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perhaps that clock he set down to have been his measure thereof. For clocks or automatous organs, whereby we now distinguish of time, have found no mention in any ancient writers, but are of late invention, as Pancirollus observeth. And Polydore Virgil, discoursing of new inventions whereof the authors are not known, makes instance in clocks and guns. Now Jerome is no late writer, but one of the ancient fathers, and lived in the fourth century, in the reign of Theodosius the first.
It is not to be denied that before the days of Jerome there were horologies, and several accounts of time; for they measured the hours not only by drops of water in glasses called clepsydra, but also by sand in glasses called clepsammia. There were also from great antiquity, scioterical or sun-dials, by the shadow of a stile or gnomon denoting the hours of the day; an invention ascribed unto Anaximenes by Pliny. Hereof a memorable one there was in Campus Martius, from an obelisk erected, and golden figures placed horizontally about it; which was brought out of Egypt by Augustus, and described by Jacobus Laurus.* And another of great antiquity we meet with in the story of Ezechias; for so it is delivered in 2 Kings, xx. : "That the Lord brought the shadow backward ten degrees by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz." That is, say some, ten degrees, not lines; for the hours were denoted by certain divisions or steps in the dial, which others distinguished by lines, according to that of Persius,
Stertimus indomitum quod despumare Falernum
That is, the line next the meridian, or within an hour of
* A peculiar description and particular construction hereof out of R. Chomer, is set down, Curios. de Caffarel. chap. ix.
9 clocks.] The ancient pictures of St. Hierom were naked, on his knees, in a cave, with an hour-glasse and a scull by him, intimating his indefatigable continuance in prayers and studye while hee lived in the cave at Bethleem. But the later painters at Rome, bycause hee had been senator and of a noble familye, picture him in the habit of the cardinals, leaning on his arm at a desk in study with a clock hanging by him, and his finger on a scull: and this they take to bee a more proper symbol of the cardinal eminencye.- Wr.
Of later years there succeeded new inventions, and horologies composed by trochilick or the artifice of wheels; whereof some are kept in motion by weight, others perform without it. Now as one age instructs another, and time, that brings all things to ruin, perfects also every thing; so are these indeed of more general and ready use than any that went before them. By the water-glasses the account was not regular; for from attenuation and condensation, whereby that element is altered, the hours were shorter in hot weather than in cold, and in summer than in winter. As for scioterical dials, whether of the sun or moon, they are only of use in the actual radiation of those luminaries, and are of little advantage unto those inhabitants, which for many months enjoy not the lustre of the sun.
It is, I confess, no easy wonder how the horometry of antiquity discovered not this artifice, how Architas, that contrived the moving dove, or rather the helicosophy of Archimides, fell not upon this way. Surely as in many things, so in this particular, the present age hath far surpassed antiquity; whose ingenuity hath been so bold not only to proceed below the account of minutes, but to attempt perpetual motions; and engines whose revolutions (could their substance answer the design) might out-last the exemplary mobility, and out-measure time itself. For such a one is that mentioned by John Dee, whose words are these, in his learned preface unto Euclid: "By wheels, strange works and incredible are done: a wondrous example was seen in my time in a certain instrument, which, by the inventor and artificer was sold for twenty talents of gold; and then by chance had received some injury, and one Janellus of Cremona did mend the same, and presented it unto the emperor Charles the Fifth. Jeronymous Cardanus can be my witness, that therein was one wheel that moved at such a rate, that in seven thousand years only his own period should be finished; a thing almost incredible, but how far I keep within my bounds many men yet alive can tell."
1 perpetual motions.] John Romilly, a celebrated watchmaker, born at Geneva, wrote a letter on the impossibility of perpetual motion.-Jeff.
Of the Pictures of Mermaids, Unicorns, and some others.
FEW eyes have escaped the pictures of mermaids; 2 that is, according to Horace's monster, with a woman's head
2 mermaids.] The existence of mermaids has been so generally ridiculed, and high authorities have so repeatedly denounced as forgeries, delusions, or travellers' wonders, the detailed narratives and exhibited specimens of these sea-nymphs, that it must be a Quixotic venture to say a word in their defence. Yet am I not disposed to give up their cause as altogether hopeless. I cannot admit the probability of a belief in them having existed from such remote antiquity, and spread so widely, without some foundation in truth. Nor can I consent to reject en masse such a host of delightfully pleasant stories as I find recorded of these daughters of the sea (as Illiger call the Dugongs), merely because it is the fashion to decry them. I must be allowed, then, to hold my opinion in abeyance for further evidence. Unconvinced even by Sir Humphry Davy's grave arguments to prove that such things cannot be, and undismayed by his asserted detection of the apes and salmon in poor Dr. Philip's "undoubted original," I persist in expecting one day to have the pleasure of beholding-A MERMAID!
But what is a mermaid? Aye, there is the very gist of the question. Cicero little dreamt of his classical rule being degraded by application to such a discussion as the present; but I shall nevertheless endeavour to avail myself of his maxim ;-Omnis disputatio debet a definitione proficisci. What is a mermaid? Not the fair lady of the ocean, admiring herself in a hand-mirror, and bewitching the listener by her song ;-not the triton, dwelling in the ocean-cave, and sounding his conch-like cornet or trumpet ;-not bishop-frocked creature of Rondeletius; nor Aldrovandus' mer-devil, with his horns and face of fury; nor the howling and tempest-stirring monsters of Olaus Magnus-not, in short, the creature of poetry or fiction: but a most supposable, and probably often seen, though hitherto undescribed, species of the herbivorous cetacea (the seals and lamantins), more approaching, in several respects, the human configuration, than any species we know.
Let us hear and examine Sir Humphry's arguments against the probability of such a discovery. He says, that a human head, human hands, and human mammæ, are wholly inconsistent with a fish's tail.” In one sense this is undeniable ;-viz.-since homo sapiens is (begging Lord Monboddo's pardon) an incaudate animal,-it follows that the head, hands, and mamme of any creature furnished also with a tail, could not be human and so, conversely, the tail of such a creature could not be a fish's tail. But this is a truism, only to be paralleled by the exclamation attributed by Peter Pindar to Sir Joseph Banks, when he had boiled the fleas and found they did not turn red,—“ Fleas are not lobsters! &c." Davy's was not a nominal objection, a mere play upon
above, and fishy extremity below; and these are conceived to answer the shape of the ancient sirens that attempted
words: he goes on to say, "the human head is adapted for an erect posture, and in such a posture an animal with a fish's tail could not swim." The head of our mermaid, however, may more strongly resemble the human head, than any described animal of its tribe, and yet preserve at the same time the power which they all have, of raising the head perpendicularly out of the water while swimming, as Sir Humphry himself probably did, when he was mistaken by the fair ladies of Caithness for a mermaid! Cuvier remarks, moreover, that the tails of these herbivorous cetacea differ from those of fish in their greater adaptation to maintain an erect posture. Sir Humphry proceeds-"A creature with lungs must be on the surface several times in a day; and the sea is an inconvenient breathing place!" I must take the liberty of confronting this most singular observation with a much greater authority. Cuvier says (and surely Sir Humphry must have for the moment forgotten), that the cetacea, though constantly residing in the sea, "as they respire by lungs, are obliged to rise frequently to the surface to take in fresh supplies of air." What is be said of a naturalist who argues against the possibility of any creature provided with lungs residing in the sea, in the face of so important an example of the fact as we have in the entire class of cetacea? What would Cuvier, with all his readiness to do homage to genius in any man, and especially in so splendid an instance as Davy, what must he have thought, had he read his preceding remarks? Magnus aliquando dormitat Homerus !
It is the more remarkable, as Sir Humphry actually mentions some species of this very tribe as having probably given rise to some of the stories about mermaids. And as to mamma and hands, to which he also objects if in company with the fish's tail, we must here again have recourse to the protection of Cuvier against our mighty assailant. "The first family" (herbivorous cetacea), says Cuvier, "frequently emerge from the water to seek for pasture on the shore. They have two mammæ on the breast, and hairs like mustachios, two circumstances which, when they raise the anterior part of the body above water, give them some resemblance to men and women, and have probably occasioned those fables of the ancients concerning Tritons and Syrens. Vestiges of claws may be discovered on the edges of their fins, which they use with dexterity in creeping, and carrying their little ones. This has given rise to a comparison of these organs with hands, and hence these animals have been called manatis" (or lamantins).
Thus I have sketched the sort of creature which may be supposed to exist: nor can I deem it unreasonable to expect such a discovery, though Davy, after saying, "It doubtless might please God to make a mermaid; but I do not believe God ever did make one: "—somewhat arrogantly pronounces that "such an animal, if created, could not long exist, and, with scarce any locomotive powers, would be the prey of other fishes formed in a manner more suited to their element."
It is singular that a writer in the Enc. Metropolitana should have con
upon Ulysses. Which notwithstanding were of another description, containing no fishy composure, but made up of man and bird: the human mediety variously placed not only above, but below, according unto Elian, Suidas, Servius, Boccatius, and Aldrovandus, who hath referred their description unto the story of fabulous birds; according to the description of Ovid, and the account thereof in Hyginus, that they were the daughters of Melpomene, and metamorphosed into the shape of man and bird by Ceres.
And therefore these pieces, so common among us, do rather derive their original, or are indeed the very descriptions of Dagon, which was made with human figure above, and fishy shape below: whose stump, or, as Tremellius and our margin render it, whose fishy part only remained, when the hands and upper part fell before the ark. Of the shape of Artergates, or Derceto, with the Phoenicians, in whose
cluded a long and amusing article with the marginal note, "mermaids impossible animals ;" supported solely by the very extraordinary arguments of Sir Humphry.
Those who are desirous of seeing an enumeration of all the supposed mermaids and monsters, which have at various times amused the public, may refer to the article just quoted, and to a miscellaneous volume, entitled the Working Bee, published by Fisher and Co., Newgate-street, in which is an Historical Memoir of Syrens or Mermaids.
In explanation of one or two allusions in my preceding remarks, I may just mention that in the Evangelical Magazine, for Sept. 1822, is inserted part of a letter from the Rev. Dr. Philip, dated Cape Town, April 20th, 1822. The Dr. says, he had just seen a mermaid, then exhibiting in that town. The head is about the size of a baboon's, thinly covered with black hair; a few hairs on the upper lip. The forehead low, but with better proportioned and more like human features than any of the baboons. The ears, nose, lips, chin, breasts, fingers, and nails, resemble the human subject. Eight incisores, four canine, eight molares. The animal, though shrunk, is about three feet long; its resemblance to a man having ceased immediately under the mammæ. On the line of separation, and immediately under the breast, are two fins. Below, it resembles a salmon. It is covered with scales-but which on the upper part are scarcely perceptible: it was caught somewhere on the north of China by a fisherman, who sold it for a trifle. At Batavia it was bought by Capt. Eades, in whose possession it then was. This very specimen Davy pronounced to be composed of the head and bust from two apes, fastened to the tail of the kipper salmon,—salmo salar.
He also notices another instance of a supposed mermaid, seen off the coast of Caithness, which turned out to have been a gentleman bathing. He is asserted to have intended himself. See his Salmonia.