The Natural History of Selborne, Vol. 2
by Gilbert White
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There was little room to suppose that this brood had ever been in the open air before; and that they were taken in for refuge, at the mouth of the dam, when she perceived that danger was approaching; because then probably we should have found them somewhere in the neck, and not in the abdomen.


Castration has a strange effect: it emasculates both man, beast, and bird, and brings them to a near resemblance of the other sex. Thus eunuchs have smooth, unmuscular arms, thighs, and legs; and broad hips, and beardless chins, and squeaking voices. Gelt stags and bucks have hornless heads, like hinds and does. Thus wethers have small horns, like ewes; and oxen large bent horns, and hoarse voices when they low, like cows: for bulls have short straight horns; and though they mutter and grumble in a deep, tremendous tone, yet they low in a shrill high key. Capons have small combs and gills, and look pallid about the head, like pullets; they also walk without any parade, and hover chickens like hens. Barrow-hogs have also small tusks like sows.

Thus far it is plain that the deprivation of masculine vigour puts a stop to the growth of those parts or appendages that are looked upon as its insignia. But the ingenious Mr. Lisle, in his book on husbandry, carries it much farther; for he says that the loss of those insignia alone has sometimes a strange effect on the ability itself: he had a boar so fierce and venereous, that, to prevent mischief, orders were given for his tusks to be broken off. No sooner had the beast suffered this injury than his powers forsook him, and he neglected those females to whom before he was passionately attached, and from whom no fences would restrain him.


The natural term of a hog's life is little known, and the reason is plain—because it is neither profitable nor convenient to keep that turbulent animal to the full extent of its time: however, my neighbour, a man of substance, who had no occasion to study every little advantage to a nicety, kept a half-bred bantam-sow, who was as thick as she was long, and whose belly swept on the ground till she was advanced to her seventeenth year, at which period she showed some tokens of age by the decay of her teeth and the decline of her fertility.

For about ten years this prolific mother produced two litters in the year of about ten at a time, and once above twenty at a litter; but, as there were near double the number of pigs to that of teats, many died. From long experience in the world this female was grown very sagacious and artful. When she found occasion to converse with a boar, she used to open all the intervening gates, and march, by herself, up to a distant farm where one was kept; and when her purpose was served, would return by the same means. At the age of about fifteen her litters began to be reduced to four or five, and such a litter she exhibited when in her fatting-pen. She proved, when fat, good bacon, juicy, and tender; the rind, or sward, was remarkably thin. At a moderate computation she was allowed to have been the fruitful parent of three hundred pigs: a prodigious instance of fecundity in so large a quadruped! She was killed in spring, 1775.

I am, etc.


SELBORNE, May 9th, 1776.

" . . . admorunt ubera tigres."

Dear Sir,—We have remarked in a former letter {83} how much incongruous animals, in a lonely state, may be attached to each other from a spirit of sociality; in this it may not be amiss to recount a different motive which has been known to create as strange a fondness. 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, 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 gamboling after, which proved to be the leveret that the cat had supported with her milk, and continued to support with great affection.

Thus was a graminivorous animal nurtured by a carnivorous and predaceous one!

Why so cruel and sanguinary a beast as a cat, of the ferocious genus of Felis, the murium leo, as Linnaeus calls it, should be affected with any tenderness towards an animal which is its natural prey, is not so easy to determine.

This strange affection probably was occasioned by that desiderium, 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 the 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 sucking leveret should be fostered and cherished by a bloody grimalkin.

" . . . viridi foetam Mavortis in antro Procubuisse lupam: geminos huic ubera circum Ludere pendentes pueros, et lambere matrem Impavidos: illam tereti cervice reflexam Mulcere alternos, et corpora fingere lingua."


SELBORNE, May 20th, 1777.

Dear Sir,—Lands that are subject to frequent inundations are always poor; and probably the reason may be because the worms are drowned. The most insignificant insects and reptiles are of much more consequence, and have much more influence in the economy of Nature than the incurious are aware of, and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention, and from their numbers and fecundity. Earth-worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of Nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. For, to say nothing of half the birds, and some quadrupeds, which are almost entirely supported by them, worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants, by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it, and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass. Worms probably provide new soil for hills and slopes where the rain washes the earth away; and they affect slopes, probably to avoid being flooded. Gardeners and farmers express their detestation of worms; the former because they render their walks unsightly, and make them much work; and the latter because, as they think, worms eat their green corn. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound, and void of fermentation, and consequently sterile; and besides, in favour of worms, it should be hinted that green corn, plants, and flowers, are not so much injured by them as by many species of coleoptera (scarabs), and tipuloe (long-legs) in their larva, or grub-state, and by unnoticed myriads of small shell-less snails, called slugs, which silently and imperceptibly make amazing havoc in the field and garden. {86}

These hints we think proper to throw out in order to set the inquisitive and discerning to work.

A good monography of worms would afford much entertainment and information at the same time, and would open a large and new field in natural history. Worms work most in the spring, but by no means lie torpid in the dead months: are out every mild night in the winter, as any person may be convinced that will take the pains to examine his grass- plots with a candle; are hermaphrodites, and very prolific.

I am, etc.


SELBORNE, Nov. 22nd, 1777.

Dear Sir,—You cannot but remember that the 26th and 27th of last March were very hot days—so sultry that everybody complained and were restless under those sensations to which they had not been reconciled by gradual approaches.

This sudden summer-like heat was attended by many summer coincidences; for on those two days the thermometer rose to 66 degrees in the shade; many species of insects revived and came forth; some bees swarmed in this neighbourhood; the old tortoise, near Lewes, in Sussex, awakened and came forth out of its dormitory; and, what is most to my present purpose, many house-swallows appeared and were very alert in many places, and particularly at Chobham, in Surrey.

But as that short, warm period was succeeded as well as preceded by harsh, severe weather, with frequent frosts and ice, and cutting winds, the insects withdrew, the tortoise retired again into the ground, and the swallows were seen no more until the 10th April, when, the rigour of the spring abating, a softer season began to prevail.

Again, it appears by my journals for many years past that house-martins retire, to a bird, about the beginning of October, so that a person not very observant of such matters would conclude that they had taken their last farewell; but then it may be seen in my diaries also that considerable flocks have discovered themselves again in the first week of November, and often on the fourth day of that month, only for one day, and that not as if they were in actual migration, but playing about at their leisure and feeding calmly, as if no enterprise of moment at all agitated their spirits. And this was the case in the beginning of this very month; for on the 4th November more than twenty house-martins, which, in appearance, had all departed about the 7th October, were seen again for that one morning only sporting between my fields and the Hanger, and feasting on insects which swarmed in that sheltered district. The preceding day was wet and blustering, but the 4th was dark, and mild, and soft, the wind at south-west, and the thermometer at 58.5 degrees, a pitch not common at that season of the year. Moreover, it may not be amiss to add in this place, that whenever the thermometer is above 50 degrees, the bat comes flitting out in every autumnal and winter month.

From all these circumstances laid together, it is obvious that torpid insects, reptiles, and quadrupeds, are awakened from their profoundest slumbers by a little untimely warmth, and therefore that nothing so much promotes its death-like stupor as a defect of heat. And farther, it is reasonable to suppose that two whole species, or at least many individuals of those two species of British hirundines, do never leave this island at all, but partake of the same benumbed state; for we cannot suppose, that after a month's absence, house-martins can return from southern regions to appear for one morning in November, or that house- swallows should leave the districts of Asia to enjoy in March the transient summer of a couple of days.

I am, etc.


SELBORNE, Jan. 8th, 1778.

Dear Sir,—There was in this village several years ago a miserable pauper, who from his birth was afflicted with a leprosy, as far as we are aware of a singular kind, since it affected only the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. This scaly eruption usually broke out twice in the year, at the spring and fall; and, by peeling away, left the skin so thin and tender that neither his hands nor feet were able to perform their functions; so that the poor object was half his time on crutches, incapable of employ, and languishing in a tiresome state of indolence and inactivity. His habit was lean, lank, and cadaverous. In this sad plight he dragged on a miserable existence, a burden to himself and his parish, which was obliged to support him till he was relieved by death at more than thirty years of age.

The good women, who love to account for every defect in children by the doctrine of longing, said that his mother felt a violent propensity for oysters, which she was unable to gratify; and that the black rough scurf on his hands and feet were the shells of that fish. We knew his parents, neither of which were lepers; his father in particular lived to be far advanced in years.

In all ages the leprosy has made dreadful havoc among mankind. The Israelites seem to have been greatly afflicted with it from the most remote times, as appears from the peculiar and repeated injunctions given them in the Levitical law. Nor was the rancour of this foul disorder much abated in the last period of their commonwealth, as may be seen in many passages of the New Testament.

Some centuries ago this horrible distemper prevailed all Europe over: and our forefathers were by no means exempt, as appears by the large provision made for objects labouring under this calamity. There was a hospital for female lepers in the diocese of Lincoln; a noble one near Durham; three in London and Southwark; and perhaps many more in or near our great towns and cities. Moreover, some crowned heads, and other wealthy and charitable personages, bequeathed large legacies to such poor people as languished under this hopeless infirmity.

It must, therefore, in these days be to a humane and thinking person a matter of equal wonder and satisfaction, when he contemplates how nearly this pest is eradicated, and observes that a leper now is a rare sight. He will, moreover, when engaged in such a train of thought, naturally inquire for the reason. This happy change, perhaps, may have originated and been continued from the much smaller quantity of salted meat and fish now eaten in these kingdoms; from the use of linen next the skin; from the plenty of better bread; and from the profusion of fruits, roots, legumes, and greens, so common in every family. Three or four centuries ago, before there were any enclosures, sown-grasses, field-turnips, or field-carrots, or hay, all the cattle which had grown fat in summer, and were not killed for winter use, were turned out soon after Michaelmas to shift as they could through the dead months; so that no fresh meat could be had in winter or spring. Hence the marvellous account of the vast stores of salted flesh found in the larder of the eldest Spencer in the days of Edward II., even so late in the spring as the 3rd May. It was from magazines like these that turbulent barons supported in idleness their riotous swarms of retainers ready for any disorder or mischief. But agriculture is now arrived at such a pitch of perfection that our best and fattest meats are killed in the winter, and no man need eat salted flesh, unless he prefers it, that has money to buy fresh.

One cause of this distemper might be, no doubt, the quantity of wretched fresh and salt fish consumed by the commonalty at all seasons as well as in Lent, which our poor now would hardly be persuaded to touch.

The use of linen changes, shirts or shifts, in the room of sordid and filthy woollen, long worn next the skin, is a matter of neatness comparatively modern, but must prove a great means of preventing cutaneous ails. At this very time woollen, instead of linen, prevails among the poorer Welsh, who are subject to foul eruptions.

The plenty of good wheaten bread that now is found among all ranks of people in the south, instead of that miserable sort which used in old days to be made of barley or beans, may contribute not a little to the sweetening their blood and correcting their juices, for the inhabitants of mountainous districts to this day are still liable to the itch and other cutaneous disorders, from a wretchedness and poverty of diet.

As to the produce of a garden, every middle-aged person of observation may perceive, within his own memory, both in town and country, how vastly the consumption of vegetables is increased. Green-stalls in cities now support multitudes in a comfortable state, while gardeners get fortunes. Every decent labourer also has his garden, which is half his support, as well as his delight; and common farmers provide plenty of beans, peas, and greens, for their hinds to eat with their bacon; and those few that do not are despised for their sordid parsimony, and looked upon as regardless of the welfare of their dependents. Potatoes have prevailed in this little district by means of premiums within these twenty years only, and are much esteemed here now by the poor, who would scarce have ventured to taste them in the last reign.

Our Saxon ancestors certainly had some sort of cabbage, because they call the month of February "sprout-cale;" but long after their days the cultivation of gardens was little attended to. The religious, being men of leisure, and keeping up a constant correspondence with Italy, were the first people among us that had gardens and fruit-trees in any perfection within the wall of their abbeys and priories. The barons neglected every pursuit that did not lead to war or tend to the pleasure of the chase.

It was not till gentlemen took up the study of horticulture themselves that the knowledge of gardening made such hasty advances. Lord Cobham, Lord Ila, and Mr. Waller, of Beaconsfield, were some of the first people of rank that promoted the elegant science of ornamenting without despising the superintendence of the kitchen quarters and fruit walls.

A remark made by the excellent Mr. Ray, in his "Tour of Europe," at once surprises us, and corroborates what has been advanced above; for we find him observing so late as his days, that, "The Italians use several herbs for sallets, which are not yet, or have not been but lately, used in England, viz., selleri (celery), which is nothing else but the sweet smallage; the young shoots whereof, with a little of the head of the root cut off, they eat raw with oil and pepper;" and further adds: "curled endive blanched is much used beyond seas; and for a raw sallet, seemed to excell lettuce itself." Now this journey was undertaken no longer ago than in the year 1663.

I am, etc.


SELBORNE, Feb. 12th, 1778.

"Forte puer, comitum seductus ab agmine fido, Dixerat, ecquis adest? et, adest, responderat echo, Hic stupet; utque aciem partes divisit in omnes; Voce, veni, clamat magna. Vocat illa vocantem."

Dear Sir,—In a district so diversified as this, so full of hollow vales and hanging woods, it is no wonder that echoes should abound. Many we have discovered that return the cry of a pack of dogs, the notes of a hunting-horn, a tunable ring of bells, or the melody of birds very agreeably; but we were still at a loss for a polysyllabical articulate echo, till a young gentleman, who had parted from his company in a summer evening walk, and was calling after them, stumbled upon a very curious one in a spot where it might least be expected. At first he was much surprised, and could not be persuaded but that he was mocked by some boy; but repeating his trials in several languages, and finding his respondent to be a very adroit polyglot, he then discerned the deception.

This echo in an evening, before rural noises cease, would repeat ten syllables most articulately and distinctly, especially if quick dactyls were chosen. The last syllables of

"Tityre, tu patulae recubans . . . "

were as audibly and intelligibly returned as the first; and there is no doubt, could trial have been made, but that at midnight, when the air is very elastic, and a dead stillness prevails, one or two syllables more might have been obtained; but the distance rendered so late an experiment very inconvenient.

Quick dactyls, we observed, succeeded best; for when we came to try its powers in slow, heavy, embarrassed spondees of the same number of syllables,

"Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens . . . "

we could perceive a return but of four or five.

All echoes have some one place to which they are returned stronger and more distinct than to any other; and that is always the place that lies at right angles with the object of repercussion, and is not too near, nor too far off. Buildings, or naked rocks, re-echo much more articulately than hanging woods or vales; because in the latter the voice is as it were entangled, and embarrassed in the covert, and weakened in the rebound.

The true object of this echo, as we found by various experiments, is the stone-built, tiled hop-kiln in Gally Lane, which measures in front forty feet, and from the ground to the eaves twelve feet. The true centrum phonicum, or just distance, is one particular spot in the king's field, in the path to Nore Hill, on the very brink of the steep balk above the hollow cart-way. In this case there is no choice of distance; but the path, by mere contingency, happens to be the lucky, the identical spot, because the ground rises or falls so immediately, if the speaker either retires or advances, that his mouth would at once be above or below the object.

We measured this polysyllabical echo with great exactness, and found the distance to fall very short of Dr. Plot's rule for distinct articulation; for the doctor, in his history of Oxfordshire, allows a hundred and twenty feet for the return of each syllable distinctly; hence this echo, which gives ten distinct syllables, ought to measure four hundred yards, or one hundred and twenty feet to each syllable; whereas our distance is only two hundred and fifty-eight yards, or near seventy-five feet, to each syllable. Thus our measure falls short of the doctor's, as five to eight; but then it must be acknowledged that this candid philosopher was convinced afterwards, that some latitude must be admitted of in the distance of echoes according to time and place.

When experiments of this sort are making, it should always be remembered that weather and the time of day have a vast influence on an echo; for a dull, heavy, moist air deadens and clogs the sound; and hot sunshine renders the air thin and weak, and deprives it of all its springiness, and a ruffling wind quite defeats the whole. In a still, clear, dewy evening the air is most elastic; and perhaps the later the hour the more so.

Echo has always been so amusing to the imagination that the poets have personified her; and in their hand she has been the occasion of many a beautiful fiction. Nor need the gravest man be ashamed to appear taken with such a phenomenon, since it may become the subject of philosophical or mathematical inquiries.

One should have imagined that echoes, if not entertaining, must at least have been harmless and inoffensive; yet, Virgil advances a strange notion, that they are injurious to bees. After enumerating some probable and reasonable annoyances, such as prudent owners would wish far removed from their bee gardens, he adds—

. . . "aut ubi concava pulsu Saxa sonant, vocisque offensa resultat imago."

This wild and fanciful assertion will hardly be admitted by the philosophers of these days, especially as they all now seem agreed that insects are not furnished with any organs of hearing at all. But if it should be urged, that though they cannot hear yet perhaps they may feel the repercussions of sounds, I grant it is possible they may. Yet that these impressions are distasteful or hurtful, I deny, because bees, in good summers, thrive well in my outlet, where the echoes are very strong; for this village is another Anathoth, a place of responses and echoes. Besides, it does not appear from experiment that bees are in any way capable of being affected by sounds; for I have often tried my own with a large speaking-trumpet held close to their hives, and with such an exertion of voice as would have hailed a ship at the distance of a mile, and still these insects pursued their various employments undisturbed, and without showing the least sensibility or resentment.

Some time since its discovery this echo is become totally silent, though the object, or hop-kiln, remains; nor is there any mystery in this defect; for the field between is planted as a hop-garden, and the voice of the speaker is totally absorbed and lost among the poles and entangled foliage of the hops. And when the poles are removed in autumn the disappointment is the same; because a tall quick-set hedge, nurtured up for the purpose of shelter to the hop ground, entirely interrupts the impulse and repercussion of the voice; so that till those obstructions are removed no more of its garrulity can be expected.

Should any gentleman of fortune think an echo in his park or outlet a pleasing incident, he might build one at little or no expense. For whenever he had occasion for a new barn, stable, dog-kennel, or the like structure, it would be only needful to erect this building on the gentle declivity of a hill, with a like rising opposite to it, at a few hundred yards distance; and perhaps success might be the easier ensured could some canal, lake, or stream intervene. From a seat at the centrum phonicum he and his friends might amuse themselves sometimes of an evening with the prattle of this loquacious nymph; of whose complacency and decent reserve more may be said than can with truth of every individual of her sex; since she is . . .

" . . . quae nec reticere loquenti, Nec prior ipsa loqui didicit resonabilis echo."

I am, etc.

P.S.—The classic reader will, I trust, pardon the following lovely quotation, so finely describing echoes, and so poetically accounting for their causes from popular superstition:—

"Quae bene quom videas, rationem reddere possis Tute tibi atque aliis, quo pacto per loca sola Saxa paries formas verborum ex ordine reddant, Palanteis comites quom monteis inter opacos Quaerimus, et magna dispersos voce ciemus. Sex etiam, aut septem loca vidi reddere voces Unam quom jaceres: ita colles collibus ipsis Verba repulsantes iterabant dicta referre. Haec loca capripedes Satyros, Nymphasque tenere Finitimi fingunt, et Faunos esse loquuntur; Quorum noctivago strepitu, ludoque jocanti Adfirmant volgo taciturna silentia rumpi, Chordarumque sonos fieri, dulceisque querelas, Tibia quas fundit digitis pulsata canentum: Et genus agricolum late sentiscere, quom Pan Pinea semiferi capitis velamina quassans, Unco saepe labro calamos percurrit hianteis, Fistula silvestrem ne cesset fundere musam."

LUCRETIUS, Lib. iv. l. 576.


SELBORNE, May 13th, 1778.

Dear Sir,—Among the many singularities attending those amusing birds the swifts, I am now confirmed in the opinion that we have every year the same number of pairs invariably; at least the result of my inquiry has been exactly the same for a long time past. The swallows and martins are so numerous, and so widely distributed over the village, that it is hardly possible to recount them; while the swifts, though they do not build in the church, yet so frequently haunt it, and play and rendezvous round it, that they are easily enumerated. The number that I constantly find are eight pairs; about half of which reside in the church, and the rest build in some of the lowest and meanest thatched cottages. Now as these eight pairs, allowance being made for accidents, breed yearly eight pairs more, what becomes annually of this increase; and what determines every spring which pairs shall visit us, and reoccupy their ancient haunts?

Ever since I have attended to the subject of ornithology, I have always supposed that that sudden reverse of affection, that strange [Greek text], which immediately succeeds in the feathered kind to the most passionate fondness, is the occasion of an equal dispersion of birds over the face of the earth. Without this provision one favourite district would be crowded with inhabitants, while others would be destitute and forsaken. But the parent birds seem to maintain a jealous superiority, and to oblige the young to seek for new abodes; and the rivalry of the males in many kinds, prevents their crowding the one on the other. Whether the swallows and house-martins return in the same exact number annually is not easy to say, for reasons given above; but it is apparent, as I have remarked before in my Monographies, that the numbers returning bear no manner of proportion to the numbers retiring.


SELBORNE, June 2nd, 1778.

Dear Sir,—The standing objection to botany has always been, that it is a pursuit that amuses the fancy and exercises the memory, without improving the mind or advancing any real knowledge; and, where the science is carried no farther than a mere systematic classification, the charge is but too true. But the botanist that is desirous of wiping off this aspersion should be by no means content with a list of names; he should study plants philosophically, should investigate the laws of vegetation, should examine the powers and virtues of efficacious herbs, should promote their cultivation; and graft the gardener, the planter, and the husbandman, on the phytologist. Not that system is by any means to be thrown aside; without system the field of Nature would be a pathless wilderness; but system should be subservient to, not the main object of, pursuit.

Vegetation is highly worthy of our attention; and in itself is of the utmost consequence to mankind, and productive of many of the greatest comforts and elegances of life. To plants we owe timber, bread, beer, honey, wine, oil, linen, cotton, etc., what not only strengthens our hearts, and exhilarates our spirits, but what secures us from inclemencies of weather and adorns our persons. Man, in his true state of nature, seems to be subsisted by spontaneous vegetation; in middle climes, where grasses prevail, he mixes some animal food with the produce of the field and garden; and it is towards the polar extremes only that, like his kindred bears and wolves, he gorges himself with flesh alone, and is driven to what hunger has never been known to compel the very beasts, to prey on his own species.

The productions of vegetation have had a vast influence on the commerce of nations, and have been the great promoters of navigation, as may be seen in the articles of sugar, tea, tobacco, opium, ginsing, betel, paper, etc. As every climate has its peculiar produce our natural wants bring on a mutual intercourse; so that by means of trade each distinct part is supplied with the growth of every latitude. But, without the knowledge of plants and their culture, we must have been content with our hips and haws, without enjoying the delicate fruits of India and the salutiferous drugs of Peru.

Instead of examining the minute distinctions of every various species of each obscure genus, the botanist should endeavour to make himself acquainted with those that are useful. You shall see a man readily ascertain every herb of the field, yet hardly know wheat from barley, or at least one sort of wheat or barley from another.

But of all sorts of vegetation the grasses seem to be most neglected; neither the farmer nor the grazier seem to distinguish the annual from the perennial, the hardy from the tender, nor the succulent and nutritive from the dry and juiceless.

The study of grasses would be of great consequence to a northerly and grazing kingdom. The botanist that could improve the sward of the district where he lived would be a useful member of society: to raise a thick turf on a naked soil would be worth volumes of systematic knowledge; and he would be the best commonwealth's man that could occasion the growth of "two blades of grass where one alone was seen before."

I am, etc.


SELBORNE, July 3rd, 1778.

Dear Sir,—In a district so diversified with such a variety of hill and dale, aspects, and soils, it is no wonder that great choice of plants should be found. Chalks, clays, sands, sheep-walks and downs, bogs, heaths, woodlands, and champaign fields, cannot but furnish an ample Flora. The deep rocky lanes abound with filices, and the pastures and moist woods with fungi. If in any branch of botany we may seem to be wanting, it must be in the large aquatic plants, which are not to be expected on a spot far removed from rivers, and lying up amidst the hill country at the spring heads. To enumerate all the plants that have been discovered within our limits would be a needless work; but a short list of the more rare, and the spots where they are to be found, may be neither unacceptable nor unentertaining:—

Helleborus foetidus, stinking hellebore, bear's foot, or setterworth,—all over the High Wood and Coneycroft Hanger: this continues a great branching-plant the winter through, blossoming about January, and is very ornamental in shady walks and shrubberies. The good women give the leaves powdered to children troubled with worms; but it is a violent remedy, and ought to be administered with caution.

Helleborus viridis, green hellebore,—in the deep stony lane on the left hand just before the turning to Norton Farm, and at the top of Middle Dorton under the hedge: this plant dies down to the ground early in autumn, and springs again about February, flowering almost as soon as it appears above the ground.

Vaccinium oxycoccos, creeping bilberries, or cranberries,—in the bogs of Bin's Pond.

Vaccinium myrtillus, whortle, or bleaberries—on the dry hillocks of Wolmer Forest.

Drosera rotundifolia, round-leaved sundew—in the bogs of Bin's Pond.

Drosera longifolia, long-leaved sundew—in the bogs of Bin's Pond.

Comarum palustre, purple comarum, or marsh cinquefoil—in the bogs of Bin's Pond.

Hypericum androsoemum, Tutsan, St. John's Wort—in the stony, hollow lanes.

Vinca minor, less periwinkle—in Selborne Hanger and Shrub Wood.

Monotropa hypopithys, yellow monotropa, or birds' nest—in Selborne Hanger under the shady beeches, to whose roots it seems to be parasitical, at the north-west end of the Hanger.

Chlora perfoliata, Blackstonia perfoliata, Hudsoni, perfoliated yellow-wort—on the banks in the King's Field.

Paris quadrifolia, herb of Paris, true-love, or oneberry—in the Church Litten Coppice.

Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, opposite golden saxifrage—in the dark and rocky hollow lanes.

Gentiana amarella, autumnal gentian or fellwort—on the Zigzag and Hanger.

Lathraea squamaria, tooth-wort—in the Church Litten Coppice under some hazels near the foot-bridge, in Trimming's garden hedge, and on the dry wall opposite Grange Yard.

Dipsacus pilosus, small teasel—in the Short and Long Lith.

Lathyrus sylvestris, narrow-leaved, or wild lathyrus—in the bushes at the foot of the Short Lith, near the path.

Ophrys spiralis, ladies' traces—in the Long Lith, and towards the south corner of the common.

Ophrys nidus avis, birds' nest ophrys—in the Long Lith under the shady beeches among the dead leaves; in Great Dorton among the bushes, and on the Hanger plentifully.

Serapias latifolia, helleborine—in the High Wood under the shady beeches.

Daphne laureola, spurge laurel—in Selborne Hanger and the High Wood.

Daphne mezereum, the mezereon—in Selborne Hanger among the shrubs, at the south-east end above the cottages.

Lycoperdon tuber, truffles—in the Hanger and High Wood.

Sambucus ebulus, dwarf elder, walwort, or danewort—among the rubbish and ruined foundations of the Priory.

Of all the propensities of plants, none seem more strange than their different periods of blossoming. Some produce their flowers in the winter, or very first dawnings of spring, many when the spring is established, some at midsummer, and some not till autumn. When we see the helleborus foetidus and helleborus niger blowing at Christmas, the helleborus hyemalis in January, and the helleborus viridis as soon as ever it emerges out of the ground, we do not wonder, because they are kindred plants that we expect should keep pace the one with the other; but other congenerous vegetables differ so widely in their time of flowering, that we cannot but admire. I shall only instance at present in the crocus sativus, the vernal and the autumnal crocus, which have such an affinity, that the best botanists only make them varieties of the same genus, of which there is only one species, not being able to discern any difference in the corolla, or in the internal structure. Yet the vernal crocus expands its flowers by the beginning of March at farthest, and often in very rigorous weather, and cannot be retarded but by some violence offered; while the autumnal (the saffron) defies the influence of the spring and summer, and will not blow till most plants begin to fade and run to seed. This circumstance is one of the wonders of the creation, little noticed because a common occurrence, yet ought not to be overlooked on account of its being familiar, since it would be as difficult to be explained as the most stupendous phenomenon in nature.

"Say, what impels, amidst surrounding snow Congeal'd, the crocus, flamy bud to glow? Say, what retards, amidst the summer's blaze, Th' autumnal bulb, till pale, declining days? The GOD OF SEASONS; whose pervading power Controls the sun, or sheds the fleecy shower: He bids each flower His quickening word obey, Or to each lingering bloom enjoins delay."


"Omnibus animalibus reliquis certus et uniusmodi, et in suo cuique genere incessus est: aves solae vario meatu feruntur, et in terra, et in aere."

SELBORNE, Aug. 7th, 1778.

Dear Sir,—A good ornithologist should be able to distinguish birds by their air as well as by their colours and shape, on the ground as well as on the wing, and in the bush as well as in the hand. For, though it must not be said that every species of birds has a manner peculiar to itself, yet there is somewhat in most genera at least, that at first sight discriminates them, and enables a judicious observer to pronounce upon them with some certainty. Put a bird in motion

"—Et vera incessu patuit—"

Thus kites and buzzards sail round in circles with wings expanded and motionless; and it is from their gliding manner that the former are still called in the north of England gleads, from the Saxon verb glidan, to glide. The kestrel, or wind-hover, has a peculiar mode of hanging in the air in one place, his wings all the while being briskly agitated. Hen- harriers fly low over heaths or fields of corn, and beat the ground regularly like a pointer or setting-dog. Owls move in a buoyant manner, as if lighter than the air; they seem to want ballast. There is a peculiarity belonging to ravens that must draw the attention even of the most incurious; they spend all their leisure time in striking and cuffing each other on the wing in a kind of playful skirmish, and, when they move from one place to another, frequently turn on their backs with a loud croak, and seem to be falling to the ground. When this odd gesture betides them, they are scratching themselves with one foot, and thus lose the centre of gravity. Rooks sometimes dive and tumble in a frolicsome manner; crows and daws swagger in their walk; wood-peckers fly volatu undoso, opening and closing their wings at every stroke, and so are always rising or falling in curves. All of this genus use their tails, which incline downward, as a support while they run up trees. Parrots, like all other hooked-clawed birds, walk awkwardly, and make use of their bill as a third foot, climbing and descending with ridiculous caution. All the gallinoe parade and walk gracefully, and run nimbly, but fly with difficulty, with an impetuous whirring, and in a straight line. Magpies and jays flutter with powerless wings, and make no despatch; herons seem encumbered with too much sail for their light bodies, but these vast hollow wings are necessary in carrying burdens, such as large fishes and the like; pigeons, and particularly the sort called smiters, have a way of clashing their wings the one against the other over their backs with a loud snap; another variety, called tumblers, turn themselves over in the air. Some birds have movements peculiar to the season of love. Thus ringdoves, though strong and rapid at other times, yet in the spring hang about on the wing in a toying and playful manner; thus the cock-snipe while breeding, forgetting his former flight, fans the air like the wind-hover; and the green-finch in particular, exhibits such languishing and faltering gestures as to appear like a wounded and dying bird; the king-fisher darts along like an arrow; fern-owls, or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk over the tops of trees like a meteor; starlings, as it were, swim along, while missel-thrushes use a wild and desultory flight; swallows sweep over the surface of the ground and water, and distinguish themselves by rapid turns and quick evolutions; swifts dash round in circles; and the bank-martin moves with frequent vacillations like a butterfly. Most of the small birds fly by jerks, rising and falling as they advance. Most small birds hop; but wagtails and larks walk moving their legs alternately. Skylarks rise and fall perpendicularly as they sing; woodlarks hang poised in the air; and titlarks rise and fall in large curves, singing in their descent. The white-throat uses odd jerks and gesticulations over the tops of hedges and bushes. All the duck-kind waddle; divers and auks walk as if fettered, and stand erect on their tails: these are the compedes of Linnaeus. Geese and cranes, and most wild fowls, move in figured flights, often changing their position. The secondary remiges of Tringae, wild-ducks, and some others, are very long, and give their wings, when in motion, a hooked appearance. Dabchicks, moorhens, and coots, fly erect, with their legs hanging down, and hardly make any despatch. The reason is plain, their wings are placed too forward out of the true centre of gravity, as the legs of auks and divers are situated too backward.


SELBORNE, Sept. 9th, 1778.

Dear Sir,—From the motion of birds, the transition is natural enough to their notes and language, of which I shall say something. Not that I would pretend to understand their language like the vizier; who, by recital of a conversation which passed between two owls, reclaimed a sultan, before delighting in conquest and devastation; but I would be thought only to mean that many of the winged tribes have various sounds and voices adapted to express their various passions, wants and feelings; such as anger, fear, love, hatred, hunger and the like. All species are not equally eloquent; some are copious and fluent as it were in their utterance while others are confined to a few important sounds: no bird, like the fish kind, is quite mute, though some are rather silent. The language of birds is very ancient and, like other ancient modes of speech, very elliptical; little is said, but much is meant and understood.

The notes of the eagle-kind are shrill and piercing and about the season of nidification much diversified, as I have been often assured by a curious observer of Nature, who long resided at Gibraltar, where eagle abound. The notes of our hawks much resemble those of the king of birds. Owls have very expressive notes; they hoot in a fine vocal sound, much resembling the vox humana, and reducible by a pitch-pipe to a musical key. This note seems to express complacency and rivalry among the males; they use also a quick call and a horrible scream: and can snore and hiss when they mean to menace. Ravens, besides their loud croak, can exert a deep and solemn note that makes the woods to echo; the amorous sound of a crow is strange and ridiculous; rooks, in the breeding season, attempt sometimes in the gaiety of their hearts to sing, but with no great success; the parrot-kind have many modulations of voice, as appears by their aptitude to learn human sounds; doves coo in an amorous and mournful manner, and are emblems of despairing lovers; the woodpecker sets up a sort of loud and hearty laugh; the fern-owl, or goat-sucker, from the dusk till daybreak, serenades his mate with the clattering of castanets. All the tuneful passeres express their complacency by sweet modulations and a variety of melody. The swallow, as has been observed in a former letter, by a shrill alarm bespeaks the attention of the other hirundines, and bids them be aware the hawk is at hand. Aquatic and gregarious birds, especially the nocturnal, that shift their quarters in the dark, are very noisy and loquacious; as cranes, wild-geese, wild-ducks, and the like; their perpetual clamour prevents them from dispersing and losing their companions.

In so extensive a subject, sketches and outlines are as much as can be expected; for it would be endless to instance in all the infinite variety of the feathered nation. We shall therefore confine the remainder of this letter to the few domestic fowls of our yards, which are most known, and therefore best understood. And first the peacock, with his gorgeous train, demands our attention; but, like most of the gaudy birds, his notes are grating and shocking to the ear: the yelling of cats, and the braying of an ass, are not more disgustful. The voice of the goose is trumpet-like and clanking; and once saved the Capitol at Rome, as grave historians assert; the hiss, also, of the gander, is formidable and full of menace, and "protective of his young." Among ducks the sexual distinction of voice is remarkable; for, while the quack of the female is loud and sonorous, the voice of the drake is inward and harsh, and feeble, and scarce discernible. The cock turkey struts and gobbles to his mistress in a most uncouth manner; he hath also a pert and petulant note when he attacks his adversary. When a hen turkey leads forth her young brood she keeps a watchful eye; and if a bird of prey appear, though ever so high in the air, the careful mother announces the enemy with a little inward moan, and watches him with a steady and attentive look; but if he approach, her note becomes earnest and alarming, and her outcries are redoubled.

No inhabitants of a yard seem possessed of such a variety of expression and so copious a language as common poultry. Take a chicken of four or five days old, and hold it up to a window where there are flies, and it will immediately seize its prey, with little twitterings of complacency; but if you tender it a wasp or a bee, at once its note becomes harsh, and expressive of disapprobation and a sense of danger. When a pullet is ready to lay she intimates the event by a joyous and easy soft note. Of all the occurrences of their life, that of laying seems to be the most important; for no sooner has a hen disburdened herself, than she rushes forth with a clamorous kind of joy, which the cock and the rest of his mistresses immediately adopt. The tumult is not confined to the family concerned, but catches from yard to yard, and spreads to every homestead within hearing, till at last the whole village is in an uproar. As soon as a hen becomes a mother her new relation demands a new language; she then runs clocking and screaming about, and seems agitated as if possessed. The father of the flock has also a considerable vocabulary; if he finds food, he calls a favourite concubine to partake; and if a bird of prey passes over, with a warning voice he bids his family beware. The gallant chanticleer has at command his amorous phrases and his terms of defiance. But the sound by which he is best known is his crowing: by this he has been distinguished in all ages as the countryman's clock or larum, as the watchman that proclaims the divisions of the night. Thus the poet elegantly styles him:

" . . . the crested cock, whose clarion sounds The silent hours."

A neighbouring gentleman one summer had lost most of his chickens by a sparrow-hawk, that came gliding down between a faggot pile and the end of his house to the place where the coops stood. The owner, inwardly vexed to see his flock thus diminished, hung a setting-net adroitly between the pile and the house, into which the caitiff dashed and was entangled. Resentment suggested the law of retaliation; he therefore clipped the hawk's wings, cut off his talons, and, fixing a cork on his bill, threw him down among the brood-hens. Imagination cannot paint the scene that ensued; the expressions that fear, rage, and revenge inspired, were new, or at least such as had been unnoticed before: the exasperated matrons upbraided, they execrated, they insulted, they triumphed. In a word, they never desisted from buffeting their adversary till they had torn him in a hundred pieces.


" . . . Monstrent * * * * * Quid tantum Oceano properent se tingere soles Hyberni; vel quae tardis mora noctibus obstet."


Gentlemen who have outlets might contrive to make ornament subservient to utility: a pleasing eye-trap might also contribute to promote science: an obelisk in a garden or park might be both an embellishment and an heliotrope.

Any person that is curious, and enjoys the advantage of a good horizon, might, with little trouble, make two heliotropes; the one for the winter, the other for the summer solstice: and the two erections might be constructed with very little expense; for two pieces of timber frame-work, about ten or twelve feet high, and four feet broad at the base, and close lined with plank, would answer the purpose.

The erection for the former should, if possible, be placed within sight of some window in the common sitting-parlour; because men, at that dead season of the year, are usually within doors at the close of the day; while that for the latter might be fixed for any given spot in the garden or outlet; whence the owner might contemplate, in a fine summer's evening, the utmost extent that the sun makes to the northward at the season of the longest days. Now nothing would be necessary but to place these two objects with so much exactness, that the westerly limb of the sun, at setting, might but just clear the winter heliotrope to the west of it on the shortest day; and that the whole disc of the sun, at the longest day, might exactly at setting also clear the summer heliotrope to the north of it.

By this simple expedient it would soon appear that there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a solstice; for, from the shortest day, the owner would, every clear evening, see the disc advancing at its setting, to the westward of the object; and, from the longest day, observe the sun retiring backwards every evening at its setting, towards the object westward, till, in a few nights, it would set quite behind it, and so by degrees, to the west of it; for when the sun comes near the summer solstice, the whole disc of it would at first set behind the object; after a time the northern limb would first appear, and so every night gradually more, till at length the whole diameter would set northward of it for about three nights; but on the middle night of the three, sensibly more remote than the former or following. When beginning its recess from the summer tropic, it would continue more and more to be hidden every night, till at length it would descend quite behind the object again; and so nightly more and more to the westward.


" . . . Mugire videbis Sub bedibus terram, et descendere montibus ornos."


When I was a boy I used to read, with astonishment and implicit assent, accounts in "Baker's Chronicle" of walking hills and travelling mountains. John Philips, in his "Cyder," alludes to the credit that was given to such stories with a delicate but quaint vein of humour peculiar to the author of the "Splendid Shilling."

"I nor advise, nor reprehend the choice Of Marcely Hill; the apple nowhere finds A kinder mould; yet 'tis unsafe to trust Deceitful ground; who knows but that once more This mount may journey, and his present site Forsaken, to thy neighbour's bounds transfer Thy goodly plants, affording matter strange For law debates?"

But, when I came to consider better, I began to suspect that though our hills may never have journeyed far, yet that the ends of many of them have slipped and fallen away at distant periods, leaving the cliffs bare and abrupt. This seems to have been the case with Nore and Whetham Hills; and especially with the ridge between Harteley Park and Ward-le- Ham, where the ground has slid into vast swellings and furrows; and lies still in such romantic confusion as cannot be accounted for from any other cause. A strange event, that happened not long since, justifies our suspicions; which, though it befell not within the limits of this parish, yet as it was within the hundred of Selborne, and as the circumstances were singular, may fairly claim a place in a work of this nature.

The months of January and February, in the year 1774, were remarkable for great melting snows and vast gluts of rain; so that by the end of the latter month the land-springs, or lavants, began to prevail, and to be near as high as in the memorable winter of 1764. The beginning of March also went on in the same tenor; when, in the night between the 8th and 9th of that month, a considerable part of the great woody hanger at Hawkley was torn from its place, and fell down, leaving a high freestone cliff naked and bare, and resembling the steep side of a chalk-pit. It appears that this huge fragment, being perhaps sapped and undermined by waters, foundered, and was ingulfed, going down in a perpendicular direction; for a gate which stood in the field, on the top of the hill, after sinking with its post for thirty or forty feet, remained in so true and upright a position as to open and shut with great exactness, just as in its first situation. Several oaks also are still standing, and in a state of vegetation, after taking the same desperate leap. That great part of this prodigious mass was absorbed in some gulf below, is plain also from the inclining ground at the bottom of the hill, which is free and unincumbered; but would have been buried in heaps of rubbish, had the fragment parted and fallen forward. About a hundred yards from the foot of this hanging coppice stood a cottage by the side of a lane; and two hundred yards lower, on the other side of the lane, was a farm-house, in which lived a labourer and his family; and, just by, a stout new barn. The cottage was inhabited by an old woman and her son, and his wife. These people in the evening, which was very dark and tempestuous, observed that the brick floors of their kitchens began to heave and part; and that the walls seemed to open, and the roofs to crack; but they all agree that no tremor of the ground, indicating an earthquake, was ever felt; only that the wind continued to make a most tremendous roaring in the woods and hangers. The miserable inhabitants, not daring to go to bed, remained in the utmost solicitude and confusion, expecting every moment to be buried under the ruins of their shattered edifices. When daylight came they were at leisure to contemplate the devastations of the night: they then found that a deep rift, or chasm, had opened under their houses, and torn them, as it were, in two; and that one end of the barn had suffered in a similar manner: that a pond near the cottage had undergone a strange reverse, becoming deep at the shallow end, and so vice versa; that many large oaks were removed out of their perpendicular, some thrown down, and some fallen into the heads of neighbouring trees; and that a gate was thrust forward, with its edge, full six feet, so as to require a new track to be made to it. From the foot of the cliff the general course of the ground, which is pasture, inclines in a moderate descent for half a mile, and is interspersed with some hillocks, which were rifted, in every direction, as well towards the great woody hanger, as from it. In the first pasture the deep clefts began; and running across the lane, and under the buildings, made such vast shelves that the road was impassable for some time: and so over to an arable field on the other side, which was strangely torn and disordered. The second pasture- field, being more soft and springy, was protruded forward without many fissures in the turf, which was raised in long ridges resembling graves, lying at right angles to the motion. At the bottom of this enclosure the soil and turf rose many feet against the bodies of some oaks that obstructed their farther course, and terminated this awful commotion.

The perpendicular height of the precipice in general is twenty-three yards; the length of the lapse or slip as seen from the fields below, one hundred and eighty-one; and a partial fall, concealed in the coppice, extends seventy yards more; so that the total length of this fragment that fell was two hundred and fifty-one yards. About fifty acres of land suffered from this violent convulsion; two houses were entirely destroyed; one end of a new barn was left in ruins, the walls being cracked through the very stones that composed them; a hanging coppice was changed to a naked rock; and some grass grounds and an arable field so broken and rifted by the chasms as to be rendered for a time neither fit for the plough nor safe for pasturage, till considerable labour and expense had been bestowed in levelling the surface and filling in the gaping fissures.


" . . . resonant arbusta . . . "


There is a steep abrupt pasture field and interspersed with furze close to the back of this village, well known by the name of Short Lithe, consisting of a rocky dry soil, and inclining to the afternoon sun. This spot abounds with the gryllus campestris, or field-cricket; which, though frequent in these parts, is by no means a common insect in many other counties.

As their cheerful summer cry cannot but draw the attention of a naturalist, I have often gone down to examine the economy of these grylli, and study their mode of life; but they are so shy and cautious that it is no easy matter to get a sight of them; for feeling a person's footsteps as he advances, they stop short in the midst of their song, and retire backward nimbly into their burrows, where they lurk till all suspicion of danger is over.

At first we attempted to dig them out with a spade, but without any great success; for either we could not get to the bottom of the hole, which often terminated under a great stone; or else in breaking up the ground we inadvertently squeezed the poor insect to death. Out of one so bruised we took a multitude of eggs, which were long and narrow, of a yellow colour, and covered with a very tough skin. By this accident we learned to distinguish the male from the female; the former of which is shining black, with a golden stripe across his shoulders; the latter is more dusky, more capacious about the abdomen, and carries a long sword- shaped weapon at her tail, which probably is the instrument with which she deposits her eggs in crannies and safe receptacles.

Where violent methods will not avail, more gentle means will often succeed, and so it proved in the present case; for, though a spade be too boisterous and rough an implement, a pliant stalk of grass, gently insinuated into the caverns, will probe their windings to the bottom, and quickly bring out the inhabitant; and thus the humane inquirer may gratify his curiosity without injuring the object of it. It is remarkable, that though these insects are furnished with long legs behind, and brawny thighs for leaping, like grasshoppers; yet when driven from their holes they show no activity, but crawl along in a shiftless manner, so as easily to be taken; and again, though provided with a curious apparatus of wings, yet they never exert them when there seems to be the greatest occasion. The males only make that shrilling noise, perhaps, out of rivalry and emulation, as is the case with many animals which exert some sprightly note during their breeding-time. It is raised by a brisk friction of one wing against the other. They are solitary beings, living singly male and female, each as it may happen; but there must be a time when the sexes have some intercourse, and then the wings may be useful perhaps during the hours of night. When the males meet they will fight fiercely, as I found by some which I put into the crevices of a dry stone wall, where I should have been glad to have made them settle. For though they seemed distressed by being taken out of their knowledge, yet the first that got possession of the chinks would seize on any other that were intruded upon them with a vast row of serrated fangs. With their strong jaws, toothed like the shears of a lobster's claws, they perforate and round their curious regular cells, having no fore-claws to dig, like the mole-cricket. When taken in hand I could not but wonder that they never offered to defend themselves, though armed with such formidable weapons. Of such herbs as grow before the mouths of their burrows they eat indiscriminately, and on a little platform which they make just by, they drop their dung; and never, in the day time, seem to stir more than two or three inches from home. Sitting in the entrance of their caverns they chirp all night as well as day from the middle of the month of May to the middle of July; and in hot weather, when they are most vigorous, they make the hills echo, and in the stiller hours of darkness may be heard to a considerable distance. In the beginning of the season their notes are more faint and inward; but become louder as the summer advances, and so die away again by degrees.

Sounds do not always give us pleasure according to their sweetness and melody, nor do harsh sounds always displease. We are more apt to be captivated or disgusted with the associations which they promote than with the notes themselves. Thus the shrilling of the field-cricket, though sharp and stridulous, yet marvellously delights some hearers, filling their minds with a train of summer ideas of everything that is rural, verdurous, and joyous.

About the 10th March the crickets appear at the mouths of their cells, which they then open and bore, and shape very elegantly. All that ever I have seen at that season were in their pupa state, and had only the rudiments of wings, lying under a skin or coat, which must be cast before the insect can arrive at its perfect state, from whence I should suppose that the old ones of last year do not always survive the winter. In August their holes begin to be obliterated, and the insects are seen no more till spring.

Not many summers ago I endeavoured to transplant a colony to the terrace in my garden, by boring deep holes in the sloping turf. The new inhabitants stayed some time, and fed and sung, but wandered away by degrees, and were heard at a farther distance every morning, so that it appears that on this emergency they made use of their wings in attempting to return to the spot from which they were taken.

One of these crickets, when confined in a paper cage and set in the sun, and supplied with plants moistened with water, will feed and thrive, and become so merry and loud as to be irksome in the same room where a person is sitting; if the plants are not wetted it will die.


"Far from all resort of mirth Save the cricket on the hearth."

MILTON'S Il Penseroso.


Dear Sir,—While many other insects must be sought after in fields, and woods, and waters, the gryllus domesticus, or house-cricket, resides altogether within our dwellings, intruding itself upon our notice whether we will or no. This species delights in new-built houses, being, like the spider, pleased with the moisture of the walls; and besides, the softness of the mortar enables them to burrow and mine between the joints of the bricks or stones, and to open communications from one room to another. They are particularly fond of kitchens and bakers' ovens, on account of their perpetual warmth.

Tender insects that live abroad either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or else doze away the cold uncomfortable months in profound slumbers; but these, residing as it were in a torrid zone, are always alert and merry—a good Christmas fire is to them like the heats of the dog-days. Though they are frequently heard by day, yet is their natural time of motion only in the night. As soon as it grows dusk, the chirping increases, and they come running forth, and are from the size of a flea to that of their full stature. As one should suppose, from the burning atmosphere which they inhabit, they are a thrifty race, and show a great propensity for liquids, being found frequently drowned in pans of water, milk, broth, or the like. Whatever is moist they affect; and therefore often gnaw holes in wet woollen stockings and aprons that are hung to the fire. They are the housewife's barometer, foretelling her when it will rain, and are prognostic sometimes she thinks of ill or good luck, of the death of a near relation, or the approach of an absent lover. By being the constant companions of her solitary hours they naturally become the objects of her superstition. These crickets are not only very thrifty, but very voracious; for they will eat the scummings of pots, and yeast, salt, and crumbs of bread, and any kitchen offal or sweepings. In the summer we have observed them to fly when it became dusk out of the windows and over the neighbouring roofs. This feat of activity accounts for the sudden manner in which they often leave their haunts, as it does for the method by which they come to houses where they were not known before. It is remarkable that many sorts of insects seem never to use their wings but when they have a mind to shift their quarters and settle new colonies. When in the air they move "volatu undoso," in waves or curves, like wood-peckers, opening and shutting their wings at every stroke, and so are always rising or sinking.

When they increase to a great degree, as they did once in the house where I am now writing, they become noisome pests, flying into the candles, and dashing into people's faces; but may be blasted and destroyed by gunpowder discharged into their crevices and crannies. In families at such times they are like Pharaoh's plague of frogs—"in their bedchambers, and upon their beds, and in their ovens, and in their kneading troughs." Their shrilling noise is occasioned by a brisk attrition of their wings. Cats catch hearth-crickets, and, playing with them as they do with mice, devour them. Crickets may be destroyed, like wasps, by phials half filled with beer, or any liquid, and set in their haunts; for being always eager to drink, they will crowd in till the bottles are full.



How diversified are the modes of life, not only of incongruous, but even of congenerous animals; and yet their specific distinctions are not more various than their propensities. Thus, while the field-cricket delights in sunny dry banks, and the house-cricket rejoices amidst the glowing heat of the kitchen hearth or oven, the gryllus gryllo talpa (the mole- cricket), haunts moist meadows, and frequents the sides of ponds and banks of streams, performing all its functions in a swampy wet soil. With a pair of fore-feet, curiously adapted to the purpose, it burrows and works under ground like the mole, raising a ridge as it proceeds, but seldom throwing up hillocks.

As mole-crickets often infest gardens by the sides of canals, they are unwelcome guests to the gardener, raising up ridges in their subterraneous progress, and rendering the walks unsightly. If they take to the kitchen quarters they occasion great damage among the plants and roots, by destroying whole beds of cabbages, young legumes, and flowers. When dug out they seem very slow and helpless, and make no use of their wings by day, but at night they come abroad, and make long excursions, as I have been convinced by finding stragglers in a morning, in improbable places. In fine weather, about the middle of April, and just at the close of day, they begin to solace themselves with a low, dull, jarring note, continued for a long time without interruption, and not unlike the chattering of the fern-owl, or goat-sucker, but more inward.

About the beginning of May they lay their eggs, as I was once an eye-witness; for a gardener at a house where I was on a visit, happening to be mowing, on the 6th of that month, by the side of a canal, his scythe struck too deep, pared off a large piece of turf, and laid open to view a curious scene of domestic economy:—

" . . . Ingentem lato dedit ore fenestram: Apparet domus intus, et atria longa patescunt: Apparent—penetralia."

There were many caverns and winding passages leading to a kind of chamber, neatly smoothed and rounded, and about the size of a moderate snuff-box. Within this secret nursery were deposited near a hundred eggs of a dirty yellow colour, and enveloped in a tough skin, but too lately excluded to contain any rudiments of young, being full of a viscous substance. The eggs lay but shallow, and within the influence of the sun, just under a little heap of fresh-mowed mould, like that which is raised by ants.

When mole-crickets fly they move "cursu undoso," rising and falling in curves, like the other species mentioned before. In different parts of this kingdom people call them fen-crickets, churr-worms, and eve-churrs, all very apposite names.

Anatomists, who have examined the intestines of these insects, astonish me with their accounts; for they say that, from the structure, position, and number of their stomachs, or maws, there seems to be good reason to suppose that this and the two former species ruminate or chew the cud like many quadrupeds!


SELBORNE, May 7th, 1779.

It is now more than forty years that I have paid some attention to the ornithology of this district, without being able to exhaust the subject: new occurrences still arise as long as any inquiries are kept alive.

In the last week of last month five of those most rare birds, too uncommon to have obtained an English name, but known to naturalists by the terms of himantopus, or loripes, and charadrius himantopus, were shot upon the verge of Frinsham pond, a large lake belonging to the Bishop of Winchester, and lying between Wolmer forest and the town of Farnham, in the county of Surrey. The pond-keeper says there were three brace in the flock: but that, after he had satisfied his curiosity, he suffered the sixth to remain unmolested. One of these specimens I procured, and found the length of the legs to be so extraordinary, that, at first sight, one might have supposed the shanks had been fastened on to impose on the credulity of the beholder: they were legs in caricatura, and had we seen such proportions on a Chinese or Japan screen, we should have made large allowances for the fancy of the draughtsman. These birds are of the plover family, and might with propriety be called the stilt plovers. Brisson, under that idea, gives them the apposite name of l'echasse. My specimen, when drawn and stuffed with pepper, weighed only four ounces and a quarter, though the naked part of the thigh measured three inches and a half, and the legs four inches and a half. Hence we may safely assert that these birds exhibit, weight for inches, incomparably the greatest length of legs of any known bird. The flamingo, for instance, is one of the most long-legged birds, and yet it bears no manner of proportion to the himantopus; for a cock flamingo weighs, at an average, about four pounds avoirdupois, and his legs and thighs measure usually about twenty inches. But four pounds are fifteen times and a fraction more than four ounces and one quarter; and if four ounces and a quarter have eight inches of legs, four pounds must have one hundred and twenty inches and a fraction of legs—viz., somewhat more than ten feet; such a monstrous proportion as the world never saw! If you should try the experiment in still larger birds, the disparity would still increase. It must be matter of great curiosity to see the stilt plover move—to observe how it can wield such a length of lever with such feeble muscles as the thighs seem to be furnished with. At best one should expect it to be but a bad walker: but what adds to the wonder is, that it has no back toe. Now without that steady prop to support its steps it must be liable, in speculation, to perpetual vacillations, and seldom able to preserve the true centre of gravity.

The old name of himantopus is taken from Pliny, and, by an awkward metaphor, implies that the legs are as slender and pliant as if cut out of a thong of leather. Neither Willughby nor Ray, in all their curious researches, either at home or abroad, ever saw this bird. Mr. Pennant never met with it in all Great Britain, but observed it often in the cabinets of the curious at Paris. Hasselquist says that it migrates to Egypt in the autumn, and a most accurate observer of Nature has assured me that he has found it on the banks of the streams in Andalusia.

Our writers record it to have been found only twice in Great Britain. From all these relations it plainly appears that these long-legged plovers are birds of South Europe, and rarely visit our island, and when they do, are wanderers and stragglers, and impelled to make so distant and northern an excursion from motives or accidents for which we are not able to account. One thing may fairly be deduced, that these birds come over to us from the continent, since nobody can suppose that a species not noticed once in an age, and of such a remarkable make, can constantly breed unobserved in this kingdom.


SELBORNE, April 21st, 1780.

Dear Sir,—The old Sussex tortoise, that I have mentioned to you so often, is become my property. I dug it out of its winter dormitory in March last, when it was enough awakened to express its resentments by hissing, and, packing it in a box with earth, carried it eighty miles in post-chaises. The rattle and hurry of the journey so perfectly roused it that, when I turned it out on a border, it walked twice down to the bottom of my garden; however, in the evening, the weather being cold, it buried itself in the loose mould, and continues still concealed.

As it will be under my eye, I shall now have an opportunity of enlarging my observations on its mode of life and propensities, and perceive already that, towards the time of coming forth, it opens a breathing place in the ground near its head, requiring, I conclude, a freer respiration as it becomes more alive. This creature not only goes under the earth from the middle of November to the middle of April, but sleeps great part of the summer: for it goes to bed in the longest days at four in the afternoon, and often does not stir in the morning till late. Besides, it retires to rest for every shower, and does not move at all in wet days.

When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little as to squander more than two-thirds of its existence in a joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months together in the profoundest of slumbers.

While I was writing this letter, a moist and warm afternoon, with the thermometer at 50 degrees, brought forth troops of shell-snails, and, at the same juncture, the tortoise heaved up the mould and put out its head, and the next morning came forth, as it were, raised from the dead; and walked about till four in the afternoon. This was a curious coincidence! a very amusing occurrence! to see such a similarity of feelings between the two [Greek text]! for so the Greeks called both the shell-snail and the tortoise.

Summer birds are, this cold and backward spring, unusually late: I have seen but one swallow yet. This conformity with the weather convinces me more and more that they sleep in the winter.


SELBORNE, Sept. 3rd, 1781.

I have now read your miscellanies through with much care and satisfaction; and am to return you my best thanks for the honourable mention made in them of me as a naturalist, which I wish I may deserve.

In some former letters I expressed my suspicions that many of the house- martins do not depart in the winter far from this village. I therefore determined to make some search about the south-east end of the hill, where I imagined they might slumber out the uncomfortable months of winter. But supposing that the examination would be made to the best advantage in the spring, and observing that no martins had appeared by the 11th April last; on that day I employed some men to explore the shrubs and cavities of the suspected spot. The persons took pains, but without any success; however, a remarkable incident occurred in the midst of our pursuit: while the labourers were at work, a house-martin, the first that had been seen this year, came down the village in the sight of several people, and went at once into a nest, where it stayed a short time, and then flew over the houses; for some days after no martins were observed, not till the 16th April, and then only a pair. Martins in general were remarkably late this year.


SELBORNE, Sept. 9th, 1781.

I have just met with a circumstance respecting swifts, which furnishes an exception to the whole tenor of my observations ever since I have bestowed any attention on that species of hirundines. Our swifts, in general, withdrew this year about the first day of August, all save one pair, which in two or three days was reduced to a single bird. The perseverance of this individual made me suspect that the strongest of motives, that of an attachment to her young, could alone occasion so late a stay. I watched therefore till the 24th August, and then discovered that, under the eaves of the church, she attended upon two young, which were fledged, and now put out their white chins from a crevice. These remained till the 27th, looking more alert every day, and seeming to long to be on the wing. After this day they were missing at once; nor could I ever observe them with their dam coursing round the church in the act of learning to fly, as the first broods evidently do. On the 31st I caused the eaves to be searched, but we found in the nest only two callow dead, stinking swifts, on which a second nest had been formed. This double nest was full of the black shining cases of the hippoboscae hirundinis.

The following remarks on this unusual incident are obvious. The first is, that though it may be disagreeable to swifts to remain beyond the beginning of August, yet that they can subsist longer is undeniable. The second is, that this uncommon event, as it was owing to the loss of the first brood, so it corroborates my former remark, that swifts breed regularly but once; since, was the contrary the case, the occurrence above could neither be new nor rare.

P.S.—One swift was seen at Lyndon, in the county of Rutland, in 1782, so late as the 3rd September.


As I have sometimes known you make inquiries about several kinds of insects, I shall here send you an account of one sort which I little expected to have found in this kingdom. I had often observed that one particular part of a vine growing on the walls of my house was covered in the autumn with a black dust-like appearance, on which the flies fed eagerly; and that the shoots and leaves thus affected did not thrive; nor did the fruit ripen. To this substance I applied my glasses; but could not discover that it had anything to do with animal life, as I at first expected: but, upon a closer examination behind the larger boughs, we were surprised to find that they were coated over with husky shells, from whose sides proceeded a cotton-like substance, surrounding a multitude of eggs. This curious and uncommon production put me upon recollecting what I have heard and read concerning the coccus vitis viniferae of Linnaeus, which, in the south of Europe, infests many vines, and is a horrid and loathsome pest. As soon as I had turned to the accounts given of this insect, I saw at once that it swarmed on my vine; and did not appear to have been at all checked by the preceding winter, which had been uncommonly severe.

Not being then at all aware that it had anything to do with England, I was much inclined to think that it came from Gibraltar among the many boxes and packages of plants and birds which I had formerly received from thence; and especially as the vine infested grew immediately under my study-window, where I usually kept my specimens. True it is that I had received nothing from thence for some years: but as insects, we know, are conveyed from one country to another in a very unexpected manner, and have a wonderful power of maintaining their existence till they fall into a nidus proper for their support and increase, I cannot but suspect still that these cocci came to me originally from Andalusia. Yet, all the while, candour obliges me to confess that Mr. Lightfoot has written me word that he once, and but once, saw these insects on a vine at Weymouth in Dorsetshire; which, it is here to be observed, is a seaport town to which the coccus might be conveyed by shipping.

As many of my readers may possibly never have heard of this strange and unusual insect, I shall here transcribe a passage from a natural history of Gibraltar, written by the Reverend John White, late vicar of Blackburn in Lancashire, but not yet published:—

"In the year 1770 a vine, which grew on the east side of my house, and which had produced the finest crops of grapes for years past, was suddenly overspread on all the woody branches with large lumps of a white fibrous substance resembling spiders' webs, or rather raw cotton. It was of a very clammy quality, sticking fast to everything that touched it, and capable of being spun into long threads. At first I suspected it to be the product of spiders, but could find none. Nothing was to be seen connected with it but many brown oval husky shells, which by no means looked like insects, but rather resembled bits of the dry bark of the vine. The tree had a plentiful crop of grapes set, when this pest appeared upon it; but the fruit was manifestly injured by this foul encumbrance. It remained all the summer, still increasing, and loaded the woody and bearing branches to a vast degree. I often pulled off great quantities by handfuls; but it was so slimy and tenacious that it could by no means be cleared. The grapes never filled to their natural perfection, but turned watery and vapid. Upon perusing the works afterwards of M. de Reaumur, I found this matter perfectly described and accounted for. Those husky shells, which I had observed, were no other than the female coccus, from whose side this cotton-like substance exudes, and serves as a covering and security for their eggs."

To this account I think proper to add, that, though the female cocci are stationary, and seldom remove from the place to which they stick, yet the male is a winged insect; and that the black dust which I saw was undoubtedly the excrement of the females, which is eaten by ants as well as flies. Though the utmost severity of our winter did not destroy these insects, yet the attention of the gardener in a summer or two has entirely relieved my vine from this filthy annoyance.

As we have remarked above that insects are often conveyed from one country to another in a very unaccountable manner, I shall here mention an emigration of small aphides, which was observed in the village of Selborne no longer ago than August 1st, 1785.

About three o'clock in the afternoon of that day, which was very hot, the people of this village were surprised by a shower of aphides, or smother- flies, which fell in these parts. Those that were walking in the street at that juncture found themselves covered with these insects, which settled also on the hedges and gardens, blackening all the vegetables where they alighted. My annuals were discoloured with them, and the stalks of a bed of onions were quite coated over for six days after. These armies were then, no doubt, in a state of emigration, and shifting their quarters; and might have come, as far as we know, from the great hop plantations of Kent or Sussex, the wind being all that day in the easterly quarter. They were observed at the same time in great clouds about Farnham, and all along the vale from Farnham to Alton.


Dear Sir,—When I happen to visit a family where gold and silver fishes are kept in a glass bowl, I am always pleased with the occurrence, because it offers me an opportunity of observing the actions and propensities of those beings with whom we can be little acquainted in their natural state. Not long since I spent a fortnight at the house of a friend where there was such a vivary, to which I paid no small attention, taking every occasion to remark what passed within its narrow limits. It was here that I first observed the manner in which fishes die. As soon as the creature sickens, the head sinks lower and lower, and it stands as it were on its head; till, getting weaker, and losing all poise, the tail turns over, and at last it floats on the surface of the water with its belly uppermost. The reason why fishes, when dead, swim in that manner is very obvious; because, when the body is no longer balanced by the fins of the belly, the broad muscular back preponderates by its own gravity, and turns the belly uppermost, as lighter from its being a cavity, and because it contains the swimming-bladders, which contribute to render it buoyant. Some that delight in gold and silver fishes have adopted a notion that they need no aliment. True it is that they will subsist for a long time without any apparent food but what they can collect from pure water frequently changed; yet they must draw some support from animalcula, and other nourishment supplied by the water; because, though they seem to eat nothing, yet the consequences of eating often drop from them. That they are best pleased with such jejune diet may easily be confuted, since if you toss them crumbs they will seize them with great readiness, not to say greediness; however, bread should be given sparingly, lest, turning sour, it corrupt the water. They will also feed on the water-plant called lemna (ducks' meat), and also on small fry.

When they want to move a little, they gently protrude themselves with their pinnae pectorales; but it is with their strong muscular tails only that they and all fishes shoot along with such inconceivable rapidity. It has been said that the eyes of fishes are immovable; but these apparently turn them forward or backward in their sockets as occasions require. They take little notice of a lighted candle, though applied close to their heads, but flounce and seem much frightened by a sudden stroke of the hand against the support whereon the bowl is hung; especially when they have been motionless, and are perhaps asleep. As fishes have no eyelids, it is not easy to discern when they are sleeping or not, because their eyes are always open.

Nothing can be more amusing than a glass bowl containing such fishes; the double refractions of the glass and water represent them, when moving, in a shifting and changeable variety of dimensions, shades, and colours; while the two mediums, assisted by the concavo-convex shape of the vessel, magnify and distort them vastly; not to mention that the introduction of another element and its inhabitants into our parlours engages the fancy in a very agreeable manner.

Gold and silver fishes, though originally natives of China and Japan, yet are become so well reconciled to our climate as to thrive and multiply very fast in our ponds and stews. Linnaeus ranks this species of fish under the genus of cyprinus, or carp, and calls it cyprinus auratus.

Some people exhibit this sort of fish in a very fanciful way; for they cause a glass bowl to be blown with a large hollow space within, that does not communicate with it. In this cavity they put a bird occasionally; so that you may see a goldfinch or a linnet hopping as it were in the midst of the water, and the fishes swimming in a circle round it. The simple exhibition of the fishes is agreeable and pleasant: but in so complicated a way becomes whimsical and unnatural, and liable to the objection due to him.

"Qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam."

I am, etc.


October 10th, 1781.

Dear Sir,—I think I have observed before that much of the most considerable part of the house-martins withdraw from hence about the first week in October, but that some, the latter broods I am now convinced, linger on till towards the middle of that month; and that at times, once perhaps in two or three years, a flight, for one day only, has shown itself in the first week in November.

Having taken notice, in October, 1780, that the last flight was numerous, amounting perhaps to one hundred and fifty; and that the season was soft and still, I was resolved to pay uncommon attention to these late birds; to find, if possible, where they roosted, and to determine the precise time of their retreat. The mode of life of these latter hirundines is very favourable to such a design, for they spend the whole day in the sheltered district, between me and the Hanger, sailing about in a placid, easy manner, and feasting on those insects which love to haunt a spot so secure from ruffling winds. As my principal object was to discover the place of their roosting, I took care to wait on them before they retired to rest, and was much pleased to find that for several evenings together, just at a quarter past five in the afternoon, they all scudded away in great haste towards the south-east, and darted down among the low shrubs above the cottages at the end of the hill. This spot, in many respects, seemed to be well calculated for their winter residence; for in many parts it is as steep as the roof of any house, and therefore secure from the annoyances of water; and it is moreover clothed with beechen shrubs, which, being stunted and bitten by sheep, make the thickest covert imaginable, and are so entangled as to be impervious to the smallest spaniel; besides, it is the nature of underwood beech never to cast its leaf all the winter, so that, with the leaves on the ground and those on the twigs, no shelter can be more complete. I watched them on the 13th and 14th October, and found their evening retreat was exact and uniform; but after this they made no regular appearance. Now and then a straggler was seen, and on the 22nd October, I observed two in the morning over the village, and with them my remarks for the season ended.

From all these circumstances put together, it is more than probable that this lingering flight, at so late a season of the year, never departed from the island. Had they indulged me that autumn with a November visit, as I much desired, I presume that, with proper assistants, I should have settled the matter past all doubt; but though the 3rd November was a sweet day, and in appearance exactly suited to my wishes, yet not a martin was to be seen; and so I was forced, reluctantly, to give up the pursuit.

I have only to add that were the bushes, which cover some acres, and are not my own property, to be grubbed and carefully examined, probably those late broods, and perhaps the whole aggregate body of the house-martins of this district, might be found there, in different secret dormitories; and that, so far from withdrawing into warmer climes, it would appear that they never depart three hundred yards from the village.


They who write on natural history cannot too frequently advert to instinct, that wonderful limited faculty, which in some instances raises the brute creation, as it were, above reason, and in others leaves them so far below it. Philosophers have defined instinct to be that secret influence by which every species is compelled naturally to pursue, at all times, the same way or track, without any teaching or example; whereas reason, without instruction, would often vary and do that by many methods which instinct effects by one alone. Now this maxim must be taken in a qualified sense; for there are instances in which instinct does vary and conform to the circumstances of place and convenience.

It has been remarked that every species of bird has a mode of nidification peculiar to itself, so that a schoolboy would at once pronounce on the sort of nest before him. This is the case among fields and woods, and wilds, but, in the villages round London, where mosses and gossamer, and cotton from vegetables, are hardly to be found, the nest of the chaffinch has not that elegant finished appearance, nor is it so beautifully studded with lichens, as in a more rural district; and the wren is obliged to construct its house with straws and dry grasses, which do not give it that rotundity and compactness so remarkable in the edifices of that little architect. Again, the regular nest of the house- martin is hemispheric; but where a rafter, or a joist, or a cornice, may happen to stand in the way, the nest is so contrived as to conform to the obstruction, and becomes flat or compressed.

In the following instances instinct is perfectly uniform and consistent. There are three creatures, the squirrel, the field-mouse, and the bird called the nut-hatch (sitta Europaea), which live much on hazelnut; and yet they open them each in a different way. The first, after rasping off the small end, splits the shell in two with his long fore-teeth, as a man does with his knife; the second nibbles a hole with his teeth, so regular as if drilled with a wimble, and yet so small that one could wonder how the kernel can be extracted through it; while the last picks an irregular ragged hole with its bill: but as this artist has no paws to hold the nut firm while he pierces it, like an adroit workman, he fixes it, as it were, in a vice, in some cleft of a tree, or in some crevice; when standing over it, he perforates the stubborn shell. We have often placed nuts in the chink of a gatepost where nut-hatches have been known to haunt, and have always found that those birds have readily penetrated them. While at work they make a rapping noise that may be heard at a considerable distance.

You that understand both the theory and practical part of music may best inform us why harmony or melody should so strangely assist some men, as it were by recollection, for days after the concert is over. What I mean the following passage will most readily explain:—

"Praehabebat porro vocibus humanis, instrumentisque harmonicis musicam illam avium: non quod alia quoque non delectaretur: sed quod ex musica humana relinqueretur in animo continens quaedam, attentionemque et somnum conturbans agitatio; dum ascensus, exscensus, tenores, ac mutationes illae sonorum, et consonantiarum euntque, redeuntque per phantasiam:—cum nihil tale relinqui possit ex modulationibus avium quae, quod non sunt perinde a nobis imitabiles, non possunt perinde internam facultatem commovere."—Gassendus in Vita Peireskii.

This curious quotation strikes me much by so well representing my own case, and by describing what I have so often felt, but never could so well express. When I hear fine music I am haunted with passages therefrom night and day; and especially at first waking, which, by their importunity, give me more uneasiness than pleasure; elegant lessons still tease my imagination, and recur irresistibly to my recollection at seasons, and even when I am desirous of thinking of more serious matters.

I am, etc.


A rare, and I think a new, little bird frequents my garden, which I have great reason to think is the pettichaps: it is common in some parts of the kingdom; and I have received formerly several dead specimens from Gibraltar. This bird much resembles the white-throat, but has a more white or rather silvery breast and belly; is restless and active, like the willow-wrens, and hops from bough to bough, examining every part for food; it also runs up the stems of the crown-imperials, and, putting its head into the bells of those flowers, sips the liquor which stands in the nectarium of each petal. Sometimes it feeds on the ground like the hedge- sparrow, by hopping about on the grass-plots and mown-walks.

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