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elapse before any such transformation is needed in regard to the coinage of these realms !
Previously to Newton's appointment as 'Warden of the Mint, his sole income is stated to have been derived from his Lucasian professorship, and from the produce of the manor of Woolsthorpe, the combined amount of which, though aided by habits remarkably temperate and abstemious, ill accorded with his natural generosity of disposition, and prevented his relieving the wants of his poor relations.
In proof of Newton's straitened circumstances before receiving the wardenship of the Mint, it may be adduced that there now exists an entry in the “Journal of the Royal Society," dated January 28, 1674-5, whereby he is excused from making the customary payment of one shilling a week, on account of his low circumstances, as he
represented.” Newton received his knighthood in 1705, at the hands of Queen Anne; and at his decease, which took place at Kensington on the 20th March, 1727, he had a personal estate valued at £32,000. At the time of his death Sir Isaac had attained the age of eighty-five. To him may justly be applied the words of the ancient poet:
Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, et omnes,
BY JOHN KEAST LORD, F.Z.S.
ABOUT seventy-five thousand fox skins of various kinds are sold at auction annually in London, by the different fur companies. As we contemplate these figures, we may well feel astonished, and fail to understand from whence so many skins are procured, or how it happens that the entire race of foxes escape being utterly exterminated. Nevertheless, wonder as we may, the fact stands before us, that this wholesale destruction of animal life has been continued year after yearwe may almost say-since the fur trade commenced in North America, and yet the demand remains at a steady average rate, and the needful supply as constantly arrives to meet it.
Eight varieties of the sub-family Vulpince are trapped or otherwise destroyed, that their jackets may supply the furmarket-the black or silver fox, the cross, red, white, blue, grey, kitt, and corsac-fox.
It may be as well, perhaps, to state for the benefit of my non-scientific readers, that the family Canidæ includes animals which are characterized by having the jaws somewhat produced, the legs of equal length, the anterior pair being furnished with five toes, and the posterior with four. The claws are nonretractile, and from a remarkable habit all the members of the group have of walking, as it were, on tip-toe, the term digitigrada is applied to them. Each fore-foot has a rudimentary toe, to which a claw is generally, although not invariably, affixed. There are two well-marked types of this sub-family Vulpinæ inhabiting North America. In the one type represented by the red fox (Vulpes fulvus), the tail is uniformly bushy, and is made up of long hairs, which are irregularly mixed in amongst and distributed through a short and rather compact fur. The skull is very wolf-like in character; the temporal crests strongly developed, approach each other, and extend rather beyond the parieto-frontal suture; the muzzle is elongated and particularly sharp. The other type is well exemplified by the grey fox (V. Virginianus). An examination of the skull shows us that, in this animal, the temporal crests never approach each other; a space of quite an inch on the parieto-frontal suture separates them. Another marked difference is observable in the shape of the muzzle, which is very short and sharp pointed in this type of fox; and the tail instead of being full and bushy, exhibits, when carefully examined, a regular ridge or mane of bristle-like hairs which extend along its upper line from end to end. These hairs have no short fur intermixed with them, and the longer hair, uniformly clothing the tail, hangs down loosely on each side.
“The following diagnosis clearly describes the points of contrast :-*
* A. Tail with soft fur and long hair, uniformly mixed; muzzle long; temporal crests coming nearly in contact. Vulpes.
“B. Tail with a concealed mane of stiff hairs, without any soft fur intermixed; muzzle short; temporal crests always widely separated. A supplementary tubercle on the lower sectorial. The under jaw with an angular emargination below. Urocyon.”
Before we proceed to play the spy upon reynard at home in the wilderness, it will not be time mis-spent to consider very briefly the distinguishing characters which separate the wolves (Lupince) from the true foxes.
If you think it worth the trouble, courteous reader, when you next visit the Zoological Gardens in the Regent's Park, direct your steps towards the cages wherein the wolves are confined. Look well at the beast's eyes, the pupils, you observe, are circular; now change the “venu,” to employ a legal phrase, and walk into the rodents' house, or visit the den of Arctic foxes, it will do quite as well, and mark the form of the pupillary opening in the eye of the fox; it is elliptical instead of being circular. Here then is one great mark of distinction by which you may easily know a wolf from a fox. The other generic characters may be thus summed up: The wolves have tails somewhat short and inclined to be bristly, and the middle upper incisor teeth are curiously lobed on either side. The foxes' tails are large and bushy, the hairs covering them long and silky; the mane-tailed group form no exception, as the stiff hairs do not in any way detract from the bushy appearance of the tail. The general form of the fox is much more lissome and slender than that of the wolf. In all true wolves the post-orbital process of the frontal bone is markedly convex on its upper surface, rounding off outwards and downwards, and having a well-developed point below the plane of the inter-orbital space; in the fox this bony process scarcely projects at all, and in a few exceptional cases it is even slightly concave; the bony point hardly dips at all, a deep indentation marking the process at the place where it springs from the frontal bone.
* Baird, “N. Am. Mam.," p. 121.
It is as well to remark that all the animals of a fox-like type found in South America, occupy a sort of intermediate position betwixt the wolves and foxes proper; indeed they are more nearly allied to the former than to the latter group, as the pupillary opening is circular, and the general form very wolf-like. Burmeister proposes a division of the South American fox-like wolves into two groups, lycalopex and pseudalopex.
The silver fox, or as it is often styled, the black fox (Vulpes argentatus), stands first in our list of fur-bearing foxes as supplying the most valuable fur. An idea may be formed of the money value of the finer skins procured from the silver foxes, when we learn that a single skin has been sold in London for the sum of £100. At the Hudson's Bay Company's London sale, held in March, 1866, silver fox skins, in number 616, realized for the best skins £30 per skin, for inferior qualities, 32s. per skin, which gives an average of £7 9s. 3d. per skin ; 646 skins at £7 9s. 3d.
skin £4820 18s. 6d. I have not been able to find out the prices that silver fox skins realized at the other fur company's sales, which were held about the same time, but I shall be pretty near the truth if I assume that the amounts were equal to those of the Hudson's Bay Company's. The Messrs. Lampson generally offer for sale quite as many silver fox skins as the Hudson's Bay Company, and
often a larger number, and Messrs. Culverwell and Co. would in all likelihood tread very closely upon the heels of the others.
I may mention incidentally, that the Hudson's Bay Company sell their stock of furs by auction in the month of March. These sales are always attended by fur dealers from foreign markets, who purchase such furs as best suit them, and consign them to Leipsig, at which city these furs are again disposed of during the great fair, and thence are distributed to all parts of the world. The other fur companies hold their sales immediately after the Hudson's Bay Company.
Granting I am right in these assumptions, I may safely say that over £14,000 is returned each year at the March fur sales for skins of the silver fox. But it must not be forgotten that this sum only represents the wholesale price ; if we take into consideration that these skins are subsequently dressed and made into garments of different kinds by the furriers, and in that condition are retailed at an enormously increased tariff, we shall find that the skins of the silver fox really constitute a most important branch of commerce.
Most of the fox skins purchased at the annual sales are for the supply of the Russian market. Silver fox skins of the finest quality, when dressed, and made into cloaks or other descriptions of wearing apparel for the Russian grandees, sell for sums of money which seem to us almost incredible. A pelisse which belonged to the late Emperor of Russia, was made entirely from the black necks of silver foxes; it may be remembered that this costly garment was displayed at the Exhibition of 1851 ; its actual money value was three thousand five hundred pounds sterling. Russian taste generally inclines towards dark coloured furs, hence furs which are nearly or quite black, and at the same time of a lustrous, soft, and silky texture, always command the highest prices for the supply of that particular market.
Beautiful silver fox skins are brought from the cold arid districts of North and North West America, nevertheless they will not bear comparison with those obtained from some parts of Russia. There is a popular saying, that these black fox skins of Russian production are worth their weight in gold, an assertion by the way not so far from a truism, when we read that first-rate skins have fetched four hundred roubles each.
As regards the commercial value of its fur, the cross fox (Vulpes decussatus) comes next for our consideration. The name cross fox has been bestowed upon this animal because it is distinguished by having a dark coloured cross on its
shoulders. This curious mark is formed by two stripes, one of which extends along the back; in some skins it is quite black, whilst in others it shades off through every gradation of tint, from brown to dingy yellow; the other stripe of a similar tint crosses the back stripe at the shoulders. Skins of the cross fox, when they are very conspicuously marked with either a black or a particularly dark coloured cross, are employed by some religious communities to adorn the vestments of their priests, and extravagantly high prices are frequently paid for skins so coloured, although the market value of cross fox skins is immensely below that of silver. About 3500 cross fox skins are annually disposed of at auction by the London fur companies. I may safely take as a general standard of value for cross fox skins,--a standard quite accurate enough for all practical purposes,—the price paid for these skins at the March sale of 1866, on which occasion the Hudson's Bay Company disposed of 2064 cross foxes at an average rate of £1 14s. 8d. per skin, the highest price being £4, the lowest 14s. ; 2064 skins at £1 14s. Sd.
£3577 12s. The red fox (Vulpes fulvus) comes third upon our list of foxes. About thirty-six thousand skins of the red fox are sold each year at the London fur sales, and I shall take the prices red fox skins made, at the March sale of the Hudson's Bay Company for the year 1866, as a fair standard of their average value. The number of red fox skins sold was 13,746, the highest price per skin was 18s. 9d., and 4s. 9d. the lowest; this gives an average for each skin of 10s. 0 d. 13,746 at 10s. 0 d. per
skin £6901 12s.; but we must bear in mind this only represents the sale of one company's furs. To the above number of red fox skins, viz., 13,746, must be added 22,205, as quoted on Messrs. Lampson's catalogue, and 1265 for those of Messrs. Culverwell, Brooks, and Co.-in all 37,214 skins.
Turks are the great consumers of red fox fur, because it is generally employed to line the long cloaks which are so universally worn in Turkey. A very large number of red fox skins are likewise sent to Russia, as well as to the colder parts of Europe, where they are employed for making rugs for carriages and sledges, and as linings for winter garments.
In the trade these three foxes—viz., the silver, cross, and red foxes—are held to be distinct species, but there can be very little, if any, doubt that they are simply varieties of one common type. If a specimen of the black or silver fox is placed beside a red fox, the difference of colour is so marked that one is disposed to say at once that the two animals must be specifically distinct from each other; but when I go to the fur stores and arrange a hundred or more skins side by side,