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brain, but is extended along the course of the spine, I answer that he adds strength to the argument. If he remark, that the chest also is fortified by bones; I reply, that I should have alleged this instance myself, if the ribs had not appeared subservient to the purpose of motion as well as of defence. What distinguishes the skull from every other cavity is, that the bony covering completely surrounds its contents, and is calculated, not for motion, but solely for defence. Those hollow's, likewise, and inequalities which we observe in the inside of the skull, and which exactly fit the folds of the brain, answer the important design of keeping the substance of the brain steady, and of guarding it against concussions.
WHENEVER we find a general plan pursued, yet with such variations in it, as are, in each case, required by the particular exigency of the subject to which it is applied, we possess, in such a plan and such adaptation, the strongest evidence that can be afforded of intelligence and design ; an evidence which the most completely excludes every other hypothesis. If the general plan proceeded from any fixed necessity in the nature of things, how could it accommodate itself to the various wants and uses which it had to serve under different circumstances, and on different occasions ? Arkwright's mill was invented for the spinning of cotton. We see it employed for the spinning of wool, flax and hemp, with such modifications of the original principle, such variety in the same plan, as the texture of those different materials rendered necessary. Of the machine's being put together with design, if it were possible to doubt, whilst we saw it only under one mode, and in one form; when we came to observe it in its different applications, with such changes of structure, such additions and supplements, as the special and particular use in each case demanded, we could not refuse any longer our assent to the proposition, that intelligence, properly and strictly so called, (including under that name, foresight, consideration, reference to utility,) had been employed, as well in
the primitive plan, as in the several changes and accommodations which it is made to undergo.”
Very much of this reasoning is applicable to what has been called Comparative Anatomy. In their general economy, in the outlines of the plan, in the construction as well as offices of their principal parts, there exists between all large terrestrial animals a close resemblance. In all, life is sustained, and the body nourished, by nearly the same apparatus. The heart, the lungs, the stomach, the liver, the kidneys, are much alike in all. The same fluid (for no distinction of blood has been observed) circulates through their vessels, and nearly in the same order. The same cause, therefore, whatever that cause was, has been concerned in the origin, has governed the production, of these different animal forms.
When we pass on to smaller animals, or to the inhabitants of a different element, the resemblance becomes more distant and more obscure; but still the plan accompanies us.
And, what we can never enough commend, and which it is our business at present to exemplify, the plan is attended, through all its varieties and deflections, by subserviences to special occasions and utilities.
I. The covering of different animals (though whether I am correct in classing this under their anatomy, I do not know) is the first thing which presents itself to our observation: and is, in truth, both for its variety and its suitableness to their several natures, as much to be admired as any part of their structure. We have bristles, hair, wool, furs, feathers, quills, prickles, scales; yet in this diversity both of material and form, we cannot change one animal's coat for another, without evidently changing it for the worse : taking care however to remark, that these coverings are, in many cases, armour as well as clothing; intended for protection as well as warmth.
The human animal is the only one which is naked, and the only one which can clothe itself. This is one of the properties which renders him an animal of all climates, and of all seasons. He can adapt the warmth or lightness of his covering to the temperature of his habitation. Had he been born with a fleece upon his back, although he might have been comforted by its warmth in high latitudes, it would have oppressed him by its weight and heat, as the species spread towards the equator.
What art, however, does for men, nature has, in many instances, done for those animals which are incapable of art. Their cloth
ing, of its own accord, changes with their necessities. This is particularly the case with that large tribe of quadrupeds, which are covered with furs. Every dealer in hare-skins and rabbit-skins knows how much the fur is thickened by the approach of winter. It seems to be a part of the same constitution and the same design, that wool, in hot countries, degenerates, as it is called, but in truth (most happily for the animal's ease) passes into hair; whilst, on the contrary, that hair, in the dogs of the polar regions, is turned into wool, or something very like it. To which may be referred, what naturalists have remarked, that bears, wolves, foxes, hares, which do not take the water, have the fur much thicker on the back than the belly; whereas in the beaver it is the thickest upon the belly; as are the feathers in water-fowl. We know the final cause of all this; and we know no other.
The covering of birds cannot escape the most vulgar observation. Its lightness, its smoothness, its warmth ;—the disposition of the feathers all inclined backward, the down about their stem, the overlapping of their tips, their different configuration in different parts, not to mention the variety of their colours, constitute a vestment for the body, so beautiful, and so appropriate to the life which the animal is to lead, as that, I think, we should have had no conception of any thing equally perfect, if we had never seen it, or can now imagine any thing more so.
Let us suppose (what is possible only in supposition) a person who had never seen a bird, to be presented with a plucked pheasant, and bid to set his wits to work, how to contrive for it a covering which shall unite the qualities of warmth, levity, and least resistance to the air, and the highest degree of each; giving it also as much of beauty and ornament as he could afford. He is the person to behold the work of the Deity, in this part of his creation, with the sentiments which are due to it.
The commendation, which the general aspect of the feathered world seldom fails of exciting, will be increased by farther examination. It is one of those cases in which the philosopher has more to admire than the common observer. Every feather is a mechanical wonder. If we look at the quill, we find properties not easily brought together-strength and lightness. I know few things more remarkable than the strength and lightness of the very pen with which I am writing. If we cast our eye to the upper part of the sten, we see a material, made for
the purpose, used in no other class of animals, and in no other part of birds; tough, light, pliant, elastic. The pith, also, which feeds the feathers is, amongst animal substances, sui generis ; neither bone, flesh, membrane, nor tendona.
But the artificial part of a feather is the beard, or, as it is sometimes, I believe, called, the vane. By the beards are meant, what are fastened on each side of the stem and what constitute the breadth of the feather; what we usually strip off from one side or both, when we make a pen. The separate pieces or laminæ, of which the beard is composed, are called threads, sometimes filaments, or rays. Now the first thing which an attentive observer will remark is, how much stronger the beard of the feather shows itself to be when pressed in a direction perpendicular to its plane, than when rubbed, either up or down, in the line of the stem; and he will soon discover the structure which occasions this difference, viz. that the laminæ whereof these beards are composed are flat and placed with their flat sides towards each other; by which means, whilst they easily bend for the approaching of each other, as any one may perceive by drawing his finger ever so lightly upwards, they are much harder to bend out of their plane, which is the direction in which they have to encounter the impulse and pressure of the air, and in which their strength is wanted, and put to the trial.
This is one particularity in the structure of a feather: a second is still more extraordinary. Whoever examines a feather, cannot help taking notice, that the threads or laminæ of which we have been speaking, in their natural state unite ; that their union is something more than the mere apposition of loose surfaces; that they are not parted asunder without some degree of force; that nevertheless there is no glutinous cohesion between them; that, therefore, by some mechanical means or other, they catch or clasp among themselves, thereby giving to the beard or vane its closeness and compactness of texture. Nor is this all: when two laminæ, which have been separated by accident or force, are brought together again, they immediately reclasp : the connexion, whatever it was, is perfectly recovered, and the beard of the feather becomes as smooth and firm as if nothing had happened to it. Draw your finger down the feather, which is against the grain, and you break, probably, the junction of some of the contiguous threads; draw your finger up the feather, and
The quill part of a feather is composed of circular and longitudinal fibres. In making a pen, you must scrape off the coat of circular fibres, or the quill will split in a ragged, jagged, manner, making what boys call cat's teeth.
you restore all things to their former state. This is no common contrivance; and now for the mechanism by which it is effected. The threads or laminæ above mentioned are interlaced with one another; and the interlacing is performed by means of a vast number of fibres, or teeth, which the laminæ shoot forth on each side, and which hook and grapple together. A friend of mine counted fifty of these fibres in one twentieth of an inch. These fibres are crooked; but curved after a different manner: for those which proceed from the thread on the side towards the extremity of the feather are longer, more flexible, and bent downward; whereas those which proceed from the side towards the beginning, or quill-end of the feather, are shorter, firmer, and turn upwards. The process then which takes place is as follows: when two laminæ are pressed together, so that these long fibres are forced far enough over the short ones, their crooked parts fall into the cavity made by the crooked parts of the others; just as the latch that is fastened to a door, enters into the cavity of the catch fixed to the door-post, and there hooking itself, fastens the door; for it is properly in this manner, that one thread of a feather is fastened to the other.
This admirable structure of the feather, which it is easy to see with the microscope, succeeds perfectly for the use to which nature has designed it; which use was, not only that the lamina might be united, but that when one thread or lamina has been separated from another by some external violence, it might be reclasped with sufficient facility and expedition.
In the ostrich, this apparatus of crotchets and fibres, of hooks and teeth, is wanting; and we see the consequence of the want. The filaments hang loose and separate from one another, forming only a kind of down; which constitution of the feathers, however it may fit them for the flowing honours of a lady's headdress, may be reckoned an imperfection in the bird, inasmuch as wings, composed of these feathers, although they may greatly assist it in running, do not serve for flight.
But under the present division of our subject, our business with feathers is, as they are the covering of the bird. And herein a singular circumstance occurs. In the small order of birds which winter with us, from a snipe downwards, let the external colour of the feathers be what it will, their Creator has universally given them a bed of black down next their bodies. Black,
• The above account is taken from Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by the Royal Academy of Paris, published in 1701, p. 219.