« PreviousContinue »
gentleman who writes the following letter is one of these last. The matter of fact contained in it is literally true, though the diverting manner in which it is told may give it the colour of a fable.
"TO ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Esquire, at his House in GREAT-BRITAIN.
Dublin. Finding by several passages in your Tatlers, that you are a person curious in natural knowledge, I thought it would not be unacceptable to you to give you the following history of the migration of frogs into this country. There is an antient tradition among the wild philosophers of this kingdom, that the whole island was once as much infested by frogs, as that, wherein Whittington made his fortune, was by mice. Insomuch that it is said, Macdonald the First could no more sleep, by reason of these Dutch nightingales, as they are called at Paris, than Pharaoh could when they croaked in his bed-chamber. It was in the reign of this great monarch, that St. Patrick arrived in Ireland, being as famous for destroying vermin as any rat-catcher of our times. If we may believe the tradition, he killed more in one day thau a flock of storks could have done in a twelvemonth. From that time for
about five hundred years there was not a frog to be heard in Ireland, notwithstanding the bogs still remained, which in former ages had been so plentifully stocked with those inhabitants.
"When the arts began to flourish in the reign of King Charles II. and that great monarch had placed himself at the head of the Royal Society, to lead them forward into the discoveries of Nature, it is said, that several proposals were laid before his majesty, for the importing of frogs into Ireland. In order to it, a virtuoso of known abilities was unanimously
elected by the Society, and intrusted with the whole management of that affair. For this end, he took along with him a sound able-bodied frog, of a strong hale constitution, that had given proofs of his vigour by several leaps that he had made before that learned body. They took ship, and sailed together until they came within sight of the hill of Hoath, before the frog discovered any symptoms of being indisposed by his voyage, but as the wind chopped about, and began to blow from the Irish coast, he grew sea-sick, or rather land-sick; for his learned companion ascribed it to the particles of the soil with which the wind was impregnated.
confirmed in his conjecture, when, upon the wind's turning about, his fellow-traveller sensibly recovered and continued in good health until his ar rival upon the shore, where he suddenly relapsed, and expired upon a Ring's-End car in his way to Dublin. The same experiment was repeated several times in that reign, but to no purpose. frog was never known to take three leaps upon Irish turf, before he stretched himself out, and died.
"Whether it were that the philosophers on this side the water despaired of stocking the island with this useful animal, or whether, in the following reign, it was not thought proper to undo the miracle of a popish saint; I do not hear of any further progress made in this affair until about two years after the battle of the Boyne.
"It was then that an ingenious physician, to the honour as well as improvement of his native country, performed what the English had been so long attempting in vain. This learned man, with the hazard of his life, made a voyage to Liverpool, where he filled several barrels with the choicest spawn of frogs that could be found in those parts.
This cargo he brought over very carefully, and afterwards disposed of it in several warm beds, that he thought most capable of bringing it to life. The doctor was a very ingenious physician, and a very good protestant; for which reason, to show his zeal against popery, he placed some of the most promising spawn in the very fountain that is dedicated to the saint, and known by the name of St. Patrick's well, where those animals had the impudence to make their first appearance. They have, since that time, very much increased and multiplied in all the neighbourhood of this city. We have here some curious inquirers into natural history, who observe their motions with a design to compute in how many years they will be able to hop from Dublin to Wexford; though, as I am informed, not one of them has yet passed the mountains of Wicklow.
"I am further informed, that several graziers of the county of Cork have entered into a project of planting a colony in those parts, at the instance of the French protestants; and I know not but the same design may be on foot in other parts of the kingdom, if the wisdom of the British nation do not think fit to prohibit the further importation of English frogs. I am, Sir,
Your most huinble servant,
There is no study more becoming a rational creature than that of Natural Philosophy; but, as several of our modern virtuosi manage it, their speculations do not so much tend to open and enlarge the mind, as to contract and fix it upon trifles.
This in England is in a great measure owing to the worthy elections that are so frequently made in our Royal Society. They seem to be in a confederacy against men of polite genius, noble thought, and
diffusive learning; and chuse into their assemblies such as have no pretence to wisdom, but want of wit; or to natural knowledge, but ignorance of every thing else. I have made observations in this matter so long, that when I meet with a young fellow that is an humble admirer of these sciences, but more dull than the rest of the company, I conclude him to be a Fellow of the Royal Society.
N° 237. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1710.
COMING home last night before my usual hour, I took a book into my hand, in order to divert myself with it until bed-time. Miltou chanced to be my author, whose admirable poem of "Paradise Lost" serves at once to fill the mind with pleasing ideas, and with good thoughts, and was therefore the most proper book for my purpose. I was amusing myself with that beautiful passage in which the Poet represents Eve sleeping by Adam's side, with the devil sitting at her ear, and inspiring evil thoughts, under the shape of a toad. Ithuriel, one of the guardian angels of the place, walking his nightly rounds, saw the great enemy of mankind hid in this
loathsome animal, which he touched with his spear. This spear being of a celestial temper, had such a secret virtue in it, that whatever it was applied to immediately flung off all disguise, and appeared in its natural figure. I am afraid the reader will not pardon me, if I content myself with explaining the passage in prose, without giving it in the author's own inimitable words:
On he led his radiant files,
Dazzling the morn. These to the bower direct,
Essaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
I could not forbear thinking how happy a man would be in the possession of this spear; or what an advantage it would be to a minister of state were he master of such a white staff. It would help him to discover his friends from his enemies, men of abilities from pretenders: it would hinder him from being imposed upon by appearances and professious;