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being from a dew that in the spring falls
upon the leaves of trees; and that some
kinds of them are from a dew left upon
herbs and flowers; and others from a dew
left upon coleworts or cabbages: all which
kinds of dews, being thickened and condensed,
are by the sun's generative heat,
most of them hatched, and in three days
made living creatures." Dr. Darwin was
inclined to think that insects are derived
from particles of flowers kindled into separate
vitalityan opinion which seerns in some
degree supported by the modern microscopical
discovery of active molecules in plants.

Frogs were once thought to be a kind of
animated mudprobably from their being
spawned in ditches, and from their undergoing
a slow and visible process of formation.
After a certain period, it was supposed that
they returned to their pristine material,
melting gradually away into their native
slime. Toads, also, were said to have the
same origin; and it was asserted, shortly
after one of the great plagues of London that
toads were found in the low grounds about
the metropolis, with tails two or three inches
long, although they are generally without
any tail whatevera phenomenon which was
thought to argue "a great disposition to
putrefaction in the soil and air." Of the
same class of opinions is that relating to the
utter shapelessness of a bear's whelp immediately
after birth and until they have been
fashioned by the dam's tongue (which Sir
Thomas Browne has condescended to confute
in his Vulgar Errors); and a ghastly story
concerning a serpent which arises from the
pith of a man's back-bone after death. Paulus
Æmilius avers that in the tomb of Charles
Martel was discovered one of these snakes;
for the existence of which, Sandys, in his
commentary on the Fifteenth Book of the
Metamorphoses, gives this portentous reason:
"In the beginning, the Serpent infused his
poison into man; and no marvaile if from
that contagion a serpent should be engendered
of his marrow." (!) Jeremy Taylor relates a
story of a fair young German gentleman,
who, after the frequent importunities of his
friends that he should have his portrait
taken, told them that they might send a
painter to his vault a few days after his
burial, and, if they pleased, might cause him
to draw the image of his death unto the life.
This being done, they "found his face
half-eaten, and his midriff and back-bone full of
serpents. And so he stands among his
ancestors." After this, we really feel uncomfortable
in the region of our vertebræ, and
decidedly suspicious of our midriff.

Bacon was so impressed with the truth of
such stories as these, that, in his philosophical
romance of the New Atlantis, he makes the
rearing of novel kinds of animals from putrefaction
one of the special studies of the
inmates of Solomon's House.

Still stranger fancies than any of the above
have had their periods of belief. Kepler
thought that comets were a sort of chimæras
starting into life in the regions of space: and
in the old German romance of Doctor
Faustus we find this opinion set forth with
a scientific particularity that would make
modern astronomers stare. According to the
Doctor, comets proceed from the conjunction
of the sun and moon! But, in truth, there
is no limit to the lunatic dreams of morbid
speculatists. Wild as the conception of Mrs.
Shelley's Frankenstein appears to be, it does
not lack its counterpart in the actual aberrations
of real men. Paracelsus aimed at the
making of pygmies; and Baptista Porta conceived
the possibility of a similar result!
We laugh at these fancies now, and rightly;
yet equally wondrous incidents in this great
mystery of life are daily taking place in our
own bodies. We cannot, at our will, evoke
new forms of vitality; yet we ourselves are
undergoing a perpetual decay and reconstruction.
We die and are born again, in
some imperceptible atom, every instant.
That body which was the conscious and
sensitive dwelling-house of our spirit in
childhood, and through the gates and avenues
of which our soul looked forth upon the outer
world, and saw, and felt, and understood, the
majestic shows of the universe, and the
amplitudes of beingthat temporary shell is
already dead and in its grave; and the
organisation which we now possess is the
matrix of its own successor. It is calculated
that, from the continual falling off of old, and
access of fresh particles, we acquire a perfectly
new body once in every seven years, or
even less; so that we may be said to be constantly
refashioning our own identity. Thus,
that which seems most tangible and solid
fluctuates with treacherous mutability, and
vanishes even from ourselves: while the
inner man remains unmoved in the midst of
his sandy and shifting habitation. The
creations of romance are nothing to this
hourly miracle. The first wild guesses of
infantine science, when every laboratory was
as a haunted chamber in the dark, were not
more strange and bewildering. And so the
marvel of existence expands before us as we
advance in our inquiries; and the phantoms
of fable grow tame before the living verities
of God.

Now ready, price Threepence, or Stamped for Post, Fourpence,
THE SEVEN POOR TRAVELLERS,
Being the
CHRISTMAS NUMBER
of HOUSEHOLD WORDS, and containing the amount
of One Regular Number and a Half.

Next Week will be Published the EIGHTEENTH PART of
NORTH AND SOUTH.
By the AUTHOR OF MARY BARTON.

Published at the Office, No. 16, Wellington Street North, Strand. Printed by Bradbury & Evans, Whitefriars, London.

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