« VorigeDoorgaan »
No.71.7 NOVEMBER, 1822. [Vol. VI.
ACCOUNT OF A MERMAID, Said to be caught on the North Coast of China, and now arrived in
(WITH A WOOD-CUT.) The following curious account of a Mermaid has been lately given to the public in an extract of a letter from the Rev. Dr. PhilIP, Representative of the London Missionary Society, at Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, dated April 28, 1822:
" I have to-day seen a Mermaid, now exhibiting in this town. I have always treated the existence of this creature as fabulous ; but my scepticism is at length removed. As it is probable no description of this extraordinary creature has yet reached England, the following particulars respecting it may gratify your curiosity and amuse you.-The head is almost the size of that of a baboon, It is thinly covered with black hair, hanging down, and not inclined to frizzle. On the upper lip and on the chin there are a few hairs, resembling those upon the head. The cheek-bones are prominent. The forehead is low; but except in this particular, the features are much better proportioned, and bear a more decided resemblance to the human countenance, than those of any of the baboon tribes. The head is turned back, and the countenance has an expression of terror, which gives it an appearance of a caricature of the human face; but I am disposed to think that both these circumstances are accidental, and have arisen Vol. VI.
from the manner in which the creature met its death. It bears the appearance of having died in great agony. The ears, nose, lips, chin, breasts, nipples, fingers, and nails, resemble those of a human figure. The length of the animal is nearly three feet; but not having been well preserved, it has shrunk considerably, and must have been both longer and thicker when alive than it is now. Its resemblance to the human species ceases immediately under the mamma. On the line of separation, and directly under the breast, are two fins. From the point where the human figure ceases, which is about twelve inches below the top of the head, it resembles a large fish of the salmon species. It is covered with scales all over ; on the lower parts of the animal, the scales resemble those of a fish, but on that part of the animal which resembles the human form, they are much less, and scarcely perceptible, except on a near inspection. On the lower part of the body it has six fins, one dorsal, two ventral, two pectoral, and the tail. The pectoral fins are very remarkable; they are horizontal, and evidently formed as an apparatus' to support the creature when in an erect posture, like that in which it has been sometimes represented combing its hair. The figure of the tail is exactly that which is given in the usual representation of the Mermaid. The Proprictor of this extraordinary animal is CAPT. BADES, of Boston, in the United States of America. Since writing the above description, he has called upon me, and I have learned from him the following particulars :-It was caught somewhere on the north of China by a fisherman who sold it for a trifle; after which it was brought to Batavia. Here it was purchased by CAPT. Eades for 5000 Spanish dollars, and he has since been offered 10,000 Spanish dollars for it, but refuses to part with it for that sum. CAPTAIN EADes is a passenger on board the American ship Lion, now in Table Bay; he leaves this port in about a fortnight, and the Lion visits the Thames on her passage to America, so that it will probably be soon exhibited in London."
The circumstance of no tidings having been received of the arrival of this marvellous and longdoubted production of nature, made us somewhat sceptical, whether, after all, some deception had not been practised by the exhibitor upon the spectators.
delights things of sont closerne of the
We are now informed, however, that the Mermaid, of which we have given a representation, has actually arrived in London, and will, after it has been shown to his Majesty, be exhibited to the public; so that it will be speedily determined by our prying naturalists, whether any deception in the composition of this preserved specimen has been practised, or whether that connecting link between the human species and the “ monsters of the deep,” which has for so many ages. been disputed, has been at length discovered. Certainly, if the drawing from which the above engraving is taken was accurately made, the exterior resemblance of the upper part of the animal, to hu- • manity, is somewhat closer than well accords with those feelings of self-admiration in which our species delights to indulge. Waiting for the report of men of science, upon the examination of this animal, we shall only observe, that something is to be said on both sides of the question, as to the existence of the homo marinus, the present subject being left out of the consideration.
The belief in its existence is probably very ancient; and it may well be supposed to have given rise to those fabulous creations of the ancient poets, the SYRENS, who are described with women's faces and fishes' tails; and there are antique representations of them both under this form, and also of that of birds in the inferior part of the body. The figure which they make in the poetry of Homer and VIRGIL will be recollected by our readers; and CLAUDIAN says, in allusion to their enchanting singing, that sailors were wrecked on their rocks without regret, and even expired in raptures,- Dulce malum in pelago Siren. From the period of the middle ages until the present day, reports, or confident statements,
of their appearance have occurred. In 1187, one is said to have been caught on the coast of Suffolk, and kept by the governor six months ; unhappily it retained a strong predilection for its native element, and one day plunged into the sea, and was heard of no more. A more tractable one is alleged to have been caught by some girls in Holland in 1430, who took it home, and taught it to spin, and to make its reverences before a crucifix! In 1560, as we learn from the History of the Jesuits, no fewer than seven were taken at one draught of a net on the western coast of Ceylon, of which fact some of these Fathers themselves were witnesses. At a later period one was seen on the coast of Martinique, of which, due attestation was made before a notary; and the Baltic Sea has also, at different times, yielded its tribute of these marvels to many who saw and reported without the satisfaction of being believed. To this evidence, whatever it may be worth, may be added that of analogy, Nature seems to abhor sudden transitions; and as light and darkness are connected by the soft and uniting twi. light, so minerals with vegetables, vegetables with animals, and the different genera and species of ani. mals with each other, and if the distance between man and the inferior land-animals has been broken by the intermediate step furnished by the baboon, it is not violently unreasonable to suppose that we may be reminded of our common relation to creatures of another element by the intervention of the Siren of ichthyology. It was a favourite idea among many old naturalists, that the sea showeth the likeness and shapes not only of land-creatures, but of fowls in the air; yea, of men and women.”
On the other hand, it is an unfavourable circum