Page images
PDF
EPUB

and solemnly eaten at the feasts of their nativities ; whereat they dressed whole horses, camels, and asses, contemning the poverty of Grecian feasts, as unfurnished of dishes sufficient to fill the bellies of their guests.

Again, while we confine our diet in several places, all things almost are eaten, if we take in the whole earth ;3 for that which is refused in one country is accepted in another and in the collective judgment of the world, particular dis tinctions are overthrown. Thus were it not hard to show, that tigers, elephants, camels, mice, bats, and others, are the food of several countries ; and Lerius, with others, delivers, that some Americans eat of all kinds, not refraining toads and serpents; and some have run so high, as not to spare the flesh of man; a practice inexcusable, nor to be drawn into example, a diet beyond the rule and largest indulgence of God.

As for the objection against beasts and birds of prey it acquitteth not our practice, who observe not this distinction in fishes, nor regard the same in our diet of pikes, perches, and eels; nor are we excused herein, if we examine the stomachs of mackerels, cods, and whitings. Nor is the foulness of food sufficient to justify our choice : for (beside that their natural heat is able to convert the same into laudable aliment) we refuse not many whose diet is more impure than some which we reject; as may be considered in hogs, ducks, puets, and many more.

3 all things almost are eaten, &c.] This chapter, which exhibits all the characteristic acuteness of our author, and has afforded opportunity for the display of his extensive and very curious reading, reminds me of a passage in Burchell's Southern Africa, vol. ii. p. 33, to which I refer the reader.

I remember an amusing illustration of the adage, that one man's food is another's poison, in an incident of which I was a witness. Some years ago, visiting France in company with a Scotch gentleman, we sat down to dinner, just after our landing, at a table d'hôte, at Dieppe. Among the dishes which had been provided to suit the nationality of British visitors, was some ros bif;" a lean square lump of beef roasted to the consistence of mahogany, served up with thin sour gravy. My Scotch friend, after vainly endeavouring to feed on the French dishes, was introduced to the beef. Its toughness he might have endured; but the thin sour gravy was too much! He turned to me with a face of absolute despair, exclaiming, I'll certainly be starved in this country.Milk and eggs were the only food I could prevail on him to taste.

Thus we perceive the practice of diet doth hold no certain Course nor solid rule of selection or confinement; some in an indistinct voracity eating almost any; others out of a timorous pre-opinion refraining very many. Wherein, indeed, necessity, reason, and physic, are the best determinators. Surely many animals may be fed on, like many plants; though not in alimental, yet medical considerations: whereas, having raised antipathies by pre-judgment or education, we often nauseate proper meats, and abhor that diet which disease or temper requireth.

Now, whether it were not best to conform unto the simple diet of our forefathers; whether pure and simple waters were not more healthful than fermented liquors; whether there be not an ample sufficiency without all flesh, in the food of honey, oil, and the several parts of milk ; in the variety of grains, pulses, and all sorts of fruits, since either bread or beverage may be made almost of all; whether nations have rightly confined unto several meats; or whether the common food of one country be not more agreeable unto another; how indistinctly all tempers apply unto the same, and how the diet of youth and old age is confounded; were considerations much concerning health, and might prolong our days, but not this discourse.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Of the Spermaceti Whale. What spermaceti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned Hofmannus, in his work of thirty years,* saith plainly, Nescio quid sit. And therefore need not wonder at

the variety of opinions; while some conceived it to be flos s maris; and many, a bituminous substance floating upon the

sea.

That it was not the spawn of the whale, according to vulgar conceit or nominal appellation, philosophers have I always doubted, not easily conceiving the seminal humour lient of animals should be inflammable or of a floating nature.

* De Medicamentis Oficin.
* Chap. xxvi.] This chapter was first added in 3rd edition.
VOL. I.

2 A

That it proceedeth from the whale, beside the relation of Clusius and other learned observers, was indubitably determined, not many years since, by a spermaceti whale, cast on our coast .of Norfolk ;* which, to lead on further enquiry, we cannot omit to inforn. It contained no less than sixty feet in length, the head somewhat peculiar, with a large prominency over the mouth ; teeth only in the lower jaw, received into fleshy sockets in the upper. The weight of the largest about two pounds; no gristly substances in the mouth, commonly called whale-bones; only two short fins seated forwardly on the back; the eyes but small; the pizzle large and prominent. A lesser whale of this kind, above twenty years ago, was cast upon the same shore.

The description of this whale seems omitted by Gesner, Rondeletius, and the first editions of Aldrovandus; but described in the Latin impression of Pareus, in the Exoticks of Clusius, and the Natural History of Nirembergius; but more amply in the icons and figures of Johnstonus.

Mariners (who are not the best nomenclators) called it a jubartas, or rather gibbartas. Of the same appellation we meet with one in Rondeletius, called by the French, gibbar, from its round and gibbous back. The name, gibbarta, we find also given unto one kind of Greenland whales ; but this of ours seemed not to answer the whale of that denomination, but was more agreeable unto the trumpo or spermaceti whale, according to the account of our Greenland describers in Purchas; and maketh the third among the eight remarkable whales of that coast.

Out of the head of this whale, having been dead divers days and under putrefaction, flowed streams of oil and spermaceti, which was carefully taken up and preserved by the coasters. But upon breaking up, the magazine of spermaceti was found in the head, lying in folds and courses, in the bigness of goose-eggs, encompassed with large flaky substances,

[ocr errors]

* Near Wells.

+ Near Hunstanton.

5 trumpo or spermaceti whale.] The cachalot macrocephalus. The upper part of its enormous head, as here described, is filled with an oil, called (very absurdly) spermaceti, which fixes when it cools, assuming a consistence like that of the pulp of a water-melon, and when completely concrete, it is crystallized and brilliant.

as large as a man's head, in form of honeycombs, very white and full of oil.

Some resemblance or trace hereof there seems to be in the physiter or capidolio of Rondeletius; while he delivers, that a fatness, more liquid than oil

, runs from the brain of that animal; which being out, the relicks are like the scales of Sardinos pressed into a mass ; which melting with heat, are again concreted by cold. And this many conceive to have been the fish which swallowed Jonas ; although, for the largeness of the mouth, and frequency in those seas, it may possibly be the lamia.

Some part of the spermaceti found on the shore was pure, and needed little depuration; a great part mixed with fætid oil, needing good preparation, and frequent expression, to bring it to a flaky consistency. And not only the head, but other parts contained it. For the carnous parts being roasted the oil dropped out, an axungious and thicker part subsiding; the oil itself contained also much in it, and still after many years some is obtained from it.

Greenland enquirers seldom meet with a whale of this kind; and therefore it is but a contingent commodity, not reparable from any other. It flameth white and candent like camphor, but dissolveth not in aqua fortis like it. Some lumps containing about two ounces, kept ever since in water, afford a fresh and flosculous smell. Well prepared and separated from the oil, it is of a substance unlikely to decay, and may outlast the oil required in the composition of Matthiolus.

Of the large quantity of oil, what first came forth by expression from the spermaceti grew very white and clear, like that of almonds or ben. What came by decoction was red. It was found to spend much in the vessels which contained it; it freezeth or coagulateth quickly with cold, and the newer soonest. It seems different from the oil of any other animal, and very much frustrated the expectation of our soap-boilers, as not incorporating or mingling with their lyes. But it mixeth well with painting

colours, though hardly drieth at all. Combers of wool made use hereof, and country people for cuts, aches, and hard tumours. It may prove of good

6

axungious.] Fatty. From axungia.

medical use, and serve for a ground in compounded oils and balsams. Distilled, it affords a strong oil, with a quick and piercing water. Upon evaporation it gives a balsam, which is better performed with turpentine distilled with spermaceti

. Had the abominable scent permitted, enquiry had been made into that strange composure of the head, and hillock of flesh about it. Since the workmen affirmed they met with spermaceti before they came to the bone, and the head yet preserved seems to confirm the same. The sphincters inserv. ing unto the fistula or spout, might have been examined, since they are so notably contrived in other cetaceous animals; as also the larynx or throttle, whether answerable unto that of dolphins and porpoises in the strange composure and figure which it maketh. What figure the stomach maintained in this animal of one jaw of teeth, since in porpoises, which abound in both, the ventricle is trebly divided, and since in that formerly taken nothing was found but weeds and a loligo. The heart, lungs, and kidneys, had not escaped; wherein are remarkable differences from animals of the land : likewise what humour the bladder contained, but especially the seminal parts, which might have determined the difference of that humour from this which beareth its name.

In vain it was to rake for ambergriese in the paunch of this leviathan, as Greenland discoverers, and attests of experience dictate that they sometimes swallow great lumps thereof in the sea ; insufferable fætor denying that enquiry: and yet if, as Paracelsus encourageth, ordure makes the best musk, and from the most fætid substances may be drawn the most odoriferous essences; all that had not Vespasian's

might boldly swear here was a subject fit for such extractions.

* Cui odor lucri ex re qualibet. ? ambergriese.] This substance is excrement hardened by disease, and mixed with undigested aliment: found in lumps in the intestines.

nose

1

« PreviousContinue »