London present also an instance of human combustion, no less extraordinary. It was mentioned at the time it happened, in all the journals;[Pg 100] it was then attested by a great number of eye-witnesses, and became the subject of many learned discussions. Three accounts of this event, by different authors, all nearly coincide. The fact is related as follows:—“Grace Pitt, the wife of a fishmonger, of the parish of St. Clement, Ipswich, aged about 60, had contracted a habit, which she continued for several years, of coming down every night from her bed-room, half-dressed, to smoke a pipe. On the night of the 9th of April, 1744, she got up from her bed as usual. Her daughter, who slept with her, did not perceive she was absent till next morning when she awoke, soon after which she put on her clothes, and, going down into the kitchen, found her mother stretched out on the right side, with her head near the grate, the body extended on the hearth, with the legs on the floor, which was of deal, having the appearance of a log of wood, consumed by a fire without apparent flames. On beholding this spectacle, the girl ran in great haste, and poured over her mother’s body some water, contained in two large vessels, in order to extinguish the fire; while the fetid odour and smoke which exhaled from the body, almost suffocated some of the neighbours who had hastened to the girl’s assistance. The trunk was in some measure incinerated, and resembled a heap of coals, covered with white ashes. The head, the arms, the legs, and the thighs, had also participated in the burning. This woman, it is said, had drunk a large quantity of spirituous liquor, in consequence of being overjoyed to hear that one of her daughters had returned from Gibraltar. There was no fire in the grate, and the candle had burnt entirely out in the socket of the candlestick, which was close to her. Besides, there were found near the consumed body, the clothes of a child, and a paper screen, which had sustained no injury by the fire. The dress of this woman consisted of a cotton gown.”

Le Cat, in a memoir on spontaneous burning, mentions several other instances of combustion of the human body.—“Having (says he) spent several months at Rheims in the year 1724 and 1725, I lodged with Sieur Millet, whose wife got intoxicated every day. The domestic economy of the family was managed by a pretty young girl; which I must not omit to remark, in order that the circumstances which accompanied the fact I am about to relate, may be better understood.—This woman was found consumed on the 20th of February, 1725, at the distance of a foot and a half from the hearth in her kitchen. A part of the head only, with a portion of the lower extremities, and a few of the vertebræ, had escaped combustion. A foot and a half of the flooring under the body had been consumed, but a kneading-trough and a powdering-tub, which were near the body, sustained no injury. M. Criteen, a surgeon, examined the remains of the body with every judicial[Pg 101] formality. Jean Millet, the husband, being interrogated by the judges who instituted the inquiry into the affair, declared, that about eight in the evening on the 19th February, he had retired to rest with his wife, who not being able to sleep, had gone into the kitchen, where he thought she was warming herself; that, having fallen asleep, he was awakened about two o’clock with a disagreeable odour, and that, having run to the kitchen, he found the remains of his wife in the state described in the report of the physicians and surgeons. The judges having no suspicion of the real cause of this event, prosecuted the affair with the utmost diligence. It was very unfortunate for Millet that he had a handsome servant-maid, for neither his probity nor innocence was able to save him from the suspicion of having got rid of his wife by a concerted plot, and of having arranged the rest of the circumstances in such a manner as to give it the appearance of an accident. He experienced, therefore, the whole severity of the law; and though, by an appeal to a superior and very enlightened court, which discovered the cause of the combustion, he came off victorious, he suffered so much from uneasiness of mind, that he was obliged to pass the remainder of his melancholy days in a hospital.”

Le Cat relates another instance, which has a most perfect resemblance to the preceding: “M. Boinnean, curé of Plerquer, near Dol, (says he,) wrote to me the following letter, dated February 22, 1749:—‘Allow me to communicate to you a fact which took place here about a fortnight ago. Madame de Boiseon, 80 years of age, exceedingly meagre, who had drunk nothing but spirits for several years, was sitting in her elbow chair before the fire, while her waiting-maid went out of the room for a few moments. On her return, seeing her mistress on fire, she immediately gave an alarm; and some people having come to her assistance, one of them endeavoured to extinguish the flames with his hand, but they adhered to it as if it had been dipped in brandy or oil on fire. Water was brought, and thrown on the lady in abundance, yet the fire appeared more violent, and was not extinguished until the whole flesh had been consumed. Her skeleton, exceedingly black, remained entire in the chair, which was only a little scorched; one leg only, and the two hands, detached themselves from the rest of the bones. It is not known whether her clothes had caught fire by approaching the grate. The lady was in the same place in which she sat every day; there was no extraordinary fire, and she had not fallen. What makes me suppose that the use of spirits might have produced this effect is, my having been assured, that at the gate of Dinan an accident of the like kind happened to another woman, under similar circumstances.’”

[Pg 102]To these instances, which I have multiplied to strengthen the evidence, I shall add two other facts of the same kind, published in the Journal de Medicine. The first took place at Aix, in Provence, and is thus related by Muraire, a surgeon:—“In the month of February, 1779, Mary Jauffret, widow of Nicholas Gravier, shoemaker, of a small size, exceedingly corpulent, and addicted to drinking, having been burnt in her apartment, M. Rocas, my colleague, who was commissioned to make a report respecting her body, found only a mass of ashes, and a few bones, calcined in such a manner, that on the least pressure they were reduced to dust. The bones of the cranium, one hand, and a foot, had in part escaped the action of the fire. Near these remains stood a table untouched, and under the table a small wooden stove, the grating of which, having been long burnt, afforded an aperture, through which, it is probable, the fire that occasioned the melancholy accident had been communicated: one chair, which stood too near the flames, had the seat and fore feet burnt. In other respects, there was no appearance of fire, either in the chimney or in the apartments; so that, except the fore part of the chair, it appears to me, that no other combustible matter contributed to this speedy incineration, which was effected in the space of seven or eight hours.”

The other instance mentioned in the Journal de Medicine, took place at Caen, and is thus related by Merille, a surgeon of that city, still alive: “Being requested, on the 3d of June, 1782, by the king’s officers, to draw up a report of the state in which I found Mademoiselle Thuars, who was said to have been burnt, I made the following observations:—The body lay with the crown of the head resting against one of the hand-irons, at the distance of eighteen inches from the fire, the remainder of the body was placed obliquely before the chimney, the whole being nothing but a mass of ashes. Even the most solid bones had lost their form and consistence; none of them could be distinguished except the coronal, the two parietal bones, the two lumbar vertebræ, a portion of the tibia, and a part of the omoplate; and even these were so calcined, that they became dust by the least pressure. The right foot was found entire, and scorched at its upper junction, the left was more burnt. The day was cold, but there was nothing in the grate, except two or three bits about an inch diameter, burnt in the middle. None of the furniture in the apartment was damaged. The chair on which Mademoiselle Thuars had been sitting, was found at the distance of a foot from her, and absolutely untouched. I must here observe, that this lady was exceedingly corpulent, that she was about sixty years of age, and much addicted[Pg 103] to spirituous liquors; that the day of her death she had drunk three bottles of wine, and about a bottle of brandy; and that the consumption of the body had taken place in less than seven hours, though, according to appearance, nothing around the body was burnt but the clothes.”

The town of Caen affords several other instances of the same kind. I have been told by many people, and particularly a physician of Argentan, named Bouffet, author of an Essay on Intermittent Fevers, that a woman of the lower class, who lived at Place Villars, and who was known to be much addicted to strong liquors, had been found in her house burnt. The extremities of her body only were spared, but the furniture was very little damaged.

The town of Caen records the history of another old woman, addicted to drinking. I was assured, by those who told me the fact, that the flames which proceeded from the body, could not be extinguished by water: but I think it needless to relate this, and the particulars of another event which took place in the same town, because they were not attested by a procés verbal, and not having been communicated by professional men, they do not inspire the same degree of confidence.

This collection of instances is supported, therefore, by all those authentic proofs, which can be required to form human testimony; for while we admit the prudent doubt of Descartes, we ought to reject the universal doubt of the Pyrrhonists. The multiplicity and uniformity even of these facts, which occurred in different places, and were attested by so many enlightened men, carry with them conviction; they have such a relation to each other, that we are inclined to ascribe them to the same cause.

Difficulties would, no doubt, be offered from reasoning against these facts; but the writer remarks, that human testimony is not to be rejected, unless the probability that the facts must be impossible, shall be greater than that arising from the concurrence of evidence: and he adds, that the narratives, though varying so widely as to time and place, do very remarkably agree in their tenor. The circumstances are, that, (1) The combustion has usually destroyed the person by reducing the body to a mass of pulverulent fatty matter, resembling ashes. (2) There were no signs of combustion in surrounding bodies, by which it could be occasioned, as these were little, if at all, injured; though, (3) The combustion did not seem to be so perfectly spontaneous, but that some slight cause, such as the fire of a pipe, or a taper, or a candle, seems to have begun it. (4) The persons were generally much addicted to the use of spirituous liquors; were very fat; in most instances women, and old. (5) The extremities, such[Pg 104] as the legs, hands, or cranium, escaped the fire. (6) Water, instead of extinguishing the fire, gave it more activity, as happens when fat is burned. (7) The residue was oily and fetid ashes, with a greasy soot, of a very penetrating and disagreeable smell.

The theory of the author may be considered as hypothetical, until maturer observations shall throw more light on the subject. The principal fact is, that charcoal and oil, or fat, are known in some instances to take fire spontaneously, and he supposes the carbon of the alcohol to be deposited in the fat parts of the human system, and to produce this effect.





John Elwes—Daniel Dancer—Henry Wolby—John Henley—Simon Brown, and his Curious Dedication to Queen Caroline—Edward Wortley Montague—Blaise Pascal—Old Parr—George Psalmanazar—John Case—John Lewis Cardiac—John Smeaton—George Morland—Henry Christian Heinecken—Thomas Topham—Zeuxis.



John Elwes.—The family name of this extraordinary miser was Meggot, which he altered in pursuance of the will of Sir Harvey Elwes, his uncle, who left him at least £250,000, and he was possessed of nearly as much of his own. At this time he attended the most noted gaming houses, and after sitting up a whole night at play for thousands, he would proceed to Smithfield to meet his cattle, which were coming to market from his seat in Essex, and there would he stand disputing with a cattle-butcher for a shilling. If the cattle did not arrive, he would walk on to meet them; and more than once he has gone the whole way to his farm without stopping, which was seventeen miles from London. He would walk in the rain in London, sooner than pay a shilling for a coach; sit in wet clothes, to save the expense of a fire; eat his provisions in the last stage of putrefaction; and he wore a wig for a fortnight, which he picked up in a lane. In 1774 he was chosen knight of the shire for Berkshire, and his conduct in parliament was perfectly independent. He died in 1789, aged about 77, leaving a fortune of £500,000, besides entailed estates.


Another extraordinary miser was Daniel Dancer. He was born in 1716, near Harrow, in Middlesex. In 1736 he[Pg 105] succeeded to his family estate, which was considerable; but his fathers before him were too great lovers of money to lay out any in improvements: Daniel followed their example, and the farm went worse and worse. He led the life of a hermit for above half a century; his only dealing with mankind arose from the sale of his hay; and he was seldom seen, except when he was out gathering logs of wood from the common, or old iron, or sheep’s dung under the hedges. He was frequently robbed; to prevent which, he fastened his door up, and got into his house through the upper window, to ascend which he made use of a ladder, which he drew up after him. His sister, who lived with him many years, left him at her death a considerable increase to his wealth; on which he bought a second-hand pair of black stockings, to put himself in decent mourning. This was an article of luxury, for at other times Daniel wore hay-bands on his legs. He died in 1794, and left his estates to Lady Tempest, who had been very charitable to the poor man and his sister.


Another extraordinary character was Henry Wolby, Esq.—He was a native of Lincolnshire, and inherited a clear estate of more than 1000l. a year. He was regularly bred at the university, studied for some time in one of the inns of court, and in the course of his travels had spent several years abroad. On his return, this very accomplished gentleman settled on his paternal estate, lived with great hospitality, matched to his liking, and had a beautiful and virtuous daughter, who was married, with his entire approbation, to a Sir Christopher Hilliard, in Yorkshire.

He had now lived to the age of forty, respected by the rich, prayed for by the poor, honoured and beloved by all; when, one day, a youngster, with whom he had some difference in opinion, meeting him in the field, snapped a pistol at him, which happily flashed in the pan. Thinking that this was done only to frighten him, he coolly disarmed the ruffian, and, putting the weapon carelessly in his pocket, thoughtfully returned home; but, after examination, the discovery of bullets in the pistol had such an effect on his mind, that he instantly conceived an extraordinary resolution of retiring entirely from the world, in which he persisted to the end of his life. He took a very fair house in the lower end of Grub-street, near Cripplegate, London, and contracting a numerous retinue into a small family, having the house prepared for his purpose, he selected three chambers for himself; the one for his diet, the other for his lodging, the other for his study. As they were one within another,—while his diet was set on the table by an old maid, he retired into his lodging room; and when his bed was making, into his study; still doing so till all was clear. Out of these chambers, from the time of his entry into them,[Pg 106] he never issued, till he was carried thence, 44 years after, on men’s shoulders; neither, in all that time, did his son-in-law, daughter, or grand-child, brother, sister, or kinsman, young or old, rich or poor, of what degree or condition soever, look upon his face, save the ancient maid, whose name was Elizabeth. She only made his fire, prepared his bed, provided his diet, and dressed his chambers. She saw him but seldom, never but in cases of extraordinary necessity, and died not six days before him.

In all the time of his retirement, he never tasted fish or flesh; his chief food was oatmeal gruel; now and then, in summer, he had a salad of some choice cool herbs; and for dainties, when he would feast himself upon a high day, he would eat the yoke of a hen’s egg, but no part of the white; what bread he did eat, he cut out of the middle of the loaf, but the crust he never tasted; his constant drink was four-shilling beer, and no other, for he never tasted wine or strong drink. Now and then, when his stomach served, he would eat some kind of sackers, and he sometimes drank red cow’s milk, which was fetched hot from the cow. Nevertheless, he kept a bountiful table for his servant, and sufficient entertainment for any stranger or tenant, who had occasion of business at his house. Every book that was printed was bought for him, and conveyed to him; but such as related to controversy he always laid aside, and never read.

In Christmas holidays, at Easter, and other festivals, he was provided with all dishes in season, served into his own chamber, with stores of wine, which his maid brought in. Then, after thanks to God for his good benefits, he would pin a clean napkin before him, and putting on a pair of clean holland sleeves, which reached to his elbows, cutting up dish after dish in order, he would send one to a poor neighbour, the next to another, whether it were brawn, beef, capon, goose, &c. till he had left the whole table empty; when, giving thanks again, he laid by his linen, and caused the dishes to be taken away: and this he would do, at dinner and supper, upon these days, without tasting of any thing whatsoever. When any clamoured impudently at his gate, they were not, therefore, immediately relieved; but when, from his private chamber, he espied any sick, weak, or lame, he would presently send after them, to comfort, cherish, and strengthen them, and not a trifle to serve them for the present, but so much as would relieve them many days after. He would moreover inquire which of his neighbours were industrious in their callings, and who had great charge of children; and withal, if their labour and industry could not sufficiently supply their families: to such he would liberally send, and relieve them according to their necessities.

[Pg 107]He died at his house in Grub-street, after an anchoretical confinement of forty-four years, October 29, 1636, aged 84. At his death, his hair and beard was so overgrown, that he appeared rather like a hermit of the wilderness, than the inhabitant of one of the first cities in the world.


A very singular character was John Henley, M. A. commonly called Orator Henley. He was born at Melton-Mowbray, Leicestershire, in 1691. His father, the Rev. Simon Henley, and his maternal grandfather, John Dowel, M. A. were both vicars of that parish. Having passed his exercises at Cambridge, and obtained the degree of B. A. he returned to his native place, where he was desired by the trustees to take the direction of the school, which he soon raised to a flourishing condition. Here he began his Universal Grammar; finished ten languages, with dissertations prefixed; and wrote his poem on Esther, which was well received. He was ordained a deacon by Dr. Wake, then Bishop of Lincoln; and having taken his degree of M. A. was admitted to priest’s orders by Dr. Gibson. After preaching many occasional sermons, he went to London, recommended by above thirty letters from the most considerable men in the country, both of the clergy and laity. He there published Translations of Pliny’s Epistles, of several works of Abbé Vertot, of Montfaucon’s Italian Travels, in folio, and many original lucubrations. His most generous patron was the Earl of Macclesfield, who gave him a benefice in the country, the value of which, to a resident, would have been above £80 a year; he had likewise a lecture in the city; sermons about town; was more numerously followed, and raised more for the poor children, than any other preacher, except the celebrated George Whitfield. But when he pressed his promise from a great man, of being fixed in town, it was negatived. He then gave up his benefice and lecture, believing the public would be a more hospitable protector of learning and science, than some of the higher ranks in his own order. He preached on Sundays on theological matters, and on Wednesdays upon all other sciences. He declaimed several years against the greatest persons, and occasionally, says Warburton, did Pope that honour. That great poet, however, retaliated in the following satirical lines:

“Imbrown’d with native bronze, lo, Henley stands,
Tuning his voice, and balancing his hands.
How fluent nonsense trickles from his tongue!
How sweet the periods, neither said nor sung!
Still break the benches, Henley, with thy strain,
While Kennet, Hare, and Gibson, preach in vain,
O great restorer of the good old age,
Preacher at once, and zany, of thy age!”

[Pg 108]Instead of tickets, this extraordinary person struck medals, which he dispersed among his subscribers: A star rising to the meridian, with this motto, “Ad Summa;” and below, “Inveniam viam, aut faciam.” “Each auditor paid us.” He was author of a weekly paper, called “The Hyp Doctor,” for which he had £100 a year. In his advertisements and lectures, he often introduced satirical and humorous remarks on the public transactions of the times. He once collected an audience of a great number of shoemakers, by announcing that he could teach them a speedy mode of operation in their business; which proved only to be, the making of shoes from ready-made boots. He died on the 14th of October, 1756, in his 65th year.


The next character we introduce is Simon Browne, with his Curious Dedication to Queen Caroline.

Simon Browne was a most extraordinary dissenting minister, and began to preach before he was twenty, at Portsmouth, but afterwards became the pastor at Old Jewry. In 1723, he lost his wife and son, which so affected him, that he quitted his office, and would not even attend public worship, alleging, “that he had fallen under the displeasure of God, who had caused his rational soul to perish, and left him only an animal life, common with brutes; that though he might appear rational to others, he knew no more what he said than a parrot; that it was in vain for him to pray;” and as such, he no longer accounted himself a moral agent. Yet he frequently amused himself with translating the ancient Latin and Greek poets. At the same time, he wrote two very able works in defence of Christianity against Woolston and Tindal. He dedicated one of these works to the Queen, but the Dedication was suppressed by his friends. Being a curiosity of its kind, we shall annex it.

“To the Queen.—Madam: Of all the extraordinary things that have been tendered to your royal hands, since your first happy arrival in Britain, it may be boldly said, what now bespeaks your majesty’s acceptance is the chief. Not in itself indeed; it is a trifle unworthy your exalted rank, and what will hardly prove an entertaining amusement to one of your majesty’s deep penetration, exact judgment, and fine taste; but on account of the author, who is the first being of the kind, and yet without a name.

“He was once a man, and of some little name; but of no worth, as his present unparalleled case makes but too manifest: for, by the immediate hand of an avenging God, his very thinking substance has for more than seven years been continually wasting away, till it is wholly perished out of him, if it be not utterly come to nothing. None, no, not the least remembrance of its very ruins, remain; not the shadow[Pg 109] of an idea is left, nor any sense, so much as one single one, perfect or imperfect, whole or diminished, ever did appear to a mind within him, or was perceived by it.

“Such a present, from such a thing, however worthless in itself, may not be wholly unacceptable to your majesty, the author being such as history cannot parallel; and if the fact, which is real, and no fiction, or wrong conceit, obtains credit, it must be recorded as the most memorable, and indeed, astonishing event, in the reign of George II. that a tract composed by such a thing, was presented to the illustrious Caroline;—his royal consort need not be added; fame, if I am not misinformed, will tell that with pleasure to all succeeding times. He has been informed, that your majesty’s piety is genuine and eminent, as your excellent qualities are great and conspicuous. This can, indeed, be truly known to the great searcher of hearts only. He alone, who can look into them, can discern if they are sincere, and the main intention corresponds with the appearance; and your majesty cannot take it amiss, if such an author hints, that his secret approbation is of infinitely greater value than the commendation of men, who may be easily mistaken, and are too apt to flatter their superiors. But, if he has been told the truth, such a case as his will certainly strike your majesty with astonishment; and may raise that commiseration in your royal breast, which he has in vain endeavoured to excite in those of his friends; who, by the most unreasonable and ill-founded conceit in the world, have imagined that a thinking being could not, for seven years together, live a stranger to its own powers, exercises, operations, and state; and to what the great God has been doing in it, and to it. If your majesty, in your most retired address to the King of kings, should think of so singular a case, you may perhaps make it your devout request, that the reign of your beloved sovereign and consort may be renowned to all posterity, by the recovery of a soul now in the utmost ruin, the restoration of one utterly lost at present amongst men; and should this case affect your royal breast, you will commend it to the piety and prayers of all the truly devout, who have the honour to be known to your majesty: many such doubtless there are; though courts are not usually the places where the devout resort, or where devotion reigns. And it is not improbable, that multitudes of the pious throughout the land may take a case to heart, that, under your majesty’s patronage, comes thus recommended.

“Could such a favour as this restoration be obtained from heaven, by the prayers of your majesty, with what transport of gratitude would the recovered being throw himself at your majesty’s feet, and, adoring the divine power and grace, profess himself.

I am, &c.
Simon Browne.

 [Pg 110]

The next curious character we shall exhibit is Edward Wortley Montague.

He was son of the celebrated Lady Mary Wortley Montague. He passed through such various scenes, that he is well entitled to a place in this collection of curiosities. From Westminster school, where he was placed for education, he ran away thrice. He exchanged clothes with a chimney-sweeper, and followed for some time that sooty occupation. He next joined a fisherman, and cried flounders in Rotherhithe. He then sailed as a cabin-boy for Spain; where he had no sooner arrived, than he ran away from the vessel, and hired himself to a driver of mules. After thus vagabondizing it for some time, he was discovered by the consul, who returned him to his friends in England. They received him with joy, and a private tutor was employed to recover those rudiments of learning which a life of dissipation, blackguardism, and vulgarity, might have obliterated. Wortley was sent to the West Indies, where he remained some time; then returned to England, acted according to the dignity of his birth, was chosen a member, and served in two successive parliaments. His expenses exceeding his income, he became involved in debt, quitted his native country, and commenced that wandering traveller he continued to the time of his death. Having visited most of the eastern countries, he contracted a partiality for their manners. He drank little wine, but a great deal of coffee; wore a long beard; smoked much; and even whilst at Venice, was habited in the eastern style. He sat cross-legged in the Turkish fashion, from choice. With the Hebrew, the Arabic, the Chaldaic, and the Persian languages, he was as well acquainted as with his native tongue. He published several pieces: one on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire; another on the Causes of Earthquakes. He had seraglios of wives; but the lady whom he married in England was a washerwoman, with whom he did not cohabit. When she died without leaving issue to him, being unwilling that his estate should go to the Bute family, he set out for England, to marry a young woman already pregnant, whom a friend had provided for him; but he died on his journey.


The next character that comes before us is Blaise Pascal. He was one of the sublimest geniuses the world ever produced; was born at Clermont, in Auvergne, in 1623. He never had any preceptor but his father. So great a turn had he for the mathematics, that he learned, or rather invented, geometry, when but twelve years old; for his father was unwilling to initiate him in that science early, for fear of its diverting him from the study of the languages. At sixteen, he composed a curious mathematical piece. About nineteen, he invented his machine of arithmetic, which has been much admired by the[Pg 111] learned. He afterwards employed himself assiduously in making experiments according to the new philosophy, and particularly improved upon those of Toricellius. At the age of twenty-four his mind took a different turn; for, all at once, he became as great a devotee as any age has ever produced, and gave himself up entirely to prayer and mortification.


The next is a character famous for longevity.—Thomas, or Old Parr, a remarkable Englishman, who lived in the reign of ten kings and queens. He was the son of John Parr, a husbandman, of Winnington, in the parish of Alderbury, Salop. Following the profession of his father, he laboured hard, and lived on coarse fare. Being taken up to London by the Earl of Arundel, the journey proved fatal to him. Owing to the alteration of his diet, to the change of the air and his general mode of life, he lived but a very short time; though one Robert Samber says, in his work entitled Long Livers, that Parr lived 16 years after his presentation to Charles II. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. After his death his body was opened, and an account was drawn up by the celebrated Dr. Harvey, of which the following is an extract: “He had a large breast, not fungous, but sticking to his ribs, and distended with blood; a lividness in his face, as he had a difficulty of breathing a little before his death; and a long lasting warmth in his arm-pits and breast after it; which sign, together with others, were so evident in his body as they use to be on those who die by suffocation. His heart was great, thick, fibrous, and fat; the blood in the heart, blackish and diluted; the cartilages of the sternum not more bony than in others, but flexile and soft. His viscera were sound and strong, especially the stomach; and he used to eat often, by night and day, though contented with old cheese, milk, coarse bread, small beer, and whey; and, which is more remarkable, he ate at midnight a little before he died. His kidneys were covered with fat, and pretty sound; only on the interior surface were found some aqueous or serous abscesses, whereof one was near the bigness of a hen’s egg, with a yellowish water in it, having made a roundish cavity, impressed on that kidney; whence some thought it came, that, a little before his death, a suppression of urine had befallen him; though others were of opinion, that his urine was suppressed upon the regurgitation of all the serosity into his lungs. There was not the least appearance of any stony matter, either in the kidneys or bladder. His bowels were also sound, a little whitish without. His spleen very little, hardly equal to the bigness of one kidney. In short, all his inward parts appeared so healthy, that if he had not changed his diet and air, he might, perhaps, have lived a good while longer. The cause of his death was imputed chiefly to the change of food and air; forasmuch[Pg 112] as coming out of a clear, thin, and free air, he came into the thick air of London; and, after a constant, plain, and homely country diet, he was taken into a splendid family, where he fed high, and drank plentifully of the best wines, whereupon the natural functions of the parts of his body were overcharged, his lungs obstructed, and the habit of the whole body quite disordered; upon which there could not but ensue a dissolution. His brain was sound, entire, and firm; and though he had not the use of his eyes, nor much of his memory, several years before he died, yet he had his hearing and apprehension very well; and was able, even to the 130th year of his age, to do any husbandman’s work, even threshing of corn.”—The following summary of his life is from Oldy’s MS. Notes on Fuller’s Worthies:

“Old Parr was born 1483; lived at home until 1500, aged 17, when he went out to service. 1518, aged 35, returned home from his master. 1522, aged 39, spent four years on the remainder of his father’s lease. 1543, aged 60, ended the first lease he renewed of Mr. Lewis Porter. 1563, aged 80, married Jane, daughter of John Taylor, a maiden; by whom he had a son and a daughter, who both died very young. 1564, aged 81, ended the second lease which he renewed of Mr. John Porter. 1585, aged 102, ended the third lease he had renewed of Mr. Hugh Porter. 1588, aged 105, did penance in Alderbury church, for having a criminal connection with Katherine Milton, by which she proved with child. 1595, aged 112, he buried his wife Jane, after they had lived 32 years together. 1605, aged 122, having lived ten years a widower, he married Jane, widow of Anthony Adda, daughter of John Lloyd, of Gilsells, in Montgomeryshire, who survived him. 1635, aged 152 and 9 months, he died, after they had lived together 30 years, and after 50 years’ possession of his last lease.”—Length of years are of no use, unless they be spent in the practice of virtue.


The next character is a noted impostor, under the assumed name of George Psalmanazar. He was a very extraordinary genius, born in France, and educated in a Jesuit’s college; upon leaving which, he fell into a mean, rambling way of life. At Liege, he entered into the Dutch service, and afterwards into that of Cologne. Having stolen the habit and staff of a pilgrim out of a church, he begged through several countries, in elegant Latin, and, accosting only gentlemen and clergymen, received liberal supplies, which he spent as freely. In Germany, he passed for a native of Formosa, a convert to Christianity, and a sufferer for it. At Rotterdam he lived upon raw flesh, roots, and vegetables. At Sluys he fell in with Brigadier Lauder, a Scots colonel, who introduced him to the chaplain; who, to recommend himself to the bishop of [Pg 113]London, took him over to that city. The bishop patronised him with credulous humanity, and a large circle of his great friends considered him as a prodigy. He published a History of Formosa, and, what was most extraordinary, invented a character and language for that island, and translated the Church Catechism in to it, which was examined by learned critics, and approved. Some of the learned, however, doubted him, particularly Drs. Halley, Mead, and Woodward. He was allowed the use of the Oxford Library, and employed in compiling The Universal History. Some errors in his history first led him to be suspected as an impostor. He died in 1753; and in his last will confessed the imposture.


The next subject is a celebrated Quack Doctor, named John Case. He was a native of Lyme Regis, in Dorsetshire, was a noted empyric and astrologer, and looked upon as the successor of the famous Lilly, whose magical utensils he possessed. He is said to have got more by this distich over his door, than Dryden, by all his poetry:

“Within this place
Lives Doctor Case.”

And he was, doubtless, well paid for composing that which he affixed to his pill boxes:

“Here’s fourteen pills for thirteen pence,
Enough in any man’s own conscience.”

There is a story told of him and Dr. Radcliff: being together at a tavern, Radcliff said, “Here, brother Case; I drink to all the fools your patients.”—“Thank ye,” quoth Case; “let me have all the fools, and you are welcome to the rest.” He wrote a nonsensical rhapsody, called the Angelical Guide, shewing men and women their lot and chance in this elementary life.


Our next character is famous for prematurity of genius, and named John Lewis Candiac. He was born at Candiac, in the diocese of Nismes, in France, in 1719. In the cradle he distinguished his letters; at thirteen months he knew them perfectly; at three years of age he read Latin, either printed or in manuscript; at four, he translated from that tongue; at six, he read Greek and Hebrew, was master of the principles of arithmetic, history, geography, heraldry, and the science of medals; and had read the best authors on almost every branch of literature. He died of a complication of disorders, at Paris, in 1726.


The next character deserves to be recorded as one that was eminently useful in his day and generation. John Smeaton, born near Leeds, in 1724, was an eminent civil engineer. The strength of his understanding, and the originality of his genius, appeared at an early age: his playthings were not the[Pg 114] playthings of children, but the tools which men employ: and he appeared to have greater entertainment in seeing the men in the neighbourhood work, and in asking them questions, than in any thing else. One day he was seen (to the distress of his friends) on the top of his father’s barn, fixing up something like a windmill: another time he attended some men fixing a pump, at a neighbouring village, and observing them cut off a piece of bored pipe, he was so lucky as to procure it, and he actually made with it a working pump that raised water. This happened while he was in petticoats, and most likely before he had attained his sixth year.


While we admire the ingenuity of the next character, we must lament that his conduct was licentious. It is the well-known George Morland, an ingenious, dissipated, and unfortunate painter. As he had no other education than what was connected with the pencil and pallet, he shunned the society of the well-informed and well-bred; and his pictures accordingly are taken, for the most part, from low life, and from the most humble, if not the most shocking, situations in which mankind consort. The following anecdote will give a sufficient view of Morland’s character, upon which it would give us pain to dwell at greater length. “He was found (says his biographer) at one time in a lodging in Somer’s-Town, in the following extraordinary circumstances: his infant child, that had been dead nearly three weeks, lay in its coffin in one corner of the room; an ass and foal stood munching barley straw out of the cradle; a sow and pigs were solacing themselves in the recess of an old cupboard; and himself whistling over a beautiful picture that he was finishing at his easel, with a bottle of gin hung upon the side, and a live mouse sitting (or if you please, kicking) for its portrait.” His constitution, exhausted by dissipation, rapidly gave way, and he died before he had reached his fortieth year.


The next character was indeed a prodigy, that shone like a meteor, and soon vanished away. We shall introduce him under the name of Christian Henry Heinecken.

He was born at Lubeck, February 6, 1721, and died there, June 27, 1725, after having displayed the most amazing proofs of intellectual powers. He could talk at ten months old, and had scarcely completed his first year, when he already knew and recited the principal facts contained in the five books of Moses, with a number of verses on the creation: at thirteen months, he knew the history of the Old Testament; and the New, at fourteen; in his thirtieth month, the history of the nations of antiquity, geography, anatomy, the use of maps, and nearly 5000 Latin words. Before the end of his third year, he was well acquainted with the history of Denmark, and the genealogy of the crowned heads of[Pg 115] Europe; in his fourth year he had learned the doctrines of divinity, with their proofs from the Bible; ecclesiastical history; the institutes; 200 hymns, with their tunes; 80 psalms; entire chapters of the Old and New Testaments; 1500 verses and sentences from ancient Latin classics; almost the whole Orbis Pictus of Comenius, whence he had derived all his knowledge of the Latin language; arithmetic; the history of the European empires and kingdoms; could point out, in the maps, whatever place he was asked for, or passed by in his journeys; and recited all the ancient and modern historical anecdotes relating to it. His stupendous memory caught and retained every word he was told: his ever active imagination used, whatever he saw or heard, instantly to apply some example or sentence from the Bible, geography, profane or ecclesiastical history, the Orbis Pictus, or from ancient classics. At the court of Denmark, he delivered twelve speeches without once faltering; and underwent public examination on a variety of subjects, especially the history of Denmark. He spoke German, Latin, French, and low Dutch, and was exceedingly good-natured, and well-behaved, but of a most tender and delicate bodily constitution; never ate any solid food, but chiefly subsisted on nurse’s milk, not being weaned till within a very few months of his death, at which time he was not quite four years old. There is a dissertation on this, published by M. Martini, at Lubeck, 1730, where the author attempts to assign the natural causes for the astonishing capacity of this great man in embryo, who was just shewn to the world, and snatched away.


The next character is of a different description, being famous for strength of body; he is named Thomas Topham.

This person was remarkable for muscular strength. He kept a public-house at Islington, and used to perform surprising feats, such as breaking a broomstick of the first magnitude, by striking it against his bare arm; lifting two hogsheads of water; heaving his horse over the turnpike-gate; carrying the beam of a house as a soldier would his firelock, &c. He also could roll up a pewter dish of seven pounds, as a man rolls up a sheet of paper; squeeze a pewter quart together at arms’ length; and lift two hundred weight with his little finger, over his head. At Derby, he broke a rope fastened to the floor, that would sustain twenty hundred weight; and lifted an oak table, six feet long, with his teeth, though half a hundred weight was hung at the extremity. He took Mr. Chambers, vicar of All Saints, who weighed twenty-seven stone, and raised him with one hand. He stabbed himself, after quarrelling with, and wounding his wife, 1749.—Extraordinary strength of body is of little value, if strength of virtue be wanting.

 [Pg 116]

We shall conclude this chapter with a celebrated Painter of Antiquity, named Zeuxis.

This celebrated painter flourished about 400 years B. C. He was born at Heraclea; but as there have been many cities of that name, it cannot be certainly determined which of them had the honour of his birth. Some conjecture, that it was Heraclea, near Crotona, in Italy. He carried painting to a much higher degree of perfection than Apollodorus had left it; discovered the art of properly disposing of lights and shades, and particularly excelled in colouring. He amassed immense riches; and then resolved to sell no more of his pictures, but gave them away; saying, “That he could not set a price on them equal to their value.” Pliny observes, that this admirable painter, disputing for the prize of painting with Parrhasius, painted some grapes so naturally, that the birds flew down to peck them: Parrhasius, on the other hand, painted a curtain so very artfully, that Zeuxis, mistaking it for a real one, that hid his rival’s work, ordered the curtain to be drawn aside, to shew what Parrhasius had done; but having found his mistake, he ingenuously confessed himself vanquished, since he had only imposed upon birds, while Parrhasius had deceived even a master of the art. Another time he painted a boy loaded with grapes; when the birds also flew to this picture,—at which he was vexed, and confessed that his work was not sufficiently finished, since, had he painted the boy as perfectly as the grapes, the birds would have been afraid of him. Archelaus, king of Macedon, made use of Zeuxis’s pencil for the embellishment of his palace. One of this painter’s finest pieces was a Hercules strangling two Serpents in his Cradle, in the presence of his affrighted Mother; but he himself chiefly esteemed his Athleta, or Champion, under which he placed a Greek verse, that afterwards became very famous, and in which he says, “That it was easier to criticize than to imitate the picture.” He made a present of his Alcmena to the Agrigentines. Zeuxis did not value himself on speedily finishing his pictures; but knowing that Agatharcus gloried in his being able to paint with ease and in a little time, he said, “That for his part, he, on the contrary, gloried in his slowness; and if he was long in painting, it was because he painted for eternity.”



[Pg 117]



Nicholas Pesce—Paul Scarron—Maria Gaetana Agnesi—Anna Maria Schurman—Samuel Bisset, the noted Animal Instructor—John Philip Baratier—Buonaparte.



Nicholas Pesce, the first extraordinary character we shall introduce, was a famous diver, of whom F. Kircher gives the following account. “In the time of Frederick king of Sicily, (says Kircher,) lived Nicholas, who, from his amazing skill in swimming, and his perseverance under water, was surnamed the Fish. This man had from his infancy been used to the sea; and earned his scanty subsistence by diving for coral and oysters, which he sold to villagers on shore. His long acquaintance with the sea, at last brought it to be almost his natural element. He was frequently known to spend five days in the midst of the waves, without any other provisions than the fish which he caught there, and ate raw. He often swam over from Sicily to Calabria, a tempestuous and dangerous passage, carrying letters from the king. He was frequently known to swim among the gulfs of the Lipari islands, no way apprehensive of danger. Some mariners out at sea, one day observed something at some distance from them, which they regarded as a sea-monster; but, upon its approach, it was known to be Nicholas, whom they took into their ship. When they asked him whither he was going in so strong and rough a sea, and at such a distance from land; he shewed them a packet of letters, which he was carrying to one of the towns of Italy, exactly done up in a leather bag, in such a manner that they could not be wetted by the sea. He kept them thus company for some time in their voyage, conversing and asking questions; and after eating a hearty meal with them, he took his leave, and, jumping into the sea, pursued his voyage alone.

“In order to aid his powers of enduring in the deep, nature seemed to have assisted him in a very extraordinary manner: for the spaces between his fingers and toes were webbed, as in a goose; and his chest became so very capacious, that he could take in at one inspiration as much breath as would serve him for several hours. The account of so extraordinary a person did not fail to reach the king himself; who commanded Nicholas to be brought before him. It was no easy matter to find Nicholas, who generally spent his time in the solitudes of the deep; but, at last, after much searching, he was found,[Pg 118] and brought before his majesty. The curiosity of this monarch had been long excited by the accounts he had heard of the bottom of the gulf of Charybdis. He now, therefore, conceived that it would be a proper opportunity to have more certain information. Accordingly, he commanded our poor diver to examine the bottom of this dreadful whirlpool; and as an incitement to his obedience, he ordered a golden cup to be flung into it. Nicholas was not insensible of the danger to which he was exposed: dangers best known only to himself; and therefore he presumed to remonstrate; but the hopes of the reward, the desire of pleasing the king, and the pleasure of shewing his skill, at last prevailed. He instantly jumped into the gulf, and was as instantly swallowed up in its bosom. He continued for three-quarters of an hour below, during which time the king and his attendants remained on shore, anxious for his fate; but he at last appeared, holding the cup in triumph in one hand, and making his way good among the waves with the other. It may be supposed he was received with applause when he came on shore; the cup was made the reward of his adventure; the king ordered him to be taken proper care of; and, as he was somewhat fatigued and debilitated by his labour, after a hearty meal, he was put to bed, and permitted to refresh himself by sleeping. When his spirits were thus restored, he was again brought, to satisfy the king’s curiosity with a narrative of the wonders he had seen, and his account was to the following effect.

“He would never, he said, have obeyed the king’s commands, had he been apprised of half the dangers that were before him. These were four things, he said, which rendered the gulf dreadful, not only to men, but to fishes themselves: 1. The great force of the water bursting up from the bottom, which required great strength to resist. 2. The abruptness of the rocks, that on every side threatened destruction. 3. The force of the whirlpool dashing against those rocks. And, 4. The number and magnitude of the polypous fish, some of which appeared as large as a man; and which, every where sticking against the rocks, projected their long and fibrous arms to entangle him. Being asked how he was able so readily to find the cup that had been thrown in, he replied, that it happened to be flung by the waves into the cavity of a rock, against which he himself was urged in his descent.

“This account, however, did not satisfy the king’s curiosity. Being requested to venture once more into the gulf for further discoveries, he at first refused; but the king, desirous of having the most exact information possible of all things to be found in the gulf, repeated his solicitations; and, to give them still greater weight, produced a larger cup than the former, and added also a purse of gold. Upon these considerations,[Pg 119] the unfortunate diver once again plunged into the whirlpool, and was never heard of more.”


Paul Scarron.—This famous French burlesque writer, was the son of a counsellor in parliament, and was born at Paris, about the end of 1610, or beginning of 1611. His father marrying a second wife, he was compelled to assume the ecclesiastical profession. At the age of 24, he visited Italy, and freely indulged in licentious pleasures. After his return to Paris, he persisted in a life of dissipation, till a long and painful disease convinced him that his constitution was almost worn out. At length, when engaged in a party of pleasure, at the age of 27, he lost the use of those legs which had danced so gracefully, and of those hands which once could paint, and play on the lute, with so much elegance.

This happened in the following manner: In 1638 he was attending the carnival at Mentz, of which he was canon. Having dressed himself one day as a savage, his singular appearance excited the curiosity of the children of the town. They followed him in multitudes, and he was obliged to take shelter in a marsh. This wet and cold situation produced a numbness which totally deprived him of the use of his limbs; yet he continued gay and cheerful. He took up his residence in Paris, and by his pleasant humour soon attracted to his house all the men of wit about the city. The loss of his health was followed by the loss of his fortune. On the death of his father he entered into a process with his step-mother; and pleaded his own cause in a ludicrous manner, though his whole fortune depended on the decision. He was unsuccessful, and was ruined. Mademoiselle de Hautefort, compassionating his misfortunes, procured for him an audience of the queen. The poet requested to have the title of Valetudinarian to her majesty: the queen smiled, and Scarron considered the smile as a commission to his new office. Cardinal Mazarine gave him a pension of 500 crowns; but that minister having received disdainfully the dedication of his Typhon, the poet immediately wrote a Mazarinade, and the pension was withdrawn. He then attached himself to the prince of Condé, and celebrated his victories. He at length formed the extraordinary resolution of marrying, and was accordingly, in 1651, married to Madame d’Aubigne, afterwards celebrated by the name of Maintenon.

At this time (says Voltaire) it was considered as a great acquisition for her to gain for a husband, a man who was disfigured by nature, impotent, and very little enriched by fortune. She restrained by her modesty his indecent buffooneries; and the good company which had formerly resorted to his house again frequented it. Scarron now became more decent in his manners and conversation; and his gaiety was thus more[Pg 120] agreeable. But he lived with so little economy, that his income was soon reduced to a small annuity, and his marquisate of Quinet, i. e. the profits of his publications, which were printed by one Quinet. He was accustomed to talk to his superiors with great freedom in his jocular style, as appears from the dedication of his Don Japhet d’Armenie to the king. Though Scarron wrote comedies, he had not patience to study the rules of dramatic poetry. Aristotle and Horace, Plautus and Terence, would have frightened him. He saw an open path before him, and he followed it. It was the fashion of the times to pillage the Spanish writers. Scarron was acquainted with that language, and he found it easier to use materials already prepared, than to rack his brain by inventing subjects. As he borrowed liberally from them, a dramatic piece cost him little labour. The great success of his Jodelet Maitre was a vast allurement to him. The comedians who acted it, requested more of his productions. They were written with little toil, and they procured him large sums. They also served to amuse him. He dedicated his books to his sister’s greyhound bitch. Fouquet gave him a pension of 1600 livres. Christiana, queen of Sweden, having come to Paris, was anxious to see Scarron, “I permit you (said she to Scarron) to fall in love with me. The queen of France has made you her Valetudinarian, and I create you my Roland.” Scarron did not long enjoy that title; he was seized with a violent hiccough. He retained his gaiety to his last moment. He died on the 14th of October, 1660, aged 51. His works have been collected, and published by Bruzen de la Martiniere, in 10 vols. 12mo. 1737. His Comic Romance, in prose, merits attention. It is written with much humour and purity of style, and contributed to the improvement of the French language. It had a prodigious run; it was the only one of his works that Boileau could submit to read. Scarron can raise a laugh on the most serious subjects; but his sallies are rather those of a buffoon, than the effusions of ingenuity and taste. He is continually falling into the mean and the obscene. Sterne seems to have imitated Scarron in his Tristram Shandy.


We shall now introduce two female characters of note. The first is Maria Gaetana Agnesi, a lady of extraordinary genius, and most extensive acquirements, who was born at Milan, on the 16th of May, 1718. Her father, Pietro Agnesi, of Milan, was royal feudatory of Monteveglia, and its dependencies; and being a man of some rank and consequence, he was disposed, from paternal affection, to provide suitably for the education of his infant daughter, who gave the most striking indications of talent. From her tenderest years, she [Pg 121]discovered a wonderful aptness, and a vehement desire, for acquiring languages. Under the direction of proper masters, she studied at the very same time the Latin and Greek, the French and German; and while the rapidity of her progress excited astonishment, such were the prodigious powers of her memory, that she could easily pursue those diversified objects without feeling the smallest degree of confusion. When yet scarcely nine years old, this surprising child delivered a Latin oration, to prove that the cultivation of letters is not inconsistent with the female character,—before an assembly of learned persons, invited to her father’s house.

At the age of eleven, the young Agnesi could not only read Greek, and translate it instantly into Latin, but could even speak that refined language with the same apparent ease and fluency as if it had been her native tongue. Nor did these acquisitions absorb her whole attention; a nobler field was opened to the exercise of her mental faculties. She now began to read Euclid’s Elements, and proceeded in algebra as far as quadratic equations. Thus prepared, she advanced with ardour to the study of natural philosophy; but not content with the sober proofs there unfolded, she soared to the height of metaphysics, and engaged in the most abtruse and intricate disquisitions of that contentious science. After this young lady had attained the age of 14, her father, anxious to forward her ardour for improvement, and willing to gratify her ambition for literary distinction, invited occasionally to his house a number of persons, the most respectable in Milan for their rank and learning. In the midst of this grave auditory, Donna Agnesi made her appearance; and, without resigning the native delicacy of her sex, she maintained a succession of new theses on various difficult parts of philosophy, and handled the arguments with such dexterity and commanding eloquence, as singly to vanquish every opponent that entered the field of controversy. These disputations were all of them carried on in the Latin language, which she spoke with the utmost ease, purity, and copious elegance. Every thing conspired to heighten the impression produced on the admiring spectators. In the full bloom of youth, her person agreeable, her manner graceful, an air of gentleness and modesty gave irresistible charms to her whole demeanour. Such, for several years, was the great theatre of her glory. But having nearly completed the circle of philosophy, and exhausted the chief topics of discussion, she resolved at length to close that career with a solemnity suitable to the occasion.

In the year 1738, Agnesi made her last brilliant display, before an august assembly, composed of the most learned and illustrious of the Milanese nobility, the senators, and foreign[Pg 122] ministers, with the most distinguished professors in all the branches of science and literature. The substance of these philosophical conferences was afterwards published in a quarto volume, entitled, “Propositiones Philosophicæ, quas, crebris Disputationibus domi habitis, coram clarissimis viris, explicabat extempore, et ab objectis vindicabat Maria Cajetana de Agnesi Mediolanensis.” Agnesi now bent her whole attention to the culture of mathematics; and, without guide or assistance, she composed a very useful commentary on L’Hospital’s Conic Sections, which is said to exist still in manuscript. In the sublimer departments of that science, her studies were directed by the matured experience of Rampinelli, professor of mathematics in the university of Pisa; but she soon gave proofs of her amazing proficiency, in digesting a complete body of the modern calculus. This excellent work, entitled, “Analytical Institutions, for the Use of the Italian Youth,” appeared in 1748, in two volumes quarto, and was highly esteemed by the best judges, and justly regarded as exhibiting the fullest and clearest view of the state of the science at that period. She was, in consequence, elected by acclamation a member of the Institute of Sciences of Bologna; and the pope farther conferred on her the title of Professor of Mathematics in the university of that city.

But Agnesi was already sated with literary fame. That sun, which in its ascent had shone forth with such dazzling radiance, was, through the rest of its course, shrouded in clouds and darkness. The fever of genius had preyed on her mind, and the high fit of excitement was quickly succeeded by a hopeless depression of spirits. She repelled the seductions of human learning, and abandoned for ever her favourite mathematical pursuits. Renouncing the vanities of this world, she withdrew from society, embraced a life of religious seclusion, and sunk by degrees into the languor of religious melancholy. She studied nothing but Hebrew, and the rhapsodies of the Greek fathers of the church. For upwards of twenty years she denied all access to strangers. The famous Lalande complains, in his “Travels through Italy,” that he was not allowed the honour of visiting that prodigy; and Father Boscovick himself, whose religious principles must have been unexceptionable, experienced, notwithstanding his repeated importunities, a similar refusal. Indulging that gloomy temper, she retired into a convent, and assumed the habit of a Blue Nun. She sought to forget the world, and was herself forgotten. She died about the year 1770. The Inshhizioni Analytiche of Agnesi were translated into English, many years ago, by Mr. Colson, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge. The translation was discovered among the papers of that ingenious mathematician, by the learned Baron [Pg 123]Maseres, who put the manuscript into the hands of Mr. Hellins, as editor, and generously defrayed the expenses attending the publication.


Anna Maria Schurman, the other distinguished female character, was born at Cologne, 1607, of parents sprung from noble Protestant families. From her infancy she discovered an uncommon dexterity of hand; for, at six years of age, she cut with her scissors all sorts of figures upon paper, without any pattern or model. At eight, she learned in a few days to design flowers in a very agreeable manner; and two years after, took no more than three hours in learning to embroider. She was afterwards instructed in music, painting, sculpture, and engraving; and succeeded to admiration in all these arts. Her hand-writing in all languages was inimitable; and some curious persons have preserved specimens of it in their cabinets. Mr. Joby, in his journey to Munster, relates, that he had a view of the beauty of her writing in French, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic; and was an eye-witness of her skill in drawing in miniature, and making portraits upon glass with the point of a diamond. She painted her own picture; and made artificial pearls, so nearly resembling natural ones, that they could not be distinguished, except by pricking them with a needle.

The powers of her understanding were equally capacious; for, at eleven years of age, when her brothers were examined in their Latin exercises, she frequently whispered them what to answer, though she had only heard them say their lessons en passant, which her father observing, and perceiving she had a genius for literature, determined to cultivate those talents he saw she was possessed of, and accordingly assisted her in gaining that noble stock of learning, for which she was afterwards so eminent. The Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages were so familiar to her, that she not only wrote, but spoke them fluently, to the surprise of the most learned men. She made a great progress also in the Oriental languages which had an affinity with the Hebrew, as the Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic, and Ethiopic; understood the living languages perfectly well, and could converse readily in French, English, and Italian. She was likewise competently versed in geography, astronomy, philosophy, and the sciences; but as her mind was naturally of a religious cast, these learned amusements gave her but little satisfaction; and at length she applied herself to divinity, and the study of the holy scriptures.

While she was an infant, her father had settled at Utrecht, but afterwards, for the more convenient education of his children, removed to Praneker, where he died 1623. Upon which his widow returned to Utrecht, where Anna Maria continued[Pg 124] her studies very intensely; which undoubtedly kept her from marrying, as she might advantageously have done with Mr. Cotts, pensionary of Holland, and a celebrated poet, who wrote verses in her praise, when she was no more than fourteen years of age.

Her modesty, which was as remarkable as her knowledge, would have kept her merit and learning in obscurity, if Rivetus, Spanheim, and Vossius, had not produced her, contrary to her own inclination, upon the stage of the world. To these three divines we may add Salmasius, Beveronicius, and Huygens, who maintained a literary correspondence with her, and, by shewing her letters, spread her fame into foreign countries. This procured her letters from eminent men; and her name became so famous, that persons of the first distinction, even princesses, paid her visits; and cardinal Richelieu shewed her marks of his esteem.

About the year 1650, she made a visible alteration in her religious system. She no longer went to public worship, but performed her devotions in private; which occasioned a report that she was inclined to popery: but the truth was, she had attached herself to Labadie, the famous Quietist, and embracing his principles and practices, accompanied him wherever he went. She lived some time with him at Altena, in Holstein, where she attended him at his death in 1674. She afterwards retired to Weimart, in Friesland, where Mr. William Penn, the quaker, visited her in 1677; and died at this place, 1678. She took for her device these words of St. Ignatius, Amor meus crucifixus est, My Love is crucified.


Samuel Bisset, the noted animal instructor, next follows.—A most singular character, famous for teaching quadrupeds to perform very remarkable actions. He was born at Perth, in 1721. He first tried his skill on a horse and a dog which he bought in London, and he succeeded beyond all expectation. Two monkeys were the next pupils he took in hand; one of these he taught to dance and tumble on the rope, whilst the other held a candle with one paw for his companion, and with the other played a barrel organ. These antic animals he also instructed to play several fanciful tricks, such as drinking to the company, riding and tumbling upon the horse’s back, and going through several regular dances with the dog.

Being a man of unwearied patience, three young cats were the next objects of his tuition. He taught those domestic tigers, to strike their paws in such directions on the dulcimer, as to produce several tunes, having music-books before them, and squalling at the same time in different keys or tones, first, second, and third, by way of concert. In such a city as London, these feats could not fail of exciting attention. The well-known Cat’s Opera was performed at the Haymarket; the[Pg 125] horse, the dog, the monkeys, and the cats, went through their several parts with uncommon applause, to crowded houses; and in a few days Bisset found himself in possession of nearly a thousand pounds to reward his ingenuity.

This success excited a desire of extending his dominion over other animals, including even the feathered kind. He procured a leveret, and reared it to beat several marches on the drum with its hind-legs, until it became a good stout hare. This creature, which is always set down as the most timid, he declared to be as mischievous and bold an animal, to the extent of its power, as any with which he was acquainted. He taught canary-birds, linnets, and sparrows, to spell the name of any person in company, to distinguish the hour and minute of time, and play many other surprising tricks; he trained six turkey cocks to go through a regular country dance. In the course of six months’ teaching, he made a turtle fetch and carry like a dog; and having chalked the floor, and blackened his claws, could direct it to trace out any given name in the company.


The following is a surprising instance of premature genius, in the person of John Philip Baratier. A most extraordinary person, born 1721, in the margravate of Anspach, of such extraordinary powers of memory, that, at the age of four, he conversed with his mother in French, with his father in Latin, and with his servants in German. The rapidity of his improvement augmented with his years, so that he became acquainted with Greek at six, with Hebrew at eight, and in his eleventh year translated from the Hebrew into French the Travels of Benjamin of Tudela, which he enriched with valuable annotations. His proficiency in mathematics was so great, that he submitted to the London Royal Society, a scheme for finding the longitude, which, though insufficient, exhibited the strongest marks of superior abilities. He visited Halle with his father in 1735, where he was offered by the university the degree of M. A. The young philosopher drew up 14 theses, which he printed, and the next morning disputed upon them with such logical precision, that he astonished a most crowded audience. At Berlin he was received with kindness by the king of Prussia, and honoured with marks of distinction. His abilities, however, shone but like a meteor: a constitution, naturally delicate, was rendered still more weak by excessive application; and a cough, spitting of blood, and fever on the spirits, put an end to his life at Halle, 1740, in his 20th year.

Baratier is mentioned as a prodigy of learning and of genius; his memory was universally retentive, and his application scarcely credible, when it is recollected that he spent twelve hours in bed till his tenth year, and ten afterwards. In one[Pg 126] winter he read twenty great folios, with all the attention of a vast comprehensive mind; and the large work which he prepared on Egyptian antiquities, shewed the most judicious and laborious arrangement. In his domestic economy he was very temperate; he ate little flesh, lived totally on milk, tea, bread, and fruit; he disliked wine; he had an aversion to dancing, music, and the sports of the field; so that he wished for no recreation from study, but in walking, or in the conversation of a few friends.

We shall conclude this chapter with an account of the principal events in the life of—


Buonaparte.—1769, Born at Ajaccio, Corsica, Aug. 15.—1779, Placed at the Military School of Brienne, March.—1794, An Officer of artillery at the siege of Toulon, and appointed General of Brigade.—1794, Commands the Conventional Troops, and defeats the Parisians, Oct. 4.—1796, Appointed to the command of the Army of Italy. Battle of Lodi, May 10. Battle of Castiglione, Aug. 3. Battle of Arcola, Nov. 16.—1797, Surrender of Mantua, Feb. 2. Trieste surrenders, March 23. Preliminaries with Austria signed at Leoben, April 18. French take possession of Venice, May 16. Treaty of Campo Formeo, with Austria, 17.—1798, Buonaparte sails for Egypt, May 20. Battle of Embabe, or of the Pyramids, July 21. Insurrection at Cairo, Oct. 24.—1799, Siege of Acre raised, May 21. Sails from Egypt for France, Aug. 23. Lands at Frejus, Oct. 7. Dissolves the Conventional Government, Nov. 9. Declared First Consul, 10.—1800, Peace with the Chouans, Feb. 15. Buonaparte crosses Mount St. Bernard, May. Battle of Marengo, June 16. Preliminaries with Austria signed at Paris. Battle of Hohenlinden, Dec. 3. Explosion of the Infernal Machine, 24.—1801, Treaty of Luneville with Austria, Feb. 9. Nelson attacks the Buologne Flotilla, Aug. 16. Preliminaries with England, Oct. 8.—1802, The Cisalpine Republic placed under Buonaparte, Jan. 26. Definitive Treaty with England, March 27. Legion of Honour instituted, May 15. Declared Consul for Life, Aug. 2. Swiss form of Government changed by the interference of the French, 28.—1803, English Declaration of War, May 18. Hanover conquered, June 5.—1804, Moreau arrested, Feb. Duc D’Enghien shot, March 20. Pichegru dies in prison, April 8. Buonaparte made Emperor, May 18. Crowned by the Pope, Nov. 19.—1805, Writes a pacific letter to the King of England, Feb. Treaty of Petersburgh, between England, Russia, Austria, and Sweden, April 11. Buonaparte declared King of Italy, May 26. Buonaparte heads his army against Austria, Sept. 24. Mack’s army surrenders at Ulm, Oct. 20. French enter Vienna, Nov. 13. Battle of Austerlitz, Dec. 2. Treaty of Vienna with Prussia,[Pg 127] 15. Treaty of Presburg with Austria, 26.—1806, Joseph Buonaparte declared King of Naples, March 30. Louis Buonaparte declared King of Holland, June 5. Convocation of the Jews, July 26. Confederation of the Rhine published, 27. Buonaparte marches against Prussia, Sept. 24. Battle of Auerstadt, or Jena, Oct. 14. Buonaparte enters Berlin, 27. Hamburgh taken, Nov. 19. Berlin Decree.—1807, Battle of Eylau, Feb. 8. Battle of Friedland, June 14. Treaty of Tilsit, July 7.—1808, Joseph Buonaparte declared King of Spain, July 7. Surrender of Dupont’s army at Baylen, 20. Joseph Buonaparte evacuates Madrid, 29. Battle of Vimeira, August 21. Conferences at Erfurth, Sept. 20. Buonaparte arrives at Vittoria, Nov. 5. Surrender of Madrid, Dec. 4.—1809, Battle of Corunna, Jan. 16. Buonaparte returns to Paris, 22. War declared by Austria, April 6. Bonaparte heads his army against Austria, 13. French enter Vienna, May 10. Battle of Esling, or Asperne, 22. Battle of Wagram, July 6. Flushing taken by the English, August 14. Treaty of Vienna, Oct. 14. Lucien Buonaparte arrives in England, Dec. 13. Buonaparte’s marriage with Josephine dissolved, 16. Walcheren evacuated by the English, 23.—1810, Buonaparte marries Maria Louisa, daughter of Francis II. March 11. Holland and the Hanse Towns annexed to France, July 9. Bernadotte elected Crown Prince of Sweden, Aug. 21. Decree for restraining the liberty of the Press, Dec.—1811, Hamburgh annexed to the empire, Jan. 1. The Empress delivered of a son, who is styled King of Rome, April 20. Buonaparte present at an engagement between the Boulogne flotilla and an English cruiser, Sept. 2.—1812, Swedish Pomerania seized by Buonaparte, Jan. 22. He heads the army against Russia, May 2. Arrives at Konigsberg, June 11. Enters Wilna, 28. Smolensko taken, Aug. 18. Battle of Moskwa, Sept. 7. French enter Moskow, 14. Evacuate it, October 22. Buonaparte at Smolensko, Nov. 9. Deserts the army, Dec. 5. Arrives at Paris, 18.—1813, Takes the command of the army on the Elbe, April. Battle of Lutzen, May 1. Battle of Bautzen, 20. Armistice agreed on, June 4. Battle of Vittoria, 21. Hostilities re-commence, Aug. 17. Battle of Dresden, Moreau killed, 28. English enter France, Sept. 7, Buonaparte evacuates Dresden, 28. Battle of Leipsic, Oct. 18. Revolution in Holland, Nov. 15. Declaration of the Allies at Frankfort, Dec. 1. English army cross the Nive, 8.—1814, Allies cross the Rhine, Jan. 4. Battle of Montmartre, March 30. Allies enter Paris, 31. Buonaparte abdicates the throne, April 11. Arrives at Elba, May 8.—1815, Sails from Elba to France, March 1. Arrives at Paris, and reascends the throne, 20. Is declared an outlaw by the Sovereigns of Europe then assembled at Vienna, 25. Calls a new House of Peers and[Pg 128] Chamber of Representatives of the people. Calls a Champ de Mai, April. Defeats the Prussians, June 16. Loses his army in the great battle of Waterloo, 18. Abdicates the throne a second time, 21. Surrenders himself to Capt. Maitland, commanding the English ship of war, the Bellerophon, in Basque Roads, July 15. Arrives at Torbay, 22. Sailed from England in the Northumberland, for St. Helena, Aug. 11.—1821, Died at St. Helena, May 5. Buried there, 9.






Richard Savage, one of the most extraordinary characters that is to be met with in all the records of biography, was the son of Anne, countess of Macclesfield, by the earl of Rivers, according to her own confession; and was born in 1698. This confession of adultery was made, to procure a separation from her husband, the earl of Macclesfield: yet, having obtained this end, no sooner was a spurious offspring brought into the world, than she resolved to disown him; and, as long as he lived, she treated him with the most unnatural cruelty. She delivered him over to a poor woman to educate as her own; maliciously prevented the earl of Rivers from leaving him a legacy of £6000, by declaring him dead; and deprived him of another legacy which his godmother, Mrs. Lloyd, had left him, by concealing from him his birth, and thereby rendering it impossible for him to prosecute his claim. She endeavoured to send him secretly to the plantations; but this plan being frustrated, she placed him apprentice with a shoemaker. In this situation, however, he did not long continue; for his nurse dying, he went to take care of the effects of his supposed mother, and found in her boxes some letters, which discovered to young Savage his birth, and the cause of its concealment. From the moment of this discovery he became dissatisfied. He conceived that he had a right to share in the affluence of his real mother; and therefore he applied to her, and tried every art to attract her regard. But in vain did he solicit this unnatural parent; she avoided him with the utmost precaution, and took measures to prevent his ever entering her house. Meantime, while he was endeavouring to rouse the affections of a mother, in whom all natural affection was extinct, he was destitute of the means of support. Having a strong inclination to literary pursuits, especially poetry, he wrote poems; and[Pg 129] afterwards two plays, Woman’s a Riddle, and, Love in a Veil: he was allowed no part of the profits from the first; but by the second he acquired the acquaintance of Sir Richard Steel and Mr. Wilkes, by whom he was pitied, caressed, and relieved. But the kindness of his friends not affording him a constant supply, he wrote the tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbury; which not only procured him the esteem of many persons of wit, but brought him £200. The celebrated Aaron Hill, Esq. was of great service to him in correcting and fitting this piece for the stage and the press; and extended his patronage still farther. But Savage was, like many other wits, a bad economist. As fast as his friends raised him out of one difficulty, he sunk into another; and when he found himself greatly involved, he rambled about like a vagabond, with scarcely a shirt on his back. He was in one of these situations all the time he wrote his tragedy above mentioned; without a lodging, and often without a dinner. Mr. Hill also promoted a subscription to a volume of his Miscellanies, and furnished part of the poems of which it was composed. To this Miscellany Savage wrote a preface, in which he gives an account of his mother’s cruelty, in a very uncommon strain of humour. The profits of his tragedy and his Miscellanies had now somewhat raised him, both in circumstances and credit, so that the world began to behold him with a more favourable eye, when both his fame and life were endangered by a most unhappy event: a drunken frolic, in which he one night engaged, ended in a fray, and Savage unfortunately killed a man, for which he was condemned to be hanged: his friends earnestly solicited the mercy of the crown, while his mother as earnestly exerted herself to prevent his receiving it. The Countess of Hertford, at length, laid his whole case before Queen Caroline, and Savage obtained a pardon. Savage now lost that affection for his mother which the whole series of her cruelty had not been able wholly to repress; and considering her as an implacable enemy, whom nothing but his blood could satisfy, threatened to harass her with lampoons, and to publish a copious narrative of her conduct, unless she consented to allow him a pension. This expedient proved successful; and Lord Tyrconnel, upon his promise of laying aside his design of exposing his mother’s cruelty, took him into his family, treated him as an equal, and engaged to allow him a pension of £200 a year. This was the happy period of Savage’s life. He was courted by all who wished to be thought men of genius and taste. At this time he published the Temple of Health and Mirth, on the recovery of Lady Tyrconnel from a languishing illness; and the Wanderer, a moral poem, which he dedicated to Lord Tyrconnel, in strains of the highest panegyric: but these praises he soon was inclined to retract,[Pg 130] being discarded by the man on whom they were bestowed. Of this quarrel, Lord Tyrconnel and Mr. Savage gave very different accounts. But our author’s conduct was ever such as made all his friends, sooner or later, grow weary of him, and even forced most of them to become his enemies.

Being thus once more turned adrift upon the world, Savage, whose passions were very strong, and whose gratitude was very small, exposed the faults of Lord Tyrconnel. He also took revenge upon his mother, by publishing the Bastard, a poem, remarkable for the vivacity of its beginning (where he humorously enumerates the imaginary advantages of base birth;) and for the pathetic conclusion, wherein he recounts the real calamities which he suffered by the crime of his parents. The following lines, in the opening of the poem, are a specimen of this writer’s spirit and versification:

“Blest be the bastard’s birth! thro’ wondrous ways
He shines eccentric, like a comet’s blaze.
No sickly fruit of faint compliance he;
He! stamp’d in nature’s mint with ecstasy!
He lives to build, not boast, a generous race;
No tenth transmitter of a foolish face.
He, kindling from within, requires no flame;
He glories in a bastard’s glowing name.
Nature’s unbounded son, he stands alone,
His heart unbias’d, and his mind his own.
O mother! yet no mother!—’tis to you
My thanks for some distinguish’d claims are due.”

This poem had an extraordinary sale; and its appearance happening at the time when his mother was at Bath, many persons there repeated passages from it in her hearing. This was perhaps the first time that ever she discovered a sense of shame, and, on this occasion, the power of wit was very conspicuous. The wretch, who had without scruple proclaimed herself an adulteress, and who had first endeavoured to starve her son, then to transport him, and afterwards to hang him, was not able to bear the representation of her own conduct, but fled from reproach, though she felt no pain from guilt; and left Bath in haste, to shelter herself among the crowds of London. Some time after this, Savage formed the resolution of applying to the Queen; who, having once given him life, he hoped she might extend her goodness to him, by enabling him to support it. With this view, he published a poem on her birth-day, which he entitled The Volunteer Laureat; for which she was pleased to send him £50, accompanied with an intimation that he might annually expect the same bounty. But this annual allowance was nothing to a man of his strange and singular extravagance. His usual custom was, as soon as he had received his pension, to disappear with it, and secrete himself from his most intimate friends, till every[Pg 131] shilling of it was spent; which done, he again appeared penniless as before: but he would never inform any person where he had been, nor in what manner his money had been dissipated. From the reports, however, of some who penetrated his haunts, he expended both his time and his cash in the most sordid and despicable sensuality; particularly in eating and drinking, in which he would indulge in the most unsocial manner, sitting whole days and nights by himself, in obscure houses of entertainment, over his bottle and trencher, immersed in filth and sloth, with scarcely decent apparel; generally wrapped up in a horseman’s great coat; and, on the whole, with his very homely countenance, exhibiting an object the most disgusting to the sight, if not to some other of the senses.

His wit and parts, however, still raised him new friends, as fast as his misbehaviour lost him his old ones. Yet such was his conduct, that occasional relief only furnished the means of occasional excess; and he defeated all attempts made by his friends to fix him in a decent way. He was even reduced so low as to be destitute of a lodging; insomuch that he often passed his nights in those mean houses that are set open for casual wanderers; sometimes in cellars, amidst the riot and filth of the most profligate of the rabble; and not seldom would he walk the streets till he was weary, and then lie down, in summer, on a bulk,—or, in winter, with his associates, among the ashes of a glasshouse. Yet, amidst all his penury and wretchedness, this man had so much pride, and so high an opinion of his own merit, that he was always ready to repress, with scorn and contempt, the least appearance of any slight towards himself, in the behaviour of his acquaintance; among whom he looked upon none as his superior. He would be treated as an equal, even by persons of the highest rank. He once refused to wait upon a gentleman, who was desirous of relieving him, when at the lowest distress, only because the message signified the gentleman’s desire to see him at nine in the morning. His life was rendered still more unhappy, by the death of the Queen, in 1738. His pension was discontinued; and the insolent manner in which he demanded of Sir Robert Walpole to have it restored, for ever cut off his supply, which probably might have been recovered by proper application.

His distress now became so notorious, that a scheme was at length concerted for procuring him a permanent relief. It was proposed that he should retire into Wales, with an allowance of £50 a year, on which he was to live privately, in a cheap place, for ever quitting his town haunts, and resigning all farther pretensions to fame. This offer he seemed gladly to accept; but his intentions were only to deceive his friends, by retiring for awhile to write another tragedy, and[Pg 132] then to return with it to London. In 1739, he set out for Swansey, in the Bristol stage-coach, and was furnished with 15 guineas, to bear the expense of his journey. But, on the 14th day of his departure, his friends and benefactors, the principal of whom was Mr. Pope, who expected to hear of his arrival in Wales, were surprised with a letter from Savage, informing them that he was yet upon the road, and could not proceed for want of money. There was no other remedy than a remittance, which was sent him, and by the help of which he was enabled to reach Bristol, whence he was to proceed to Swansey by water. At Bristol, however, he found an embargo laid upon the shipping; so that he could not immediately obtain a passage. Here, therefore, being obliged to stay for some time, he so ingratiated himself with the principal inhabitants, that he was often invited to their houses, distinguished at their public entertainments, and treated with a regard that highly gratified his vanity. At length, with great reluctance, he proceeded to Swansey; where he lived about a year, very much dissatisfied with the diminution of his salary, for he had, in his letters, treated his contributors so insolently, that most of them withdrew their subscriptions. Here he finished his tragedy, and resolved to return with it to London; which was strenuously opposed by his constant friend Mr. Pope; who proposed that Savage should put this play into the hands of Mr. Thomson and Mr. Mallet, that they might fit it for the stage; that his friends should receive the profits it might bring in; and that the author should receive the produce by way of annuity. This kind and prudent scheme was rejected by Savage with contempt. He declared he would not submit his works to any one’s correction; and that he would no longer be kept in leading-strings. Accordingly, he soon returned to Bristol, in his way to London; but at Bristol, meeting with a repetition of the same kind treatment he had before found there, he was tempted to make a second stay in that opulent city for some time. Here he was not only caressed and treated, but the sum of £30 was raised for him; with which it would have been happy if he had immediately departed for London. But he never considered that a frequent repetition of such kindness was not to be expected. In short, he remained here till his company was no longer welcome. His visits in every family were too often repeated, his wit had lost its novelty, and his irregular behaviour grew troublesome. Necessity came upon him before he was aware; his money was spent, his clothes were worn out, his appearance was shabby, and his presence was disgustful at every table. He now began to find every man from home at whose house he called, and he found it difficult to obtain a dinner.

Thus reduced, it would have been prudent in him to have[Pg 133] withdrawn from the place; but prudence and Savage were never acquainted. He staid, in the midst of poverty, hunger, and contempt, till the mistress of a coffee-house, to whom he owed about 8l. arrested him for the debt. He remained for some time at the house of the sheriff’s officer, in hopes of procuring bail; which expense he was enabled to defray by a present of five guineas from Mr. Nash at Bath. No bail, however, was to be found; so that poor Savage was at last lodged in Newgate, a prison in Bristol. But it was the fortune of this extraordinary mortal always to find more friends than he deserved. The keeper of the prison took compassion on him, and greatly softened the rigours of his confinement by every kind of indulgence; he supported him at his own table, gave him a commodious room to himself, allowed him to stand at the door of the gaol, and often took him into the fields for the benefit of the air and exercise; so that, in reality, Savage endured fewer hardships here than he had usually suffered during the greatest part of his life.

While he remained in this agreeable prison, his ingratitude again broke out, in a bitter satire on the city of Bristol; to which he certainly owed great obligations, notwithstanding his arrest, which was but the lawful act of an individual. This satire is entitled, London and Bristol delineated; and in it he abused the inhabitants of the latter with such a spirit of resentment, that the reader would imagine he had never received any other than the worst of treatment in that city. When Savage had remained about six months in this hospitable prison, he received a letter from Mr. Pope, (who still allowed him £20 a year,) containing a charge of very atrocious ingratitude; and though the particulars have not transpired, yet, from the notorious character of the man, there is reason to fear that Savage was but too justly accused: He, however, solemnly protested his innocence; but he was very unusually affected on this occasion:—in a few days after, he was seized with a disorder, which, at first, was not suspected to be dangerous; but growing daily more languid and dejected, at last a fever seized him, and he died on the 1st of August, 1743, in the 46th year of his age.

Thus lived, and thus died, Richard Savage, Esq. leaving behind him a character strangely chequered with vices and good qualities. Of the former we have mentioned a variety of instances; of the latter, his peculiar situation in the world gave him but few opportunities of making any considerable display. He was, however, undoubtedly a man of excellent parts; and had he received the full benefits of a liberal education, and had his natural talents been cultivated to the best advantage, he might have made a respectable figure in life. He was happy in a quick discernment, a retentive memory,[Pg 134] and a lively flow of wit, which made his company much coveted; nor was his judgment of men and writings inferior to his wit: but he was too much a slave to his passions, and his passions were too easily excited. He was warm in his friendships, but implacable in his enmity; and his greatest fault was ingratitude. He seemed to think every thing due to his merit, and that he was little obliged to any one for those favours which he thought it their duty to confer upon him. He therefore never rightly estimated the kindness of his many friends and benefactors, or preserved a grateful sense of their generosity towards him. The works of this original writer, after having long lain dispersed in magazines and fugitive publications, were collected and published in an elegant edition, in 2 vols. 8vo. to which are prefixed the admirable Memoirs of Savage, written by Dr. Samuel Johnson.






William Huntingdon, a very eccentric personage, who was originally a coal-heaver, and afterwards became a popular preacher of the Calvinistic persuasion. The following account, formed principally from the preacher’s own words, was first presented to the public in the first volume of “The Pulpit,” 1809. Excepting the circumstance of enlarging his name from Hunt to Huntingdon, which is stated as one of the inevitable consequences of “the follies of his youth,” Mr. Huntingdon has already written, with tolerable truth, the greater portion of the history of himself.

He was born, he says, in the Weald of Kent; and “suffered much from his parents’ poverty, when young.” He long felt other disadvantages attending his birth. Being born in “none of the most polite parts of the world,” he “retained a good deal of his provincial dialect;” so that many of his “expressions sounded very harsh and uncouth.” Of this he complains, with some cause, as it afterwards occasioned numbers of “unsanctified critics to laugh and cavil at” him. He was first an errand boy, then a daily labourer, then a cobbler; and, though he “worked by day,” and “cobbled by night,” he, at one time, “lived upon barley.” His first ministerial preparation is thus told:

“I had now (says Mr. H.) five times a week to preach constantly: on which account I was forced to lay the Bible in a chair by me, and now and then read a little, in order to furnish myself with matter for the pulpit. It sometimes [Pg 135]happened that I was under sore temptations and desertions: the Bible, too, appeared a sealed book, insomuch that I could not furnish myself with a text; nor durst I leave my work in order to study or read the Bible; if I did, my little ones would soon want bread; my business would also run very cross at those times.” His earnings did not then amount to more than eight shillings per week. Even when his state grew better, when he got his first “parsonic livery” on his back, he could not study at his ease. “My little cot (he says) was placed in a very vulgar neighbourhood, and the windows were so very low, that I could not study at any of them, without being exposed to the view of my enemies; who often threw stones through the glass, or saluted me with a volley of oaths or imprecations.” This must have been painful enough to one whose “memory was naturally bad.” Providence had long furnished him with very superior accommodations. After many years of itinerant and irregular preaching, William Huntingdon, weary of living at Thames Ditton, secretly longed to leave it, fully persuaded that he “should end his ministry in London.”

“Having unsuccessfully laboured in the vineyard of the country,” and as he “did not see that God had any thing more for him to do there,” he, like one Durant of late, “saw the Lord himself open the door” for his removal. He had resolved to be off; and he contrived to get off. He was now, as he himself says, “to perch upon the thick boughs.” Ditton was to be left for London. Yet had poor Ditton not been so unkind to him. “Some few years before I was married,” says Mr. H. “all my personal effects used to be carried in my hand, or on my shoulders, in one or two large handkerchiefs; but after marriage, for some few years, I used to carry all the goods that we had gotten, on my shoulders, in a large sack: but when we removed from Thames Ditton to London, we loaded two large carts with furniture and other necessaries; besides a post-chaise, well filled with children and cats.”

Being viewed as ludicrous while in the country, he was fearful of being considered as ridiculous elsewhere. I here transcribe his words: “At this (says Mr. H.—having been advertised in Margaret-street Chapel,) I was sorely offended, being very much averse to preaching in London, for several reasons. First, because I had been told it abounded so much with all sorts of errors, that I was afraid of falling into them, there were so many that lay in wait to deceive. Secondly, because I had no learning, and therefore feared I should not be able to deliver myself with any degree of propriety; and as I knew nothing of Greek or Hebrew, nor even of the English Grammar, that I should be exposed to the scourging tongue of every critic in London.”

[Pg 136]“During many weeks, (he adds,) I laboured under much distress of mind respecting my want of abilities to preach in this great metropolis.” I think this one of the few rational passages to be found in the “Bank of Faith.” Mr. Huntingdon here candidly confesses his own conviction of his then ministerial incompetency, and expresses his apprehension as to the probable nullity of his divine mission. His call seems to fail him now. He feels just as most men would feel in the same state,—fears just as they would fear,—and takes the same chance as to the great end he had in view. “During the space of three years, (says Mr. Huntingdon,) I secretly wished in my soul, that God would favour me with a chapel of my own, being sick of the errors that were perpetually broached by some one or other in Margaret-street Chapel, where I then preached. But though I so much desired this, yet I could not ask God for such a favour, thinking it was not to be brought about by one so very mean, low, and poor as myself. However, God sent a person, unknown to me, to look at a certain spot, who afterwards took me to look at it; but I trembled at the very thought of such an immense undertaking. Then God stirred up a wise man to offer to build a chapel, and to manage the whole work without fee or reward. God drew the pattern on his imagination, while he was hearing me preach a sermon. I then took the ground; this person executed the plan; and the chapel sprung up like a mushroom. As soon as it was finished, this precious scripture came sweet to my soul, ‘He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:’ Psa. cxlv. 19.

“I will now inform my reader of the kind providence of my God at the time of building the chapel, which I named Providence Chapel (1788); and also mention a few free-will-offerings which the people brought. They first offered about eleven pounds, and laid it on the foundation at the beginning of the building. A good gentleman, with whom I had but little acquaintance, and of whom I bought a load of timber, sent it in with a bill and receipt-in-full, as a present to the Chapel of Providence. Another good man came with tears in his eyes, and blessed me, and desired to paint my pulpit, desk, &c. as a present to the chapel. Another person gave half a dozen chairs for the vestry; and my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lyon, furnished me with a tea-chest, well stored, and a set of china. My good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, furnished me with a very handsome bed, bedstead, and all its furniture and necessaries, that I might not be under the necessity of walking home in the cold winter nights. A daughter of mine in the faith, gave me a looking-glass for my chapel study. Another friend gave me my pulpit-cushion, and a book-case for my study. Another gave me a book-case for the vestry. And[Pg 137] my good friend, Mr. E. seemed to level all his displeasure at the devil; for he was in hopes I should be enabled, through the gracious arm of the Lord, to cut Rahab in pieces; therefore he furnished me with a sword of the Spirit—a new Bible, with Morocco binding and silver clasps. I had got one old cart-horse, (says W. H.) that I had bought with the rest of the stock on the farm, and I wanted two more, but money ran short; and I determined also to have a large tilted cart, to take my family to chapel, and the man should drive it on the Sunday and on lecture nights, and I would ride my little horse. This was the most eligible plan that I could adopt; and on this I determined, as soon as God should send money to procure them. I came to this conclusion on a Friday; and on the next day, toward evening, came two or three friends from town to see me. I wondered not a little at their coming, as they knew that on a Saturday I never like to see any body, and therefore I conceived that they must be come with some heavy tidings; some friend was dead, or something bad had happened. But they came to inform me that some friends had agreed among themselves, and bought me a coach and a pair of horses, which they intended to make me a present of. I informed them that the assessed taxes ran so high, that I should not be able to keep it. But they stopped my mouth by informing me, that the money for paying the taxes for the coach and horses was subscribed also; so that nothing lay upon me, but the keep of the horses. Thus, instead of being at the expense of a tilted cart, God sent me a coach without cost, and two horses without my purchasing them; and which, with my other old horse, would do the work of the farm, as well as the work of the coach; and my bailiff informed me that he could drive it, having formerly drove one. Thus was I set up. But at this time the pocket was bare, and many things were wanting, both in the house and on the farm, and a place to fit up for my bailiff and dairy-woman to live in. And it was but a few days afterward before a gentleman out of the country called upon me; and, being up in my study with me, he said, ‘My friend, I often told you, you would keep your coach before you died; and I always promised, that whenever you had a coach, I would give you a pair of horses; and I will not be worse than my word. I have inquired of Father Green, and he tells me that the horses cost forty-five pounds, and there is the money.’ In a day or two after, the coach, horses, and harness, came; and, having now a little money, I wrote to a friend in the country to send me twelve ewes, and a male with them; and he sent me twelve excellent ones, and the male with them, but would not be paid for them; they were a present to the farm. ‘Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.’ Ps. cvii. 43.”

[Pg 138]Much did Mr. Huntingdon owe to the singularity of his ways. Singular in his outset and career, singular in his opinions, singular in his own appearance, singular in his chapel, singular in his style of preaching, he seemed to know, as well as most men, the value of singularity. He not only excelled in extempore eloquence, but his peculiarities distinguished him from most other preachers. Having formally announced his text, he laid his Bible at once aside, and never referred to it again. Having laid on one side the volume of inspiration, and disdaining the trammels of transcription, he proceeded directly to his object; and, excepting incidental digressions, as, “Take care of your pockets!” “Wake that snoring sinner!” “Silence that noisy numscull!” “Turn out that drunken dog!” excepting such occasional digressions, which, like the episodes of poetry, must, when skilfully introduced, be understood to heighten the effect of the whole, our orator never deviated from the course in which he commenced his eccentric career of ministerial labour.

He had other advantages over many of his pulpit compeers. Being of the metaphorical and allegorical school, as well as possessing his citations by rote, there is seldom to be found the passage, from the book of Genesis to the Revelation of St. John, that may not have, remotely or allusively, some connection with the subject immediately under his investigation. Hence the variety, as well as the fertility, of his eloquence. Hence the novelty of his commentaries; his truly astonishing talent of reconciling texts, else undoubtedly incongruous; and of discovering dissimilarities, and asserting difficulties, where none were believed to exist. Nothing could exceed the dictatorial dogmatism of this famous preacher. Believe him, none but him,—and that is enough. If he aimed thus to pin the faith of those who hear him, he would say over and over, “As sure as I am born, ’tis,” &c. or, “I believe this,” or, “I know this,” “I am sure of it,” or, “I believe the plain English of it (some difficult text) to be,” &c. When he adds, as he was wont, by way of fixing his point, “Now, you can’t help it,” or, “So it is,” or, “It must be so in spite of you,” he did this with a most significant shake of his head, with a sort of beldam hauteur, with all the dignity of defiance. Action he seemed to have none, except that of shifting his handkerchief from hand to hand, and hugging his cushion as though it were his bolster. He therefore owed his distinction to the absence of those qualities by which most men rise. Self has done great things for him: self-taught, self-raised, all of self. “God (says Mr. H.) enabled me to put out several little books, which were almost universally exclaimed against, both by preachers and professors, and by these means God sent them into all winds; so that I soon rubbed off one hundred, and[Pg 139] soon after another, so that, in a short time, I had reduced my thousand pounds (debt) down to seven hundred.”

Of his works, he adds, that “they are calculated (as he thinks,) to suit the earnest inquirer; the soul in bondage, in the furnace, in the path of tribulation, or in the strong hold of Satan; and (says he) I have heard of them from Wales, from Scotland, from Ireland, from various parts of America, from Cadiz in Spain, from Alexandria in Egypt, and, I believe, from both the East and West Indies.”

His “Bank of Faith” has proved a bank of gold! When he wrote so much of what came to him as gifts, was it not to rouse more to give? The man who says he lives by gifts, will, as he gets his friends, find gifts by which he may live. He died at London, in 1813; and such was the avidity of his adherents to obtain a relic of him, that his furniture sold at ten times the original value. An old chair went off at forty pounds.





Animal Generation—Formation of Animals—Preservation of Animals—Destruction of Animals—Animal Reproductions.

See, thro’ this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go!
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of Being! which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect, what no eye can see,
No glass can reach; from Infinite to thee,
From thee to nothing.


In entering upon the subject of Curiosities respecting Animals, we shall first introduce to the reader some interesting observations respecting the generation, formation, preservation, destruction, and reproduction, of animals in general; and, first, of animal generation.

Animal generation holds the first place among all that raise our admiration when we consider the Works of the Creator, and chiefly that appointment by which he has regulated the propagation, which is wisely adapted to the disposition and mode of life of every different species of animals, that people earth, air, or sea.

“Increase and multiply,” said the benevolent Author of [Pg 140]nature, when he pronounced his blessing on the new made world. By virtue of this powerful mandate, all the various tribes of sentient beings have not only been preserved, but increased in an astonishing degree.

It is not in our province to describe the laws of gestation; we will content ourselves with a few brief hints upon this subject; and we shall find, that in different animals, nature operates in different ways, in order to produce the same general end.

The human female, and the female of quadrupeds, are possessed of a temperate cherishing warmth; this fits them for easy gestation, and enables them to afford proper nourishment to their young, till the time of birth.

Birds are intended to soar in the air, or to flit from place to place in search of food. Gestation, therefore, would be burdensome to them. For this reason, they lay eggs, covered with a hard shell: these, by natural instinct, they sit upon, and cherish till the young be excluded. The ostrich and the cassowary are said to be exempt from this law; as they commit their eggs to the sand, where the intense heat of the sun hatches them.

Fishes inhabit the waters, and most of them have cold blood, unfit for nourishing their young. The all-wise Creator, therefore, has ordained that most of them should lay their eggs near the shore; where, by means of the solar rays, the water is warmer, and also fitter for that purpose; and also because water insects abound more there, which afford nourishment to the young fry.

Salmon, when they are about to deposit their eggs, are led by instinct to ascend the stream, where purity and freshness are to be found in the waters: and to procure such a situation for its young, this fish will endure incredible toil and hazard.

The butterfly-fish is an exception to this general law, for that brings forth its young alive. The species of fish whose residence is in the middle of the ocean, are also exempt. Providence has given to these, eggs that swim; so that they are hatched among the sea-weeds, which also swim on the surface.

The various kinds of whales have warm blood, and therefore bring forth their young alive, and suckle them with their teats.

Some amphibious animals also bring forth their young alive, as the viper, &c. But such species as lay eggs, deposit them in places where the heat of the sun supplies the want of warmth in the parent. Thus the frog, and the lizard, drop their’s in shallow waters, which soon receive a genial heat by the rays of the sun; the common snake, in dunghills, or other warm[Pg 141] places. The crocodile and sea-tortoise go ashore to lay their eggs in the sand; in these cases, Nature, as a provident nurse, takes care of all.

The multiplication of animals is not restrained to the same rule in all; for some have a remarkable power of increase, while others are, in this respect, confined within very narrow limits. Yet, in general, we find, that nature observes this order, that the least animals, and those which are most useful for food to others, usually increase with the greatest rapidity. The mite, and many other insects, will multiply to a thousand within the compass of a few days; while the elephant hardly produces a young one in two years.

Birds of the hawk-kind seldom lay more than two eggs; while poultry will produce from fifteen to thirty. The diver, or loon, which is eaten by few animals, lays also only two eggs; but the duck-kind, moor game, partridges, &c. and small birds in general, lay a great many. Most of the insect tribes neither bear young nor hatch eggs; yet they are the most numerous of all living creatures; and were their bulk proportionable to their numbers, there would not be room on the earth for any other animals. The Creator has wisely ordained the preservation of these minute creatures. The females lay not their eggs indiscriminately, but are endued with instinct to choose such places as may supply their infant offspring with proper nourishment: in their case, this is absolutely necessary, for the mother dies as soon as she has deposited her eggs, the male parent having died before this event takes place; so that no parental care ever falls to the lot of this orphan race. And indeed, were the parents to live, it does not appear that they would possess any power to assist their young. Butterflies, weevils, tree-bugs, gall-insects, and many others, lay their eggs on the leaves of plants; and every different tribe chooses its own species of plants. Nay, there is scarce any plant which does not afford nourishment to some insect; and still more, there is hardly any part of a plant which is not preferred by some of them. Thus one feeds upon the flower; another upon the leaves; another upon the trunk; and still another upon the root. But it is particularly curious to observe how the leaves of some trees of plants are formed into dwellings for the convenience of these creatures. Thus the gall-insect, fixes her eggs in the leaves of an oak; the wounded leaf swells, and a knob arises like an apple, which includes, protects, and nourishes the embryo. In the same manner are the galls produced, which are brought from Asiatic Turkey, and which are used both as a medicine, and as a dye in several of our manufactories.

When the tree-bug has deposited its eggs in the boughs of the fir-tree, excrescences arise, shaped like pearls. When[Pg 142] another insect of the same species has deposited its eggs in the mouse-ear, chick-weed, or speedwell plants, the leaves contract in a wonderful manner into the shape of a head. The water spider excludes eggs either on the extremities of juniper, which from thence forms a lodging that resembles the arrow-headed grass; or on the leaves of the poplar, from whence a red globe is produced. The tree-louse lays its eggs on the leaves of the black poplar, which turn into a kind of inflated bag; and so in many other instances.

Nor is it only upon plants that insects live and lay their eggs. The gnat commits her’s to stagnant waters; the flesh-fly, in putrified flesh; another kind of insect deposits her’s in the cracks of cheese.

Some insects exclude their eggs on certain animals; the mill-beetle, between the scales of fishes; a species of the gadfly, on the back of bullocks; another of the same species, on the back of the rein-deer; another, in the noses of sheep; another still, in the intestinal tube, or the throat of horses. Nay, even insects themselves are generally surrounded with the eggs of other insects; so that there is, perhaps, no animal to be found, but what affords both lodging, and nourishment, and food, to other animals: even man himself, the haughty lord of this lower world, is not exempt from this general law.


We shall next call the reader’s attention to some particulars respecting the Formation of Animals.

Whatever matter may be in itself as to its essence, it is certain that it appears to our senses as various and heterogeneous: however, the modus of the formation of animals is still unknown. The inspired writers express themselves here, at least, according to the capacity of the learned, as well as the vulgar, when they acknowledge the ignorance of mankind,—how the bones do at first grow in their embryo state,—and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, when we are fashioned secretly in the lower parts of the earth. However, it seems not probable, that one part of matter acting upon another, should produce animal existence, though we grant it may have a strange and unaccountable power in the alteration of matter purely insensible or inanimate. Fermentation may dilate, and extremely alter the parts of animated matter, when they are delineated and marked out by the finger of the Almighty; but still, matter being a principle purely passive and irrational, we cannot conceive how it should become an animal, any more than a world, it being much more easy for stones to leap out of a quarry, and make an Escurial, without asking the architect’s leave, or calling for the mason, with his mortar and trowel, to assist them.

[Pg 143]Nor seems it necessary, or rational, that the first seed of every creature should formally include all those seeds that should be afterwards produced from it; since it is, we think, sufficient that it should potentially include them, just as Abraham did Levi; or as one kernel does all those indeterminate kernels that may be thence afterwards raised; the first seeds being doubtless of the same nature with those that now exist, after so many thousand years, the order of time making only an accidental difference; which if we do not grant, we must run into this absurdity, that every thing does not produce its like,—a bird a bird, or a horse a horse,—which would be to fill all the world with monsters, which nature does so much abhor.

But every vegetable seed, or kernel, for example, does now actually and formally contain all the seeds or kernels which may be at any time afterwards produced from them. A kernel has indeed, as we have found by microscopes, a pretty fair and distinct delineation of the tree and branches into which it may be afterwards formed by the fermentation of its parts, and addition of suitable matter; as in the tree are potentially contained all the thousands and millions of kernels, and so of trees, that shall or may be thence raised afterwards: and some are apt to believe it must be similar in the first animals; whereas the finest glasses, which are brought to an almost incredible perfection, cannot discover actual seeds in seeds, or kernels in kernels; though, if there were any such thing as an actual least atom, they might, one would think, be discovered by them, since they have shewn us not only seeds, but even new animals, in many parts of matter where we never suspected them, and even in some of the smallest animals themselves, whereof our naked sight can take no cognizance. As for the parts of matter, be they how they will, finite or infinite, it makes no great alteration; for, if these parts are not all seminal, we are no nearer. Nay, at best, an absurdity seems to be the consequence of this hypothesis; because, if those parts are infinite, and include all successive generations of animals, it would follow that the number of animals too should be infinite; and, instead of one, we should have a thousand infinites; and it would be strange too if they should not, some of them, be greater or less than one another.

For that pleasant fancy, that all the seeds of animals were distinctly created at the beginning of time and things, that they are mingled with all the elements, that we take them in with our food, and the he and she atoms either fly off or stay, as they like their lodgings; we hope there is no need of being serious to confute it. And we may ask of this, as well as the former hypothesis,—what need of them, when the work may be done without them? The kernel, as before, contains the[Pg 144] tree, the tree a thousand other fruits, and ten thousand kernels; the first animal several others; and as many of them as Nature can dispose of, and provide fit nourishment for, are produced into what we may call actual being, in comparison to what they before enjoyed. If it be asked, whether these imperfect creatures have all distinct souls while lurking yet in their parent? we answer, that there is no need of it; they are not yet so much as well-defined bodies, but rather parts of the parent: there is required yet a great deal more of the chemistry and mechanism of nature, and that in both sexes, to make one or more of these embryo beings, the offspring of man, capable of receiving a rational soul; but when that capacity comes, and wherein it consists, perhaps he only knows, who is the Father of spirits, as well as the former of the universe.


On the Preservation of Animals.—With respect to the preservation of animals, it maybe observed, that in tender age, while the young are unable to provide for themselves, the parent possesses the most anxious care for them. The lioness, the tigress, and every other savage of the wilderness, are gentle and tender towards their offspring; they spare no pains, no labour, for their helpless progeny; they scour the forest with indescribable rage; destruction marks their path; they bear their victim to the covert, and teach their whelps to quaff the blood of the slain. There is one great law, which the all-wise Creator has implanted in animals towards their offspring, which is, that, according to their nature, they should provide for their nourishment, defence, and comfort.

All quadrupeds give suck to their young, and support them by a liquor of a most delicate taste, and perfectly easy of digestion, till they are capable of receiving nourishment from more solid food.

Birds build their nests in the most artificial manner, and line them as soft as possible, that the eggs or young may not be injured. Nor do they build promiscuously, but chuse such places as are most concealed, and likely to be free from the attacks of their enemies: thus the hanging-bird of the tropical countries, makes its nest of the fibres of withered plants lined with down, and fixes it at the extremity of some bough hanging over the water, that it may be out of reach; and the diver places its swimming nest upon the water itself, among the rushes.

The male rooks and crows, during the time of incubation, bring food to the females. Pigeons, and most of the small birds which pair, sit by turns; but where polygamy prevails, the males scarcely take any care of the young.

Birds of the duck kind pluck the feathers off their breast,[Pg 145] and cover their eggs with them, lest they should be injured by cold when they quit their nest for food; and when the young are hatched, they shew the utmost solicitude in providing for them, till they are able to fly, and shift for themselves.

Young pigeons are fed with hard seeds, which the parents first have prepared in their own crops, that so the infant bird may digest them easily. And the eagle makes its nest on the highest precipices of mountains, and in the warmest spot, facing the sun; here the prey which it brings is corrupted by the heat, and made digestible to the young.

There is, indeed, an exception to this fostering care of animals in the cuckoo, which lays its eggs in the nest of some small bird, generally the wagtail, yellow-hammer, or white-throat, and leaves both the incubation and preservation of the young to them. But naturalists inform us that this apparent want of instinct in the cuckoo proceeds from the structure and situation of its stomach, which disqualifies it for incubation; still its care is conspicuous in providing a proper, though a foreign situation, for its eggs.

Amphibious animals, fishes, and insects, which cannot come under the care of their parents, yet owe this to them, that they are deposited in places where they easily find proper nourishment.

When animals come to that maturity as no longer to want parental care, they exercise the utmost labour and industry for the preservation of their own lives. But the different species are many, and the individuals of each species are very numerous. In order, therefore, that all may be supported, the Creator has assigned to each class its proper food, and set bounds and limits to their appetites. Some live on particular species of plants, which are produced only in particular animalcula; others on carcases, and some even on mud and dung. For this reason, Providence has ordained that some should swim in certain regions of the watery element; that others should fly; and that some should inhabit the torrid, the frigid, or the temperate zones. Different animals also are confined to certain spots in the same zone: some frequent the deserts, others the meadows, or the cultivated grounds; thus the mountains, the woods, the pools, the gardens, have their proper inhabitants. By this means there is no terrestrial tract, no sea, no river, no country, but what teems with life. Hence one species of animals does not injuriously invade the aliment of another; and hence the world at all times affords support to so many, and such various inhabitants, and nothing which it produces is in vain.

We ought to remark, also, the wisdom and goodness of Providence in forming the structure of the bodies of animals for their peculiar manner of life, and in giving them clothing[Pg 146] which is suitable both to the country and element in which they live.

Thus the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the various kinds of monkeys, are destined to live in the torrid regions, where the sun darts its fiercest rays; their skins are therefore naked, for were they covered with hair, they would perish with heat. They are also of such conformation of body as to suit their different manner of life. The rein-deer has his habitation in the coldest parts of Lapland; his food is the liverwort, which grows nowhere else so abundantly; and as the cold is in that country intense, this useful animal is covered with hair of the densest kind; by this means he easily defies the keenness of the arctic regions. The rough-legged partridge passes its life in the Lapland Alps, where it feeds on the seeds of the dwarf birch: while, to withstand the cold, and to enable it to run freely among the snow, even its feet are thickly beset with feathers.

The camel is a native of the arid sandy deserts, which, with their dreadful sterility, are yet capable of yielding him support. How wisely has the Creator formed him! his foot is made to traverse the burning sands; and as the place of his habitation affords but little water, he is made capable of enduring long journeys, and going many days without quenching his thirst; for he is furnished with a natural reservoir, in which, when he drinks, he stores up a quantity of water, and has the power of using it in a frugal and sparing manner, when, for his food, he crops the dry thistle of the desert. The bullock delights in low rich grounds, because there he finds the food which is most palatable to him. The wild horse chiefly resorts to woods, and feeds upon leafy plants. Sheep prefer hills of moderate elevation, where they find a short sweet grass, of which they are very fond. Goats climb up the precipices of mountains, that they may brouse on the tender shrubs; and, in order to fit them for their situation, their feet are made for jumping.

Swine chiefly get provision by turning up the earth; for which purpose their snouts are peculiarly formed. In this employment they find succulent roots, insects, and reptiles.

So various is the appetite of animals, that there is scarcely any plant which is not chosen by some, and left untouched by others. Thus the horse refuses the water hemlock, which the goat will eat: the goat will not feed on monkshood, but the horse eats it with avidity. The long-leafed water hemlock is avoided by the bullock; yet the sheep is fond of it. The spurge is poisonous to man; but the caterpillar finds it a wholesome nourishment. Some animals live on the leaves of certain plants, others on the stalks, and others still on the rind, or even the roots of the same vegetable.

[Pg 147]It should seem from hence, that no plant is absolutely poisonous, but only relatively so: that is, there is no plant but what is wholesome food to some animal or other. Thus divine wisdom has assigned an use for all its productions.

The care of Providence is further evident in giving to each animal an instinctive knowledge of its proper aliment; but that delicacy of taste and smell, by which they accurately distinguish the wholesome from the pernicious, is not so evident in domestic animals as in those which are in a state of nature.

All birds of the goose kind pass great part of their lives in water, feeding on water-insects, fishes, and their eggs. It is evident that they are calculated for this mode of existence; their beaks, their necks, their feet, and their feathers, are formed for it. All other birds are as aptly fitted for their manner of life as these.

The sea-swallow is said to get his food in a very singular way. Fish are his support, but he is not capable of diving in order to catch them like other aquatic birds; the sea-gull, therefore, is his caterer: when this last has gorged himself, he is pursued by the former, who buffets him till he casts up a part of his prey, which the other catches before it reaches the water; but in those seasons when the fishes hide themselves in deep water, the merganser supplies even the gull himself with food, being capable of plunging deeper into the sea.

Small birds are generally supposed to live principally upon the berries of ivy and hawthorn; but modern naturalists contradict this, and affirm that their winter food is the knot-grass, which bears heavy seeds, like those of the black bind-weed. This is a very common plant, not easily destroyed; it grows in great abundance by the sides of roads, and trampling on it will not kill it; it is extremely plentiful in corn-fields after harvest, and gives a reddish hue to them by the multitude of its seeds. Wherever the husbandman ploughs, this plant will grow, nor can all his art prevent it: thus a part of his labours are necessarily destined for the propagation of a plant which our heavenly Father has designed immediately for the support of the “fowls of the air;” for though “they sow not, neither gather into barns,” yet are they fed by him.

Some birds who live on insects, migrate every year to foreign regions, in order to seek food in a milder climate; while all the northern countries, where they live well in summer, are covered with snow. Some naturalists reckon the different species of the Hirundo, or swallow, among the birds of passage; while others affirm that they do not migrate, but, at the approach of winter, seek an asylum from the cold in the clefts of rocks, with which our island is surrounded, or take refuge[Pg 148] in the bottom of pools and lakes, among the reeds and rushes; others still, who have made their observations with more attention and patience than either of the former, allow that the old swallows with their early brood do migrate; but that the latter hatches, which are incapable of distant flight, lay themselves up, and become torpid during the winter; and at the approach of spring, by the wonderful appointment of Nature, they come forth again with renewed life and activity. In these, and all other animals which become torpid in the winter, the peristaltic motion of the bowels ceases while they are dormant, so that they do not suffer by hunger. Dr. Lister remarks, concerning this class of animals, that their blood, when poured into a vessel, does not coagulate, like that of all other animals; and therefore is no less fit for circulation when they revive, than before.

The birds called moor-fowl, during great snows, work out paths for themselves under its surface, where they live in safety, and get their food. They moult in summer, so that about the latter end of August they cannot fly, and are therefore obliged to run in the woods; but then the blackberries and bilberries are ripe, from whence they are abundantly supplied with food: but the young do not moult the first year, and therefore, though they cannot run so well, are enabled to escape danger by flight.

The migration of birds is not only a fact, but, as it relates to many kinds of them, is an useful fact to mankind. This remark applies to such of them as feed on insects, the number of which is so great, that if these birds did not destroy them, it would be almost impossible for us to live.

Of the various kinds of water-fowl that are known in Europe, there is hardly any but what, in the spring, are found to repair to Lapland. This is a country of lakes, rivers, swamps, and mountains, covered with thick and gloomy forests, that afford shelter during summer to these birds.

In these arctic regions, by reason of the thickness of the woods, the ground remains moist and penetrable, and the waters contain the larvæ of the gnat in innumerable quantities. The days there are long, and the beautiful and splendid meteors of the night indulge them with every opportunity of collecting so minute a food; at the same time, men are very sparingly scattered over that vast northern waste. Yet, Linnæus, that great explorer of nature, in his excursion to Lapland, was astonished at the myriads of water-fowl that migrated with him out of that country, which exceeded in multitude the army of Xerxes, covering, for eight whole days and nights, the surface of the river Calix! The surprise of Linnæus was occasioned by his supposing their support to be furnished chiefly by the vegetable kingdom, almost denied[Pg 149] to the Lapland waters; not knowing that the all-bountiful Creator had plenteously provided insect food for them in that dreary wilderness.

Certain beasts, also, as well as birds, become torpid, or at least inactive, when they are, by the rigour of the season, excluded from the necessaries of life. Thus the bear, at the end of autumn, collects a quantity of moss, into which he creeps, and there lies all the winter, subsisting upon no other nourishment than his fat, collected during the summer in the cellulous membrane, and which, without doubt, during his fast, circulates through his vessels, and supplies the place of food.

The hedge-hog, badger, and some kinds of mice, fill their winter quarters with vegetables, which they eat during mild weather in the winter, and sleep during the frosts. The bat seems cold and quite dead, but revives in the spring: while most of the amphibious animals get into dens, or the bottom of lakes and pools.

Among other instances of the preservation of animals, we ought to mention that of the pole-cat of America, commonly called the squash or skink. This is a small animal of the weasel kind, which some of the planters of that country keep about their premises to perform the office of a cat. This creature has always a very strong and disagreeable smell, but when affrighted or enraged, it emits so horrible a stench, as to prevent any other creature from approaching it: even dogs in pursuit of it, when they find this extraordinary mode of defence made use of, will instantly turn, and leave him undisputed master of the field; nor can any attempts ever bring them to rally again. Kalm, as quoted by Buffon, says, “One of these animals came near the farm where I lived in the year 1749. It was in the winter season, during the night; and the dogs that were upon the watch, pursued it for some time, until it discharged against them. Although I was in bed a good way off, I thought I should have been suffocated; and the cows and oxen themselves, by their lowings, shewed how much they were affected by the stench.”

Nor is even the serpent, in its various kinds, destitute of the care of the common Father of nature. This reptile, which has neither wings to fly, nor the power to run with much speed, would not have the means to take its prey, were it not endowed with superior cunning to most other creatures. In favour of the serpent, also, there is a terror attending its appearance, which operates with such power upon birds and other small animals, as often to cause them to fall an easy prey to it. Hence, probably, has arisen the fiction of the power of fascination, which has been confidently ascribed to the rattlesnake and some other serpents.

 [Pg 150]

On the Destruction of Animals.

In considering the destruction of animals, we may observe that Nature is continually operating: she produces, preserves for a time, and then destroys all her productions. Man himself is subject to this general order; for he also, like other creatures, returns to the dust from whence he was taken.

This process of nature is marked even in the vicissitudes of the seasons. Spring, like the jovial, playful infancy of all living creatures, represents childhood and youth; for then plants spread forth their flowers, fishes play in the waters, birds sing, and universal nature rejoices. Summer, like middle age, exhibits plants and trees full clothed in green; fruits ripen; and every thing is full of life. But autumn is comparatively gloomy; for then the leaves fall from the trees, and plants begin to wither, insects grow torpid, and many animals retire to their winter quarters.

The day proceeds with steps similar to the year. In the morning every thing is fresh and playful; at noon all is energy and action; evening follows, and every thing is inert and sluggish.

Thus the age of man begins from the cradle; pleasing childhood succeeds; then sprightly youth; afterwards manhood, firm, severe, and intent on self-preservation; lastly, old age creeps on, debilitates, and, at length, totally destroys our tottering bodies.

But we must consider the destruction of animals more at large. We have before observed, that all animals do not live on vegetables, but there are some which feed on animalcula; others on insects. Nay, some there are which subsist only by rapine, and daily destroy some or other of the peaceable kind.

The destruction of animals by each other, is generally in progression,—the strong prevailing against the weak. Thus, the tree-louse lives on plants; the fly called musca amphidivora, lives on the tree-louse; the hornet and wasp-fly, on the musca amphidivora; the dragon-fly, on the hornet and wasp-fly; the larger spider, on the dragon-fly; small birds feed on the spider; and lastly, the hawk kind on the small birds.

In like manner, the monoculus delights in putrid waters; the gnat eats the monoculus; the frog eats the gnat; the pike eats the frog; and the sea-calf eats the pike.

The bat and the goat-sucker make their excursions only at night, that they may catch the moths, which at that time fly about in great quantities.

The woodpecker pulls out the insects which lie hid in the trunks of trees. The swallow pursues those which fly about in the open air. The mole feeds on worms and grubs in the earth. The large fishes devour the small ones. And perhaps[Pg 151] there is not an animal in existence, which has not an enemy to contend with.

Among quadrupeds, wild beasts are most remarkably pernicious and dangerous to others. But that they may not, by their cruelty, destroy a whole species, these are circumscribed within certain bounds: as to the fiercest of them, they are few in number, when compared with other animals; sometimes they fall upon and destroy each other; and it is remarked also, that they seldom live to a great age, for they are subject, from the nature of their diet, to various diseases, which bring them sooner to an end than those animals which live on vegetables. It has been asked, why has the Supreme Being constituted such an order in nature, that, it should seem, some animals are created only to be destroyed by others? To this it has been answered, that Providence not only aimed at sustaining, but also keeping a just proportion amongst all the species, and so preventing any one of them from increasing too much, to the detriment of men and other animals. For if it be true, as it assuredly is, that the surface of the earth can support only a certain number of creatures, they must all perish, if the same number were doubled or trebled.

There are many kinds of flies, which bring forth so abundantly, that they would soon fill the air, and, like clouds, intercept the light of the sun, unless they were devoured by birds, spiders, and other animals.

Storks and cranes free Egypt from frogs, which, after the inundation of the Nile, cover the whole country. Falcons clear Palestine from mice. Bellonius, on this subject, says, “The storks come to Egypt in such abundance, that the fields and meadows are quite white with them. Yet the Egyptians are not displeased with them, as frogs are generated in such numbers, that, did not the storks devour them, they would over-run every thing. Besides, they also catch and eat serpents. Between Belba and Gaza, the fields of Palestine are often injured by mice and rats; and were these vermin not destroyed by the falcons, that come here by instinct, the inhabitants could have no harvest.”

The white fox is of equal advantage in the Lapland Alps; as he destroys the Norway rat, which, by its prodigious increase, would otherwise entirely destroy vegetation in that country.

It is sufficient for us to believe that Providence is wise in all its works, and that nothing is made in vain. When rapacious animals do us mischief, let us not think that the Creator planned the order of nature according to our private principles of economy; for the Laplander has one way of living, the European husbandman another, and the Hottentot differs from them both; whereas the stupendous Deity is one throughout[Pg 152] the globe; and if Providence do not always calculate according to our method of reckoning, we ought to consider this affair in the same light as when different seamen wait for a fair wind, every one with respect to the port to which he is bound: these we plainly see cannot all be satisfied.

We shall conclude this branch, by turning once more to Man, and tracing him through his progressive stages of decay, until death puts a final period to his earthly existence.

The human form has no sooner arrived at its state of perfection, than it begins to decline. The alteration is at first insensible, and often several years are elapsed before we find ourselves grown old. The news of this unwelcome change too generally comes from without; and we learn from others that we grow old, before we are willing to believe the report.

When the body is come to its full height, and is extended into its just dimensions, it then also begins to receive an additional bulk, which rather loads than assists it. This is formed of fat, which, generally, at about the age of forty, covers all the muscles, and interrupts their activity. Every exertion is then performed with greater labour, and the increase of size only serves as the forerunner of decay.

The bones also become every day more solid. In the embryo they are almost as soft as the muscles and the flesh, but by degrees they harden, and acquire their proper vigour; but still, for the purpose of circulation, they are furnished through all their substance with their proper canals. Nevertheless, these canals are of very different capacities during the different stages of life. In infancy they are capacious, and the blood flows almost as freely through the bones as through any other part of the body; in manhood their size is greatly diminished, the vessels are almost imperceptible, and the circulation is proportionably slow. But in the decline of life, the blood which flows through the bones, no longer contributing to their growth, must necessarily serve to increase their hardness. The channels which run through the human frame may be compared to those pipes that we see crusted on the inside, by the water, for a long continuance, running through them. Both every day grow less and less, by the small rigid particles which are deposited within them. Thus, as the vessels are by degrees diminished, the juices also, which circulate through them, are diminished in proportion; till at length, in old age, these props of the human frame are not only more solid, but more brittle.

The cartilages, likewise, grow more rigid; the juices circulating through them, every day contribute to make them harder, so that those parts which in youth are elastic and pliant, in age become hard and bony, consequently the motion of the joints must become more difficult. Thus, in old age,[Pg 153] every action of the body is performed with labour, and the cartilages, formerly so supple, will now sooner break than bend.

As the cartilages acquire hardness, and unfit the joints for motion, so also that mucous liquor, which is always secreted between the joints, and which serves, like oil to a hinge, to give them an easy and ready play, is now grown more scanty. It becomes thicker and more clammy, more unfit for answering the purposes of motion, and from thence, in old age every joint is stiff and awkward. At every motion this clammy liquor is heard to crack; and it is not without a great effort of the muscles, that its resistance is overcome. Old persons have been known, that seldom moved a single joint without thus giving notice of the violence that was done to it.

The membranes that cover the bones, joints, and the rest of the body, become, as we grow old, more dense and more dry. Those which surround the bones soon cease to be ductile. The fibres, of which the muscles or flesh is composed, become every day more rigid; and while, to the touch, the body seems, as we advance in years, to grow softer, it is in reality increasing in hardness. It is the skin, and not the flesh, that we feel on such occasions. The fat, and the flabbiness of it, seem to give an appearance of softness, which the flesh itself is very far from having. None can doubt this after trying the difference between the flesh of young and old animals. The first is soft and tender, the last is hard and dry.

The skin is the only part of the body that age does not harden; that stretches to every degree of tension; and we have often frightful instances of its pliancy, in many disorders which are incident to humanity. In youth, while the body is vigorous and increasing, it continues to give way to its growth. But although it thus adapts itself to our increase, its does not in the same manner conform to our decay. The skin, in youth and health, is plump, glossy, veined, and clear; but when the body begins to decline, it has not elasticity enough to shrink entirely with its diminution; it becomes dark or yellow, and hangs in wrinkles, which no cosmetic can remove. The wrinkles of the body in general proceed from this cause; but those of the face seem to proceed from another, namely, from that variety of positions into which it is put by the speech, the food, or the passions. Every grimace, every passion, and every gratification of appetite, puts the visage into different forms. These are visible enough in young persons; but what at first was accidental or transitory, becomes, by habit, unalterably fixed in the visage as it grows older.

Hence, as we advance in age, the bones, the cartilages, the membranes, the flesh, and every fibre of the body, becomes more solid, more dry, and more brittle. Every part shrinks,[Pg 154] motion becomes more slow, the circulation of the fluids is performed with less freedom; perspiration diminishes; the secretions alter; the digestion becomes laborious; and the juices no longer serve to convey their accustomed nourishment. Thus the body dies by little and little, and all its functions are diminished by degrees; life is driven from one part of the frame to another; universal rigidity prevails; and death, at last, seizes upon the remnant that is left.

As the bones, the cartilages, the muscles, and all other parts of the body, are softer in women than in men, these parts must, of consequence, require a longer time to arrive at that state of hardness which occasions death. Women, therefore, ought to be longer in growing old than men, and this is, generally speaking, the case. If we consult the tables which have been drawn up respecting human life, we shall find that, after a certain age, they are more long-lived than men, all other circumstances the same. Thus a woman of sixty has a greater probability, than a man of the same age, of living till eighty.


We shall close this chapter with an account of Animal Reproductions.

Here we discover a new field of wonders, that seems entirely to contradict the principles that we had adopted concerning the formation of organized bodies. It was long thought that animals could only be multiplied by eggs, or by young ones. But it is now found that there are some exceptions to this general rule, since certain animal bodies have been discovered, that may be divided into as many complete bodies as you please; for each part thus separated from the parent body, soon repairs what is deficient, and becomes a complete animal. It is now no longer doubtful that the polypus belongs to the class of animals, though it much resembles plants, both in form, and in its mode of propagating. The bodies of these creatures may be either cut across or longitudinally, and the pieces will become so many complete polypi. Even from the skin, or least part, cut off from the body, one or more polypi will be produced; and if several pieces cut off be joined together by the extremities, they will perfectly unite, nourish each other, and become one body. This discovery has given rise to other experiments, and it has been found that polypi are not the only animals which live and grow after being cut in pieces. The earth-worm will multiply after being cut in two; to the tail there grows a head, and the two pieces then become two worms. After having been divided, they cannot be joined together again; they remain for some time in the same state, or grow rather smaller; we then see at the extremity which was cut, a little white button begin to appear, which increases[Pg 155] and gradually lengthens. Soon after, we may observe rings at first very close together, but insensibly extending on all sides; a new stomach, and other organs, are then formed. We may at any time make the following experiment with snails: cut off their heads close by the horns, and in a certain space of time the head will be reproduced. A similar circumstance takes place in crabs; if one of their claws is torn off, it will again be entirely reproduced.

A very remarkable experiment was made by Duhamel, on the thigh of a chicken. After the thigh-bone which had been broken was perfectly restored, and a callus completely formed, he stripped off the flesh down to the bone;—the parts were gradually reproduced, and the bone, and the circulation of the blood, again renewed. We know then that some animals may be multiplied by dividing them into pieces; and we no longer doubt that the young of certain insects may be produced in the same manner as a branch is from a tree; that, being cut in pieces, they will live again in the smallest piece; that they may be turned inside out like a glove, divided into pieces, then turned again, and yet live, eat, grow, and multiply. Here a question offers itself, which perhaps no naturalist can resolve in a satisfactory manner: How does it happen that the parts thus cut off, can be again reproduced? We must suppose that germs are distributed to every part of the body; whilst in other animals they are only contained in certain parts. These germs unfold themselves when they receive proper nourishment. Thus, when an animal is cut in pieces, the germ is supplied with the necessary juices, which would have been conveyed to other parts, if they had not been diverted into a different channel. The superfluous juices develop those parts which without them would have continued attached to each other. Every part of the polypus and worm, contains in itself, as the bud does the rudiments of a tree, all the viscera necessary to the animal. The parts essential to life are distributed throughout the body, and the circulation is carried on even in the smallest particles. As we do not understand all the means that the Author of nature makes use of to distribute life and feeling to such a number of animals, we have no reason to maintain, that the creatures of which we have been speaking, are the only ones that are exceptions to the general rule in their mode of propagating. The fecundity of nature, and the infinite wisdom of the Creator, always surpass our feeble conceptions. The same hand that has formed the polypus and the worm, has shewn us that it is able to simplify the structure of animals.



[Pg 156]



The Beaver, and its Habitations—The Mole—The Frog—The Toad—The Rhinoceros—Crocodiles and Alligators—Fossil Crocodile—The Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus—The Marmot, or Mountain Rat, of Switzerland.

Nature’s unnumber’d family combine
In one beneficent, one vast design;
E’en from inanimates to breathing man,—
A heaven-conceiv’d, heaven-executed plan;
Onward, from those who soar or lowly creep,
The wholesome equipoise through all to keep,
As faithful agents in earth, sea, and air,
The lower world to watch with constant care;
Her due proportion wisely to conserve:—
A wondrous trust, from which they never swerve.


It would not be consistent with the plan of this work to embrace the whole natural history of the animal and vegetable kingdom. This is a Book of Curiosities; and it is our intention to present the reader with a sketch of the most remarkable things in the universe: our present subject, therefore, being curiosities respecting animals, we shall commence with—


The Beaver.—This animal was known to the ancients for its possession of that sebaceous matter called castor, secreted by two large glands near its genitals and anus, and of which each animal has about two ounces; but they appear to have been unacquainted with its habits and economy, with that mental contrivance and practical dexterity, which in its natural state so strikingly distinguish it. Beavers are found in the most northern latitudes of Europe and Asia, but are most abundant in North America.

In the months of June and July, they assemble in large companies to the number of two hundred, on the banks of some water, and proceed to the formation of their establishment. If the water be subject to risings and fallings, they erect a dam, to preserve it at a constant level; where this level is naturally preserved, this labour is superseded. The length of this dam is occasionally eight feet. In the preparation of it, they begin with felling some very high, but not extremely thick tree, on the border of a river, which can be made to fall into the water; and, in a short time, this is effected by the united operation of many, with their fore-teeth, the branches being afterwards cleared by the same process. A multitude of smaller trees are found necessary to complete[Pg 157] the fabric, and many of these are dragged from some distance by land, and formed into stakes; the fixing of which is a work of extreme difficulty and perseverance, some of the beavers with their teeth raising their large ends against the crossbeam, while others at the bottom dig with their fore-feet the holes in which the points are to be sunk. A series of these stakes, in several rows, is established from one bank of the river to the other, in connection with the cross-tree, and the intervals between them are filled up by vast quantities of earth, brought from a distance, and plashed with materials adapted to give it tenacity, and prevent its being carried off. The bark is formed at the bottom, of about the width of twelve feet, diminishing as it approaches the surface of the water, to two or three; being thus judiciously constructed to resist its weight and efforts by the inclined plane instead of perpendicular opposition.

These preparations, of such immense magnitude and toil, being completed, they proceed to the construction of their mansions, which are raised on piles near the margin of the stream or lake, and have one opening from the land, and another by which they have instant access to the water. These buildings are usually of an orbicular form, in general about the diameter of ten feet, and comprehending frequently several stories. The foundation walls are nearly two feet in thickness, resting upon planks or stakes, which constitute also their floors. In the houses of one story only, the walls, which in all cases are plastered with extreme neatness both externally and within, after rising about two feet perpendicularly, approach each other, so as at length to constitute, in closing, a species of dome. In the application of the mortar to their habitations, the tails as well as feet of the beavers are of essential service. Stone, wood, and a sandy kind of earth, are employed in their structures, which, by their compactness and strength, completely preclude injury from winds and rain. The alder, poplar, and willow, are the principal trees which they employ; and they always begin their operations on the trunk, at nearly two feet above the ground; nor do they ever desist from the process till its fall is completed. They sit instead of stand, at this labour, and while reducing the tree to the ground, derive a pleasure at once from the success of their toils, and from the gratification of their palate and appetite by the bark, which is a favourite species of food to them, as well as the young and tender parts of the wood itself.

For their support in winter, ample stores are laid up near each separate cabin; and occasionally to give variety and luxury to their repasts during a long season, in which their stores must have become dry and nearly tasteless, they will[Pg 158] make excursions into the neighbouring woods for fresh supplies. Depredations by the tenants of one cabin on the magazines of another are unknown, and the strictest notions of property and honesty are universal. Some of their habitations will contain six only, others twelve, and some even twenty or thirty inhabitants; and the whole village or township contains in general about twelve or fourteen habitations. Strangers are not permitted to intrude on the vicinity; but, amidst the different members of the society itself, there appears to prevail that attachment and that friendship which are the natural result of mutual co-operation, and of active and successful struggles against difficulty. The approach of danger is announced by the violent striking of their tails against the surface of the water, which extends the alarm to a great distance; and, while some throw themselves for security into the water, others retire within the precincts of their cabins, where they are safe from every enemy but man.

The neatness as well as the security of their dwellings is remarkable, the floors being strewed over with box and fir, and displaying the most admirable cleanness and order. Their general position is that of sitting, the upper part of the body, with the head, being considerably raised, while the lower touches, and is somewhat indeed immersed in, the water. This element is not only indispensable to them in the same way as to other quadrupeds, but they carefully preserve access to it even when the ice is of very considerable depth, for the purpose of regaling themselves by excursions to a great extent under the frozen surface. The most general method of taking them is by attacking their cabins during these rambles, and watching their approach to a hole dug in the ice at a small distance, to which they are obliged, after a certain time, to resort for respiration.

If a man, who had never been informed of the industry of beavers and their manner of building, were shewn the edifices that they construct, he would suppose them to be the work of most eminent architects. Every thing is wonderful in the labours of these amphibious animals; the regular plan, the size, the solidity, and the admirable art of these buildings, must fill every attentive observer with astonishment.

The works of beavers have a great resemblance to those of men; and upon their first appearance we may imagine them to be produced by rational and thinking beings; but when we examine them nearer, we shall find that in all their proceedings, these animals do not act upon the principles of reason, but by an instinct which is implanted in them by nature. If reason guided their labours, we should naturally conclude that the buildings which they now construct would be very different from those they formerly made, and that they would [Pg 159]gradually advance towards perfection. But we find that they never vary in the least from the rules of their forefathers, never deviate from the circle prescribed to them by nature, and the beavers of to-day build exactly after the same plan as those which lived before the deluge. But they are not the less worthy of our admiration. In these sagacious creatures we have an example of the great diversity there is in the instinct of animals—how superior is the instinct of the beaver to that of the sheep!

The flesh of the anterior part of the bodies of beavers resembles that of land animals in substance and flavour; while that of the lower possesses the taste, and smell, and lightness of fish.

The sexual union among these animals is connected with considerable individual choice, sentiment, and constancy.—Every couple pass together the autumn and winter, with the most perfect comfort and affection. About the close of winter, the females, after a gestation of four months, produce, in general, each two or three young, and soon after this period they are quitted by the males, who ramble into the country to enjoy the return of spring; occasionally returning to their cabins, but no longer dwelling in them. When the females have reared their young, which happens in the course of a few weeks, to a state in which they can follow their dams, these also quit their winter residence, and resort to the woods, to enjoy the opening bloom and renovated supplies of nature. If their habitations on the water should be impaired by floods, or winds, or enemies, the beavers assemble with great rapidity to repair the damage. If no alarm of this nature occurs, the summer is principally spent by them in the woods, and on the advance of autumn they assemble in the scene of their former labours and friendships, and prepare with assiduity for the confinement and rigours of approaching winter.

When taken young, the beaver may be tamed without difficulty; but it exhibits few or no indications of superior intelligence. Some beavers are averse to that association which so strikingly characterizes these animals in general, and satisfy themselves with digging holes in the banks of rivers, instead of erecting elaborate habitations. The fur of these is comparatively of little value.


Another subject of animal curiosity is, The Mole.—This animal is about six inches in length, without the tail. Its body is large and cylindrical, and its snout strong and cartilaginous. Its skin is of extraordinary thickness, and covered with a fur, short, but yielding to that of no other animal in fineness. It hears with particular acuteness, and, notwithstanding the popular opinion to the contrary, possesses eyes,[Pg 160] which it is stated to be able to withdraw or project at pleasure. It lives partly on the roots of vegetables, but principally on animal food, such as worms and insects, and is extremely voracious and fierce. Shaw relates, from Sir Thomas Brown, that a mole, a toad, and a serpent, have been repeatedly inclosed in a large glass vase, and that the mole has not only killed the others, but has devoured a very considerable part of them. It abounds in soft ground, in which it can dig with ease, and which furnishes it with a great supply of food. It forms its subterraneous apartments with great facility by its snout and feet, and with a very judicious reference to escape and comfort. It produces four or five young in the spring, in a nest a little beneath the surface, composed of moss and herbage. It is an animal injurious to the grounds of the farmer, by throwing up innumerable hills of mould, in the construction of its habitation, or the pursuit of its food, and many persons obtain their subsistence from the premiums, which are, on this account, given for their destruction. Moles can swim with considerable dexterity, and are thus furnished with the means of escape in sudden inundations, to which they are frequently exposed. In Ireland, the mole is unknown.


The Common Frog.—This is an animal so well known, that it needs no description: but some of its properties are very singular. Its spring, or power of taking large leaps, is remarkably great, and it is the best swimmer of all four-footed animals. Its parts are finely adapted for those ends, the fore members of the body being very lightly made, the hind legs and thighs very long, and furnished with very strong muscles. While in a tadpole state, it is entirely a water animal, for in this element the spawn is cast. As soon as frogs are released from their tadpole state, they immediately take to land; and if the weather has been hot, and there fall any refreshing showers, the ground for a considerable space is perfectly blackened by myriads of these animalcules, seeking for some secure lurking places. Some persons not taking time to examine into this phenomenon, imagined them to have been generated in the clouds, and showered on the earth: but had they, like Mr. Derham, traced them to the next pool, they would have found a better solution of the difficulty. As frogs adhere closely to the backs of their own species, so we know they will do the same by fish. That they will injure, if not entirely kill carp, is a fact indisputable, from the following relation.

Not many years ago, on fishing a pond belonging to Mr. Pitt, of Encomb, Dorsetshire, great numbers of the carp were found, each with a frog mounted on it, the hind legs clinging to the back, and the fore legs fixed to the corner of[Pg 161] each eye of the fish, which were thin and greatly wasted, teased by carrying so disagreeable a load. The croaking of frogs is well known; and from that, in fenny countries, they are distinguished by ludicrous titles,—thus they are styled Dutch nightingales, and Boston waites. Yet there is a time of the year when they become mute, neither croaking nor opening their mouths for a whole month; this happens in the hot season, and that is in many places known to the country people by the name of the paddock-moon. It is said, that during that period their mouths are so closed, that no force (without killing the animal) will be capable of opening them. These, as well as other reptiles, feed but a small space of the year. Their food is flies, insects, and snails. During winter, frogs and toads remain in a torpid state; the last of which will dig into the earth, and cover themselves with almost the same agility as the mole.


Not less remarkable is The Common Toad.—This is the most deformed and hideous of all animals. The body is broad, the back flat, and covered with a pimply dusky hide; the belly large, swagging, and swelling out; the legs short, and its pace laboured and crawling; its retreat gloomy and filthy: in short, its general appearance is such as to strike one with disgust and horror. Yet it is said that its eyes are fine. Ælian and other ancient writers tell many ridiculous fables of the poison of the toad.

This animal was believed by some old writers to have a stone in its head fraught with great virtues, medical and magical: it was distinguished by the term of, the reptile, and called the toad-stone, bufonites, krottenstern, and other names, but all its fancied powers vanished on the discovery of its being nothing but the fossil tooth of the sea-wolf, or of some other flat-toothed fish, not unfrequent in our island, as well as several other countries. But these fables have been long exploded. And as to the notion of its being a poisonous animal, it is probable that its excessive deformity, joined to the faculty it has of emitting a juice from its pimples, and a dusky liquid from its hind parts, is the foundation of the report. That it has any noxious qualities, there seem to be no proofs in the smallest degree satisfactory, though we have heard many strange relations on that point. On the contrary, many have taken them in their naked hands, and held them long without receiving the least injury. It is also well known that quacks have eaten them, and have squeezed their juices into a glass, and drank them with impunity. They are also a common food to many animals; to buzzards, owls, Norfolk plovers, ducks, and snakes, which would not touch them, were they in any degree noxious.

[Pg 162]The fullest information concerning the nature and qualities of this animal is contained in letters from Mr. Arscott and Mr. Pitfield to Dr. Milles, communicated to Mr. Pennant; concerning a toad that lived above thirty-six years with them, was completely tame, and became so great a favourite that most of the ladies in the neighbourhood got the better of their prejudices so far as to be anxious to see it fed. Its food was insects, such as millepedes, spiders, ants, flies, &c. but it was particularly fond of flesh worms, which were bred on purpose for it. It never appeared in winter, but regularly made its appearance in the spring, when the warm weather commenced, climbing up a few steps, and waiting to be taken up, carried into the house, and fed upon a table. Before it attacked the insects, it fixed its eyes on them, and remained motionless for a quarter of a minute, when it attacked them by an instantaneous motion of its tongue, darted on the insect with such rapidity that the eye could not follow it, whereby the insect stuck to the tip of its tongue, and was instantly conveyed to its mouth. This favourite toad at last lost its life, in consequence of being attacked by a tame raven, which picked out one of its eyes; and although the toad was rescued, and lived a year longer, it never recovered its health or spirit. It never showed any signs of rage, being never provoked.


Our next subject is an animal of great bulk, The Rhinoceros.—This quadruped is exceeded in size only by the elephant. Its usual length, not including the tail, is twelve feet, and the circumference of its body nearly the same. Its nose is armed with a horny substance, projecting, in the full-grown animal, nearly three feet, and is a weapon of defence, which almost secures it from every attack. Even the tiger, with all his ferocity, is but very rarely daring enough to assail the rhinoceros. Its upper lip is of considerable length and pliability, acting like a species of snout, grasping the shoots of trees and various substances, and conveying them to the mouth; and it is capable of extension and contraction at the animal’s convenience. The skin is, in some parts, so thick and hard as scarcely to be penetrable by the sharpest sabre, or even by a musket-ball. These animals are found in Bengal, Siam, China, and in several countries of Africa; but are far less numerous than the elephant, and of sequestered solitary habits. The female produces only one at a birth; and at the age of two years the horn is only an inch long, and at six only of the length of nine inches. The rhinoceros is not ferocious, unless provoked, when he exhibits paroxysms of rage and madness, and is highly dangerous to those who encounter him. He runs with great swiftness, and rushes through brakes and woods with an energy to which every thing yields. He is [Pg 163]generally, however, quiet and inoffensive. Its food consists entirely of vegetables, the tender branches of trees, and succulent herbage, of which it will devour immense quantities. It delights in retired and cool situations, near lakes and streams, and appears to derive one of the highest satisfactions from the practice of rolling and wallowing in mud,—in this respect bearing a striking resemblance to the hog.



Many varieties of this formidable animal are found in Asia and Africa.
The above figure represents the Asiatic variety, which has but one horn.



Of the African rhinoceros, Mr. Cumming, the famous hunter, describes several kinds.
The above figure represents the two-horned kind, which is found nowhere but in Africa.
Mr. Cumming killed many of this kind.


This animal was exhibited, by Augustus, to the Romans, and is supposed to be the unicorn of the scripture, as it possesses the properties ascribed to that animal, of magnitude, strength, and swiftness, in addition to that peculiarity of a single horn, which may be considered as establishing their identity. This animal can distinguish, by its sight, only what is directly before it, and always, when pursued, takes the course immediately before it, almost without the slightest deviation from a right line, removing every impediment. Its sense of smelling is very acute, and also of hearing, and, on both these accounts, the hunters approach him against the wind. In general, they watch his lying down to sleep, when, advancing with the greatest circumspection, they discharge their muskets into his belly. The flesh is eaten both in Africa and India.


We now proceed to The Crocodile.—This animal is a native both of Africa and Asia, but is most frequently found in the former, inhabiting its vast rivers, and particularly the Niger and the Nile. It has occasionally been seen of the length of even thirty feet, and instances of its attaining that of twenty are by no means uncommon. It principally subsists on fish, but such is its voracity, that it seizes almost every thing that comes within its reach. The upper part of its body is covered with a species of armour, so thick and firm, as to be scarcely penetrable with a musket-ball; and the whole body has the appearance of an elaborate covering of carved work. It is an oviparous animal, and its eggs scarcely exceed in size those of a goose. These eggs are regarded as luxuries by the natives of some countries of Africa, who will also with great relish partake of the flesh of the crocodile itself. When young, the small size and weak state of the crocodile prevent its being injurious to any animal of considerable bulk or strength; and those which have been brought living to England have by no means indicated that ferocious and devouring character which they have been generally described to possess; a circumstance probably owing to the change of climate, and the reducing effect of confinement.

In its native climate its power and propensity to destruction are unquestionably great, and excite in the inhabitants of the territories near its haunts a high degree of terror. It lies in[Pg 164] wait near the banks of rivers, and, with a sudden spring, seizes any animal that approaches within its reach, swallowing it with an instantaneous effort, and then rushing back into its watery recesses, till renewed appetite stimulates the repetition of its insidious exertions. These animals were occasionally exhibited by the Romans among their collections of the natural wonders of the provinces; and Scaurus and Augustus are both recorded to have entertained the people with a sight of these new and formidable objects.

It is reported by some travellers, that crocodiles are capable of being tamed, and are actually kept in a condition of harmless domestication at the grounds and artificial lakes of some African princes, chiefly as appendages of royal splendour and magnificence. A single negro will often attack a crocodile, and by spearing it between the scales of the belly, where it is easily penetrable, secure its destruction. In some regions these animals are hunted by dogs, which, however, are carefully disciplined to the exercise, and are armed with collars of iron spikes.

Aristotle appears to have been the first who asserted that the under jaw of the crocodile was immoveable, and from him it was transmitted and believed for a long succession of ages. But the motion of the jaw in this animal is similar to that of all other quadrupeds. The ancients also thought it destitute of a tongue; an idea equally false. The tongue, however, is more fixed in this than in other animals, to the sides of its mouth, and less capable, therefore, of being protruded.—The eggs of the crocodile are deposited in the mud or sand of the banks of rivers, and immediately on being hatched, the young move towards the water; in their passage to which, however, vast numbers are intercepted by ichneumons and birds, which watch their progress.


The Alligator, or American Crocodile, has a vast mouth, furnished with sharp teeth; from the back to the end of the tail, it is serrated; its skin is tough and brown, and covered on the sides with tubercles. This dreadful species, which grows to the length of 17 or 18 feet, is found in the warmer parts of North America, and is most numerous, fierce, and ravenous, towards the south. Yet, in Carolina, it never devours the human species, but on the contrary, shuns mankind; it, however, kills dogs as they swim the rivers, and hogs which feed in the swamps. It is often seen floating like a log of wood on the surface of the water, and is mistaken for such by dogs and other animals, which it seizes, draws under water, and devours. Like the wolf, when pressed by long hunger, it will swallow mud, and even stones, and pieces of wood. They often get into the wears in pursuit of fish, and[Pg 165] do much mischief by tearing them to pieces. They are torpid during winter, in Carolina, and retire into their dens, which they form by burrowing far under ground. They make the entrance under water, and work upwards. In spring they quit their retreats, and resort to the rivers, and chiefly seek their prey near the mouth, where the water is brackish. They roar and make a dreadful noise at first leaving their dens, and against bad weather. The female lays a vast number of eggs in the sand, near the banks of lakes and rivers, and leaves them to be hatched by the sun: multitudes are destroyed as soon as hatched, either by their own species, or by fish of prey. In South America, the carrion vulture is the instrument of Providence to destroy multitudes; and it thus prevents the country from being rendered uninhabitable.


The following account of Eastern Alligators is extracted from Forbes’s Oriental Memoirs.

The eastern districts of Travancore, intersected by lakes and rivers, abound with amphibious animals, especially alligators and seals. There seems to be no essential difference between the alligator of India, and the Egyptian crocodile; lacerta alligator, and lacertus crocodilus. Naturalists seem to confine the alligator to South America, the crocodile to Asia and Africa; but in India the lacerta crocodilus, generally called the alligator, is from five to twenty feet long, shaped like the genus to which he belongs; the back is covered with impenetrable scales; the legs short, with five spreading toes on the fore feet, and four in a straight line on the hinder, armed with claws: the alligator moves slowly, its whole formation being calculated for strength, the back bone firmly jointed, and the tail a most formidable weapon: in the river, he eagerly springs on the wretch unfortunately bathing within his reach, and either knocks him down with his tail, or opens his wide mouth for his destruction, armed with numerous sharp teeth of various lengths; by which, like the shark, he sometimes severs the human body at a single bite: the annals of the Nile and Ganges, although wonderful, are not fabulous. The upper jaw only of the alligator was thought to be moveable; but that is now completely disproved: the eyes are of a dull green, with a brilliant pupil, covered by a transparent pellicle, moveable as in birds: from the heads of those of large size, musk is frequently extracted.


It may not be improper in this place to introduce to the reader’s notice, one of the greatest curiosities of its kind, which late ages have produced; that is, a Fossil Crocodile.

This is the skeleton of a large crocodile, almost entire, found at a great depth under ground, bedded in stone. This[Pg 166] was in the possession of Linkius, who wrote many pieces in natural history, and particularly an accurate description of this curious fossil. It was found in the side of a large mountain in the midland part of Germany, and in a stratum of black fossil stone, somewhat like our common slate, but of a coarser texture, the same with that in which the fossil fishes in many parts of the world are found. This skeleton had the back and ribs very plain, and was of a much deeper black than the rest of the stone; as is also the case with the fossil fishes, which are preserved in this manner. The part of the stone where the head lay was not found; this being broken off just at the shoulders, but that irregularly; so that in one place a part of the back of the head was visible in its natural form. The two shoulder-bones were very fair, and three of the feet were well preserved: the legs were of their natural shape and size; and the feet preserved even to the extremities of the five toes of each.


Our next subject is named The Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus, and is a very singular quadruped, remarkable for its structure. The head is similar to that of a duck, which would lead to the supposition that it belonged to an aquatic bird. Both jaws are as broad and low as those in a duck, and the calvaria has no traces of a suture, as is generally the case in full-grown birds. In the cavity of the skull there is a considerably bony falx, which is situated along the middle of the os frontis, and the ossa bregmatis. The mandible of this animal consists of a beak, the under part of which has its margin indented as in ducks, and of the proper instrument for chewing that is situated behind within the cheeks. Dr. Shaw says it has no teeth, though Mr. Home found, in a specimen examined by him, two small and flat molar teeth on each side of the jaws. The fore part of this mandible, or beak, is covered and bordered with a coriaceous skin, in which three parts are to be distinguished, within the proper integument of the beak. Into these three parts of that membrane numerous nerves are distributed, intended, probably, as the organs of feeling, a sense which, besides men, few mammalia enjoy; that is, few animals possess the faculty of distinguishing the form of external objects and their qualities, by organs destined for that purpose,—a property very different from the common feeling, by which every animal is able to perceive the temperature and presence of sensible objects, but without being informed, by the touch, of their peculiar qualities. Thus the skin in the wings of the bat, and its ear, are supposed the organs of common feeling, by means of which they are enabled to flutter, after being blinded, without flying against any thing. The whiskers of many animals appear[Pg 167] likewise to serve the same purpose of informing them of the presence of sensible bodies, and hence they have been compared to the antennæ of insects.

But to return to the ornithorhynchus: It is an animal which from the similarity of its abode, and the manner of searching for food, agrees much with the duck, on which account it has been provided with an organ for touching, viz. with the integument of the beak, richly endowed with nerves. This instance of analogy in the structure of a singular organ of sense in two species of animals, from classes quite different, is a most curious circumstance in comparative physiology, and hence the ornithorhynchus is looked upon as one of the most remarkable phenomena in zoology.


We shall close this chapter with an account of The Marmot, or Mountain-Rat of Switzerland.—This rat is almost the size of a leveret, and resembles a common rat very much in appearance. These little creatures live together in societies, and have different dwellings for winter and summer; their fore paws are remarkably strong, which qualifies them for scooping out their burrows. The same form is always preserved in the construction of their dwellings, which consist of a long passage, just big enough to let the marmot enter, leading to two apartments; the largest of these serves the whole family for a chamber, where they lie close together, in a torpid state, rolled up like hedge-hogs, during the cold season, as dormice do in England. When they betake themselves to their winter quarters, after having lined their chamber with soft hay, they carefully stop up the entrance with a sort of cement, which they make of earth, mixed with stones and dry grass. Before they collect the grass, either for food, or for their winter habitations, they form themselves into a circle, sitting on their hind legs, looking with a cautious eye on every side. If the least thing stirs that alarms them, the first which perceives it makes a particular kind of cry, which its next neighbour repeats, and so on till it goes round, when they hastily make their escape. They are often seen upon the slopes of the Alps, where grass is in plenty; but they love a warm sheltered situation, and change their residence according to the season.



[Pg 168]



The Elephant—Fossil Elephant—The Chameleon—The Common Tortoise—Orang-Outang—The Unicorn—The Common Seal—The Ursine Seal—American Natural History.

Let no presuming impious railer tax
Creative wisdom, as if aught was form’d
In vain, or not for admirable ends.


The Elephant.—This is a very wonderful animal; and has, both in ancient and modern times, been duly estimated in the Eastern world. His virtues are thus enumerated by Buffon:—To form a just estimation of the elephant, he must be allowed to possess the sagacity of the beaver, the address of the ape, the sentiment of the dog, together with the peculiar advantages of strength, largeness, and long duration of life. Neither should we overlook his arms or tusks, which enable him to transfix and conquer the lion! We should also consider that the earth shakes under his feet; that with his trunk, as with a hand, he tears up trees; that by a push of his body he makes a breach in a wall; that, though tremendous in strength, he is rendered still more invincible by his enormous mass, and by the thickness of his skin; that he can carry on his back an armed tower, filled with many warriors; that he works machines, and carries burdens, which six horses are unable to move; that to this prodigious strength he adds courage, prudence, coolness, and punctual obedience; that he preserves moderation even in his most violent passions; that he is constant and impetuous in love; that when in anger, he mistakes not his friends; that he never attacks any but those who offend him; that he remembers favours as long as injuries; that having no appetite for flesh, he feeds on vegetables alone, and is born an enemy to no living creature; and, in fine, that he is universally beloved, because all animals respect, and none have any reason to fear him!

The following account is extracted from Forbes’s Oriental Memoirs, a highly interesting work.

“The largest Elephants are from ten to eleven feet in height, some are said to exceed it; the average is eight or nine feet. They are fifty or sixty years before they arrive at their full growth; the female goes with young eighteen months, and seldom produces more than one at a birth, which she suckles until it is five years old: its natural life is about one hundred[Pg 169] and twenty years. The Indians are remarkably fond of these animals, especially when they have been long in their service. I have seen an elephant valued at twenty thousand rupees: the common price of a docile well-trained elephant is five or six thousand; and in the countries where they are indigenous, the Company contract for them at five hundred rupees each, when they must be seven feet high at the shoulders. The mode of catching and training the wild elephants is now well known; their price increases with their merit during the course of education. Some, for their extraordinary qualities, become in a manner invaluable; when these are purchased, no compensation induces a wealthy owner to part with them.

“The skin of the elephant is generally of a dark grey, sometimes almost black; the face frequently painted with a variety of colours; and the abundance and splendour of his trappings add much to his consequence. The Mogul princes allowed five men and a boy to each elephant: the chief of them, called the mahawut, rode upon his neck, to guide him; another sat upon his rump, and assisted in battle; the rest supplied him with food and water, and performed the necessary services. Elephants bred to war, and well disciplined, will stand firm against a volley of musketry, and never give way unless severely wounded. I have seen one of those animals, with upwards of thirty bullets in the fleshy parts of his body, perfectly recovered from his wounds. All are not equally docile; and when an enraged elephant retreats from battle, nothing can withstand his fury; the driver having no longer a command, friends and foes are involved in undistinguished ruin.”

The elephants in the army of Antiochus were provoked to fight by shewing them the blood of grapes and mulberries. The history of the Maccabees informs us, that “to every elephant they appointed a thousand men, armed with coats of mail, and five hundred horsemen of the best: these were ready at every occasion; wherever the beast was, and whithersoever he went, they went also; and upon the elephant were strong towers of wood, filled with armed men, besides the Indian that ruled them.”

“Elephants in peace and war know their duty, and are more obedient to the word of command than many rational beings. It is said they can travel, on an emergency, two hundred miles in forty-eight hours; but will hold out for a month at the rate of forty or fifty miles a day, with cheerfulness and alacrity. I performed many long journeys upon an elephant given by Ragobah to Colonel Keating. Nothing could exceed the sagacity, docility, and affection, of this noble quadruped: if I stopped to enjoy a prospect, he remained immoveable until my sketch was finished; if I wished for ripe mangoes growing[Pg 170] out of the common reach, he selected the most fruitful branch, and breaking it off with his trunk, offered it to the driver for the company in the houdah, accepting of any part given to himself with a respectful salem, by raising his trunk three times above his head, in the manner of the Oriental obeisance, and as often did he express his thanks by a murmuring noise. When a bough obstructed the houdah, he twisted his trunk around it, and, though of considerable magnitude, broke it off with ease, and often gathered a leafy branch, either to keep off the flies, or as a fan to agitate the air around him, by waving it with his trunk; he generally paid a visit at the tent door during breakfast, to procure sugar-candy or fruit, and be cheered by the encomiums and caresses he deservedly met with; no spaniel could be more innocent, playful, or fonder of those who noticed him, than this docile animal, that on particular occasions appeared conscious of his exaltation above the brute creation.”

The following account of the docility of the elephant, from ancient writers, will interest the reader.

“They have been taught to adore the king, says Aristotle, to dance, to throw stones at a mark, to cast up stones at a mark, to catch them again in their fall, and to walk upon ropes: Galba was the first, says Suetonius, that exhibited this at Rome. And these things they learned with such care, that they have often been found practising in the night what had been taught them in the day. They write too, says Pliny, speaking of one which wrote in the Greek tongue, Ipse ego hæc scripsi et spolia lettica dicavi. I myself saw, says Ælian, one of them writing Roman letters on a tablet with his trunk; and the letters he made were not ragged, but straight and even; and his eyes were fixed upon the tablet, as one that was serious. And in the plays that Germanicus Cæsar shewed at Rome, there were twelve elephants, six males and six females; these were clothed as men and women. At the command of their keeper, they danced, and performed all the gestures of a mimic. At last they were brought where they were to feast; a table was covered with all kinds of dainties, and beds were covered with purple carpets, after the manner of the Roman eating, for them to lie upon. Upon these they lay down, and, at the signal given, they reached out their trunks to the table, and with great modesty fell to eating, and ate and drank as civil men would do.”


This seems to be the most proper place for introducing an account of The Mammoth.

The Mammoth is a fossil Elephant; a most remarkable one of which was found in the ice, at the mouth of the river Lena, in Siberia.

[Pg 171]The following account is extracted from an abridgment of a paper by Dr. Tilesius, from the Journal of Science.

“In the year 1805, when the Russian expedition under Krusenstern returned for the third time to Kamschatka, Patagof, master of a Russian ship, bringing victualling stores from Okotsk, related that he had lately seen a mammoth elephant, dug up on the shores of the Frozen Ocean, clothed with a hairy skin; and shewed, in confirmation of the fact, some hair three or four inches long, of a reddish black colour, a little thicker than horse hair, which he had taken from the skin of the animal: this he gave to me, says Dr. Tilesius, and I sent it to professor Blumembach. No further knowledge has been obtained on this subject, and unfortunately Patagof was not employed by any of our Societies to return to Siberia. Thus was this curious fact consigned to oblivion; nor should we now possess any information respecting the carcase of the mammoth, if the rumour of its discovery had not reached Mr. Adams, a man of great ardour in pursuit of science, who undertook the labour of a journey to these frozen regions, and of preparing these gigantic remains, and transporting them to a great distance.

“The preservation of the flesh of the mammoth through a long series of ages, is not to be wondered at, when we recollect the constant cold and frost of the climate in which it was found. It is a common practice to preserve meat and berries throughout the winter, by freezing them, and to send fish, and all other provisions, annually at that period, from the most remote of the northern provinces, to St. Petersburg, and other parts of the empire.

“I was told, at Jakutsk, says Mr. Adams, by the merchant Papoff, chief of the body of merchants in that town, that there had been discovered on the shores of the Frozen Ocean, near the mouth of the river Lena, an animal of extraordinary magnitude. The flesh, the skin, and the hair, were in a state of preservation, and it was supposed that the fossil production known under the name of mammoth’s horns, must have belonged to an animal of this species. The news of this interesting discovery determined me to hasten the journey which I had in contemplation, for the purpose of visiting the shores of the Lena, as far as the Frozen Ocean; wishing to preserve these precious remains, which might otherwise be lost.

“The third day of our journey we pitched our tents, at some hundred paces distant from the mammoth, on a hill, called Kembisaga-Shæta. Schumachof, a Tungusian chief, related to me, nearly in these terms, the history of the discovery of the mammoth.

“The Tungusians, who are a wandering people, remain but a little time in the same place. Those who live in the forests,[Pg 172] often take ten years or more, to travel over the vast regions between the mountains: during this time, they do not once return to their habitations. Each family lives isolated, and knows no other society. If, during the course of several years, two friends meet by chance, they then communicate to each other their adventures, their different successes in hunting, and the number of skins they have obtained. After having passed some days together, and consumed the few provisions they had, they separate cheerfully, carrying each other’s compliments to their acquaintance, and trusting to Providence for another meeting. The Tungusians inhabiting the coast differ from the former, in having more regular and fixed habitations, and in collecting together at certain seasons for fishing and hunting. During winter, they inhabit cottages, built side by side, so that they form villages. It is to one of these annual trips that we owe the discovery of the mammoth.

“Towards the end of the month of August, when the fishing season in the Lena is over, Schumachof generally goes with his brothers to the peninsula of Tamut, where they employ themselves in hunting, and where the fresh fish of the sea offer them a wholesome and agreeable food. In 1799, he had constructed for his wife some cabins on the banks of the lake Oncoul, and had embarked, to seek along the coasts for mammoth horns. One day, he perceived along the blocks of ice a shapeless mass, not at all resembling the large pieces of floating wood which are commonly found there. To observe it nearer, he landed, climbed up a rock, and examined this new object on all sides, but without being able to discover what it was.

“The following year, 1800, he found the carcase of a Walrus, (Trichecus Rosmarus.) He perceived, at the same time, that the mass he had before seen was more disengaged from the blocks of ice, and had two projecting parts, but was still unable to make out its nature. Towards the end of the following summer, 1801, the entire side of the animal, and one of his tusks, were quite free from the ice. On his return to the borders of the lake Oncoul, he communicated this extraordinary discovery to his wife and some of his friends; but the way in which they considered the matter filled him with grief. The old men related, on this occasion, their having heard their fathers say, that a similar monster had been formerly seen in the same peninsula, and that all the family of the discoverer had died soon afterwards. The mammoth was therefore considered as an augury of future calamity, and the Tungusian chief was so alarmed, that he fell seriously ill; but becoming convalescent, his first idea was the profit which he might obtain by selling the tusks of the animal, which[Pg 173] were of extraordinary size and beauty. He ordered that the place where the mammoth was found should be carefully concealed, and that strangers should, under different pretexts, be diverted from it, at the same time charging trust-worthy people to watch that the treasure was not carried off.

“But the summer of 1802, which was less warm and more windy than common, caused the mammoth to remain buried in the ice, which had scarcely melted at all. At length, towards the end of the fifth year, 1803, the ardent wishes of Schumachof were happily accomplished; for the part of the ice between the earth and the mammoth having melted more rapidly than the rest, the plane of its support became inclined, and this enormous mass fell, by its own weight, on a bank of sand. Of this, two Tungusians, who accompanied me, were witnesses.

“In the month of March, 1804, Schumachof came to his mammoth, and having cut off his horns (or tusks) he exchanged them with the merchant Bultunof, for goods of the value of fifty rubles.

“Two years afterwards, or the seventh after the discovery of the mammoth, I fortunately traversed these distant and desert regions, and I congratulate myself in being able to prove a fact which appears so improbable. I found the mammoth still in the same place, but altogether mutilated. The prejudices being dissipated, because the Tungusian chief had recovered his health, there was no obstacle to prevent approach to the carcase of the mammoth; the proprietor was content with his profit from the tusks, and the Jakutski of the neighbourhood seized upon the flesh, with which they fed their dogs during the scarcity. Wild beasts, such as white bears, wolves, wolverenes, and foxes, also fed upon it, and the traces of their footsteps were seen around. The skeleton, almost entirely cleared of its flesh, remained whole, with the exception of one fore leg. The head was covered with a dry skin; one of the ears, well preserved, was furnished with a tuft of hairs. All these parts have necessarily been injured in transporting them a distance of 11,000 wersts (7,330 miles:) yet the eyes have been preserved, and the pupil of the left eye can still be distinguished. The point of the lower lip had been gnawed; and the upper one having been destroyed, the teeth could be perceived. The brain was still in the cranium, but appeared dried up.

“The parts least injured are one fore foot and one hind foot; they are covered with skin, and have still the sole attached. According to the assertion of the Tungusian chief, the animal was so fat and well fed, that its belly hung down below the joints of the knees.

“This mammoth was a male, with a long mane on the neck,[Pg 174] but without tail or proboscis.[5] The skin, of which I possess three-fourths, is of a dark grey colour, covered with a reddish wool, and black hairs. The dampness of the spot where the animal had lain so long, had in some degree destroyed the hair. The entire carcase, of which I collected the bones on the spot, is four archines (9 ft. 4 in.) high, and seven archines (16 ft. 4 in.) long, from the point of the nose to the end of the tail, without including the tusks, which are a toise and a half[6] in length; the two together weighed 360 lbs. avoirdupois; the head alone, without the tusks, weighs 11 poods and a half, 414 lbs. avoirdupois.

“The principal object of my care was to separate the bones, to arrange them, and put them up safely, which was done with particular attention. I had the satisfaction to find the other scapula, which had remained not far off. I next detached the preserved parts. The skin was of such extraordinary weight, that ten persons found great difficulty in transporting it to the shore. After this, I dug the ground in different places, to ascertain whether any of its bones were buried, but principally to collect all the hairs,[7] which the white bears had trod into the ground, while devouring the flesh. Although this was difficult, for the want of proper instruments, I succeeded in collecting more than a pood (36 pounds) of hair in a few days the work was completed, and I found myself in possession of a treasure which amply recompensed me for the fatigues and dangers of the journey, and the considerable expenses of the enterprise.

“The place where I found the mammoth is about sixty paces distant from the shore, and nearly 100 paces from the escarpment of the ice from which it had fallen. This escarpment occupies exactly the middle between the two points of the peninsula, and is three wersts long (two miles), and in the place where the mammoth was found, this rock has a perpendicular elevation of 30 or 40 toises. Its substance is a clear pure ice; it inclines towards the sea; its top is covered with a layer of moss and friable earth, half an archine (14 inches) in thickness. During the heat of the month of July a part of this crust is melted, but the rest remains frozen. Curiosity induced me to ascend two other hills at some distance from the sea; they were of the same substance, and less covered with moss. In various places were seen enormous pieces of wood, of all the[Pg 175] kinds produced in Siberia; and also mammoths’ horns, in great numbers, appeared between the hollows of the rocks; they all were of astonishing freshness.

“How all these things could become collected there, is a question as curious as it is difficult to resolve. The inhabitants of the coast call this kind of wood Adamschina, and distinguish it from the floating pieces of wood which are brought down by the large rivers to the ocean, and collect in masses on the shores of the Frozen Sea. The latter are called Noachina. I have seen, when the ice melts, large lumps of earth detached from the hills, mix with the water, and form thick muddy torrents, which roll slowly towards the sea. This earth forms wedges, which fill up the spaces between the blocks of ice.

“The escarpment of ice was 35 to 40 toises high; and, according to the report of the Tungusians, the animal was, when they first saw it, seven toises below the surface of the ice, &c.

“On arriving with the mammoth at Bonchaya, our first care was to separate the remaining flesh and ligaments from the bones, which were then packed up. When I arrived at Jakutsk, I had the good fortune to re-purchase the tusks, and from thence expedited the whole to St. Petersburg.

“The skeleton is now put up in the museum of the Academy, and the skin still remains attached to the head and feet. The mammoth is described by M. Cuvier as a different species from either of the two elephants living at the present day, the African or the Indian. It is distinguished from them by the teeth, and by the size of the tusks, which are from ten to fifteen feet long, much curved, and have a spiral turn outwards. The alveali of the tusks are also larger, and are protruded farther. The neck is shorter, the spinal processes larger, all the bones of the skeleton are stronger, and the scabrous surfaces for the insertion of the muscles more prominent, than in the other species. The skin being covered with thick hair, induces M. Cuvier to consider that it was the inhabitant of a cold region. The form of the head is also different from that of the living species, as well as the arrangement of the lines of the enamel of the teeth.”

The mammoth more nearly resembles the Indian than the African species of elephant.

A part of the skin, and some of the hair of this animal, was sent by Mr. Adams to the late Sir Joseph Banks, who presented them to the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.


From Forbes’s work we extract the following particulars respecting The Chameleon.

The greatest curiosity in the East, says Forbes, is the [Pg 176]Chameleon, found in every thicket. I kept one for several weeks, of which, as it differed in many respects from those described in Arabia, and other places, I shall mention a few particulars. The chameleon of the Concan, including the tail, is about nine inches long; the body only half that length, varying in circumference, as it is more or less inflated; the head, like that of a fish, is immoveably fixed to the shoulders; but every inconvenience is removed by the structure of its eyes, which, like spheres rolling on an invisible axis, are placed in deep cavities, projecting from the head; through a small perforation in the exterior convexity, appears a bright pupil, surrounded with a yellow iris, which, by the singular formation and motion of the eye, enables the animal to see what passes before, behind, or on either side; and it can give one eye all these motions, while the other remains perfectly still; a hard rising protects these delicate organs, another extends from the forehead to the nostrils: the mouth is large, and furnished with teeth, with a tongue half the length of the body, and hollow like an elephant’s trunk; it darts nimbly at flies and other insects, which it seems to prefer to the aërial food generally supposed to be its sustenance. The legs are longer than usual in the licerta genus; on the fore feet are three toes nearest the body, and two without; the hinder exactly the reverse; with these claws it clings fast to the branches, to which it sometimes entwines itself by the tail, and remains suspended; the skin is granulated like shagreen, except a range of hard excrescences, or denticulations, on the ridge of the back, which are always of the same colour as the body; whereas a row of similar projections beneath continue perfectly white, notwithstanding any metamorphosis of the animal.

The general colour of the chameleon so long in my possession, was a pleasant green, spotted with pale blue; from this it changed to a bright yellow, dark olive, and a dull green; but never appeared to such advantage as when irritated, or a dog approached it; the body was then considerably inflated, and the skin clouded like tortoise-shell, its shades of yellow, orange, green, and black. A black object always caused an almost instantaneous transformation: the room appropriated for its accommodation was skirted by a board painted black; this the chameleon carefully avoided; but if he accidentally drew near it, or we placed a black hat in his way, he was reduced to a hideous skeleton, and, from the most lively tints, became black as jet: on removing the cause, the effect as suddenly ceased; the sable hue was succeeded by a brilliant colouring, and the body was again inflated.


Our next subject is The Common Tortoise.—The weight of this animal is three pounds, and the length of its shell[Pg 177] about seven inches. It abounds in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, and particularly in Greece, where the inhabitants not only eat its flesh and eggs, but frequently swallow its warm blood. In September or October it conceals itself, remaining torpid till February, when it re-appears. In June it lays its eggs, in holes exposed to the full beams of the sun, by which they are matured. The males frequently engage in severe conflicts, and strike their heads against each other with great violence, and very loud sounds. Tortoises attain most extraordinary longevity, and one was ascertained to have lived in the gardens of Lambeth to the age of nearly 120 years. Its shell is preserved in the archiepiscopal palace. So reluctant is the vital principle to quit these animals, that Shaw informs us, from Redi, that one of them lived for six months after all its brain was taken out, moving its limbs, and walking, as before. Another lived twenty-three days after its head was cut off, and the head itself opened and closed its jaws for a quarter of an hour after its separation from the body. It may not only be tamed, but has in several instances exhibited proofs, in that state, of considerable sagacity in distinguishing its benefactors, and of grateful attachment in return for their kindness, notwithstanding its general sluggishness and torpor. It will answer the purpose of a barometer, and uniformly indicates the fall of rain before night, when it takes its food with great rapidity, and walks with a sort of mincing and elate step. It appears to dislike rain with extreme aversion, and is discomfited and driven back by only a few and scarcely perceivable drops.

The following particulars respecting the Instinct of the Tortoise, are copied from Vaillant’s Travels in Africa.—“It is very remarkable, that when the waters are dried up by excessive heat, the tortoises, which always seek for moisture, bury themselves under the earth, in proportion as the surface of it becomes dry. To find them, it is then sufficient to dig to a considerable depth, in the spot where they have concealed themselves. They remain as if asleep, and never awake, or make their appearance, until the rainy season has filled the ponds and small lakes, on the borders of which they deposit their eggs, where they continue exposed to the air; they are as large as those of a pigeon; they leave to the heat and the sun the care of hatching them. These eggs have an excellent taste; the white, which never grows hard by the force of fire, preserves the transparency of a bluish jelly. I do not know whether this instinct be common to every species of water tortoises, and whether they all employ the same means; but this I can assert, that every time, during the great droughts, when I wished to procure any of them, by digging in those places where there had been water, I always found as many[Pg 178] as I had occasion for. This method of fishing, or whatever else it may be called, was not new to me; for at Surinam a stratagem of the same kind is employed to catch two species of fish, which bury themselves also; and which are called, one the varappe, and the other the gorret or the kevikwi.”


The next curious animal which we shall consider, is, The Orang-Outang.—This animal is sometimes called the satyr, great ape, or man of the woods. It is a native of the warmer parts of Africa and India, as well as of some of the Indian islands, where it resides principally in woods, and is supposed to feed, like most others of this genus, on fruits. The orang-outang appears to admit of considerable variety in point of colour, size, and proportions; and there is reason to believe, that, in reality, there may be two or three kinds, which, though nearly approximated as to general similitude, are yet specifically distinct. The specimens imported into Europe have rarely exceeded the height of two or three feet, and were supposed to be young animals; but it is said the full-grown ones are, at least, six feet in height. The general colour seems to be dusky or brown, in some ferruginous or reddish brown; and in others coal-black, with the skin itself white. The face is bare; the ears, hands, and feet, nearly similar to the human, and the whole appearance such as to exhibit the most striking approximation to the human figure. The likeness, however, is only a general one, and the structure of the hands and feet, when examined with anatomical exactness, seems to prove, in the opinion of those most capable of judging with accuracy on the subject, that the animal was principally designed by nature for the quadrupedal manner of walking, and not for an upright posture, which is only occasionally assumed, and which, in those exhibited to the public, is, perhaps, rather owing to instruction, than truly natural.

The Count de Buffon, indeed, makes it one of the distinctive characters of the real or proper apes, (among which the orang-outang is the chief,) to walk erect on two legs only; and it must be granted, that these animals support an upright position much more easily and readily than most other quadrupeds, and may probably be very often seen in this attitude even in a state of nature.

The manners of the orang-outang, when in captivity, are gentle, and perfectly void of that disgusting ferocity so conspicuous in some of the larger baboons and monkeys. The orang-outang is mild and docile, and may be taught to perform, with dexterity, a variety of actions in domestic life. Thus, it has been taught to sit at table, and, in its manner of feeding and general behaviour, to imitate the company in which it was placed; to pour out tea, and drink it, without[Pg 179] awkwardness or constraint; to prepare its bed with exactness, and compose itself to sleep in a proper manner. Such are the actions of one which was exhibited in London, in the year 1738; and the Count de Buffon relates nearly similar particulars of that which he saw at Paris.

Dr. Tyson, who, about the close of the last century, gave a very exact description of a young orang-outang, then exhibited in the metropolis, assures us, that in many of its actions it seemed to display a very high degree of sagacity, and was of a disposition uncommonly gentle; “the most gentle and loving creature that could be. Those that he knew on shipboard, he would come and embrace with the greatest tenderness, opening their bosoms, and clasping his hands about them; and, as I was informed, though there were monkeys on board, yet it was observed, he would never associate with them, and, as if nothing akin to them, would always avoid their company.”

But, however docile and gentle when taken young, and instructed in its behaviour, it is said to be possessed of great ferocity in its native state, and is considered as a dangerous animal, capable of readily overpowering the strongest man. Its swiftness is equal to its strength, and for this reason it is but rarely to be obtained in its full-grown state, the young alone being taken.


The next is, The Unicorn.—The following account is extracted from the St. James’s Chronicle of Dec. 19 to 21, 1820.

“We have no doubt that a little time will bring to light many objects of natural history, peculiar to the elevated regions of central Asia, and hitherto unknown in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, particularly in the two former. This is an opinion which we have long entertained; but we are led to the expression of it on the present occasion, by having been favoured with the perusal of a most interesting communication from Major Latter, commanding in the Rajah of Sikkim’s territories, in the hilly country east of Nepaul, addressed to Adjutant-General Nicol, and transmitted by him to the Marquis of Hastings. This important paper explicitly states, that the Unicorn, so long considered a fabulous animal, actually exists at this moment in the interior of Thibet, where it is well known to the inhabitants.

“This (we copy from the Major’s letter) is a very curious fact, and it may be necessary to mention how the circumstance became known to me. In a Thibetian manuscript, containing the names of different animals, procured the other day from the hills, the Unicorn is classed under the head of those whose hoofs are divided; it is called the One-horned Tso’-po.[Pg 180] Upon inquiring what kind of animal it was, to our astonishment, the person who brought me the manuscript, described exactly the Unicorn of the ancients: saying, that it was a native of the interior of Thibet, about the size of a tattoo (a horse from 12 to 13 hands high,) fierce, and extremely wild; seldom, if ever, caught alive, but frequently shot; and that the flesh was used for food.

“The person (Major Latter adds) who gave me this information, has repeatedly seen these animals, and eaten the flesh of them. They go together in herds, like our wild buffaloes, and are very frequently to be met with on the borders of the great desert, about a month’s journey from Lassa, in that part of the country inhabited by the wandering Tartars. This communication is accompanied by a drawing, made by the messenger from recollection: it bears some resemblance to a horse, but has cloven hoofs, a long curved horn growing out of the forehead, and a boar-shaped tail, like that of the ‘fera monoceros,’ described by Pliny.[8] From their herding together, as the Unicorns of the scripture are said to do, as well as from the rest of the description, it is evident that this singular animal cannot be the rhinoceros, which is a solitary creature; besides that, in the Thibetian manuscript, the rhinoceros is described under the name of Servo, and classed with the elephant. Neither can it be the wild horse, well known in Thibet, for that also has a different name, and is classed in the MS. with the animals which have the hoofs undivided.—I have written (he subjoins) to the Sachia Lama, requesting him to procure me a perfect skin of the animal, with the head, horn, and hoofs; but it will be a long time before I can get it down, for they are not to be met with nearer than a month’s journey from Lassa.”


We now make a few remarks on Seals.—First, the Common Seal.

These animals are found on the coasts of the polar regions, both to the north and south, often in extreme abundance, and are generally about five feet in length, closely covered with short hair. They swim with great vigour and rapidity, and subsist on various kinds of fish, which they are often observed to pursue within a short distance of the shore. They possess no inconsiderable sagacity, and may, without much[Pg 181] difficulty, if taken young, be familiarized to their keepers, and instructed in various gesticulations. They are supposed to attain great longevity. The female is particularly attentive to her young, and scarcely ever produces more than two at a birth, which, after being suckled a fortnight on the shore, where they are always born, are conducted to the water, and taught by their dam the means of defence and subsistence; and when they are fatigued by their excursions, are relieved by being taken on her back. They distinguish her voice, and attend at her call. The flesh of seals is sometimes eaten, but they are almost always destroyed for their oil and skins. The latter are manufactured into very valuable leather, and the former is serviceable in a vast variety of manufactures. A young seal will supply about eight gallons of oil. The smell of these animals, in any great number upon the shore, is highly disagreeable. In the month of October, they are generally considered as most valuable; and as they abound in extended caverns on the coast, which are washed by the tide, the hunters proceed to these retreats about midnight, advancing with their boat as far into the recess as they are able, armed with spears and bludgeons, and furnished with torches, to enable them to explore the cavern. They begin their operations by making the most violent noises, which soon rouse the seals from their slumbers, and awaken them to a sense of extreme danger, which they express by the most hideous yellings of terror. In their eagerness to escape, they come down from all parts of the cavern, running in a promiscuous and turbulent mass along the avenue to the water. The men engaged in this perilous adventure oppose no impediment to this rushing crowd, but, as this begins to diminish, apply their weapons with great activity and success, destroying vast numbers, and principally the young ones. The blow of the hunter is always levelled at the nose of the seal, where a slight stroke is almost instantly fatal.


This leads us to the consideration of The Ursine Seal.—This animal grows to the length of eight feet, and to the weight of an hundred pounds. These are found in vast abundance in the islands between America and Kamschatka, from June till September, when they return to the Asiatic or American shores. They are extremely strong, surviving wounds and lacerations which almost instantly destroy life in other animals, for days, and even weeks. They may be observed, not mearly by hundreds, but by thousands, on the shore, each male surrounded by his females, from eight to fifty, and his offspring, amounting frequently to more than that number. Each family is preserved separate from every other. The ursine seals are extremely fat and indolent, and remain, with[Pg 182] little exercise, or even motion, for months together, upon the shore. But if jealousy, to which they are ever alive, once strongly operates, they are roused to animation by all the fierceness of resentment and vengeance; and conflicts arising from this cause between individuals, soon spread through families, till at length the whole shore becomes a scene of the most horrid hostility and havoc. When the conflict is finished, the survivors plunge into the water, to wash off the blood, and recover from their exhaustion.

Those which are old, and have lost the solace of connubial life, are reported to be extremely captious, fierce, and malignant, and to live apart from all others, and so tenaciously to be attached to the station which pre-occupancy may be supposed to give each a right to call his own, that any attempt at usurpation is resented as the foulest indignity, and the most furious contests frequently occur in consequence of the several claims for a favourite position. It is stated, that in these combats two never fall upon one. These seals are said, in grief, to shed tears very copiously. The male defends his young with the most intrepid courage and fondness, and will often beat the dam, notwithstanding her most supplicating tones and gestures, under the idea that she has been the cause of the destruction or injury which may have occurred to any of them. The flesh of the old male seal is intolerably strong; that of the female and the young is considered as delicate and nourishing, and compared, in tenderness and flavour, to the flesh of young pigs.

The bottle-nosed seal is found on the Falkland Islands; is twenty feet long; and will produce a butt of oil, and discharge, when struck to the heart, two hogsheads of blood.


We shall close this chapter with an extract from the Public Journals of 1821, on American Natural History.

On the unfrequented, solitary, remote banks of the Missouri, grows one of the most ornamental trees that adorn creation—the Ten-petalled Bartonia. Its height is four feet; flowers, beautifully white, expand as the sun sets, and close at the approach of morning.—Shall we say that all things were made for the gratification of man only, when he is daily taught that some of the loveliest objects the world contains, he is destined never to behold?—Shall we believe that the sylvan natives are not formed with taste, and enjoy the scenery with which the great Artist has decorated their abode?

A Leopard was killed on the 6th day of June, 1820, by John Six, living on the waters of Green river, ten miles south-east of Hartford, in the Ohio county: length from the end of the nose to the buttock, five feet, and a tail two feet long; under[Pg 183] the jaw the colour was black, with white spots equally proportioned; the sides and back are yellow, with black spots, curiously arranged; a row of black spots on its back, much larger than those on its sides, extending half way of the tail; small round ears, black outside, white inside; around its nose and mouth were long stiff bristles; some appeared to grow out black half the length, then white six inches long. The hair on the end of the tail is longer than elsewhere; tail slim; its legs short, and its feet like a cat’s, only much larger, with large claws; large teeth; supposed to weigh about one hundred and fifty pounds.

Two-headed Snake.—An extraordinary snake was recently killed in Mason, Massachusetts. It was first discovered basking in the sun, and, after much exertion, although its astonishing agility baffled for a considerable time its pursuers’ efforts, it was taken. It measured two feet in length, had two heads, and two legs. The legs were nearly three inches long, were placed about four inches from the heads, and appeared well calculated to assist the animal in running.

A large Black Snake was lately killed near Halifax, Nova Scotia, which measured eleven feet nine inches. It was first noticed by a slight crack which it made with its tail, not unlike the cracking of a horse-whip, and appeared to be in great agony; jumping up from the ground, twisting, coiling, &c. After it was killed, this was accounted for satisfactorily. Out of its mouth the tail of another snake was observed to be sticking; on pulling it out, it actually measured five feet three inches. This was the cause of the uneasiness in the living snake; having no doubt been partly strangled by its large mouthful. This great snake was long the terror of the cow-hunters in the neighbourhood of the place where it was killed, and no doubt would have continued so for a long time, had it not been for its voraciousness, which prevented it from running. It was fleeter than any horse, and bade defiance to the puny efforts of man to overtake it.



[Pg 184]



Remarkable Strength of Affection in Animals—Surprising Instances of their Sociality—Unaccountable Faculties possessed by some Animals—Remarkable Instances of Fasting in Animals—Extraordinary Adventures of a Sheep—Sagacity of a Monkey—Astonishing Instance of Sagacity in a Horse—Sagacity of Dogs—Curious Anecdotes of a Dog—Remarkable Dog.

Far as creation’s ample range extends,
The scale of sensual, mental powers, ascends:
Mark, how it mounts to man’s imperial race,
From the green myriads in the peopled grass!
What modes of sight, betwixt each wide extreme,
The mole’s dim curtain, and the lynx’s beam:
Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
And hound sagacious, on the tainted green:
Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood.
To that which warbles thro’ the vernal wood:
The spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line:
In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true,
From pois’nous herbs extracts the healing dew:
How instinct varies in the grovelling swine,
Compar’d, half-reasoning elephant, with thine!
’Twixt that and reason, what a nice barrier,
For ever separate, yet for ever near!


Remarkable Strength of Affection in Animals.—Mr. White, in his Natural History, &c. of Selborne, speaking of the natural affection of brutes, says, “The more I reflect on it, the more I am astonished at its effects. Nor is the violence of this affection more wonderful, than the shortness of its duration. Thus, every hen is in her turn the virago of the yard, in proportion to the helplessness of her brood; and will fly in the face of a dog or sow in defence of those chickens, which, in a few weeks, she will drive before her with relentless cruelty. This affection sublimes the passions, quickens the invention, and sharpens the sagacity, of the brute creation. Thus, a hen, just become a mother, is no longer that placid bird she used to be, but, with feathers standing on end, wings hovering, and clucking note, she runs about like one possessed. Dams will throw themselves in the way of the greatest danger, in order to avert it from their progeny. Thus a partridge will tumble along before a sportsman, in order to draw away the dogs from her helpless covey. In the time of nidification, the most feeble birds will assault the most [Pg 185]rapacious. All the hirundines of a village are up in arms at the sight of a hawk, whom they will persecute till he leaves that district. A very exact observer has often remarked, that a pair of ravens, nestling in the rock of Gibraltar, would suffer no vulture or eagle to rest near their station, but would drive them from the hill with amazing fury; even the blue thrush, at the season of breeding, would dart out from the clefts of the rocks, to chase away the kestrel or the sparrow-hawk. If you stand near the nest of a bird that has young, she will not be induced to betray them by an inadvertent fondness, but will wait about at a distance with meat in her mouth for an hour together. The fly-catcher builds every year in the vines that grow on the walls of my house. A pair of these little birds had one year inadvertently placed their nest on a naked bough, perhaps in a shady time, not being aware of the inconvenience that followed; but a hot sunny season coming on before the brood was half fledged, the reflection of the wall became insupportable, and must inevitably have destroyed the tender young, had not affection suggested an expedient, and prompted the parent birds to hover over the nest all the hotter hours, while, with wings expanded and mouths gaping for breath, they screened off the heat from their suffering offspring. A farther instance I once saw of notable sagacity in a willow-wren, which had built in a bank in my fields. This bird, a friend and myself had observed as she sat in her nest; but we were particularly careful not to disturb her, though we saw she eyed us with some degree of jealousy. Some days after, as we passed that way, we were desirous of remarking how this brood went on; but no nest could be found, till I happened to take up a large bundle of long green moss as it were carelessly thrown over the nest, in order to deceive the eye of any impertinent intruder.”


Next in order is the account of Surprising Instances of Sociality in Animals.—A wonderful spirit of sociality in the brute creation, independent of sexual attachment, has been frequently remarked. Many horses, though quiet with company, will not stay one minute in a field by themselves; the strongest fences cannot restrain them. A horse has been known to leap out of a stable window, through which dung was thrown, after company; and yet in other respects was remarkably quiet. Oxen and cows will not fatten by themselves, but will neglect the finest pasture that is not recommended by society. It would be needless to instance in sheep, which constantly flock together. But this propensity seems not to be confined to animals of the same species. Mr. White mentions a doe that was brought up from a little fawn with a dairy of cows. “With them it goes to the field, and with them it[Pg 186] returns to the yard. The dogs of the house take no notice of this doe, being used to her; but if strange dogs come by, a chase ensues; while the master smiles to see his favourite securely leading her pursuers over hedge, or gate, or style, till she returns to the cows, who with fierce lowings and menacing horns drive the assailants quite out of the pasture.”—Even great disparity of kind and size does not always prevent social advances and mutual fellowship. Of this the following remarkable instance is given by the same author.

“A very intelligent and observant person has assured me, that in the former part of his life, keeping but one horse, he happened also on a time to have but one solitary hen. These two incongruous animals spent much of their time together in a lonely orchard, where they saw no creature but each other. By degrees an apparent regard began to take place between these two sequestered individuals. The fowl would approach the quadruped with notes of complacency, rubbing herself gently against his legs; while the horse would look down with satisfaction, and move with the greatest caution and circumspection, lest he should trample on his diminutive companion. Thus by mutual good offices each seemed to console the vacant hours of the other.”

In the Gentleman’s Magazine for March, 1788, we have the following anecdotes of a raven, communicated by a correspondent who does not sign his name, but says it is at the service of the doubtful. The raven alluded to lived at the Red Lion at Hungerford; his name was Ralph. “You must know then, (says the writer,) that coming into that inn, my chaise ran over or bruised the leg of my Newfoundland dog, and while we were examining the injury done to the dog’s foot, Ralph was evidently a concerned spectator; for, the minute the dog was tied up under the manger with my horse, Ralph not only visited him, but fetched him bones, and attended upon him with particular and repeated proofs of kindness. The bird’s notice of the dog was so marked, that I observed it to the hostler; for I had not heard a word before of the history of this benevolent creature. John then told me, that he had been bred from his pin-feather in intimacy with a dog; that the affection between them was mutual; and that all the neighbourhood had often been witnesses of the innumerable acts of kindness they had conferred upon each other. Ralph’s poor dog, after a while, unfortunately broke his leg; and during the long time he was confined, Ralph waited upon him constantly, carried him provisions daily, and scarcely ever left him alone! One night by accident the hostler had shut the stable-door, and Ralph was deprived of his friend the whole night; but the hostler found in the morning the bottom of the door so pecked away, that had it not been opened, Ralph would[Pg 187] in another hour have made his own entrance-port. I then inquired of my landlady, (a sensible woman,) and heard what I have related confirmed by her, with several other singular traits of the kindnesses this bird shews to all dogs in general, but particularly to maimed or wounded ones. I hope and believe, however, Ralph is still living; and the traveller will find I have not over-rated this wonderful bird’s merit.”

To these instances of attachment between incongruous animals from a spirit of sociality, or the feelings of sympathy, may be added the following instance of fondness from a different motive, recounted by Mr. White, in the work already so often quoted.

“My friend had a little helpless leveret brought to him, which the servants fed with milk in a spoon; and about the same time his cat kittened, and the young were dispatched and buried. The hare was soon lost, and supposed to be gone the way of most foundlings, or to be killed by some dog or cat. However, in about a fortnight, as the master was sitting in his garden in the dusk of the evening, he observed his cat, with tail erect, trotting towards him, and calling with little short inward notes of complacency, such as they use towards their kittens, and something gambolling after, which proved to be the leveret, which the cat had supported with her milk, and continued to support with great affection. Thus was a graminivorous animal nurtured by a carnivorous and predacious one! Why so cruel and sanguinary a beast as a cat, of the ferocious genus of Felis, the murian leo, (the lion of the mice,) as Linnæus calls it, should be affected with any tenderness towards an animal which is its natural prey, is not so easy to determine. The strange affection probably was occasioned by that sympathy, and those tender maternal feelings, which the loss of her kittens had awakened in her breast; and by the complacency and ease she derived to herself from the procuring her teats to be drawn, which were too much distended with milk; till from habit she became as much delighted with this foundling, as if it had been her real offspring. This incident is no bad solution of that strange circumstance which grave historians, as well as poets, assert, of exposed children being sometimes nurtured by female wild beasts, that probably had lost their young; for it is not one whit more marvellous that Romulus and Remus, in their infant state, should be nursed by a she-wolf, than that a poor little suckling leveret should be fostered and cherished by a bloody grimalkin.”


We shall now give the history of the Unaccountable Faculties possessed by some Animals.—Besides reflection and sagacity, often in an astonishing degree, and besides[Pg 188] the sentiments and actions prompted by social or natural attachments, brutes seem on many occasions inspired with a superior faculty, a kind of presentiment or second sight, as it were, with regard to events and designs altogether unforeseen by the rational beings whom they concern. The following account is of unquestionable authenticity.

At the seat of the late Earl of Litchfield, three miles from Blenheim, there is a portrait in the dining-room of Sir Henry Lee, by Johnston, with that of a mastiff dog which saved his life. A servant had formed the design of assassinating his master, and robbing the house; but the night he had fixed on, the dog, which had never been much noticed by Sir Henry, for the first time followed him up stairs, got under his bed, and could not be got from thence by either master or man: in the dead of night, the same servant entered the room to execute his horrid design, but was instantly seized by the dog, and, being secured, confessed his intentions. Upon what hypothesis can we account for a degree of foresight and penetration such as this? Will it be suggested, as a solution of the difficulty, that a dog may possibly become capable in a great measure of understanding human discourse, and of reasoning and acting accordingly; and that, in the present instance, the villain had either uttered his design in soliloquy, or imparted it to an accomplice, in the hearing of the animal?

It has been disputed whether the brutes have any language whereby they can express their minds to each other; or whether all the noise they make consists only of cries, inarticulate and unintelligible even to themselves. Father Bougeant gives the following instance, among others, to prove that brutes are capable of forming designs, and of communicating those designs to others.—A sparrow, finding a nest that a martin had just built, standing very conveniently for him, possessed himself of it. The martin, seeing the usurper in her house, called for help to expel him. A thousand martins came full speed, and attacked the sparrow; but the latter being covered on every side, and presenting only his large beak at the entrance of the nest, was invulnerable, and made the boldest of them who durst approach him repent of their temerity. After a quarter of an hour’s combat, all the martins disappeared: the sparrow thought he had got the better, and the spectators judged that the martins had abandoned the undertaking. Not in the least; immediately they returned to the charge, and each of them having procured a little of that tempered earth with which they make their nests, they all at once fell upon the sparrow, and enclosed him in the nest, to perish there, though they could not drive him thence.—Can it be imagined that the martins could have been able to hatch and concert this[Pg 189] design all of them together, without speaking to each other, or without some medium of communication equivalent to language?


Remarkable Instances of Fasting in Animals.—The following remarkable instances of brutes being able to live long without food, are related by Sir William Hamilton, in his account of the earthquakes in Italy, (Phil. Trans. vol. 73.) “At Soriano, two fattened hogs, that had remained buried under a heap of ruins, were taken out alive the 42d day; they were lean and weak, but soon recovered.—At Messina, two mules belonging to the Duke de Belviso, remained under a heap of ruins, one of them 22 days, and the other 23: they would not eat for some days, but drank water plentifully, and are now recovered.—There are numberless instances of dogs remaining many days in the same situation; and a hen belonging to the British vice-consul at Messina, that had been closely shut up under the ruins of his house, was taken out the 22d day, and is now recovered: it did not eat for some days, but drank freely; it was emaciated, and shewed little signs of life at first. From these instances, and several others of the same kind that have been related to me, but which, being less remarkable, I omit, one may conclude, that long fasting is always attended with great thirst and total loss of appetite.”

An instance not less remarkable than any of these, we find in the Gent. Mag. for Jan. 1785. “During the heavy snow which fell in the night of the 7th of January, 1776, a parcel of sheep belonging to Mr. John Wolley, of Matlock, in Derbyshire, which were pastured on that part of the East Moor that lies within the manor of Matlock, were covered with the drifted snow. In the course of a day or two all the sheep that were covered with the snow were found again, except two, which were consequently given up as lost, but on the 14th of Feb. following (some time after the break of the snow in the valleys, and 38 days after the fall) as a servant was walking over a large parcel of drifted snow, which remained on the declivity of a hill, a dog he had with him discovered one of the two sheep that had been lost, by winding (or scenting) it, through a small aperture which the breath of the sheep had made in the snow. The servant thereupon dug away the snow, and released the captive from its prison; it immediately ran to a neighbouring spring, at which it drank for a considerable time, and afterwards rejoined its old companions, as though no such accident had befallen it. On inspecting the place where it was found, it appeared to have stood between two stones which lay parallel with each other, at about two feet and a half distance, and probably were the[Pg 190] means of protecting it from the great weight of the snow, which in that place lay several yards thick: from the number of stones around it, it did not appear that the sheep had been able to pick up any food during its confinement. Soon afterwards its owner removed it to some low lands; but as it had nearly lost its appetite, it was fed with bread and milk for some time: in about a fortnight after its enlargement, it lost its sight and wool; but in a few weeks afterwards they both returned again, and in the course of the following summer it was quite recovered. The remaining sheep was found dead, about a week after the discovery of the other.”


The following authentic history of the Extraordinary Adventures of a Sheep, which was transmitted to a respectable periodical journal, from Salisbury, where the animal died, will, we doubt not, prove interesting to our readers, as it affords an instance of animal sagacity, in that species on which Nature has bestowed it with a sparing hand.

She was born in the North Highlands of Scotland; embarked, in 1804, in the Arab, and visited Iceland, Greenland, and Norway: here she was sent on shore to graze; the next day, seeing the boat row past the place where she was feeding, she leaped into the water, and swam to the boat: this circumstance protected her ever after from the butcher, and her life was one scene of gratitude. She was in fourteen different actions with the enemy’s flotilla and batteries off Boulogne, in the last of which she lost part of one of her horns. After that she traversed the whole of the western extent of Africa, across the equator to the Brazils, and along the Guiana coast of South America to the West Indies; from thence to Ireland, and then home. She was so tame as to feed from the hand, and, like the dog, followed her protector; would dance for a cabbage leaf; preferred the house and fire-side to the stable; for several months was never known to touch hay or grass, living with the sailors on pudding and grog, and nibbling the ends of rope or canvass. The paring of an apple or a potato was her highest luxury. The docility of the animal was highly amusing: putting her head under your arm, she would eat off your plate at dinner; would drink wine or spirits, and tea, if well sweetened; run up and down the stairs; and, if she got into the kitchen, would take the cover from the pot, and peep into it. Her wool was of a soft and silky nature.

After having weathered so many storms and hardships, she was brought as a present by Lieut. Bagnold, of the royal navy, to a lady in Salisbury; where, alas! their fleecy friend died of a bowel complaint the second day after her arrival, most sincerely lamented, the 22d of January, 1808.

[Pg 191]Lines written on the preceding most remarkable Sheep.

Scarce thirty suns had brighten’d o’er her head,
When to Arab’s deck young Jack[9] was led;
Here from her master’s side she ne’er would stray,
Ate of his meat, and on his hammock lay.
Grateful for this, when left on Norway’s beach,
She brav’d the sea, the distant ship to reach.
This act heroic stays the murd’rous knife,
And all the crew demand to save her life.
Thus spar’d, she visits each far distant main:
In fourteen battles, amid heroes slain.
She ’scapes unhurt; save that the whizzing lead
Bears off one horn, then gently graz’d her head.
All perils past, she reach’d her native shore,
To tempt the rage of war and seas no more.—
“Go, my dear Jack,” her grateful master said,
(As on her snow-white head his hand he laid;)
“Go seek the shady grove, the verdant mead;
There rest securely, and securely feed.
A thousand joys shall thy long life attend,
Blest with that greatest good, a faithful friend.—
Vain were these hopes! at Sarum safe arriv’d,
Sudden she sicken’d, and as sudden died.—
Well, then, dear Jack, since fate has seal’d thy doom,
Be thine the honours of the sculptur’d tomb.
There too shall this just eulogy appear,
“A sheep, a much-lov’d sheep, reposes here.”
Merits in thee some future bard shall trace,
Such as ne’er yet adorn’d the fleecy race.
A patient temper, to all ills resign’d,
Sense almost human, to good nature join’d.
No charms for her had flow’ry lawn or grove,
’Twas man she sought—to man gave all her love.
Had she but liv’d in fiction’s classic days,
The muse had sung her fame in deathless lays;
Had fondly told, that her not mortal frame
Return’d from earth to heav’n, from whence it came;
Advanc’d to share with Aries on high,
The space assign’d him in her native sky.


The following is a notable instance of the Sagacity of a Monkey.—Some strolling showmen, being at Stonin, a town of Lithuania, belonging to Count Ogienski, grand general of that province, diverted the inhabitants by exhibiting the tricks and gambols of half a dozen monkeys they had along with them: this new spectacle roused the curiosity of people of all degrees, insomuch that the overseers of the improvements which were carrying on in that neighbourhood saw themselves deserted by all their workmen. Desirous to recall them to their duty, yet unwilling to drive the strollers away by main force, they offered the chief a round sum of money, on condition of his leaving the town immediately: the man agreed to this; and, with his two assistants, and company of four-footed comedians, set off from Stonin.

[Pg 192]They had hardly proceeded out of town, when they were beset by some banditti, who robbed and murdered not only them, but all their harmless followers, except one, who escaped the general slaughter, and, unperceived, climbed up a tree, whence he could spy all the proceedings of the villains, who had no sooner made sure of their spoils, than they proceeded to inter the bodies, both of the men and beasts, covering the place with earth and boughs, and then made off.

Sometime after, a coach-and-four approached; which the surviving monkey no sooner descried, than he set up a most dismal yell. The gentleman, who, as it afterwards proved, was going on a visit to the grand-general, amazed at so unusual a noise, ordered the coachman to stop, when, alighting, he was still more surprised to see the animal coming down the tree, and making towards him; the monkey, taught perhaps to reverence people of rank, began to lick his feet, and, by several gestures, seemed to intimate that he had something extraordinary to discover; the animal led the way, and the gentleman followed with his servant. As soon as they came to the place, the monkey rent the air with the most piteous accents; then taking up some of the branches, he began to scratch the earth, and throw it up with all his might: the gentleman seeing this, ordered his man to fall to work, and in a few minutes the whole scene of horror opened to his view.

Fearing a similar fate, the Lithuanian, forgetting the sagacious animal, got into his carriage, and posted to the grand-general as fast as his horses could carry him. Poor pug, rather than be left behind, fastened about the coach as well as he could, and arrived likewise at the count’s, who, having heard the gentleman’s report, sent a proper force after the banditti: they were overtaken, and committed to prison. The grand-general ordered the monkey to be taken into his palace, and kept with the greatest care. This surprising mark of instinct and gratitude is deemed the more wonderful, as that animal generally turns his natural sagacity to mischief and treachery.


We shall in the next place give an astonishing instance of Sagacity in a Horse.

At Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, there is a bridge, the construction of which is extremely curious, as the planks that form the floor rise with the tide, which, at certain times, is said to attain to the height of seventy feet.

This floor of the bridge it was necessary at one time to remove; which was accordingly done, and only one or two of the planks remained for the convenience of the foot passengers. This way was well lighted, and a man placed at the[Pg 193] end to warn those that approached of their danger. But it so happened, that one dreadful stormy night the lamps blew out, and the monitor, supposing that no one would in such a hurricane attempt to pass, wisely retired to shelter.

After midnight, a traveller knocked at the door of an inn at Chepstow.

“Who is there?” said the landlord, who had long retired to rest, and was now called out of bed.

The traveller mentioned his name, which was well known.

“How did you come?” said the landlord.

“How did I come? Why, over the bridge to be sure!”

“What! on horseback?”


“No!” said the landlord, “that is impossible! however, as you are here, I’ll let you in.”

The host, when the traveller repeated his assertion, was staggered. He was certain that he must have come over the bridge, because there was no other way; but also knowing the state in which the passage was, he could only attribute the escape of the traveller and his horse to witchcraft. He, however, said nothing to him that night; but the next morning took him to the bridge, and showed him the plank that his horse must have passed over, at the same time that he pointed to the raging torrent beneath.

Struck with this circumstance, the traveller, it is said, was seized with an illness from which he did not speedily recover.


It is from a respectable source that we insert the following narrative of the Sagacity of Dogs.

M. La Valee, in his Journey through the Departments of France, published in 1792, gives the following curious account of the manner in which the country people, in the neighbourhood of Peronne and Doulens, had trained their dogs to elude the vigilance of the officers of the revenue.—At night, these animals were laden, each with a parcel of goods proportioned to its size; except one alone, who was their leader, and went without any burden. A crack of a whip was a signal for them to set out. The leader travelled a little distance before the rest; and, if he perceived the traces of any stranger, he returned to the other dogs: these either took a different way, or, if the danger was pressing, concealed themselves behind the hedges, and lay close till the patrole had passed. When they arrived at the habitation of their master’s associate, they hid themselves in the neighbouring fields and hedges, while their leader went to the house, and scratched at the door, or barked, till he was admitted, when he lay quietly down, as at home: by this the smuggler knew that the caravan was come; and, if the coast was clear, he went out, when[Pg 194] he gave a loud whistle, and the dogs came running to him from their several hiding-places!

Peltier, in his Annals of Paris, No. 164, for December, 1798, records the following anecdote:—At the beginning of the Revolution, a dog went daily to the parade before the palace of the Thuilleries, thrust himself between the legs of the musicians, marched with them, halted with them, and after the parade, disappeared until the next morning, when he resumed his occupation. The constant appearance of this dog, and the pleasure which he seemed to take in the music, made him a favourite with the band, who nicknamed him, Parade. One gave him food to-day, another to-morrow; and he understood, by a slight signal, and a word or two, whom he was to follow for his dinner; after which, faithful to his independence, the dog always withdrew, in spite of any caresses or threats. Sometimes he went to the opera, sometimes to the Comedie Italienne, and sometimes to the Theatre Feydeau; in each of which houses he found his way to the orchestra, and would lie down silently in one corner of it, until the performance was over. “I know not, (says Peltier) whether this dog be now alive: but I know many musicians, to whom his name, his figure, and the singularity of his habits, are perfectly familiar.”

In Petit’s Campaign of Italy, under the chief consul Buonaparte, published in 1800, we have the following anecdote, which places this animal in the most engaging light: “In traversing the Alps over the mountain Great St. Bernard, many people perish among the almost inaccessible rocks, whose summits are covered with eternal snow. At the time we crossed them, the chapel of the monastery of St. Bernard was filled with dead bodies, which their dogs had discovered suffocated and benumbed under the snow. With what emotions of pleasure did I caress these dogs, so useful to travellers! how can one speak of them without being moved by their charitable instinct! Notwithstanding the paucity of our eatables, there was not a French soldier who did not manifest an eagerness to give them some biscuit, some bread, and even a share of their meat. Morning and evening, these dogs go out on discovery; and if in the midst of their wandering courses the echo of some unfortunate creature ready to perish reaches their attentive ears, they run towards those who call out, express their joy, and seem to bid the sufferer take courage, till they have been to procure assistance; in fact, they hasten back to the convent, and, with an air of inquietude and sadness, announce in a very discernible manner what they have seen. In that case, a small basket is fastened round the dog’s neck, filled with food proper for reanimating life almost exhausted; and, by following the benevolent [Pg 195]messenger, an unhappy creature is thus frequently snatched from impending destruction.”

A Florentine nobleman possessed a dog, which would attend his table, change his plates, and carry his wine to him, with the utmost steadiness, and the most accurate attention to his master’s notices.

It is related by the illustrious Leibnitz, that a Saxon peasant was in possession of a dog of the middling size, then about three years of age. The peasant’s son, perceiving accidentally, as he imagined, some resemblance in its sounds to those of the human voice, attempted to teach it to speak. By the perseverance of the lad, the dog acquired the power, we are told, of pronouncing about thirty words. It would, however, exercise this extraordinary faculty only with reluctance, the words being always first spoken by the preceptor, and then echoed by the pupil. This circumstance is attested by Leibnitz, who himself heard it speak; and it was communicated by him in a memoir to the Royal Academy of France.

In the theatre of Marcellus, a case occurred, which many will consider more probable, but which is almost as extraordinary, as mentioned by Plutarch.—“A dog was here exhibited which excelled in various dances of great complication and difficulty, and represented also the effects of disease and pain upon the frame, in all the contortions of countenance and writhings of the body, from the first access, to that paroxysm which often immediately precedes dissolution. Having thus apparently expired in agony, he would suffer himself to be carried about motionless, as in a state of death; and after a sufficient continuance of the jest, he would burst upon the spectators with an animation and sportiveness, which formed a very interesting conclusion of this curious interlude, by which the animal seemed to enjoy the success of his scenic efforts, and to be delighted with the admiration which was liberally and universally bestowed upon him.”

“A tinker (says Pezelius) brought a wonderful dog to Constantinople; and a number of people being assembled to behold him, many of them laid their rings in a heap confusedly before him. At the command of his master, he would restore to every man his own, without any mistake. Also, when his master asked him which of the company was a captain, which a poor man, which a wife, which a widow, and the like, he would discover all this without error, by taking the garment of the party inquired after in his mouth.”



[Pg 196]



The Frog-fish—Bird-catching Fish—The Nautilus—The Air-bladder in Fishes—Respiration in Fishes—Shower of Fishes.

“——————The scaly brood
In countless myriads cleave the crystal flood.”

“Who can old Ocean’s pathless bed explore,
And count her tribes that people ev’ry shore.”


The Frog-Fish.—There is a very singular animal of Surinam, bearing this name, of which a figure is given by Mr. Edwards, in his History of Birds, vol. I. but of which no specimen is to be found either in the British Museum, or in any private collection, except that of Dr. Fothergill. It was brought from Surinam, in South America.

Frogs, both in Asia and Africa, according to Merian, change gradually from fishes to frogs, as those in Europe; but after many years, revert again into fishes, though the manner of their change has never been investigated. In Surinam these fishes are called Jakjes: they are cartilaginous, of a substance like our mustela, and exquisite food; they are formed with regular vertebræ, and small bones all over the body, divided into equal parts; are first darkish, and then gray; and their scales make a beautiful appearance. Whether this animal is, in its perfect state, a species of frog with a tail, or a kind of water-lizard, Mr. Edwards does not pretend to determine; but he observes, that when its size is considered, if it should be deemed a tadpole, at first produced from spawn, and in its progress towards a frog, such an animal, when full-grown; if it bears the same proportion to its tadpole state that those in Europe do to theirs, it must be of enormous size; for our full-grown frogs exceed the tadpoles at least fifty times.


Another curiosity is, The Bird-catching Fish.—This fish is called by the natives of Canada, Chaousaron; its body is nearly the shape of a jack or pike, but is covered with scales that are proof against the stab of a dagger; its colour is a silver gray, and there grows under its mouth a fin that is flat, jagged at the edges, and pierced at the end, which gives reason to conjecture that it breathes by that part. This fish is about five feet in length, and as thick as a man’s thigh; but some of them, it is said, are eight or ten feet long. In order to catch birds, it hides itself among the reeds in such a manner, that no part of it can be seen but the fin just mentioned; this[Pg 197] it erects upright out of the water, and birds that want to rest themselves, take this fin for a reed, or a dry piece of wood; but no sooner have they alighted on it, than the fish opens his mouth, and makes such a quick motion to seize its prey, that it seldom escapes.


Another curious object is, The Nautilus.

Learn of the little Nautilus to sail,
Spread the thin oar, and catch the driving gale.

The shell of this animal consists of one spiral valve, divided into several apartments. There are seventeen species, chiefly distinguished by peculiarities in their shells.

The most remarkable division of the Nautilus is into the thin and thick-shelled kinds. The first is called Nautilus Papyraceus; and its shell is indeed no thicker than a piece of paper, when out of the water. This species is not at all fastened to its shell; but there is an opinion, as old as the days of Pliny, that this creature creeps out of its shell, and goes on shore to feed. When this species is to sail, it expands two of its arms on high, and between these supports a membrane, which it throws out on this occasion: this serves for its sail, and the two other arms it hangs out of its shell, to serve occasionally either as oars or as a steerage; but this last office is generally served by the tail. When the sea is calm, numbers of these creatures may frequently be seen diverting themselves in this manner, in the Mediterranean: but as soon as a storm rises, or any thing gives them disturbance, they draw in their legs, and take in as much water as makes them specifically heavier than that in which they float; and then they sink to the bottom. When they rise again, they void this water by a number of holes, of which their legs are full.

The other nautilus, whose shell is thick, never quits its habitation. This shell is divided into forty or more partitions, which grow smaller and smaller as they approach the extremity or centre of the shell: between each of these cells there is a communication by means of a hole in the centre of the partitions. Through this hole there runs a pipe, of the whole length of the shell. It is supposed by many, that by means of this pipe the fish occasionally passes from one cell to another; but this seems by no means probable, as the fish must undoubtedly be crushed to death by attempting to pass through it. It is much more likely that the fish always occupies the largest chamber in its shell; that is, that it lives in the cavity between the mouth and the first partition, and that it never removes out of this; but that all the apparatus of cells, and a pipe of communication, which we so much admire, serve[Pg 198] only to admit occasionally air or water into the shell, in such proportion as may serve the creature in its intentions of swimming.

Some authors call this shell the concha margaritifera: but this can be only on account of the fine colour on its inside, which is more beautiful than any other mother-of-pearl; for it has not been observed than this species of fish ever produced pearls.

It must be observed, that the polypus is by no means to be confounded with the paper-shelled nautilus, notwithstanding the great resemblance in the arms and body of the inclosed fish; nor is the cornu ammonis, so frequently found fossil, to be confounded with the thick-shelled nautilus, though the concamerations and general structure of the shell are alike in both: for there are great and essential differences between all these genera. There is a pretty copious and minute account of this curious animal in the Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. xxii. p. 6, 7, 8, and 301, and vol. xxv. p. 128.


We now proceed to describe that destructive inhabitant of the mighty deep, The Shark.—Sharks, though voracious creatures, are seldom destructive in the temperate regions; it is in the torrid zone that their ravages are most frequent. In the West Indies, accidents happen from them daily. During the American war in 1780, while the Pallas frigate was lying in Kingston harbour, a young North American jumped overboard one evening, to make his escape, and perished by a shark in a shocking manner. He had been captured in a small vessel, lost all his property, and was detained by compulsion in the English navy, to serve in a predatory war against his country. But he, animated with that spirit which pervaded every bosom in America, resolved, as soon as he arrived at some port, to release himself from the mortifying state of employing his life against his country, which, as he said when dying, he was happy to lay down, as he could not employ it against her enemies. He plunged into the water: the Pallas was a quarter of a mile from the shore. A shark perceived him, and followed him very quietly, till he came near the shore; where, as he was hanging by a rope that moored a vessel to a wharf, scarcely out of his depth, the shark seized his right leg, stripped the flesh entirely from the bones, and took the foot off at the ancle. He still kept his hold, and called to the people in the vessel near him, who were standing on the deck, and saw the affair. The shark then seized his other leg, which the man by his struggling disengaged from his teeth, but with the flesh cut through down to the bone, into a multitude of narrow slips. The people in the vessel threw billets of wood into the water, and [Pg 199]frightened the shark away. The young man was brought on shore. Dr. Mosely was called to him; but he had lost so much blood before any assistance could be given him, that he expired before the mangled limbs could be taken off. A few weeks before this, a shark of twelve feet in length was caught in the harbour; and on being opened, the entire head of a man was found in his stomach. The scalp and flesh of the face were macerated to a soft pulpy substance; which, on being touched, separated entirely from the bones. The bones were somewhat softened, and the sutures loosened.—(Moseley on Tropical Diseases.)




A very extraordinary instance of intrepidity and friendship is given by M. Hughes, in his Natural History of Barbadoes. It happened about the end of Queen Anne’s wars, at Barbadoes.—The sailors of the York Merchant, having ventured into the sea to wash themselves, a large shark made towards them; upon which they swam back, and all reached the boat except one, whom the monster overtook, and, griping him by the small of his back, soon cut him asunder, and swallowed the lower part of his body; the remaining part was taken up and carried on board, where was a comrade of the deceased, between whom friendship had been long reciprocal. When he saw the severed trunk of his friend, with a horror and emotion too great for words to paint, he vowed that he would make the devourer disgorge, or be swallowed himself in the same grave, and plunged into the deep, armed with a sharp-pointed knife. The shark no sooner saw him, than he made furiously toward him: both were equally eager, the one of his prey, the other of revenge. The moment the shark opened his rapacious jaws, his adversary dexterously diving, and grasping him with his left hand somewhat below the upper fins, successfully employed his knife in his right hand, giving him repeated stabs in the belly. The enraged shark, after many unavailing efforts, finding himself overmatched in his own element, endeavoured to disengage himself, sometimes plunging to the bottom, then, mad with pain, rearing his uncouth form, now stained with his own streaming blood, above the foaming waves. The crews of the surrounding vessels saw the doubtful combat, uncertain from which of the combatants the streams of blood issued; till at length the shark, much weakened by the loss of blood, made towards the shore, and with him his conqueror; who, now assured of victory, pushed his foe with redoubled ardour, and, by the help of an ebbing tide, dragged him on shore, ripped up his bowels, and united and buried the severed carcase of his friend.

“It is evident, (says Dr. Moseley,) that digestion in these animals is not performed by trituration, nor by the muscular action of the stomach; though nature has furnished them[Pg 200] with a stomach of wonderful force and thickness, and far exceeding that of any other creature. Whatever their force of digestion is, it has no effect upon their young ones, which always retreat into their stomachs in time of danger. That digestion is not performed by heat in fish, is equally evident. The coolness of the stomach of these fishes is far greater than the temperature of the water out of which they are taken; or of any other part of the fish, or of any other substance of animated nature I ever felt. On wrapping one of them round my hand, immediately on being taken out of the fish, it caused so much aching and numbness that I could not endure it long. Of these voracious sea monsters, there are thirty three species.”


The Torpedo.—The torpedo inhabits the Mediterranean and the North Seas, and grows to the weight of twenty pounds. This fish possesses a strong electrical power, and is capable of giving a very considerable shock through a number of persons forming a communication with it. This power was known to the ancients, but exaggerated by them with all the fables natural to ignorance; and it is only recently that the power has been ascertained to be truly electric. It is conducted by the same substances as electricity, and intercepted by the same. In a minute and a half, no fewer than fifty shocks have been received from this animal, when insulated. The shocks delivered by it in air, are nearly four times as strong as those received from it in water. This power appears to be always voluntarily exercised by the torpedo, which occasionally may be touched and handled without its causing the slightest agitation. When the fish is irritated, however, this quality is exercised with proportional effect to the degree of irritation; and its exercise is stated, in every instance, to be accompanied by a depression of the eyes. When that animal exerts the benumbing power, from which it derives its name, and when it operates by separate and repeated efforts, this is always the case. Both in the continued, and in the instantaneous process, the eyes, which are at other times prominent, are withdrawn into their sockets; a circumstance very naturally attaching both to the condensation and discharge of the subtle fluid. Specimens have been known of this fish weighing fifty, and even eighty pounds. It commonly lies in forty fathoms of water, and is supposed to stupify its prey by this extraordinary faculty. It is sometimes nearly imbedded in the sands of shallows; and it is stated, in these cases, to give to any who happens to tread upon it, an astonishing and overwhelming shock. On dissection, it was found to exhibit no material difference from the general structure of the ray, excepting with respect to the electric or galvanic organs,[Pg 201] which have been minutely examined and detailed by the celebrated anatomist, John Hunter: he states them “to be placed on each side of the cranium and gills, reaching thence to each great fin, and extending longitudinally from the anterior extremity of the animal, to the transverse cartilage which divides the thorax from the abdomen.”

From the whole description, it appears that these organs, as Mr. Shaw observes, constitute a pair of galvanic batteries, disposed in the form of perpendicular hexagonal columns; while, in the gymnotus electricus, the galvanic battery is disposed lengthwise on the lower part of the animal. It is stated, that the torpedo, in its dying state, communicates shocks in more than usually rapid succession, but in proportional weakness; and in seven minutes, in these circumstances, three hundred and sixty small shocks were distinctly felt. On the same authority (that of Spallanzani) it is reported, that the young torpedo can exercise this power at the moment after its birth, and even possesses it while a fœtus, several of these having been taken from the parent fish, and being found to communicate perceivable shocks, which, however, were most distinctly felt when these animals were insulated on a plate of glass.


A very curious object is, The Air-Bladder in Fishes.—There is no doubt that fishes extract air from water by means of their gills, since it is through them that they renew the air of their air-bladder. This bladder is an oblong bag, consisting of two or three membranes easily separated; sometimes it has only a single lobe or cavity, as in the case of pikes, whitings, trouts, &c.; at other times it has two lobes, as in the case of barbel and carp; three, as in that of the sea tench; or four, as in the Chinese gold fish. It is by expanding or compressing this bladder, that the fish occupies more or less space in the water, becomes more or less heavy, and ascends or descends as it chooses. The division of the bladder into different lobes has proceeded from a very sufficient reason. When the bladder has only one cavity, as in the case of fishes of prey, the motion of ascent or descent takes place slowly, and without a break; because, as they compress the whole bladder at once, the whole body is moved horizontally, upwards or downwards, as the case may be; a circumstance which has the effect of lessening, in consequence of the resistance of the water, the swiftness of those tyrants of the deep. When the bladder has two lobes, as in the case of the carp, which lives on insects, that fish, by expanding the anterior and compressing the posterior lobe, rises rapidly with the head foremost to the surface of the water, or sinks to the bottom with equal expedition, by compressing its two lobes in different ways. The consequence is,[Pg 202] an increased promptitude of movement, and additional means of escaping from its enemies. When the bladder has four lobes, as in the case of the gold fish, that fish is thus enabled to vary greatly its contractions and expansions. It rises, sinks, bends, erects, or turns itself in a thousand ways, and plays in the water, like a bird in the air. It displays all the richness of the colours of gold, silver, or purple, with which Nature has adorned it. Its attitudes are so graceful, and its movements so varied, that the Chinese, from whom we originally received it, are said to pass whole days in looking at it, in the basins of the fountains in their gardens, or in crystal vessels. It is evidently indebted for the ease and grace of its motions, to the modulations consequent on the four divisions of its air-bladder.


Another subject of curiosity is, The Respiration in Fishes.—Fish derive air from the water which they are inaccessantly swallowing through the mouth, and throwing out by the gills. The gills are formed with infinite skill, and may be called a delicate kind of sieve, adapted for separating air from water. Their operation proves the radical difference between these two elements, and leads to the conclusion, that they are not joined even when mixed. The gills are placed in the back part of the sides of the head, and are contained in a cavity adapted for them. They are a kind of red and flexible leaflets, consisting of a row of thin plates, like the blade of a knife, pressed against each other, and forming a succession of barbs or fringed substances, similar to those on the side of a goose-quill. These gills are covered with a small lid, and with a membrane, supported by cartilaginous threads. Both are capable of being raised and lowered; and, by being thus opened, they afford a passage to the water swallowed by the animal. A prodigious number of muscles give motion to these minute particles. It may appear almost incredible, that the number of particles connected with the respiration of the carp is not fewer than 4386. Of these, sixty-nine are muscles; while the arteries of the gills, in addition to eight principal branches, throw forth 4320 smaller ramifications, while each of the latter gives birth to a number of cross arteries. Add to this, that the quantity of nerves is not smaller than that of the arteries; and that the veins are divided and subdivided, like the arteries, inasmuch as they do not give rise to any transverse capillary vessels. In this manner the blood flowing from the heart of the fish is spread over all the plates or blades of which the gills are composed; so that a very small quantity of blood is exposed to the action of the water, for the purpose, no doubt, that each part may be easily penetrated by the particles of air detached from the water.

[Pg 203]It is not easy to explain in what manner these particles are detached from the water by the operation of the gills; but there seems no doubt of the fact, nor of the redness of the gills being a consequence of the operation of the air. That redness is exactly similar to the vermilion of the blood in the veins of animals with lungs, a vermilion considerably brighter than that of the arteries.


We shall conclude this chapter with an account of a Shower of Fishes.—In the Philosophical Transactions for 1698, Mr. Robert Conny gives the following account of a phenomenon of this kind.

On Wednesday before Easter, anno 1666, a pasture field at Cranstead, near Wrotham, in Kent, about two acres, which is far from any part of the sea, or branch of it, and a place where there are no fish-ponds, but a scarcity of water, was all overspread with little fishes, conceived to be rained down, there having been at that time a great tempest of thunder and rain: the fishes were about the length of a man’s little finger, and judged by all who saw them to be young whitings. Many of them were taken up, and shewed to several persons. The field belonged to one Ware, a yeoman, who was at that Easter sessions one of the grand inquest, and who carried some of the fish to the sessions of Maidstone, in Kent, and shewed them, among others, to Mr. Lake, a bencher of the Middle Temple, who procured one of them, and brought it to London. The truth of it was averred by many that saw the fishes lie scattered all over the field. There were none in the other fields adjoining: the quantity of them was estimated to be about a bushel.

It is probable that these fishes were absorbed from the surface of the water by the electric power of a water-spout; or brushed off by the violence of a hurricane. The phenomenon, though surprising, has occurred in various countries, and occasionally in situations far more remote from the coast than that before us.



[Pg 204]



The Whale—Whale Fishery—The Kraken.

“——————————The whales
Toss in foam their lashing tails.
Wallowing unwieldly, enormous in their gait,
They seem a moving land, and at their gills
Draw in, and at their trunk spout out, a sea.”


The following account of the great Northern, or Greenland Whale, was first published by Mr. W. Scoresby, jun. M. W. S. in the Memoirs of the Wernerian Society, vol. I.

“The whale, when fullgrown, is from 50 to 65 feet in length, and from 30 to 40 in circumference, immediately before the fins. It is thickest a little behind the fins, and from thence gradually tapers towards the tail, and slightly towards the neck. It is cylindrical from the neck until near the junction of the tail and body, where it becomes rigid.

“The head has a triangular shape. The bones of the head are very porous, and full of a fine kind of oil. When the oil is drained out, the bone is so light as to swim in water. The jaw-bones, the most striking portions of the head, are from 20 to 25 feet in length, are curved, and the space between them is 9 or 10 feet, by 18 or 20. They give shape to the under part of the head, which is almost perfectly flat, and is about 20 feet in length by 12 in breadth. The tongue is of great size, and yields a ton or more of oil. The lips, which are at right angles to the flat part of the base of the head, are firm and hard, and yield about two tons of oil.

“To the upper jaw is attached the substance called whalebone, which is straight in some individuals, and in others convex. The laminæ, or blades, are not all of equal length: neither are the largest exactly in the middle of the series, but somewhat nearer the throat; from this point they become gradually shorter each way. In each side of the mouth are about 200 laminæ of whalebone. They are not perfectly flat; for besides the longitudinal curvature already mentioned, they are curved transversely. The largest laminæ are from ten to fourteen feet, very rarely fifteen feet, in length. The breadth of the largest, at the thick ends, or where they are attached to the jaw, is about a foot. The Greenland fishers estimate the size of the whale by the length of the whalebone: where the whalebone is six feet long, then the whale is said to be a size-fish. In suckers, or young whales still under the protection of the [Pg 205]mother, the whalebone is only a few inches long. The whalebone is immediately covered by the two under lips, the edges of which, when the mouth is shut, overlap the upper part in a squamous manner.

“On the upper part of the head there is a double opening, called the spout-holes, or blow-holes. Their external orifices are like two slits, which do not lie parallel, but form an acute angle with each other. Through these openings the animal breathes.

“The eyes are very small, not larger than those of an ox; yet the whale appears to be quick of sight. They are situated about a foot above where the upper and under lip join.

“In the whale, the sense of hearing seems to be rather obtuse.

“The throat is so narrow as scarcely to admit a hen’s egg.

“The fins are from four to five feet broad, and eight to ten feet long, and seem only to be used in bearing off their young, in turning, and giving a direction to the velocity produced by the tail.

“The tail is horizontal, from 20 to 30 feet in breadth, indented in the middle, and the two lobes pointed and turned outwards. In it lies the whole strength of the animal. By means of the tail, the whale advances itself in the water with greater or less rapidity; if the motion is slow, the tail cuts the water obliquely, like forcing a boat forward by the operation of sculling; but if the motion is very rapid, it is effected by an undulating motion of the rump.

“The skin in some whales is smooth and shining; in others, it is furrowed, like the water-lines in laid paper, but coarser.

“The colour is black, gray, and white, and a tinge of yellow about the lower parts of the head. The back, upper part of the head, most of the belly, the fins, tail, and part of the under jaw, are deep black. The fore part of the under jaw, and a little of the belly, are white, and the junction of the tail with the body gray. Such are the common colours of the adult whale. I have seen piebald whales. Such whales as are below size are almost entirely of a bluish black colour. The skin of suckers is of a pale bluish colour. The cuticle, or scarf-skin, is no thicker than parchment; the true skin is from three-fourths to an inch in thickness all over the body.

“Immediately beneath the skin lies the blubber, or fat, from 10 to 20 inches in thickness, varying in different parts of the body, as well as in different individuals. The colour, also, is not always the same, being white, red, and yellow; and it also varies in denseness. It is principally for the blubber that the Greenland fishery is carried on. It is cut from the body in large lumps, and carried on board the ship, and then cut into smaller pieces. The fleshy parts, and skin connected with the blubber, are next separated from it, and it is again cut[Pg 206] into such pieces as will admit of its being passed into casks by the bung-hole, which is only three or four inches in diameter. In these casks it is conveyed home, where it is boiled in vessels capable of containing from three to six tons, for the purpose of extracting the oil from the fritters, which are tendinous fibres, running in various directions, and containing the oil, or rather connecting together the cellular substance which contains it. These fibres are finest next the skin, thinnest in the middle, and coarsest near the flesh.

“The whales, according to their size, produce from two to twenty tons of oil. The flesh of the young whale is of a fine red colour; that of the old approaches to black, and is coarse, like that of a bull, and is said to be dry and lean when boiled, because there is little fat intermixed with the flesh.

“The food of the whale is generally supposed to consist of different kinds of sepiæ, medusæ, or the clio limacina of Linnæus; but I have great reason to believe, that it is chiefly, if not altogether, of the squill or shrimp tribe; for, on examining the stomach of one of large size, nothing else was found in it; they were about half an inch long, semi-transparent, and of a pale red colour. I also found a great quantity in the mouth of another, having been apparently vomited by it. When the whale feeds, it swims with considerable velocity under water, with its mouth wide open; the water enters by the forepart, but is poured out again at the sides, and the food is entangled and sifted as it were by the whalebone, which does not suffer any thing to escape.

“It seldom remains longer below the surface than twenty to thirty minutes; when it comes up again to blow, it will perhaps remain ten, twenty, or thirty minutes at the surface of the water, when nothing disturbs it. In calm weather, it sometimes sleeps in this situation. It sometimes ascends with so much force, as to leap entirely out of the water; when swimming at its greatest velocity, it moves at the rate of seven to nine miles an hour.

“Its maternal affection deserves notice. The young one is frequently struck for the sake of its mother, which will soon come up close by it, encourage it to swim off, assist it by taking it under its fin, and seldom deserts it while life remains. It is then very dangerous to approach, as she loses all regard for her own safety in anxiety for the preservation of her cub, dashing about most violently, and not dreading to rise even amidst the boats. Except, however, when the whale has young to protect, the male is in general more active and dangerous than the female, especially males of about nine feet bone.”

To the above account of Mr. Scoresby’s, we shall add the following particulars:

[Pg 207]The fidelity of whales to each other exceeds whatever we are told even of the constancy of birds. Some fishers, as Anderson informs us, having struck one of two whales, a male and a female, that were in company together, the wounded fish made a long and terrible resistance; it struck down a boat with three men in it, with a single blow of its tail, by which all went to the bottom. The other still attended its companion, and lent it every assistance; till, at last, the fish that was struck sunk under the number of its wounds; while its faithful associate, disdaining to survive the loss, with great bellowing stretched itself upon the dead fish, and shared its fate.

Inoffensive as the whale is, it is not without enemies. There is a small animal, of the shell-fish kind, called the whale-louse, that sticks to its body, as we see shells sticking to the foul bottom of a ship. This insinuates itself chiefly under the fins; and whatever efforts the great animal makes, it still keeps its hold, and lives upon the fat, which it is provided with instruments to arrive at.

The sword-fish is, however, the whale’s most terrible enemy. At the sight of this little animal, the whale seems agitated in an extraordinary manner, leaping from the water as if with affright, wherever it appears; the whale perceives it at a distance, and flies from it in the opposite direction. The whale has no instrument of defence except the tail; with that it endeavours to strike the enemy, and a single blow taking place would effectually destroy its adversary; but the sword-fish is as active as the other is strong, and easily avoids the stroke; then bounding into the air, it falls upon its enemy, and endeavours not to pierce with its pointed beak, but to cut with its toothed edges. The sea all about is soon dyed with blood, proceeding from the wounds of the whale; while the enormous animal vainly endeavours to reach its invader, and strikes with its tail against the surface of the water with impotent fury, making a report at each blow louder than the noise of a cannon.

There is still another powerful enemy of this fish, which is called the oria, or killer. A number of these are said to surround the whale in the same manner as dogs get round a bull. Some attack it with their teeth behind; others attempt it before; until, at last, the great animal is torn down, and its tongue is said to be the only part they devour, when they have made it their prey.

But of all the enemies of these enormous fishes, man is the greatest and most formidable; he alone destroys more in a year than the rest in an age, and actually has thinned their numbers in that part of the world where they are chiefly sought.

 [Pg 208]

The reader will be interested in the following account of The Whale Fishery.

As when enclosing harpooners assail,
In hyperborean seas, the slumbering whale;
Soon as their javelins pierce the scaly side,
He groans, he darts impetuous down the tide;
And rack’d all o’er with lacerating pain,
He flies remote beneath the flood in vain.

Whales are chiefly caught in the North Sea: the largest sort are found about Greenland, or Spitzbergen. At the first discovery of this country, whales not being used to be disturbed, frequently came into the very bays, and were accordingly killed almost close to the shore, so that the blubber being cut off, was immediately boiled into oil on the spot. The ships, in those times, took in nothing but the pure oil and the fins, and all the business was executed in the country; by which means, a ship could bring home the product of many more whales, than she can according to the present method of conducting this trade. The fishery also was then so plentiful, that they were obliged sometimes to send other ships to fetch off the oil they had made, the quantity being more than the fishing ships could bring away. But time and change of circumstances have shifted the situation of this trade. The ships coming in great numbers from Holland, Denmark, Hamburgh, and other northern countries, all intruders upon the English, who were the first discoverers of Greenland, disturbed the whales, which gradually, as other fish often do, forsaking the place, were not to be killed so near the shore as before; but they are now found, and have been so ever since, in the openings and spaces among the ice, where they have deep water, and where they go sometimes a great many leagues from the shore.

The whale fishery begins in May, and continues all June and July; but whether the ships have good or bad success, they must come away, and get clear of the ice by the end of August, so that in the month of September, at farthest, they may be expected home; but a ship that meets with a fortunate and early fishery in May, may return in June or July.



The engraving represents the lancing of the whale, who has already been harpooned,
and is in a dying state. In his last struggles he has broken one of the whalers’ boats.


The manner of taking whales at present is as follows: As soon as the fishermen hear the whale blow, they cry out, Fall! fall! and every ship gets out its long-boat, in each of which there are six or seven men, who row till they become pretty near the whale; then the harpooner strikes it with the harpoon: this requires great dexterity, for through the bone of his head there is no striking, but near his spout there is a soft piece of flesh, into which the iron sinks with ease. As soon as he is struck, they take care to give him rope enough, otherwise, when he goes down, as he frequently does, he would [Pg 209]inevitably sink the boat: this rope he draws with such violence, that, if it were not well watered, it would, by its friction against the sides of the boat, be soon set on fire. The line fastened to the harpoon is six or seven fathoms long, and is called the fore-runner; it is made of the finest and softest hemp, that it may slip the easier: to this they join a heap of lines of 90 or 100 fathoms each, and when there are not enough in one long-boat, they borrow from another. The man at the helm observes which way the rope goes, and steers the boat accordingly, that it may run exactly out before; for the whale runs away with the line with so much rapidity, that he would overset the boat if it were not kept straight. When the whale is struck, the other long-boats row before, and observe which way the line stands, and sometimes pull it: if they feel it stiff, it is a sign the whale still pulls in strength; but if it hangs loose, and the boat lies equally high before and behind upon the water, they pull it in gently, but take care to coil it, that the whale may have it again easily, if he recovers strength: they take care, however, not to give him too much line, because he sometimes entangles it about a rock, and pulls out the harpoon. The fat whales do not sink as soon as dead, but the lean ones do, and come up some days afterwards. As long as they see whales, they lose no time in cutting up what they have taken, yet keep fishing for others: when they see no more, or have taken enough, they begin with taking off the fat and whiskers in the following manner. The whale being lashed alongside, they lay it on one side, and put two ropes, one at the head and the other in the place of the tail, (which, together with the fins, is struck off as soon as he is taken,) to keep those extremities above water. On the off-side of the whale are two boats, to receive the pieces of fat, utensils, and men, that might otherwise fall into the water on that side. These precautions being taken, three or four men, with irons at their feet to prevent slipping, get on the whale, and begin to cut out pieces of about three feet thick and eight long, which are hauled up at the capstan or windlass. When the fat is all cut off, they cut off the whiskers of the upper jaw with an axe, previously lashing them together to keep them firm, which also facilitates the cutting, and prevents them from falling into the sea; when on board, five or six of them are bundled together, and properly stowed: and after all is got off, the carcase is turned adrift, and devoured by the bears, who are very fond of it. In proportion as the large pieces of fat are cut off, the rest of the crew are employed in slicing them smaller, and picking out all the lean. When this is prepared, they stow it under the deck, where it lies till the fat of all the whales is on board; then cutting it still smaller, they put it up in tubs in the hold,[Pg 210] cramming them very full and close. Nothing now remains but to sail homewards, where the fat is to be boiled, and melted down into train oil.

During the summer of 1821, an attempt was made to kill whales with Sir William Congreve’s rockets. The trial was conducted by William Scoresby, Esq. who took out with him, on board of the Fame, in which he sailed, several rockets, by way of experiment. Success attended his expectation; and little doubt can remain, if they continue to be skilfully applied, that the danger attending the harpoon will be nearly done away; and, consequently, this valuable branch of commerce will be essentially benefited by the discovery.


We shall conclude this short sketch of some of the curiosities respecting fishes, with an account of The Kraken.—This is a most amazingly large sea animal, said to be seemingly of a crab-like form; the credit of whose existence rests upon the evidence produced by Bishop Pontoppidan, in his Natural History of Norway.

“Our fishermen (says the author) unanimously and invariably affirm, that, when they are several miles from the land, particularly in the hot summer days, and, by their distance, and the bearings of some points of land, expect from eighty to a hundred fathoms depth, and do not find but from twenty to thirty,—and especially if they find a more than usual plenty of cod and ling,—they judge the kraken to be at the bottom: but if they find by their lines that the water in the same place still shallows on them, they know he is rising to the surface, and row off with the greatest expedition till they come into the usual soundings of the place; when, lying on their oars, in a few minutes the monster emerges, and shews himself sufficiently, though the whole body does not appear. Its back or upper part, which seems an English mile and a half in circumference, (some have affirmed, considerably more than this,) looks at first like a number of small islands, surrounded with something that floats like sea-weeds; at last several bright points of horns appear, which grow thicker the higher they emerge, and sometimes stand up as high and large as the masts of middle-sized vessels. In a short time it slowly sinks, which is thought as dangerous as its rising; as it causes such a swell and whirlpool as draws every thing down with it, like that of Maelstrom.”

The Bishop justly regrets the omission of probably the only opportunity that ever has or may be presented of surveying it alive, or seeing it entire when dead. This, he informs us, once did occur, on the credit of the Rev. Mr. Früs, minister at Nordland, and vicar of the college for promoting Christian knowledge; who informed him, that in 1680, a kraken (perhaps a[Pg 211] young and careless one, as they generally keep several leagues from land) came into the waters that run between the rocks and cliffs near Alstahong; where, in turning about, some of its long horns caught hold of some adjoining trees, which it might easily have torn up, but that it was also entangled in some clefts of the rocks, whence it could not extricate itself, but putrefied on the spot.

Our author has heard of no person destroyed by this monster; but he relates a report of the danger of two fishermen, who came upon a part of the water full of the creature’s thick slimy excrements, (which he voids for some months, as he feeds for some other;) they immediately strove to row off, but were not quick enough in turning to save the boat from one of the kraken’s horns, which so crushed the head of it, that it was with difficulty they saved their lives on the wreck, though the weather was perfectly calm, the monster never appearing at other times. His excrement is said to be attractive of other fish on which he feeds; which expedient was probably necessary, on account of his slow unwieldy motion, to his subsistence; as this slow motion again may be necessary to the security of ships of the greatest force and burden, which must be overwhelmed on encountering such an immense animal, if his velocity were equal to his weight; the Norwegians supposing, that if his arms, on which he moves, and with which he takes his food, were to lay hold of the largest man of war, they would pull it down to the bottom.

In confirmation of the reality of this animal, our learned author cites Debes’s Description of Faroe, for the existence of certain islands, which suddenly appear and as suddenly vanish. Many seafaring people, he adds, give accounts of such, particularly in the North Sea; which their superstition has either attributed to the delusion of the Devil, or considered as inhabited by evil spirits. But our honest historian, who is not for wronging even the Devil himself, supposes such mistaken islands to be nothing but the kraken, called by some the soe trolden, or sea-mischief; in which opinion he was greatly confirmed by the following quotation of Dr. Hierne, a learned Swede, from Baron Grippenheilm; and which is certainly a very remarkable passage, viz. “Among the rocks about Stockholm, there is sometimes seen a tract of land, which at other times disappears, and is seen again in another place. Buræus has placed it as an island, in his map. The peasants, who call it Gummars-ore, say, that it is not always seen, and that it lies out in the open sea; but I could never find it. One Sunday, when I was out amongst the rocks, sounding the coast, it happened, that in one place I saw something like three points of land in the sea, which surprised me a little, and I thought I had inadvertently passed them over before. Upon[Pg 212] this, I called to a peasant, to inquire for Gummars-ore; but when he came, we could see nothing of it; upon which, the peasant said, all was well, and that this prognosticated a storm, or a great quantity of fish.” To which our author subjoins, “Who cannot discover that this Gummars-ore, with its points and prognostications of fish, was the kraken, mistaken by Buræus for an island, which may keep itself about that spot where he rises?” He takes the kraken, doubtless, from his numerous tentaculi, which serve him as feet, to be of the polypus kind; and the contemplation of its enormous bulk led him to adapt a passage from Ecclesiasticus, xliii. 31, 32. to it. Whether by it may be intended the “dragon that is in the sea,” mentioned Isaiah xxvii. 1. we refer to the conjecture of the reader.

After paying but a just respect to the moral character, the reverend function, and diligent investigations, of our author, we must admit the possibility of its existence, as it implies no contradiction; though it seems to encounter a general prepossession of the whale’s being the largest animal on or in our globe, and the eradication of any long prepossession is attended with something irksome to us. But were we to suppose a salmon or a sturgeon the largest fish any number of persons had seen or heard of, and the whale had discovered himself as seldom, and but in part, as the kraken, it is easy to conceive that the existence of the whale had been as indigestible to such persons then, as that of the kraken may be to others now.

Some may incline to think such an extensive monster would encroach on the symmetry of nature, and would be over proportionate to the size of the globe itself; as a little calculation will inform us, that the breadth of what is seen of him, supposing him nearly round, must be full 2600 feet, (if more oval, or crab-like, full 2000 feet,) and his thickness, which may rather be called altitude, at least 300 feet; our author declaring he has chosen the least circumference mentioned of this animal, for the greater certainty. These vast dimensions, nevertheless, we apprehend will not argue conclusively against the existence of the animal, though considerably against a numerous increase or propagation of it. In fact, the great scarcity of the kraken, his confinement to the North Sea, and perhaps to equal latitudes in the south; the small number propagated by the whale, which is viviparous; and by the largest land animals, of which the elephant is said to go nearly two years with young; all induce us to conclude, from analogy, that this creature is not numerous; which coincides with a passage in a manuscript ascribed to Svere, king of Norway, and it is cited by Ol. Wormius, in his Museum, p. 280, in Latin, which we shall exactly translate:—

[Pg 213]“There remains one kind, which they call hasgufe, whose magnitude is unknown, as it is seldom seen. Those who affirm they have seen its body, declare, it is more like an island than a beast, and that its carcase was never found; whence some imagine that there are but two of the kind in nature.”

Whether the vanishing island Lemair, of which captain Rodney went in search, was a kraken, we submit to the fancy of our readers. In fine, if the existence of the creature is admitted, it will seem a fair inference, that he is the scarcest as well as the largest in our world; and that if there are larger in the universe, they probably inhabit some sphere or planet more extended than our own, and such we have no pretence to limit; but that fiction can devise a much greater than this, is evident from the cock of Mahomet, and the whale in the Bava Bathra of the Talmud, which were intended to be credited; and to either of which, our kraken is a very shrimp in dimensions.

We conclude this account in the words of Goldsmith: “To believe all that has been said of these animals, would be too credulous; and to reject the possibility of their existence, would be a presumption unbecoming mankind.”





The Scorpion—The Boa Constrictor—The American Sea Serpent—Fascinating Serpents—The Caterpillar—Caterpillar-Eaters—The Silk-Worm—The Tape-Worm—The Ship-Worm—The Lizard imbedded in Coal.


The Scorpion.

Their flaming crests above the waves they shew,
Their bellies seem to burn the seas below;
Their speckled tails advance to steer their course,
And on the sounding shore the flying billows force.
And now the strand and now the plain they held;
Their ardent eyes with bloody streaks are fill’d;
Their nimble tongues they brandish’d as they came,
And lick’d their hissing jaws that sputter’d flame.

Of all the classes of noxious insects, the scorpion is the most terrible. Its shape is hideous; its size among the insects is enormous; and its sting is generally fatal. Happily for Britain, the scorpion is entirely unknown among us. In several parts of the continent of Europe, it is too well known, though it seldom grows above four inches long; but in the[Pg 214] warm tropical climates, it is seen a foot in length, and in every respect as large as a lobster, which it somewhat resembles in shape. There have been enumerated nine different kinds of this dangerous insect, including species and varieties, chiefly distinguished by their colour; there being scorpions yellow, brown, and ash-coloured; others that are the colour of rusty iron, green, pale yellow, black, claret colour, white, and gray. There are four principal parts distinguishable in this creature; the head, the breast, the belly, and the tail. The scorpion’s head seems, as it were, jointed to the breast, in the middle of which are seen two eyes; and a little more forward, two eyes more, placed in the fore part of the head; these eyes are so small, that they are scarcely perceivable, and it is probable the creature has but little occasion for them. The mouth is furnished with two jaws; the undermost is divided into two, and the parts notched into each other, which serve the creature as teeth, and with which it breaks its food, and thrusts it into its mouth; these the scorpion can at pleasure pull back into its mouth, so that no part of them can be seen. On each side of the head are two arms, each composed of four joints; the last of which is large, with strong muscles, and made in the manner of the claw of a lobster. Below the breast are eight articulated legs, each divided into six joints; the two hindmost of which are each provided with two crooked claws, here and there covered with hair. The belly is divided into seven little rings; from the lowest of which is continued a tail, composed of six joints, which are bristly, and formed like little globes; the last being armed with a crooked sting. This is that fatal instrument which renders this insect so formidable; it is long, pointed, hard, and hollow; it is pierced near the base with two small holes, through which, when the creature stings, it ejects a drop of poison, which is white, caustic, and fatal. The reservoir in which this poison is kept, is a small bladder near the tail, into which the venom is distilled by a peculiar apparatus. If this bladder be greatly pressed, the venom will be seen issuing out through the two holes above mentioned; it therefore appears, that when the creature stings, the bladder is pressed, and the venom issues through the two apertures into the wound.

There are few animals more formidable, or more truly mischievous, than the scorpion. As it takes refuge in a small place, and is generally found sheltering in houses, it must frequently sting those among whom it resides. In some of the towns of Italy, and in France, in the ci-devant province of Languedoc, it is one of the greatest pests that torment mankind; but its malignity in Europe is trifling, when compared to what the natives of Africa and the East are known to experience.[Pg 215] In Batavia, where they grow twelve inches long, there is no removing any piece of furniture without the utmost danger of being stung by them. Bosman assures us, that along the Gold Coast they are often found larger than a lobster, and that their sting is inevitably fatal.

In Europe, however, they are by no means so large, so venomous, or so numerous. The general size of this animal does not exceed two or three inches, and its sting is very seldom fatal. No animal in the creation seems endued with such an irascible nature; they have often been seen, when taken and put into a place of security, to exert all their rage against the sides of the glass vessel that contained them. They will attempt to sting a stick when put near them, and attack a mouse or a frog, while these animals are far from offering any injury. Maupertuis put three scorpions and a mouse into the same vessel together, and they soon stung the little animal in different places. The mouse, thus assaulted, stood for some time upon the defensive, and at last killed them all, one after another. He tried these experiments, in order to see whether the mouse, after it had killed, would eat the scorpions; but the little quadruped seemed satisfied with the victory, and even survived the severity of the wounds it had received.

Wolkemar tried the courage of the scorpion against the large spider, and inclosed several of both kinds in glass vessels for that purpose. The success of this combat was very remarkable. The spider at first used all his efforts to entangle the scorpion in his web, which it immediately began spinning; but the scorpion rescued itself from the danger, by stinging its adversary to death; and soon after cut off, with its claws, all the legs of the spider, and then sucked all the internal parts at its leisure. If the scorpion’s skin had not been so hard, Wolkemar is of opinion that the spider would have obtained the victory; for he had often seen one of these spiders destroy a toad.

The fierce spirit of this animal is equally dangerous to its own species, for scorpions are the cruellest enemies to each other. Maupertuis put about a hundred of them together in the same glass; and they scarcely came in contact before they began to exert all their rage in mutual destruction: there was nothing to be seen but one universal carnage, without any distinction of age or sex; so that in a few days there remained only fourteen, which had killed and devoured all the rest. But their unnatural malignity is still more apparent, in their cruelty to their offspring. He inclosed a female scorpion, big with young, in a glass vessel, and she was seen to devour them as fast as they were excluded; there was but one of the number that escaped the general destruction, by taking[Pg 216] refuge on the back of its parent; and this soon after revenged the cause of its brethren, by killing the old one in its turn. Such is the terrible and unrelenting nature of this insect, that it is asserted, when driven to an extremity, that the scorpion will even destroy itself. The following experiment was ineffectually tried by Maupertuis: “But (says Mr. Goldsmith) I am so well assured of it by many eye-witnesses, who have seen it both in Italy and America, that I have no doubt remaining of its veracity. A scorpion newly caught is placed in the midst of a circle of burning charcoal, and thus an egress prevented on every side; the scorpion, as I am assured, runs about a minute round the circle, in hopes of escaping, but finding that impossible, it stings itself on the back of the head, and in this manner the undaunted suicide instantly expires.”

It is happy for mankind that these animals are so destructive to each other; since otherwise they would multiply in so great a degree as to render some countries uninhabitable. The male and female of this insect are very easily distinguishable; the male being smaller, and less hairy. The female brings forth her young alive, and perfect in their kind. Redi having bought a quantity of scorpions, selected their females, and, putting them in separate glass vessels, kept them for some days without food. In about five days one of them brought forth thirty-eight young ones, well shaped, and of a milk-white colour, which changed every day more and more into a dark rusty hue. Another female, in a different vessel, brought forth twenty-seven of the same colour; and the day following, the young ones seemed all fixed to the back and belly of the female. For near a fortnight all these continued alive and well, but afterwards some of them died daily; until, in about a month, they all died, except two. Were it worth the trouble, these animals might be kept living as long as curiosity should think proper. Their chief food is worms and insects; and upon a proper supply of these, their lives might be lengthened to their natural extent: how long that may be we are not told; but, if we may argue from analogy, it cannot be less than seven or eight years, and perhaps, in the larger kind, double that duration. As they have somewhat the form of a lobster, so they resemble that animal in casting their shell; or, more properly, their skin, since it is softer by far than the covering of the lobster, and set with hairs, which grow from it in great abundance, particularly at the joinings. The young, prior to their birth, lie each covered up in its own membrane to the number of forty or fifty, and united to each other by an oblong thread, so as to exhibit altogether the form of a chaplet.

Such is the manner in which the common scorpion produces its young; but there is a scorpion of America, produced from the egg, in the manner of the spider. The eggs are no larger[Pg 217] than pin’s points; and they are deposited in a web, which they spin from their bodies, and carry about with them till they are hatched. As soon as the young ones are excluded from the shell, they get upon the back of the parent, who turns her tail over them, and defends them with her sting. It seems probable, therefore, that captivity produces that unnatural disposition in the scorpion, which induces it to destroy its young; since, at liberty, it is found to protect them with such unceasing assiduity.


Another subject of curiosity belonging to this class, is, The Boa Constrictor.—A serpent very remarkable for its vast size; some of the principal species of which are met with in India, Africa, and South America, and have been seen between thirty and forty feet long, possessed of so much strength as to be able to kill cattle by twisting around them, and crushing them to death by pressure, after which they devour them, eating till they are almost unable to move; and in that state they may be easily shot. Dr. Shaw observes, that these gigantic serpents are become less common, in proportion to the increased population of the parts where they are found; they are, however, still to be seen, and they will approach the abodes of man in the vicinity of their residence. This species is beautifully variegated with rhombic spots; the belly is whitish; it is of vast strength, and from thirty to thirty-six feet long. With respect to age, sex, and climate, it is subject to great variations.

It is supposed that an individual of this species once diffused terror and dismay through a whole Roman army; a fact alluded to by Livy in one of the books that have not come to us, but which is quoted by Valerius Maximus, in words to the following effect: “Since we are on the subject of uncommon phenomena, we may here mention the serpent so eloquently recorded by Livy, who says, that near the river Bagrada, in Africa, a snake was seen of such enormous magnitude, as to prevent the army of Attilius Regulus from the use of the river; and after snatching up several soldiers with its enormous mouth, and devouring them, and killing several more by striking and squeezing them with the spires of its tail, it was at length destroyed by assailing it with all the force of military engines and showers of stones, after it had withstood the attack of their spears and darts; that it was regarded by the whole army as a more formidable enemy than even Carthage itself; and that the whole adjacent region being tainted with the pestilential effluvia proceeding from its remains, and the waters with its blood, the Roman army was obliged to remove its station. The skin of the monster was 120 feet long, and was sent to Rome as a trophy.”

Another account says, that “it caused so much trouble to[Pg 218] Regulus, that he found it necessary to contest the possession of the river with it, by employing the whole force of the army, during which a considerable number of soldiers were lost, while the serpent could neither be vanquished nor wounded; the strong armour of its scales easily repelling the force of all the weapons that were directed against it: upon which recourse was had to battering engines, with which the animal was attacked in the manner of a fortified tower, and was thus at length overpowered. Several discharges were made against it without success, till its back being broken by an immense stone, the monster began to lose its powers, and was with difficulty destroyed, after having diffused such a horror among the army, that they confessed they would rather attack Carthage itself, than such another monster.”

The flesh of the serpent is eaten by the Indians and Negroes of Africa, and they make its skin into garments.


The following account of The American Sea Serpent, is given in the words of an eye-witness:—“I, the undersigned Joseph Woodward, captain of the Adamant schooner, of Hingham, being on my rout from Penobscot to Hingham, steering W. N. W., and being about ten leagues from the coast, perceived, last Sunday, at two P. M. something on the surface of the water, which seemed to me to be of the size of a large boat. Supposing that it might be part of the wreck of a ship, I approached; but when I was within a few fathoms of it, it appeared, to my great surprise, and that of my whole crew, that it was a monstrous serpent. When I approached nearer, it coiled itself up, instantly uncoiling itself again, and withdrew with extreme rapidity. On my approaching again, it coiled itself up a second time, and placed itself at the distance of sixty feet at most, from the bow of the ship.

“I had one of my guns loaded with a cannon ball and musket bullets. I fired it at the head of the monster; my crew and myself distinctly heard the ball and bullets strike against the body, from which they rebounded, as if they had struck against a rock. The serpent shook his head and tail in an extraordinary manner, and advanced toward the ship with open jaws. I had caused the cannon to be reloaded, and pointed it at his throat; but he had come so near, that all the crew were seized with terror, and we thought only of getting out of his way. He almost touched the vessel, and had not I tacked as I did, he would certainly have come on board. He dived; but in a moment we saw him appear again, with his head on one side of the vessel, and his tail on the other, as if he was going to lift us up and upset us. However, we did not feel any shock. He remained five hours near us, only going backward and forward.

[Pg 219]“The fears with which he at first inspired us having subsided, we were able to examine him attentively. I estimate, that his length is at least twice that of my schooner, that is to say, 130 feet; his head is full twelve or fourteen; the diameter of the body below the neck, is not less than six feet; the size of the head is in proportion to that of the body. He is of a blackish colour, his ear-holes, (ornes,) are about twelve feet from the extremity of his head. In short, the whole has a terrible look. When he coils himself up, he places his tail in such a manner, that it aids him in darting forward with great force: he moves in all directions with the greatest facility and astonishing rapidity.

(Signed,) “Joseph Woodward.”

Hingham, May 12, 1818.”

This declaration is attested by Peter Holmes and John Mayo, who made affidavit of the truth of it before a justice of peace.


On the Fascinating Power of Serpents.—Major Alexander Garden, of South Carolina, has, in a paper read to the New York Historical Society, attributed the supposed power of fascination possessed by serpents, to a vapour which they can spread around them, and to objects at a little distance, at pleasure. He first reduces the exaggerated idea which has been entertained of this power, and then adduces instances of the effect of a sickening and stupifying vapour, perceived to issue from the animal. A negro is mentioned, who, from a very peculiar acuteness in smell, could discover the rattlesnake at a distance of two hundred feet, when in the exercise of this power; and on following this indication, always found some animal suffering from its influence.


We shall now give some curiosities respecting Worms; and first, of The Caterpillar.—The larvæ of butterflies are universally known by the name of caterpillars, and are extremely various in their forms and colours, some being smooth, others beset with either simple or ramified spines, and some are observed to protrude from their front, when disturbed, a pair of short tentacula, or feelers, somewhat analogous to those of a snail. A caterpillar, when grown to its full size, retires to some convenient spot, and, securing itself properly by a small quantity of silken filaments, either suspends itself by the tail, hanging with its head downwards, or else in an upright position, with the body fastened round the middle by a number of filaments. It then casts off the caterpillar-skin, and commences chrysalis, in which state it continues till the butterfly is ready for birth, which, liberating itself from the skin of the chrysalis, remains till its wings, which are at first short, weak,[Pg 220] and covered with moisture, are fully extended; this happens in about a quarter of an hour, when the animal suddenly quits the state of inactivity to which it had been so long confined, and becomes at pleasure an inhabitant of the air.


It will now be proper to give some account of The Caterpillar-Eaters.—Caterpillar-eaters are a species of worms bred in the body of the caterpillar, and which eat its flesh. These are produced by a certain kind of fly, that lodges her eggs in the body of this insect; and they, after their proper changes, become flies like their parents. Mr. Reaumur has given us, in his History of Insects, some very curious particulars respecting these little worms. Each of them spins itself a very beautiful case, of a cylindric figure, of a very strong sort of silk, in which this animal spends its state of chrysalis; and they have a mark by which they may be known from all other animal productions of this kind, which is, that they have always a broad stripe or band surrounding their middle, which is black when the rest of the case is white, and white when that is black. Mr. Reaumur has had the patience to find out the reason of this singularity. The whole shell is spun of a silk produced out of the creature’s body; this at first runs all white, and towards the end of the spinning turns black. The outside of the case must necessarily be formed first, as the creature works from within; consequently this is truly white all over, but it is transparent, and shews the last spun, or black silk, through it. It might be supposed that the whole inside of the shell should be black; but this is not the case: the whole is fashioned before this black silk comes; and this is employed by the creature, not to line the whole, but to fortify certain parts only; and therefore is all applied either to the middle,—or to the two ends, omitting the middle,—or a blackness at both ends, leaving the white in the middle to appear. It is not uncommon to find a sort of small cases, in garden walks, which appear to move of themselves; when these are opened, they are found to contain a small living worm. This is one of the species of these caterpillar-eaters; which, as soon as it comes out of the body of that animal, spins itself a case for its transformation, and lives in it without food till that change comes on, when it becomes a fly, like that to which it owed its birth.


In the next place we shall introduce a subject of great curiosity, well known by the name of The Silk-worm.—The silk-worm is a species of caterpillar, and, like it, is formed of several moveable rings, and is well furnished with feet and claws, to rest and fix itself where it pleases. It has two rows of teeth, which do not move upwards and downwards, but[Pg 221] from right to left, which enables it to press, cut, and tear the leaves in every direction. Along the whole length of its back we perceive through its skin a vessel which performs the functions of a heart. On each side of this insect are nine orifices, which answer to as many lungs, and assist the circulation of the chyle, or nutritive juice. Under the mouth it has a kind of reel with two holes, through which pass two drops of the gum with which its bag is filled; they act like two distaffs, continually furnishing it with the materials of which it makes its silk. The gum which distils through the two holes takes their form, lengthens into a double thread, which suddenly loses the fluidity of the liquid gum, and acquires the consistence necessary to support or to envelope the worm. When that time arrives, it joins the two threads together, by gluing them one over the other with its fore feet. This double thread is not only very fine, but also very strong, and of great length. Each bag has a thread which is nearly five hundred ells long; and as this thread is double, and joined together throughout its length, each bag will be found to contain a thousand ells of silk, though the whole weight does not exceed two grains and a half.

The life of this insect in its vermiform state is very short, and it passes through different states till it gradually arrives at its greatest degree of perfection. When it first emerges from the egg, it is extremely small, perfectly black, and its head of a still brighter black than the rest of its body: in a few days it begins to grow white, or of an ash colour; its coat becomes dirty and ruffled; it casts it off, and appears in a new dress; it becomes larger and much whiter, though a little tinged with green, from feeding upon green leaves. After a few more days (the length of time varying according to the degree of heat and quality of its nourishment) it ceases to eat, and sleeps for about two days; it then agitates and frets itself extremely, becoming red with the efforts it makes; its skin wrinkles and shrivels up, and it throws it off a second time, together with its feet. Within the space of three weeks or a month, we see it fresh dressed three times. It now begins to eat again, and might be taken for a different creature, so much is the appearance of its head, colour, and figure, altered. After continuing to eat for some days, it falls again into a lethargic state; on recovering from which, it once more changes its coat, which makes the third since it issued from its shell. It continues to eat for some time, then, entirely ceasing to take any nutriment, prepares for itself a retreat, and draws out a silken thread, which it wraps round its body in the same manner as we might wind thread round an oval piece of wood. It remains quietly in the bag it has formed, and at the end of fifteen days would pierce it, to issue forth,[Pg 222] if it was not killed by being exposed to the heat of the sun, or shut up in an oven. The silk-bags are thrown into hot water, and stirred about with birch twigs to draw out the heads or beginning of the threads, and the silk is afterwards wound upon reels made for the purpose. Thus we are indebted to this little insect for our greatest luxury in clothing: a reflection which ought to humble our pride; for how can we be vain of the silk which covers us, when we reflect to what we are indebted for it, and how little we are instrumental in the formation of those beauties in our clothing, of which we are vain? Thus we find the most insignificant and despicable objects are the instruments of ornament and advantage to man; an insect that we scarcely condescended to look at, becomes a blessing to thousands of human beings, forms an important article of trade, and is the source of great riches.


Our next subject is, The Tape-worm.—This genus of worms is destined to feed on the juices of various animals, and they inhabit the internal parts of almost every species of living beings. The structure and physiology of the tænia are curious, and it may be amusing as well as instructive to consider it with attention. The tænia appears destined to feed upon such juices of animals as are already animalized; and it is therefore most commonly found in the alimentary canal, and in the upper part, where there is the greatest abundance of chyle, for chyle seems to be the natural food of the tænia. As it is thus supported by food which is already digested, it is destitute of the complicated organs of digestion. As the tænia solium is most frequent in this country, it may be proper to describe it more particularly.

It is from three to thirty feet long; some say sixty feet. It is composed of a head, in which are a mouth adapted to drink up fluids, and an apparatus for giving the head a fixed situation. The body is composed of a great number of distinct pieces articulated together, each joint having an organ by which it attaches itself to the neighbouring part of the inner court of the intestine. The joints nearest the head are always small, and they become gradually enlarged as they are farther removed from it; but towards the tail a few of the last joints again become diminished in size. The extremity of the body is terminated by a small semicircular joint, which has no opening in it.

The head of this animal is composed of the same kind of materials as the other parts of its body; it has a rounded opening at its extremity, which is considered to be its mouth. This opening is continued by a short duct into two canals; these canals pass round every joint of the animal’s body, and[Pg 223] convey the aliment. Surrounding the opening of the mouth, are placed a number of projecting radii, which are of a fibrous texture, and whose direction is longitudinal. These radii appear to serve the purpose of tentacula, for fixing the orifice of the mouth, from their being inserted along the brim of that opening. After the rounded extremity or head has been narrowed into the neck, the lower part becomes flatted, and has two small tubercles placed on each flatted side; the tubercles are concave in the middle, and appear destined to serve the purpose of suckers, for attaching the head more effectually. The internal structure of the joints composing the body of this animal is partly vascular and partly cellular; the substance itself is white, and somewhat resembles in its texture the coagulated lymph of the human blood. The alimentary canal passes along each side of the animal, sending a cross canal over the bottom of each joint, which connects the two lateral canals together.

Mr. Carlisle injected, with a coloured size, at a single push with a small syringe, three feet in length of these canals, in the direction from the mouth downwards. He tried the injection the contrary way, but it seemed to be stopped with valves. The alimentary canal is impervious at the extreme joint, where it terminates without any opening analogous to an anus. Each joint has a vascular joint occupying the middle part, which is composed of a longitudinal canal, from which a great number of lateral canals branch off at right angles. These canals contain a fluid like milk.

The tænia seems to be one of the simplest vascular animals in nature. The way in which it is nourished is singular; the food being taken in by the mouth, passes into the alimentary canal, and is thus made to visit in a general way the different parts of the animal. As it has no excretory ducts, it would appear that the whole of its alimentary fluid is fit for nourishment; the decayed parts probably dissolve into a fluid, which transudes through the skin, which is extremely porous.

This animal has nothing resembling a brain or nerves, and seems to have no organs of sense, but those of touch. It is most probably propagated by ova, which may easily pass along the circulating vessels of other animals. We cannot otherwise explain the phenomena of worms being found in the eggs of fowls, and in the intestines of a fœtus before birth, except by supposing their ova to have passed through the circulating vessels of the mother, and by this means to have been conveyed to the fœtus.

The chance of an ovum being placed in a situation where it will be hatched, and the young find convenient subsistence, must be very small; hence the necessity for their being very prolific. If they had the same powers of fecundity which[Pg 224] they now possess, and their ova were afterwards very readily hatched, then the multiplication of these animals would be immense, and become a nuisance to the other parts of the creation.

Another mode of increase allowed to tænia, (if we may call it increase,) is by an addition to the number of their joints. If we consider the individual joints as distinct beings, it is so; and when we reflect upon the power of individuality given to each joint, it makes this conjecture the more probable. We can hardly suppose that an ovum of a tænia, which at its full growth is thirty feet long, and composed of four hundred joints, contained a young tænia composed of this number of pieces; but we have seen young tænia not half a foot long, and not possessed of fifty joints, which still were entire worms. We have also many reasons to believe, that when a part of this animal is broken off from the rest, it is capable of forming a head for itself, and of becoming an independent being. The simple construction of the head makes its regeneration a much more easy operation than that of the tails and feet of lizards, which are composed of bones and complicated vessels; but this last operation has been proved by the experiments of Spallanzani, and many other naturalists.


An article of great curiosity is, The Ship-worm.—This worm has a very slender, smooth, cylindrical shell; it inhabits the Indian seas, whence it was imported into Europe. It penetrates easily into the stoutest oak planks, and produces dreadful destruction to the ships, by the holes it makes in their sides: and it is to avoid the effects of this insect that vessels require sheathing.

The head of this creature is coated with a strong armour, and furnished with a mouth like that of the leech. A little above this it has two horns, which seem a kind of continuation of the shell; the neck is furnished with several strong muscles; the rest of the body is only covered by a very thin transparent skin, through which the motion of the intestines is plainly seen by the naked eye. This creature is wonderfully minute when newly excluded from the egg, but it grows to the length of four or six inches, and sometimes more. When the bottom of a vessel, or any piece of wood which is constantly under water, is inhabited by these worms, it is full of small holes; but no damage appears till the outer parts are cut away. Then their shelly habitations come into view, in which there is a large space for inclosing the animal, and surrounding it with water. There is an evident care in these creatures never to injure each other’s habitations; by which means each case or shell is preserved entire. These worms will appear, on a very little consideration, to be most important[Pg 225] beings in the great chain of creation, and pleasing demonstrations of the infinitely wise and gracious Power, which formed, and still preserves the whole, in such wonderful order and beauty; for if it were not for the rapacity of these and such animals, tropical rivers, and indeed the ocean itself, would be choked with the bodies of trees which are annually carried down by the rapid torrents, as many of them would last for ages, and probably be productive of evils, of which, happily, we cannot in the present state of things form any idea; whereas, being consumed by these animals, they are more easily broken in pieces by the waves; and the fragments which are not devoured become specifically lighter, and are consequently more readily and more effectually thrown on shore, where the sun, wind, insects, and various other instruments, speedily promote their entire dissolution.


We shall conclude this chapter with an account of a singular curiosity that was found in a colliery. It is A living Lizard, imbedded in Coal.—This animal, preserved in spirits, is now in the possession of Mr. James Scholes, engineer to Mr. Fenton’s colliery, near Wakefield. It is about five inches long; its back of a dark brown colour, and it appears rough and scaly; its sides are of a lighter colour, and spotted with yellow; the belly yellow, streaked with bands of the same colour as the back. Mr. S. related to me the following circumstances of its being found. In August last, they were sinking a new pit or shaft, and after passing through measures of stone, gray-bind, and blue stone, and some thin beds of coal, to the depth of one hundred and fifty yards, they came upon that intended to be worked, which is about four feet thick. When they had excavated about three inches of it, one of the miners (as he supposed) struck his pick, or mattock, into a crevice, and shattered the coal around into small pieces; he then discovered the animal in question, and immediately carried it to Mr. S.: it continued very brisk and lively for about ten minutes, then drooped and died. About four inches above the coal in which the animal was found, numbers of muscle-shells, in a fossil state, lay scattered in a loose gray earth.



[Pg 226]



The Common Peacock—The Egyptian Vulture—The Secretary Vulture—The Stork—The Great Pelican—The Bird of Paradise—The Ostrich—The Mocking-Bird of America—The Social Grosbeak—The Bengal Grosbeak—The Humming-Bird—The Golden Eagle.


The Peacock.

How rich the peacock! what bright glories run
From plume to plume, and vary in the sun!
He proudly spreads them to the golden ray,
And gives his colours to adorn the day;
With conscious state the spacious round displays,
And slowly moves amid the waving blaze.

This very beautiful and interesting bird has a compressed crest and solitary spurs. It is about the size of a turkey; the length from the top of the bill to the end of the tail being three feet eight inches. The bill is nearly two inches long, and is of a brown colour. The irides are yellow. On the crown there is a sort of crest, composed of twenty-four feathers, not webbed, except at the ends, which are gilded green. The shafts are of a whitish colour; and the head, neck, and breast, are of a green gold colour. Over the eye there is a streak of white, and beneath there is the same. The back and rump are of a green gold colour, glossed over with copper; the feathers are distinct, and lie over each other like shells. Above the tail springs an inimitable set of long beautiful feathers, adorned with a variegated eye at the end of each; these reach considerably beyond the tail, and the longest of them in many birds are four feet and a half long. This beautiful train, or tail, as it is improperly called, may be expanded in the manner of a fan, at the will of the bird. The true tail is hid beneath this group of feathers, and consists of eighteen gray-brown feathers, one foot and a half long, marked on the sides with rufous gray; the scapulars, and lesser wing coverts, are reddish cream colour, variegated with black; the middle coverts deep blue, glossed with green gold; the greatest and bastard wing, rufous; the quills are also rufous, some of them variegated with rufous, blackish, and green; the belly and vent are greenish black, the thighs yellowish, the legs stout, those of the male furnished with a strong spur, three-quarters of an inch in length, the colour of which is gray-brown.

[Pg 227]These birds, now so common in Europe, are of Eastern origin. They are found wild in the islands of Ceylon and Java, in the East Indies; and at St. Helena, Barbuda, and other West India islands. They are not natural to China; but they are found in many places in Asia and Africa. They are, however, no where so large or so fine as in India, in the neighbourhood of the Ganges, whence they have spread into all parts, increasing in a wild state in the warmer climates, but requiring care in the colder regions. In ours, this species does not come to its full plumage till the third year. The female lays five or six grayish white eggs; in hot climates twenty, the size of those of a turkey. These, if let alone, she lays in some secret place, at distance from the usual resort, to prevent their being broken by the male, which he is apt to do if he find them. The time of sitting is from twenty-seven to thirty days. The young may be fed with curds, chopped leeks, barley-meal, &c. moistened; and they are fond of grasshoppers, and some other insects. In five or six months they will feed as the old ones, on wheat and barley, with what else they can pick up in the circuit of their confinement. They seem to prefer the most elevated places to roost on during the night; such as high trees, tops of houses, and the like. Their cry is loud and inharmonious,—a perfect contrast to their external beauty. They are caught in India, by carrying lights to the trees where they roost, and having painted representations of the bird presented to them at the same time; when they put out the neck to look at the figure, the sportsman slips a noose over the head, and secures his game. In most ages they have been esteemed a salutary food. Hortensius gave the example at Rome, where it was counted the highest luxury, and sold dear, and a young peacock is thought a dainty, even in the present times. The life of these birds is reckoned by some at about twenty-five years; by others a hundred.

So beautiful a species of birds as the peacock could not long remain unknown: so early as the days of Solomon, we find, among the articles imported in his Tarshish navies, apes and peacocks. Ælian relates, that they were brought into Greece from some barbarous country; and that they were held in such high esteem, that a male and female were valued at Athens at 1000 drachmæ, or £32. 5s. 10d. At Samos they were preserved about the temple of Juno, being sacred to that goddess; and Gellius, in his Noctes Atticæ, c. xvi. commends the excellency of the Samian peacocks. When Alexander was in India, he found vast numbers of wild ones on the banks of the Hyarotis; and was so struck with their beauty, as to appoint a severe punishment on any person that killed them. Peacocks’ crests, in ancient times, were among the ornaments of the kings of England. Ernald de Aclent was fined to king John in one[Pg 228] hundred and forty palfreys, with sackbuts, lorams, gilt spurs, and peacocks’ crests, such as would be for his credit.


We shall now introduce The Egyptian Vulture.—The appearance of this bird is as horrid as can well be imagined. The face is naked and wrinkled; the eyes are large and black; the beak black and hooked; the talons large, and extended, ready for prey; and the whole body polluted with filth: these are qualities enough to make the beholder shudder with horror. Notwithstanding this, the inhabitants of Egypt cannot be thankful enough to Providence for this bird. All the places round Cairo are filled with the dead bodies of asses and camels, and thousands of these birds fly about and devour the carcases before they putrefy, and fill the air with noxious exhalations. The inhabitants of Egypt say, (and after them Maillet, in his description of Egypt,) that they yearly follow the caravan to Mecca, and devour the filth of the slaughtered beasts, and the carcases of the camels which die on the journey. They do not fly high, nor are they afraid of men. If one of them is killed, all the rest surround it in the same manner as do the Royston crows; they do not quit the places they frequent, though frightened by the explosion of a gun, but immediately return.


The Secretary Vulture.—This is a most singular species, being particularly remarkable from the great length of its legs, which at first sight would induce us to think it belonged to waders: but the characters of the vulture are so strongly marked throughout, as to leave no doubt to which class it belongs. This bird, when standing erect, is full three feet from the top of the head to the ground. The bill is black, sharp, and crooked, like that of an eagle; the head, neck, breast, and upper parts of the body, are of a bluish ash-colour; the legs are very long, stouter than those of a heron, and of a brown colour; claws shortish, but crooked, not very sharp, and of a black colour. From behind the head spring a number of long feathers, which hang loose behind, like a pendent crest; these feathers rise by pairs, and are longer as they are lower down on the neck; this crest, the bird can erect or depress at pleasure; it is of a dark colour, almost black; the webs are equal on both sides, and rather curled, and the feathers, when erected, somewhat incline towards the neck; the two middle feathers of the tail are twice as long as any of the rest. This singular species inhabits the internal parts of Africa, and is frequently seen at the Cape of Good Hope. It is also met with in the Philippine islands. As to the manners of this bird, it is on all hands allowed that it principally feeds on rats, lizards, snakes, and the like; and that it will become[Pg 229] familiar; whence Sonnerat is of opinion, that it might be made useful in some of our colonies, if encouraged, towards the destruction of those pests. They call it at the Cape of Good Hope, flang-eater, i. e. snake-eater. A great peculiarity belongs to it, perhaps observed in no other, which is, the faculty of striking forwards with its legs, never backwards. Dr. Solander saw one of these birds take up a snake, small tortoise, or such like, in its claws; when, dashing it against the ground with great violence, if the victim were not killed at first, it repeated the operation till that end was answered; after which it ate it up quietly. Dr. J. R. Forster mentioned a further circumstance, which he says was supposed to be peculiar to this bird,—that should it by any accident break the leg, the bone would never unite again.


The curious reader will be interested by the following singular particulars respecting The Stork.—The veneration shewn by the Germans for storks, is a very remarkable superstition. The houses which these birds light upon, are considered as under the special favour of Heaven. It is usual to contrive a small flat square spot on the top of the roof, for them to rest upon, and build their nests. Catholic curates, as well as Protestant ministers, endeavour to allure them to their churches. “I observed (says a French traveller) four or five steeples dignified by such visitors. There are people so lucky as to attract some of them into their poultry-yard, where they stalk about with the hens, but without yielding up any particle of their freedom. Were any one to kill a stork, he would be pursued like an Egyptian of old for killing an ibis, or for fricaseeing a cat.”

In a fire, by which the town of Delft in Holland was burnt to ashes, a stork, which had built her nest upon a chimney, strove all she could to save her little ones: she was seen spreading her wings around them, to keep off the sparks and burning embers. Already the flame began to seize upon her, but, unmindful of herself, she cared only for her offspring, bemoaning their loss, and at length fell a prey to the fire, under the eyes of a sympathizing crowd; prefering death with the pledges of her love, to life without them. This interesting anecdote was celebrated by a Flemish poet, who lived in 1503, in an effusion bearing the title of the “Stork of Delft; or, the Model of Maternal Love.”


The Great Pelican.—This bird is sometimes of the weight of twenty-five pounds, and of the width, between the extreme points of the wings, of fifteen feet; the skin, between the sides of the upper mandible, is extremely dilatable, reaching more than half a foot down the neck, and capable of [Pg 230]containing many quarts of water. The skin is often used by sailors for tobacco-pouches, and has been occasionally converted into ladies’ elegant work bags. About the Caspian and Black seas, these birds are very numerous; and they are chiefly to be found in the warmer regions, inhabiting almost every country of Africa. They build in the small isles of lakes, far from the habitations of man. The nest is a foot and a half in diameter; and the female, if molested, will remove her eggs into the water till the cause of annoyance is removed, and then return them to her nest of reeds and grass. These birds, though living principally upon fish, often build in the midst of deserts, where that element is rarely to be found. They are extremely dexterous in diving for their prey, and, after having filled their pouch, will retire to some rock, and swallow what they have taken at their leisure. They are said to unite with other birds in the pursuit of fish. The pelicans dive, and drive the fish into the shallows; the cormorants assist by flapping their wings on the surface, and, forming a crescent, perpetually contracting, they at length accomplish their object, and compel vast numbers into creeks and shallows, where they gratify their voracity with perfect ease, and to the most astonishing excess.


Another curiosity is, The Bird of Paradise.—In natural history, a genus of birds of the order Picæ. Generic character: bill covered at the base with downy feathers; nostrils covered by the feathers; tail of ten feathers, two of them, in some species, very long; legs and feet very large and strong. These birds chiefly inhabit North Guinea, whence they emigrate in the dry season to the neighbouring islands. Their feathers are used in these countries as ornaments for the head-dress; and the Japanese, Chinese, and Persians, import them for the same purpose. The rich and great among the latter attach these brilliant collections of plumage, not only to their own turbans, but to the housings and harnesses of their horses. They are found only within a few degrees of the equator. Gmelin enumerates twelve species, and Latham eight. P. apoda, or the greater Paradise bird, is about as large as a thrush. They pass in companies of thirty or forty together, headed by one whose flight is higher than that of the rest. They are often distressed by means of their long feathers, in sudden shiftings of the wind, and unable to proceed in their flight; are easily taken by the natives, who catch them with bird-lime, and shoot them with blunted arrows. They are sold at Aroo for an iron nail each, and at Banda for half a rix-dollar. Their food is not ascertained, and they cannot be kept alive in confinement. The smaller bird of Paradise is supposed, by Latham, to be a mere variety of the above. It is found only [Pg 231]in the Papuan islands, where it is caught by the natives often by the hand, and exenterated and seared with a hot iron in the inside, and then put into the hollow of a bamboo, to secure its plumage from injury.



Found in Europe, Asia, and Africa,
but in no part of the New World.



They are so fleet as easily to distance the swiftest horse.


The following account of the curiosities of The Ostrich, is taken from Lichtenstein’s Travels in South Africa, vol. II.—“The habits of the ostrich are so remarkable, and have been so imperfectly described by travellers in general, that I cannot forbear bringing together here all the knowledge I acquired upon the subject, both in this and subsequent journeys. I have noticed, on a former occasion, a large flock of ostriches, which we met in the neighbourhood of Komberg. In that country, the drought and heat sometimes compel these gigantic birds to leave the plains, and then they pursue their course together in large flocks to the heights, where they find themselves more commodiously lodged. At the time of sitting, there are seldom more than four or five seen together, of which only one is a cock, the rest are hens. These hens lay their eggs all together in the same nest, which is nothing more than a round cavity made in the clay, of such a size as to be covered by one of the birds, when sitting upon it. A sort of wall is scraped up round with their feet, against which the eggs in the outermost circle rest. Every egg stands upon its point in the nest, that the greatest possible number may be stowed within the space. When ten or twelve eggs are laid, they begin to sit, the hens taking their turns, and relieving each other during the day; at night the cock alone sits, to guard the eggs against the jackals and wild cats, who will run almost any risk to procure them. Great numbers of these smaller beasts of prey have often been found crushed to death about the nests; a proof that the ostrich does not fight with them, but knows very well how to conquer them at once by her own resistless power; for it is certain, that a stroke of her large foot trampling upon them, is enough to crush any such animal.

“The hens continue to lay during the time they are sitting, and that, not only till the nest is full, which happens when about thirty eggs are laid, but for some time after. The eggs laid after the nest is filled are deposited round about it, and seem designed by nature to satisfy the cravings of the above-mentioned enemies, since they very much prefer the new-laid eggs to those which have been brooded. But they seem also to have a more important designation, that is, to assist in the nourishment of the young birds. These, when first hatched, are as large as a common pullet, and since their tender stomachs cannot digest the hard food eaten by the old ones, the spare eggs serve as their first nourishment. The increase of[Pg 232] the ostrich race would be incalculable, had they not so many enemies, by which great numbers of the young are destroyed after they quit the nest.

“The ostrich is a very prudent, wary creature, which is not easily ensnared in the open field, since it sees to a very great distance, and takes to flight upon the least idea of danger. For this reason the quaggas generally attach themselves, as it were instinctively, to a troop of ostriches, and fly with them, without the least idea that they are followed. Xenophon relates, that the army of Cyrus met ostriches and wild asses together, in the plains of Syria.

“The ostriches are particularly careful to conceal, if possible, the places where their nests are made. They never go directly to them, but run round in a circle at a considerable distance before they attempt to approach the spot. On the contrary, they always run directly up to the springs where they drink, and the impressions they make on the ground, in the desolate places they inhabit, are often mistaken for the footsteps of men. The females, in sitting, when they are to relieve each other, either both remove awhile to a distance from the nest, or change so hastily, that any one who might by chance be spying about, could never see both at once. In the day-time, they occasionally quit the nest entirely, and leave the care of warming the eggs to the sun alone. If at any time they find that the place of their nest is discovered, that either a man or a beast of prey has been at it, and has disturbed the arrangement of the eggs, or taken any away, they immediately destroy the nest themselves, break all the eggs to pieces, and seek out some other spot to make a new one. When the colonist therefore finds a nest, he contents himself with taking one or two of the spare eggs that are lying near, observing carefully to smooth over any footsteps which may have been made, so that they may not be perceived by the birds. Thus visits to the nest may be often repeated, and it may be converted into a storehouse of very pleasant food, where, every two or three days, as many eggs may be procured as are wanted to regale the whole household.

“An ostrich’s egg weighs commonly near three pounds, and is considered as equal in its square contents to twenty-four hen’s eggs. The yolk has a very pleasant flavour, yet, it must be owned, not the delicacy of a hen’s egg. It is so nourishing and so soon satisfies, that no one can eat a great deal at once. Four very hungry persons would be requisite to eat a whole ostrich’s egg; and eight Africans, who are used to so much harder living, might make a meal of it. These eggs will keep for a very long time: they are often brought to the Cape Town, where they are sold at the price of half a dollar each.

[Pg 233]“In the summer months of July, August, and September, the greatest number of ostriches’ nests are to be found; but the feathers, which are always scattered about the nest at the time of sitting, are of very little value. I have, however, at all times of the year, found nests with eggs that have been brooded: the contrasts of the seasons being much less forcible in this part of the world than in Europe, the habits of animals are consequently much less fixed and regular. The ostrich sits from thirty-six to forty days before the young are hatched.

“It is well known that the male alone furnishes the beautiful white feathers which have for so long a time been a favourite ornament in the head-dress of our European ladies. They are purchased from the people who collect them, for as high as three or four shillings each; they are, however, given at a lower price, in exchange for European wares and clothing. Almost all the colonists upon the borders have a little magazine of these feathers laid by, and when they would make a friendly present to a guest, it is generally an ostrich’s feather. Few of them are, however, prepared in such a manner as to be wholly fit for the use of the European dealers. The female ostriches are entirely black, or rather, in their youth, of a very dark gray, but have no white feathers in the tail. In every other respect, the colour excepted, their feathers are as good as those of the males. It is very true, as Mr. Barrow says, that small stones are sometimes found in the ostrich’s eggs; it is not, however, very common; and, among all that I ever saw opened, I never met with one.”


We must not omit to give some account of The Mocking-Bird of America.—Those who have not heard the mocking-bird, can have no conception of his great superiority of song: he seems the merryandrew among birds, and the most serious and laboured efforts of the best performers appear to him only sport: he performs an antic dance to the sound of his own music; like jack-pudding, too, he seems to make game of his audience, for often, when he has secured the attention by the most delightful warblings, he will stop suddenly, and surprise them by the quack of a duck, the hiss of a goose, the monstrous note of the whip-poor-will, or any other unexpected sound: he possesses also the power of a ventriloquist, in being able to deceive his hearers as to the direction of the sound. When he is not seen, and while his listeners are looking for the enchanter on the roof of their own houses, he is perhaps playing his antic tricks on the chimney-top of some house at a considerable distance. When, however, there are no spectators during the stillness of night, he lays aside his frolic, and pours his “love-laboured songs;” and surely, if[Pg 234] there is fascination in sweet sounds, it must be in the song of this delightful bird, perched on the chimney-top, or on some tree near to the dwelling of man. He seems never to tire.


The next subject of curiosity is The Social Grosbeak.—This bird inhabits the interior country of the Cape of Good Hope, where it was discovered by Mr. Paterson. These birds live together in large societies, and their mode of nidification is extremely uncommon. They build in a species of mimosa, which grows to an uncommon size, and which they seem to select for that purpose, as well on account of its ample head, and the great strength of its branches, calculated to admit and to support the extensive buildings which they have to erect, as for the tallness and smoothness of its trunk, which their great enemies, the serpent tribe, are unable to climb.

The method in which the nests themselves are fabricated, is highly curious. In the one described by Mr. Paterson, there could be no less a number (he says) than from eight hundred to a thousand, residing under the same roof. He calls it a roof, because it perfectly resembles that of a thatched house; and the ridge forms an angle so acute and so smooth, projecting over the entrance of the nest below, that it is impossible for any reptile to approach them. The industry of these birds is almost equal, in his opinion, to that of the bee: throughout the day they appear to be busily employed in carrying a fine species of grass, which is the principal material they employ for the purpose of erecting this extraordinary work, as well as for additions and repairs.—“Though my short stay in the country was not sufficient to satisfy me, by ocular proof, that they added to their nest as they annually increased in numbers, still, from the many trees which I have seen borne down with the weight, and others which I have observed with their boughs completely covered over, it would appear, that this is really the case; when the tree, which is the support of this aërial city, is obliged to give way to the increase of weight, it is obvious they are no longer protected, and are under the necessity of building in other trees.

“One of these deserted nests I had the curiosity to break down, so as to inform myself of the internal structure of it, and found it equally ingenious with that of the external. There many entrances, each of which forms a regular street, with nests on both sides, at about two inches distant from each other. The grass with which they build, is called, the Boshman’s grass; and I believe the seed of it to be their principal food; though, on examining their nests, I found the wings and legs of different insects. From every appearance, the nest which I dissected had been inhabited for many years; and some parts of it were much more complete than others:[Pg 235] this therefore I conceive nearly to amount to a proof, that the animals added to it at different times, as they found necessary from the increase of the family, or rather of the nation or community.”


The Bengal Grosbeak.—This is an Indian bird, and is thus described by Mr. Latham. “This little bird (called bayà, in Hindu; berbera, in Sanscrit; bábùi, in the dialect of Bengal; cíbù, in Persian; and tenauwit, in Arabic, from its remarkably pendent nest) is rather larger than a sparrow, with yellow brown plumage, a yellowish head and feet, a light coloured breast, and a conic beak, very thick in proportion to his body. This bird is exceedingly common in Hindostan; he is astonishingly sensible, faithful, and docile, never voluntarily deserting the place where his young were hatched, but not averse, like most other birds, to the society of mankind, and easily taught to perch on the hand of his master. In a state of nature, he generally builds his nest on the highest tree that he can find, especially on the palmyra, or on the Indian fig-tree, and he prefers that which happens to overhang a well or rivulet: he makes it of grass, which he weaves like cloth, and shapes like a large bottle, suspending it firmly on the branches, but so as to rock with the wind, and placing it with its entrance downwards, to secure it from birds of prey. His nest usually consists of two or three chambers; and it is the popular belief that he lights them with fire-flies, which he catches alive at night, and confines with moist clay or cow-dung. That such flies are often found in his nest, where pieces of cow-dung are also stuck, is indubitable: but as their light could be of little use to him, it seems probable that he only feeds on them. He may be taught with ease to fetch any small thing that his master points out to him: it is an attested fact, that if a ring be dropped into a deep well, and a signal be given to him, he will fly down with amazing celerity, catch the ring before it touches the water, and bring it up with apparent exultation; and it is asserted, that if a house or any other place be shewn to him once or twice, he will carry a note thither immediately on a proper signal.

“One instance of his docility, I can myself mention with confidence, having often been an eye-witness of it. The young Hindoo women at Benares, and in other places, wear very thin plates of gold, called ticas, slightly fixed by way of ornament between their eye-brows; and when they pass through the streets, it is not uncommon for the youthful libertines, who amuse themselves with training bayas, to give them a signal, which they understand, and send them to pluck the pieces of gold from the foreheads of their mistresses, which they bring in triumph to the lovers. The baya feeds naturally[Pg 236] on grasshoppers and other insects, but will subsist, when tame, on pulse macerated in water: his flesh is warm and drying, and easy of digestion. The female lays many beautiful eggs, resembling large pearls; the white of them, when boiled, is transparent, and the flavour is exquisitely delicate. When many bayas are assembled on a high tree, they make a lively din, but it is rather chirping than singing; their want of musical talents is, however, amply supplied by their wonderful sagacity, in which they are not excelled by any feathered inhabitant of the forest.”


Another subject of acknowledged curiosity is, The Humming Bird.—There are sixty species enumerated by Latham, and Gmelin has sixty-five. The birds of this genus are the smallest of all birds. These diminutive creatures subsist on the juices of flowers, which they extract, like bees, while on the wing, fluttering over their delicate repast, and making a considerable humming sound, from which they derive their designation. They are gregarious, and build their nests with great neatness and elegance, lining them with the softest materials they can possibly procure.

The red-throated humming-bird is rather more than three inches long, and is frequent in various parts of North America. Its plumage is highly splendid and varying; it extracts the nectar of flowers, particularly those of a long tube, like the convolvulus or tulip. They will suffer themselves to be approached very near, but on observing an effort to seize them, dart off with the rapidity of an arrow. A flower is frequently the subject of bitter conflict between two of these birds; they will often enter an open window, and, after a short contest, retire. They sometimes soar perpendicularly to a considerable height, with a violent scream. If a flower which they enter furnishes them with no supply, they pluck it, as it were in punishment and revenge, from its stalk. They have been kept alive in cages for several weeks, but soon perish for want of the usual food, for which no adequate substitute has yet been found. Latham, however, mentions a curious circumstance of their being preserved alive by Captain Davies for four months, by the expedient of imitating tubular flowers with paper appropriately painted, and filling the bottom of the tubes with sugar and water as often as they were emptied. They then took their nourishment in the same manner as when unconfined, and soon appeared familiarized and happy. They build on the middle of the branch of a tree, and lay two eggs in an extremely small and admirably constructed nest.

The smallest of all the species is said, when just killed, to weigh no more than twenty grains. Its total length is an inch and a quarter. It is found in the West Indies and South [Pg 237]America, and is exceeded both in weight and magnitude by several species of bees.


We shall close this chapter with an account of The Golden Eagle.—This bird weighs above twelve pounds, and is about three feet long, the wings, when extended, measuring seven feet four inches. The sight and sense of smelling are very acute; the head and neck are clothed with narrow, sharp-pointed feathers, of a deep brown colour, bordered with tawny; the hind part of the head is of bright rust colour. These birds are very destructive to fawns, lambs, kids, and all kinds of game, particularly in the breeding season, when they bring a vast quantity of prey to their young. Smith, in his History of Kerry, relates, that a poor man in that country got a comfortable subsistence for his family, during a summer of famine, out of an eagle’s nest, by robbing the eaglets of the food the old ones brought, whose attendance he protracted beyond the natural time, by clipping the wings and retarding the flight of the former. It is very unsafe to leave infants in places where eagles frequent; there having been instances in Scotland of two being carried off by them; but, fortunately, the thefts were discovered in time, and the children were restored unhurt out of the eagles’ nests. In order to extirpate these pernicious birds, there is a law in the Orkney isles, which entitles every person that kills an eagle to a hen out of every house in the parish where it was killed. Eagles seem to give the preference to the carcases of dogs and cats. People who make it their business to kill those birds, lay one of these carcases by way of bait; and then conceal themselves within gun-shot. They fire the instant the eagle alights; for she that moment looks about before she begins to prey. Yet, quick as her sight may be, her sense of hearing seems still more exquisite. If hooded crows or ravens happen to be nearer the carrion, and resort to it first, and give a single croak, the eagle instantly repairs to the spot. These eagles are remarkable for their longevity, and for sustaining a long abstinence from food. Mr. Keysler relates, that an eagle died at Vienna after a confinement of 104 years. This pre-eminent length of days is alluded to by the Psalmist, “Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

One of this species, which was nine years in the possession of Owen Holland, Esq. of Conway, lived thirty-two years with the gentleman who made him a present of it; but what its age was, when the latter received it from Ireland, is unknown. The same bird also furnishes us with a proof of the truth of the other remark; having once, through the neglect of servants, endured hunger for twenty-one days without any sustenance whatever.

[Pg 238]Here it is proper to take notice of a very singular variety of the Golden Eagle, described by Mr. Bruce, in his Travels in Abyssinia; for, whether it properly belongs to this species or not, we do not find that it has been, as yet, either arranged under any other, or ranked as a different genus, (which indeed it appears to be,) by Mr. Kerr, or any other ornithologist. Mr. Bruce says, it is not only the largest of the eagle kind, but the largest bird that flies. By the natives it is vulgarly called abon duchem, or, father long-beard. It is not an object of any chase, nor stands in need of any stratagem to bring it within reach. Upon the highest top of mount Lamalmon, while Mr. Bruce’s servants were refreshing themselves after their toilsome ascent, and enjoying the pleasure of a most delightful climate, eating their dinner in the open air, with several large dishes of boiled goat’s flesh before them, this eagle suddenly made its appearance; he did not stoop rapidly from a height, but came flying slowly along the ground, and sat down close to the meat, within the ring the men had made around it. A great shout, or rather cry of distress, which they raised, made the bird stand for a minute as if to recollect himself; but while the servants ran for their lances and shields, his attention was fully fixed upon the flesh. He put his foot into the pan, where was a large piece in water nearly boiling; but feeling the smart, he withdrew it, and forsook the piece which he held. There were two large pieces, a leg and a shoulder, lying on a wooden platter: into these he struck his claws, and carried them off, skimming slowly along the ground, as he had come, till he disappeared behind a cliff. But being observed, at his departure, to look wistfully at the large piece which remained in the warm water, it was concluded that he would soon return; in expectation of which, Mr. Bruce loaded a rifle gun with ball, and sat down close to the platter by the meat. It was not many minutes before he came; and a prodigious shout was raised by the attendants, “He is coming, he is coming!” enough to have discouraged a less courageous animal. Whether he was not quite so hungry as at his first visit, or suspecting something from Mr. Bruce’s appearance, he made a small turn, and sat down about ten yards from him, the pan with the meat being between them. In this situation Mr. Bruce fired, and shot him with the ball through the middle of his body, about two inches below the wing, so that he lay down upon the grass without a single flutter. Upon laying hold of his monstrous carcase, our author was not a little surprised at seeing his hands covered and tinged with yellow dust. Upon turning him upon his belly, and examining the feathers of his back, they produced a brown dust, the colour of the feathers there. The dust was not in small quantities, for, upon striking his breast, the yellow powder flew in a greater quantity than[Pg 239] from a hair-dresser’s powder-puff. The feathers of the belly and breast, which were of a gold colour, did not appear to have any thing extraordinary in their formation, but the large feathers in the shoulders and wings seemed apparently to be fine tubes, which, upon pressure, scattered the brown dust upon the finer part of the feathers. Upon the side of the wing, the ribs, or hard part of the feather, seemed to be bare, as if worn, or, in our author’s opinion, were rather renewing themselves, having before failed in their function. What the reason is of this extraordinary provision of nature, Mr. Bruce does not attempt to determine. But as it is an unusual one, it is probably meant, he thinks, for a defence against the climate in favour of those birds, which live in those almost inaccessible heights of a country, doomed even in its lower parts to several months’ of excessive rain.

This bird, from wing to wing, was eight feet four inches; and from the tip of his tail to the point of his beak, four feet seven inches. He was remarkably short in the legs, being only four inches from the foot to the junction of the leg with the thigh; and from that to the body six inches. The thickness of his thigh was little less than four inches; it was extremely muscular, and covered with flesh. His middle claw was about two inches and a half long, not very sharp at the point, but extremely strong. From the root of the bill to the point was three inches and a quarter, and one inch and three-quarters in breadth at the root. A forked brush of strong hair, divided at the point into two, proceeded from the cavity of his lower jaw at the beginning of his throat. His eye was remarkably small in proportion to his bulk, the aperture being scarcely half an inch. The crown of his head, and the front, where the bill and skull joined, were bald.



[Pg 240]



The Cuckoo—The Cormorant—The Great Bustard—The Alarm-Bird—The Carrier, or Courier, Pigeon—The Wild Pigeon, its multiplying Power—Singular Bird, inhabiting a Volcano in Guadaloupe—Curious Adventure of an Owl—Curious Facts in Natural History—The Chick in the Egg.


The Cuckoo.—We shall introduce this curious bird, with the following well-known beautiful piece of poetry:—

Hail, beauteous stranger of the wood,
Attendant on the spring!
Now heav’n repairs thy rural seat,
And woods thy welcome sing.

Soon as the daisy decks the green,
Thy certain voice we hear:
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
Or mark the rolling year?

Delightful visitant! with thee
I hail the time of flow’rs,
When heaven is fill’d with music sweet
Of birds among the bow’rs.

The school-boy, wand’ring in the wood,
To pull the flow’rs so gay,
Starts, thy curious voice to hear,
And imitates thy lay.

Soon as the pea puts on the bloom,
Thou fly’st thy vocal vale,
An annual guest, in other lands,
Another spring to hail.

Sweet bird! thy bow’r is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year!

O could I fly, I’d fly with thee;
We’d make, with social wing
Our annual visit o’er the globe,
Companions of the spring.

This bird is described, in natural history, as a genus of the order of Picæ. Generic character: bill smooth, somewhat bending and weak; nostrils surrounded by a small rim; tongue short and arrowed; toes, two forward and two backward; tail wedge-formed, of ten soft feathers. Gmelin enumerates fifty-five[Pg 241] species, and Latham forty-six. The following are the most general characteristics of the Cuckoo:—

This bird is about fourteen inches long. It is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Its food consists of insects and the larvæ of moths, but when domesticated, which it may be without much difficulty, it will eat bread, fruits, eggs, and even flesh. When fattened, it is said to be excellent for the table. It is in this country a bird of passage, appearing first about the middle of April, and cheering the vicinity of its habitation with that well-known note, with which so many exquisite ideas and feelings are associated. This note is used only by the male bird, and this is the intimation of love. It has been heard, (though very rarely,) like the song of the nightingale, in the middle of the night. About the close of June this note ceases, but the cuckoo remains in England till towards the end of September. It is imagined sometimes to continue in the country for the whole of the year, as it has occasionally been seen here so early as February. Cuckoos are supposed to winter in Africa, as they are seen twice a year in the island of Malta.

With the history of these birds have been blended much fable and superstition; their manners, however, are unquestionably very curious; and fable in this, as in many other cases, is in a great degree connected with fact. It is almost universally agreed by naturalists, that the cuckoo does not hatch its own eggs, but deposits them in the nest of some other bird. Buffon mentions the names of twenty birds, or more, on which the cuckoo passes this fraud. Those most frequently duped by it, however, in this manner, are the yellow-hammer, the water-wagtail, and the hedge-sparrow; and of these three, by far more than the other two, the hedge-sparrow. The most minute and attentive examiner into this extraordinary peculiarity, is Mr. Edward Jenner; from whose observations on this interesting subject we shall select a few of the most important.

He states, that the hedge-sparrow is generally four or five days in completing her number of eggs, during which time the cuckoo finds an opportunity of introducing one of its own into the nest, leaving the future management of it to the hedge-sparrow; and that, though it frequently occurs that the latter is much discomposed by this intrusion, and several of the eggs are injured by her, and obliged to be removed from the nest, yet the egg of the cuckoo is never of this number. When the usual time of incubation is completed, and the young sparrows and cuckoo are disengaged from the eggs, the former are ejected from the nest, and the stranger obtains exclusive possession. A nest, built in a situation extremely convenient for minute observation, fell under the particular[Pg 242] examination of this gentleman, and was found on the first day to contain a cuckoo’s and three hedge-sparrows’ eggs. On the day following, he observed a young cuckoo and a hedge-sparrow, and as he could distinctly perceive every thing passing, he was resolved to watch the events which might take place. He soon, with extreme surprise, saw the young cuckoo, hatched only the day before, exerting itself with its rump and wings to take the young sparrow on its back, which it actually accomplished, and then climbed backwards with its burden to the verge of the nest, from which, with a sudden jerk, it clearly threw off its load; after which it dropped back into the nest, having first, however, felt about with the extremities of its wings, as if to ascertain whether the clearance were completely effected. Several eggs were afterwards put in to the young usurper, which were all similarly disposed of.—He observes, that in another instance, two cuckoos and a hedge-sparrow were hatched in the same nest, and one hedge-sparrow’s egg remained unhatched. Within a few hours, a conflict began between the two cuckoos for the possession of the nest, which was conducted with extreme spirit and vigour, and in which each appeared occasionally to have the advantage, lifting its adversary to the very brink of the nest, and then, from exhaustion of strength, sinking with it again to the bottom. These vicissitudes of success were repeated and reiterated; but towards the close of the following day, the contest was decided by one of them, which was rather the larger of the two, completely expelling his rival; after which, the egg and the young hedge-sparrow were dislodged with extreme facility. The infant conqueror was brought up by the step-mother with the most assiduous affection. The sagacity of the female cuckoo appears not inconsiderable, in her introducing her egg into the nests of birds whose young are inferior in size and strength to the young cuckoo, and which the latter is consequently able to exclude without difficulty from its usurped dominions.


We shall now call the reader’s attention to The Cormorant.—This bird, which is nearly as large as a goose, is found in many places both of the old and the new world; it is to be met with in the northern parts of this island, and one of them, not very long since, was shot while perched on the castle of Carlisle. These birds are shy and crafty, but frequently eat to so great an excess, as to induce a species of lethargy, in which they are caught by nets thrown over them without their making an effort to escape. They are trained by the Chinese to fish for them. By a ring placed round their necks, they are prevented from swallowing what they take, and, when their pouches are filled, they unload them, and[Pg 243] at the command of their owners, renew their divings. Two will sometimes be seen combining their efforts to secure a fish too large for the management of one only. When their work is finished to the employer’s satisfaction, the birds have a full allotment of the spoil, for their reward and encouragement. In Macao, also, these birds are thus domesticated, taking extreme delight in the exercise, and constituting a source of very considerable profit to their owners. They were formerly trained, and used in the same manner in England; and Charles I. had an officer of his household, called master of the cormorants.


The next curiosity among birds which we shall introduce, is, The Great Bustard.—This bird is found in the plains of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but it has never been observed in the New Continent. In England, it is occasionally met with on Salisbury Plain, and on the wolds of Yorkshire, and formerly it was not uncommonly seen in flocks of forty or fifty. It is the largest of British land birds, weighing often twenty-five or thirty pounds. It runs with great rapidity, so as to escape the pursuit of common dogs, but falls speedily a victim to the greyhound, which often overtakes it before it has power to commence its flight, the preparation for which, in this bird, is slow and laborious. The female lays her eggs on the bare ground, never more than two in number, in a hole scratched by her for the purpose, and if these are touched or soiled during her occasional absence, she immediately abandons them. The male is distinguished by a large pouch, beginning under the tongue, and reaching to the breast, capable of holding, according to Linnæus, seven quarts of water. This is sometimes useful to the female during incubation, and to the young before they quit their nest; and it has been observed to be eminently advantageous to the male bird himself, who, on being attacked by birds of prey, has often discomfited his enemies by the sudden and violent discharge of water upon them. These birds are solitary and shy, and feed principally upon grasses, worms, and grain. They were formerly much hunted with dogs, and considered as supplying no uninteresting diversion. They swallow stones, pieces of metal, and other hard substances. Buffon states, that one was opened by the academicians of France, which contained in its stomach ninety doubloons, and various stones, all highly smoothed by the attrition of the stomach.


The following deserves to be ranked among the curiosities of the feathered tribe; The Alarm-Bird.—Near the Coppermine River, which falls into Hudson’s Bay, live a tribe of Indians, who traverse the immense and dreary solitudes that[Pg 244] surround them, in pursuit of deer or other game, from which they derive their only subsistence. The animals, however, taught by experience to shun the haunts of men, and instinctively led to conceal themselves in the most sequestered spots, would with difficulty be discovered, were it not for one of the winged tribe of the owl genus, called the alarm-bird.

No sooner does this bird descry man or beast, than it directs its flight towards them, and, hovering over them, forms gyrations round their head. Should two objects at once arrest its attention, it flies from one to the other alternately, with a loud screaming, resembling the crying of a child; and in this manner it will follow travellers, or attend a herd of deer, for the space of a day.

By means of this guide, whose qualities so well correspond with its name, the Copper Indians are apprised of the approach of strangers, or directed to the herds of deer and musk-oxen, which otherwise they would frequently miss. Is it to be wondered at, then, that they hold the alarm-bird in the highest veneration? It seems, indeed, to have been intended by Providence for the solace and friend of the miserable inhabitants of those wild and sterile regions; and will furnish a new evidence of that superintending care which watches over all.

The Cuculus Indicator, so celebrated in the warmer climates for detecting the treasures of the bees, in the deep recesses of the woods, within the hollow trunks of trees, has, or may be thought to have, a view and an object in its services. It feels the want of human assistance, to enable it to enjoy the fruits of its discoveries, and therefore instinctively calls for it, in hopes of being recompensed with a share of the honey, which, we are told, the natives readily allow it; but the alarm-bird appears perfectly disinterested in its labours, it answers no purpose of its own, and therefore may be considered as one of the bounties of Heaven, to a people and a country almost shut out from the participation of the common blessings of life. It confers benefits without the prospect of a reward; and, for this reason, is entitled to the greater regard.

To contemplate the various animals that are dispersed over the globe, and the various blessings and advantages of different climates, will naturally lead us to the Source and Dispenser of all; and though some parts of the works of Creation are more conspicuously beneficial, and cannot escape the most common observer, yet we may, from analogy and reason, conceive that nothing was made in vain.


A subject of great curiosity, and pleasing admiration, is, The Carrier, or, Courier Pigeon.—These birds, though[Pg 245] carried, hoodwinked, twenty, thirty, or even a hundred miles, will find their way in a very little time to the place where they were bred. They are trained to this service in Turkey and Persia; and are carried first, while young, short flights of half a mile, afterwards more, till at length they will return from the farthest part of the kingdom. Every bashaw has a basket of these pigeons bred in the seraglio, which from a distance, upon any emergent occasion, (as an insurrection, or the like,) he dispatches, with letters braced under their wings, to the seraglio; which proves a more speedy method, as well as a more safe one, than any other: he sends out more than one pigeon, however, for fear of accidents. Lithgow assures us, that one of these birds will carry a letter from Babylon to Aleppo, which is thirty days’ journey, in forty-eight hours. This practice is very ancient: Hirtius and Brutus, at the siege of Modena, held a correspondence by pigeons; and Ovid tells us, that Taurosthenes, by a pigeon stained with purple, gave notice to his father of his victory at the Olympic games, sending it to him at Ægina. In modern times, the most noted were the pigeons of Aleppo, which served as couriers at Alexandretta and Bagdad. But this use of them has been laid aside for the last thirty or forty years, because the Curd robbers killed the pigeons. The manner of sending advice by them, was this: they took pairs which had young ones, and carried them on horseback to the place whence they wished them to return, taking care to let them have a full view. When the news arrived, the correspondent tied a billet to the pigeon’s foot, and let her loose. The bird, impatient to see its young, flew off like lightning, and arrived at Aleppo in ten hours from Alexandretta, and in two days from Bagdad. It was easy for them to find their way back, as Aleppo may be discovered at an immense distance. This pigeon has nothing peculiar in its form, except its nostrils, which, instead of being smooth and even, are swelled and rough.


It is presumed it will not be out of place to insert the following curious particulars respecting the Multiplying Power of the Wild Pigeon.—The following account is extracted from Janson’s Stranger in America. Mr. Richard Hazen, a land-surveyor, who, in 1741, drew the line which divides Massachusetts from Vermont, gives an interesting account of the multiplying power of nature in the wild pigeon: “For three miles together, (says he,) the pigeons’ nests were so thick, that five hundred might be reckoned on beech-trees at one time, and, could they have been counted on the hemlocks as well, he did not doubt that five thousand might be seen at one turn round. Twenty-five nests were frequently found in one beech-tree, in New England. The earth was[Pg 246] covered with these trees and with hemlocks, thus loaded with the nests of pigeons. For one hundred acres together, the ground was covered with their dung, to the depth of two inches. Their noise in the evening was extremely troublesome, and so great, that the traveller could not get any sleep where their nests abounded. About an hour before sun-rise they rose in such quantities as to darken the air. When the young pigeons were grown to a proper size, it was common for the first settlers to cut down the trees, and gather a horse-load in a few minutes. The markets at this season, even at Philadelphia, are often overstocked with them; a score of them have lately been purchased for sixpence. But as the land becomes settled, they retire into the back forests, where they are at this day in equal numbers! In North Carolina, wild pigeons or doves pass over the country in such numbers as to darken the air, devouring all kinds of grain in their progress. A large musket, loaded with small shot, fired among them, has killed scores; and boys knock them down with sticks and stones. I did not see this destructive phenomenon; but was credibly informed at Edenton, that it occurs once in seven, and sometimes in ten years. During my residence in that state, I cut holes in the top of my barn, and, by placing food on the roof, soon enticed about half a dozen from the adjacent woods. In a short time they became domesticated, and fed with the fowl, affording a constant and an agreeable food. When I left my residence, they had, notwithstanding the use I made of the young ones, increased to many scores. They grew so familiar, that they would watch my appearance in the morning, and perch upon me, in hopes of obtaining food, with which it was my practice to supply them. They distinguished me from my domestics, whom they would not suffer to approach them. They would permit me to go into their dovecot, without retreating; but the dam would often oppose my taking her young ones.”


The following account of a singular Bird inhabiting a Volcano in Guadaloupe, is taken from a respectable source.

Father Dutertre, in his Description of Guadaloupe, the best and most beautiful, in his opinion, of all the Leeward islands, speaks of an extraordinary bird which inhabits its volcanic mountain, called La Souffriere. This creature, called the Devil by the inhabitants, on account of its deformity, is both a night and sea bird. During the day, its vision appears to be indistinct, and it takes refuge near the top of the mountain, where it has its nest in the ground, and where it hatches its eggs. During the night, it flies about, and goes to prey on fish. Its flesh is so delicate, (adds Father Dutertre,) that no[Pg 247] huntsman returns from the Souffriere without ardently desiring to have a dozen of these birds suspended at his neck. Labat, the colleague of Dutertre, confirms and adds to the account of the latter. “The bird called the Devil, of La Souffriere, has (he says) membranes at his feet like a duck, and claws like a bird of prey, a sharp and curved beak, large eyes, which cannot bear the light of day, or discern almost any object, so that when surprised in the day-time, at a distance from his nest, he runs against every thing in his way, and falls to the ground; but during the night he is active in extracting his prey from the sea.” He adds, that “he is a bird of passage, and is considered a kind of petrel. I have taken pleasure in occasionally observing fishermen catch fish during the night by the light of a straw torch; but here we have a sea-bird of much greater ingenuity, which fishes by the light of a volcano, and hatches his eggs by the warmth of its sulphureous discharge.”


The following story is recorded in history as a fact, under the title of A curious Adventure of an Owl.

In a council held at Rome by Pope John XXIII. at the first session, happened the Adventure of the Owl.—“After the mass of the Holy Ghost, all being seated, and John sitting on his throne, suddenly a frightful owl came screaming out of his hole, and placed himself just before the pope, staring earnestly upon him. The arrival of this nocturnal bird in the day-time, caused many speculations: some took it for an ill omen, and were terrified; others smiled, and whispered to each other. As to the Pope, he blushed, was in a sweat, arose, and brake up the assembly. But at the next session, the owl took his place again, fixing his eyes upon John; who was more dismayed than before, and ordered the bird to be driven away. A pleasant sight it was, to behold the prelates occupied in hunting him, for he would not decamp! At last they killed him, as an incorrigible heretic, by throwing their canes at him.”—Jortin’s Ecclesiastical History, vol. v. p. 485, 486.


We shall next record some Curious Facts in Natural History.—We often meet in our aviaries with what are called mule canary birds, that is, the offspring of the gray linnet and the canary. “In the country, where the domestic fowls are accustomed to wander to a considerable distance from the farm-yard, I believe it is no uncommon occurrence for a chicken to make its appearance, that is evidently the offspring of the partridge and common hen. Indeed, I am inclined to think that the breed between fowls of the same genus are oftener crossed than we are aware of.”

It is a common practice in the country, to set a hen, as it is[Pg 248] called, with ducks’ eggs; and the agony which she suffers, when she sees her young charge first take to their natural element, the water, has often been observed with sympathy. The following anecdote may be relied upon, as the circumstance was observed by a gentleman of science:—

A hen, which was employed to hatch some ducks’ eggs in the neighbourhood of a dyer’s mill, where there was a small pond, was observed to exhibit the usual symptoms of terror and alarm when the ducklings first took to the water; but by degrees she became quite reconciled to their habits, and was accustomed to enjoy herself, in great quietness, on the banks, while they gamboled in the pool. For two or three years she uniformly brought out ducklings, and at last, as regularly led them to the water as their natural dam would have done.

In the course of time, however, she brought out a brood of chickens. These she immediately led to the side of the pool also; but, on finding they did not enter the water, she became quite uneasy, invited them close to it, made every motion for them to enter it, flew over the pond, and then called them to follow, but all to no purpose. When she found that nothing would entice them to enter the water, she actually seized upon one or two of them, and threw them into it; and, if she had not been prevented, it is believed she would have drowned her whole progeny. This shews how much the native habits, even of fowls, may be changed by circumstances; and proves, in some degree, the existence of memory without judgment in the feathered tribes.

Some years ago, a farmer in the lower district of Annandale, took it into his head to rob a wild duck of her eggs, and to place them under one of his tame ducks, that was sitting at that time. The young brood (twelve in number) came into the world at the usual period, but one only continued with her stepdame. This extraordinary bird, however, never perfectly acquired the habits or dispositions of her new sisterhood: she never would associate with the tame drakes, but every spring left the farm-yard, and proceeded to the wilds in quest of mates; and, what was remarkably singular, she seemed to have a malicious pleasure in leading them into a snare, and was at great pains to draw them into such situations as admitted of their being easily shot, or otherwise destroyed. She always hatched her young in a peat moss, at some distance from the house, but never failed to bring them to the farm-yard, as soon as they were able to follow her. When this duck was about four years old, the owner was visited by a kinsman from Fife, who was so much taken up with her, that he begged for, and obtained her, as a present. She was put into a cage, and by him conveyed to his house near [Pg 249]Kinross. She was kept in confinement for a night and a day; when, seeming perfectly contented, she was let out into the yard, where she set about adjusting herself for some time; she then suddenly took wing, and in the course of a few hours was among her old companions in Annandale. She was a second time conveyed to Fife, and her wings clipped.

She continued perfectly happy, to appearance, till her feathers grew, when she again bade her new friends farewell. She was shot in the neighbourhood of Biggar, by a gentleman, who communicated the circumstance to the owner, whose name he learned from the collar that was found about her neck, containing his name and place of abode.


Formation of the Chick in the Egg.—Scarcely has the hen sat upon the eggs twelve hours, before some lineaments of the head and body of the chick are discernible in the embryo; at the end of the second day, the heart begins to beat, but no blood is to be seen. In forty-eight hours we may distinguish two vesicles with blood, the pulsation of which is evident; one of them is the left ventricle, the other, the root of the great artery; soon after, one of the auricles of the heart is perceptible, in which pulsation may be remarked as well as in the ventricle. So early as the seventh hour, the wings may be distinguished, and on the head two globules for the brain, one for the beak, and two others for the front and hind part of the head. Towards the end of the fourth day, the two auricles, now distinctly visible, approach nearer the heart than they did before. About the fifth day the liver may be perceived; at the end of one hundred and thirty-eight hours, the lungs and stomach become visible; and in a few hours more, the intestines, veins, and upper jaw. On the seventh day, the brain begins to assume a more consistent form. One hundred and ninety hours after incubation, the beak opens, and flesh appears on the breast. In two hundred and ten, the ribs are formed, and the gall bladder is visible. The bile, in a few hours more, is seen of a green colour; and if the chick be separated from its coverings, it will be seen to move. The feathers begin to shoot towards the two hundred and fortieth hour, and at the same time the skull becomes cartilaginous; in twenty-four hours more, the eyes appear; at the two hundred and eighty-eighth, the ribs are perfected; and at the three hundred and thirty-first, the lungs, the stomach, and the breast, assume their natural appearance. On the eighteenth day of incubation, the first faint piping of the chick is heard. It then continually increases in size and in strength till it emerges from its prison.

By so many different gradations does the adorable wisdom of God conduct these creatures into life; all their progressive[Pg 250] evolutions are arranged with order, and there are none without sufficient cause. If the liver is always formed on the fifth day, it is from the preceding state of the chick. No part of its body could appear sooner or later, without some injury to the embryo, and each of its members appears at the most convenient moment. The wise and invariable order in the production of this little body, is evidently the work of supernal power; and we shall be more convinced of it, if we consider the manner in which the chick is formed from the parts which compose the egg.

How admirable is that principle of life, the source of a new being, contained in the egg; all the parts of the animal being invisible till they become developed by warmth! What a wonderful order and regularity is observed in this amazing process,—the same evolutions taking place at once in twenty eggs! Neither does changing the position of the egg at all injure the embryo, or retard the formation of the chick; which, at the time when it breaks the shell, is found to be heavier than the whole egg was at first. These, however admirable, are far from being all the wonders displayed in the progress of incubation. The microscope, and the penetrating investigations of the curious, have only discovered what comes more immediately under the observation of our senses; whilst the discovery of many things remains for those who are to follow us, or perhaps they may never be known in this state of our existence. Much might be asked concerning the mystery connected with the formation of animal bodies, which at present is impenetrable to our researches; but let not this discourage us; let us only endeavour to improve, and make a good use of, the little knowledge we are permitted to acquire, and we shall have a sufficiency to discover at every step the wisdom and power of God, and enough to employ for the benefit of our fellow-creatures.



[Pg 251]



Birds’ Nests—Migration of Birds—Curious Method of Bird-Catching in the Faro Isles—Song of Birds.


Birds’ Nests.

————It wins my admiration,
To view the structure of that little work,
A bird’s nest: mark it well within, without;
No tool had he that wrought, no knife to cut,
No nail to fix, no bodkin to insert,
No glue to join! his little beak was all;
And yet how neatly finish’d!

The structure of Bird’s Nests discovers to us many curious objects, which cannot be uninteresting to the reflecting mind. And who does not admire those little regular edifices composed of so many different materials, collected and arranged with so much pains and skill, and constructed with so much industry, elegance, and neatness, with no other tools than a bill and two feet? That men can erect great buildings according to certain rules of art, is not surprising, when we consider that they enjoy the reasoning faculty, and that they possess tools and instruments of various kinds, to facilitate their work; but that a delicate little bird, in want of almost every thing necessary for such an undertaking, with only its bill and claws, should know how to combine so much skill, regularity of form, and solidity of composition, in constructing its nest, is truly wonderful, and never enough to be admired. We shall therefore consider it more minutely.

Nothing is more curious than the nest of a goldfinch or a chaffinch. The inside of it is lined with cotton, wool, and fine silky threads, while the outside is interwoven with thick moss; and that the nest may be less remarkable, and less exposed to the eye of observers, the colour of the moss resembles that of the bark of the tree, or of the hedge, where the nest is built. In some nests, the hair, the down, and the straws, are curiously laid across each other, and interwoven together. There are others, all the parts of which are neatly joined and fastened together by a thread which the bird makes of flax, horse or cow hair, and often of spiders’ webs. Other birds, as the blackbird and the lapwing, after having constructed their nest, plaster the outside with a thin coating of mortar, which cements and binds together all the lower parts, and which, with the help of some cow-hair or moss, stuck to[Pg 252] it whilst the plaster is wet, keeps it compact and warm. The nests of swallows are differently constructed from the rest. They use neither sticks, straws, nor strings; but they compose a sort of cement, with which they make themselves nests, perfectly neat, secure, and convenient. To moisten the dust of which they form their nests, they frequently skim over the surface of some lake or river, and, dipping their breasts into the water, shake their wet feathers upon the dust till it is sufficiently moist, and then knead it up into a kind of clay with their bills.

But the nests most worthy of our admiration are those of certain Indian birds, which suspend them with great art from the branches of trees, that they may be secure from the pursuit of several animals and insects. In general, each species of bird has a peculiar mode of fixing its nest; some build them on houses, others in trees, some in the grass, others on the ground, and always in that way which is most adapted for the rearing of their young, and the preservation of their species. Such, therefore, is the wonderful instinct of birds, even in the structure and disposition of their nests alone, that we may safely conclude they cannot be mere machines. But is it not also apparent, that in all their works they propose to themselves certain ends? They construct their nests hollow, forming the half of a sphere, that the heat may be more concentric. The nest is covered without by substances more or less coarse, not only to serve as a foundation, but to prevent the wind and insects from entering. Within, it is lined with the most delicate materials, such as wool and feathers, that the nestlings may be soft and warm. Is it not something nearly approaching to reason, which teaches the bird to place its nest in such a manner as to be sheltered from rain, and out of the reach of destructive animals? Where have they learned that they are to produce eggs, which will require a nest to prevent them from being broken, and to keep them in the necessary temperature? that the heat would not be sufficiently concentrated if the nest were larger; and that, if it were smaller, all the young ones could not be contained in it? Who has taught them not to mistake the time, but to calculate so exactly, that the eggs are not laid before the nest is finished? These questions have never been satisfactorily answered, neither can this mystery in nature be clearly explained; all we can do is, to refer it to an instinct, which some animals seem to possess in a manner almost equal to reason: and instinct to them is much more happy and beneficial than reason would be; for they seem to enjoy all the sweets of life without their moments being imbittered by the consideration of their inferior rank in the creation, and without the pain of anticipating evil.

[Pg 253]The following account is principally abridged from that very interesting work, The Contemplative Philosopher. The present compiler acknowledges his obligations to that work on many occasions, and gives it his warmest recommendations to the public.


Migration of Birds.—The migration of birds has been justly considered as one of the most wonderful exhibitions of nature. This migration, which is common to the quail, the stork, the crane, the fieldfare, the woodcock, the cuckoo, the martin, the swallow, and various others, is, indeed, a very curious article in natural history, and furnishes a very striking instance of a powerful instinct impressed by the Creator. Dr. Derham observes two circumstances remarkable in this migration: the first, that these untaught, unthinking creatures, should know the proper times for their passage, when to come and when to go; as also, that some should come when others retire. No doubt, the temperature of the air as to heat and cold, and their natural propensity to breed their young, are the great incentives to these creatures to change their habitations. But why should they at all change their habitations? And why is some certain place to be found, in all the terraqueous globe, that, all the year round, can afford them convenient food and habitation?—The second remarkable circumstance is, that they should know which way to steer their course, and whither to go. What instinct is it that can induce a poor foolish bird to venture over vast tracts of land and sea. If it be said, that by their high ascents into the air, they can see across the seas; yet what shall instruct or persuade them, that another land is more proper for their purpose than this? that Great Britain, for instance, should afford them better accommodation than Egypt, the Canaries, Spain, or any of the other intermediate countries?—Physico-Theology, book vii. chap. 3.

Birds of passage, moreover, are all peculiarly accommodated, by the structure of their parts, for long flights; and it is remarked, that in their migrations, they observe a wonderful order and polity: they fly in troops, and steer their course, without the aid of a compass, to vast unknown regions. The flight of the wild geese, in a wedge-like figure, has been often observed; to which it is added, by the natural historian of Norway, that the three foremost, who are the soonest tired, retreat behind, and are relieved by others, who are again succeeded by the rest in order. But this circumstance has been observed, many ages before, by Pliny, who describes certain birds of passage flying in the form of a wedge, and spreading wider and wider; those behind resting upon those before, till the leaders being tired, are, in their turn, received into the rear.

[Pg 254]“Wild ducks and cranes (says Abbé de la Pluche) fly, at the approach of winter, in quest of more favourable climates. They all assemble at a certain day, like swallows and quails. They decamp at the same time, and it is very agreeable to observe their flight. They generally range themselves in a long column like an I, or in two lines united in a point like a > reversed.” And thus, as Milton says

“Rang’d in figure, wedge the way.”

“The duck or quail that forms the point (adds the Abbé) cuts the air, and facilitates a passage to those that follow: but he is charged with this commission only for a certain time, at the conclusion of which he wheels into the rear, and another takes his post.” And thus again, as Milton says,

“————With mutual wing
Easing their flight.”

It has been observed of the storks, that for about the space of a fortnight before they pass from one country to another, they constantly resort together, from all the circumjacent parts, to a certain plain, and there forming themselves once every day into a dou-wanne, (according to the phrase of the people,) are said to determine the exact time of their departure, and the places of their future abode.

Mr. Biberg, an ingenious naturalist of Sweden, has observed, that “the starling, finding, after the middle of summer, that worms are less plentiful in that country, goes annually into Scania, Germany, and Denmark. The female chaffinches, every winter, about Michaelmas, go in flocks to Holland; but as the males stay in Sweden, the females come back next spring. In the same manner, the female Carolina yellow-hammer, in the month of September, while the rice on which she feeds is laid up in granaries, goes towards the south, and returns in the spring to seek her mate. Our aquatic birds (continues he) are forced by necessity to fly toward the south every autumn, before the water is frozen. Thus we know, that the lakes of Poland and Lithuania are filled with swans and geese every autumn, at which time they go in great flocks, along many rivers, as far as the Euxine Sea. But in the beginning of spring, as soon as the heat of the sun molests them, they return back, and go again to the northern ponds and lakes, in order to lay their eggs. For there, and especially in Lapland, there is a vast abundance of gnats, which afford them excellent nourishment, as all of this kind live in the water before they get their wings.”—Mr. Biberg proceeds to enumerate many other birds that migrate to different regions; and he then adds: “By these migrations, birds become useful to many different countries, and are distributed almost over[Pg 255] all the globe; and I cannot here forbear expressing my admiration, that all of them exactly observe the times of coming and going, and that they never mistake their way.”—Biberg on the Economy of Nature, in Stillingfleet’s Misc. Tracts.

The principal food of the birds of passage, while in Great Britain, is the fruit of the whitethorn, or haws, which hang on our hedges in winter in prodigious plenty; but where they breed, and seem to be most at ease, as in Sweden, &c. there are no haws; nor indeed in many of the countries through which they journey on their way: so that it is evident they change their food in their passage.

The manner in which the birds of passage journey to their southern abodes is supposed to vary, according to the different structure of their bodies, and their power of supporting themselves in the air. The birds with short wings, such as the red-start, black-cap, &c. though they are incapable of such long flights as the swallow, or of flying with such celerity, yet may pass to less distant places, and by slower movements. Swallows and cuckoos may perform their passage in a very short time; but there is for them no necessity for speed, since every day’s passage affords them an increase of warmth, and a continuance of food.

Swallows are often observed, in innumerable flocks, on churches, rocks, and trees, previous to their departure hence; and Mr. Collinson proves their return here, perhaps in equal numbers, by two curious relations of undoubted credit; the one communicated to him by Mr. Wright, the master of a ship, and the other by Admiral Sir Charles Wager.—“Returning home, (says Sir Charles,) in the spring of the year, as I came into soundings in our channel, a great flock of swallows came and settled on my rigging; every rope was covered; they hung on one another, like a swarm of bees; the decks and awning were filled with them. They seemed almost famished and spent, and were only feathers and bones; but, being recruited with a night’s rest, they took their flight in the morning.” This apparent fatigue proves that they must have had a long journey, considering the amazing swiftness of these birds; so that, in all probability, they had crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and were returning from the shores of Senegal, or other parts of Africa.

Naturalists are much divided in their opinion concerning the periodical appearance and disappearance of swallows.—Some assert, that they remove from climate to climate, at those particular seasons when winged insects, their natural food, fail in one country and are plentiful in another, where they likewise find a temperature of air better suited to their constitution. In support of this opinion, we have the testimony of Sir Charles Wager, and of Mr. Adamson, who, in the [Pg 256]account of his voyage, informs us, that, about fifty leagues from the coast of Senegal, four swallows settled upon the ship, on the 6th day of October; that these birds were taken; and that he knew them to be the true swallow of Europe, which he conjectures were then returning to the coast of Africa.

But Mr. Daines Barrington, in a curious essay on this subject, has adduced many arguments and facts, to prove that no birds, however strong and swift in their flight, can possibly fly over such large tracts of ocean as has been commonly supposed. He is of opinion, therefore, that the swallows mentioned by Mr. Adamson, instead of being on their passage from Europe, were only fluttering from the Cape de Verde islands to the continent of Africa; a much nearer flight, but to which they seemed to be unequal, as they were obliged, from fatigue, to alight upon the ship, and fall into the hands of the sailors. And Mr. Kalm, another advocate for the torpidity of swallows during the winter, having remarked, however, that he himself had met with them nine hundred and twenty miles from any land; Mr. Barrington endeavours to explain these, and similar facts, by supposing that birds discovered in such situations, instead of attempting to cross large branches of the ocean, have been forcibly driven from some coast by storms, and that they would naturally perch upon the first vessel they could see.

In a word, Mr. Barrington is further of opinion, with some other naturalists, that the swallows do not leave this island at the end of autumn, but that they lie in a torpid state, till the beginning of summer, in the banks of rivers, in the hollows of decayed trees, the recesses of old buildings, the holes of sand-banks, and in similar situations. Among other facts, Mr. Barrington communicated one to Mr. Pennant, that “numbers of swallows have been found in old dry walls, and in sand-hills, near the seat of the late Lord Belhaven, in East Lothian; not once only, but from year to year; and that, when they were exposed to the warmth of a fire, they revived.”

These, and other facts of the same kind, are allowed to be incontrovertible; and Mr. Pennant, in particular, infers from them, that “we must divide our belief relative to these two so different opinions, and conclude, that one part of the swallow tribe migrate, and that others have their winter quarters near home.”

But there are still more wonderful facts related. Mr. Kalm remarks, that “swallows appear in the Jerseys about the beginning of April; that, on their first arrival, they are wet, because they have just emerged from the sea or lakes, at the bottom of which they had remained, in a torpid state, during the whole winter.” Other naturalists have asserted, that swallows pass the winter immersed under the ice, at the bottom of lakes, or[Pg 257] beneath the waters of the sea. Olaus Magnus, archbishop of Upsal, seems to have been the first who adopted this opinion. He informs us, that “swallows are found in great clusters at the bottoms of the northern lakes, with mouth to mouth, wing to wing, foot to foot, and that in autumn they creep down the reeds to their subaqueous retreats.” In other instances, Mr. Pennant remarks, the good archbishop did not want credulity. But the submersion of the swallows under water does not rest upon his testimony alone. Klein asserts the same; and gives the following account of the manner of their retiring, which he had from some countrymen:

“They asserted, that the swallows sometimes assembled in numbers on a reed, till it broke, and sunk them to the bottom; that their immersion was preceded by a kind of dirge, which lasted more than a quarter of an hour; that others united, laid hold of a straw with their bills, and plunged down in society; that others, by clinging together with their feet, formed a large mass, and in this manner committed themselves to the deep.” Bishop Pontoppidan asserts, that clusters of swallows, in their torpid winter state, have sometimes been found by fishermen, among reeds and bushes in lakes; and he charges Mr. Edwards with having, in his Natural History of Birds, groundlessly contradicted this incontestable truth. And Mr. Heerkens, a celebrated Dutch naturalist, in a poem on the birds of Friesland, speaks in positive terms of the torpid state, and submersion, of the swallows:

“Ere winter his somnif’rous power exerts,
Six dreary months the swallow-tribes are seen
In various haunts conceal’d; in rocks, and caves,
And structures rude, by cold benumb’d, asleep;
Bill within bill inserted, clust’ring thick:
Or solitary some, of mate bereft.
But, wonderful to tell! some lie immers’d,
Inanimate, beneath the frigid waves,
As if a species of the finny kinds.”

Mr. Heerkens, after reciting many instances, and producing in his notes many authorities, of swallows having been found in a torpid state, proceeds, in his poem, to describe, very minutely, their ascent out of the water. The drowsy birds appear on the shore, as if unconscious still of life. Some inhale the soft breeze, like one of the finny tribe exiled from its stream. Some begin to adjust their dishevelled wings.—Others, almost revived, essay, with busy bill, to assist their aged companions. All, at length, restored to the unrestrained use of their wings, range, in numerous flights, the aërial way.

Two reasons have, been adduced to prove this supposed submersion of swallows impossible. “In the first place, (says[Pg 258] Mr. Smellie,) no land animal can exist so long without some degree of respiration. The otter, the seal, and water fowls of all kinds, when confined under the ice, or entangled in nets, soon perish; yet it is well known, that animals of this kind can remain much longer under water than those who are destitute of that peculiar structure of the heart, which is necessary for any considerable residence beneath that penetrating element.”

Mr. John Hunter, in a letter to Mr. Pennant, informs us, “that he had dissected many swallows, but found nothing in them different from other birds, as to the organs of respiration; that all those animals which he had dissected, of the class that sleep during the winter, such as lizards, frogs, &c. had a very different conformation as to those organs; that all those animals, he believes, do breathe in their torpid state, and, as far as his experience reaches, he knows they do; and that, therefore, he esteems it a very wild opinion, that terrestrial animals can remain any long time under water without drowning.” Another argument against their submersion arises from the specific gravity of the animals themselves. Of all birds, the swallow tribes are perhaps the lightest. Their plumage, and the comparative smallness of their weight, indicates that Nature destined them to be almost perpetually on the wing, in quest of food. From this specific lightness, the submersion of swallows, and their continuing for months underwater, amount to a physical impossibility. Even water fowls, when they wish to dive, are obliged to rise and plunge with considerable exertion, in order to overcome the resistance of the water. Klein’s idea of swallows employing reeds and straws as means of submersion, is rather ludicrous; for these light substances, instead of being proper instruments for assisting them to reach the bottom, would infallibly contribute to support them on the surface, and prevent the very object of their intention. Besides, admitting the possibility of their reaching the bottom of lakes and seas, and supposing they could exist for several months without respiration, what would be the consequence? The whole would soon be devoured by otters, seals, and fishes, of various kinds. Nature is always anxious for the preservation of its species. But if the swallow tribes were destined to remain torpid during the winter months, at the bottom of lakes and seas, she would act in opposition to her own intentions; for, in a season or two, the whole genus would be annihilated.

This reasoning is very ingenious, but, on the other hand, the facts related above are very stubborn; and the celebrated Buffon does not hesitate to yield to the force of such strong and concurrent evidence. He had procured some chimney-swallows, and kept them some time in an icehouse, in order[Pg 259] to ascertain whether they were of the torpid kind, and he thus relates the result of his experiments. “None of them fell into the torpid state; the greater part died, and not one of them revived by being moved into the warmth of the sun. Those that had not long suffered the cold of the icehouse, had all their movements, and went out briskly. From these experiments I thought I might conclude, that this species of the swallow was not liable to that state of torpor and insensibility, which supposes, notwithstanding, and very necessarily, the fact of their remaining at the bottom of the water during the winter. Having had recourse, moreover, to the most creditable travellers, I found them agreed as to the passage of swallows over the Mediterranean. And Mr. Adamson has positively assured me, that during the long stay he made in Senegal, he observed the long-tailed swallow, the same with the chimney-swallow we are now speaking of, arrive constantly in Senegal about the time it leaves France, and as constantly leave Senegal in the spring. It cannot, therefore, be doubted, that this species of the swallow passes from Europe into Africa in the autumn, and from Africa to Europe in the spring; of consequence, it neither sleeps nor hides itself in holes, nor plunges into the water on the approach of winter. There is, besides, another well authenticated fact, which comes in proof here, and shews that this swallow is not reduced to a torpid state by cold, which it can bear to a certain degree, (and if that degree is exceeded, it dies,) for if we observe these birds towards the end of the warm season, we shall see them, a little before their departure, flying together in families, the father, the mother, and the young brood. Afterwards several families unite, and form themselves into flocks, more or less numerous in proportion as the time of their departure draws near. At last they go all together, three or four days before the end of September, or about the beginning of October. Still, however, some remain, and do not set off till a week, a fortnight, or three weeks after the rest: and some too there are which do not go at all, but stay and perish under the first rigours of the cold. These swallows that delay their flight, or never undertake it, are such as find their young too weak to follow them; such as have had the misfortune to have their nests destroyed after laying, and have been obliged to rebuild them a second or a third time. They stay for the love of their little ones, and choose rather to endure the rigour of the season, than to abandon their offspring. Thus they remain some time after the rest for the purpose of taking their young with them; and if they are unable to carry them off in the end, they perish with them.

“These facts then plainly demonstrate (concludes Mr. [Pg 260]Buffon) that the chimney-swallows pass successively and alternately from our climate to another that is warmer; that they spend their summer here, and their winter there; and of consequence never fall into a state of insensibility. But, on the other hand, what have we to oppose to the precise testimony of those, who, on the approach of winter, have seen these swallows in troops throw themselves into the water; nay, not only this, but have seen them taken out in nests from beneath the ice? What answer shall we make to those who have beheld them in the torpid state, and seen them gradually recover motion and life, when they were brought into the warmth, and moved cautiously towards a fire? I know but of one means of reconciling these facts: we must suppose that the sleeping and travelling swallow are of different species, though the difference, for want of attention, has not been observed.”

Thus this great philosopher concurs with Mr. Pennant, in his solution, already mentioned, of the difficulty, by supposing two species—the migrating, and the sleeping swallow. With respect to the principal objects of this wonderful instinct, that teaches such various kinds of the feathered race to migrate to different countries, it is obvious, from what has already been said, that they are governed by their food, temperature of air, and convenient situations for breeding.


We shall now give an account of the Curious Method of Bird-Catching in the Faro Isles.—The manner of bird-catching in the Faro Islands, is exceedingly strange and hazardous. Necessity compels man to wonderful attempts. The cliffs which contain the objects of their search, are often two hundred fathoms in height, and are attempted both from above and below. In the first case, the fowlers provide themselves with a rope eighty or a hundred fathoms in length. The fowler fastening one end about his waist, and between his legs, recommends himself to the protection of the Almighty, and is lowered down by six others, who place a piece of timber on the margin of the rock, to preserve the rope from wearing against the sharp edge. They have, besides, a small line fastened to the body of the adventurer, by which he gives signals, that they may lower or raise him, or shift him from place to place. The last operation is attended with great danger, by the loosening of the stones, which often fall on his head, and would infallibly destroy him, were he not protected by a strong thick cap; but even this is found unequal to save him against the weight of the larger fragments of rock. The dexterity of the fowlers is amazing; they will place their feet against the front of the precipice, and dart themselves some fathoms from it; with a cool eye survey the places where [Pg 261]the birds nestle, and again shoot into their haunts. In some places the birds lodge in deep recesses. The fowler will alight there, disengage himself from the rope, fix it to a stone, and at his leisure collect the booty, fasten it to his girdle, and resume his pendulous seat. At times he will again spring from the rock, and in that attitude, with a fowling-net placed on a staff, catch the old birds that are flying to and from their retreats. When he has finished his dreadful employ, he gives a signal to his friends above, who pull him up, and share his hard-earned profit. The feathers are preserved for exportation: the flesh is partly eaten fresh, but the greater part is dried for winter’s provision.



The engraving represents the situation of a bird-catcher at St. Kilda. A tale is told of one of these men who had entered such a cavern, and in the excitement produced by finding its floor all strewn over with eggs, forgot the rope and loosened his hold: in a moment it was gone, and as he turned he saw it swinging at the mouth of the cavern. In vain he tried to reach it, it was beyond his grasp; he tried again and again, but all to no purpose, while, as if in mockery of his dismay, it swung idly in the air, just passing beyond his reach. What was he to do? A projection of rock concealed him from the observation of those above, while the roar of the sea prevented their hearing his cries. If they drew up the rope and found him not there, he knew they would conclude he had lost his hold and dropped into the sea, and he would then be left to starve in the cave. The rope still kept passing backwards and forwards, as if tantalizing him with the hope of escape. Every minute now seemed an age; at length, almost wild with despair, he formed the desperate resolution to spring at the rope as it passed by him. He watched for a favorable opportunity and leaped from the cave: fortunately he was successful in catching it with a firm grasp, and was safely drawn again to the top.


The fowling from below has also its share of danger. The party goes on the expedition in a boat; and when it has attained the base of the precipice, one of the most daring, having fastened a rope about his waist, and furnished himself with a long pole, with an iron hook at one end, either climbs or is thrust up by his companions, who place a pole under his breech, to the next footing spot he can reach. He, by means of the rope, brings up one of the boat’s crew; the rest are drawn up in the same manner, and each is furnished with his rope and fowling-staff. They then continue their progress upwards in the same manner, till they arrive at the regions of the birds, and wander about the face of the cliff in search of them. They then act in pairs; one fastens himself to the end of his associate’s rope, and, in places where the birds have nestled beneath his footing, he permits himself to be lowered down, depending for his security on the strength of his companion, who has to haul him up again; but it sometimes happens that the person above is overpowered by the weight, and both inevitably perish. They fling the fowl into the boat, which attends their motions, and receives the booty. They often pass seven or eight days in this tremendous employ, and lodge in the crannies which they find in the face of the precipice.


We shall close this division of our work with A curious Account of the Song of Birds.—We introduce the subject by the following poetical quotations; which, we have no doubt, will interest every admirer of nature, and nature’s God.

———————————Every copse
Deep-tangled, tree irregular, and bush
Bending with dewy moisture, o’er the heads
Of the coy choristers that lodge within,
Are prodigal of harmony.

———————————Each bird,
Or high in air, or secret in the shade,
Rejoicing, warbles wild his grateful hymn.
[Pg 262]
From branch to branch the smaller birds with song
Solace the woods, and spread their painted wings
Till even; nor then the solemn nightingale
Ceases to warble: in shadiest covert hid,
She all the night tunes her soft lays.


——————The sweet poet of the vernal groves
Melts all the night in strains of am’rous woe.


————When the spring renews the flow’ry field,
And warns the pregnant nightingale to build,
She seeks the safest shelter of the wood,
Where she may trust her little tuneful brood.
Fond of the chosen place, she views it o’er,
Sits there, and wanders through the grove no more:
Warbling, she charms it each returning night;—
And gives the pensive mind a calm delight.

The lark, that shuns on lofty boughs to build
Her humble nest, sits silent in the field;
But if the promise of a cloudless day,
(Aurora smiling,) bids her rise and play,
Then straight she shews ’twas not for want of voice,
Or pow’r to climb, she made so low a choice;
Singing she mounts, her airy wings are stretch’d
Tow’rds heaven, as if from heav’n her note she fetch’d.

————————Birds of sweetest song
Attune from native boughs their various lay,
And cheer the forest; those of brighter plume
With busy pinion skim the glitt’ring wave,
Or tempt the sun, ambitious to display
Their several merit.

The Song of Birds is defined, by the Hon. Daines Barrington, to be a succession of three or more different notes, which are continued without interruption, during the same interval, with a musical bar of four crotchets, in an adagio movement, or whilst a pendulum swings four seconds. It is affirmed, that the notes of birds are no more innate than language in man, and that they depend upon imitation, as far as their organs will enable them to imitate the sounds which they have frequent opportunities of hearing: and their adhering so steadily, even in a wild state, to the same song, is owing to the nestling attending only to the instruction of the parent bird, whilst they disregard the notes of all others that may be singing around them. Birds in a wild state do not usually sing above ten weeks in the year; whereas birds that have plenty of food in a cage, sing the greatest part of the year: the female of no species of birds ever sings. This is a wise provision, because her song would discover her nest. In the same manner, we may account for her inferiority of plumage. The faculty of singing is confined to the cock birds; and accordingly Mr. Hunter, in dissecting birds of several species, found the [Pg 263]muscles of the larynx to be stronger in the nightingale than in any other bird of the same size; and in all those instances where he dissected both cock and hen, the same muscles were stronger in the cock.

It is an observation as ancient as the time of Pliny, that a capon does not crow. Some ascribe the singing of the cock in the spring solely to the motive of pleasing his mate during incubation; others, who allow that it is partly for this end, believe it is partly owing to another cause, viz. the great abundance of plants and insects in spring, which are the proper food of singing birds at that time of the year, as well as seeds. Mr. Barrington remarks, that there is no instance of any singing bird which exceeds our blackbird in size; and this, he supposes, may arise from the difficulty of concealing itself, should it call the attention of its enemies, not only by its bulk, but by the proportionate loudness of its notes. He further observes, that some passages of the song in a few kinds of birds correspond with the intervals of our musical scale, of which the cuckoo is a striking and known instance; but the greater part of their song cannot be reduced to a musical scale; partly because the rapidity is often so great, and it is also so uncertain when they may stop, that we cannot reduce the passages to form a musical bar in any time whatsoever; partly also, because the pitch of most birds is considerably higher than the most shrill notes of those instruments which have the greatest compass; and principally, because the intervals used by birds are commonly so minute, that we cannot judge of them from the more gross intervals into which we divide our musical octave. This writer apprehends, that all birds sing in the same key; and he found by a nightingale, as well as a robin which was educated under him, that the notes reducible to our intervals of the octave were always precisely the same. Most people, who have not attended to the notes of birds, suppose, that every species sing exactly the same notes and passages: but this is not true; though there is a general resemblance. Thus the London bird-catchers prefer the song of the Kentish goldfinches, and Essex chaffinches; and some of the nightingale fanciers prefer a Surrey bird to those of Middlesex.

Of all singing birds, the song of the nightingale has been most universally admired; and its superiority consists in the following particulars: its tone is much more mellow than that of any other bird, though, at the same time, by a proper exertion of its musical powers, it can be very brilliant. Another superiority is, its continuance of song without a pause, which is sometimes twenty seconds; and when respiration becomes necessary, it takes it with as much judgment as an opera singer. The skylark, in this particular, as well as in[Pg 264] compass and variety, is only second to the nightingale. The nightingale also sings with judgment and taste. Mr. Barrington says, that his nightingale began softly, like the ancient orators, reserving its breath to swell certain notes, which thus had a most astonishing effect. He adds, that the notes of birds which are annually imported from Asia, Africa, and America, both singly and in concert, are not to be compared to those of European birds. He has also formed a table, to exhibit the comparative merits of the British singing birds; wherein twenty being the point of perfection, he states the nightingale at nineteen; the woodlark and skylark at eighteen; the blackcap at fourteen; the titlark, linnet, goldfinch, and robin, at twelve; with some variations respecting mellowness, sprightliness, execution, &c. for which, with the proportional differences of other birds, we refer to his work.


We cannot resist the temptation to insert the following well-known

Written at Claverton, near Bath

Again the balmy zephyr blows,
Fresh verdure decks the grove;
Each bird with vernal rapture glows,
And tunes his notes to love.

Ye gentle warblers, hither fly,
And shun the noontide heat;
My shrubs a cooling shade supply,
My groves a safe retreat.

Here freely hop from spray to spray,
Or weave the mossy nest,
Here rove and sing the live-long day,
At night here sweetly rest.

Amidst this cool translucent rill,
That trickles down the glade,
Here bathe your plumes, here drink your fill,
And revel in the shade.

No schoolboy rude, to mischief prone,
E’er shows his ruddy face,
Or twangs his bow, or hurls a stone,
In this sequester’d place.

Hither the vocal thrush repairs,
Secure the linnet sings:
The goldfinch dreads no slimy snares,
To clog her painted wings.

Sad Philomel! ah, quit thy haunt,
Yon distant woods among,
And round my friendly grotto chaunt
Thy sweetly plaintive song.
[Pg 265]
Let not the harmless redbreast fear,
Domestic bird, to come
And seek a sure asylum here,
With one that loves his home.

My trees for you, ye artless tribe,
Shall store of fruit preserve:
O let me thus your friendship bribe!
Come, feed without reserve.

For you these cherries I protect,
To you these plums belong;
Sweet is the fruit that you have pick’d,
But sweeter far your song.

Let then this league betwixt us made,
Our mutual int’rest guard;
Mine be the gift of fruit and shade,
Your songs be my reward.





To their delicious task the fervent bees,
In swarming millions, tend; around, athwart,
Through the soft air the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and with inserted tube
Suck its pure essence, its ethereal soul;
And oft, with bolder wing, they, soaring, dare
The purple heath, or where the wild thyme grow,
And yellow load them with the luscious spoil.

What various wonders may observers see
In a small insect—the sagacious bee!
Mark how the little untaught builders square
Their rooms, and in the dark their lodgings rear;
Nature’s mechanics, they unwearied strive
And fill, with curious labyrinths, the hive.
See what bold strokes of architecture shine
Through the whole frame, what beauty, what design!


The Honey Bee.

This important insect has been long and justly celebrated for its wonderful polity, the neatness and precision with which it constructs its cells, and the diligence with which it provides, during the warmth of summer, a supply of food for the support of the hive during the rigours of the succeeding winter. The general history of this interesting insect has been amply detailed by various authors, as Swammerdam, Reaumur, &c. &c. Among the most elaborate accounts of later times, may be mentioned that of Mr. John Hunter, which made its appearance in the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1792;[Pg 266] and that of M. Huber, contained in his Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles, addressed to M. Bonnet, the celebrated author of the “Contemplations de la Nature.” The following account is drawn principally from Hunter and Huber.

There are three periods, observes Hunter, at which the history of the bee may commence: first, in the spring, when the queen begins to lay her eggs; in the summer, at the commencement of a new colony; or in the autumn, when they go into winter-quarters. We shall begin the particular history of the bee with the new colony, when nothing is formed. When a hive sends off a colony, it is commonly in the month of June; but that will vary according to the season, for, in a mild spring, bees sometimes swarm in the middle of May, and very often at the latter end of it. Before they come off, they commonly hang about the mouth of the hole or door of the hive for some days, as if they had not sufficient room within for such hot weather, which we believe is very much the case; for if cold or wet weather come on, they stow themselves very well, and wait for fine weather. But swarming appears to be rather an operation arising from necessity; for they do not seem to remove voluntarily, because if they have an empty space to fill, they do not swarm; therefore, by increasing the size of the hive, the swarming is prevented. This period is much longer in some than in others. For some evenings before they come off, is often heard a singular noise, a kind of ring, or sound of a small trumpet; by comparing it with the notes of a piano-forte, it seemed to be the same sound with the lower A of the treble. The swarm commonly consists of three classes; a female or females, males, and those commonly called mules, which are supposed to be of no sex, and are the labourers; the whole, about two quarts in bulk, making about six or seven thousand. It is a question that cannot easily be determined, whether this old stock sends off only young of the same season, and whether the whole of their young ones, or only a part.

As the males are entirely bred in the same season, part go off; but part must stay, and most probably it is so with the others. They commonly come off in the heat of the day, often immediately after a shower. When one goes off, they all immediately follow, and fly about, seemingly in great confusion, although there is one principle actuating the whole. They soon appear to be directed to some fixed place; such as the branch of a tree or bush, the cavities of old trees, or holes of houses leading into some hollow place; and whenever the stand is made, they immediately repair to it till they are all collected. But it would seem, in some cases, that they had not fixed upon any resting-place before they come off, or, if they had, that they were either disturbed, if it was near, or[Pg 267] that it was at a great distance; for, after hovering some time, as if undetermined, they fly away, mount up into the air, and go off with great velocity. When they have fixed upon their future habitation, they immediately begin to make their combs for they have the materials within themselves. “I have reason,” says Mr. Hunter, “to believe that they fill their crops with honey when they come away, probably from the stock in the hive. I killed several of those that came away, and found their crops full, while those that remained in the hive had their crops not near so full: some of them came away with farina on their legs, which I conceive to be rather accidental. I may just observe here, that a hive commonly sends off two, sometimes three swarms in a summer, but that the second is commonly less than the first, and the third less than the second; and this last has seldom time to provide for the winter.

“The materials of their dwelling or comb, which is the wax, is the next consideration, with the mode of forming, preparing, or disposing of it. In giving a totally new account of the wax, I shall first shew it can hardly be what it has been supposed to be. First, I shall observe that the materials, as they are found composing the comb, are not to be found in the same state (as a composition) in any vegetable, where they have been supposed to be got. The substance brought in on the legs, which is the farina of the flowers of plants, is, in common, I believe, imagined to be the materials of which the wax is made, for it is called by most, the wax: but it is the farina, for it is always of the same colour as the farina of the flower where they are gathering; and, indeed, we see them gathering it, and we also see them covered almost all over with it like a dust: nevertheless, it has been supposed to be the wax, or that the wax was extracted from it. Reaumur is of this opinion.

“I made several experiments, to see if there was such a quantity of oil in it, as would account for the quantity of wax to be formed, and to learn if it was composed of oil. I held it near the candle; it burnt, but did not smell like wax, and had the same smell when burning, as farina when it was burnt. I observed, that this substance was of different colours on different bees, but always of the same colour on both legs of the same bee; whereas a new-made comb was all of one colour. I observed, that it was gathered with more avidity for old hives, where the comb is complete, than for those hives where it was only begun, which we could hardly conceive, admitting it to be the materials of wax. Also we may observe, that at the very beginning of a hive, the bees seldom bring in any substance on their legs for two or three days, and after that, the farina gatherers begin to increase; for now some[Pg 268] cells are formed to hold it as a store, and some eggs are laid, which, when hatched, will require this substance as food, and which will be ready when the weather is wet.

“The wax is formed by the bees themselves; it may be called an external secretion of oil, and I have found that it is formed between each scale of the under side of the belly. When I first observed this substance, in my examination of the working bee, I was at a loss to say what it was: I asked myself if it were scales forming, and whether they cast the old, as the lobster, &c. does? but it was to be found only between the scales on the lower side of the belly. On examining the bees through glass hives, while they were climbing up the glass, I could see that most of them had this substance, for it looked as if the lower or posterior edge of the scale was double, or that there were double scales; but I perceived it was loose, not attached. Finding that the substance brought in on their legs was farina, intended, as appeared from every circumstance, to be the food of the bee, and not to make wax; and not having yet perceived any thing that could give me the least idea of wax; I conceived these scales might be it, at least I thought it necessary to investigate them. I therefore took several on the point of a needle, and held them to a candle, where they melted, and immediately formed themselves into round globules; upon which I no longer doubted that this was the wax, which opinion was confirmed to me by not finding those scales but in the building season.

“The cells, or rather the congeries of cells, which compose the comb, may be said to form perpendicular plates, or partitions, which extend from top to bottom of the cavity in which they build, and work downwards; but if the upper part of this vault to which their combs are fixed, is removed, and a dome is put over, they begin at the upper edge of the old comb, and work up into the new cavity at the top. They generally may be guided, as to the directions of their new plates, by forming ridges at top, to which they begin to attach their combs. In a long hive, if these ridges are longitudinal, their plates of comb will be longitudinal; if placed transversely, so will be the plates; and if obliquely, the plates of comb will be oblique also. Each plate consists of a double set of cells, whose bottoms form the partition between each set. The plates themselves are not very regularly arranged, not forming a regular plane where they might have done so, but are often adapted to the situation or shape of the cavity in which they are built.

“The bees do not endeavour to shape their cavity to their work, as the wasps do, nor are the cells of equal depths, also fitting them to their situation; but as the breeding cells must all be of a given depth, they reserve a sufficient number for breeding in, and they put the honey into the others, as also[Pg 269] into the shallow ones. The attachment of the comb round the cavity is not continued, but interrupted, so as to form passages in the middle of the plates, especially if there be a cross-stick to support the comb; these allow of bees to go across from plate to plate. The substance which they use for attaching their combs to surrounding parts, is not the same as the common wax; it is softer and tougher, a good deal like the substance with which they cover in their chrysalis, or the humblebee surrounds her eggs. It is probably a mixture of wax with farina. The cells are placed nearly horizontal, but not exactly so; the mouth raised a little, which probably may be to retain the honey the better: however, this rule is not strictly observed, for often they are horizontal, and towards the lower edge of a plane of comb they are often declining. The first combs that a hive forms are the smallest, and much neater than the last or lowermost. Their sides or partitions, between cell and cell, are much thinner, and the hexagon is much more perfect. The wax is purer, being probably little else but wax, and it is more brittle. The lower combs are considerably larger, and contain much more wax, or perhaps, more properly, more materials; and the cells are at such distances as to allow them to be of a round figure; the wax is softer, and there is something mixed with it. I have observed that the cells are not all of equal size, some being a degree larger than others; and that the small are the first formed, and of course at the upper part, where the bees begin; and the larger are nearer the lower part of the comb, or last made: however, in hives of a particular construction, where the bees may begin to work at one end, and can work both down and towards the other end, we often find the larger cells both on the lower part of the combs, and also at the opposite end; these are formed for the males to be bred in: in the hornet and wasp combs there are larger cells for the queens to be bred in; these are also formed in the lower tier, and are the last formed.

“The first comb made in a hive is all of one colour, viz. almost white; but is not so white towards the end of the season, having then more of a yellow cast.”

What follows is principally abridged from Huber, who in many instances is more correct than Hunter.—A hive contains three kind of bees. 1. A single queen bee, distinguishable by the great length of her body, and the proportional shortness of her wings. 2. Working-bees, female non-breeders, or, as they were formerly called, neuters, to the amount of many thousands; these are the smallest bees in the hive, and are armed with a sting. 3. Drones, or males, to the number perhaps of fifteen hundred or two thousand; these are larger[Pg 270] than the workers, and of a dark colour; they make a great noise in flying, and have no sting. The whole labour of the community is performed by the workers: they elaborate the wax, and construct the cells; they collect the honey, and feed the brood. The drones, numerous as they are, serve no other purpose than to ensure the increase of the hive, and are regularly massacred by the workers at the beginning of autumn.

It is the office of the queen-bee to lay the eggs. These remain about three days in the cells before they are hatched. A small white worm then makes its appearance, (called indifferently, worm, larva, maggot, or grub;) this larva is fed with honey for some days, and then changes into a nymph or pupa. After passing a certain period in this state, it comes forth a perfect winged insect.

M. Huber, after noticing the propagation of this industrious race, next states the accidental discovery of the very singular and unexpected consequences which follow from retarding the impregnation of the queen-bee beyond the twentieth or twenty-first day of her life. In the natural order of things, or when impregnation is not retarded, the queen begins to lay the eggs of workers forty-six hours after, and she continues for the subsequent eleven months to lay none but these; “and it is only after this period, that a considerable and uninterrupted laying of the eggs of drones commences. When, on the contrary, impregnation is retarded after the twenty-eighth day, the queen begins, from the forty-sixth hour, to lay the eggs of drones; and she lays no other kind during her whole life.” It would be tedious to detail the experiments; they were numerous, and the results uniform. “I occupied myself (says M. Huber) the remainder of 1787, and the two subsequent years, with experiments on retarded fecundation, and had constantly the same results.” It is undoubted, therefore, that when the course of natural instinct is retarded beyond the twentieth day, only an imperfect generation is produced; as the queen, instead of laying the eggs of workers and of males equally, will lay those of males only.

This discovery is entirely M. Huber’s own: and so difficult is it to offer any plausible explanation of the fact, that he himself has scarcely attempted it.

The working-bees had been for ages considered as entirely destitute of sex; and hence, in the writings of many authors, they are denominated neuters, but from the experiments of Schirach and Huber, it seems now to be clearly ascertained, that the workers are really of the female sex.

M. Huber confirms the curious discovery of M. Schirach, that when bees are by any accident deprived of their queen, they have the power of selecting one or two grubs of workers, and of converting them into queens; and that they [Pg 271]accomplish this by greatly enlarging the cells of those selected larvæ, by supplying them more copiously with food, and with that of a more pungent sort than is given to the common larvæ.

M. Huber gives the following curious account of the manner in which bees proceed in forming capacious cells for the workers’ grubs destined to royalty.—“Bees soon become sensible of having lost their queen, and in a few hours commence the labour necessary to repair their loss. First they select the young common worms, which the requisite treatment is to convert into queens, and immediately begin with enlarging the cells where they are deposited. Their mode of proceeding is curious; and the better to illustrate it, I shall describe the labour bestowed on a single cell, which will apply to all the rest containing worms destined for queens. Having chosen a worm, they sacrifice three of the contiguous cells; next they supply it with food, and raise a cylindrical enclosure around, by which the cell becomes a perfect tube, with a rhomboidal bottom; for the parts forming the bottom are left untouched. If the bees damaged it, they would lay open three corresponding cells on the opposite surface of the comb, and consequently destroy their worms, which would be an unnecessary sacrifice, and nature has opposed it. Therefore, leaving the bottom rhomboidal, they are satisfied with raising a cylindrical tube around the worm, which, like the other cells in the comb, are horizontal. But this habitation remains suitable to the worm called to the royal state, only during the first three days of its existence: another situation is requisite for the other two days it is a worm. During that time, though so small a portion of its life, it must inhabit a cell nearly of a pyramidical figure, and hanging perpendicularly. The workers, therefore gnaw away the cells surrounding the cylindrical tube, mercilessly sacrifice their worms, and use the wax in constructing a new pyramidical tube, which they solder at right angles to the first, and work it downwards. The diameter of this pyramid decreases insensibly from the base, which is very wide, to the point. In proportion as the worm grows, the bees labour in extending the cell, and bring food, which they place before its mouth, and near its body, forming a kind of cord around it. The worm, which can move only in a spiral direction, turns incessantly to take the food before its head: it insensibly descends, and at length arrives at the orifice of the cell. Now is the time of transformation to a nymph. As any further care is unnecessary, the bees close the cell with a peculiar substance appropriated for it, and there the worm undergoes both its metamorphoses.”

M. Huber relates some experiments which confirm the singular discovery of M. Riems, concerning common working[Pg 272] bees that are capable of laying eggs,—which, we may remark, is certainly a most convincing proof of their being of the female sex. Eggs were observed to increase in number daily, in a hive in which there were no queens of the usual appearance; but small queens considerably resemble workers, and to discriminate them, required minute inspection. “My assistant,” (says M. Huber,) “then offered to perform an operation that required both courage and patience, and which I could not resolve to suggest, though the same expedient had occurred to myself. He proposed to examine each bee in the hive separately, to discover whether some small queen had not insinuated herself among them, and escaped our first researches. It was necessary, therefore, to seize every one of the bees, notwithstanding their irritation, and to examine their specific character with the utmost care. This my assistant undertook, and executed with great address. Eleven days were employed in it; and, during all that time, he scarcely allowed himself any relaxation but what the relief of his eyes required. He took every bee in his hand; he attentively examined the trunk, the hind limbs, and the sting; and he found that there was not one without the characteristics of the common bee, that is, the little basket on the hind legs, the long trunk, and the straight sting.”

When a supernumerary queen is produced in a hive, or is introduced into it in the course of experiment, either she or the rightful owner soon perishes. The German naturalists, Schirach and Riems, imagined that the working bees assailed the stranger, and stung her to death. Reaumur considered it as more probable, that the sceptre was made to depend on the issue of a single combat between the claimants; and this conjecture is verified by the observations of Huber. The same hostility towards rivals, and destructive vengeance against royal cells, animates all queens, whether they be virgins, or in a state of impregnation, or mothers of numerous broods. The working bees, it may here be remarked, remain quiet spectators of the destruction, by the first-hatched queen, of the remaining royal cells; they approach only to share in the plunder presented by their havock-making mistress, greedily devouring any food found at the bottom of the cells, and even sucking the fluid from the abdomen of the nymphs before they toss out the carcase.

The following fact, connected with this subject, is one of the most curious perhaps in the whole history of this wonderful insect. Whenever the workers perceive that there are two rival queens in the hive, numbers of them crowd around each; they seem to be perfectly aware of the approaching deadly conflict, and willing to prompt their Amazonian chieftains to the battle; for as often as the queens shew a disinclination[Pg 273] to fight, or seem inclined to recede from each other, or to fly off, the bees immediately surround and detain them; but when either combatant shews a disposition to approach her antagonist, all the bees forming the clusters instantly give way, to allow her full liberty for the attack. It seems strange that those bees, who in general shew so much anxiety about the safety of their queen, should, in particular circumstances, oppose her preparations to avoid impending danger,—should seem to promote the battle, and to excite the fury of the combatants.

When a queen is removed from a hive, the bees do not immediately perceive it; they continue their labours, “watch over their young, and perform all their ordinary occupations. But, in a few hours, agitation ensues; all appears a scene of tumult in the hive. A singular humming is heard; the bees desert their young, and rush over the surface of the combs with a delirious impetuosity.” They have now evidently discovered that their sovereign is gone; and the rapidity with which the bad news spreads through the hive, to the opposite side of the combs, is very remarkable. On replacing the queen in the hive, tranquillity is almost instantly restored. The bees, it is worthy of notice, recognize the individual person of their own queen. If another be palmed upon them, they seize and surround her, so that she is either suffocated, or perishes by hunger; for it is very remarkable, that the workers are never known to attack a queen bee with their stings. If, however, more than eighteen hours have elapsed before the stranger queen be introduced, she has some chance to escape: the bees at first seize and confine her, but less rigidly; and they soon begin to disperse, and at length leave her to reign over a hive, in which she was at first treated as a prisoner. If twenty-four hours have elapsed, the stranger will be well received from the first, and at once admitted to the sovereignty of the hive. In short, it appears that the bees, when deprived of their queen, are thrown into great agitation; that they wait about twenty hours, apparently in hopes of her return; but that, after this interregnum, the agitation ceases, and they set about supplying their loss by beginning to construct royal cells. It is when they are in this temper, and not sooner, that a stranger queen will be graciously received; and upon her being presented to them, the royal cells, in whatever state of forwardness they may happen to be, are instantly abandoned, and the larvæ destroyed. Reaumur must therefore have mistaken the result of his own experiments, when he asserts, that a stranger queen is instantly well received, though presented at the moment when the other is withdrawn. He had seen the bees crowding around her at the entrance of the hive, and laying their antennæ over her;[Pg 274] and this he seems to have taken for caressing. The structure of the hives he employed prevented him from seeing further: had he used the leaf-hive, or one of similar construction, he would have perceived that the apparent caresses of the guards were only the prelude to actual imprisonment.

It is well known, that after the season of swarming, a general massacre of the drones is commenced. Several authors assert, in their writings, that the workers do not sting the drones to death, but merely harass them till they are banished from the hive and perish. M. Huber contrived a glass table, on which he placed several hives, and he was thus able to see distinctly what passed at the bottom of the hive, which is generally dark and concealed: he witnessed a real and furious massacre of the males, the workers thrusting their stings so deep into the bodies of the defenceless drones, that they were obliged to turn on themselves as on a pivot, before they could extricate them. The work of death commenced in all the hives much about the same time. It is not, however, by a blind or indiscriminating instinct, that the workers are impelled thus to sacrifice the males; for if a hive be deprived of its queen, no massacre of the males takes place in it, while the hottest persecution rages in all the surrounding hives. In this case, the males are allowed to survive the winter. Mr. Bonner had observed this fact; he supposed, however, that the workers thus tolerated the drones for the sake of the additional heat they generated in the hive; but we now see the true reason to be, that without them the new queen would not be fruitful. The drones are also suffered to exist in hives that possess fertile workers, but no proper queen; and, what is remarkable, they are likewise spared in hives governed by a queen whose fecundity has been retarded. Here, then, we perceive a counter-instinct opposed to that which would have impelled them to the usual massacre.

Upon the subject of swarming, M. Huber commences with an interesting account of the hatching of the queen bee. When the pupa is about to change into the perfect insect, the bees render the cover of the cell thinner, by gnawing away part of the wax; and with so much nicety do they perform this operation, that the cover at last becomes pellucid, owing to its extreme thinness. This must not only facilitate the exit of the fly, but, M. Huber remarks, it may possibly be useful in permitting the evaporation of the superabundant fluids of the nymph. After the transformation is complete, the young queens would, in common course, immediately emerge from their cells, as workers and drones do; but the bees always keep them prisoners for some days in their cells, supplying them in the mean time with honey for food; a small hole being made in the door of each cell, through which the[Pg 275] confined bee extends its proboscis to receive it. The royal prisoners continually utter a kind of song, the modulations of which are said to vary. The final cause of this temporary imprisonment, it is suggested, may possibly be, that they may be able to take flight at the instant they are liberated. When a young queen at last gets out, she meets with rather an awkward reception; she is pulled, bitten, and chased, as often as she happens to approach the other royal cells in the hive. The purpose of nature here seems to be, that she should be impelled to go off with a swarm as soon as possible. A curious fact was observed on these occasions: when the queen found herself much harassed, she had only to utter a peculiar noise, (the commanding voice, we may presume, of sovereignty,) and all the bees were instantaneously constrained to submission and obedience. This is, indeed, one of the most marked instances in which the queen exerts her sovereign power.

The conclusions at which M. Huber arrives on the subject of swarms are the following:—

First, “A swarm is always led off by a single queen, either the sovereign of the parent hive, or one recently brought into existence. If, at the return of spring, we examine a hive well peopled, and governed by a fertile queen, we shall see her lay a prodigious number of male eggs in the course of May, and the workers will choose that moment for constructing several royal cells.” This laying of male eggs in May, M. Huber calls the great laying; and he remarks, that no queen ever has a great laying till she be eleven months old. It is only after finishing this laying, that she is able to undertake the journey implied in leading a swarm; for, previously to this, “latum trahit alvum,” which unfits her for flying. There appears to be a secret relation between the production of the male eggs, and the construction of royal cells. The great laying commonly lasts thirty days; and regularly, on the twentieth or twenty-first, several royal cells are founded.

Secondly, “When the larvæ hatched from the eggs laid by the queen in the royal cells are ready to transform to nymphs, this queen leaves the hive, conducting a swarm along with her; and the first swarm that proceeds from the hive is uniformly conducted by the old queen.” M. Huber remarks, that it was necessary that instinct should impel the old queen to lead forth the first swarm: for, that she being the strongest, would never have failed to have overthrown the younger competitors for the throne. An old queen, as has already been said, never quits a hive at the head of a swarm, till she has finished her laying of male eggs; but this is of importance, not merely that she may be lighter and fitter for flight, but that she may be ready to begin with the laying of workers’ eggs in her new habitation, workers being the bees first needed,[Pg 276] in order to secure the continuance and prosperity of the newly-founded commonwealth.

Thirdly, “After the old queen has conducted the first swarm from the hive, the remaining bees take particular care of the royal cells, and prevent the young queens, successively hatched, from leaving them, unless at an interval of several days between each.” Under this head he introduces a number of general remarks, some of which may prove useful. “A swarm (he observes) is never seen unless in a fine day, or, to speak more correctly, at a time of the day when the sun shines, and the air is calm. Sometimes we have observed all the precursors of swarming, disorder and agitation: but a cloud passed before the sun, and tranquillity was restored; the bees thought no more of swarming. An hour afterwards, the sun having again appeared, the tumult was renewed; it rapidly augmented, and the swarm departed.” A certain degree of tumult commences as soon as the young queens are hatched, and begin to traverse the hive: the agitation soon pervades the whole bees; and such a ferment soon rages, that M. Huber has often observed the thermometer in the hive to rise suddenly from about 92° to above 104°: this suffocating heat he considers as one of the means employed by nature for urging the bees to go off in swarms. In warm weather, one strong hive has been known to send off four swarms in eighteen days.

The cause of the bees, which has been so eloquently and pathetically pleaded by the Poet of the Seasons, is supported by M. Huber, on a principle more intelligible, perhaps, and more persuasive, to most country bee-masters, viz. interest. He deprecates the destruction of bees, and recommends to the cultivator to be content with a reasonable share of the wealth of the hive; arguing very justly, we believe, that a little taken from each of a number of hives, is ultimately much more profitable than a greater quantity obtained by a total destruction of a few.

We conclude our observations on this curious insect by two poetical quotations.

“Of all the race of animals, alone
The bees have common cities of their own.
Mindful of coming cold, they share the pain,
And hoard for winter’s use the summer’s gain.
Some o’er the public magazines preside,
And some are sent new forage to provide;
These drudge in fields abroad, and those at home
Lay deep foundations for the labour’d comb;
To pitch the waxen flooring some contrive;
Some nurse the future nation of the hive.
Their toil is common, common is their sleep;
They shake their wings when morn begins to peep:
Rush through the city gates without delay,
Nor ends their work but with declining day.”

[Pg 277]Churchill, after the following beautiful and picturesque description, introduces a sovereign, drawing from it, in a soliloquy, the most natural reflections on the momentous duties of his station.

Strength in her limbs, and on her wings dispatch,
The bee goes forth; from herb to herb she flies,
From flow’r to flow’r, and loads her lab’ring thighs
With treasur’d sweets, robbing those flow’rs, which left,
Find not themselves made poorer by the theft,
Their scents as lively, and their looks as fair,
As if the pillager had not been there.
Ne’er doth she flit on pleasure’s silken wing,
Ne’er doth she loit’ring let the bloom of spring
Unrifled pass, and on the downy breast
Of some fair flow’r indulge untimely rest.
Ne’er doth she, drinking deep of those rich dews
Which chemist Night prepar’d, that faith abuse
Due to the hive, and, selfish in her toils,
To her own private use convert the spoils.
Love of the stock first call’d her forth to roam,
And to the stock she brings her honey home.”





Wild Bees.

The Clothier Bee.—The Carpenter Bee.—The Mason Bee.—The Upholsterer Bee.—The Leaf-cutter Bee.—Curious Account of an Idiot Boy and Bees.—Mr. Wildman’s Curious Exhibitions of Bees explained.


The Clothier Bee.

Learn each small people’s genius, policies,
The ants’ republic, and the realm of bees;
How those in common all their wealth bestow
And anarchy without confusion know;
And these for ever, though a monarch reign,
Their separate cells and properties maintain.
Mark what unvary’d laws preserve each state,
Laws, wise as Nature, and as fixt as Fate.

The following curious account of wild bees is principally abridged from Kirby and Spence’s very interesting work on entomology.

The clothier bee is a lively and gay insect. It does not excavate holes for their reception, but places them in the cavities of old trees, or of any other object that suits its purpose. Sir Thomas Cullum discovered the nest of one in the inside of the lock of a garden gate, in which Mr. Kirby also[Pg 278] since twice found them. It should seem, however, that such situations would be too cold for the grubs without a coating of some non-conducting substance. The parent bee, therefore, after having constructed the cells, laid an egg in each, and filled them with a store of suitable food, plasters them with a covering of vermiform masses, apparently composed of honey and pollen; and having done this, aware (long before Count Rumford’s experiments) what materials conduct heat most slowly, she attacks the woolly leaves of Stachy’s lanata, Agrostemma coronaria, and similar plants, and with her mandibles industriously scrapes off the wool, which with her fore legs she rolls into a little ball, and carries to her nest. This wool she sticks upon the plaster that covers her cells, and thus closely envelopes them with a warm coating of down, impervious to every change of temperature.


The Carpenter Bee.—A numerous family of wild bees may properly be compared to carpenters, boring with incredible labour, out of the solid wood, long cylindrical tubes, and dividing them into various cells. Amongst these, one of the most remarkable is the Apis violacea, L. (Xylacopa, Latr.) a large species, a native of southern Europe, distinguished by beautiful wings of a deep violet colour, and found commonly in gardens, in the upright putrescent espaliers, or vine props, of which, and occasionally in the garden seats, doors, and window-shutters, she makes her nest. In the beginning of spring, after repeated and careful surveys, she fixes upon a piece of wood suitable for her purpose, and with her strong mandibles begins the process of boring. First proceeding obliquely downwards, she soon points her course in a direction parallel with the sides of the wood, and at length with unwearied exertion forms a cylindrical hole or tunnel not less than twelve or fifteen inches long, and half an inch broad. Sometimes, where the diameter will admit of it, three or four of these pipes, nearly parallel with each other, are bored in the same piece. Herculean as this task (which is the labour of several days) appears, it is but a small part of what our industrious bee cheerfully undertakes. As yet she has completed, but the shell of the destined habitation of her offspring; each of which, to the number of ten or twelve, will require a separate and distinct apartment. In excavating her tunnel, she has detached a large quantity of fibres, which lie on the ground like a heap of saw-dust. This material supplies all her wants. Having deposited an egg at the bottom of the cylinder, along with the requisite store of pollen and honey, she next, at the height of about three-quarters of an inch, (which is the depth of each cell,) constructs of particles of the saw-dust glued together, and also to the sides of[Pg 279] the tunnel, what may be called an annular stage or scaffolding. When this is sufficiently hardened, its interior edge affords support for a second ring of the same materials, and thus the ceiling is gradually formed of these concentric circles, till there remains only a small orifice in its centre, which is also closed with a circular mass of agglutinated particles of saw-dust. When this partition, which serves as the ceiling of the first cell, and the flooring of the second, is finished, it is about the thickness of a crown piece, and exhibits the appearance of as many concentric circles as the animal has made pauses in her labour. One cell being finished, she proceeds to another, which she furnishes and completes in the same manner, and so on, until she has divided her whole tunnel into ten or twelve apartments.

Such a laborious undertaking as the constructing and furnishing these cells, cannot be the work of one, or even of two days. Considering that every cell requires a store of honey and pollen, not to be collected but with long toil, and that a considerable interval must be spent in agglutinating the floors of each, it will be very obvious that the last egg in the last cell must be laid many days after the first. We are certain, therefore, that the first egg will become a grub, and consequently a perfect bee, many days before the last. What then becomes of it? It is impossible that it should make its escape through eleven superincumbent cells, without destroying the immature tenants; and it seems equally impossible that it should remain patiently in confinement below them until they are all disclosed. This dilemma our heaven-taught architect has provided against. With forethought, never enough to be admired, she has not constructed her tunnel with one opening only, but at the farther end has pierced another orifice, a kind of back door, through which the insects produced by the first-laid eggs successively emerge into day. In fact, all the young bees, even the uppermost, go out by this road; for, by an exquisite instinct, each grub, when about to become a pupa, places itself in its cell, with its head downwards, and thus is necessitated, when arrived at its last state, to pierce its cell in this direction.


We shall now describe The Mason-Bee.—There is a family of wild bees which carry on the trade of masons, building their solid houses solely of artificial stone. The first step of the mother bee, Apis mururia, Oliv. (Anthophara, F. Megachile, Latr.) is to fix upon a proper situation for the future mansion of her offspring. For this she usually selects an angle, sheltered by any projection, on the south side of a stone wall. Her next care is to provide materials for the structure. The chief of these is sand, which she carefully selects, grain by[Pg 280] grain, from such as contain some mixture of earth; these grains she glues together with her viscid saliva into masses the size of small shot,[10] and transports by means of her jaws to the site of her castle. With a number of these masses, which are the artificial stone of which her building is to be composed, united by a cement preferable to ours, she first forms the basis or foundation of the whole. Next she raises the walls of a cell, which is an inch long and half an inch broad, and, before its orifice is closed, in form resembles a thimble. This, after depositing an egg, and a supply of honey and pollen, she covers in, and then proceeds to the erection of a second, which she finishes in the same manner, until the whole number, which varies from four to eight, is completed. The vacuities between the cells, which are not placed in any regular order, some being parallel to the wall, others being perpendicular to it, and others inclined to it at different angles, this laborious architect fills up with the same material of which the cells are composed, and then bestows upon the whole group a common covering of coarser grains of sand. The form of the whole nest, which, when finished, is a solid mass of stone, so hard as not to be easily penetrated with the blade of a knife, is an irregular oblong, of the same colour as the sand, and, to a casual observer, more resembling a splash of mud than an artificial structure. These bees sometimes are more economical of their labour, and repair old nests, for the possession of which they have very desperate combats. One would have supposed that the inhabitants of a castle so fortified might defy the attack of an insect marauder. Yet an ichneumon, and a beetle (Clerius apiarius, F.) both contrive to introduce their eggs into the cells, and the larvæ proceeding from them devour their inhabitants.—Reaum. vi. 57, 58. Mon. Ap. Angl. i. 179.

Other bees of the same family use different materials in the construction of their nests. Some employ fine earth made into a kind of mortar made with gluten. Another, (A. cœrulescens, L.) as we learn from De Geer, forms its nest of argillaceous earth, mixed with chalk, upon stone walls, and sometimes probably builds in chalk-pits. Apis bicornis, L. selects the hollows of large stones for the site of its dwelling; whilst others prefer the holes in wood.


We now proceed to The Upholsterer-Bee.—Such may those be denominated which line the holes excavated in the earth for the reception of their young, with an elegant coating[Pg 281] of flowers or of leaves. Amongst the most interesting of these is Apis Papaveris, (Megachile, Latr., Anthophora, F.) a species whose manners have been admirably described by Reaumur. This little bee, as though fascinated with the colour most attractive to our eyes, invariably chooses for the hangings of her apartments the most brilliant scarlet, selecting for its material the petals of the wild poppy, which she dexterously cuts into the proper form. Her first process is to excavate in some pathway a burrow, cylindrical at the entrance, but swelled out below, to the depth of about three inches. Having polished the walls of this little apartment, she next flies to a neighbouring field, cuts out oval portions of the flowers of poppies, seizes them between her legs, and returns with them to her cell; and though separated from the wrinkled petal of a half-expanded flower, she knows how to straighten their folds, and, if too large, to fit them for her purpose by cutting off the superfluous parts. Beginning at the bottom, she overlays the walls of her mansion with this brilliant tapestry, extending it also on the surface of the ground round the margin of the orifice. The bottom is rendered warm by three or four coats, and the sides have never less than two. The little upholsterer, having completed the hangings of her apartment, next fills it with pollen and honey to the height of about half an inch; then, after committing an egg to it, she wraps over the poppy lining, so that even the roof may leave this material; and lastly, closes its mouth with a small hillock of earth.—Reaum. 6. 139 to 148. The great depth of the cell, compared with the space which the single egg and the accompanying food deposited in it occupy, deserves particular notice. This is not more than half an inch at the bottom, the remaining two inches and a half being subsequently filled with earth.


The Leaf-cutter Bee.—There is a species of wild bee, that cover the walls of their cells with coatings of sober-coloured materials, generally selecting for their hangings the leaves of trees, especially of the rose, whence they have been known by the name of the leaf-cutter bees. They differ also from A. Papaveris in excavating longer burrows, and filling them with several thimble-shaped cells, composed of portions of leaves so curiously convoluted, that, if we were ignorant in what school they have been taught to construct them, we should never credit their being the work of an insect. Their entertaining history, so long ago as 1670, attracted the attention of our countrymen, Ray, Lister, Willoughby, and Sir Edw. King; but we are indebted for the most complete account of the procedure, to Reaumur.

The mother bee first excavates a cylindrical hole eight or ten inches long, in a horizontal direction, either in the[Pg 282] ground or in the trunk of a rotten willow-tree, or occasionally in other decaying wood. This cavity she fills with six or seven cells, wholly composed of portions of leaf in the shape of a thimble, the convex end of one closely fitting into the open end of another. Her first process is to form the exterior coating, which is composed of three or four pieces, of larger dimensions than the rest, and of an oval form. The second coating is formed of portions of equal size, narrow at one end, but gradually widening towards the other, where the width equals half the length. One side of these pieces is the serrate margin of the leaf from which it was taken, which, as the pieces are made to lap one over the other, is kept on the outside, and that which has been cut within. The little animal now forms a third coating of similar materials, the middle of which, as the most skilful workman would do in similar circumstances, she places over the margins of those that form the first tube, thus covering and strengthening the junctures. Repeating the same process, she gives a fourth and sometimes a fifth coating to her nest, taking care, at the closed end or narrow extremity of the cell, to bend the leaves so as to form a convex termination. Having thus finished a cell, her next business is to fill it, to within half a line of the orifice, with a rose-coloured conserve, composed of honey and pollen, usually collected from the flowers of thistles; and then having deposited her egg, she closes the orifice with three pieces of leaf so exactly circular, that a pair of compasses could not define their margin with more truth, and coinciding so precisely with the walls of the cell, as to be retained in their situation merely by the nicety of their adaptation. After this covering is fitted in, there remains still a concavity, which receives the convex end of the succeeding cell; and in this manner the indefatigable little animal proceeds until she has completed the six or seven cells composing her cylinder.

The process which one of these bees employs in cutting the pieces of leaf that compose her nest, is worthy of attention. Nothing can be more expeditious; she is not longer about it than we should be with a pair of scissors. After hovering for some moments over a rose bush, as if to reconnoitre the ground, the bee alights upon the leaf which she has selected, usually taking her station upon its edge, so that the margin passes between her legs. With her strong mandibles she cuts without intermission in a curve line, so as to detach a triangular portion. When this hangs by the last fibre, lest its weight should carry her to the ground, she balances her little wings for flight, and the very moment it parts from the leaf, flies off with it in triumph; the detached portion remaining bent between her legs in a direction perpendicular to her body. Thus without rule or compasses do these diminutive creatures[Pg 283] mete out the materials of their work into portions of an ellipse, into ovals or circles, accurately accommodating the dimensions of the several pieces of each figure to each other. What other architect could carry impressed upon the tablet of his memory the entire idea of the edifice which he has to erect, and, destitute of square or plumb-line, cut out his materials in their exact dimensions without making a single mistake? Yet this is what our little bee invariably does. So far are human art and reason excelled by the teaching of the Almighty.—Reaum. vi. 971-94. Mor. Ap. Angl. i. 157. Apis c. 2.


A curious Account of an Idiot Boy, and Bees.—Mr. White has given the following curious account of an idiot boy. From a child he shewed a strong propensity to bees. They were his food, his amusement, his sole object. In the winter he dozed away his time in his father’s house, by the fire-side, in a torpid state, seldom leaving the chimney-corner: but in summer he was all alert, and in quest of his game. Hive-bees, humble-bees, and wasps, were his prey, wherever he found them. He had no apprehension from their stings, but would seize them with naked hands, and at once disarm them of their weapons, and suck their bodies for the sake of their honey-bags. Sometimes he would fill his bosom between his shirt and skin with these insects; and sometimes he endeavoured to confine them in bottles. He was very injurious to men that kept bees, for he would glide into their bee-gardens, and, sitting down before the stools, would rap with his fingers, and so take the bees as they came out. He has even been known to overturn the hives for the sake of the honey, of which he was passionately fond. Where metheglin was making, he would linger round the tubs and vessels, begging a draught of what he called bee-wine. As he ran about, he used to make a humming noise with his lips, resembling the buzzing of bees. This lad was lean and sallow, and of a cadaverous complexion; and, except in his favourite pursuit, in which he was wonderfully adroit, discovered no manner of understanding. Had his capacity been better, and directed to the same object, he had perhaps abated much of our wonder at the feats of a more modern exhibiter of bees; and we may justly say of him now,

Had thy presiding star propitious
Shouldst Wildman be.
White’s Natural History.

We conclude this chapter with an explanation of the preceding lines.


Mr. Wildman’s curious Exhibitions of Bees.—Mr. Wildman, by his dexterity in the management of bees, some[Pg 284] years ago, surprised the whole kingdom. He caused swarms to light where he pleased, almost instantaneously; he ordered them to settle on his head, then removed them to his hand, and commanded them to settle on a window, table, &c. at pleasure. We subjoin the method of performing these feats, in his own words: “Long experience has taught me, that as soon as I turn up a hive, and give it some taps on the sides and bottom, the queen immediately appears, to know the cause of this alarm; but soon retires again among her people. Being accustomed to see her so often, I readily perceive her at first glance; and long practice has enabled me to seize her instantly, with a tenderness that does not in the least endanger her person. This is of the utmost importance; for the least injury done to her brings immediate destruction to the hive, if you have not a spare queen to put in her place, as I have too often experienced in my first attempts. When possessed of her, I can, without injury to her, or exciting that degree of resentment that may tempt her to sting me, slip her into my other hand, and, returning the hive to its place, hold her there, till the bees missing her, are all on wing, and in the utmost confusion. When the bees are thus distressed, I place the queen wherever I would have the bees to settle. The moment a few of them discover her, they give notice to those near them, and those to the rest; the knowledge of which becomes so general, that in a few minutes they all collect themselves round her, and are so happy in having recovered this sole support of their state, that they will long remain quiet in their situation: nay, the scent of her body is so attractive of them, that the slightest touch of her along any place or substance, will attach the bees to it, and induce them to any path she takes.”—This was the only witchcraft used by Mr. Wildman, and is that alone which is practised by others, who have since made similar exhibitions.



[Pg 285]



The Wasp.

The laws of life, why need I call to mind,
Obey’d by insects, too, of ev’ry kind!
Of these, none uncontroll’d and lawless rove,
But to some destin’d end spontaneous move:
Led by that instinct Heav’n itself inspires,
Or so much reason as their state requires.
See all with skill acquire their daily food,
All use those arms which nature has bestow’d;
Produce their tender progeny, and feed
With care parental, while that care they need.
In these lov’d offices completely blest,
No hopes beyond them, nor vain fears molest.


For the following account of the Wasp, we are indebted to Kirby and Spence; and we take this opportunity of making a general acknowledgment of our obligations to those gentlemen, for the assistance we have derived from their highly interesting treatise, in drawing up this account of the curiosities respecting insects.

Compared with hive-bees, wasps may be considered as a horde of thieves and brigands: while the bees are peaceful, honest, and industrious subjects; the wasps attack their persons, and plunder their property. Yet, with all this love of pillage and other bad propensities, they are not altogether disagreeable or unamiable; they are brisk and lively; they do not usually attack unprovoked; and their object in plundering us is not purely selfish, but is principally to provide for the support of the young brood of their colonies.

The societies of wasps, like those of ants, and other social Hymenoptera, consist of females, males, and workers. The females may be considered as of two sorts: first, the females, by way of eminence, are much larger than any other individuals of the community; they equal six of the workers (from which in other respects they do not materially differ) in weight, and lay both male and female eggs: then the small females, not larger than the workers, which lay only male eggs. This last description of females, which are found also both amongst the humble-bees and hive-bees, were first observed among wasps, by M. Perrot, a friend of Huber’s. The large females are produced later than the workers, and make their appearance in the next spring; and whoever then destroys one of them, destroys an entire colony, of which she would be the founder.

Different from the queen-bee, the female wasp is at first an insulated being, that has had the fortune to survive the rigours[Pg 286] of winter. When in the spring she lays the foundation of her future empire, she has not a single worker at her disposal; with her own hands and teeth she often hollows out a cave wherein she may lay the first foundations of her paper metropolis: she must herself build the first houses, and produce from her own body their first inhabitants; which in their infant state she must feed and educate, before they can assist her in her great design. At length she receives the reward of her perseverance and labour; and from being a solitary unconnected individual, in the autumn is enabled to rival the queen of the hive in the number of her children and subjects, and in the edifices which they inhabit—the number of cells in a vespiary sometimes amounting to more than sixteen thousand, almost all of which contain either an egg, a grub, or a pupa, and each cell serving for three generations in a year; which, after making every allowance for failures and other casualties, will give a population of at least thirty thousand. Even at this time, when she has so numerous an army of coadjutors, the industry of this creature does not cease, but she continues to set an example of diligence to the rest of the community. If by any accident, before the other females are hatched, the queen-mother perishes, the neuters cease their labours, lose their instincts, and die.

The number of females in a populous vespiary is considerable, amounting to several hundreds; they emerge from the pupa about the latter end of August, at the same time with the males, and fly in September and October, when they pair. Of this large number of females, very few survive the winter. Those that are so fortunate, remain torpid till the vernal sun recalls them to life and action. They then fly forth, collect provision for their young brood, and are engaged in the other labours necessary for laying the foundation of their empire; but in the summer months they are never seen out of the nest.

The male wasps are much smaller than the female, but they weigh as much as two workers. Their antennæ are longer than those of either, not, like theirs, thicker at the end, but perfectly filiform; and their abdomen is distinguished by an additional segment. Their numbers about equal those of the females, and they are produced at the same time. They are not so wholly given to pleasure and idleness as the drones of the hive. They do not, indeed, assist in building the nest, and in the care of the young brood; but they are the scavengers of the community, for they sweep the passages and streets, and carry off all the filth. They also remove the bodies of the dead, which are sometimes heavy burdens for them; in which case two unite their strength, to accomplish the work; or, if a partner be not at hand, the wasp thus employed cuts off the[Pg 287] head of the defunct, and so effects its purpose. As they make themselves so useful, they are not, like the male bees, devoted by the workers to an universal massacre when the great end of their creation is answered; but they share the general lot of the community, and are suffered to survive till the cold cuts off them and the workers together.

The workers are the most numerous, and to us the only troublesome part of the community; upon whom devolves the main business of the nest. In the summer and autumnal months they go forth by myriads into the neighbouring country to collect provisions; and on their return to the common den, after reserving a sufficiency for the nutriment of the young brood, they divide the spoil with great impartiality; part being given to the females, part to the males, and part to those workers that have been engaged in extending and fortifying the vespiary. This division is voluntarily made, without the slightest symptom of compulsion. Several wasps assemble round each of the returning workers, and receive their respective portions. It is curious and interesting to observe their motions on this occasion. As soon as a wasp that has been filling itself with the juice of fruits arrives at the nest, it perches upon the top, and, disgorging a drop of its saccharine fluid, is attended sometimes by two at once, who share the treasure; this being thus distributed, a second, and sometimes a third drop, is produced, which falls to the lot of others.

Wasps, though ferocious and cruel towards their fellow-insects, are civilized and polished in their intercourse with each other, and form a community whose architectural labours will not suffer on comparison even with those of the peaceful inhabitants of a bee-hive. Like these, the great object of their industry is the erection of a structure for their beloved progeny, towards which they discover the greatest affection and tenderness, and, like bees, construct combs consisting of hexagonal cells for their reception; but the substance which they make use of is very dissimilar to the wax employed by bees, and the general plan of their city differs in many respects from that of a bee-hive. The common wasp’s nest, usually situated in a cavity under ground, is of an oval figure, about sixteen or eighteen inches long, by twelve or thirteen broad. Externally, it is surrounded by a thick coating of numerous leaves of a sort of grayish paper, which do not touch each other, but have a small interval between each, so that if the rain should chance to penetrate one or two of them, its progress is speedily arrested. On removing this external covering, we perceive that the interior consists of from twelve to sixteen circular combs of different sizes, not ranged vertically, as in a bee-hive, but horizontally, so as to form so many distinct and parallel[Pg 288] stories. Each comb is composed of a numerous assembiage of hexagonal cells, formed of the same paper-like substance as the exterior covering of the nest, and, according to a discovery of Dr. Barclay, each, as in those of bees, a distinct cell, the partition walls being double.—Memoirs of the Wernerian Society, ii. 260. These cells, which, as wasps do not store up any food, serve merely as the habitations of their young, are not, like those of the honey-bee, arranged in two opposite layers, but in one only, their entrance being always downwards: consequently the upper part of the comb, composed of the bases of the cells, which are not pyramidal, but slightly convex, forms a nearly level floor, on which the inhabitants can conveniently pass and repass, spaces of about half an inch high being left between each comb. Although the combs are fixed to the sides of the nest, they would not be sufficiently strong without further support. The ingenious builders, therefore, connect each comb to that below it by a number of strong cylindrical columns or pillars, having, according to the rules of architecture, their base and capital wider than the shaft, and composed of the same paper-like material used in other parts of the nest, but of a more compact substance. The middle combs are connected by a rustic colonnade of from forty to fifty of these pillars; the upper and lower combs by a smaller number.

The cells are of different sizes, corresponding to that of the three orders of individuals which compose the community; the largest for the grubs of females, the smallest for those of workers. The last always occupy an entire comb, while the cells of the males and females are often intermixed. Besides openings which are left between the walls of the combs to admit of access from one to the other, there are at the bottom of each nest two holes, by one of which the wasps uniformly enter, and through the other issue from the nest, and thus avoid all confusion or interruption of their common labours. As the nest is often a foot and a half under ground, it is requisite that a covered way should lead to its entrance. This is excavated by the wasps, who are excellent miners, and is often very long and tortuous, forming a beaten road to the subterranean city, well known to the inhabitants, though its entrance is concealed from curious eyes. The cavity itself, which contains the nest, is either the abandoned habitation of moles or field-mice, or a cavern purposely dug out by the wasps, which exert themselves with such industry as to accomplish the arduous undertaking in a few days.

When the cavity and entrance to it are completed, the next part of the process is to lay the foundations of the city to be included in it, which, contrary to the usual customs of builders, wasps begin at the top, continuing downwards. It has already[Pg 289] been observed, that the coatings which compose the dome, are a sort of rough but thin paper, and that the rest of the nest is composed of the same substance variously applied. “Whence do the wasps derive it?” They are manufacturers of the article, and prepare it from a material even more singular than any of those which have of late been proposed for this purpose; namely, the fibres of wood. These they detach by means of their jaws from window-frames, posts, and rails, &c. and, when they have amassed a heap of the filaments, moisten the whole with a few drops of a viscid glue from their mouth, and, kneading it with their jaws into a sort of paste, or papier mâché, fly off with it to their nest. This ductile mass they attach to that part of the building upon which they are at work, walking backwards, and spreading it into laminæ of the requisite thinness by means of their jaws, tongue, and legs. This operation is repeated several times, until at length, by aid of fresh supplies of the material, and the combined exertions of so many workmen, the proper number of layers of paper, that are to compose the roof, is finished. This paper is as thin as the leaf you are reading; and you may form an idea of the labour which even the exterior of a wasp’s nest requires, on being told that no fewer than fifteen or sixteen sheets of it are usually placed above each other, with slight intervening spaces, making the whole upwards of an inch and a half in thickness. When the dome is completed, the uppermost comb is next begun, in which, as well as all the other parts of the building, precisely the same material and the same process, with little variation, are employed. In the structure of the connecting pillars, there seems a greater quantity of glue made use of than in the rest of the work, doubtless with the view of giving them superior solidity. When the first comb is finished, the continuation of the roof or walls of the building is brought down lower; a new comb is erected; and thus the work successively proceeds until the whole is finished. As a comparatively small proportion of the society is engaged in constructing the nest, its entire completion is the work of several months: yet, though the fruit of such severe labour, it has scarcely been finished a few weeks before winter comes on, when it merely serves for the abode of a few benumbed females, and is entirely abandoned at the approach of spring, as wasps are never known to use the same nest for more than one season.

There is good reason for thinking, and the opinion had the sanction of the late Sir Joseph Banks, that wasps have sentinels placed at the entrances of their nests, which, if you can once seize and destroy, the remainder will not attack you. This is confirmed by an observation of Mr. Knight, in the Philosophical Transactions, (vol. 1. 2d Ed. p. 505;) that if a[Pg 290] nest of wasps be approached without alarming the inhabitants, and all communication be suddenly cut off between those out of the nest and those within it, no provocation will induce the former to defend it and themselves. But if one escapes from within, it comes with a very different temper, and appears commissioned to avenge public wrongs, and prepared to sacrifice its life in the execution of its orders. He discovered this when quite a boy.

In October, wasps seem to become less savage and sanguinary; for even flies, of which, earlier in the summer, they are the pitiless destroyers, may be seen to enter their nests with impunity. It is then, probably, that they begin to be first affected by the approach of the cold season, when nature teaches them it is useless longer to attend to their young. They themselves all perish, except a few of the females, upon the first attack of frost.

Reaumur, from whom most of these observations are taken, put the nests of wasps under glass hives, and succeeded so effectually in reconciling these little restless creatures to them, that they carried on their various works under his eye.





Ants—White Ants—Green Ants—Visiting Ants—The Ant-Lion.

These emmets, how little they are in our eyes!
We tread them to dust, and a troop of them dies
Without our regard or concern:
Yet, as wise as we are, if we went to their school,
There’s many a sluggard, and many a fool,
A lesson of wisdom might learn.


The societies of Ants, as also of other Hymenoptera, differ from those of the Termites, in having inactive larvæ and pupæ, the neuter, or workers, combining in themselves both the military and civil functions. Besides the helpless larvæ and pupæ, which have no locomotive powers, these societies consist of females and workers. The office of the females, at their first exclusion distinguished by a pair of ample wings, (which however, they soon cast,) is the foundation of new colonies, and the furnishing of a constant supply of eggs, for the maintenance of the population in the old nests, as well as in the new. These are usually the least numerous part of the community.

[Pg 291]Gould indeed says, that the males and females are nearly equal in number, p. 62; but from Huber’s observations it seems to follow that the former are the most numerous, p. 96.

Upon the workers devolves, except in nascent colonies, all the work, as well as the defence of the community, of which they are the most numerous portion.

In the warm days that occur from the end of July to the beginning of September, and sometimes later, the habitations of the various species of ants may be seen to swarm with winged insects, which are the males and females, preparing to quit for ever the scene of their nativity and education. Every thing is in motion: and the silver wings, contrasted with the jet bodies which compose the animated mass, add a degree of splendour to the interesting scene. The bustle increases, till at length the males rise, as it were by a general impulse, into the air, and the females accompany them. The whole swarm alternately rises and falls with a slow movement to the height of about ten feet, the males flying obliquely with a rapid zigzag motion; and the females, though they follow the general movement of the column, appearing suspended in the air, like balloons, seemingly with no individual motion, and having their heads turned towards the wind.

Sometimes the swarms of a whole district unite their infinite myriads, and, seen at a distance, produce an effect resembling the flashing of an aurora borealis. Rising with incredible velocity in distinct columns, they soar above the clouds. Each column looks like a kind of slender net-work, and has a tremulous undulating motion, which has been observed to be produced by the regular alternate rising and falling just alluded to. The noise emitted by myriads and myriads of these creatures, does not exceed the hum of a single wasp. The slightest zephyr disperses them; and if in their progress they chance to be over your head, if you walk slowly on, they will accompany you, and regulate their motions by yours.

Captain Haverfield, R. N. gives an account of an extraordinary appearance of ants observed by him in the Medway, in the autumn of 1814, when he was first-lieutenant of the Clorinde; which is confirmed by the following letter, addressed by the surgeon of that ship, now Dr. Bromley, to Mr. Mac Leay.

“In September, 1814, being on the deck of the bulk to the Clorinde, my attention was drawn to the water by the first-lieutenant (Haverfield) observing there was something black floating down with the tide. On looking with a glass, I discovered they were insects. The boat was sent, and brought a bucket full of them on board; they proved to be a large species of ant, and extended from the upper part of Salt-pan Reach out towards the Great Nore, a distance of five or six[Pg 292] miles. The column appeared to be in breadth eight or ten feet, and in height about six inches, which I suppose must have been from their resting one upon another.” Purchas seems to have witnessed a similar phenomenon on shore. “Other sorts (of ants),” says he, “there are many, of which some become winged, and fill the air with swarms, which sometimes happens in England. On Bartholomew-day, 1613, I was in the island of Foulness, on our Essex shore, where were such clouds of these flying pismires, that we could no where flee from them, but they filled our clothes; yea, the floors of some houses where they fell were in a manner covered with a black carpet of creeping ants; which, they say, drown themselves about that time of the year in the sea.”—Pilgrimage, 1090. These ants were winged; but whence this immense column came, was not ascertained. From the numbers here accumulated, one would think that all the ant-hills of the counties of Kent and Surrey could scarcely have furnished a sufficient number of males and females to form it.

When Colonel Sir Augustus Frazer, of the Horse Artillery, was surveying, on the 6th of October, 1813, the scene of the battle of the Pyrenees, from the summit of the mountain called Pena de Aya, or Les Quatre Couronnes, he and his friends were enveloped with a swarm of ants, so numerous as entirely to intercept their view, so that they were glad to remove to another station, in order to get rid of these troublesome little creatures.

The females that escape from the injury of the elements and their various enemies, become the founders of new colonies, doing all the work that is usually done by the neuters. M. P. Huber has found incipient colonies,[11] in which were only a few workers engaged with their mother in the care of a small number of larvæ; and M. Perrot, his friend, once discovered a small nest, occupied by a solitary female, who was attending upon four pupa only. Such is the foundation and first establishment of those populous nations of ants with which we every where meet.

But though the majority of females produced in a nest probably thus desert it, all are not allowed this liberty. The prudent workers are taught by their instinct, that the existence of their community depends upon the presence of a sufficient number of females. Some, therefore, that are fecundated in or near the spot, they forcibly detain, pulling off their wings, and keeping them prisoners till they are ready to lay their eggs, or are reconciled to their fate. De Geer, in a nest of F. rufa,[Pg 293] observed that the workers compelled some females that were come out of the nest to re-enter it; (vol. ii. 1071,)—and from M. P. Huber we learn, that, being seized at the moment of fecundation, they are conducted into the interior of the formicary, when they become entirely dependent upon the neuters, who, hanging pertinaciously to each leg, prevent their going out, but at the same time attend upon them with the greatest care, feeding them regularly, and conducting them where the temperature is suitable to them, but never quitting them a single moment. By degrees these females become reconciled to their condition, and lose all desire of making their escape; their abdomen enlarges, and they are no longer detained as prisoners, yet each is still attended by a body-guard, a single ant, which always accompanies her, and prevents her wants. Its station is remarkable, being mounted upon her abdomen, with its posterior legs upon the ground. These sentinels are constantly relieved; and to watch the moment when the female begins the important work of oviposition, and carry off the eggs, of which she lays four or five thousand or more in the course of the year, seems to be their principal office.

When the female is acknowledged as a mother, the workers begin to pay her a homage very similar to that which the bees render to their queen. All press round her, offer her food, conduct her by her mandibles through the difficult or steep passages of the formicary; nay, they sometimes even carry her about their city: she is then suspended upon their jaws, the ends of which are crossed; and, being coiled up like the tongue of a butterfly, she is packed so close as to incommode the carrier but little. When these set her down, others surround and caress her, one after another tapping her on the head with their antennæ.

“In whatever apartment (says Gould) a queen condescends to be present, she commands obedience and respect. A universal gladness spreads itself through the whole cell, which is expressed by particular acts of joy and exultation. They have a particular way of skipping, leaping, and standing upon their hind-legs, and prancing with the others. These frolics they make use of, both to congratulate each other when they meet, and to shew their regard for the queen: some of them walk gently over her, others dance round her; she is generally encircled with a cluster of attendants, who, if you separate them from her, soon collect themselves into a body, and inclose her in the midst.” Nay, even if she dies, as if they were unwilling to believe it, they continue sometimes for months the same attentions to her, and treat her with the same courtly formality as if she were alive, and they will brush her and lick her incessantly.

[Pg 294]That the ants, though they are mute animals, have the means of communicating to each other information of various occurrences, and use a kind of language which is mutually understood, will appear evident from the following facts.

If those at the surface of a nest are alarmed, it is wonderful in how short a time the alarm spreads through the whole nest. It runs from quarter to quarter; the greatest inquietude seems to possess the community; and they carry with all possible dispatch their treasures, the larvæ and pupæ, down to the lowest apartments. Amongst those species of ants that do not go much from home, sentinels seem to be stationed at the avenues of their city. “Disturbing once the little heaps of earth thrown up at the entrances into the nest of F. flava, which is of this description, (says Huber,) I was struck by observing a single ant immediately come out, as if to see what was the matter, and this three separate times.”

The F. herculanea, L. inhabits the trunks of hollow trees on the Continent, for it has not yet been found in England, upon which they are often passing to and fro. M. Huber observed, that when he disturbed those that were at the greatest distance from the rest, they ran towards them, and, striking their head against them, communicated their cause of fear or anger that these, in their turn, conveyed in the same way the intelligence to others, till the whole colony was in a ferment, those neuters which were within the tree running out in crowds to join their companions in the defence of their habitation. The same signals that excited the courage of the neuters, produced fear in the males and females, which, as soon as the news of the danger was thus communicated to them, retreated into the tree as to an asylum.

The legs of one of this gentleman’s artificial formicaries were plunged into pans of water, to prevent the escape of the ants; this proved a source of great enjoyment to these little beings, for they are a very thirsty race, and lap water like dogs.—(Gould, 92. De Geer, ii. 1087. Huber, 5, 132.) One day, when he observed many of them tippling very merrily, he was so cruel as to disturb them, which sent most of the ants in a fright to the nest; but some, more thirsty than the rest, continued their potations: upon this, one of those that had retreated, returns to inform his thoughtless companions of their danger; one he pushes with his jaws; another he strikes first upon the belly, and then upon the breast; and so obliges three of them to leave off their carousing, and march homewards; but the fourth, more resolute to drink it out, is not to be discomfited, and pays not the least regard to the kind blows with which his compeer, solicitous for his safety, repeatedly belabours him; at length, determined to have his way, he seizes him by one of his hind-legs, and gives him a[Pg 295] violent pull: upon this, leaving his liquor, the loiterer turns round, and opening his threatening jaws with every appearance of anger, goes very coolly to drinking again; but his monitor, without further ceremony, rushing before him, seizes him by his jaws, and at last drags him off in triumph to the formicary.—Huber, 133.

The language of ants, however, is not confined merely to giving intelligence of the approach or presence of danger; it is also co-extensive with all their other occasions for communicating their ideas to each other, or holding any intercourse. Some engage in military expeditions, and often previously send out spies, to collect information. These, as soon as they return from exploring the vicinity, enter the nest; upon which, as if they had communicated their intelligence, the army immediately assembles in the suburbs of their city, and begins its march towards that quarter whence the spies had arrived. Upon the march, communications are perpetually making between the van and the rear; and when arrived at the camp of the enemy, and the battle begins, if necessary, couriers are dispatched to the formicary for reinforcements.—Huber, 167, 217, 237.

If you scatter the ruins of an ant’s nest in your apartment, you will be furnished with another proof of their language. The ants will take a thousand different paths, each going by itself, to increase the chance of discovery; they will meet and cross each other in all directions, and perhaps will wander long before they can find a spot convenient for their re-union. No sooner does any one discover a little chink in the floor, through which it can pass below, than it returns to its companions, and, by means of certain motions of its antennæ, makes some of them comprehend what route they are to pursue to find it, sometimes even accompanying them to the spot; these, in their turn, become the guides of others, till all know which way to direct their steps.—Huber, 137.

It is well known also, that ants give each other information when they have discovered any store of provision. Bradley relates a striking instance of this. A nest of ants in a nobleman’s garden discovered a closet, many yards within the house, in which conserves were kept, which they constantly attended till the nest was destroyed. Some in their rambles must have first discovered this depôt of sweets, and informed the rest of it. It is remarkable that they always went to it by the same track, scarcely varying an inch from it, though they had to pass through two apartments; nor could the sweeping and cleaning of the rooms discomfit them, or cause them to pursue a different route.—Bradley, 134.

Here may be related a very amusing experiment of Gould’s. Having deposited several colonies of ants (F. fusca) in flowerpots,[Pg 296] he placed them in some earthen pans of water, which prevented them from making excursions from their nest. When they had been accustomed some days to this imprisonment, he fastened small threads to the upper part of the pots, and extending them over the water-pans, fixed them in the ground. The sagacious ants soon found out that by these bridges they could escape from their moated castle. The discovery was communicated to the whole society, and in a short time the threads were filled with trains of busy workers passing to and fro.—Gould, 85.

Legion’s account of the ants in Barbadoes, affords another most convincing proof of this: as he has told his tale in a very lively and interesting manner, it shall be given nearly in his own words.

“The next of these moving little animals are ants, or pismires: these are but of a small size, but great in industry; and that which gives them means to attain to this end is, they have all one soul. If I should say they are here or there, I should do them wrong, for they are every where:—under ground, where any hollow or loose earth is; amongst the roots of trees; upon the bodies, branches, leaves, and fruit of all trees; in all places without the houses and within; upon the sides, walls, windows, and roofs, without; and on the floors, side-walls, ceilings, and windows, within; tables, cupboards, beds, stools, all are covered with them, so that they are a kind of ubiquitaries. We sometimes kill a cockroach, and throw him on the ground; and mark what they will do with him: his body is bigger than a hundred of them, and yet they will find the means to take hold of him, and lift him up; and having him above ground, away they carry him, and some go by as ready assistants, if any be weary; and some are the officers that lead and shew the way to the hole into which he must pass; and if the vancouriers perceive that the body of the cockroach lies across, and will not pass through the hole or arch through which they mean to carry him, order is given, and the body turned endwise, and this is done a foot before they come to the hole, and that without any stop or stay; and it is observable, that they never pull contrary ways. A table being cleared with great care, (by way of experiment,) of all the ants that are upon it, and sugar being put upon it, some, after a circuitous route, will be observed to arrive at it; and again departing, without tasting the treasure, will hasten away to inform their friends of the discovery, who, upon this, will come by myriads: you may then, while they are thickest upon the table, clap a large book, or any thing fit for that purpose, upon them, so hard as to kill all that are under it; and when you have done so, take away the book, and leave them to themselves but a quarter of an hour, and[Pg 297] when you come again, you shall find all these bodies carried away.—Other trials we make of their ingenuity, as thus: Take a pewter dish, and fill it half full of water, into which put a little gallipot filled with sugar, and the ants will presently find it, and come upon the table, but when they perceive it environed with water, they try about the brims of the dish where the gallipot is nearest; and there the most venturous amongst them commits himself to the water, though he be conscious how bad a swimmer he is, and is drowned in the adventure; the next is not warned by his example, but ventures too, and is alike drowned; and many more, so that there is a small foundation of their bodies to venture; and then they come faster than ever, and so make a bridge of their own bodies.”—Hist. of Barbadoes, p. 63.

The fact being certain, that ants impart their ideas to each other, we are next led to inquire by what means this is accomplished. It does not appear that, like the bees, they emit any significant sounds; their language, therefore, must consist of signs or gestures, some of which I shall now detail. In communicating their fear, or expressing their anger, they run from one to another in a semicircle, and strike with their head or jaws the trunk or abdomen of the ant to which they mean to give information on any subject of alarm. But those remarkable organs, their antennæ, are the principal instruments of their speech, if I may so call it, supplying the place both of voice and words. When the military ants before alluded to go upon their expeditions, and are out of the formicary, previously to setting off, they touch each other on the trunk with their antennæ and forehead; this is the signal for marching, for, as soon as any one has received it, he is immediately in motion. When they have any discovery to communicate, they strike with them those that they meet in a particularly impressive manner. If a hungry ant wants to be fed, it touches with its two antennæ, moving them very rapidly, those of the individual from which it expects its meal:—and not only ants understand this language, but even aphides and cocci, which are the milch kine of our little pismires, do the same, and will yield them their saccharine fluid at the touch of these imperative organs. The helpless larvæ also of the ants are informed, by the same means, when they may open their mouths to receive their food.

Next to their language, and scarcely different from it, are the modes by which they express their affections and aversions. Whether ants, with man and some of the larger animals, experience any thing like attachment to individuals, is not easily ascertained; but that they feel the full force of the sentiment which we term patriotism, or the love of the community to which they belong, is evident from the whole series[Pg 298] of their proceedings, which all tend to promote the general good. Distress or difficulty falling upon any member of their society, generally excites their sympathy, and they do their utmost to relieve it. M. Latreille once cut off the antennæ of an ant; and its companions, evidently pitying its sufferings, anointed the wounded part with a drop of transparent fluid from their mouth: and whoever attends to what is going forward in the neighbourhood of one of their nests, will be pleased to observe the readiness with which they seem disposed to assist each other in difficulties. When a burden is too heavy for one, another will soon come to ease it of part of the weight; and if one is threatened with an attack, all hasten to the spot, to join in repelling it.

The satisfaction they express at meeting after absence is very striking, and gives some degree of individuality to their attachment. M. Huber witnessed the gesticulations of some ants, originally belonging to the same nest, that, having been entirely separated from each other four months, were afterwards brought together. Though this was equal to one-fourth of their existence as perfect insects, they immediately recognized each other, saluted mutually with their antennæ, and united once more to form one family.

They are also ever intent to promote each other’s welfare, and ready to share with their absent companions any good thing that they may meet with. Those that go abroad feed those which remain in the nest, and if they discover any stock of favourite food, they inform the whole community, as we have seen above, and teach them the way to it. M. Huber, for a particular reason, having produced heat, by means of a flambeau, in a certain part of an artificial formicary, the ants that happened to be in that quarter, after enjoying it for a time, hastened to convey the welcome intelligence to their compatriots, whom they even carried suspended upon their jaws (their usual mode of transporting each other) to the spot, till hundreds might be seen thus laden with their friends.

If ants feel the force of love, they are equally susceptible of the emotions of anger; and when they are menaced or attacked, no insects shew a greater degree of it. Providence, moreover, has furnished them with weapons and faculties which render them extremely formidable to their insect enemies, and sometimes, as I have related on a former occasion, a great annoyance to man himself, (vol. i. 2d ed. p. 123.) Two strong mandibles arm their mouth, with which they sometimes fix themselves so obstinately to the object of their attack, that they will sooner be torn limb from limb than let go their hold; and, after their battles, the head of a conquered enemy may often be seen suspended to the antennæ or legs of the victor, a trophy of his valour, which, however troublesome,[Pg 299] he will be compelled to carry about with him to the day of his death. Their abdomen is also furnished with a poison-bag, (ioterium,) in which is secreted a powerful and venomous fluid, long celebrated in chemical researches, and once called formic acid, though now considered a modification of the acetic and malic;[12] which, when their enemy is beyond the reach of their mandibles, (it is spoken here particularly of the hill ant, or F. rufa,) standing erect on their hind legs, they discharge from their anus with considerable force, so that from the surface of the nest ascends a shower of poison, exhaling a strong sulphurous odour, sufficient to overpower or repel any insect or small animal. Such is the fury of some species, that with the acid, according to Gould, p. 34. they sometimes partly eject the poison-bag itself. If a stick be stuck into one of the nests of the hill ant, it is so saturated with the acid as to retain the scent for many hours. A more formidable weapon arms the species of the genus Myrmica latr.; for, besides the poison-bag, they are furnished with a sting; and their aspect is also often rendered peculiarly revolting, by the extraordinary length of their jaws, and by the spines which defend their head and trunk.

But weapons without valour are of but little use; and this is one distinguishing feature of this pigmy race. Their courage and pertinacity are unconquerable, and are often sublimed into the most inconceivable rage and fury. It makes no difference to them whether they attack a mite or an elephant; and man himself instils no terror into their warlike breasts. Point your finger towards any individual of F. rufa; instead of running away, it instantly faces about, and, that it may make the most of itself, stiffening its legs into a nearly straight line, it gives its body the utmost elevation it is capable of; and thus—

“Collecting all its might, dilated stands,”

prepared to repel your attack. Put your finger a little nearer, it immediately opens its jaws to bite you, and rearing upon its hind legs, bends its abdomen between them, to eject its venom into the wound.[13]

This angry people, so well armed and so courageous, we may readily imagine, are not always at peace with their neighbours; causes of dissension may arise, to light the flame of war between the inhabitants of nests not far distant from each other. To these little bustling creatures, a square foot of earth is a territory worth contending for; their droves of aphides being equally valuable with the flocks and herds that cover[Pg 300] our plains; and the body of a fly or a beetle, or a cargo of straws and bits of stick, an acquisition as important as the treasures of a Lima fleet to our seamen. Their wars are usually between nests of different species; sometimes, however, those of the same, when so near as to interfere with and incommode each other, have their battles; and with respect to ants of one species, Myrmica rubra, combats occasionally take place, contrary to the general habits of the tribe of ants, between those of the same nest.

The wars of the red ant (M. rubra) are usually between a small number of the citizens; and the object, according to Gould, is to get rid of a useless member of the community, (it does not argue much in favour of their humanity, that it is all one if it be by sickness that this member is disabled,) rather than any real civil contest. The red colonies, (says this author,) are the only ones I could ever observe to feed upon their own species. You may frequently discern a party of from five or six to twenty, surrounding one of their own kind, or even fraternity, and pulling it to pieces. The ant they attack is generally feeble, and of a languid complexion, occasioned perhaps by some accident or other.—Gould, 104.

“I once saw one of these ants dragged out of the nest by another, without its head; it was still alive, and could crawl about. A lively imagination might have fancied that this poor ant was a criminal, condemned by a court of justice to suffer the extreme sentence of the law. It was more probably, however, a champion that had been decapitated in an unequal combat, unless we admit Gould’s idea, and suppose it to have suffered because it was an unprofitable member of the community.[14] At another time I found three individuals that were fighting with great fury, chained together by their mandibles; one of these had lost two of the legs of one side, yet it appeared to walk well, and was as eager to attack and seize its opponents, as if it was unhurt. This did not look like languor or sickness.”

The wars of ants that are not of the same species take place usually between those that differ in size; and the great endeavouring to oppress the small, are nevertheless often outnumbered by them, and defeated. Their battles have long been celebrated; and the dates of them, as if they were events of the first importance, have been formally recorded. Æneas Sylvius, after giving a very circumstantial account of one [Pg 301]contested with much obstinacy by a great and small species, on the trunk of a pear-tree, gravely states, “This action was fought in the pontificate of Eugenius the Fourth, in the presence of Nicholas Pistoriensis, an eminent lawyer, who related the whole history of the battle with the greatest fidelity!” A similar engagement between great and small ants is recorded by Olaus Magnus, in which the small ones being victorious, are said to have buried the bodies of their own soldiers, but left those of their giant enemies a prey to the birds. This event happened previous to the expulsion of the tyrant Christian the Second from Sweden.—Mouffet, Theatr. Ins. 242.

M. P. Huber is the only modern author that appears to have been witness to these combats. He tells us, that when the great attack the small, they seek to take them by surprise, (probably to avoid their fastening themselves to their legs,) and, seizing them by the upper part of the body, they strangle them with their mandibles; but when the small have time to foresee the attack, they give notice to their companions, who rush in crowds to their succour. Sometimes, however, after suffering a signal defeat, the smaller species are obliged to shift their quarters, and to seek an establishment more out of the way of danger. In order to cover their march, many small bodies are then posted at a little distance from the nest. As soon as the large ants approach the camp, the foremost sentinels instantly fly at them with the greatest rage; a violent struggle ensues, multitudes of their friends come to their assistance, and, though no match for their enemies singly, by dint of numbers they prevail, and the giant is either slain or led captive to the hostile camp. The species whose proceedings M. Huber observed, were F. herculanea, L. and F. sanguinea, Latr.; neither of which have yet been discovered in Britain.—Huber, 160.


The White Ants, or Termites.—The majority of these animals are natives of tropical countries, though two species are indigenous to Europe; one of which, thought to have been imported, is come so near to us as Bourdeaux. Their society consists of five different descriptions of individuals: workers or larvæ, nymphs or pupæ, neuters or soldiers, males, and females.

1. The workers or larvæ, answering to the hymenopterous neuters, are the most numerous, and, at the same time, most active part of the community; upon whom devolves the office of erecting and repairing the buildings, collecting provision, attending upon the female, conveying the eggs, when laid, to the nurseries, and feeding the young larvæ till they are old enough to take care of themselves. They are distinguished[Pg 302] from the soldiers by their diminutive size, by their round heads, and shorter mandibles.

2. The nymphs, or pupæ, differ in nothing from the larvæ, and probably are equally active, except that they have rudiments of wings, or rather wings folded up in cases.

3. The neuters are much less numerous than the workers, bearing the proportion of one to one hundred, and exceeding them greatly in bulk. They are also distinguishable by their long and large heads, armed with very long tubulate mandibles. Their office is that of sentinels; and when the nest is attacked, to them is committed the task of defending it. These neuters seem to be a kind of abortive females, and there is nothing analogous to them in any other department of entomology.

4 and 5. Males and females, or the insects arrived at a state of perfection, and capable of continuing the species. There is only one of each in every separate society; they are exempted from all participation in the labours and employments occupying the rest of the community, that they may be wholly devoted to the furnishing of a constant accession to the population of the colony. Though at their first disclosure from the pupæ they have four wings, like the female ants, they soon cast them; but they may then be distinguished from the blind larvæ, pupæ, and neuters, by their large and prominent eyes.

The different species of Termites, which are numerous, build nests of very various forms. Some construct upon the ground a cylindrical turret of clay, about three-quarters of a yard high, surrounded by a projecting conical roof, so as in shape considerably to resemble a mushroom, and composed interiorly of innumerable cells, of various figures and dimensions. Others prefer a more elevated site, and build their nests, which are of different sizes, from that of a hat to that of a sugar-cask, and composed of pieces of wood glued together, amongst the branches of trees, often seventy or eighty feet high. But by far the most curious habitations, are those formed by the Termes bellicosus, a species very common in Guinea, and other parts of the coasts of Africa, of whose proceedings we have a very particular and interesting account in the 71st volume of the Philosophical Transactions.

These nests are formed entirely of clay, and are generally twelve feet high, and broad in proportion; so that when a cluster of them, as is often the case in South America, are placed together, they may be taken for an Indian village, and are in fact sometimes larger than the huts which the natives inhabit. The first process in the erection of these singular structures, is the elevation of two or three turrets of clay, about a foot high, and in shape like a sugar-loaf. These, which seem to be the scaffolds of the future building, rapidly increase in number[Pg 303] and height, until at length being widened at the base, joined at the top into one dome, and consolidated all around into a thick wall of clay, they form a building of the size above-mentioned, and of the shape of a haycock, which, when clothed, as it generally soon becomes, with a coating of grass, it at a distance very much resembles. When the building has assumed this its final form, the inner turrets, all but the tops, which project like pinnacles from different parts of it, are removed, and the clay employed over again in other services. It is the lower part alone of the building that is occupied by the inhabitants; the upper portion, or dome, which is very strong and solid, is left empty, serving principally as a defence from the vicissitudes of the weather and the attacks of natural or accidental enemies, and to keep up in the lower part a genial warmth and moisture, necessary to the hatching of the eggs and cherishing of the young ones. The inhabited portion is occupied by the royal chamber, or habitation of the king and queen; the nurseries for the young; the storehouses for food; and innumerable galleries, passages, and empty rooms, arranged according to the following plan:—

In the centre of the building, just under the apex, and nearly on a level with the surface of the ground, is placed the royal chamber, an arched vault of a semi-oval shape, or not unlike a long oven; at first not above an inch long, but enlarged, as the queen increases in bulk, to the length of eight inches or more. In this apartment the king and queen constantly reside, and, from the smallness of the entrances, which are barely large enough to admit their more diminutive subjects, can never possibly come out; thus, like many human potentates, purchasing their sovereignty at the dear rate of the sacrifice of liberty. Immediately adjoining the royal chamber, and surrounding it on all sides to the extent of a foot or more, are placed the royal apartments, an inextricable labyrinth of innumerable arched rooms, of different shapes and sizes, either opening into each other, or communicating by common passages, and intended for the accommodation of the soldiers and attendants, of whom many thousands are always in waiting on their royal master and mistress.

Next to the royal apartments come the nurseries and the magazines. The former are invariably occupied by the eggs and young ones, and, in the infant state of the nest, are placed close to the royal chamber; but when the queen’s augmented size requires a larger apartment, as well as additional rooms for the increased number of attendants wanted to remove her eggs, the small nurseries are taken to pieces, rebuilt at a greater distance, a size larger, and their number increased at the same time. In substance they differ from all the other apartments, being formed of particles of wood, apparently[Pg 304] joined together with gums. A collection of these compact, irregular, and small wooden chambers, not one of which is half an inch in width, is inclosed in a common chamber of clay, sometimes as big as a child’s head. Intermixed with the nurseries, lie the magazines, which are chambers of clay, always well stored with provisions, consisting of particles of wood, gums, and the inspissated juices of plants.

These magazines and nurseries, separated by small empty chambers and galleries, which run round them, or communicate from one to the other, are continued on all sides to the outer wall of the building, and reach up within it two-thirds or three-fourths of its height. They do not, however, fill up the whole of the lower part of the hill, but are confined to the sides, leaving an open area in the middle, under the dome, very much resembling the nave of an old cathedral, having its roof supported by two very large Gothic arches, of which those in the middle of the area are sometimes two and three feet high, but as they recede on each side, rapidly diminish, like the arches of aisles in perspective. A flattish roof, imperforated, in order to keep out the wet, if the dome should chance to be injured, covers the top of the assemblage of chambers, nurseries, &c.; and the area, which is a short height above the royal chamber, has a flattish floor, also waterproof, and so contrived as to let any rain, that may chance to get in, run off into the subterraneous passages.

These passages or galleries, which are of an astonishing size, some being above a foot in diameter, perfectly cylindrical, and lined with the same kind of clay of which the hill is composed, served originally, like the catacombs of Paris, as the quarries whence the materials of the building were derived, and afterwards as the grand outlets by which the termites carry on their depredations at a distance from their habitations. They run in a sloping direction, under the bottom of the hill, to the depth of three or four feet, and then branching out horizontally on every side, are carried under ground, near to the surface, to a vast distance. At their entrance into the interior, they communicate with other small galleries, which ascend the outside of the outer shell in a spiral manner, and, winding round the whole body to the top, intersect each other at different heights, opening either immediately in the dome in various places, and into the lower half of the building, or communicating with every part of it by other smaller circular or oval galleries of different diameters. The necessity for the vast size of the main underground galleries, evidently arises from the circumstance of their being the great thoroughfares for the inhabitants, by which they fetch their clay, wood, water, or provision; and their spiral and gradual ascent is requisite for the easy access of the termites, which cannot,[Pg 305] but with great difficulty, ascend a perpendicular. To avoid this inconvenience, in the interior vertical parts of the building, a flat pathway, half an inch wide, is often made to wind gradually, like a road cut out of the side of a mountain; by which they travel with great facility up ascents otherwise impracticable. The same ingenious propensity to shorten their labour, seems to have given birth to a contrivance still more extraordinary: this is a kind of bridge, or vast arch, sprung from the floor of the area to the upper apartments at the side of the building, which answers the purpose of a flight of stairs, and must shorten the distance exceedingly in transporting eggs from the royal chambers to the upper nurseries, which in some hills would be four or five feet in the straightest line, and much more if carried through all the winding passages which lead through the inner chambers and apartments. Mr. Smeathman measured one of these bridges, which was half an inch broad, a quarter of an inch thick, and ten inches long, making the size of an elliptic arch of proportionable dimensions, so that it is wonderful it did not fall over, or break by its own weight, before they got it joined to the side of the column above. It was strengthened by a small arch at the bottom, and had a hollow or groove all the length of the upper surface, either made purposely for the greater safety of the passengers, or else worn by frequent treading. It is not the least surprising circumstance attending this bridge, the Gothic arches before spoken of, and in general all the arches of the various galleries and apartments, that, as Mr. Smeathman saw every reason for believing, the termites project them, and do not, as one would have supposed, excavate them.

Consider what incredible labour and diligence, accompanied by the most unremitting activity, and the most unwearied celerity of movement, must be necessary to enable these creatures to accomplish (their size considered) these truly gigantic works. That such diminutive insects, for they are scarcely the fourth of an inch in length, however numerous, should, in the space of three or four years, be able to erect a building twelve feet high, and of proportionable bulk, covered by a vast dome, adorned without by numerous pinnacles and turrets, and sheltering under its ample arch myriads of vaulted apartments, of various dimensions, and constructed of different materials,—that they should moreover excavate, in different directions and at different depths, innumerable subterranean roads or tunnels, some twelve or thirteen inches in diameter, or throw an arch of stone over other roads leading from the metropolis into the adjoining country, to the distance of seven hundred feet,—that they should project and finish the vast interior staircases or bridges, lately described,—and finally, that the millions necessary to execute such Herculean labours,[Pg 306] perpetually passing to and fro, should never interrupt and interfere with each other, is a miracle of nature, far exceeding the most boasted works and structures of man; for, did these creatures equal him in size, retaining their usual instincts and activity, their buildings would soar to the astonishing height of half a mile, and their tunnels would expand to a magnificent cylinder of more than three hundred feet in diameter; before which, the pyramids of Egypt, and the aqueducts of Rome, would lose their celebrity, and dwindle into nothing.

The most elevated of the pyramids of Egypt is not more than six hundred feet high, which, setting the average height of man at only five feet, is not more than a hundred and twenty times the height of the workmen employed. Whereas, the nests of the termites being at least twelve feet high, and the insects themselves not exceeding a quarter of an inch in stature, their edifices are upwards of five hundred times the height of the builders; which, supposing them of human dimensions, would be more than half a mile. The shaft of the Roman aqueducts was lofty enough to permit a man on horseback to travel in them.

The first establishment of a colony of termites takes place in the following manner. In the evening, soon after the first tornado, which at the latter end of the dry season proclaims the approach of the ensuing rains, these animals, having attained to their perfect state, in which they are furnished and adorned with two pair of wings, emerge from their clay-built citadels by myriads and myriads, to seek their fortune. Borne on these ample wings, and carried by the wind, they fill the air, entering the houses, extinguishing the lights, and are sometimes driven on board the ships that are not far from the shore. The next morning, they are discovered covering the earth and waters, deprived of the wings which enabled them to avoid their numerous enemies, and which were only calculated to carry them a few hours. They now look like large maggots; and, from the most active, industrious, and rapacious creatures, they are become the most helpless and cowardly beings in nature, the prey of innumerable enemies, to the smallest of which they make not the least resistance. Insects, especially ants, which are always on the hunt for them, leave no place unexplored: birds, reptiles, beasts, and even man himself, look upon this event as their harvest, and, as the reader has been told before, make them their food, so that scarcely a pair in many millions get into a place of safety.

The workers, who are continually prowling about in their covered ways, occasionally meet with one of these pairs, and being impelled by their instinct, pay them homage, and they are elected as it were to be king and queen, or rather founders,[Pg 307] of a new colony: all that are not so fortunate, inevitably perish; and, considering the infinite host of their enemies, probably in the course of the following day. The workers, as soon as this election takes place, begin to inclose their new rulers in a small chamber of clay, before described, suited to their size, the entrances to which are only large enough to admit themselves and the neuters, but much too small for the royal pair to pass through;—so that their state of royalty is a state of confinement, and so continues during the remainder of their existence. The female, after this confinement, soon begins to furnish the infant colony with new inhabitants. The care of feeding her and her companion, devolves upon the industrious larvæ, which supply them both with every thing that they want. As she increases in dimensions, they continue to enlarge the cell in which she is detained. When the business of oviposition commences, they take the eggs from her, and deposit them in their nurseries. Her abdomen now begins gradually to extend, till in process of time it is enlarged to fifteen hundred or two thousand times the size of the rest of her body, and her bulk equals that of twenty or thirty thousand workers. This part, often more than three inches in length, is now a vast matrix of eggs, which make long circumvolutions through numberless slender serpentine vessels: it is also remarkable for its peristaltic motion, (in this resembling the female ant; see Gould’s Account of English Ants, p. 22.) which, like the undulations of water, produces a perpetual and successive rise and fall over the whole surface of the abdomen, and occasions a constant extrusion of the eggs, amounting sometimes in old females to sixty in a minute, or eighty thousand and upwards in twenty-four hours. As these females live two years in their perfect state, how astonishing must be the number produced in that time!

This incessant extrusion of eggs must call for the attention of a large number of the workers in the royal chamber, (and indeed it is always full of them,) to take them as they come forth, and carry them to the nurseries, in which, when hatched, they are provided with food, and receive every necessary attention, till they are able to shift for themselves. One remarkable circumstance attends these nurseries; they are always covered with a kind of mould, amongst which arise numerous globules, about the size of a pin’s head. This is probably a species of mucor; and by Mr. Köenig, who found them also in nests of an East Indian species of termes, is conjectured to be the food of the larvæ.

The royal cell has also some soldiers in it, a kind of body-guard to the royal pair that inhabit it; and the surrounding apartments contain always many, both labourers and soldiers, in waiting, that they may successively attend upon and defend[Pg 308] the common father and mother, on whose safety depend the happiness and even existence of the whole community; and whom these faithful subjects never abandon even in the last distress.

These little busy creatures are taught by Providence always to work under cover. If they have to travel over a rock, or up a tree, they vault, with a coping of earth, the route they mean to pursue, and they form subterranean paths and tunnels, some of a diameter wider than the bore of a large cannon, on all sides from their habitation, to their various objects of attack, or which sloping down, (for they cannot well mount a surface quite perpendicular,) penetrate to the depth of three or four feet under their nests into the earth, till they arrive at a soil proper to be used in the erection of their buildings. Were they, indeed, to expose themselves, the race would soon be annihilated by their innumerable enemies. If any accident happen to their various structures, or if they are dislodged from any of their covered ways, they are active and expeditious in repairing it; and in a single night they will restore a gallery of three or four yards in length. If, attacking the nest, you divide it into halves, leaving the royal chamber, and thus lay open thousands of apartments, all will be shut up with their sheets of clay by the next morning; nay, even if the whole be demolished, provided the king and the queen be left, every interstice between the ruins, at which either cold or wet can possibly enter, will be covered, and, in a year, the building will be raised nearly to its pristine size and grandeur.

Besides building and repairing, a great deal of their time is occupied in making necessary alterations in their mansion and its approaches. The royal presence chamber, as the female increases in size, must be gradually enlarged; the nurseries must be removed to a greater distance; the chambers and interior of the nest receive daily accessions, to provide for a daily increasing population; and the direction of their covered ways must often be varied, when the old stock of provision is exhausted, and new sources are discovered.

The collection of provisions for the use of the colony is another employment, which necessarily calls for incessant attention: these, to the naked eye, appear like raspings of wood; but when examined by the microscope, they are found to consist chiefly of gums and the inspissated juices of plants, which, formed into little masses, are stored up in magazines made of clay.

When any one is bold enough to attack their nest, and make a breach in its walls, the labourers, who are incapable of fighting, retire within, and give way to another description of its inhabitants, whose office it is to defend the fortress when[Pg 309] assailed by enemies; these, as observed before, are the neuters or soldiers. If the breach be made in a slight part of the building, one of these comes out to reconnoitre; he then retires and gives the alarm. Two or three others next appear, scrambling as fast as they can one after the other; to these succeed a large body, who rush forth with as much speed as the breach will permit, their numbers continually increasing during the attack. It is not easy to describe the rage and fury by which these diminutive heroes seem actuated. In their haste they frequently miss their hold, and tumble down the sides of their hill: they soon, however, recover themselves, and, being blind, bite every thing they run against. If the attack proceeds, the bustle and agitation increase to a tenfold degree, and their fury is raised to its highest pitch. Wo to him whose hands or legs they can come at! for they will make their fanged jaws meet at the very first stroke, drawing as much blood as will counterpoise their whole body, and never quitting their hold, even though they are pulled limb from limb. The naked legs of the negroes expose them frequently to this injury; and the stockings of the Europeans are not thick enough to defend them.

On the other hand, if, after the first attack, you get a little out of the way, giving them no further interruption, supposing the assailant of their citadel is gone beyond their reach, in less than half an hour they will retire into the nest; and before they have all entered, you will see the labourers in motion, hastening in various directions towards the breach, every one carrying in his mouth a mass of mortar, half as big as his body, ready tempered; this mortar is made of the finest parts of the gravel, which they probably select in the subterranean pits or passages before described, which, worked up to a proper consistence, hardens to the solid substance resembling stone, of which their nests are constructed: they never appear to embarrass or interrupt one another. By the united labours of such an infinite host of creatures, the wall soon rises, and the breach is repaired.

While the labourers are thus employed, almost all the soldiers have retired quite out of sight, except here and there one, who saunters about amongst the labourers, but never assists in the work. One in particular places himself close to the wall which they are building; and turning himself leisurely on all sides, as if to survey the proceedings, appears to act the part of an overseer of the works. Every now and then, at the interval of a minute or two, by lifting up his head and striking his forceps upon the wall of the nest, he makes a particular noise, which is answered by a loud hiss from all the labourers, and appears to be a signal for dispatch; for, every time it is heard, they may be seen to redouble their pace, and[Pg 310] apply to their work with increased diligence. Renew the attack, and this amusing scene will be repeated: in rush the labourers, all disappearing in a few seconds, and out march the military, as numerous and vindictive as before. When all is once more quiet, the busy labourers re-appear, and resume their work, and the soldiers vanish. Repeat the experiment a hundred times, and the same will always be the result; you will never find, be the peril or emergency ever so great, that one order attempts to fight, or the other to work.

We have seen how solicitous the termites are to move and work under cover, and concealed from observation: this, however, is not always the case; there is a species larger than T. bellicosus, whose proceedings we have been principally describing, which Mr. Smeathman calls the marching Termes (Termes viarum). He was once passing through a thick forest, when on a sudden, a loud hiss, like that of serpents, struck him with alarm. The next step produced a repetition of the sound, which he then recognized to be that of white ants; yet he was surprised at seeing none of their hills or covering ways. Following the noise, to his great astonishment and delight, he saw an army of these creatures emerging from a hole in the ground; their number was prodigious, and they marched with the utmost celerity. When they had proceeded about a yard, they divided into two columns, chiefly composed of labourers, about fifteen abreast, and following each other in close order, and going straight forward. Here and there was seen a soldier, carrying his vast head with apparent difficulty, and looking like an ox in a flock of sheep, who marched on in the same manner. At the distance of a foot or two from the columns, many other soldiers were to be seen, standing still or pacing about as if upon the look-out, lest some enemy should suddenly surprise their unwarlike comrades; other soldiers, (which was the most extraordinary and amusing part of the scene,) having mounted some plants, and placed themselves on the points of their leaves, elevated from ten to fifteen inches from the ground, hung over the army marching below, and by striking their forceps upon the leaf, produced at intervals the noise above-mentioned. To this signal the whole army returned a hiss, and obeyed it by increasing their pace. The soldiers at these signal-stations sat quite still during the interval of silence, except now and then making a slight turn of the head, and seemed as solicitous to keep their posts as regular sentinels. The two columns of this army united, after continuing separate from twelve to fifteen paces, having in no part been above three yards asunder, and then descended into the earth by two or three holes. Mr. Smeathman continued watching them for above an hour, during which time their numbers appeared neither to increase nor diminish: the [Pg 311]soldiers, however, who quitted the line of march and acted as sentinels, became much more numerous before he quitted the spot. The larvæ and neuters of this species are furnished with eyes.

The societies of Termes lucifergus, discovered by Latreille, at Bourdeaux, are very numerous; but instead of erecting artificial nests, they make their lodgment in the trunks of pines and oaks, where the branches diverge from the tree. They eat the wood nearest the bark, or the alburnum, without attacking the interior, and bore a vast number of holes and irregular galleries. That part of the wood appears moist, and is covered with little gelatinous particles, not unlike gum-arabic. These insects seem to be furnished with an acid of a very penetrating odour, which, perhaps, is useful to them for penetrating the wood. The soldiers in these societies are as about one to twenty-five of the labourers.

The anonymous author of the observations on the termites of Ceylon, seems to have discovered a sentry-box in his nests. “I found,” says he, “in a very small cell in the middle of the solid mass, (a cell about half an inch in height, and very narrow,) a larva with an enormous head. Two of these individuals were in the same cell; one of the two seemed placed as sentinel at the entrance of the cell. I amused myself by forcing the door two or three times; the sentinel immediately appeared, and only retreated when the door was on the point of being stopped up, which was done by the labourers.”


The Green Ants.—Captain Cook gives the following account of a very peculiar kind of ants, which he met with at Botany Bay.—“They are as green as a leaf. They live upon trees, where they build their nests. The nests are of a very curious structure: they are formed by bending down several of the leaves, each of which is as broad as a man’s hand; they glue the points of them together, so as to form a purse. The viscus used for this purpose is an animal juice, which nature has enabled them to elaborate. Their method of first bending down the leaves, our naturalists had not an opportunity of observing; but they saw thousands uniting all their strength to hold them in this position, while other busy multitudes were employed within, in applying the gluten that was to prevent their returning back. To satisfy themselves that the leaves were bent and held down by the efforts of these diminutive artificers, our people disturbed them in their work, and, as soon as they were driven from their station, the leaves on which they were employed sprang up with a force much greater than they could have thought them able to conquer, by any combination of their strength.”

 [Pg 312]

The Visiting Ants.—At Paramaribo, a Dutch colony in the province of Surinam, there is a species of ants, which the Portuguese call visiting ants: they march in troops, and as soon as they appear, all the coffers and chests of drawers are laid open, which they clear of rats, mice, and a peculiar sort of insect in that country, called cackerlacks, and of other noxious animals. If any one chance to molest them, they fall upon him, and tear in pieces his stockings and shoes. Their visits are rare; and sometimes they do not appear for three years.—Templeman’s Obs. vol. i. p. 36.


We conclude this chapter with an account of The Ant-Lion.—There is no insect more remarkable for its dexterity than the ant-lion, though its figure announces nothing extraordinary. It nearly resembles the woodlouse; its body being provided with six feet, composed of several membranous rings, and terminated in a point. Its head, flat and square, is armed with two moveable crooked horns, whose singular structure shews how admirable Nature is, even in the least of her works.

This insect is the most subtle and dangerous enemy the ant has; the plans which he forms to ensnare his prey, are very ingenious. He mines a portion of land in the form of a funnel, at the bottom of which he waits to seize the ants, which coming by chance to the edge of the precipice, are thence hurried down to their merciless foe. In order to dig it, he first traces in the sand a circular furrow, whose circumference forms precisely the mouth of the funnel, the diameter of which is always equal to the depth he gives to his ditch. When he has determined the space of this opening, and traced the first furrow, he immediately digs a second, concentric to the other, in order to throw out all the sand contained in the first circle. He makes all these operations with his head, which serves him instead of a shovel, and its flat and square form admirably adapts it to this purpose. He also takes some sand with one of his fore feet, to throw it beyond the first furrow; and this work is repeated till the insect has reached a certain depth of sand. Sometimes, in digging, he meets with grains of sand larger than usual, or with little bits of dry earth, which he will not suffer to remain in his tunnel; of these he disencumbers himself by a sudden and well-timed manœuvre of his head. Should he find particles yet larger, he endeavours to push them away with his back, and he is so assiduous in this labour, that he repeats it six or seven times.

At length the ant-lion comes to collect the fruits of his toil. His nets being once well laid, he has nothing to do but to put himself on the watch; accordingly, immoveable and concealed at the bottom of the ditch which he has dug, he[Pg 313] patiently waits for the prey which he cannot pursue. If some unhappy ant is inadvertently drawn to the borders of this fatal precipice, she is almost sure to roll down to the bottom, because the brink is made sloping, and thus the sand giving way beneath her feet, she is forced to follow the dangerous declivity till she falls into the power of her destroyer, who, by means of his horns, draws her under the sand, and feasts upon her blood. When he has sucked all the juices from her body, he contrives to eject from his habitation the dry and hollow carcase, repairs any damage his trench may have sustained, and puts himself again in ambush. He does not always succeed in seizing his prey at the moment of its fall; it frequently escapes him, and endeavours to remount the funnel; but then the ant-lion works with his head, and causes a shower of sand to descend upon his captive, and precipitate it once more to the bottom.

All the actions of this little animal display an art so extraordinary, that we might often examine them without being wearied. The ant-lion employs itself in preparing trenches even before having seen the animal which they are to ensnare, and which is to serve it for nourishment; and yet its actions are regulated in a manner the best adapted to accomplish these purposes.

How would an animal, so destitute of agility, have been able to entrap its prey more easily than by digging in a moveable sand, and giving a sloping declivity to this funnel? What better stratagem could it have devised for recovering the ants which were on the point of escaping even from this skilfully constructed snare, than in overwhelming them with showers of sand, and thus cutting off all hopes of a retreat? All its actions have fixed principles by which they are directed. The trench must be dug in the sand, or it could not answer the desired purpose; and it must, according to the structure of its body, work backwards, using its horns like a pair of pincers, in order to throw the sand over the brink of the funnel. The instinct which governs this insect, discovers to us a First Cause, whose intelligence has foreseen and ordained every thing that was necessary for the preservation and well-being of such an animal.



[Pg 314]



The Spider—Ingenuity of the Spider—Spider tamed—Curious Anecdote of a Spider, &c.


The Spider.

The spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.

One of the largest of the European spiders is the Aranea diadema of Linnæus, which is extremely common in our own country, and is chiefly seen during the autumnal season, in gardens, &c. The body of this species, when full grown, is not much inferior in size to a small hazel-nut: the abdomen is beautifully marked by a longitudinal series of round or drop-shaped milk-white spots, crossed by others of similar appearance, so as to represent, in some degree, the pattern of a small diadem. This spider, in the months of September and October, forms, in some convenient spot or shelter, a large round close or thick web of yellow silk, in which it deposits its eggs, guarding the round web with a secondary one of a looser texture. The young are hatched in the ensuing May, the parent insects dying towards the close of autumn. The aranea diadema being one of the largest of the common spiders, serves to exemplify some of the principal characters of the genus in a clearer manner than most others. At the tip of the abdomen are placed five papillæ, or teats, through which the insect draws its thread; and as each of these papillæ is furnished with a vast number of foramina or outlets, disposed over its whole surface, it follows, that what we commonly term a spider’s thread, is in reality formed of a collection of a great many distinct ones; the animal possessing the power of drawing out more or fewer at pleasure; and if it should draw from all the foramina at once, the thread might consist of many hundred distinct filaments. The eyes, which are situated on the upper part or front of the thorax, are eight in number, placed at a small distance from each other, and have the appearance of the stemmata in the generality of insects. The fangs, or piercers, with which the animal wounds its prey, are strong, curved, sharp-pointed, and each furnished on the inside, near the tip, with a small oblong hole or slit, through which is injected a poisonous fluid into the wound made by the point itself, these organs operating in miniature on the same principle with the fangs in poisonous serpents.[Pg 315] The feet are highly curious, the two claws, with which each is terminated, being furnished on its under side with several parallel processes, resembling the teeth of a comb, and enabling the animal to dispose and manage, with the utmost facility, the disposition of the threads in its web, &c.

The Aranea tarantula, or Tarantula spider, of which so many idle recitals have been detailed in the works of the learned, and which, even to this day, continues in some countries to exercise the faith and ignorance of the vulgar, is a native of the warmer parts of Italy, and other warm European regions, and is generally found in dry and sunny plains. It is the largest of all the European spiders; but the extraordinary symptoms supposed to ensue from the bite of this insect, as well as their supposed cure by the power of music alone, are entirely fabulous, and are now sufficiently exploded among all rational philosophers. The gigantic Aranea avicularia, or Bird-catching spider, is not uncommon in many parts of the East Indies and South America, where it resides among trees, frequently seizing on small birds, which it destroys by wounding with its fangs, and sucking their blood.

During the early part of the last century, a project was entertained by a French gentleman, Monsieur Bon, of Montpellier, of instituting a manufacture of spiders’ silk; and the Royal Academy, to which the scheme was proposed, appointed the ingenious Reaumur to repeat the experiments of M. Bon, in order to ascertain how far the proposed plan might be carried: but, after making the proper trials, M. Reaumur found it to be impracticable, on account of the natural disposition of these animals, which is such as will by no means admit of their living peaceably together in large numbers. M. Reaumur also computed that 663,522 spiders would scarcely furnish a single pound of silk. Monsieur Bon, however, the first projector, carried his experiments so far as to obtain two or three pairs of stockings and gloves of this silk, which were of an elegant gray colour, and were presented, as samples, to the Royal Academy. It must be observed, that in this manufacture it is the silk of the egg-bags alone that can be used, being far stronger than that of the webs. Monsieur Bon collected twelve or thirteen ounces of these, and having caused them to be well cleared of dust, by properly beating with sticks, he washed them perfectly clean in warm water. After this, they were laid to steep, in a large vessel, with soap, saltpetre, and gum-arabic. The whole was left to boil over a gentle fire for three hours, and was afterwards again washed to get out the soap; then laid to dry for some days, after which it was carded, but with much smaller cards than ordinary. The silk is easily spun into a fine and strong thread; the difficulty being only to collect the silk-bags in sufficient quantity.

[Pg 316]There remains one more particularity in the history of spiders, viz. the power of flight. It is principally in the autumnal season that these diminutive adventurers ascend the air, and contribute to fill it with that infinity of floating cobwebs, which are so peculiarly conspicuous at that period of the year. When inclined to make these aërial excursions, the spider ascends some slight eminence, as the top of a wall, or the branch of a tree; and turning itself with its head towards the wind, protrudes several threads, and, rising from its station, commits itself to the gale, and is thus carried far beyond the height of the loftiest towers, and enjoys the pleasure of a clearer atmosphere. During their flight, it is probable that spiders employ themselves in catching such minute winged insects as may happen to occur in their progress; and when satisfied with their journey and their prey, they suffer themselves to fall, by contracting their limbs, and gradually disengaging themselves from the thread.

These insects are but ill calculated to live in society. Whenever thus stationed, they never fail to wage war with each other. The females, in particular, are of a disposition peculiarly capricious and malignant; and it is observed, that they sometimes spring upon the males, and destroy them. On this occasion, says Linnæus, if ever, may be justly applied the Ovidian line:—

Res est solliciti plena timoris amor!


The following is a notable instance of the Ingenuity of the Spider. T. A. Knight, Esq. of Herefordshire, has, in a Treatise on the Culture of the Apple and Pear, introduced the following concerning this curious insect.—

“I have frequently placed a spider on a small upright stick, whose base was surrounded by water, to observe its most singular mode of escape. After having discovered that the ordinary means of escape are cut off, it ascends the point of the stick, and, standing nearly on its head, ejects its web, which the wind readily carries to some contiguous object. Along this, the sagacious insect effects its escape, not however till it has previously ascertained, by several exertions of its whole strength, that its web is properly attached to the opposite end. I do not know that this instance of sagacity has been mentioned by any entomological writer, and I insert it here in consequence of the erroneous accounts of some periodical publications, of the spider’s threads, which are observed to pass from one tree or bush to another in dewy mornings.”


The reader will be pleased with the following account of a Spider tamed, given by the Abbé d’Olivet, author of the Life of Pelisson, in the following passage:—

[Pg 317]“Confined at that time in a solitary place, and where the light of day only penetrated through a mere slit, having no other servant than a stupid and dull clown, a Basque, who was continually playing on the bagpipes, Pelisson studied by what means to secure himself against an enemy, which a good conscience alone cannot always repel; I mean, the attacks of unemployed imagination, which, when it once exceeds proper limits, becomes the most cruel torture of a recluse individual. He adopted the following stratagem:—Perceiving a spider spinning her web at the spiracle, he undertook to tame her; and to effect this, he placed some flies on the edge of the opening, while the Basque was playing on his favourite bagpipe. The spider by degrees accustomed herself to distinguish the sound of that instrument, and to run from her hole to seize her prey; thus, by means of always calling her out by the same tune, and placing the flies nearer and nearer his own seat, after several months’ exercise, he succeeded in training the spider so well, that she would start at the first signal, to seize a fly at the farthest end of the room, and even on the knees of the prisoner.”

It has been stated, that a prisoner confined in the Bastile, retained his senses, contrary to expectation, by playing daily so many games at push-pin; he having, unknown to his keepers, secreted a battalion or two of these hostile implements. The device of Pelisson is more interesting to us, as we learn from it, that the spider, though amongst the most quarrelsome of insects, yet is capable of being rendered familiar by the reason and perseverance of man.

In the introduction to a modern Entomology there is a description of the process by which the spider weaves its web. After describing the four spinners, as they are termed, from which the visible threads proceed, the writer makes the following curious observations:—“These are machinery, through which, by a process more singular than that of rope-spinning, the thread is drawn. Each spinner is pierced, like the plate of a wire-drawer, with a multitude of holes, so numerous, and exquisitely fine, that a space often not larger than a pin’s point includes a thousand. Through each of these holes proceeds a thread of inconceivable tenuity, which, immediately after issuing from the orifice, unites with all the other threads from the spinner, into one. Hence, from each spinner proceeds a compound thread; and these four threads, at the distance of about one-tenth of an inch from the apex of the spinner, again unite, and form the thread we are accustomed to see, which the spider uses in forming its web. Thus, a spider’s web, even spun by the smallest species, and when so fine that it is almost imperceptible to our senses, is not, as we suppose, a straight line, but a rope, composed of at least 400 yarns.”

 [Pg 318]

We shall close this chapter with a curious Anecdote of a Spider, connected with observations on the utility of ants in destroying venomous creatures; by Captain Bagnold.

“Desirous of ascertaining the natural food of the scorpion, I inclosed one (which measured three-quarters of an inch from the head to the insertion of the tail) in a wide-mouthed phial, together with one of those large spiders so common in the West Indies, and closed it with a cork, perforated by a quill for the admission of air. The insects seemed carefully to avoid each other, retiring to opposite ends of the bottle, which was placed horizontally. By giving it a gradual inclination, the scorpion was forced into contact with the spider, when a sharp encounter took place, the latter receiving repeated stings from his venomous adversary, apparently without the least injury; while, with his web, he soon lashed the scorpion’s tail to his back, and afterwards secured his legs and claws with the same materials. In this state I left them some time, in order to observe what effect would be produced on the spider, by the wounds he had received. On my return, however, I was disappointed, the ants having entered, and destroyed them both.

“In the West Indies I have daily witnessed crowds of these little insects destroying the spider or cockroach, which, as soon as he is dispatched, they carry to their nest. I have frequently seen them drag their prey perpendicularly up the wall, and, although the weight would overcome their united efforts, and fall to the ground, perhaps twenty times in succession, yet, by unremitting perseverance, and the aid of reinforcements, they always succeeded.

“A struggle of this description once amused the officers of his majesty’s ship Retribution, for nearly half an hour: a large centipede entered the gun-room, surrounded by an immense concourse of ants; the deck, for four or five feet round, was covered with them; his body and limbs were encrusted with his lilliputian enemies; and although thousands were destroyed by his exertions to escape, they ultimately carried him in triumph to their dwelling.

“In the woods near Sierra Leone, I have several times seen the entire skeletons of the snake beautifully dissected by these minute anatomists.”

From these circumstances it would appear, that ants are a considerable check to the increase of those venomous reptiles, so troublesome in the torrid zone; and their industry, perseverance, courage, and numerical force, seem to strengthen the conjecture: in which case they amply remunerate us for their own depredations.



[Pg 319]



Luminous Insects.


Many insects are possessed of a luminous preparation or secretion, which has all the advantages of our lamps and candles, without their inconveniences; which gives light sufficient to direct our motion; which is incapable of burning; and whose lustre is maintained without needing fresh supplies of oil, or the application of snuffers.

Of the insects thus singularly provided, the common Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca) is the most familiar instance.—This insect in shape somewhat resembles a caterpillar, only it is much more depressed; and the light proceeds from a pale-coloured patch that terminates, the under side of the abdomen.

It has been supposed by many, that the males of the different species of lampyris do not possess the property of giving out any light; but it is now ascertained that this supposition is inaccurate, though their light is much less vivid than that of the female. Ray first pointed out this fact with respect to (L. noctiluca.) Geoffrey also observed, that the male of this species has four small luminous points, two on each of the two last segments of the belly: and his observation has been recently confirmed by Miller. This last entomologist, indeed, saw only two shining spots; but from the insects having the power of withdrawing them out of sight, so that not the smallest trace of light remains, he thinks it is not improbable that at times two other points, still smaller, may be exhibited, as Geoffrey has described. In the males of L. splendidula, and of L. hemiptera, the light is very distinct, and may be seen in the former while flying. The females have the same faculty of extinguishing or concealing their light; a very necessary provision to guard them from the attacks of nocturnal birds. Mr. White even thinks that they regularly put it out between eleven and twelve every night, and they have also the power of rendering it for a while more vivid than ordinary.

Though many of the females of the different species of lampyris are without wings, and even elytra, (in Coleoptera,) this is not the case with all. The female of L. Italica, a species common in Italy, and which, if we may trust to the accuracy of the account given by Mr. Waller, in the Philosophical Transactions for 1684, would seem to have been taken by him[Pg 320] in Hertfordshire, is winged; and when a number of these moving stars are seen to dart through the air in a dark night, nothing can have a more beautiful effect. Dr. Smith says, that the beaus of Italy are accustomed in an evening to adorn the heads of the ladies with these artificial diamonds, by sticking them into their hair; and a similar custom prevails amongst the ladies of India.

Besides the golden species of the genus Lampyris, all of which are probably more or less luminous, another insect of the beetle tribe, Elater noctilucus, is endowed with the same property, and that in a much higher degree. This insect, which is an inch long, and about one-third of an inch broad, gives out its principal light from two transparent eye-like tubercles placed upon the thorax; but there are also two luminous patches concealed under the elytra, which are not visible except when the insect is flying, at which time it appears adorned with four brilliant gems of the most beautiful golden-blue lustre: in fact, the whole body is full of light, which shines out between the abdominal segments when stretched. The light emitted by the two thoracic tubercles alone is so considerable, that the smallest print may be read by moving one of these insects along the lines; and in the West India islands, particularly in St. Domingo, where they are very common, the natives were formerly accustomed to employ those living lamps, which they called cucuij, instead of candles, in performing their evening household occupations. In travelling at night, they used to tie one to each great toe; and in fishing and hunting, required no other flambeau.—Pietro Martire’s Decades of the New World, quoted in Madoc, p. 543. Southey has happily introduced this insect in his “Madoc,” as furnishing the lamp by which Coatel rescued the British hero from the hands of the Mexican priests.

“She beckon’d and descended, and drew out,
From underneath her vest, a cage, or net
It rather might be called, so fine the twigs
Which knit it, where, confined, two fire-flies gave
Their lustre. By that light did Madoc first
Behold the features of his lovely guide.”

Pietro Martire tells us, that cucuij serve the natives of the Spanish West India islands not only instead of candles, but as extirpators of the gnats, which are a dreadful pest to the inhabitants of the low grounds. They introduce a few fire-flies, to which the gnats are a grateful food, into their houses, and by means of these “commodious hunters,” are soon rid of the intruders. “How they are a remedy (says this author) for so great a mischiefe, it is a pleasant thing to hear. Hee who understandeth that he has those troublesome guestes (the gnattes) at home, diligently hunteth after the cucuij. Whoso wanteth cucuij, goeth out of the house in the first twilight of[Pg 321] the night, carrying a burning fire-brande in his hande, and ascendeth the next hillock, that the cucuij may see it, and hee swingeth the fire-brande about, calling Cucuie aloud, and beating the ayre with often calling out, Cucuie, Cucuie.” He goes on to observe, that the simple people believe the insect is attracted by their invitations; but that, for his part, he is rather inclined to think that the fire is the magnet. Having obtained a sufficient number of cucuij, the beetle-hunter returns home, and lets them fly loose in the house, where they diligently seek the gnats about the beds and the faces of those asleep, and devour them.—Martire ubi supr. Colonies, i. 128. These insects are also applied to purposes of decoration. On certain festival-days, in the month of June, they are collected in great numbers, and tied all over the garments of young people, who gallop through the streets on horses similarly ornamented, producing on a dark evening the effect of a large moving body of light. On such occasions, the lover displays his gallantry by decking his mistress with these living gems.—Walton’s Present State of the Spanish Colonies. And according to P. Martire, “many wanton wilde fellowes” rub their faces with “the flesh of a killed cucuij,” as boys with us use phosphorus, “with purpose to meet their neighbours with a flaming countenance,” and derive amusement from their fright.

Besides Elater noctilucus, E. ignitus, and several others of the same genus, are luminous: not fewer than twelve species of this family are described by Illiger in the Berlin Naturalist Society’s Magazine.

The brilliant nocturnal spectacle presented by these insects to the inhabitants of the countries where they abound, cannot be better described than in the language of the poet above referred to, who has thus related its first effect upon British visitors of the new world:

“——————————sorrowing we beheld
The night come on: but soon did night display
More wonders than it veil’d; innumerable tribes
From the wood-cover swarm’d, and darkness made
Their beauties visible; one while they stream’d
A bright blue radiance upon flowers that clos’d
Their gorgeous colours from the eye of day;
Now motionless and dark, eluding search,
Self-shrouded; and anon starring the sky,
Rose like a shower of fire.”

If we are to believe Mouffet, (and the story is not incredible,) the appearance of the tropical fire-flies on one occasion led to a more important result than might have been expected from such a cause. He tells us, that when Sir Thos. Cavendish and Sir John Dudley first landed in the West Indies, and saw in the evening an infinite number of moving lights in the woods, which were merely these insects, they supposed that[Pg 322] the Spaniards were advancing upon them, and immediately betook themselves to their ships: a result as well entitling the elatera to a commemoration feast, as a similar good office by the land-crabs of Hispaniola, which, as the Spaniards tell, (and the story is confirmed by an anniversary Fiesta de los Cangrejos,) by their clattering being mistaken for the sound of Spanish cavalry close upon their heels, in like manner scared away a body of English invaders from the city of St. Domingo.—Walton’s Hispaniola, i. 39.

An anecdote less improbable, perhaps, and certainly more ludicrous, is related by Sir James Smith, of the effect of the first sight of the Italian fire-flies upon some Moorish ladies, ignorant of such appearances. These females had been taken prisoners at sea, and, until they could be ransomed, lived in a house in the outskirts of Genoa, where they were frequently visited by the respectable inhabitants of the city; a party of whom, on going one evening, were surprised to find the house closely shut up, and their Moorish friends in the greatest grief and consternation. On inquiring into the cause, they ascertained that some of the Lampyris Italica had found their way into the dwelling, and that the ladies within had taken it into their heads that these brilliant guests were no other than the troubled spirits of their relations; and some time elapsed before they could be divested of this idea. The common people in Italy have a superstition respecting these insects somewhat similar, believing that they are of a spiritual nature, and proceed out of the graves; and hence carefully avoid them.—Tour on the Continent, 2d ed. iii. 85.

The insects hitherto adverted to have been beetles, or of the order Coleoptera. But, besides these, a genus in the order Hemiptera, called Fulgora, includes several species, which emit so powerful a light, as to have obtained in English the generic appellation of lantern-flies. Two of the most conspicuous of this tribe are the F. lanternaria and F. candelaria; the former a native of South America, the latter of China. Both, as indeed is the case with the whole genus, have the material which diffuses their light included in a hollow subtransparent projection of the head. In F. candelaria this projection is of a subcylindrical shape, recurved at the apex, above an inch in length, and the thickness of a small quill. We may easily conceive, as travellers assure us, that a tree studded with multitudes of these living sparks, some at rest and others in motion, must during the night have a superlatively splendid appearance.

In F. lanternaria, which is an insect two or three inches long, the snout is much larger and broader, and more of an oval shape, and sheds a light, the brilliancy of which transcends that of any other luminous insect. Madam Merian[Pg 323] informs us, that the first discovery she made of this property caused her no small alarm. The servants had brought her several of these insects, which by day-light exhibited no extraordinary appearance, and she inclosed them in a box till she should have an opportunity of drawing them, placing them upon a table in her lodging-room. In the middle of the night the confined insects made such a noise as to awake her, and she opened the box, the inside of which, to her great astonishment, appeared all in a blaze; and in her fright letting it fall, she was not less surprised to see each of the insects apparently on fire. She soon, however, divined the cause of this unexpected phenomenon, and re-inclosed her brilliant guests in their place of confinement. She adds, that the light of one of these fulgora was sufficiently bright to read a newspaper by. Another species, F. pyrrhorynchus, is described by Donovan, in his Insects of India; of which the light, though from a smaller snout than that of F. lanternaria, must assume a more splendid and striking appearance, the projection being of a rich deep purple from the base to near the apex, which is of a fine transparent scarlet; and these tints will of course be imparted to the transmitted light.

With regard to the immediate source of the luminous properties of these insects, Mr. Macartney, to whom we are indebted for the most recent investigation on the subject, has ascertained, that in the common glow-worm, and in Elater noctilucus and ignitus, the light proceeds from masses of a substance not generally differing, except in its yellow colour, from the interstitial substance corps graisseux, of the rest of the body, closely applied underneath those transparent parts of the insects’ skin which afford the light. In the glowworm, besides the last-mentioned substance, which, when the season for giving light is passed, is absorbed, and replaced by the common interstitial substance, he observed on the inner side of the last abdominal segment two minute oval sacks, formed of an elastic spirally-wound fibre, similar to that of the trachea, containing a soft yellow substance, of a closer texture than that which lines the adjoining region, and affording a more permanent and brilliant light. This light he found to be less under the control of the insect than that from the adjoining luminous substance, which it has the power of voluntarily extinguishing, not by retracting it under a membrane, as Carradori imagined, but by some inscrutable change which depends upon its will: and when the latter substance was extracted from living glowworms, it afforded no light, while the two sacks in like circumstances shone uninterruptedly for several hours. Mr. Macartney conceives, from the radiated structure of interstitial substance surrounding the oval yellow masses immediately under the transparent spot in the thorax[Pg 324] of Elater noctilucus, and the subtransparency of the adjoining crust, that the interstitial substance in this situation has also the property of shining; a supposition which, if De Geer and other authors be correct in stating, that this insect has two luminous patches over its elytra, and that the incisures between the abdominal segments shine when stretched, may probably be extended to the whole of the interstitial substance of its body.

With respect to the remote cause of the luminous property of insects, philosophers are considerably divided in opinion. The disciples of modern chemistry have in general, with Dr. Darwin, referred it to the slow combustion of some combination of phosphorus secreted from their fluids by an appropriate organization, and entering into combination with the oxygen supplied in respiration. This opinion is very plausibly built upon the ascertained existence of phosphoric acid as an animal secretion; the great resemblance between the light of phosphorus in slow combustion, and animal light; the remarkably large spiracula in glowworms; and upon the statement, that the glowworm is rendered more brilliant by the application of heat and oxygen gas, and is extinguished by cold and by hydrogen and carbonic acid gases. From these last facts, Spallanzani was led to regard the luminous matter as a compound of hydrogen and carburetted hydrogen gas. Carradori having found that the luminous portion of the belly of the Italian glowworm, lampyris Italica, shone in vacuo, in oil, in water, and when under other circumstances where the presence of oxygen gas was precluded,—with Brugnatelli, ascribed the property in question to the imbibition of light, separated from the food or air taken in the body, and afterwards secreted in a sensible form.[15] Lastly, Mr. Macartney having ascertained, by experiment, that the light of a glowworm is not diminished by immersion in water, or increased by the application of heat; that the substance affording it, though poetically employed for lighting the fairies’ tapers,[16] is incapable of inflammation, if applied to the flame of a candle or red-hot iron; and when separated from the body, exhibits no sensible heat on the thermometer’s being applied to it,—rejects the preceding hypothesis as unsatisfactory, but without substituting any other explanation; suggesting, however, that the facts he observed are more favourable to the supposition of light being a quality of matter, than a substance.

Which of these opinions is the more correct, is left for future philosophers to decide.

[Pg 325]The general use of this singular provision is not much more satisfactorily ascertained than its nature. It is conjectured that it may be a means of defence against its enemies. In different kinds of insects, however, it may probably have a different object. Thus in the lantern-flies, (Fulgora,) whose light precedes them, it may act the part that their name imports, enable them to discover their prey, and to steer themselves safely in the night. In the fire-flies, (Elater,) if we consider the infinite numbers, that in certain climates and situations present themselves every where in the night, it may distract the attention of their enemies, or alarm them. And in the glowworm, since their light is usually more brilliant in the female, it is most probably intended to conduct the sexes to each other.

Thine is an unobtrusive blaze,
Content in lowly shades to shine;
And much I wish, while yet I gaze,
To make thy modest merit mine!
Mrs. Opie.





The Flea—On the Duration of the Life of a Flea—The Louse.


The Flea,—has two eyes and six feet, fitted for leaping; the feelers are like threads; the rostrum is inflected, setaceous, and armed with a sting; and the belly is compressed. Fleas bring forth eggs, which they deposit on animals that afford them a proper food. Of these eggs are hatched white worms of a shining pearl colour, which feed on the scurfy substance of the cuticle, the downy matter gathered in the piles or folds of clothes, or other similar substances. In a fortnight they come to a tolerable size, and are very lively and active; and, if at any time disturbed, they suddenly roll themselves into a kind of ball. Soon after this, they come to creep, after the manner of silk-worms, with a very swift motion. When arrived at their size, they hide themselves as much as possible, and spin a silken thread out of their mouth, wherewith they form themselves a small round bag, or case, white within as paper, but without always dirty, and fouled with dust. Here, after a fortnight’s rest, the animalcule bursts out, transformed into a perfect flea, leaving its exuviæ in the bag. While[Pg 326] it remains in the bag, it is milk-white till the second day before its eruption, when it becomes coloured, grows hard, and gets strength; so that, upon its first delivery, it springs nimbly away. The flea is covered all over with black, hard, and shelly scales or plates, which are curiously jointed, and folded over each other in such a manner as to comply with all the nimble motions of the creature. These scales are finely polished, and beset about the edges with short spikes, in a very beautiful and regular order. Its neck is finely arched, and resembles the tail of a lobster: the head is also very extraordinary; for from the snout-part of it proceed the two fore-legs, and between these is placed the piercer, or sucker, with which it penetrates the skin to get its food. Its eyes are very large and beautiful, and it has two short horns, or feelers. It has four other legs, joined all at the breast. These, when it leaps, fold short, one within another; and then, exerting their spring all at the same instant, they carry the creature to a surprising distance. The legs have several joints, are very hairy, and terminate in two long and hooked sharp claws. The piercer, or sucker, of the flea, is lodged between its fore-legs, and includes a couple of darts or lancets, which, after the piercer has made an entrance, are thrust farther into the flesh, to make the blood flow from the adjacent parts, and occasion that round red spot, with a hole in the centre of it, vulgarly called a flea-bite.

This piercer, its sheath opening sidewise, and the two lancets within it, are very difficult to be seen, unless the two fore-legs, between which they are hid, be cut off close to the head; for the flea rarely puts out its piercer, except at the time of feeding, but keeps it folded inwards; and the best way of seeing it, is by cutting off first the head, and then the fore-legs, and then it is usually seen thrust out in convulsions. By keeping fleas in a glass tube corked up at both ends, but so as to admit fresh air, their several actions may be observed. They may be thus seen to lay their eggs, &c. They do not lay their eggs all at once, but by ten or twelve in a day, for several days successively, which eggs will be afterwards found to hatch successively, in the same order. The flea may easily be dissected in a drop of water; and thus the stomach and bowels, with their peristaltic motion, may be discovered very plainly, with the veins and arteries, though minute beyond all conception. This bloodthirsty insect, which fattens at the expense of the human species, prefers the more delicate skin of women, but preys neither upon epileptic persons, nor upon the dead or dying. It loves to nestle in the fur of dogs, cats, and rats. The nests of river-swallows are sometimes plentifully stored with them. Fleas are apterous, walk but little, but leap to a height equal to two hundred times that[Pg 327] of their own body. This amazing motion is performed by means of the elasticity of their feet, the articulations of which are so many springs. Thus it eludes, with surprising agility, the pursuit of the person on whom it riots. Mercurial ointment, brimstone, a fumigation with the leaves of pennyroyal, or fresh-gathered leaves of that plant, sewed up in a bag, and laid in the bed, are remedies pointed out as destructive of fleas.

In the Athenian Oracle, a lady desires to know whether fleas have stings, or whether they only suck or bite, when they draw blood from the body? To which an ingenious author returns the following humorous answer:

“Not to trouble you, madam, with the Hebrew or Arabic name of a flea, or to transcribe Bochart’s learned dissertations on the little animal, we shall, for your satisfaction, give such a description thereof as we have yet been able to discover.—

“Its skin is of a lovely deep red colour, most neatly polished, and armed with scales, which can resist any thing but fate, and your ladyship’s unmerciful fingers: the neck of it is exactly like the tail of a lobster, and, by the assistance of those strong scales it is covered with, springs backwards and forwards much in the same manner, and with equal violence: it has two eyes on each side of its head, so pretty, that I would prefer them to any, madam, but yours; and which it makes use of to avoid its fate, and flee from its enemies, with as much nimbleness and success, as your sex manage those fatal weapons, lovely basilisks as you are, for the ruin of your adorers. Nature has provided it six substantial legs, of great strength, and incomparable agility, jointed like a cane, covered with large hairs, and armed each of them with two claws, which appear of a horny substance, more sharp than lancets, or the finest needle you have in your needle-book. It was a long while before we could discover its mouth, which, we confess, we have not yet so exactly perceived as we could wish, the little bashful creature always holding up its two fore-feet before it, which it uses instead of a fan or mask, when it has no mind to be known; and we were forced to be guilty of an act both uncivil and cruel, without which we could never have resolved your question. We were obliged to unmask this modest one, and cut off its two fore-legs to get to the face; which being performed, though it makes our tender hearts, as well as yours, almost bleed to think of it, we immediately discovered what your ladyship desired, and found Nature had given it a strong proboscis, or trunk, as a gnat or muschetto, though much thicker and stouter, with which we may very well suppose it penetrates your fair hand, feasts itself on the nectar of your blood, and then, like a little faithless fugitive of a lover, skips away, almost invisibly, nobody knows whither.”

 [Pg 328]

We close our remarks on this well-known insect, with the following interesting particulars on the Duration of the Life of a Flea; by Borrichius; from the Acts of Copenhagen.—“Pliny represents to us a Greek philosopher, whose chief occupation, for several years together, was to measure the space skipped over by fleas. Without giving in to such ridiculous researches, I can relate an anecdote, which chance discovered to me in regard to this insect.

“Being sent for to attend a foreign lady, who was greatly afflicted with the gout, and having staid, by her desire, to dine with her, she bade me take notice of a flea on her hand. Surprised at such discourse, I looked at the hand, and saw indeed a plump and pampered flea sucking greedily, and kept fast to it by a little gold chain. The lady assured me, she had nursed and kept the little animal, at that time, full six years, with exceeding great care, having fed it twice every day with her blood; and when it had satisfied its appetite, she put it up in a little box, lined with silk. In a month’s time, being recovered from her illness, she set out from Copenhagen with her flea; but having returned in about a year after, I took an opportunity of waiting upon her, and, among other things, asked after her little insect. She answered me with great concern, that it died through the neglect of her waiting-woman. What I found remarkable in this story was, that the lady, being attacked by chronical pains in her limbs, had recourse in France to very powerful medicines during six weeks; and all this time the flea had not ceased to feed upon her blood, imbued with the vapours, and yet was not the worse for it.”


The Louse.—This insect has six feet, two eyes, and a sort of sting in the mouth; the feelers are as long as the thorax; and the belly is depressed and sublobated. It is an oviparous animal. They are not peculiar to man alone, but infest other animals, as quadrupeds and birds, and even fishes and vegetables; but these are of peculiar species on each animal, according to the particular nature of each, some of which are different from those which infest the human body. Nay, even insects are infested with vermin, which feed on and torment them. Several kinds of beetles are subject to lice, but particularly that kind called by way of eminence the lousy beetle. The lice on this are very numerous, and will not be shook off. The earwig is often infested with lice, just at the setting on of its head: these are white and shining, like mites, but they are much smaller; they are round-backed, flat-bellied, and have long legs, particularly the foremost pair. Snails of all kinds, but especially the large naked sorts, are very subject to lice; which are continually seen running about them, and[Pg 329] devouring them. Numbers of little red lice, with a very small head, and in shape resembling a tortoise, are often seen about the legs of spiders, and they never leave the animal while he lives; but if he be killed, they almost instantly forsake him. A sort of whitish lice is found on humblebees; they are also found upon ants; and fishes are not less subject to them than other animals. Kircher tells us, that he found lice also on flies, and M. de la Hire has given a curious account of the creature which he found on the common fly. Having occasion to view a living fly with the microscope, he observed on its head, back, and shoulders, a great number of small animals crawling very nimbly about, and often climbing up the hairs which grow at the origin of the fly’s legs. He with a fine needle took up one of these, and placed it before the microscope used to view the animalcules in fluids. It had eight legs, four on each side; these were not placed very distant from each other, but the four towards the head were separated by a small space from the four towards the tail. The feet were of a particular structure, being composed of several fingers, as it were, and fitted for taking fast hold of any thing, but the two nearest the head were also more remarkable in this particular than those near the tail; the extremities of the legs for a little way above the feet were dry, and void of flesh, like the legs of birds, but above this part they appeared plump and fleshy. It had two small horns upon its head, formed of several hairs arranged closely together; and there were some other clusters of hairs by the side of these horns, but they had not the same figure; and towards the origin of the hind-legs there were two other such clusters of hairs, which took their origin at the middle of the back. The whole creature was of a bright yellowish red; the legs, and all the body, except a large spot in the centre, were perfectly transparent. In size, he computed it to be about 14000th part of the head of the fly; and he observes, that such kind of vermin are rarely found on flies.

The louse which infests the human body, makes a very curious appearance through a microscope. It has such a transparent shell or skin, that we are able to discover more of what passes within its body, than in most other living creatures. It has naturally three divisions, the head, the breast, and the tail part. In the head appear two fine black eyes, with a horn that has five joints, and is surrounded with hairs standing before each eye; and from the end of the nose, or snout, there is a pointed projecting part, which serves as a sheath or case to a piercer, or sucker, which the creature thrusts into the skin to draw out the blood and humours which are its destined food; for it has no mouth that opens in the common way. This piercer, or sucker, is judged to be[Pg 330] seven hundred times smaller than a hair, and is contained in another case within the first, and can be drawn in or thrust out at pleasure. The breast is very beautifully marked in the middle; the skin is transparent, and full of little pits; and from the under part of it proceed six legs, each having five joints, and their skin all the way resembling shagreen, except at the ends, where it is smoother. Each leg is terminated by two claws, which are hooked, and are of an unequal length and size. These it uses as we would a thumb and middle finger; and there are hairs between these claws, as well as all over the legs. On the back part of the tail there may be discovered some ring-like divisions, and a sort of marks which look like the strokes of a rod on the human skin; the belly looks like shagreen, and towards the lower end it is very clear, and full of pits: at the extremity of the tail there are two semicircular parts, all covered over with hairs. When the louse moves its legs, the motion of the muscles, which all unite in an oblong dark spot in the middle of the breast, may be distinguished perfectly; and so may the motion of the muscles of the head, when it moves its horns. We may likewise see the various ramifications of the veins and arteries, which are white, with the pulse regularly beating in the arteries. The peristaltic motion of the intestines may be distinctly seen, from the stomach down to the anus.

If one of these creatures, when hungry, be placed on the back of the hand, it will thrust its sucker into the skin, and the blood which it sucks may be seen passing in a fine stream to the fore part of the head; where, falling into a roundish cavity, it passes again in a fine stream to another circular receptacle in the middle of the head; from thence it runs through a small vessel to the breast, and then to a gut which reaches to the hinder part of the body, where, in a curve, it turns again a little upward in the breast and gut; the blood is moved without intermission with great force, especially in the former, where it occasions a surprising contraction.

In the upper part of the crooked ascending gut above-mentioned, the propelled blood stands still, and seems to undergo a separation, some of it becoming clear and waterish, while other black particles are pushed forward to the anus. If a louse is placed on its back, two bloody darkish spots appear; the larger in the middle of the body, the smaller towards the tail; the motions of which are followed by the pulsation of the dark bloody spot, in or over which the white bladder seems to lie. This motion of the systole and diastole is best seen when the creature begins to grow weak; and on pricking the white bladder, which seems to be the heart, it instantly dies. The lower dark spot is supposed to be the excrement.



[Pg 331]



In the vast, and the minute, we see
Th’ unambiguous footsteps of a God,
Who gives its lustre to an insect’s wing,
And wheels his throne upon the rolling worlds.


The Aphis.

This is an insect which has engaged the attention of naturalists for various reasons: their generation is equivocal, and their instinctive economy differs, in some respects, from that of most other animals. Linnæus defines the generic character of the aphis thus: beak inflected, sheath of five articulations, with a single bristle; antennæ setaceous, and longer than the thorax; either four erect wings, or none; feet formed for walking; posterior part of the abdomen usually furnished with two little horns. Geoffrey says, the aphides have two beaks, one of which is seated in the breast, the other in the head; this last extends to, and is laid upon, the base of the pectoral one, and serves, as that writer imagines, to convey to the head a part of that nourishment which the insect takes or sucks in by means of the pectoral beak.

Gmelin enumerates about seventy species, all of which, and doubtless many others, are found in different parts of Europe. They infest an endless variety of plants; and it is believed that each species is particularly attached to one kind of vegetable only: hence each sort has been hitherto named after the individual species or genus of plants on which it feeds; or if that could not be ascertained, that on which it had been found; for some species are rather uncommon and little known, though others are infinitely too numerous. The aphides are sufficiently known by the indiscriminate term of plant-lice; they abound with a sweet and grateful moisture, and are therefore eagerly devoured by ants, the larvæ coccinellæ, and many other creatures, or they would become, very probably, more destructive to the whole vegetable creation than any other race of insects known. If Bonnet was not the first naturalist (as is generally acknowledged) who discovered the mysterious course of generation in the aphides, or, as he calls them, pucerons, his experiments, together with those of his countryman, Trembley, tended at least to confirm, in a most satisfactory manner, the almost incredible circumstances respecting it, that an aphis, or puceron, brought up in the most perfect solitude from the moment of its birth, in a few days will be found in the midst of a[Pg 332] numerous family; and that if the experiment be again repeated on one of the individuals of this family, a second generation will multiply like its parent; and the like experiment may be many times repeated with the same effect.

The history of aphides has also been very copiously treated upon by Dr. Richardson, in a paper printed in the 41st vol. of the Philosophical Transactions, and by the late ingenious Mr. Curtis, in the 6th vol. of the Transactions of the Linnæan Society. The tenor of Dr. Richardson’s remarks is briefly this: The great variety of species which occur in the insects now under consideration, may render an inquiry into their particular natures not a little perplexing; but by reducing them under their proper genus, the difficulty is considerably diminished. We may reasonably suppose all the insects comprehended under any distinct genus, to partake of one general nature; and by diligently examining any particular species, we may thence gain some insight into the nature of all the rest. With this view, Dr. Richardson chose out of the various sorts of aphides, the largest of those found on the rose-tree; not only as its size makes it more conspicuous, but as there are few of so long duration. This sort appears early in the spring, and continues late in autumn; while several are limited to a much shorter term, in conformity to the different trees and plants whence they draw their nourishment.

If, at the beginning of February, the weather happens to be so warm as to make the buds of the rose-tree swell and appear green, small aphides are frequently to be found on them, though not larger than the young ones in summer, when first produced. It will be found, that those aphides which appear only in spring, proceed from small black oval eggs, which were deposited on the last year’s shoot; though it happens that, when the insects make too early an appearance, the greater part suffer from the sharp weather that usually succeeds, by which means the rose-trees are some years freed from them. The same kind of animal is then at one time of the year viviparous, and at another oviparous. Those aphides which withstand the severity of the weather, seldom come to their full growth before the month of April, at which time they usually begin to breed, after twice casting off their exuvia, or outward covering.

When they first come from the parent, they are enveloped in a thin membrane, having the appearance of an oval egg; these egg-like appearances adhere by one extremity to the mother, while the young ones contained in them extend to the other, and by that means gradually draw the ruptured membrane over the head and body to the hind-feet. Being thus suspended in the air, the insect soon frees itself from the membrane in which it was confined, and, after its limbs are[Pg 333] a little strengthened, is set down on some tender shoots, and left to provide for itself. In the spring months there appear on the rose-trees but two generations of aphides, including those which proceed immediately from the last year’s eggs; the warmth of the summer adds so much to their fertility, that no less than five generations succeed each other in the interval. One is produced in May, which casts off their covering; while the months of June and July each supply two more, which cast off their coverings three or four times, according to the different warmth of the season. This frequent change of their outward coat is the more extraordinary, because it is repeated more often when the insects come the soonest to their growth, which sometimes happens in ten days, when they have had plenty of warmth and nourishment. Early in the month of June, some of the third generation, which were produced about the middle of May, after casting off the last covering, discover four erect wings, much longer than their bodies; and the same is observable in all the succeeding generations which are produced during the summer months, but, like all the others, without any diversity of sex: for some time before the aphides come to their full growth, it is easy to distinguish which will have wings, by a remarkable fulness of the breast, which in the others is hardly to be distinguished from the body. When the last covering is ejected, the wings, which were before folded up in a very narrow compass, are gradually extended in a surprising manner, till their dimensions are at last very considerable. The increase of these insects in the summer time is so very great, that by wounding and exhausting the tender shoots, they would frequently suppress all vegetation, had they not many enemies to restrain them.

Notwithstanding these insects have a numerous tribe of enemies, they are not without their friends, if those maybe considered as such, who are officious in their attendance, for the good things they expect to reap thereby. The ant and bee are of this kind, collecting the honey in which the aphides abound, but with this difference, that the ants are constant visitors, the bee only when flowers are scarce; the ants will suck in the honey while the aphides are in the act of discharging it; the bees only collect it from the leaves on which it has fallen. In the autumn, three more generations of aphides are produced, two of which generally make their appearance in the month of August, and the third before the middle of September. The two first differ in no respect from those which are found in summer, but the third differs greatly from all the rest.

Though all the aphides which have hitherto appeared were female, in this generation several male insects are found, but not by any means so numerous as the females. The females[Pg 334] have, at first, the same appearance as those of the former generations, but in a few days their colour changes from a green to a yellow, which is gradually converted into an orange before they come to their full growth; they differ also, in another respect, from those which occur in summer, for all these yellow females are without wings. The male insects are, however, still more remarkable, their outward appearance readily distinguishing them from this and all other generations. When first produced, they are not of a green colour like the rest, but of a reddish brown, and have afterwards a dark line along the back; they come to their full growth in about three weeks, and then cast off their last covering, the whole insect being, after this, of a bright yellow colour, the wings only excepted, but after this change they become a deeper yellow, and, in a very few hours, of a dark brown, if we except the body, which is something lighter coloured, and has a reddish cast. Where there are a number crowded together, they of course interfere with each other, in which case they will frequently deposit their eggs on other parts of the branches. It is highly probable that the aphides derive considerable advantages by living in society: the reiterated punctures of a great number of them may attract a larger quantity of nutritious juices to that part of the tree or plant where they have taken up their abode.

The observations of Mr. Curtis, on the aphides, are chiefly intended to shew that they are the principal cause of blights in plants, and the sole cause of the honey-dew. He therefore calls this insect the aphis, or blighter; and after observing, that, in point of numbers, the individuals of the several species composing it surpass those of any other genus in the country, speaks thus, in general terms, of the whole tribe.—“These insects live entirely on vegetables. The loftiest tree is no less liable to their attacks, than the most humble plant. They prefer the young shoots on account of their tenderness, and, on this principle, often insinuate themselves into the very heart of the plant, and do irreparable mischief before they are discovered. But, for the most part, they beset the foliage, and are always found on the under side of the leaf, which they prefer, not only on account of its being the most tender, but as it affords them protection from the weather, and various injuries to which they would otherwise be exposed. Sometimes the root is the object of their choice, which, from the nature of these insects, one would not, á priori, expect: yet I have seen the roots of lettuces thickly beset with them, and the whole crop rendered sickly and of little value; but such instances are rare. They seldom attach themselves to the bark of trees, like the aphis salicis, which being one of our largest species, and hence possessing superior strength, is[Pg 335] enabled to penetrate a substance harder than the leaves themselves.”

In the quality of the excrement voided by these insects, there is something wonderfully extraordinary. Were a person accidentally to take up a book, in which it is gravely asserted, that in some countries there were certain animals that voided liquid sugar, he would lay it down, regarding it as a fabulous tale, calculated to impose on the credulity of the ignorant; and yet such is literally the truth. Mr. Curtis collected some on a piece of writing-paper, from a brood of the aphis salicis, and found it to be as sweet as sugar; and observes, that were it not for the wasps, ants, flies, and other insects, that devour it as quickly as it is produced, it might, no doubt, be collected in considerable quantities, and, by the processes used with other saccharine juices, might be converted into the choicest sugar or sugar-candy. The sweetness of this excrementitious substance, the glossy appearance it gave the leaves it fell upon, and the swarms of insects this matter attracts, led him to imagine the honey-dew of plants was no other than this secretion, which further observation has since been fully confirmed; and not, as its name implies, a sweet substance falling from the atmosphere. On this opinion it is further remarked, that it neither falls from the atmosphere, nor issues from the plant itself, as is easily demonstrated. If it fell from the atmosphere, it would cover every thing it fell upon indiscriminately; whereas we never find it but on certain living plants and trees. We find it also on plants in stoves and greenhouses covered with glass. If it exuded from the plant, it would appear on all the leaves generally and uniformly; whereas its appearance is extremely irregular, not alike on any two leaves of the same tree or plant, some having none of it, and others being covered with it but partially.

It is probable that there never exists any honey-dew but where there are aphides; though such often pass unnoticed, being hidden on the under side of the leaf: and wherever honey is observable upon a leaf, aphides will be found on the underside of the leaf or leaves immediately above it, and under no other circumstance whatever. If by accident any thing should intervene between the aphides and the leaf next beneath them, there will be no honey-dew on that leaf: and thus he conceives it is incontrovertibly proved, that aphides are the true and only source of honey-dew.

Of the British species of aphides, one of the largest and most remarkable is the aphis salicis, which is found on the different kinds of willows. When bruised, these insects stain the fingers with red. Towards the end of September, multitudes of the full-grown insects of this species, both with and without wings, desert the willows on which they feed, and[Pg 336] ramble over every neighbouring object in such numbers, that we can handle nothing in their vicinity without crushing some of them; while those in a younger or less advanced state, still remain in large masses upon the trees. Aphis rosæ is very frequent, during the summer months, on young shoots and buds of roses; it is of a bright green colour: the males are furnished with large transparent wings. Aphis vitis is most destructive to vines, as Aphis ulmi is to the elm-tree.

It is found that where the saccharine substance has dropped from aphides for a length of time, as from the aphis salicis in particular, it gives to the surface of the bark, foliage, &c. that sooty kind of appearance which arises from the explosion of gunpowder; it looks like, and is sometimes taken for, a kind of black mildew. In most seasons, the natural enemies of the aphis are sufficient to keep them in check, and to prevent them from doing essential injury to plants in the open air; but there are times, once perhaps in four, five, or six years, in which they are multiplied to such an excess, that the usual means of diminution fail in preventing them from doing irreparable injury to certain crops.

To prevent the calamities which would infallibly result from an accumulated multiplication of the more prolific animals, it has been ordained by the Author of nature, that such should be diminished by serving as food for others. On this principle, most animals of this kind have one or more natural enemies. The helpless aphis, which is the scourge of the vegetable kingdom, has to contend with many: the principal are the coccinella, the ichneumon aphidum, and the musca aphidivora. The greatest destroyer of the aphides is the coccinella, or common lady-bird.

During the winter, this insect secures itself under the bark of trees, and elsewhere. When the spring expands the foliage of plants, the female deposits her eggs on them in great numbers, from whence, in a short time, proceeds the larva, a small grub, of a dark lead-colour, spotted with orange. These may be observed in summer running pretty briskly over all kinds of plants; and, if narrowly watched, they will be found to devour the aphides wherever they find them. The same may be observed of the lady-bird, in its perfect state. Another most formidable enemy to the aphis, is a very minute, black, and slender ichneumon fly, which eats its way out of the aphis, leaving the dry inflated skin of the insect adhering to the leaf like a small pearl: such may always be found where aphides are in plenty. Different species of aphides are infested with different ichneumons. There is scarcely a division of nature, in which the musca, or fly, is not found: of these, one division, the aphidivora, feeds entirely on aphides.

Of the different species of aphidivorous flies, which are[Pg 337] numerous, having mostly bodies variegated with transverse stripes, their females may be seen hovering over plants infested with aphides, among which they deposit their eggs on the surface of the leaf. The larva, or maggot, produced from such eggs, feeds, as soon as hatched, on the younger kinds of aphis, and, as it increases in size, attacks and devours those which are larger. The larva of the hemerolicus feeds also on the aphides, and deposits its eggs on the leaves of such plants as are beset with them. The earwig is likewise an enemy to them, especially such as reside in the curled leaves of fruit-trees, and the purses formed by certain aphides on the poplars and other trees. To these may be added the smaller soft-billed birds that feed on insects.





The Common House Fly—The Hessian Fly—The May Fly—The Vegetable Fly—The Boat Fly—The Ephemeral Flies—Butterflies—Metamorphoses of Insects—The Death-Watch.

What atom-forms of insect life appear!
And who can follow Nature’s pencil here?
Their wings with azure, green, and purple gloss’d,
Studded with colour’d eyes, with gems emboss’d;
Inlaid with pearl, and mark’d with various stains
Of lively crimson through their dusky veins.


The Common House Fly.

Gordart has reckoned up forty-eight varieties of the fly, without including them all in this enumeration. The multitude of these lively insects, which the first genial sunshine calls forth into life, has limits which the human eye is incapable of exploring. The female fly is easily distinguishable from the male: she is larger than the latter, fuller in the body, of a lighter colour, and, when she is nearly ready to deposit her eggs, the abdomen is so transparent, that they may be perceived lying on both sides, opposite to each other. Nature has instructed her not to deposit her eggs in dry, but in damp substances, which keep them from being dried up, and at the same time afford nourishment to the maggot or worm. The latter issues from the egg generally in twenty-four hours, but, in the sun, within twelve hours after it is laid. About half an hour before, annular circles become visible in the egg, an undulatory motion succeeds, the egg opens at the end, and[Pg 338] the worm makes its appearance. Its entrance into the world is extremely tedious; for the three or four minutes taken by the worm to work its way out of the egg, are, for it, certainly so many days. It is endowed, on the other hand, with vital powers, which enable it to defy inconveniences which cost other animals their lives. Nothing but turpentine, the general destroyer of insects, kills it in half an hour. On the fourteenth or fifteenth day, it begins to prepare for its transformation into a nymph, and in this form appears at first of a light yellow, and afterwards of a dark red. You would take it, in this state, for some kind of seed, rather than for the habitation of a living creature. The change of the nymph into a fly requires as much time as the preceding transformation. A thrust with the head then bursts the prison in which it is confined, and the fly, perfectly formed, sallies forth. The sun hastens its birth, which is then the business of but a moment; but in unfavourable weather, this probably painful operation often takes four or five hours. The insect is now as perfect as its parents, and not to be distinguished from them. As soon as it issues from the nymph, it flies away; and only those are unable to use their wings immediately, which have the misfortune to come out in gloomy weather.

Leuwenhock reckons, that every fly has eight thousand hexagons or eyes, on each of the hemispheres composing its face, and consequently sixteen thousand on both. M. Von Gleichen, a German naturalist, observes, that the law of retaliation is in some measure established, in regard to these animals; for if they annoy us, they are in their turn persecuted by others. Small yellow insects, discovered by means of the magnifying glass, crawling among the hairs that grow on their bodies, are supposed to be destined for this purpose.

The fecundity of flies is prodigious. On this head, the last-mentioned naturalist has made the following calculation:—

A fly lays four times during the summer, each time eighty
eggs, which makes
Half of these are supposed to be females, so that each of
the four broods produces forty:
1. First eighth, or the forty females of the first brood, also
lay four times in the course of the summer, which
The first eighth of these, or 1,600 females, three times   384,000
The second eighth, twice   256,000
The third and fourth eighth, at least one each   256,000
[Pg 339]2. The second eighth, or the forty females of the second
brood, lay three times, the produce of which is
One sixth of these, or 1,600 females, three times   384,000
The second sixth, twice   256,000
The third sixth, once   128,000
3. The third eighth, or the forty females of the third brood,
lay twice, and produce
One fourth of these, or 1,600 females, lay twice more   256,000
4. The fourth eighth, or forty females of the fourth brood,
Half of these, or 1,600 females, at least once   128,000
Total produce of a single fly, in one summer   2,080,320


Another curious insect is, The Hessian Fly.—This is a very mischievous insect, which a few years ago appeared in North America, and whose depredations threatened then to destroy the crops of wheat in that country entirely. It is, in its perfect state, a small winged insect, but the mischief it does, is while in the form of a caterpillar; and the difficulty of destroying it is increased, by its being as yet unknown where it deposits its eggs, to be hatched before the first appearance of the caterpillars. These mischievous insects begin their depredations in autumn, as soon as the wheat begins to shoot up through the ground. They devour the tender leaf and stem with great voracity, and continue to do so till stopped by the frost; but no sooner is this obstacle removed by the warmth of the spring, than the fly appears again, laying its eggs now, as has been supposed, upon the stems of the wheat just beginning to spire. The caterpillars hatched from these eggs, perforate the stems of the remaining plants at the joints, and lodge themselves in the hollow within the corn, which shews no sign of disease till the ears begin to turn heavy. The stems then break, and being no longer able to perform their office in supporting and supplying the ears with nourishment, the corn perishes about the time that it goes into a milky state. These insects attack also rye, barley, and timothy-grass, though they seem to prefer wheat. The destruction occasioned by them, is described in the American Museum, (published at Philadelphia,) for Feb. 1787, in the following words:—

“It is well known that all the crops of wheat in all the land over which it has extended, have fallen before it, and that the farmers beyond it dread its approach; the prospect is,[Pg 340] that unless means are discovered to prevent its progress, the whole continent will be overrun;—a calamity more to be dreaded, than the ravages of war.” This terrible insect appeared first in Long Island, during the American war, and was supposed to have been brought from Germany by the Hessians; whence its name. From thence it proceeded inland at the rate of about fifteen or twenty miles annually; and, in 1789, had reached two hundred miles from the place where it was first observed. At that time it continued to proceed with unabating increase; being apparently stopped neither by rivers nor mountains. In the fly state it is likewise exceedingly troublesome, by getting into houses in swarms, falling into victuals and drink, filling the windows, and flying perpetually into the candles.


The May Fly.—This insect is called the May fly, from its annual appearance in that month. It lies all the year, except a few days, at the bottom or sides of rivers, nearly resembling the nymph of the small libella; but when it is mature, it rises up to the surface of the water, and splits open its case; then, with great agility, up springs the new animal, having a slender body, with four black-veined, transparent, shining wings, with four black spots in the upper wings; the under wings are much smaller than the upper ones; and with three long hairs in its tail.

The husk it leaves behind floats upon the water. After this creature is discharged from the water, it flies about to find a proper place to fix on, (as trees, bushes, &c.) to wait for its approaching change, which is effected in two or three days.

The first hint I received of this wonderful operation, was by seeing their exuviæ hanging on a hedge. I then collected a great many, and put them into boxes; and by strictly observing them, I could tell when they were ready for this surprising change.

I had the pleasure to shew my friends one, which I held in my fingers all the time it performed this great work; it was surprising to see how easily the back part of the fly split open, and produced the astonishing transformation. In the new fly, a remarkable difference is seen in their sexes, which is not so easy to be perceived in their first state, the male and female being much of a size; but afterwards the male is much the smallest, and the hairs of their tails much the longest.

When the females are about to deposit their eggs, they seek the rivers, keeping constantly playing up and down upon the water. It is very plainly seen, that every time they dart down, they eject a cluster of eggs, which appears like a little[Pg 341] bluish speck, or a small drop of milk, as they sink to the bottom of the river. Thus they continue until they have spent their strength, being so weak, that they can rise no more, but fall a prey to the fish. But by much the greatest number perish on the waters, which are covered with them. This is the end of the females. The males never resort to the river, but, after a time, drop down, languish, and die, under the trees and bushes.

The species of libella abounds most with females, which is very necessary, considering the many enemies they have in their short appearance; for both birds and fishes are fond of them, and, no doubt, under water they are the prey of aquatic animals.

What is further surprising in this remarkable creature is, that during a life which consists only of three or four days, it eats nothing, and seems to have no apparatus for this purpose, but brings up with it, out of the water, sufficient support to enable it to shed its skin, and perform the principal ends of life with great vivacity.


The Vegetable Fly.—This is a very curious natural production, chiefly found in the West Indies. It resembles the drone, both in size and colour, more than any other British insect, excepting that it has no wings. “In the month of May, it buries itself in the earth, and begins to vegetate. By the end of July, the tree has arrived at its full growth, and resembles a coral branch; it is about three inches in height, and bears several little pods, which, dropping off, become worms, and thence flies, like the British caterpillar.” Such was the account originally given of this extraordinary production. But several boxes of these flies having been sent to Dr. Hill for examination, his report was as follows:—“There is in Martinique a fungus of the clavaria kind, different in species from those hitherto known. It produces soboles from its sides; I call it therefore clavaria sobolifera. It grows on putrid animal bodies, as our fungus (ex pede equino) from the dead horse’s hoof. The cicada is common in Martinique, and in its nymph state, in which the old authors call it tettigometra, it buries itself under the dead leaves, to await its change; and, when the season is unfavourable, many perish. The seeds of the clavaria find a proper bed in these dead insects, and grow. The tettigometra is among the cicada in the British Museum; the clavaria is but just now known. This is the fact, and all the fact; though the untaught inhabitants suppose a fly to vegetate, and though there is a Spanish drawing of the plants growing into a trifoliate tree; and it has been figured with the creature flying with this tree upon its back.”—Thus does ignorance delight in the marvellous!

 [Pg 342]

The Boat Fly.—This insect, called Notonecta glauca, is thus described by Barbut. “It has a head somewhat round, of which the eyes seem to take up the greatest part. These eyes are brown, and very large, the rest of the head being yellow. In the fore-part it has a sharp trunk, that projects, and is inflected between the fore feet. On the sides are seen the antennæ, very small, yellowish, and which spring from under the head. The thorax, which is broad, short, and smooth, is yellow on the fore, and black on the back part. The escutcheon is large, of a rough black, and as it were nappy. The elytra, rather large, and crossed over each other, are a mixture of brown and yellow, not unlike the colour of rust, which makes it look cloudy. The under part of the body is brown; and at the extremity of the abdomen are to be seen a few hairs. The feet, six in number, are of a light brown, the two hindermost having on the leg and tarsus hairs that give them the shape of fins, nor are they terminated by nails. The four anterior ones are somewhat flat, and serve the animal to swim with; but at their extremity they have nails, and no hairs. This insect is seen in stagnating waters, where it swims on its back, and presents its abdomen upwards; for which reason it has been called by the Greek name of notonecta. The hinder feet, longer than the rest, serve it as paddles. It is very nimble, and dives down when you go to take hold of it; after which, it rises again to the surface of the water. It must be cautiously handled, if one would avoid being pricked by it, for the point of its rostrum is exceedingly sharp, and intolerably painful, but it goes off in a few minutes. The larva very much resembles the perfect insect.”

Such is the account that Mr. Barbut gives of this beautiful nimble little creature. To this account, however, we shall add the following:—Its legs are long; when taken out of the water, it hops; it is very common in the ponds of water in Hyde Park, and in several other places about London. It is of a very particular form, being flattish at the belly, and rising to a ridge on the middle of the back; so that when it swims, which is almost always on the back, its body has much the resemblance of a boat in figure,—whence its vulgar name. It is eight lines long, three broad, and two and a half thick. The belly is jointed, striated, and, as Barbut observes, hairy. Nature has provided it with an offensive weapon resembling a sting, which it thrusts out when hurt, from a large opening at the tail. The head is large and hard; the eyes nearly of a triangular form. The nose is a long, green, hollow proboscis, ending in a hard and sharp point, which in its natural posture remains under the belly, and reaches to the middle pair of legs. The outer part of its[Pg 343] wings are of a pale flesh-colour, with spots of a dead white; these are long, narrow, and somewhat transparent; they terminate in a roundish point, and perfectly cover the whole body. The triangular piece which stands between the top of the wings is hard, and perfectly black; the inner wings are broader and shorter than the outer ones; they are thin and perfectly transparent, and are of a pale pearl-colour. The hinder pair being greatly longer than all the rest, they serve as oars; and nature has tufted them with hair at the end for that purpose. This creature mostly lives in the water, where it preys on small insects, killing them, and sucking their juices with its proboscis, in the manner of the water scorpion and many other aquatic insects: it seizes its prey violently, and darts with incredible swiftness to a considerable distance after it.

Though it generally lives in the water, it sometimes, however, crawls out in good weather; and drying its wings by expanding them in the sun, takes flight, and becomes an inhabitant of the air, not to be known as the same creature, unless to those who had accurately observed it before: when tired of flying, or in danger of an enemy, it immediately plunges into the water. We are told that there are fourteen species of it, seven of which are common in Europe, in waters, &c.


Ephemeral Flies.—This species of insect is named ephemeral, because of its very short existence in the fly state. It is one of the most beautiful species of flies, and undergoes five changes. At first, the egg contains its vital principle; it comes forth a small caterpillar, which is transformed into a chrysalis, then into a nympha, and lastly, into a fly, which deposits its eggs upon the surface of water, where the sun’s rays bring them to life. Each egg produces a little red worm, which moves in a serpentine manner. They are found in abundance during the summer, in ponds and marshes; and as soon as cold weather sets in, the little worm makes for itself a shell or lodging, where it passes the winter; at the end of which it ceases to be a worm, and enters into its third state, that of a chrysalis. It then sleeps till spring, and gradually becomes a beautiful nympha, or a sort of mummy, something in the form of a fish. At the time of its metamorphosis, the nympha at first seems inactive and lifeless; in six days, the head appears, raising itself gradually above the surface of the water; the body next disengages itself slowly and by degrees, till at length the whole animal comes out of its shell. The new-born fly remains for some minutes motionless upon the water, then gradually revives, and feebly shakes its wings, then moves them quicker, and attempts first to walk, then to fly. As[Pg 344] these insects are all hatched nearly at the same time, they are seen in swarms for a few hours flitting and playing upon the surface of the water; they then lay their eggs, and soon after die. Thus they terminate their short life in the space of a few hours, and the same day that saw them born, witnesses their death.


The Butterfly.

Behold, ye pilgrims of this earth, behold!
See all but man with unearn’d pleasure gay
See her bright robes the butterfly unfold,
Broke from her wintry tomb in prime of May!
What youthful bride can equal her array?
Who can with her for easy pleasure vie?
From mead to mead with gentle wing to stray,
From flower to flower on balmy gales to fly,
Is all she has to do beneath the radiant sky.

The first thing which fixes our attention on beholding these aërial inhabitants, is, the clothing with which they are adorned. Yet some of them have nothing in this respect to engage our notice, their vestment is simple and uniform; others have a few ornaments on the wings; but with some, those ornaments amount to profusion, and they are covered with them all over. This last species will occupy us for a short interval. How beautiful are the gradations of colour which decorate them! what harmony in those spots which relieve the other parts of their attire! with what delicacy has nature pencilled them! But, whatever may be my admiration when I consider this insect by the naked eye, how greatly is it augmented, when I behold this beautiful object through the medium of the microscope! Would any one ever have imagined, that the wings of butterflies were furnished with feathers? Nothing, however, is more true; and what we commonly call dust, is found in reality to be feathers. Their structure and arrangement are adjusted to as perfect symmetry, as their colours are soft and brilliant. The parts which form the centre of these little feathers, and which immediately touch the wing, are the strongest; those, on the contrary, which compose the exterior circumference, are much more delicate, and of an extraordinary fineness. All these feathers have a quill at their base, but the superior part is more transparent than the quill from which it proceeds. If we lay hold of the wing too rudely, we destroy the most delicate part of the feathers; but if we remove all that we term dust, there remains only a thin transparent skin, where may be distinguished the little orifices in which the quill of each feather was lodged. This skin, from the nature of its texture, may be as easily discerned from the rest of the wing, as a fine gauze from the cloth on which it is[Pg 345] fastened; it is more porous, more delicate, and seems as if embroidered by the needle; to complete its beauty, its extremity finishes by a fringe, whose minute threads succeed each other with the utmost regularity.

What are our most laboured dresses, what is all their boasted ornament, in comparison of that refined tissue with which nature has invested this simple insect? Our finest laces are only like coarse cloth, when brought to vie with that luxurious clothing which covers the wings of the butterfly; and our smallest thread, by their infinitely delicate fibres, swells into hempen cord. Such is the wonderful difference to be observed between the works of nature and those of art, when viewed through a microscope. The former are finished to all imaginable perfection; the others, even the most beautiful of their kind, appear incomplete and coarsely wrought. How fine a piece of delicate cambric appears to us! nothing more slender than the threads, nothing more uniform than the texture: and yet in the microscope these threads resemble hempen strings, and we should rather be tempted to believe that they had been interlaced by the hand of a basket-maker, than wrought on the loom of a skilful weaver.

What is most astonishing in this brilliant insect, is, that it proceeds from a worm, than which nothing has a more abject and vile appearance. Behold how the butterfly displays to the sun his splendid wings, how he sports in his rays, how he rejoices in his existence, and, in respiring the vernal airs, how he flutters in the meadow from flower to flower. His rich wings present to us the magnificence of the rainbow. How beautiful is he now, who but a little while ago crept a worm in the dust, in perpetual danger of being crushed to death! Who has raised him above the earth? Who has given to him the faculty of inhabiting the ethereal regions? Who has furnished him with his painted wings? It is God.

In down of ev’ry variegated dye,
Shines, flutt’ring soft, the gaudy butterfly;
That powder, which thy spoiling hand distains,
The form of quills and painted plumes contains:
Not courts can more magnificence express,
In all their blaze of gems and pomp of dress.

Their wings, all glorious to behold,
Bedropt with azure, jet, and gold,
Wide they display; the spangled dew
Reflects their eyes and various hue.


We shall now briefly describe The Metamorphoses of Insects. And first, The Butterfly:

From form to form they pass in wondrous change.

At the first exclusion from the egg, and for some months of its existence afterwards, the creature which is to become a[Pg 346] butterfly, is a worm-like caterpillar, crawling upon sixteen short legs, greedily devouring leaves with two jaws, and seeing by means of twelve eyes, so minute, as to be nearly imperceptible without the aid of a microscope. We now view it furnished with wings capable of rapid and extensive flights; of its sixteen feet, ten have disappeared, and the remaining six are in most respects wholly unlike those to which they have succeeded; its jaws having vanished, are replaced by a curled-up proboscis, suited only for sipping liquid sweets; the form of its head is entirely changed, two long horns projecting from its upper surface; and, instead of twelve invisible eyes, you behold two, very large, and composed of at least twenty thousand convex lenses, each supposed to be a distinct and effective eye!

Were we to push our examination further, and, by dissection, to compare the internal conformation of the caterpillar with that of the butterfly, we should witness changes even more extraordinary. In the former we should find some thousands of muscles, which in the latter are replaced by others, of a form and structure entirely different. Nearly the whole body of the caterpillar is occupied by a capacious stomach. In the butterfly, this has become converted into an almost imperceptible thread-like viscus; and the abdomen is now filled by two large packets of eggs, or other organs, not visible in the first state. In the former, two spirally-convoluted tubes were filled with a silky gum; in the latter, both tubes and silk have almost totally vanished, and changes equally great have taken place in the economy and structure of the nerves and other organs.

What a surprising transformation! Nor was this all. The change from one form to the other was not direct; an intermediate state, not less singular, intervened. After casting its skin, even to its very jaws, several times, and attaining its full growth, the caterpillar attached itself to a leaf by a silken girth. Its body became greatly contracted; its skin once more split asunder, and disclosed an oviform mass, without exterior mouth, eyes, or limbs, and exhibiting no other symptom of life than a slight motion when touched. In this state of death-like torpor, and without tasting food, the insect existed for several months, until at length the tomb burst, and out of a case not more than an inch long, and a quarter of an inch in diameter, proceeded the butterfly, which covers a surface of nearly four inches square.


The Common Fly.—This winged insect, whose delicate palate selects out the choicest viands, one while extending his proboscis to the margin of a drop of wine, and then gaily flying to take a more solid repast from a pear or a peach;[Pg 347] now gambolling with his comrades in the air, now gracefully carrying his furled wings with his taper feet;—was but the other day a disgusting grub, without wings, without legs, without eyes, wallowing, well pleased, in the midst of a mass of excrement.


The Greycoated Gnat.—This creature, whose humming salutation, while she makes her airy circles about our bed, gives terrific warning of the sanguinary operation in which she is ready to engage, was a few hours ago the inhabitant of a stagnant pool, more in shape like a fish than an insect. Then to have been taken out of the water would have been speedily fatal; now it could as little exist in any other element than air. Then it breathed through its tail; now through openings in its sides. Its shapeless head, in that period of its existence, is now exchanged for one adorned with elegantly tufted antennæ, and furnished, instead of jaws, with an apparatus more artfully constructed than the cupping-glasses of the phlebotomist; an apparatus, which, at the same time that it strikes in the lancets, composes a tube for pumping up the flowing blood.


The Shardhorn Beetle.—This species of beetle, whose sullen hum, as he directs his droning flight close past our ears in our evening walk, was not in his infancy an inhabitant of air, the first period of his life being spent in gloomy solitude, as a grub, under the surface of the earth. The shapeless maggot, which we scarcely fail to meet with in some one of every handful of nuts we crack, would not always have grovelled in that humble state. If our unlucky intrusion upon its vaulted dwelling had not left it to perish in the wide world, it would have continued to reside there until its full growth had been attained. Then it would have gnawed itself an opening, and, having entered the earth, and passed a few months in a state of inaction, would at length have emerged an elegant beetle, furnished with a slender and very long ebony beak; two wings, and two wing-cases, ornamented with yellow bands; six feet; and in every respect unlike the worm from which it proceeded.


The Death-watch.—This appalling name is applied to a harmless, diminutive insect, because it emits a sound resembling the ticking of a watch, and is supposed to predict the death of some one of the family, in the house in which it is heard. Thus sings the muse of the witty Dean of St. Patrick on this subject:—

“————————————A wood worm
[Pg 348]That lies in old wood, like a hare in her form:
With teeth or with claws, it will bite or will scratch,
And chambermaids christen this worm a death-watch;
Because like a watch it always cries click:
Then woe be to those in the house who are sick!
For, sure as a gun, they will give up the ghost,
If the maggot cries click, when it scratches the post:
But a kettle of scalding-hot water injected
Infallibly cures the timber affected;
The omen is broken, the danger is over,
The maggot will die, and the sick will recover.”

To add to the effect of this noise, it is said to be made only when there is a profound silence in an apartment, and every one is still.

Authors were formerly not agreed concerning the insect from which this sound of terror proceeded, some attributing it to a kind of woodlouse, and others to a spider; but it is now a received opinion, adopted upon satisfactory evidence, that it is produced by some little beetles belonging to the timber-boring genus, Anobium, F. Swammerdam observes, that a small beetle, which he had in his collection, having firmly fixed its fore-legs, and put its inflexed head between them, makes a continual noise in old pieces of wood, walls, and ceilings, which is sometimes so loud, that upon hearing it, people have fancied that hobgoblins, ghosts, or fairies, were wandering around them. Evidently this was one of the death-watches. Latreille observed Anobium striatum, F. produce the sound in question, by a stroke of its mandibles upon the wood, which was answered by a similar noise from within it. But the species whose proceedings have been most noticed by British observers, is, A. tessellatum, F. When spring is far advanced, these insects are said to commence their ticking, which is only a call to each other, to which, if no answer be returned, the animal repeats it in another place. It is thus produced: Raising itself upon its hind-legs, with the body somewhat inclined, it beats its head with great force and agility upon the plane of its position; and its strokes are so powerful, as to make a considerable impression if they fall upon any substance softer than wood. The general number of distinct strokes in succession, is from seven to nine or eleven; they follow each other quickly, and are repeated at uncertain intervals. In old houses, where these insects abound, they may be heard in warm weather during the whole day. The noise exactly resembles that produced by tapping moderately with the nail upon a table; and, when familiarized, the insect will answer very readily the tap of the nail.



[Pg 349]



Locusts and Mosquitoes, and their Uses in the Creation;—from Kirby, Spence, and Fothergill.


Locusts.—If we could discover the use of every animal in the creation, we should gain a very clear insight into the grand designs of the Almighty, respecting creatures inferior to ourselves, and perceive the immediate cause and necessity of their existence, and how far we have a right to interfere with their economy. That man should ever attain the whole extent of this knowledge, in this state of existence, can scarcely be hoped for; but, that he may learn much, there can be no doubt.

Because the utility of some animals, in a general view, is not palpably obvious, we ought not pettishly or hopelessly to give up the inquiry. Some of the most numerous are apparently the most noxious, and the least useful, as the locust (gryllus migratorius) for example. It has never been my fortune to visit countries subject to the devastations of these insects; and the travellers who describe them, seem, either through want of inclination, or astonishment at the desolating effects produced by their incursions, unable to give those facts which an industrious and attentive naturalist, with enlarged views, might collect and apply to some useful purpose; for there can be no doubt that Infinite Wisdom would not have permitted these insects to be so numerous as they are, if their existence was not absolutely necessary. To look at a locust in a cabinet of insects, we should not, at first sight, deem it capable of being the source of so much evil to mankind as stands on record against it. Yet, although this animal be not very tremendous for its size, nor very terrific in its appearance, it is the very same whose ravages have been the theme of naturalists and historians in all ages, and, upon a close examination, it will be found to be peculiarly fitted and furnished for the execution of its office.

It is armed with two pair of very strong jaws, the upper terminating in short, and the lower in long teeth, by which it can both lacerate and grind its food; its stomach is of extraordinary capacity and powers; its hind-legs enable it to leap to a considerable distance, and its ample vans are calculated to catch the wind as sails, and so carry it sometimes over the sea; and although a single individual can effect but little evil, yet, when the entire surface of a country is covered[Pg 350] by them, and every one makes bare the spot on which it stands, the mischief produced may be as extensive as their numbers. So well do the Arabians know their power, that they make a locust say to Mahomet, “We are the army of the Great God; we produce ninety-nine eggs: if the hundred were completed, we should consume the whole earth, and all that is in it.”—Bochart.

The earliest plague produced by the locusts, which has been recorded, appears also to have been the most direful in its immediate effects, that ever was inflicted upon any nation. It is that with which the Egyptian tyrant and his people were visited for their oppression of the Israelites. Only conceive of a country so covered by them, that no one can see the face of the ground—a whole land darkened, and all its produce, whether herb or trees, so devoured, that not the least vestige of green is left in either.—Exod. x. 5, 14, 15. But it is not necessary to enlarge upon a history, the circumstances of which are so well known. To this species of devastation, Africa in general seems always to have been peculiarly subject. This may be gathered from the law in Cyrenaica mentioned by Pliny, by which the inhabitants were enjoined to destroy the locusts in three different states, three times in the year; first their eggs, then their young, and lastly the perfect insect.[17] And not without reason was such a law enacted; for Orosius tells us, that in the year of the world 3,800, Africa was infested by such infinite myriads of these animals, that, having devoured every green thing, after flying off to sea they were drowned, and, being cast upon the s