« ZurückWeiter »
was not much cruelty in killing a creature, which it was impossible we should keep alive. After seeing all that it could shew us while living, I dissected it. The mouth we found very large, and armed with five sharp and strong teeth, fixed at the extremities of as many bones, which were each perforated all along, to give way to a muscle inserted into the base of the tooth, at the extremity, and serving to move it. These bones are covered externally with membranes ; they form a cavity, in the centre of which is placed a fleshy tongue, of an oval figure, and behind it lies the throat, opening into the stomach : the intestine is continued from this, and forms a spiral of five turns round the inner surface of the shell, which has a cavity of the same form to receive it, and by which it is suspended by numerous filaments.
It is doing no more than justice to the ancient naturalists, to assert, that Aristotle, though he knew nothing of the parts I have been describing, had a more accurate knowledge of the nature of this creature than many who have since written about it. Gesner somewhere quotes one Gellius for an account of these animals being beautifully variegated with red, and green, and blue, while living; but that
off when the creature is dead. We saw nothing of this, and I believe there was no more foundation for the assertion, than that the shell, which is originally reddish, grows white by lying to bleach on the shores.
INSPECTOR, No. 68. No. LXXIX.
Ille per extentum funem mihi posse videtur
That bard I deem of highest powers possest,
There is not a species of writing which has not had its particular admirer, and various affirmations have been made concerning the excellence of each. The famous Doctor South was of opinion, that a complete epigram is the master-piece of composition; and Mr. Addison calls a perfect tragedy the noblest production of human nature. The truth of it is, each person has delivered his sentiments agreeable to his own private temper, and his own peculiar turn of thinking. Doctor South excelled in lively and surprising strokes of wit ; every new combination, which he formed in the vivacious sallies of his imagination, was epigram itself, and we find all his writings sown extremely thick with unexpected assemblages; and, on this account, we may suppose him inclinable to extol his own favorite talent. In like manner, Mr. Addison had employed many of his hours in planning his tragedy of Cato ; and, after it had received the most consummate polish which his skill could bestow upon it, it was to be exhibited as the greatest production of human wit. But the assertions of great men, when they are unsustained by argument, are not to be considered as decrees from which there can be no appeal : tragedy, most certainly, can only claim the second place, because it is manifest that all the powers of genius, viz. imagination, eloquence, and reason, may be exerted in their full force in the epic composition; whereas, in tragedy, they frequently suffer great limitation: the same thing, which, on many occasions, makes tragedy the most powerful performance, serves also to divest it of those advantages which give great brilliancy to heroic poesy; and that is, its coming immediately before the
It is justly remarked by Horace, that what is conveyed to our notice through our ears, acts with a more feeble impulse upon the mind, than objects that pass through the organs of sight, those faithful evidences in a mental court of judicature,
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem,
For this reason, many passages, in which the epic writer warms and expands the imagination of his readers with the noblest exhibitions of poetic imagery, are entirely excluded from the dramatic scene;
will not suffer itself easily to be deluded, and all the amazement of machinery is also for the same reason totally superseded. A god, says the critic, should not be introduced, unless the occasion should peremptorily require a supernatural agent; he had said better, if he had absolutely interdicted the appearance. We may, in reading, suffer such an incident to be imposed upon us; but the eye would be too much shocked with such representations, and, of course, the marvellous is entirely banished. Besides, tragedy will not admit any extraordinary display of pure poetry, or description ; the heroic poet, for the most part, speaks in his own person, and it is expected of him to pay great court to our imagination; but the dialogue of personages engaged in a sphere of action, intended to interest the auditors, will not allow them to take up the scene with florid exhibitions of rural imagery ; such as brooks, murmuring in scanty rills through pebbled chan