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But aid came too late, and in a few minutes
later he expired, involving in his own fate those
innocent sufferers.


IN the year 1748ten years after the death
of its learned authora book was published at
Amsterdam, under the title, Telliamed, or
Discoveries of an Indian Philosopher with a French
Missionary. It had been written by a Frenchman,
whose real name was De Maillet, and was
dedicated to the author of some imaginary
voyages to the sun and moon. The book is in
a pleasant style, and discusses several questions
of interest in natural history in a manner not a
little original and ingenious. The title Telliamed
is a mere anagram of the author's name,
and certainly the Indian philosopher and the
French missionary have very little to do with
the subject treated of; but the argument and
the book are not much the worse for their

Benoît de Maillet was born in 1656 at St.
Mihiel on the Meuse, in France, and is
described to have passed the first thirty-six years
of his life in the country in complete idleness.
No doubt during this time the speculative
tendency of his mind was nourished, and his powers
of observation quickened. The first we hear of
his public life is that he was sent to Egypt in
1692, as Consul-General of France, and he
evidently applied himself with energy and
intelligence to acquire the knowledge needed in so
important a post. Ten years afterwards he was
appointed ambassador to Abyssinia, but declining
to accept an honour which at that time must
have involved great risk and hardship, he
obtained permission to exchange it for the consulship
at Leghorn. After remaining some years
in this and in other important occupations, he
retired from public life, and, residing at Marseilles,
found leisure to prepare and publish a collection
of interesting documents concerning Egypt
and its inhabitants. His health gave way while
pursuing researches and preparing material for
other works on physical geography, but he lived
to an advanced age, and left behind him the
unpublished speculations which were afterwards
given to the world under the curious title we
have already quoted.

De Maillet, adopting the Neptunian hypotheis,
and putting forth the opinion that the
earth originally existed as a chaotic mass of
mixed earth and water, reduced after a time by
evaporation to the division and separation of
land from water, which we now know to exist,
was inclined to account for this by the theory
that the earth is gradually approaching the sun
that it has always been doing soand will
continue to creep nearer and nearer, till its final
destruction by conflagration on the last day.
With this theory he mixes up another, arguing
that as the whole earth was originally covered
with water, all animals of every kind must have
been originally derived from aqueous parentage.
In illustration and support of this view, he
mentions as familiarly known, the existence of
mermen and mermaids, and other fabulous monsters
of antiquity; and associates them with flying
fishes, and other real animals, as exhibiting
singular analogies with birds and quadrupeds.

Bearing in mind these analogies, our author
proceeds to insist that the gradual increase of
land, owing to the evaporation of the water that
at one time covered the earth, could not but be
accompanied by a corresponding modification of
the animal inhabitants. The animals dwelling
in deep water would have to accustom
themselves to shallower water. The original tenants
of the shallow water would be reduced to adapt
themselves, first to absolute shoals and mud
banks, and soon to land altogether dry, which
never received the wash of the tidal wave; and
in order to obtain this adaptation, and retain
habits so different from those with which they
were created, they must have been endowed with
considerable elasticity and adaptability. Thus
he considers permanent varieties might be
secured, and one species be in the course of time
transmuted into another.

The following extract from Telliamed will
give some idea both of the author's views and
his style in reference to this curious subject:

It may happen, as, indeed, we know it often does
happen, that winged or flying fishes, chasing their
prey, or being pursued in the sea, carried away by
the eager desire either for food or to escape from
death, or being, perhaps, impelled by storm-waves,
have fallen into swamps or grass, whence they were
unable to escape, and that in this state they have
acquired a greater capacity for flying. Their fins,
no longer bathed in the sea, split and separated in
consequence of the drying. Finding in the reedy
marshes and swamps sufficient food to sustain them,
the rays of their fins separating from each other,
would become prolonged and clothed with feathers,
or, to speak more correctly, the membranes by which
they had before been connected would become
metamorphosed. The feathers thus formed would grow,
the skin would become covered with down of the
colour of the original skin, and the down would
grow. The small ventrical fins of a fish would
become the feet of a bird; the beak and the neck of
some birds would lengthen and of others shorten, and
so on, for the rest of the body. But a general
conformity would exist with the original structure, and
this may always be easily recognised.

Take, for example, the fowls large and small,
even those of India, whether crested or not, even
those of which the plumage goes the reverse way
(from the tail to the head), and you may find similar
animals in the sea both scaled and not scaled. All the
parrots, whose plumage is so peculiar, and the rarest
and most strangely marked birds, resemble fishes,
painted like them, in black, brown, grey, yellow,
green, red, violet, gold and azure; and this precisely
in those parts where the plumage of the same birds
is so strangely diversified.*
* Telliamed, tom. ii p.166, ed. 1755.

Strange and little founded in natural history
knowledge as this argument may seem, it is not
wanting in a kind of picturesque ingenuity.
The idea clearly is, that an animal placed in
new and unexpected conditions which do not