Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

tributed all that lay in its power to disengage fo formidable an antagonist. When the wasp was at liberty, I expected the spider would have set about repairing the breaches that were made in its net, but those it seems were irreparable, wherefore the cobweb was now entirely forsaken, and a new one begun, which was completed in the usual time.

I had now a mind to try how many cobwebs a single spider could furnish, wherefore I destroyed this, and the insect set about another. When I'destroyed the other also, its whole stock seemed entirely exhausted, and it could fpin no more. The arts it made use of to support itself, now deprived of its great ineans of subsistence, were indeed surprising. I have seen it roll up its legs like a ball, and lie motionless for hours together, but cautiously watching all the time; when a fly happened to approach sufficiently near, it would dart out all at once, and often seize its prey.

Of this life, however, it soon began to grow weary, and resolved to invade the possession of some other spider, since it could not make a web of its own. It formed an attack upon a neighbouring fortification with great vigour, and at first was as vigorously repulsed. Not daunted, however, with one defeat, in this manner it continued to lay siege to another's web for three days, and at length, having killed the defendant, actually took poffeffion. When {maller flies happen to fall into the snare, the spider does not sally out at once, but very patiently waits till it is sure of them ; for, upon his immediately approaching, the terror of his appearance might give the captive strength sufficient to get loose : the manner then is to wait patiently till, by ineffectual and impotent struggles, the captive has wasted all its strength, and then he becomes a certain and easy conquest.

The

The insect I am now describing lived three years ; every year it changed its skin, and got a new set of legs. I have sometimes plucked off a leg, which grew again in two or three days. At first it dreaded my approach to its web, but at last it became so familiar as to take a fly out of my hand, and upon my touching any part of the web, would immediately leave its hole, prepared either for a defence or an attack.

To complete this description, it may be observed, that the male spiders are much less than the female, and that the latter are eoviparous. When they come to lay, they spread a part of their web under the eggs, and then roll them up carefully, as we roll up things in a cloth, and thus hatch them in their hole. If disturbed in their holes, they never attempt to efcape without carrying this young brood in their forceps away with them, and thus frequently are facrificed to their paternal affection.

As soon as ever the young ones leave their artificial covering, they begin to spin, and almost fensibly seem to grow bigger. If they have the good fortune, when even but a day old, to catch a fly, they fall too with good appetites; but they live sometimes three or four days without any sort of sustenance, and yet still continue to grow larger, so as every day to double their former size. As they grow old, however, they do not still continue to increase, but their legs only continue to grow longer ; and when a spider becomes entirely stiff with age, and unable to seize its prey, it dies at length of hunger.

THÉ

THE CHARACTERISTICS

OF

GREATNESS.

IN

every duty, in every science in which we would wish to arrive at perfection, we should propose for the object of our pursuit some certain station even beyond our abilities ; some imaginary excellence, which

may

amuse and serve to animate our enquiry. In deviating from others, in following an unbeaten road, though we perhaps may never arrive at the wished-for object; yet it is possible we may meet several discoveries by the way ; and the certainty of small advantages, even while we travel with security, is not so amusing as the hopes of great rewards, which inspire the adventurer. Evenit nonnunquam, says Quintilian, ut aliquid grande inveniat qui semper quærit quod nimium eft.

This enterprising spirit is, however, by no means the character of the present age ; every person who should now leave received opinions, who should attempt to be more than a commentator upon philosophy, or an imitator in polite learning, might be regarded as a chimerical projector. Hundreds would be ready not only to point out his errors, but to load him with reproach. Our probable opinions are now regarded as certainties ; the difficulties hitherto undiscovered as utterly inscrutable ; and the writers of the last age inimitable, and therefore the properest models of imitation.

One might be almost induced to deplore the philofophic spirit of the age, which in proportion as it enlightens the mind, increases its timidity, and represses the vigour of every undertaking. Men are now content with being prudently in the right; VOL. IV.

Р

which, could

which, though not the way to make new acquisitions, it must be owned, is the best method of securing what we have. Yet this is certain, that the writer who never deviates, who never hazards a new thought, or a new expression, though his friends may compliment him

upon his fagacity, though criticism lifts her feeble voice in his praise, will feldom arrive at any degree of perfection. The way to acquire lasting esteem, is not by the fewness of a writer's faults, but the greatness of his beauties, and our 'noblest works are generally most replete with both.

An author, who would be fublime, often runs his thought into burlesque ; yet I can readily pardon his mistaking ten times for once fucceeding. True Genius walks along a line, and perhaps our greatest pleasure is in seeing it fo often near falling, without being ever actually down.

Every science has its hitherto undiscovered myfteries, after which men should travel undiscouraged by the failure of former adventurers. Every new attempt serves perhaps to facilitate its future invention. We may not find the Philosopher's stone, but we shall probably hit upon new inventions in pursuing it.

We fhall perhaps never be able to discover the longitude, yet perhaps we nay arrive at new truths in the investigation.

Were any of those fagacious minds among us, (and surely no nation, or no period could ever compare with us in this particular) were any of those minds, I say, who now sit down contented with exploring the intricacies of another's system, bravely to shake off admiration, and undazzled with the fplendour of another's reputation, to chalk out a path to fame for themselves, and boldly cultivate untried experiment, what might not be the result of their inquiries, should the lame study that has made them wise, make them enterprising allo? What 4

every storm.

nevér.

could not such qualities united produce ? But such is not the character of the English, while our neighbours of the Continent launch out into the ocean of science, without proper store for the voyage, we fear shipwreck in every breeze, and consuine in port those powers, which might probably have weathered

Projectors in a state are generally rewarded above their deserts; projectors in the republic of letters,

If wrong, every inferior dunce thinks himself entitled to laugh at their disappointment ; if right, men of superior talents think their honour engaged to oppose, fince every new discovery is a tacit diminution of their own pre-eminence.

To aim at excellence, our reputation, our friends, and our all must be ventured ; by aiming only at mediocrity, we run no risque, and we do little service. Prudence and greatness are ever persuading us to contrary pursuits. The one instructs us to be content with our station, and to find happiness in bounding every wish. The other impels us to superiority, and calls nothing happiness but rapture. The one directs to follow mankind, and to act and think with the rest of the world. The other drives us from the crowd, and exposes us as a mark to all the shafts of envy, or ignorance. Nec minus periculum ex magna fama quam ex mala.

ТАСіт. The rewards of mediocrity are immediately paid, those attending excellence generally paid in reverfion. In a word, the little mind who loves itself, will write and think with the vulgar, but the great mind will be bravely eccentric, and scorn the beaten road, from universal benevolence.

« AnteriorContinuar »