in the greatest abundance and perfection. This gentleman next indicates three sources of wealth that are derivable from the animal kingdom; namely, the dung of the glama, guanaco, &c. from which excellent sal ammoniack may be prepared; the woolbearing quadrupeds, as the sheep, vicugna, alpaca, &c.; and cochineal; on each of which topicks he descants with zeal, duly tempered by judgment. In the course of his observations, he thus celebrates the medical virtues of the muriate of ammonia:

“All the preparations of sal ammoniack [muriate of ammonia] are in very general use, but especially the famous Eau de Luce, as the genuine specifick against the bites of vipers and rattle snakes. The different plants which are vaunted in America, as powerful antidotes to these bites, such as the aristolocia, anguicida, bejuco, guaq, &c. probably owe their virtue to their greater or less quantity of ammonia, which is indicated by their disagreeable odour. A circumstance has lately occurred among the Yungas of the town of la Paz, which proves in a convincing manner, the power and efficacy of this remedy. An Indian, who was bitten by a rattle snake, was perfectly cured in a few days, by the external and internal use of volatile alkali alone, although he lay at the point of death, and betrayed the most dreadful symptoms. In no country in the world are people more exposed to the bite of these venomous animals than in the hottest part of America: but, at the same time, I believe, no place more abounds in the materials for proper remedies. Here thousands of quintals of the substances best suited to the manufacture of sal ammoniack, and its numerous preparations, may be easily collected.

“On this occasion, I should invite the attention of physicians to the cure of hydrophobia; a disease which is very com. mon in Europe, but hitherto unknown in America. It is notorious, that, when once the unequivocal symptoms of this dreadful malady have manifested themselves, all the famous medicines which have been recommended for its cure, as atropa belladonna, meloe proscarabaeus, mercury, &c. have been found deceptive and useless. If, as is supposed to be the case in viperine poison, that of the mad dog, which is communicated to the blood by the bite,

be of an acid nature, no remedy can be more efficacious, nor exerta more direct action in the destruction of this poison than ammonia, which would neutralize the animal acid; but, hitherto, I believe, the experiment has not been made.” "

The case of the Indian here reported, perfectly accords with some of those which were stated by Mir, Williams, in the second volume of the Asiatick Researches, and in which the exhibition of the caustick volatile alkali is mentioned to have cured the bite of the cobra di cafiello. It is reasonable, therefore, to infer, that the ammoniacal principle is hostile to serpentine poison: but that the latter is an acid is by no means proved. Fontana, on the contrary, was led to conclude that it is "neither an acid nor an alkali. In following up the suggestions, however, which we have just quoted, it might be of some consequence to institute an accurate, comparative analysis between the serpentine virus, and the saliva of dogs that are affected by hydrophobia.

M. Haenke lends his favourable testimony to the medical virtues of agave viviftara and begonia anemoides, and thus corroborates the result of the trials which were sometime ago made in the publick hospital of Madrid, with regard to the efficacy of these plants, or of some of their congeners, in the removal of venereal complaints. He has also found the quinquina in many districts in which it was not formerly known to exist; and he particularizes various vegetable dies, some of which might be made the objects of culture in the warmer countries of Europe.

The second and third volumes of this publication contain M. Sonnini's translation of M. de Azara’s account of the birds of Paraguay and La Plata. As the species described amount to four hundred and fortyeight, and the descriptions are accompanied by the requisite marginal annotations, we cannot presume to

attend on the observant traveller and his commentator through this interesting series of their labours, nor to do justice to their respective deserts. The circumstances of dimension, form, and colouring, are usually recorded with much apparent precision, and are occasionally enlivened with pleasing notices of the habits and dispositions of the different families which pass in review. These memoranda are the more precious, because they contain much new and authentick information on the ornithology of South America; a subject which is still far from being exhausted. In this quarter of the world, the predacious tribes appear to be more varied and numerous than in the old continent, and, at the same time, less fierce in their dispositions; some of them being even susceptible of gentle and domestick habits.

[blocks in formation]

was extremely gentle, would recognise his master, and accompany him on a journey of eight or ten leagues, flying above him, and sometimes resting on the carriage. He always approached the person who called him by name, and never fed in common

with those of his own species, taking only what was offered from the hand; provided, also, that it was cut into small pieces, for otherwise he would not taste it. Another Iribu, equally tame, would accompany his master in journeys of upwards of a hundred leagues, and as far as Monte Video; remaining and sleeping on the outside of the carriage: but, when he perceived that the carriage was directed homewards, he hastened to anticipate its arrival, and thus announced to his mistress the return of her husband.”

Among the many non-descripts with which this Spanish traveller has regaled us, the little cock and the goung widow are particularly deserving of attention. The manners of the latter are thus described:

“This bird, which at Buenos Ayres is called Cotorra, is, by some of the people of Paraguay, denominated young widow, on

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

* A particular species of vulture.

was also a widow, who instigated him according to custom, by caress: es, and every kind of coquetry, and made him distractedly in love with her, without yielding to his pressing suit. In short, the poor bird was left to languish, and died of an unavailing passion.” The yellow-winged Parrakeet, it should seem, is guilty of the same cruel deportment, and absolutely killed off an unfortunate Lory, with love, and the bloody flur. It is painful to detract from the merits of a treatise, which has certainly afforded us both entertainment and instruction: yet the publick have a paramount claim on our justice and truth; and while we cheerfully award to Don FELIX DE Aza RA the praise of diligent and faithful observation, an imperious sense of duty compels us to state that his divisions are seldom founded on scientifick principles; that he generally adopts the nomenclature of the province in which he happens to reside; that, in several instances, his account of the habits of particular species is more scanty than his opportunities would have led us to expect; that he betrays an unaccountable solicitude to cancel those distinctions which are so frequently observable between the sexes of birds of the same species; that he incautiously multiplies permanent differences; and that, owing to his imperfect acquaintance with the French language, he has indulged in many groundless and absurd strictures on the ornithology of Buffon. His translater has judiciously retrenched several of his crude criticisms; exposed the inaccuracy of others; admits the justice of genuine corrections; and discusses his references with patience and perspicuity. The treatment which he had previously received from the uncourteous Spaniard might have justified his silence, or his contempt; but, as the charges so broadly preferred against him have been maliciously circulated, without any notice of the reply which

they have called forth, we think it is but fair to confront the author and his translator, and allow the publick to form their own judgment. In his exposition of the common characters of the Bataras, then, M. de Azara thus arraigns the veracity and the probity of the very person who has since so eminently contributed to improve, and to diffuse his lucubrations:

“That he might testify his gratitude, and pay a compliment to Sonnini de Manoncour, Buffon thus expresses himself: “These latter [The ant-eaters] appear to me to form a new genus, an idea for which we are wholly indebted to the researches of M. Sonnini de Manoncour, whom I have already often quoted, because he has profoundly studied the history of foreign birds, of which he has presented to the king’s cabinet more than 160 species. He has also had the goodness to communicate to me all the observations which he had occasion to make in the course of his travels in Senegal and America; and from these very observations I have collected the history and descriptions of a great many birds, particularly of the ant-eaters.” “It is thus that my au. thor writes; and I, for my part, read him with great pity, when I perceive that he does not tell the truth, and that he relates merely false and alleged information. This Sonnini de Manoncour gives to the family of birds in question the name of anteaters, because, says he, they eat and destroy a great number of ants, whose tacurus, or immense habitations, they demolish: but it is proper to mention that these birds do not eat a single ant, and I might add that scarcely any of these insects inhabit the same country with them. He assures us, that these ant-eaters never, or very seldom, perch on trees; that they run on the ground, like partridges, and are, therefore, at Cayenne, called little partrudges. Very well! all this is false; the bataras cannot walk. Their progressive motion is tardy, constrained, and performed by leaps, like that of birds which frequent brush-wood and hedges; they alight on the ground only to seize the caterpillars and insects which they perceive on the surface; they perch almost constantly; and their inflated plumage is very different from that of any bird which is much addicted to flying or walking. If they are accidentally called little partridges at Cayenne, it is certainly not because they move and run on the ground, like partridges, but probably because the boys in Cayenne, as in Paraguay, may be accustomed to give the name of partridge to every bird of which the plumage has a painted appearance. According to Manoncour, these birds live in bands, or troops; whereas they are always found solitary, or in pairs. He alleges that their tongue is furnished towards the point with small cartilaginous and fleshy filaments; while, on the contrary, its conformation is such as I have just described. He gives them a tail and wings so short as to be of little service in supporting and regulating their flight in the open air; but we must remark that, if the bataras of this traveller have a short tail, he must either have clipped it with scissors, or plucked it out, and put another in its place. His observation that the claw of the hind toe, in these anteaters, is longer and more arched than the fore claws, must appear ridiculous in the eyes of any person who is in the least accustomed to examine the feet of birds, because it is an almost general character. He assures us that his ant-eaters shun in. habited places; that they live in deep and remote forests, and, that, except the principal species, which are few in number, it is rare to find, among any of the others, two individuals perfectly alike; a circum

stance which he ascribes to the facility with which the small species intermingle, and produce cross breeds. All this is false: the bataras generally haunt enclosures and bushes, either near to or remote from houses in the country, and never penetrate into extensive woods; and they constitute true species, whose colours, forms, and dimensions, are constant, and perfectly distinct. Sonnini alleges that the ant-eaters utter a cry, which varies in the different species, though in most of them it is very extraordinary; but these birds have no other cry than that which I have mentioned. He describes one nest for all the species; and thus we may judge of the confidence to which he is entitled. He affirms that the flesh of most of these birds is unfit for eating; that it has an oily and disagreeable taste; and that the digested mixture of ants and other insects, which they swallow, exhales a noisome odour, when they are opened. If such were the necessary results of insectivorous habits, they would not be limited to the bataras; since, generally speaking, all the birds of America feed on insects, in preference to any thing else. I never opened bataras, nor have I any desire to eat them; yet I do not believe the assertion of Sonnini de Ma. noncour; and I appeal to posterity, and

to those who have ready access to the Parisian Museum of Natural History, recommending chiefly to their attentive examination the alarum thrush, the coraya, and the other ant-eaters, the caica, the arada, and the Cayenne buzzard. I hope that they will perceive the marks of the scissors which have been employed in shortening the tails of these birds, the strokes of the pencil by which their plumage has been disguised, and the traces of the hand which has substituted an extraneous tail, instead of that which was pulled away.”

Let us now listen to Sonnini's reply:

“Although Voltaire, who has ridiculed the theory of Buffon relative to the beds of marine shells which are discovered in the bosom of the highest mountains, acknowleges that the eloquent naturalist had treated him somewhat roughly, yet he professes his unwillingness to quarrel about shells. I cannot reckon feathers a more serious cause of altercation; and certainly I am not more disposed to be angry than the poet of Ferney, though M, de Azara, who is no more Voltaire than I am Buffon, has chosen not only to attack but to insult me. I have too much respect for the publick and for myself to reply in the same tone, and to make use of the same weapons; they are unknown to me, but familiar, it should seem, to M. de Azara, who has recourse to them on all oceasions, in his eternal invectives against Buffon, consisting in a great measure of pretended discussions in ornithology; discussions which I have suppressed in my translation, because they always proceed on false data, and teach us nothing else than the fretful humour with which the Spanish traveller regarded the French naturalist: but whatever I may and ought to do, in the case of another, is strictly prohibited in my own; and, accordingly I have neither altered nor retrenched a single syllable in this article of the bataras.

“I might naturally expect to share in the abuse which was directed at the individual whose labours I had participated; and most certainly I have not been disappointed. If, on the one hand, M. de Azara, in various parts of his work, pushes his discretion so far as not to acknowledge that his observations confirm my own, he is, on the other hand, solicitous to punish me severely for the esteem with which Buffon honoured me, and for cer

tain articles in the New Dictionary of Matural History, in which I have shown that, whenever the Spanish author gives the freest scope to his virulence against the French writer, his blunders are then almost invariably the most egregious and complete. “Such, precisely, is the predicament in which he stands with respect to myself. Never was that Sonnini de Manomcour, to adopt M. de Azara's polite phraseology, more decidedly in the right than at the very moment when opprobrious language was addressed to him with so much vehemence, from Paraguay, from Spain, and various quarters of the world. Posterity, whose testimony M de Azara invokes— posterity, if ever that term shall apply to him, or to myself—will appreciate the value and determine the name of that indecent criticism, of which he makes me the object; and he will, perhaps, blush for having published it, when I shall have shown that the foundation on which it rests has no reality nor existence. M. de Azara has, in fact, committed a grievous rmistake concerning the birds in question, since, in one word, his bataras are not my ant-eaters. If passion were compatable with the exercise of the reasoning power, the slightest attention, the most simple and superficial reflection, might have convinced the observer of Paraguay that birds, so very different in their external forms and natural habits, could not be included in the same family. Whoever will compare the account which M. de Azara gives of the bataras, with what I have mentioned of the ant-eaters, will be satisfied that features of dissimilarity, as mumerous as they are striking, evidently separate these birds from one another. M. de Azara, it is true, affirms, with as much decency as good breeding, that I have equally imposed on the publick in all that I have advanced concerning the manners, habits, and conformation of the ant-eaters; yet no inhabitant of French Guiana; nor any mulatto or negro hunter, is ignorant that the alarum-thrush for coample (and I quote that species as the most remarkable) never approaches habitations, nor quits the great forests, which it fills with sounds that have been aptly compared to those of an alarum-clock. With regard to the charge imputed to me by M. de Azara, of having disfigured the stuffed specimens of ant-eaters, it is absolutely ridiculous, to say nothing worse. It was in 1774 that I consigned to the king’s cabinet a numerous collection of birds from our settlements in Guiana,

among which there happened, for the first time, to be included, several species of ant-eaters. Since that period, very frequent transmissions of birds from the same quarter of America to the royal cabinet have taken place; and the ant-eaters, which formed part of them, resembled in all re. spects those which I had conveyed hither. To suppose that the nhabitants of Cayenne had come to a common understanding to cut short or pull out the tails of these birds, and to colour their plumage with the pencil, would be as absurd as to suspect me of taking the same trouble, in order that the ant-eaters, which I observed in 1774, might not resemble the bataras which M. de Azara was destined to describe thirty years afterwards. “For the rest, these very unseemly attacks on the part of M. de Azara have not prevented me, in the course of this work, from doing him all the justice to which he is entitled; and from represent. ing him, if not as endued with much instruction in natural history, or much conversant in the art of comparative discussion, as at least a very good observer.”

Much of the oblique and useless commentary, in which the Spanish writer has so gratuitously indulged, appears to have originated in his want of a familiar acquaintance with the principles of systematick arrangement; a defect of education which the pages of Buffon were little calculated to remedy, and which often led him to fancy generick and specifick identities where none existed. A more cautious and scrupulous investigation of his references. might have rescued him from the charge of hasty and unavailing criticism, and have placed in a more conspicuous point of view the extent of his discoveries and the soundness of his understanding. From the means of such investigation, he was unavoidably precluded in the wilds of South America; but, in the Spanish capital, and with the facilities of communication with Paris, which he enjoyed, he might have commanded them to their fullest extent. For the disgusting rudeness of manner, which characterizes his unseasonable strictures, we can devise no

« 前へ次へ »