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rise to their fabled stories of the production of animals from the mud of the Nile, was now before me; and I pitied those, who, instead of adoring the First Cause of all things, believed in the mad doctrines of equivocal generation; or, looking up to his great minister the sun, adored the instrument, instead of paying the rational 1. tribute of their praise to him who employed it.
As I was ruminating on this, a little creature of a peculiar form and singular beauty rose from the surface of the mud; and soon after began to vibrate its leafy tail, to play the several rings of an elegantly constructed body, and to poise six delicate legs, as if to try whether they were fit for use; numbers of others followed it, and in a few minutes all that part of the water seemed peopled only by this species.
I was ravished with delight at the joy I saw these creatures take in their new animated beings, and was offering an honest silent praise to him whose unlimited benevolence had created so many happy beings, and who had created them only to be happy; when a hungry fish, allured by the prospect of so full a repast, left his companions, and throwing himself among the insects, like a hungry tiger into a sheep-fold, destroyed, and gorged them by numbers at a time.
Of the multitude that were now scattered to
every part of the adjacent space, I luckily cast my eye upon a cluster that had sheltered themselves together under the leaves of a tall plant, part of which was immersed in the water, part emerged above its surface; one of this number, allured by the warm rays, rose higher up the plant, came boldly out of the water, and basked in the more free sun-beams under the open air.
The plant was near the shore, and I determined to watch the motions of this little adven turous animal. It had not stood long exposed to the full radiance of the sun, when it seemed on the point of perishing under his too strong heat its back had suddenly burst open lengthwise; but what was my astonishment, while I was pitying the unhappy insect, to see, as the opening enlarged, a creature wholly unlike the former arising from within it! A very beautiful fly, by degrees, disengaged itself from this reptile case, and left behind it only a thin skin that had been its covering.
Such is, undoubtedly, the production of the butterfly from the silk-worm, and from all the caterpillar tribe: the pretended metamorphosis of these creatures is but the child of error and ignorance in the observers; and the caterpillar is no more than the future fly, covered by a peculiar case, and preserved from injuries in it,
till its wings, and every other part of its delicate frame are in a condition to bear the impulse of the sun and air naked.
The new-born inhabitant of the air would now have been suffocated, in an instant, by the element in which it had before so long lived and enjoyed itself: it carefully avoided it; it first tried its newly disentangled legs, and gained by these the summit of the herb; to it, a towering pine: the sun, which at first seemed to create it, in its reptile state, out of the mud, now seemed to enlarge its wings; they unfolded as they dried, and at length shewed their silky structure perfect and bright; the creature now began to quiver them in various degrees of elevation and depression, and at length employed them to their destined purpose, launching at once into the sea of air, and sporting in the wide expanse with unrestrained jollity and freedom.
Happiest of thy race! said I; how would thy brother insects envy thee, could they imagine what was now thy state! safe from the danger of the devouring fly; delivered from the cold wet element they live in, and free as the very air thou wantonest about in! I had scarce finished my ejaculation, when a sudden cloud came on; the sun's face was obscured, the air
grew chill, and a storm of hail came rattling down upon the water.
The newly animated swarms of reptiles instantly plunged to their original inactivity in the mud again; forgot the transient pleasures of the last half hour; and waited in tranquillity the more favourable season. These were now safe and at ease; but, alas! what was my concern to see the little volatile I had before thought an object of their envy, destroyed by the first falling of the frozen rain, and floating dead upon its watery bier.
The storm, that had been fatal to this unhappy creature, sent me from the scene of its destruction, ruminating on the various turns of fate below, and determined never to be insolent in prosperity; never to triumph over my friend or neighbour, because some favourable event has happened to me; but to remember, in every occurrence of that flattering kind, that the poor fly, who knew not how his peculiar fortune came about, foresaw not to what ruin he alone was exposed.
THE INSPECTOR, No. 5.
This is the first of several essays on Natural History, and more particularly on Entomology, by Sir John Hill; and which form, by far, the most valuable portion of the Inspector: they are, indeed, written with peculiar elegance and spirit.
"Insects may be classed into four tribes. Those who
have no wings, and creep about till they die. Those who have wings, but so cased up when produced from the egg, that they cannot be seen. The third, those of the moth and butterfly kind, who have four wings, and a mealy substance-of various colours. The fourth, those which come from a worm instead of a caterpillar, and yet go through changes similar with moths and butterflies, but have not the mealy substance. To which may be added, a fifth order, the zoophytes, which may be propagated by dissection; such as the polypus, the earth-worm, and all the varieties of the sea-nettle.
"Most insects pass through a variety of transmigrations, and assume the form of two or three living creatures successively, which bear no resemblance or affinity. In issuing from the egg, they are generally little worms, and nothing more; some with, and others without feet. The former take care of themselves; the latter are properly lodged by their parents. Several of them cast off their old skins, and assume new ones; then change them again and again at certain periods. All of them, who undergo a transformation, pass through an interinediate state, called chrysalis, nymph, cone, or bean. The minute worm, ceasing to eat, encloses itself in a sort of tomb, or little 'monument. There, under a cover which preserves its surprising delicacy from all injury, it is again conceived, and born again. Their last state is when they arise out of their dormitory, and become flying insects. It was long imagined, indeed, that an insect actually dies at the time of its transformation. It is a living creature, however, furnished with every member suitable to its nature; though it bears no manner of resemblance to a winged animal that is substituted in its room. Although it divests itself of its most essential parts, it yet does not inevitably die. The deprivation of the parts does not necessarily imply the ruin of the whole. A living embryo, however, they acknowledge, is contained in the preceding animal.
“Individual animation is, in all these cases, unquestionably preserved. But the phænomena of transformation are not,