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a year; or, rather, but only just at one season of the year. Country people talk much of a water-snake, but, I am pretty sure, without any reason ; for the common snake (coluber. natrix) delights much to sport in the water, perhaps with a view to procure frogs and other food. *
I cannot well guess how you are to make out your twelve species of reptiles, unless it be by the various species, or rather varieties, of our lacerti, of which Ray enumerates five. I have not had opportunity of ascertaining these, but remember well to have seen, formerly, several beautiful green lacerti on the sunny sand-banks near Farnham, in Surrey; and Ray admits there are such in Ireland.
TO THE SAME.
SELBORNE, July 27, 1768. DEAR SIR, I received your obliging and communicative letter of June the 28th, while I was on a visit at a gentleman's house, where I had neither books to turn to, nor leisure to sit down to return you an answer to many queries, which I wanted to resolve in the best manner that
A person, by my order, has searched our brooks, but could find no such fish as the gasterosteus rungitius; he found gasterosteus aculeatus in plenty. This morning, in a basket, I packed a little earthern pot full of wet moss, and in it some sticklebacks, male and female, the females big
I am able.
The common snake often takes to the water and swims well and boldly. Not only do they swim across the wide parts of the river Ouse, but they have been seen to swim to the Isle of Wight from the Hampshire coast, and have occasionally been seen swimming in Portsmouth Harbour.
As a proof of the accuracy of Mr. White's observation, that snakes probably go into the water to procure food, I may mention, that a gentleman jately saw one of these reptiles in a stream and under some weeds, consequently under water, watching for prey. Having observed it for some minutes, he took it out of the water, when it not only emitted a most unpleasant stench, but struck at him several times like a viper.—ED.
with spawn; some lamperns; some bull-heads; but I couid procure no minnows. This basket will be in Fleet-street by eight this evening; so I hope Mazel* will have them fresh and fair to-morrow morning. I gave some directions in a letter, to what particulars the engraver should be attentive.t
Finding, while I was on a visit, that I was within a reasonable distance of Ambresbury, I sent a servant over to that town, and procured several living specimens of loaches, which he brought safe and brisk, in a glass decanter. They were taken in the gulleys that were cut for watering the meadows. From these fishes (which measured from two to four inches in length) I took the following description : “ The loach, in its general aspect, has a pellucid appearance; its back is mottled with irregular collections of small black dots, not reaching much below the linea literalis, as are the back and tail fins; a black line runs from each eye down to the nose ; its belly is of a silvery white; the upper jaw projects beyond the lower, and is surrounded with six feelers, three on each side; its pectoral fins are large, its ventral much smaller ; the fin behind its anus small; its dorsal fin large, containing eight spines; its tail, where it joins to the tail fin, remarkably broad, without any taperness, so as to be characteristic of this genus; the tail fin is broad, and square at the end. From the breadth and muscular strength of the tail, it appears to be an active nimble fish.” In
my visit I was not very far from Hungerford, and did not forget to make some inquiries concerning the wonderful
* Mr. Peter Mazel was the engraver of the plates of the British Zoology. He also engraved some of the plates for the original edition of this work.-Ed.
+ The manner in which the common lamprey, petromyzon marinus, and the lesser species, commonly known as lamperns, form their spawning-beds, is curious. They ascend our rivers to breed, about the end of June, and remain until the beginning of August. They are not furnished with any elongation of jaw, afforded to most of our fresh-water fish, to form the receiving furrows in this important season ; but the want is supplied by their suckerlike mouth, by which they individually remove each stone.
Their power is immense. Stones of a very large size are transported, and a large furrow is boon formed. The p. marinus remain in pairs, two on each spawning-place, and while there employed, retain themselves affixed by the inouths to a large stone. The p. fluviatilis, and another small species which I have not determined, are gregarious, acting in concert, and forming, in the same manner, a general spawning-bed.-W.3
method of curing cancers by means of toads. Several .ntelligent persons, both gentry and clergy, do, I find, give a great deal of credit to what was asserted in the
and I myself dined with a clergyman who seemed to be persuaded thať what is related is matter of fact; but, when I came to attend to his account, I thought I discerned circumstances which did not a little invalidate the woman's story of the manner in which she came by her skill. She
of herself, that, “ labouring under a virulent cancer, she went to some church where there was a vast crowd; on going into a pew, she was accosted by a strange clergyman, who, after expressing compassion for her situation, told her, that if she would make such an application of living toads as is mentioned, she would be well.” Now, is it likely that this unknown gentleman should express so much tenderness for this single sufferer, and not feel any for the many thousands that daily languish under this terrible disorder ? Would he not have made use of this invaluable nostrum for his own emolument? or, at least, by some means of publication or other, have found a method of making it public for the good of mankind? In short, this woman (as it appears to me) having set up
for a cancer doctress, finds it expedient to amuse the country with this dark and mysterious relation.
The water-eft has not, that I can discern, the least appearance of any gills ; for want of which it is continually rising to the surface of the water to take in fresh air. I opened a big-bellied one, indeed, and found it full of spawn. Not that this circumstance at all invalidates the assertion that they are larvæ; for the larvæ of insects are full of eggs, which they exclude the instant they enter their last state. The watereft is continually climbing over the brims of the vessel, within which we keep it in water, and wandering away ; and peuple every summer see numbers crawling out of the pools where they are hatched, up the dry banks. There are varieties of them differing in colour; and some have fins up their tail and back, and some have not.*
• The fins, or membrane on the tail and back, increase greatly at the season of generation; ai other times they are hardly perceptible.-W. J.