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No. 120 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 120.
Wednesday, July 18, 1711.
‘… Equidem credo, quia sit Divinitus illis

Ingenium …’


My Friend Sir Roger is very often merry with me upon my passing so much of my Time among his Poultry: He has caught me twice or thrice looking after a Bird’s Nest, and several times sitting an Hour or two together near an Hen and Chickens. He tells me he believes I am personally acquainted with every Fowl about his House; calls such a particular Cock my Favourite, and frequently complains that his Ducks and Geese have more of my Company than himself.

I must confess I am infinitely delighted with those Speculations of Nature which are to be made in a Country-Life; and as my Reading has very much lain among Books of natural History, I cannot forbear recollecting upon this Occasion the several Remarks which I have met with in Authors, and comparing them with what falls under my own Observation: The Arguments for Providence drawn from the natural History of Animals being in my Opinion demonstrative.

The Make of every Kind of Animal is different from that of every other Kind; and yet there is not the least Turn in the Muscles or Twist in the Fibres of any one, which does not render them more proper for that particular Animal’s Way of Life than any other Cast or Texture of them would have been.

The most violent Appetites in all Creatures are Lust and Hunger: The first is a perpetual Call upon them to propagate their Kind; the latter to preserve themselves.

It is astonishing to consider the different Degrees of Care that descend from the Parent to the Young, so far as is absolutely necessary for the leaving a Posterity. Some Creatures cast their Eggs as Chance directs them, and think of them no farther, as Insects and several Kinds of Fish: Others, of a nicer Frame, find out proper Beds to [deposite [1]] them in, and there leave them; as the Serpent, the Crocodile, and Ostrich: Others hatch their Eggs and tend the Birth, ’till it is able to shift for it self.

What can we call the Principle which directs every different Kind of Bird to observe a particular Plan in the Structure of its Nest, and directs all of the same Species to work after the same Model? It cannot be Imitation; for though you hatch a Crow under a Hen, and never let it see any of the Works of its own Kind, the Nest it makes shall be the same, to the laying of a Stick, with all the other Nests of the same Species. It cannot be Reason; for were Animals indued with it to as great a Degree as Man, their Buildings would be as different as ours, according to the different Conveniences that they would propose to themselves.

Is it not remarkable, that the same Temper of Weather, which raises this genial Warmth in Animals, should cover the Trees with Leaves and the Fields with Grass for their Security and Concealment, and produce such infinite Swarms of Insects for the Support and Sustenance of their respective Broods?

Is it not wonderful, that the Love of the Parent should be so violent while it lasts; and that it should last no longer than is necessary for the Preservation of the Young?

The Violence of this natural Love is exemplify’d by a very barbarous Experiment; which I shall quote at Length, as I find it in an excellent Author, and hope my Readers will pardon the mentioning such an Instance of Cruelty, because there is nothing can so effectually shew the Strength of that Principle in Animals of which I am here speaking. ‘A Person who was well skilled in Dissection opened a Bitch, and as she lay in the most exquisite Tortures, offered her one of her young Puppies, which she immediately fell a licking; and for the Time seemed insensible of her own Pain: On the Removal, she kept her Eye fixt on it, and began a wailing sort of Cry, which seemed rather to proceed from the Loss of her young one, than the Sense of her own Torments.