Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CURIOSITIES OF NATURAL HISTORY.

THE son of the celebrated Dean will be all against him. Like their Buckland may seem to have a hered

a

betters, they live partially on frogs. itary right to instruct us touching Mr Buckland has dissected dead the “Curiosities of Natural History, frogs — has ate cooked frogs — has only by the laws of suggestion. We swallowed live frogs; or to speak naturally expected that they would with historic precision, he has opened be palæontological curiosities - cer- his mouth wide and allowed the tainly nothing more modern than paludine leaper to jump down the Reliquiæ Diluvianæ. Having no red lane” to the abyss below. stomach for the Ichthyosauri, and (P. 13.) other extinct monsters of Geology, This is not given as a curiosity of we were somewhat shy of dipping Natural History, nor does Mr Buckinto Mr Buckland's Curiosities; but land seem to require such devotion to observing that his first chapter had the study of natural science in his the delectable title of “A Hunt in a pupil, that, in prosecuting his inquiries Horse-pond,” our curiosity about his into the habits of the Rana aquatica, Curiosities was highly quickened, and he should turn his interior into a incontinently we proceeded to read, horse-pond. From the feat of “leapand drew not bridle until the assist- frog” adverted to, Mr Buckland's ant surgeon of Her Majesty's 2d Life friends seem to have ascribed a tendGuards pulled us up at the insuper- ency to croaking in our author. Never able finis. In saying so, we are inci- was there a more unwarrantable surdentally bestowing the highest praise mise. At least throughout the whole on Mr Buckland's volume. It is, in- of this volume, so far from croaking, deed, a very amusing mélange, abound- he chirps cheerfully as a grasshopper. ing in curious information, written in Moreover, frogs are always happy a discursive and gay style, with quiet when they croak, and it was in Boogleams here and

there of genial wit. tian ignorance of frog-life that the Mr Buckland is evidently a patient, word was used to describe the irraskilful, enthusiastic and original ob- tional groanings of the human biped. server. It is marvellous what he finds Perhaps, however, the human croaker in a horse-pond. He proves it to be is not really unhappy. He is a misery a little kosmos. He finds “saleable to his friends, but is he so to himself? articles” in it. Probably he could Nay, he cherishes his gloom and live on it. Evidently, he has lived gloats over it. His lugubrious voice much in it. He is impassionedly is music to his own ear.

He is an fond of the lower creatures-espe- ill-used and neglected man, and he cially creeping things. He knows ingeniously aggrandises his fancied more of frogs, we venture to affirm, ills. How pleasant it is to bewail than any man living. He has ob- them. If sympathy does not come, served them ab ovo, through all their that only adds to his pleasure. Like transformations, until they reached Charles Lamb's “convalescent," he is

, perfect froghood. He expounds the “his own sympathiser;" and under curious provision for their hyberna- the doleful mask which he wears, he tion-tells us all about their croaking, enjoys a delicious inward self-comand how their croaking is produced. placency. If this view be right, then The cause of croaking in the genus the term is not used so anomalously, homo is yet obscure. The “showers and the philosophy of language is of frogs, of which the press from in harmony with the philosophy of time to time admonishes us, are croaking. That curious old writer, utterly dissipated by Mr Buckland. Felix Slater, tells us of a man who Was this wise? The “penny-a-liners” fancied that he had one of Aristo

Curiosities of Natural History. By FRANCIS T. BUCKLAND M.A., Student of Christ's Church, Oxford; Assistant Surgeon 2d Life Guards. R. Bentley : London, 1857.

:

man.

phanes' frogs in his belly, and who than thine own. Go to the pond and took the tour of Europe with the view studiously consider its treasures and of relieving himself of the intruder marginal beauties, and learn to doff We recommend a course less circuitous thy sad attire, and to modulate thy and expensive. Let any one so situ- voice to less dismal accents. Na ated, go and read Buckland's Curio ture, sir, has placed no sacculi in thy sities. Their perusal will infallibly cheek to mark thee out as meant remove any melancholy that is not for a croaker, but has given thee lips of the “green and yellow" type. and tongue for the utterance of a

There are fissures at the corners of deep and thoughtful praise. Talk of the frog's mouth, which admit the crossing seas and seeking in Contiexternal protrusion of certain blad- nental travel the healing of thy griefs der-like cheek-pouches, and these and the removal of thy ennui. Cumare inflated from the windpipe, and brous cure for artificial woes! Nawith these instruments the croaking ture's medicine is near thy home, noise is produced. The male frog and our author could teach thee in alone possesses these voice-sacs, and thy pensive moods to recreate thyMr Buckland supposes that their use self on the margin of his unpretendis for the purpose of apprising the ing pond, when the frogs would relady of the presence of the gentle buke thy gloom, and the laughing

There can be no doubt of that. flowers would beguile thee of thy The frog is a dumb dog when the fancied ills. “Nature is never mel. tender passion is not on him, but ancholy,” says Coleridge, and as when he would a-wooing go," gal

“ Wilkes was

no Wilkesite," 80 lantly does he blow his amorous ac- frogs are no croakers. claim. To Madam Frog the song is Mr Buckland brought with him sweeter than any Sappho ever sung, from Germany a dozen specimens of and she is as much charmed as the the green tree-frog. thrush is with her gallant mate

“ I started at night on my homeward perched, on the neighbouring elm- journey by the diligence, and I put the top, piping impetuously his melli- bottle containing the frogs into the fluous notes. In the month of April, pocket inside the diligence. My fellowwhat is finer than a symphonious passengers were sleepy smoke-dried Gerfrog-pond! We have our pet pond mans; very little conversation took place; that we duly visit. The south wind and after the first mile, every one settled has been blowing. All nature is himself to sleep, and soon all were snorfeeling the genial power of the sea- ing. I suddenly awoke with a start, and son. The little celandine, with starry found all the sleepers had been roused at eyes, gems the bank ; and lower the same moment. On their sleepy faces down, with its roots drinking nour

were depicted fear and anger. What had

woke us all up so suddenly! The mornishment from the pond, the water- ing was just breaking, and my frogs, marigold raises aloft its glowing though in the dark pocket of the coach, flower, and gazes ardently at the had found it out, and with one accord all sun ; the bees, humming in ecstasy, twelve of them had begun their morning are getting the first sip of the season song. As if at a given signal, they, one from the osiered margin; the rib- and

all of them, began to croak as loud bon-like foliage of the water-grass is as ever they could. The noise their shooting athwart the pond ; above, united concert made, seemed, in the the heavenly minstrel is carolling

closed compartment of the coach, quite clear in her aerial tower ;” and loi deafening. Well might the Germans look see the frogs looking up with large, bottle and all, out of the window ; but I

angry. They wanted to throw the frogs, mild — philosophic eyes; and hear

gave the bottle a good shaking, and made how rapturously they proclaim their the frogs keep quiet." love. Go, thou bilious, melancholious, croaking biped, to the pond. My “A good shaking," we believe, yellow friends there may take fright would silence all croakers. This at thy vinegar visage ; but if thou seems to us, however, a very unsar art patient and contemplative, they tisfactory explanation of the cause will reveal themselves even to thee, why these frogs should have indulged and teach thee a wisdom deeper in such a morning concert. Frogs are

CG

not especially sensitive to the light the starting, struggling locomotive, They keep no vigils. They are not for which it has been more than once wont to herald in the dawn of day. mistaken by a half-awake traveller They copy not chanticleer, who dis- who had to go by an early train. turbs the dull ear of the departing The locomotive seems clearly to have night with his shrill clarion. Horace copied from the human engine. If indeed talks of the fenny frogs driv- Mr Buckland wishes to study the ing away sleep : Ranæ palustres subject, let him take his station duravertunt somnos. But Horace was ing night in the lobby of the bedrooma toper, and Sol was riding high in flat of a large hotel. His opportunihis fiery car ere the Falernian cups ties will be better if the hotel is much were slept off. Moreover, these Ger- frequented by commercial gentlemen. man frogs must have been quick. The stewed kidneys and stout ginsighted indeed, bottled up as they toddy in which they indulge previous were and deposited in the pocket of to retiring, form a good basis for a a dusky German diligence, could they full nocturnal diapasonhave been aware that the rosy morn

From their full racks the gen'rous steeds was reddening the east. The cause retire, of the concert is evident. The smoke- Dropping ambrosial foams and snorting dried Germans were snoring. There

fire." is a variety of snoring that approaches A full rack seems to be the apindefinitely near to croaking. The proved method of tuning the instrufrogs heard the challenge, and unani- ment. It is a vulgar error to sup. mously responded. But it is clear pose that a large proboscis is necesthat Mr Buckland has not studied sarily an organ of great power. On the natural history of snoring. The the contrary, in the huge cavern the subject, indeed, seems never to have air seems to lose itself; and we have received any competent discussion. geen an insignificant snub that would The variety of power in the nasal have outsnored the most exaggerated organ is great. You have the piano Roman variety. There is a nice snore, commencing on a weak key, question in casuistry - whether a and passing away into a thin whistle, sleeper can hear himself snoring, which we have mistaken for the wind and, if he cannot, whether he can playing through the keyhole or some awaken himself by his own snoring. other cranny. Then there is the Being disposed to adopt the affirmagreat sonorous snore, pealing awfully tive side of that question, we should through the house in the silence of certainly, had we been in Mr Buckthe night. We once had a visitor land's position, have vindicated our with such gifted nostrils, and we can frogs, and demonstrated, on prindepone, that although he did not ciples of the highest rationalism, that awaken any responsive concert in the the drowsy Germans had awakened pond, he set our two terriers, at dead themselves. of night, into a furious fit of barking. These green German tree-frogs It was a new terror to them, and we came to an unhappy end. Mr Buckhad the greatest difficulty of explain- land brought them safely to Oxford ; ing to Billy and Pepper that no harm but on the day after their arrival, was meant that no invasion of the a novice of a housemaid, with true premises was threatened—that it was feminine curiosity, must have a peep vox et præterea nihil. The great snore into the strange bottle. No sooner is often varied by wild unearthly ca- had she removed the cover, than she dences, harmonising with the howling was saluted with a German croak, wind without; and in listening to when, even more frightened than the such a performance, we are free to sleepy sages of the diligence, she fled, confess that sometimes on our solitary leaving the bottle uncovered. “They pillow we have felt a little eery. But all got loose in the garden, where, I the most characteristic and best de- believe, the ducks ate them, for I fined snore is the sudden quick con- never heard or saw them again. vulsive snore, properly described as a These frogs cost six shillings each in snort. It is as like as may be to the Covent Garden market. They are snort of the war-horse, or to that of not difficult to keep alive, as they will eat black beetles, and these are “But it still remains to be ascertained to be procured at all seasons of the how long this state of torpor may year." Dear ducks these, Mr Buck- continue under total exclusion from land! their déjeûné costing you some food and from external air; and three pounds twelve shillings of cur- although the experiments above rerent coin. And thus the German corded show that life did not extend frogs, like many other German two years in the case of any one of things, ended in quackery.

the individuals which formed the Mr Buckland quotes some very subjects of them, yet, for reasons interesting experiments, which we do which have been specified, they are not remember ever previously to not decisive to show that a state of have read, that had been made by torpor, or suspended animation, may his father, with the view of testing not be endured for a much longer the possibility of the toad existing time by toads that are healthy and in a state of suspended animation well fed up to the moment when when enclosed in a block of stone or they are finally cut off from food and wood. He caused twelve circular cells from all direct access to atmosto be cut in a large block of coarse pheric air” (p. 52). On the contrary oolite limestone, and twelve smaller we think the experiments are decells in a block of compact silicious cisive to show that, under different sandstone. In each of these cells a conditions, toads só enclosed might toad was placed, and then the cells survive for periods much longer, and being carefully covered with plates truly corroborate the many authenof glass and slate, and cemented at tic cases, attested by competent the edge with clay, the blocks were observers, of these. animals being buried in his garden beneath three found in blocks of wood or porous feet of earth. At the end of a twelve- stone. If some of Dr Buckland's month every toad in the cells of the toads survived nearly two years compact sandstone was dead, while without food in their cells, there the greater number of these in the seems no conceivable reason, as far larger cells of porous limestone were as food was concerned, why they alive, although, with one exception, should not have lived for many they had all diminished in weight years. And as for the perfect Before the expiration of the second exclusion of atmospheric air from year the large toads were also dead. the cavities, we know not that this Dr Buckland draws larger inferences was ever contended for. It has not from these experiments than the facts been said that these animals would seem to warrant. There were al. survive for a period of years in an - lowed defects in the mode in which exhausted receiver. It is only said, the experiment was conducted. The as far as we understand the question, toads were immured in a cucumber that these animals will survivein atorframe for upwards of two months pid state for an indefinite period on previous to their imprisonment in less atmospheric air than any other the cells. They must have had a living creatures. Although the cavscanty supply of food, and been in ity might be perfectly enclosed, with an unhealthy and emaciated state. no aperture or direct communication Had they crept spontaneously into the with the atmospheric air, yet it has cells in good bodily condition, when never been argued that the cavity was the natural torpor of hybernisation hermetically inaccessible to atmoswas falling upon them, the result pheric influence, and more especially would have been different, as seems that it was inaccessible to moisture. evidently proved by the fact that Porous rock or wood is permeable by some of them survived (and these water; and a cavity in either must the most healthy) much longer than drain the circumambient moisture toothers. While Dr Buckland seems wards it. Now there is a beautiful disposed, from his experiments, to provision in the skin of a frog or toad, question the possibility of frogs or whereby not only it absorbs moisture, toads existing in a semianimous con- but whereby it can withdraw from the dition when enclosed in blocks of moisture thus absorbed the oxygen wood or stone, he judiciously adds : necessary for life. Nor is this all. The creature has a power of absorb- Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, ing more fluid than is required for 1826. But if herrings, why not present existence, and of hoarding it frogs: Holinshed tells us that frogs away in an internal reservoir, where fell in Angusshire during the time of it is retained until wanted. In its Agricola (Chron. v. ii. p. 59.) It will imprisonment, therefore, it is not at be easy to laugh at the old chronicler; all necessary that it should have a but what does Mr Buckland say to the continuous supply of moisture. This discussion that took place on this subexquisite peculiarity in the animal ject before the Academy of Sciences economy of these reptiles, which at Paris in 1844, and to the personal strangely enough seems to have been experience of M. Peltier then comoverlooked by Dr Buckland, appears to municated ? At Ham, in the departgive us the solution of the phenomenon ment of Somme, during a heavy rain, which his experiments were intended he reported that the Place was into elucidate, and to render scientific stantly covered with small toads ; doubts about the many really well. that they struck his outstretched authenticated cases of toads and froys hand during their fall; and that he being found enclosed in wood or stone saw them fall on the roof of the unreasonable. Of course we do not house opposite to him, and rebound mean to vindicate the integrity of thence to the pavement. But, inthe antediluvian toad of Mr Buck- deed, abundant evidence of similar land's “ newspaper - scrap," which, facts as unquestionable could be emerging from a lump of coal, the given. Mr Buckland disposes of all naturalist of the newspaper supposes such evidence in a very simple fashion, to have "breathed the same air as by supposing that the little creatures Noah, or disported in the same lim- had been hidden in fissures of the pid streams in which Adam bathed earth and under stones, and that they his sturdy limbs.” It is very well to had crept out on the descent of the smile at the traditionary fancies of shower, and that thus the journalist the old naturalists, who believed that was furnished with his phenomenon swallows rolled themselves up in a of the clouds raining frogs. The exhuge mass, mouth to mouth, and planation is as old as Theophrastes, wing to wing, and plunged to the and was adopted by Redi, the cele bottom of lakes or rivers, where brated Italian naturalist; but later they waited patiently for the return observations render it untenable. It of spring: “Immergunt se flumini- is the business of science to dissipate bus lacubusque per hyemem totam, vulgar errors, but not scornfully to &c." But when the zoological pecu- reject well-attested facts that are liarities of certain reptiles indicate a themselves feasible, and that admit provision calculated to preserve exis- of a natural and reasonable explanatence in a state of suspended anima- tion. There are prodigies in nature as tion for an indefinite period, it does well as curiosities, and we are not disnot seem the province of scientific in- posed sceptically to question that duction in such circumstances to re- frogs fall in showers, or to begrudge ject well-recorded facts. With this the paragraphist his pleasure in reacademic tendency, Mr Buckland porting the fact, or the gobemouches seems somewhat tinctured. In an theirs, in annually filling their maws easy, off-hand style, he explodes the with the descending marvels. Of all idea of frogs falling in showers, and men in the world, why should Mr laughs at the newspaper paragraphist Buckland smile at the credulous and his wondering readers. Does Mr rustics swallowing showers of frogs ? Buckland question the many well-at- Few of our readers most probably tested instances of small fish having have ever observed the toad at his fallen many miles inland? Will any repast. It is performed with electric one who has witnessed the effects of a rapidity, and with more than telewhirlwind or a waterspout doubt the grammic precision. The tongue is possibility of such a thing? Amid doubled back upon itself, and is tipmany well-authenticated cases, we ped with a glutinous secretion. The may refer to a shower of small'her- moment the beetle comes within rings that fell in Kinross-shire; see range, the tongue is shot forth with

а

« ZurückWeiter »