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commences with the subject then in agitation about the proposed change of his profession, and seems to have been written be+ tween the 1759, when he became corrector to MURRAY and CocHRANE, and the 1763, when he married. Soon leaving, however, the incipient topic about his entering into the clerical profession, it discusses some philosophical subjects upon which his friend appears to have consulted him, and narrates the circumstances of an interview between our young philosophical journeyman printer and Dr John Hope, then Professor of Botany in the University of Edinburgh.
Mr WILLIAM Smellie to *****
will have me to wear sables, must say that, if I had no other earthly objection to the sacred function, I could not answer for it to my conscience. My ideas of the virtues and endowments which I judge *indispensibly necessary to the constitution of a clergyman run so very high, that my heart flatly tells me I am both unqualified and unworthy of that honourable but much abused office.
İn compliance with your demands, I shall telate an anecdote concerning the behaviour of Dr. Hope, which I am certain will not entertain
half so much as it surprised myself. The occasion of it was this. GARLAND asked a sight of my discourses on Vegetation and Generation ; and, after reading them, he shewed them to the Doctor. Some days after this I accidentally encountered with the Doctor at the Cross * The usual compliments being over, and our hats mutually replaced, he told me that he had seen my discourses, and was
* The Cross is a central situation in the main street of the old city of Edinburgh, where the inhabitants used long to resort at a fixed hour for the purposes of business and ordinary intercourse. The former part of this still exists, especially on Wednesday, the market-day: But, from the vast modern extension of the new city, the latter is now divided among nuinerous coffee-houses, reading: rooms, and various fashionable lounges.
pleased with them. He next asked me if I had purchased the Systema Naturæ ? When I replied in the negative, he said there was not a single copy to be had in Edinburgh, but that he designed to lay hold of the first that came to this country, and to make me a present of it, adding, that he thought he could not dispose of it to better purpose. Thanks being given, &c. he desired me to call upon him at eight o'clock. The appointment was faithfully kept on both sides. We discoursed about an hour on plants, insects, chemistry, and other topics. I took an opportunity to ask him about the arrows
* He entirely satisfied me upon that head, that the snails did not throw them out of their bodies, as the fluttering Monsieur observed; but that the arrows were merely thin membranous bodies situate somewhere about their genitalia, which they invariably and reciprocally erected and struck each other with when excited by the passion of propagation. You may
* This refers to some crude notions about the sexual intercourse of snails, which his correspondent had requested Mr SMELLIE to explain, and which will be found elucidated in one of his letters. These, and many other of the vermes, are now known to be androgynous; and the phenomenon mentioned in the text is in reality a reciprocation of active and passive mu. tual impregnation.
spect, and probably discover, this mysterious little machine. We next supped and drank wine. After this we went to another room, and read over my discourse on Vegetation. He started several difficulties, some of which were the very remarks you made in the society; and I removed them as well as might be. After breaking a few rotten eggs, or, if you
chuse your simile, after thrusting a few squamous snails into my hand *, he concluded with assuring me, that he would use his utmost influence to put me into a situation that should be more grateful to my taste than conning over insipid lawisms f; and, in the interim, offered me the full use of his library. I have a double view in telling this story ; 1. To shew that there is such a thing as disinterested benevolence in the world, bad as it is; and, 2. To tell you,
you know sufficiently already, that vanity lurks in a secret corner of my little heart. When I first began to imagine myself superior to
* Certain quaint expressions, meaning praise or compliments.
+ Alluding to his employment of Corrector of the press, where he had a great number of law papers to read and correct.
scriveners *, I then felt vanity springing up apace in my mind. Although I have got some very humbling strokes, from observing the genius and ability of others, whom I know to be more ingenious, more learned, and more wise than myself; yet I confess this passion is far from being totally mastered. For some time past, however, I have every day sunk a degree in my own esteem. How to overcome, or where to fix the lawful bounds of vanity, if any such there are, may be a very proper enquiry for your next weeks epistle.
As to the medicinal virtues of snails; not having a dispensatory by me, I can only say this much, that I know they are frequently prescribed, and particularly in consumptions, LINNAEUS ranks snails among the Vermes, which is the sixth order of his Regnum Animale ; whereas serpents make the first order of his third class of animals, viz. the Amphi
• Probably referring to the apprentices and clerks to the writers or attornies, who might consider themselves as superior bea ings to such of their former school fellows as were in mechanical employments.
+ There is an inaccuracy, or rather loose want of precision here, by confounding in careless epistolary writing the difference between