Page images

should be paid to frogs, and that is their value as an article of food. Both the common frog and the green frog, which is specially called the esculent one, are fit for this purpose ; and, though there is a prejudice against them in Britain, it is an exceedingly ill-grounded and foolish one. It is even worse than this, because it is a remnant of that ancient Tadpole of the Surinam Frog, a quarter its length. political animosity which existed so long between England and France ; and which, unfortunately for ry figure, the former being considerably smaller, both nations, kept the nearest and most powerful which till now had lain at the bottom of the vessel

and the latter larger than before ; and the animal, neighbours, whose best interest it was to be at peace; in a torpid state, became more active and lively, and as they could mutually serve each other at the least expense, in a state of constant war, or,

usually remained suspended in the water, with its at all events,

By this time the intestiin a panick of mind always prepared for battle: mouth above the surface. This part of the prejudice is nearly exploded; and nal canal was wonderfully altered in extent and apit would be just as well to explode the other part; pearance, being contracted apparently to less than and as we do not now hate Frenchmen, so neither half its length, and having but very few short conshould we loathe frogs. The hind legs and thighs volutions, and nearly the whole of the cavity of the of the frogs are the only parts whieh are eaten; be- belly was filled with fat. cause they are the only parts which contain much muscle; and this muscle is firni, white, well flavoured, and exceedingly nourishing. This is, in fact, the case with the muscle of all esculent reptiles, and it arises from the quantity of gelatine, of a very pure description, which exists in all the parts of them.

Frogs have no trace of ribs in their skeletons ; the sternum is formed at the under part of a cartilaginous appendage, and it terminates in a disk under the larynx which is united to the clavicles, while a

Surinam Frog, nearly full grown, one half of real lengi!.. disk at the other extremity, immediately in front of the belly, is attached to the abdominal muscles only. In about six weeks the animal was greatly conThe bones of the scull are of a prismatick shape, tracted in size, being little more than three inches flattened above, and enlarged posteriorly; all the long by about an inch in breadth, and had become bones of the scull and face are soldered into one a perfect frog, except some small remains of the piece. The head is articulated by two condyles to tail, which had been gradually sloughing off or abihe sternum, so that the head has very little motion sorbed, and the disappearance of which had so on the neck. The sacrum is long, pointed, and com- greatly contracted the animal's length. pressed, but there is no os coccygis, nor any pro- Frogs are exceedingly numerous; and in their duction bearing the least resemblance to a tail. This productive powers they are more prolifick than any is the more curious, because the young of all the other vertebrated animals, with the exception of fish. species of frogs have tails as their only organs of es. Three or four hundred is a very ordinary year's motion ; and one species-the Surinam frog-has produce from a single pair ; and the number is often this organ so large in proportion to that part which as many as a thousand. This extraordinary power is afterward to be developed into the perfect frog, of multiplication cannot, upon the general principle that the young was long considered as a kind of of the system of nature, have been given without fish.

corresponding uses. In the case of frogs, those About the year 1816, Mr. W. M. Ireland studied uses are twofold, extending both to what they eat, the Surinam frog through its change from the rudi- and what eats them. We have already attended to mental tadpole to the perfect reptile; and the follow- the first of these, in so far as man is concerned, and ing is the substance of his communication, which also taken some slight notice of the second to the was published in Brande's Journal for 1816:— same extent. When first seen by Mr. Ireland, the tadpole was This is not, however, the proper view to take of about four inches and a half long, by about an inch the system of nature, if we are to understand that broad; had a large head and small mouth, very much system aright. We are not to suppose that creation resembling those of a fish, though the rudiments of is imperfect until man puts his hand to it; for, though of two legs were evident just behind the head. In it has a capacity to be turned to his use to as great about a fortnight the length of the animal had in- an extent as he can possibly stretch his knowledge, creased to eight inches, and its breadth to about two yet the system is in itself perfect without him; and and a half; and the rudiments of the legs were de- wild nature goes on without the smallest embarrassveloped into nearly perfect members, with five-clawed ment or difficulty in those places which have never toes, united by a membrane, evidently the future been trodden by a human foot. We must, therefore, hind legs of the animal.

seek for those uses to which the past productiveness On examining its internal structure during this of the frog applies, without any particular reference fortnight, the intestinal canal appeared very long and to man and his operations. coiled


and the rudiments of the lungs were seen Now the number of small molluscous animals in the posterior part of the belly.

which the frogs consume, and of which the productIn about three weeks the fore legs made their ap- live powers are also very great, and also the numbers pearance, the head and mouth assumed their ordina- of larve and other minute beings of the waters





which they remove both in their tadpole and their tail has changed both its external action and its inmature state, would be productive of unseemly mis- ternal structure. It has become thicker laterally, chief were it not for the frogs. On the other hand, its finlike margin has disappeared, and it does not the frogs themselves supply food for a vast number act on the water with that lively motion which it had of other creatures. Birds and fishes eat the eggs in the finless tadpole. Internally it has lost its muswhile they are in the waters, at that season when cular texture, and become a reservoir of a sort of there is hardly any other supply. The tadpoles fatty substance, which by some process that we do have many enemies; and the full-grown frogs con- not very well understand, furnishes the animal with tribute largely to the supply of fishes, of more pow- food during the last stage of its transformation, that erful reptiles, and of many species of those birds is of the final development of the fore feet, the which live on the banks of the rivers. The eggs shortening and change of the intestines, the develand tadpoles of frogs are also subject to various cas-opment of the lungs, and the absorption of the gills; ualties from the seasons. They are often frozen, at during which changes, at least in the very last staleast the eggs are; but whether this destroys the ges of them, the animal can of course neither breathe principle of life them, is not so clearly as ain- nor feed the water. Thus nis curious accumulaed. A frog itself can be brought to as low a tem- tion of nourishment in the tail bears some slight reperature nearly as that of freezing, without being semblance to that which is provided for the chicken destroyed; but in the experiments which have been in the egg; and the moment that the change is commade, we believe that actual freezing has been in pleted, the tail is absorbed, the gills are gone, the all cases fatal. A more certain means of destruc- lungs perfected, and the former tadpole no longer tion is drought; for, as both humidity and atmo- capable of breathing in that element in which it has spherick action are necessary to the quickening of hitherto lived, leaps out of the water a little frog: the eggs, they of course perish if the water in The numbers of them that leave the ponds or streams which they have been deposited dries up. So also on such occasions are very great, so many as that in if the little pools and runs of water into which the particular cases four or five acres of ground have tadpoles distribute themselves are dried up, they, as been observed entirely covered with them. Thoso breathers through water, must perish. We need migrating myriads are very frequently thinned by not add that, for the keeping down of the excess of birds, or where serpents abound, by those species that on which they feed, for the supply of those an- which frequent moist places, and the banks of rivers. imals which feed on them, and for compensating for It is probable that those migrations may have given those chances of destruction, their great fertility is rise to the old stories of showers of frogs ; because, required.


young or old, frogs are always most active We need not describe the appearance of the eggs when the air is humid. or spawn of frogs, as it is familiar to every one who After their transformation, they are no longer cawalks in the fields in the spring months. It is, how- pable of breathing through the medium of water; ever, worth while shortly to advert to the transfor- and there is a change in the way in which they remation which these animals undergo. When they ceive the air.

als undergo. When they ceive the air. While tadpoles they take in the wacome out of the egg, they consist of an oval head, ter and air along with it, by the mouth; but when having a small mouth with a sort of horny mandi- they acquire their perfect form, they do not use the bles, and an elongated tail, which bears some re- mouth in breathing, at least in the process of insemblance in shape to the posterior part of a fish, spiring or taking in air. They do this through the and has its principal motions lateral, as is the case nostrils ; and after the cavity of the mouth is filled, with fishes. In this state they breathe by means of they elevate the tongue first, to close the nostrils, gills, not very unlike those of fishes, as they consist and then gradually to occupy the cavity, by which of little tufts of fibres fixed to the eilges of small means the air is forced into the ceils of the lungs, cartilaginous arches, and the water passes through and when it has performed its office, then it is ex: the fibres much in the same manner as it does pelled, not by the action of a diaphragm, but by the through those of fishes. In this stage of their ex- simple contraction of the abdominal muscles. This istence, the cavity of the body extends some way is a slow process; but the system does not require into the tail ; and the animal really bears some sort very powerful action; and, when they are sporting of resemblance to a compound of a reptile and fish. in the water, it can be suspenåed for a limited It was a long time before the real state of the case time. vas generally known; and hence the ridiculous Frogs in their proper state cannot be considered stories of the spontaneous generation of frogs, and as inhabitants of the water, though they all resort of showers of them fulling from the sky, of which there more or less, but with different degrees of frewe read in the older authors. But any one who quency in the different species. Still they are not chooses to observe water in which there are tad- found in very dry situations, but in marshy and bogpoles, and they are so abundant that there are few gy places, and on the margins of lakes and rivers. stagnant pools without them, may see the progress They resort to the water for food, which principally of the transformation. The hind feet are the first consists of aquatick insects, worms, and the very to be developed; and they are produced not from young fry of fishes; they also resort there for the the tail, which contains no part of the perfect frog, purpose of breeding, and, as it is seen from their but from the posterior part of the head, which head gambols in the water, they sometimes resort there in the tadpole state is both head and body, as re- for mere amusement. spects the mature frog. After their first appearance The dotted frog, shown in the annexed engraving, these hind feet grow apace, and during their growth is ash-coloured on the upper part with small green the tail hardly diminishes; but by the time that the dots. The feet are marked by transverse bands, and feet can act in swimming, it will be found that the the toes of the bind feet are webbed for only part of



“The crocodile, is a genus of saurian reptiles, forming, along with the alligator and the gavial, a well marked and very distinct family, the largest, most powerful, and the only ones which are in any way dangerous to the human race.

The characters of the whole family are : size very large ; tail flattened on the sides ; fore feet with five toes, hind with four, of which the outer one is without any claw; all the feet are more or less webbed; a single row of teeth in each jaw ; the tongue fleshy, flat, and so much attached to the sides of the under jaw, that the ancients supposed it to be wanting; the back and tail covered with large and strong scales of a square form, ridged at the middle; and a crenated scaly crest along the tail, forming a double row at the basal part; the scales on the under part are square, but small, smooth, and without


keel. The mouth of these reptiles is a very formidable instrument, although it does not answer all the descriptions that have been given of it. The lower jaw extends farther back than the upper, so that There is room for the insertion of very powerful muscles, both for opening and for closing this jaw,

the motions of which are as extensive as they are their length. It has been observed in the neigh-powerful. It is not true, however, that these anibourhood of Paris, and in some other parts of France, mals have a motion in both jaws, as was believed but it is as rare there, and its manners are as little by the ancients, and is still asserted in some of the known, as the natter-jack in England. The species works on natural history; and it is easy to see that which have been seen are very small, not exceeding such a motion would do them harrs rather than one inch in length; but whether it attains a larger good. size than this is not known.

There are some of the serpents which can not

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]

only turn both jaws till they are in the same plane, other creatures approach near it without being but distend the opening considerably beyond the aware of their danger. When the animal comes mere measure of the two jaws, when they have oc- sufficiently near, the mouth of the crocodile opens casion to swallow large prey. But the mouths of rapidly to a great extent by the hending backward these serpents do not form an analogy for the of the head and upper jaw upon the joints of the mouths of the crocodile family. In serpents, the neck as a centre of motion, and the moving of the mouth is generally only a swallowing apparatus, under jaw in the other direction upon its own articand those which capture large prey are either poi-ulation. Thus, in the opening of the mouth, there soning serpents, which kill by the fangs, or crushing is a motion of both jaws from each other; and when serpents, which kill by the folds. The crocodiles, they are again closed, the upper jaw does descend to on the other hand, are biting animals, which kill meet the lower one; but the motion of the upper is with the mouth; and such animals would have little not against that of the lower, as they are not articuor no power if they had a motion in both ja ws. lated on the same centre or the same bone. Hence The action of muscle against muscle in an animal, the peculiar motion increases the force of the bite would be the least profitable way in which it could instead of diminishing it; as the bite is given with exert its strength, as the effect would be only equal both jaws, which when they come to a state of to the difference of the exertions aster the stronger rest, the upper offers a point of solid resistance 10 muscle had forced the weaker one to a state of the under." rest; and thus, the animal would lose an effort equal to double that made by the weaker muscle. There are no such mechanical bungles as this in nature ; and it is a good rule in judging of the truth of what is alleged of any animal, to consider whether that which is alleged is consistent with the utmost perfection of inechanical skill--the producing

LITERARY CHARACTER OF SIR WALTER SCOTT. of the greatest effect by the least exertion ; and if this is not the case, we may rest assured that that

From the Edinburgh Review. which is alleged is not true.

· Perhaps no writer has ever enjoyed in his lifeThe nostrils of the crocodile are formed exter- time so extensive a popularity as the Author of Wanally of two slits which cross each other, the angu- verley. His reputation may be truly said to be not lar pieces between serving as little valves to close only British, but European—and even this is too limthe aperture when necessary; they lead by a long ited a term. He has had the advantage of writing canal through the palatal and sphenoid bones to an in a language used in different hemispheres by highopening in the back part of the mouth; the ear closes ly civilized communities, and widely diffused over externally by means of two fleshy lips, which close the globe ; and he has written at a period when comit like valves; the eyes have a third eyelid; and munication was facilitated by peace. While the there are under the ihroat two small holes, which wonder of his own countrymen, he has, to an unexlead to glands secreting an unctuous matter which ampled degree established an ascendancy over the smells very strongly of musk. So abundant is the tastes of foreign nations. His works have been quantity of this matter, and so powerful its scent, sought by foreigners with an avidity equalling, nay, that in warm countries, where crocodiles are abun-almost exceeding, that with which they have been dant, they perfume the whole country around the received among us. The conflicting literary lastes rivers.

of France and Germany, which, twenty years ago, The vertebræ in the neck of the crocodiles are seemed diametrically opposed, and hopelessly irreconfurnished with a sort of false ribs on the sides, cilable, have at length united in adıniration of him. which hinder flexure in that direction, and thus the In France he has effected a revolution in taste, and animal cannot turn its head very readily aside, or given victory to the Romantic school' He has had

turn its body for animals which have the not only readers, but imitators. Among Frenchmen, neck stiff always have difficulty in turning laterally. the author of • Cinq Mars' may be cited as a tolerably But the crocodile can turn the neck very readily, so successful one. Italy, in which what we call Novels' as to elevate the head till the line of it forms less were previously unknown, has been roused from its than a right angle with that of the body ; and it can torpor, and has found a worthy imitator of British talalso move the head very rapidly from this elevated sent in the author of . Promessi Sposi.' Of the Waposition to one rather lower than the horizontal verly Novels, six editions have been published in line.

Paris, (1832.) Many of them have been translated These motions of the neck answer better with into French, German, Italian, and other languages. the habits of the animal than if they had been in “In 1813, before the appearance of Waverley, if the other direction ; for the crocodiles do not pur- any one should have ventured to predict that a writer sue their food either along the banks of the rivers would arise, who, when every conceivable form of or in the water. They are liers in writ, as is the composition seemed not only to have been tried, but case with all large and heavy animals of predatory exhausted, should be the creator of one hitherto un. disposition, unless it be those species which have known, and which, in its immediate popularity, should the wide sea for their field of chase. The croco-exceed all others--who, when we fancied' we had dile is a powerful animal even upon land ; but its drained to its kast drop the cup of intellectual excitechief scene of action is in the water, where it watch- ment, should open a spring, not only new and untastes by the places to which land animals come to ed, but apparently deep and inexhaustible—that he drink, with only the point of the nose above the should exhibit his marvels in a form of composition, surface ; and as, al these times, it is perfectly still, I the least respected in the whole circle of literature,



and raise the Novel to a place among the highest of what, in the drama, is supplied by the actor who productions of human intellect—his prediction would represents a character on the stage. But it is an inhave been received, not only with incredulity, but feriour art to that of unveiling the recesses of the with ridicule ; and the improbability would have been mind, and presenting to us thoughts, passions, tastes, heightened, had it been added, that all this would be and springs of action-causing us, in fact, to pereffected with no aid from the influence of established ceive and know the person, not merely as is he stood repulation, but by a writer who concealed his name. before us, but as if he had long been our intimate The productions of the Author of Waverley are vir- acquaintance. The best drawn characters of the Autually novelties in our literature. They form a new thor of Waverley make us feel as if we saw and species. They were, it is true, called Historical heard them ; those of Shakspeare as if we had lived Novels; and works bearing that appellation had ex- with them, and they had opened their hearts to us in isted before. But these were essentially different: confidence. they were not historical in the same sense; and were “ That the Author of Waverley is a master of the as little to be classed with the Waverley Novels, as pathetick, is evinced by several well known passais a chronological index or a book of memoirs, be- ges. Such are the funeral of the fisherman's son in cause the same names and circumstances may be al- the ' Antiquary,'—the imprisonment and trial of Effie luded to in each. The misnamed historical novels Deans, and the demeanour of the sister and the browhich we possessed before Waverley, merely avail- ken-hearted father,--the short narrative of the smuged themselves of bistorical names and incidents, and gler in 'Redgauntlet,'—many parts of · Kenilworth,'— gave to the agents of their story the manners and and of that finest of iragick tales, the Bride of Lamsentiments either of the present period, or, much mermoor.' We must pause to notice the last. In more commonly, of none.

this, above other modern productions, we see imbod“One of the points of view in which the Author ied the dark spirit of fatalism,-ihat spirit which of Waverley is first presented to us is, as a delinea- breathed in the writings of the Greek tragedians, tor of hunan character. Wben we regard him in when they traced the persecuting vengeance of Desthis light, we are struck at once by the fertility of tiny against the houses of Laius and of Atreus. his invention, and the force, novelly, and fidelity of Their mantle was, for a while, worn unconsciously his pictures. He brings to our minds, not abstract by him who showed to us Macbeth: and, here again, beings, but breathing, acring, speaking individuals. in the deepening gloom of this tragick tale, we feel Then what variety! What originality! What num- the oppressive influence of this invisible power. bers! What a gallery has he set before us! No wri- From the time we hear the prophetick rhymes, the ter but Shakspeare ever equalled him in this respect. spell has begun its work, and the clouds of misforOthers may have equalled, perhaps surpassed him, tune blacken around us ; and the fated course of in the elaborate finishing of some single portrait, events moves solemnly onward, irresistible and uner(witness the immortal Knight and Squire of Cervan-ring as the progress of the sun, and soon to end in a tes, Fielding's Adams, and Goldsmith's Vicar ;) or night of horrour. We remember no other tale in may have displayed, with greater skill, the morbid which not doubt, but certainty, forms the groundanatomy of human feeling and our slighter foibles work of our interest. and finer sensibilities have been more exquisitely “ The plots in the Waverley Novels generally distouched by female hands--but none, save Shakspeare play much ingenuity, and are interestingly involved; has ever contributed so largely, so valuably, to our but there is not one in the conduct of which it would collection of characters;—of pictures so surprisingly not be easy to point out a blemish. None have that original, vet, once seen, admitted immediately to be completeness which constitutes one of the chief merconformable to Nature. Nay, even his anomalous its of Fielding's Tom Jones. There is always either beings are felt to be generally reconcilable with our an improbability, or a forced expedient, or an inconcode of probabilities; and, as has been said of the gruous incident, or an unpleasant break, or too much supernatural creations of Shakspeare, we are impres- intricacy, or a hurried conclusion. They are usualsed with the belief, that if such beings did exist, ly languid in the commencement, and abrupt in the they would be as he has represented them.

close ; too slowly opened, and too hastily summed ''The descriptions of persons by the author of Wa- up. Guy Mannering' is one of those in which these verley are distinguished chiefly by their picturesque- two faults are least apparent. The plot of Peveril

We always seem to behold the individual de of the Peak,' might, perhaps, on the whole, have scribed. Dress, manners, features, and bearing, are been considered the best, if it had not been spoiled so vividly set before us, that the mental illusion is by the finale. rendered as complete as worils can make it. But if “It may be said of the novels of Sir Walter Scott, we feel thus familiar with the personage introduced, as of the plays of Shakspeare, that though they never it is rather because the mind's eye las received his exhibit an attempt to enforce any distinct moral, they image, than because we are endowed with a knowl- are, on the whole, favourable to morality. They edge of his character. It is the outward, not the tend (to use a common expression) to keep the heart in ward man, that most eng:ges our attention. We in its right place. They inspire generous emotions, comprehend lago perfectly, without knowing what and a warm-hearted and benevolent feeling towards manner of man he was to look upon. But Varney, our fellow-creatures ; and, for ihe most part, afford a Rashleigh, or Christian, must be presented mentally just and unperverted view of human character and to the eye, as well as in the understanding, before conduct. we can feel an equal intimacy. The method of Sir “ Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron have often Walter Scott has the merit of individualizing an im- been compared ; and the question has been mooted aginary person in a remarkable degree, and is well to which we should assign superiority of genius. It suited to the nature of the Novel. It effects much lis one of those questions which can scarcely be de.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »