Page images
PDF
EPUB

tures, Providence has taken care that it should be no longer troublesome to the parent than it is useful to the young ; for, so soon as the wants of the latter cease, the mother withdraws her fondness, and leaves them to provide for themselves ; and, what is a very remarkable circumstance in this part of instinct, we find that the love of the parent may be lengthened out beyond its usual time, if the preservation of the species requires it; as we may see in birds, that drive away their young as soon as they are able to get their livelihood, but continue to feed them if they are tied to the nest, or confined within a cage, or by any other means appear to be out of a condition of supplying their own necessities.

This natural love is not observed in animals to ascend from the young to the parent, which is not at all necessary for the continuance of the species : nor indeed in reasonable creatures does it rise in any proportion, as it spreads itself downwards ; for, in all family affection, we find protection granted and favours bestowed are greater motives to love and tenderness than safety, benefits, or life received.

One would wonder to hear sceptical men disputing for the reason of animals, and telling us it is only our pride and prejudices that will not allow them the use of that faculty.

Reason shows itself in all occurrences of life; whereas the brute makes no discovery of such a talent, but in what immediately regards bis own preservation, or the continuance of his species. Animals in their gene. ration are wiser than the sons of men ; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars, and lies in a very narrow compass. Take a brute out of his instinct, and you find him wholly deprived of understanding.

To

To use an instance 'that comes often under observation :

With what caution does the hen provide herself a nest in places unfrequented, and free from noise and disturbance ! When she has laid her eggs in such a manner that she can cover them, what care does she take in turning them frequently, that all parts may partake of the vital warmth! When she leaves them, to provide for her necessary sustenance, how punctually does she return before they have time to cool and become incapable of producing an animal! In the summer you see her giving herself greater freedoms, and quitting her care for above two hours together; but in winter, when the rigour of the season would chill the principles of life, and destroy the young one, she grows more assiduous in her attendance, and stays away but half the time. When the birth approaches, with how much nicety and attention does she help the chick to break its prison ! not to take notice of her covering it from the injuries of the weather, providing it proper nourishment, and teaching it to help itself; nor to mention her forsaking the nest, if after the usual time of reckoning the young one does not make its appearance. A chemical operation could not be followed with greater art or diligence than is seen in the hatching of a chick ; though there are many other birds that show an infinitely greater sagacity in all the furementioned particulars.

· But at the same time the hen, that has all this seeming ingenuity (which is indeed absolutely necessary for the propagation of the species), considered in other respects, is without the least gliminerings of. thought or common sense. She mistakes a piece of chalk for an egg, and sits upon it in the same manner.

She

She is insensible of any inerease or diminution in the number of those she lays. She does not distinguish between her own and those of another species; and, when the birth appears of never so different a bird, will cherish it for her own. In all these circumstances, which do not carry an immediate regard to the subsistence of herself or her species, she is a very idiota

There is not, in my opinion, any thing more mysterious in nature than this instinct in animals, which thus rises above reason, and falls infinitely short of it. It cannot be accounted for by any properties in matter, and at the same time works after so odd a manner, that one cannot think it the faculty of an intellectual being. For my own part, I look upon it as upon the principle of gravitation in bodies, which is not to be explained by any known qualities inherent in the bodies themselves, nor from any laws of mechanism, but, according to the best notions of the greatest philosophers, is an immediate impression from the first mover, and the divine energy acting in the creatures.

ADDISON.

SIR ROGER AT THE ASSIZES. No. 124.

A Man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart; his next, to escape the censures of the world. If the last interferes with the former, it ought to be entirely neglected ; but otherwise there cannot be a greater satisfaction to an honest mind, than to see those approbations which it gives itself seconded by the applauses of the public. A man is more sure of his conduct, when the verdict which he passes upon his own behaviour is thus warranted and confirmed by the opinion of all that know him.

passes

My worthy friend sir Roger is one of those who is not only at peace within himself, but beloved and esteemed by all about him. He receives a suitable tribute for his universal benevolence to mankind, in the returns of affection and good-will which are paid him by every one that lives within his neighbourhood. I lately met with two or three odd instances of that general respect which is shown to the good old knight. He would needs carry Will Wimble and myself with him to the county assizes. As we were upon the road Will Wimble joined a couple of plain men who rid before us, and conversed with thein for some time; during which my friend sir Roger acquainted me with their characters.

The first of them, says he, that has a spaniel by his side, is a yeoman of about a hundred pounds à year, an honest man. He is just within the game-act, and qualified to kill a hare or a pheasant. He knocks down a dinner with his gun twice or thrice a week; and by, that means lives much cheaper than those who have not so good an estate as himself. He would be a good neighbour if he did not destroy so many partridges. In short, he is a very sensible man ; shoots flying; and has been several times foreman of the petty-jury.

The other that rides along with him is Tom Touchy, a fellow famous for taking the law of every body. There is not one in the town where he lives that he has not sued at a quarter-sessions. The rogue bad once the impudence to go to law with the widow. His head is full of costs, damages, and ejectments. He plagued a couple of honest gentlemen so long for a

VOL. I.

trespass trespase in breaking one of his hedges, till he was forced to sell the ground it inclosed to defray the charges of the prosecution : his father left him fourscore pounds a year; but he has cast and been cast so often, that he is not now worth thirty. I suppose ke is going upon the old business of the willow-tree.

As sir Roger was giving me this account of Tom Touchy, Will Wimble and his two companions stopped short till we came up to them. After having paid their respects to sir Roger, Will told him that Mr. Touchy and he must appeal to him upon a dispute that arose between them. W, it seems, had been giving his fellow-traveller an account of his angling one day in such a hole; 'when Tom Touchy, instead of hearing out his story, told him that Mr. Such-aone, if he pleased, might take the law of bim for fishing in that part of the river. My friend sir Roger heard them both, upon a round trot; and after having paused some time told them, with the air of a man who would not give his judgment rashly, that much might be said on both sides.' They were neither of thein dissatisfied with the knight's determination, because neither of them found himself in the wrong by it. Upon which we made the best of our way to the assizes.

The court was sat before sir Roger came : but not. withstanding all the justices had taken their places upon the bench, they made room for the old knight at the head of them; who, for his reputation in the coun. try, took occasion to whisper in the judge's ear, that he was glad his lordship had met with so much good weather in his circuit.' I was listening to the proceeding of the court with much attention, and infinitely pleased with that great appearance and solemnity

« PreviousContinue »