Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ART. XIII. Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Hiftoire Naturelle, appliquée aux Arts, principalement à l'Agriculture et à l'Economie rurale et domeftique. Par une Société de Naturaliftes et d'Agriculteurs : Avec des Figures tirées des trois Règnes de la Nature. 24 tom. 8vo. Paris, 1803 & 1804.

WHEN

HEN men of talents and reputation unite in the production of an extenfive work, and when that work has attracted the notice and encouragement of the public, we cannot, confiftently with our profeffions, pafs it in total filence. The very favourable reports of foreign journals, a numerous lift of fubfcribers, and the reputation which attaches to moft of the contributors, tempted us to take an early furvey of the volumes which we have juft announced, and to enter on the irkfome tafk of reviewing a dictionary. According to M. Virey, indeed, we might have fpared ourselves this ungrateful office; because, when fuch_gentlemen join in writing a book, its merit fuperfedes difcuffion.' Our indolence pleads powerfully, we will own, for the reception of this modeft propofition; but our duty compels us to reject it: in their own country, it is very probable that the mere names of the authors may serve as a paffport to twenty-four volumes of very clofe printing; but as foon as they come abroad, they must submit to be fearched and examined like common travellers.

At the head of M. Virey's invincibles, we were not displeased to find our old acquaintance Sonnini, the friend, editor, and continuator of the celebrated Buffon, and author of travels in Egypt, Greece, and Turkey. In the diftribution of lexicographic labour, the hiftory of birds and quadrupeds was affigned as his department. In treating of the firft, he has adopted the claffification and nomenclature of Latham; while, in regard to the latter, he has followed the method annexed to his edition of Buffon. It will be obvious, therefore, that in a great number of inftances, he had only to copy or abridge his own text, to which he frequently alludes with much felf-complacency. A lingering illness, we are informed, prevented him from difcuffing the history of reptiles and fishes; but he has fuperintended, with confiderable ability, the general arrangement and editing of the work.

As a writer, M. Sonnini is frequently too diffuse and florid for the chafte and compendious character of a didactic compilement, deftined for confultation only, and to be estimated more by the number of correct facts which it contains, than by the melody of its rhetorical periods. Of ethical fentiment and remark, this oftentatious zoologift is alfo abundantly liberal. In his account of the rhinoceros, for example, he tells us, very much at his ease, that

we

we regard only the man who attains to eminence; and that individuals of the fecond order remain in contempt and obfcurity, because the disadvantageous notion of weaknefs and imperfection is always affociated with fecondary, when compared with primary objects. This predilection,' he very fagely continues, is often unjuft, for it fometimes requires more ftrength of mind and virtue to remain in an obfcure ftation, than to live on a throne which is conferred by birth. Epictetus, in bondage, is an honour to the human race; while Nero, on the throne, is an object of execration.'

All this may be very found logic, and very wholesome morality; but the rhinoceros, we believe, is not particularly fentimental, and certainly does not poffefs any very obvious affinity either to Epictetus or Nero. As if the article eagle had not occupied fufficient space (about fifteen pages), it is made the vehicle for many pathetic reflections on the uncertainty of fame, equally original and appropriate to the fubject. Such is the destiny of all celebrity among men, it is tarnished by adulation, that is to fay, by the most contemptible exaggeration. It is, befides, polluted by abfurd fictions,' &c. &c. His fhorter articles are handled in a manner much lefs exceptionable. We felect, as a specimen, his notice of the Argus pheasant, an uncommon bird, which fupplies an elegant and fashionable appendage of female headdrefs.

ARGUS. (Phafianus Argus, Lath. fig. pl. 3. Philofophical Tranfactions, Vol. LV.) A bird of the PHEASANT genus, and of the GALLINACEOUS order. See these terms.

The argus is only known by a short account published in the Tranfactions of the Royal Society of London, and copied into the Natural Hiftory of Buffon, forty-fecond volume of my edition. Some new information, furnifhed by recent travellers, has enabled me to infert an addition at page 218, of which the following is a tranfcript.

This bird, which is of the fize of a turkey-cock, has, on its head, a double tuft of plumes, which falls back. Its tail is compofed of fourteen large graduated flag feathers, of which the two in the middle are very long, and extend greatly beyond the others. Its forehead and

throat are covered with a naked skin, of a beautiful red, while the contour of the eyes, and the ftiff briftles which project from the bafe of the bill, are black. The head and neck are tinged with blue, and the back and upper covering of the wings with black, chequered with a bay red; the rump and under coverings of the tail are fallow coloured, fpeckled with brown; the nine outer quill-feathers of the wing, have a grey ground, fhaded with yellowish brown, and with black and white fpots on the infide; the next eleven have their dark brown ground relieved with round and oblong spots, with a row of from twelve to fifteen fpots, like eyes, running along the fhank on the outer fide; laftly, the grey flag feathers of the tail are white, fpotted with black, and black,

CC 4

mottled

mottled with brown, on the inferior coverings. The legs are of a greenish afh colour; the iris of the eyes is orange, and the bill yellowish.

Thus, it is evident, that the colours of the argus are very pleafingly varied. Hence Marfden ftyles it, the famous Sumatran pheasant, and ranks it, in point of beauty, greatly above all other birds. (Hift. of Sumatra, French tranf. tom. I. p. 189.) In that island, it bears the name of coo ox, and in Chinese Tartary, that of luen. Its European appellation of argus, is derived from the eye-like markings, which are profufely fcattered on its plumage, and induce some resemblance to the peacock's tail, fo gaudy with the hundred eyes of the unfortunate guardian of Io: that fable reprefents them as placed there by Juna's own hands. This refemblance has alfo procured for the argus, the furname of Juno's pheasant.

The argus is very thy. Its cry is as loud and harsh as that of the peacock, and its flesh as favoury as that of the common pheafant. It is with great difficulty kept alive; for it cannot be reconciled to the lofs of liberty. Its eyes are dazzled by the light of day, which renders it fad and motionlefs; but it is fond of darkness. '

As Sonnini is really very capable of imparting agreeable information, we regret that many of the extended articles belonging to his peculiar province, have been executed by fuch inferior cooperators as Vieillot and Defmareft.

Virey, whom we find defigned, author of the natural history of the human race,' has been entrusted, we apprehend rather unfortunately, with the introductory difcourfe, and various important general articles relative to nature, man, animals, their conftitution, ftructure, functions, &c. Thefe, we have feldom perufed, without experiencing difappointment and difguft. When we looked for general views, reduced to clear and diftinct statements, we have commonly found ourfelves withdrawn from the object of our fearch, by vague and flimfy declamation, unfounded affertions, or puerile repetitions. His preliminary harangue may probably pass for a choice morfel of eloquence among the Parifian belles and petits maîtres. It is divided into two parts, the firft of which profeffes to prefent us with general confiderations on nature, its provinces, its beauties, and the inducements to the ftudy of its phenomena; while the avowed object of the fecond, is to fketch the origin and progrefs of natural history. From both fections, we are difmiffed with little real information, but with an ample allowance of unmeaning apoftrophes and marks of interrogation. In one paffage, we are told that ftones and minerals know no age, and can never die;' in another, that 'Nature is a chafte virgin, whofe charms we can difcover only through an hundred veils;' in another, that the has not always been what she is to-day, and that she in vain

[ocr errors]

affects

affects to conceal, under flowers, the diforders and ruins of her paft life. At another time, we really tremble for her existence.

The feafon will perhaps arrive, when man will behold her fatigued with producing whole generations, and bardly able to crawl.' At that portentous period, the fun, wandering in the night of heaven, will emit only pale rays; the ftars dying, like lamps which have confumed their oil, will gradually be extinguished; and the univerfe, like a giant's carcafe, will fall to fhreds, unless the Sovereign Architect be pleased to recal nature and the worlds from their fwoon? In the very next fentence, our rhetorician exclaims, How fublime and majestic is this living Nature! How the fhines in fpring with grace and fecundity! How pompous on her gala days, when, awakening to the tender looks of her spouse, the fhades of the morning fly, and the first beams of Aurora glitter in the caft!'

In a fubfequent paffage, we are tempted to fuppofe ourselves tranfported, for a moment, into Noah's ark; for we are treated with a delectable melody of birds, beafts, fishes, and creeping things, among which feditious monkeys, and loquacious parrots,' are not forgotten. This fcene of amiable harmonies is fcarcely clofed, when we are at length affured, for our comfort, that though every thing pertaining to life be a dream and an illufion, "God and nature are eternal. Such are some of the most memorable effufions of J. J. Virey, author of the natural hiftory of the human race.'

With the name of Parmentier, we have been long familiar, and have always been accustomed to connect with it, the most honourable motives which can flimulate the mind in the profecution of science; for his labours have been invariably directed to improve the means and comforts of exiftence. On the prefent occafion, we could have wished for a more liberal allowance of his practical instructions for though they be fometimes tinctured with the prejudices of his country, and addreffed to a people who have ftill much agricultural knowledge to acquire, they may supply useful hints to readers of almost every defcription. In treating of grain, Aour, bread, potatoes, wine, &c. this worthy member of the National Institute evinces a happy combination of judgement, talent, and experimental information. His articles are by far too long for citation; but we beg leave to recommend their ferious perufal to every student of domestic and rural economy. Much has been done in this department of physics for nomenclature, method and description; and the study may certainly be rendered subservient to intellectual exercife and rational amufement: but its value must be ultimately determined by the teft of its practical utility. In

eye of reafon and philofophy, the humble, but honeft endeavours of the naturalift, to promote the fubfiftence and the comforts of fentient beings, far outweigh the boasted efforts of power

and

and affluence, which terminates fo often in their deftruction. T prejudices which have grown out of our factitious inftitutions, have rendered the language of truth nearly ridiculous; yet the merit of introducing a fingle efculent plant into general ufe, probably fu paffes that of conducting armies to aggrandize an empire. To pre vent or alleviate famine, to affuage pain, to relieve the wants of ou fellows, to augment the fources of health and agreeable accommo dation, to proclaim to the bufy and the ignorant claffes of mankind, the means of enlarging the circle of the bleflings and conveniences of life; this is patriotifm, we think, and virtue. Parmentier may not fhine on the rolls of fame, like a Linnæus or a Buffon; bứ it cannot be denied that his writings have a more immediate refer ence to the welfare of fociety.

M. Huzard, Member of the Inftitute, and celebrated on the continent for his knowledge in the veterinary art, has undertaken to treat of the diseases incident to domeftic animals, and the mot approved methods of cure. His remarks evidently bespeak an intimate acquaintance with the subject; but they are dealt out with wondrous parfimony, and, frequently, in a form too comprefied to be of much real fervice. To the article horse, he fubjoins a catalogue of maladies; but he leaves cows to fhift for themfelves.

By far too large a portion of literary drudgery has devolved on Bofe, Member of the Parifian Society of Natural History, and of the Linnean Society of London. Not content with fishes, rep tiles, molufcæ, worms, and fhells, this voluminous compiler holds himfelf refponfible for most of the generic and specific defcriptions of plants. His omiffions, of course, are numerous, and his mul tifarious communications often crude," meagre, and unfatisfactory. Notwithstanding the affiftance of fuch able colleagues as Cels, Thouin, Du Tour, and Tollard, the botanical department of this Dictionary is peculiarly defective. The cryptogamics, which ftand moft in need of elucidation, have been moft neglected; mary interefting genera and fpecies have been excluded, and the accounts of many others are limited to a few technical characters. Among various other inftances of entire omiflion, we may notice Plantage maritima, which is by no means of rare occurrence, as it is a native of North America, the coast of Barbary and Europe, and as, like Statice armeria, it flourishes on the fea-fhore, and on alpine heights. From this laft mentioned circumftance, fome Continental botanists feem to have confounded it with Plantago alpina (alfo omitted by M. Du Tour); but the latter may, at all times, be diftinguifhed from it by its fhort oval fpikes, and flat lanceclate leaves. As a variety occurs with toothed leaves, it has also been mistaken for the Leflingii (another omitted fpecies), which may be difcriminated by flat leaves, and fhort, roundifh, pale fpikts,

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »