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revel uncontrolled, amidst the harvest which the bounteous hand of Providence lavishingly spread within their reach. In such times lived Ray, Willoughby, and other respected fathers of natural philosophy; and to such causes, we conceive, we are indebted for the (we may almost say) establishment of a branch of science hitherto, in great measure, unexplored, and concerning which an ignorance semi-barbarian had heretofore prevailed. It has been well remarked, that to De Foe's Robinson Crusoe we owe more gratitude for that persevering energy of adventurous spirit which has and for ever, we trust, will animate our navy, than to any other cause whatever. We believe the fact; and to White's Natural History of Selborne, by parity of reasoning, we feel inclined to assign the merit of that increasing attachment to the study of natural history which, since his day, has been making such rapid strides. But as De Foe was indebted to another for his invaluable fiction, so, to the work before us, we may ascribe the origin of Mr. White's more popular performance. True it is, that the lively and natural style of the latter must ever prove a formidable rival to its venerable precursor; but, nevertheless, to it we are in duty bound to offer suit and service, and we, therefore, feel that every naturalist and lover of physical science will thank us for recalling from its dusty shelf the almost forgotten works of these patriarchs, who passed their lives in the fields of nature; and welcome Ray and his coadjutors as “ worthy for whom we should do this." .
The volume before us contains the aggregate correspondence of a select junto, attached to each other by similar pursuits and habits; amongst whom we notice Willoughby, Lister, Sir Hans Sloane, Ralph Thoresby, &c. It may not be uninteresting, before we enter upon the work, to give a brief outline of some of the characters we have named. We shall, therefore, begin with the Rev. John Ray,(or Wray,)F.R.S., and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who, born in 1621, closed a long life of 84 years, in 1705. Of origin the most humble (for he was the son of a blacksmith at Black Notley, near Braintree, in Essex,) he exhibits a proof of the power of talent to exalt itself to its due level in the circle of society : an early proficient in botanical science, he had that happy art of infusing amongst all around him a portion of his own zeal and enthusiasm, and, accordingly, we find him traversing the British dominions in almostevery direction, (an operation attended with considerable difficulty and inconvenience, not to say peril, in those days,) for the sole purpose of botanical research, or, as it was then called, by the less dignified title of “simpling," attended on his route by a host of “ curious pupils." In this part of his character, many of our Oxford readers, who have been “wontto brush with hasty steps the dew away,” in geological pursuits, will be reminded of one in so many respects his worthy counterpart, and unite with us in rejoicing that the mantle of Ray has fallen upon one so well calculated to possess and do it honour, as Dr. Buckland. At the mature age of forty, he received episcopal ordination; but, though born, as we have shewn, to no affluence, (in fact a legacy of Gol per annum, left by his friend Willoughby, being his chief support for the remaining forty years of his life,) it ought to be recorded, to the eternal honour of this virtuous and exemplary Christian, that he repeatedly refused preferment, and resigned a fellowship, from scruples of conscience, in the ever memorable year 1662, when about two thousand of the clergy, in one day, relinquished their cures, and, as Hume observes, “ to the astonishment of the court, sacrificed their interest to their religious tenets."
Such is a faint sketch of his valuable life : of his style, in preference to an opinion of our own, we shall give that of one better calculated, from close similarity of pursuits, to speak of its merits. “Our countryman, the excellent Mr. Ray, (says the Rev. Gilbert White, of Selborne, p. 244, vol. i.) is the only describer that conveys some precise idea, in every term or word maintaining his superiority over his followers and imitators, in spite of the advantages of fresh discoveries and modern information.” As the intimate friend and disciple of Ray, we are in duty bound to notice that eminent naturalist, Willoughby, who, born in 1635, condensed, in a short life, the labours of even many an octogenarian: it will be sufficient to say of him, that, detesting idleness not only as a vice in itself but as the parent of numerous vices, he from his infancy almost devoted himself to study, and finally, having impaired his health by severity of application, sunk under his exertions, at the early age of thirtyseven. The life of Sir Hans Sloane, in many respects, resenbles that of Willoughby : in this equally celebrated investigator of nature, we find a similarly strong and early propensity to the study of natural history, with this extraordinary dissimilarity, however, in their constitutional character, that whereas the former, in a short time, wore out a vigorous bodily frame, the latter, though severely reduced at the age of sixteen by dangerous consumptive symptoms, by dint of extreme attention and care was enabled to protract his life far beyond the ordinary bounds of three score years and ten, dying in 1752, at the advanced age of ninety-two, notwithstanding he had exposed himself to the trying climate of the West Indies, where he resided in Jamaica about fifteen months ; during which time, he collected such an uncommon variety of plants as astonished Ray and others, who believed there were not half the number on the whole island. He was a Member of the Royal Academy at Paris, President of the College of Physicians, and had the
honour of succeeding Sir Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society. Much more interesting matter might be collected from the biographical reports of these prominent characters, and other distinguished contemporaries whose let ters appear in this volume; but, feeling that we have already somewhat exceeded our bounds, we shall now proceed to make extracts from their several letters, illustrated by such remarks as suggest themselves from a reference to the more accurate data furnished by modern science. As the correspondence is perfectly unconnected and irregular, it is immaterial how, or in what portions, it is selected for examination. We shall, therefore, commence our observations with Fish; and are sorry to say, that, under this head, the first must savour some: what of the marvellous, being a report from Mr. Dent to Mr. Ray, of a certain enormous thorneback (Raia clavata.) There must have been giants amongst the fish in those days, for one Mr. Mayfield assured Mr. Dent, that he sold a thorneback to the cook of St. John's College, of “two hundréd weight and upwards, and that it served all the scholars of the college, at that time being thirty, mess for commons; which was moreover confirmed by the cook of the same college.” Where or how this fish was taken, 'we are not informed; but, "with Pennant on our side, we are inclined to doubt the fact, at least to its extent, his remark being, that “ they sometimes weigh fourteen or fifteen pounds, but with us seldom exceed that weight.”
Having thus commenced with fish, as the top dish of our entertainment, we shall produce the other remarkable varieties afforded in the pages of this work, the next being a compound, viz. the dolphin and porpesse in a state of identity, a coalition of species which, notwithstanding the high authority of Mr. Ray, we must, as impartial lovers of truth, be under the necessity of dissolving. His words are, “ Dum Cestriæ hæsimus, fortè fortunâ allatus est ad urbem Delphinus antiquorum nostratibus Porpesse dictus, à piscatore quodam in vado captus à quo eum modico pretio emimus.". Now the fact is, there is a material difference between the two species : both are, indeed, included, under the generic term Delphinus ; but whereas the specific name of the dolphin of the ancients is Delphinus Delphis, that of the Porpus or Porpesse is Delphinus Phocæna. The only connexion we have heard of between the two, is, that a certain Duke of Norfolk eat a dolphin, which was formerly reckoned a great delicacy, roasted and dressed with porpesse sauce, made of crumbs of fine white bread mixed with vinegar and sugar. On such authority, we recommend a trial of this recipe to the “ curious in fish sauce.” It will be observed, that we have given the passage in Latin as we found it; for several of these learned Englishmen seemed to prefer a
correspondence in this language to that of their vulgar tongue. To which we certainly bave no other objection to make, than that we think their vernacular idioms, upon such a subject, would have answered just as well, and occasionally spared our risible faculties when the two languages came in contact with rather a whimsical mixture of juxtaposition: for instance, “superest ut tibi gratias agamus quod nos insigni errore liberasti. Cum enim olim Gallinagines minores Snipes vulgo dictas, et minimas tibi Gids, nobis Jack Snipes titulo cognitas pro una et eadem specie habuerimus et sexu tantum differre credidimus.” We are quite sure that, were Mr. Ray now living, he would pardon us for pointing out his mistake concerning dolphins and porpesses, shocked, as he appears to be," insigni errore” of confounding "snipes," jack snipes,” and “ gids.” On the other hand, the dignity of classical idiom is admirably exhibited in the comment of Mr. Lister to Mr. Ray, on the very important incident of his having captured a glow-beetle! In truth, we remember nothing to compare with it save the “ veni, vidi, vici” of the Roman chief: “ Pridiè vesperi insectum animal admodum lucens in aere, vidi, cepi, notavi, scripsi.” In Chester, indeed, Mr. Ray seems to have been particularly fortunate in his discoveries, for, in the same letter, after mentioning, by the by, a famina cornigera, or horned woman, respecting whom he observes, “ si masculum cornutum ibi vidissemus res non adeo mira fuisset;" he adds, "præterea Encrasicolos pisces seu anchovas non procul inde in mari captos vidimus;" in which supposed discovery we suspect he is again guilty of a little inaccuracy, for we have good reason for believing that even Mr. Burgess, with all his skill and taste in anchovy sauce, has never yet been able to establish a home manufactory of this delicious article, in or near Chester; for the best of all reasons, that the real anchovy (clupea encrasicolus) is chiefly, if not solely, to be found within soundings off the island of Gorgona, near Leghorn.
In page 106, we find Mr. Ray expressing doubts respecting any real difference between the turbot, bret, and halibut. “ By what you write of the bret (says he, in a letter to Mr. Lister,) I perceive, that what they call bret in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, and I believe also in all the East part of England, is the turbot of the West country, where the name bret is not known; and I believe the halibut of the West is the Northern and Eastern turbot; and I would fain know how your halibut and turbot differ; for if there be another fish of the make and bigness of your turbot, it is a stranger to me.” So far as relates to the identity of turbot and bret, as spoken of in the Northern or Southern parts of the country, we are inclined to think Mr. Ray may be right; but we are surprised that so accurate an observer as he was should have
had the least hesitation in drawing a decided line of demarcation between the halibut and the turbot. Temperate in diet, as he was, we are ready to make allowances for want of accuracy upon so nice a point, where, however, a London alderman would have set him right, if not at the first glance, certainly on tasting the first mouthful; but, as a naturalist, he should have been aware of the striking distinction between the two. Of the. same genus (pleuronectes) they form species of two very obviously distinguished sections, ascertained by the situations of the eyes, which, in the halibut (pleuronectes hippoglossus,) are on the right side; whereas, in the turbot (pleuronectes marimus,) they are situated on the left side. The difference in size, too, is sufficient to prove their non-identity, the former sometimes attaining the weight of 400 lbs, whereas the latter seldom reaches a tenth part of that weight. In a letter from Mr. Johnson to Mr. Ray, we meet with the following curious opinion :“ If you have not yet determined what those shells upon old planks and ships (which antiquity fancied to be young gooslings) are, give me leave to propound one conjecture among many, viz. that they are the spawn of shrimps. 'Twas my brother Jo: Johnson's observation, who told me, that so far as his naked eye could discover, there was an exact proportion of parts betwixt the contents of those shells and the shrimp."What honest Jo: Johnson could mean by “exact proportion of parts,” we cannot surmise; neither can we divine on what possible grounds such a strange theory could have been founded; for the shrimp, like all other species of the genus cancer, deposits its ova in a manner perfectly obvious and simple, which ova are hatched in due time during the summer months, when a careful observer may find them in abundance of every size, in the little pools left by tides among the rocks.
The next icthyological remark we have to make, we lament to say, again places us in opposition to our respected author. ' “ Sprats (says he) I know to be nothing else but the young fry of herrings and pilchards, both which fishes come to their full growth in a year's time or less, and then breed.” In reply to which, we give the following reason for differing from him. In the first place, the sprat (clupea sprattus) is known to. spawn; from which we may infer, (though we are ready to ac-, knowledge that, respecting the gestatory powers of fish, much, mystery remains to be cleared up,) that the sprat is, if not perfectly matured, at least nearly so, and, therefore, cannot be. classed with the herring, which exceeds it so considerably in size. In the next place, its belly is strongly serrated; whereas, that of the herring (clupea harengus) is smooth : there are also some minor discrepances observable in the form of their fins. What has been said of the herring, may be applied to