« AnteriorContinuar »
SHORT NOTICES OF BOOKS.
we believe, of transatlantic origin ; and the folk-lore and plantnames connected with the subject of the book might easily be extended—the latter, indeed, need revision in some cases. But, on the whole, Mr. Weir's book is singularly complete, and it is made more useful by the addition of a fairly good index.
Mrs. Cashel Hoey's The Cat, Past and Present (London, Bell and Sons), is a translation from the French of M. Champfleury, and is an excellent companion to Mr. Weir's volume. The same ground is, to some extent, occupied by each, and yet there is very little that is common to the two volumes. The artists of cats (including the Japanese painter, Fo-Kow-Say, whose charming little studies appear as tail-pieces to chapters); the early history of cats in Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as in heraldry and on signs; their friends and foes; their good and bad qualities—all these and much more are duly set forth in this attractive volume. The translator has added some interesting supplementary notes, notably the selections from Théophile
Ménagerie Intime.” Some of the illustrations are very curious--notably the popular Russian picture of the accompanying of a cat to the grave by a cortège of rats; this, we are told, "derives its origin from a very interesting Russian legend," which, to our regret, is not given. Those who possess Mr. Harrison Weir's volume should not delay to obtain Mrs. Cashel Hoey's book; while those already familiar with the latter should supplement their knowledge by purchasing the former.
SHORT NOTICES OF BOOKS.
Messrs. W. H. Allen and Co. send us new editions of Dr. J. E. Taylor's Half-hours in the Green Lanes and Mrs. Lankester's Wild Flowers worth Notice. The former is one of a class which always commands readers ; it contains 262 figures of no great excellence, and a good deal of miscellaneous information. We can commend neither the letterpress nor the illustrations of Mrs. Lankester's book, which, as it has gone through “various forms,” should not contain such
palustrus ” and “Galium assarine,” which are twice. repeated. The author's use of capital letters is also extremely erratic.
We have been very much pleased by the writings of two gentlemen who have only recently joined the Selborne Society, but who have evidently long been Selbornians at heart. Mr. D. Andrew has for the last three years contributed to the Dumbarton Herald a series of letters headed, with a curious anticipation of our own title, “Nature Notes.” In these he shows a keen sense of what is beautiful in nature, and a considerable amount of literary skill--one of his poems, a “Scottish sang” entitled “Robin's Return,” is particularly pleasing ; and they are imbued with the true Selbornian spirit.
Mr. W. Whitwell in A Bachelor's Christmas Day, gives a delightful little sketch of the many pleasures which a botanist can derive from nature, even at the season when he is supposed to have the least opportunity for observation and study. It is wonderful what an interesting and instructive narrative Mr. Whitwell has constructed out of what would seem unpromising materials. He has evidently unusual power in detecting the “ tongues in trees,” indeed all plants seem to speak
to him eloquently of “the untold and untellable richness of Nature—or rather of the Divine thoughts and their expression in the world around us.
Mr. Whitwell has very kindly said, that if any reader of NATURE Notes would wish for a copy of his tiny booklet, he will be glad 10 send it--" as a Selbornian.” We are inclined to think that there will be many applications for the charming little sketch which is gracefully written, and the work of a well-informed, loving and reverent student of nature. Mr. Whitwell's address is 4, Thurleigh Road, Balham, S.W.
SELBORNIANA. The Grassholm Outrage.—The excitement caused by the trial and conviction of the offenders in this case has not at all subsided. We have received several letters of congratulation and approval of the course taken by the Selborne Society in the matter. Some of our correspondents regret that the penalty inficted is so disproportionate to the crime ; it has been pointed out that if Col. Saurin and his associates were to destroy some rare vase in the British Museum, the penalty would be a flogging and a severe term of imprisonment, while such an offence is, in reality, a much less heinous one than that of destroying some of the rarest of our bird treasures, of far more value than some archæological curiosities. Among the letters received there is only one which disagrees with the line we have adopted, and that is signed by “ An English woman. This lady is moved to compassion, strangely enough, not by the poor birds, whose peaceful settlement was turned into a scene of slaughter, but by our strictures on these gentle (?) “men of good position.' Our fair correspondent thinks that it would have been much better, instead of drawing attention to their conduct, to “invite them to join the Selborne Society." We cannot make out whether this is said in jest or earnest. If in earnest, the writer must have a far less vivid sense of humour than most of her sex.
She would apparently apply to a band of hawks to join a society for the protection of pigeons. If she is in jest, we fear that her small joke would be entirely lost on the gentlemen in question. The very worst part of their conduct is that they have not shown the slightest sense of shame or regret for the outrage committed by them, and seemed only able to see the fun ” of the thing, until the fun ended in their own conviction. Ample proof of this will be seen in the article in the Animal World, to which we directed the attention of our readers. Every new detail which comes to light makes the whole story a worse one. The episode of the Magistrate and County Councillor, who was one of the chief offenders, and before whom they were anxious the case shouli be heard, is irresistible in its sublime impudence.
It is the fact of this want of all contrition on the part of the detected evil-doers which makes it necessary to pursue the matter farther. The Selborne Society made several applications to the Admiralty, and the War Office, and to their representatives in the House of Commons; these applications were in each case answered in an evasive and unsatisfactory manner. What was the reason of all this? Why was it that such great pains were taken to stifle enquiry and to screen the offenders ? We must obtain an answer to these questions. We entirely concur with the appeal of the Animal World :-" Will no member of the House of Commons interrogate the Government next November on the above details, and particularly on the false view which they took of the case and gave to the House, as shown by the facts obtained by the Society; and will they ask the Lord Chancellor to do his duty ?”
[The Council of the Selborne Society at its last meeting, held since the above was in type, passed a unanimous resolution that Mr. Bryce, the only M.P. on our Council, should be requested to bring the matter before the House of Commons as soon as possible.]
“Sky Signs.”—A little time ago, who had ever heard of a “Sky Sign”? Who is there now who does not, unfortunately, know not only the name but the
thing? For the last few weeks a fierce crusade has been carried on in the papers against this barbarous mode of advertisement. Among the foremost in this good work has been Mr. J. B. Hilditch, of Richmond, a member of the Lower Thames Valley Branch of the Selborne Society, who has been active in the agita. tion conducted by that branch respecting Sudbrook Park and other matters of local importance. In one of his letters to the Times, Mr. Hilditch appeals to the Selborne Society to take steps for legislation in order to prevent such outrages on the picturesque ; and meanwhile he offers “in such a good cause to take charge of correspondence, and receive the names of sympathisers and supporters until a public meeting can be called, or some concerted action taken. The Lower Thames Valley Branch has already passed a strong resolution in support of Mr. Hilditch's scheme, and the Central Council, on the motion of Mr. T. F. Wakefield, has expressed its sympathy with the movement, and determined to do all in its power to support the opposition to this new species of Vandalism.
Lovers of the beautiful will not require urging to use every effort in their power for the removal of these abominations, which threaten to vulgarise the whole country, and obscure the beauties which are still left in our island. Mr. Punch has come valiantly to the aid of the right side in this matter, and we trust that there are many Selbornians who will do battle against the vulgar and greedy spirit which would gladly see the Pyramids placarded over with “ Puffer's Peerless Paint,” the Castle of Chillon covered with “Clutterbuck's Corn-plasters,” and Stonehenge with “Snooks's Soap,” in the spirit of the smart Yankee advertisement agent, who yearned to paste an announcement of “Bouncer's patent Bugkiller across an unusually beautiful sunset.
Papyrophagous Slugs.-In reference to the paragraph under this heading in the current number of Nature Notes, I may say that I have undoubted proof that snails eat paper. Some time since I left a roll of unmounted photographs on the drawing-room table, in the centre of which was a bowl of flowers; when opening them a day or two afterwards to my surprise a small snail fell out, and I found one of the photos eaten through three thicknesses of the paper, the hole being about the size of a pea. The snail had, I suppose, come out of the flowers, but why it should prefer a photograph to its natural dietary remains a mystery.
A propos of snails, we have one residing under a heavy bookcase in our dining room, which is seldom moved. Every now and then it leaves its track all over the carpet for two or three nights in succession, the track always starting from, and ending again, at the edge of the bookcase ; then we shall not see it for days or weeks, when it will again appear to have been all over the room. This has been going on for more than a year, and we have tried every device to catch it, but all to no purpose. Now, occasionally, as a matter of charity, we put a cabbage leaf or something of the sort to give it a meal ; a very little seems to satisfy it, and it has always disappeared before anyone is about in the morning, so that it also may well be called a mysterious snail.
HANNAH F. WHITE. In reply to Miss (or Mrs.) A. M. Parmenter's enquiry as to the paper-eating propensities of slugs, I take the following from Turton's British Shells :-" I have often observed the common garden snail (H. aspersa) eating the posting-bill from the walls of the environs of London, after a shower."
R. MARSHMAN WATTSON. Sluggish Gymnastics.-On August 9th, whilst ascending the zigzag path which commences the Susten Pass at the upper end of the Gadinenthal, I noticed something suspended in mid-air from the branch of a pine tree, which extended across the track at about eight feet from the ground. On going to see what it was I found, to my surprise, a large brown slug, about three inches long, anıl probably weighing over an ounce, hanging from the branch by a tine thread formed of slime, which copiously covered the whole surface of the foot, and was being drawn out from the posterior extremity much in the same way that treacle or viscid honey is drawn out from a spoon. The slug appeared to be greatly enjoying this novel mode of descent, curving its body in various directions, and often twisting round upon the axis of the thread. Its progress being at the somewhat slow rate of one inch in two minutes, this apparently risky adventure could not have been undertaken with any idea of saving time in reaching the ground, and,
therefore, if not purely a pleasure excursion, I could only suppose it to have originated in some accidental loss of hold upon the branch having offered no alternative between this method of descent and an uncomfortable fall upon the rocks below. Mount Park Crescent, Ealing.
R. T. LEWIS. [Mr. Lewis's letter bears upon the following query by Mr. Stanley Morris, which appears in the current number of The Field Club :-"Is it a fact generally known that the common garden slug can descend from a height by means of a fine thread, which is given out by the animal as it lets itself down? I have watched a slug thus descend froni a height of nearly five feet, the time occupied in the descent being about thirteen minutes. There was a strong breeze blowing at the time, which swayed it to and fro in such a manner that it seemed as though the thread must give way beneath its burden, but it was very elastic, and the slug was borne in safety to the ground, when the thread was snapped in an instant. Just as we are going to press Mr. Lewis kindly sends the following additional references to slug threads-Science Gossip, vol. xi. (1875), pp. 190 and 206 : “In the former, R. S. Terry describes the descent of a small white slug, and in the latter, J. E. Daniel specifies two kinds of slugs-out of eleven native specieswhich are known to be able to perform similar feats, viz., Limax Arborum 'and Limax Cinereus (the L. Maximus of Linnæus). The one I saw was certainly neither of these."]
The Cheddar Pink.-Mr. Wheatcroft will be pleased to know that the Cheddar Pink grows freely on garden walls at Corston, and at the Rectory here, where it forms wide-spreading patches. Many years ago I planted several slips on the walls of my garden, and these have flourished exceedingly, but I have never known a single plant grown from seed. I do not think that a single seed of the many thousands that are annually ripened on my walls ever germinates. I cannot explain this, as I understand the plant grows from seed in other places. I have observed the same with regard to common broom (Cytisus scoparius), which when rooted here becomes unusually large, but, though its seeds ripen freely, never produce a single seedling. I am almost certain that I saw the Cheddar Pink growing on the walls at the southern side of Fountains Abbey, about the beginning of July last. I could not make a close examination, as it was more than twenty feet above me, but from the appearance of the leaves, and the size and colour of the flowers, I had little doubt but that it was Dianthus cæsius. If so, it must have been planted there. Stanton Prior Rectory, Bath.
W. S. BROWNE. The Cheddar Pink grows readily on any rough wall amongst mortar and limestone. It sows itself, and spreads year by year on my garden wall, and so does Linaria alpina, with various other weeds, including a lilac and a cherry tree, sown by birds, and blossoming freely every year. I should be glad to send a few seeds, or seedlings, of the Cheddar pink to any member of the Selborne Society, if the supply is equal to the demand. Winscombe, Somerset.
THEODORE COMPTON. Birds and Bonnets. -Perhaps a woman may be allowed to say that it seems that men do not grasp the fact that when May comes artificial flowers come in with a rush, and that when October comes, feathers come in with a rush ; so these men think in summer, “How many women are wearing flowers, and how few are wearing birds. What a good thing the fashion has changed. Meanwhile, I suppose, the slayers of birds are doing their work, and then before the winter season sets in the spoil is brought out.
Now comes the difficult part of the subject. First : what feathers may we wear? Secondly: if we do not wear feathers in winter, what are we to wear instead ? Suppose an ardent Selbornian wishes to discourage the wearing of feathers of many kinds, is it not incumbent on him to propose some good substitute? If the strong temperance folk prohibit such and such pleasant drinks, we might say that they ought to provide substitutes for what they have taken away. Again, many ladies, I suppose, do not know to what bird a wing or plume belongs, nor do the girls in the milliners' shops, nor, perhaps, the men ; and if ladies do
not, women of a lower class cannot be supposed to know. Those who see fit can take refuge in total abstinence. The fact remains that ostrich feathers are not suitable for every-day wear in our climate, nor cheap enough for many women. Silk tufts, pompons, do not stand weather as hard plumage does, I think. Artificial flowers, generally, are not so suitable for winter wear as a stronger ornament - I will not say feathers ! Let me hasten to assure you that I do not wear birds, or feathers, or wings.
In conclusion, let me show by an extract from the letter of a member of our Society, what ignorance and thoughtlessness exist in the less educated class of girls. Writing in December, 1889, Mrs. D— says :- “ Yesterday, when I was explaining about birds' wings and Selborne Society to Matilda, she said, Oh! do they kill them, then, ma'am? I thought they died of themselves.' Probably many people think just as little about it.";
Susan P. HAWES. [The Editors, not feeling competent to advise in this matter, invite the assistance of lady contributors.]
Insects as Ornaments of the Garden.--NATURE Notes has evidently readers in many lands. Señor Don Hugo Rowlatt, Bella Vista, Minas de Rio Tinto, Provincia de Huelva, Spain, writes to us as follows :-“The interesting article by Mr. W. F. Kirby in the July issue has attracted my attention, partly because insects, more especially butterflies (of which this article principally treats) have been my hobby for years, and also because I have been brought into contact with that gentleman and his kindness, when visiting the splendid entomological collection at South Kensington.
“ The destruction of the grand old English hedges is indeed to be deplored, as also the clearing of forests with their own peculiar flora and fauna, but, as he observes, it is useless to regret. However, it does not seem to me that we should be improving our opportunities by introducing foreign insects as he suggests ; doubtless they could be acclimatised, and would please the eye, but is it not liable to result in a hopeless tangle?
“He quotes the various beautiful plants brought from foreign climes, but is not this promiscuous importation daily engendering confusion in the localizing of both native and foreign specimens? It cannot be denied that most brilliant and vivid forms of insect life contribute greatly to the attractions of the warmer countries, and the Insectarium at the Zoological Gardens is certainly a step in the right direction, as showing and instructing us in the insect forms and products of other lands, but nothing more. Let it cease there. Why upset the balance of nature? No, rather let us form breeding beds (as suggested), but let them be of native plants for rearing native insects, which are daily decreasing for want of their proper food plant. Then inay we hope to see the beautiful Peacock (Vanessa 10), the lordly Red Admiral (Pyrameis Atalanta), and that magnificent insect, the Swallow-tail (Papilio Machaon), which cannot be surpassed, once more proudly sailing through the sylvan glades or o'er the downy meadows."
Imitations of the Notes of Birds.- The Rev. Robert Hudson sends us the following communication from Brighton :-“Dr. Francis, of Richmond, has sent you some lines in which the song of the American robin is imitated. Ilave any of your correspondents referred to the Birds of Aristophanes, where the notes of birds appear to be wonderfully reproduced ? I copy the following if you care to print them :-Epopopopopopoi ; lo io ito ito ito ito : Trioto trioto totobrix ; Toro toro toro toro tix ; Kikkabau kikkabau ; Toro toro toro lililix.'
The trilling of the song of small birds is represented, and was no doubt very effectively produced on the Athenian stage.
Perhaps some classical scholar might collect a few passages from the Greek poeis, which would interest modern readers. In Euripides' play of “ Ion,” there is a beautiful hymn of the young priest of Diana, when he goes to his duties at early morning to cleanse the building and drive away the birds, this office being esteemed not a menial one, but conveying much honour and distinction. He sees the flocks of birds rising from the plains, the marshes and the sea ; some swans fly close and seem about to settle in the temple area, and to each the priest in his enthusiasm appeals, not to desecrate the temple of his divine mistress.