« PředchozíPokračovat »
are numbered 1, 2, 3, and among them one which is not of those enumerated, but a page before, as the only ones belonging to this division.
Now it is bard to make anything of this, and yet the author, for aught we know, may have understood himself very well, and had a very clear object in what he has done. Still we do not keep up with him in his easy transition from genus to species, from species to division, and from division to species again. This, however, might have been accidental were it the only instance, but it is not so. Proceeding to the next family, Insectivora, we find immediately after the character of the family, a ‘Ist Division,' intended to include the first tribe of this family, according to Cuvier, from whom in fact the description of its character is almost literally translated. Here is an instance of the vague use of terms, concerning which we have spoken. Tribe was used under the former family to designate a subdivision of the genera belonging to a family, whilst now the term division is used for a similar purpose, which, under the same family, was employed to stand for the parts of a subdivided genus. But although the first division, or, more properly, tribe of this fainily, is thus noticed and characterised, we look in vain for the second. This is entirely and unaccountably omitted, although there are two genera belonging to it, Condylura and Talpa, which stand thus in the work in a tribe to which they do not belong, and with a character to which they do not correspond.
The family Carnivora follows next, and this is by Cuvier divided into three tribes, Plantigrada, Digitigrada, and Amphibia. Genera belonging to all these tribes are contained in Dr Harlan's book, but he announces only two. The plantigrade animals are defined, (p. 45,) and called 'Ist tribe,' but we hear no more of tribes, till fifty pages farther onward we encounter the third tribe, Amphibia, which, however, is not called third, but is introduced simply thus, Tribe. CARNIVOROUS AMPHIBIOUS ANIMALS (carnivora pinnipedia).' This method of arrangement, taken in good earnest, would actually include all the digitigrade animals, such as the weasel, fox, wolf, and cat, under the first tribe.
In the next order, Glires, a similar negligence occurs. This order is generally divided into two families, the characVOL. XXII.-NO. 50.
ter of which is founded upon the clavicle, wbich is strong and powerful io one, and only rudimentary and imperfect in the other. The first of these is announced in its proper place, but is styled section; another term to express a division corresponding to those, which had been before introduced under a different name. Of the second we discover no intimation, although two genera are described, which are properly comprehended under it.
These are instances of carelessness, which ought not to have been suffered to appear in a scientific work, professing to remove confusion, correct errors, and supply deficiencies. They are so palpable, indeed, that were they not so numerous, one would have attributed them to inaccuracy of the press. There are others relating to the more minute details of this book, a few of which only can be noticed. The genus Phoca affords a memorable example of the loose and incomplete manner, in which the author treats his subject. This genus, it may be proper to premise, has been subdivided by Peron into two subgenera, one of which retains the denomination Phoca, the other has received that of Ortaria. Dr Harlan gives in the first place five dental formula, but without the smallest intimation of the purpose for which they are introduced ; no use is made of them, no subdivision founded upon them, they have nothing to do with the two subgenera; they correspond to nothing which he has given us with regard to any other genus, except perhaps Vespertilio, which, as we have seen, is far from being so full of light, as to be able to impart any. Having described the genus, the subgenus Phoca is announced, which is numbered 1, and its character given. Then follow six species numbered from one to six, the sixth of which belongs to the subgenus Otaria, and is named Otaria with Phoca as a synonym, whilst the notice and character of subgenus 2, which should precede it, are omitted. What makes the matter worse is, that in the next sheet, into which the account of this genus extends for a few lines, a note is appended, containing the notice and character of Otaria, omitted in its proper place, a notice which no one would comprehend, who was not already acquainted with the bistory of the genus. The perspicuity, moreover, of a work of science should not depend upon the contingency of the author's perceiving his errors and omissions, in season to correct them in the next proof.
Several errors occur in the arrangement of the names and synonyms of genera and species, which render it uncertain, what the name of the genus or species in question is really intended to be. Thus, under the genus Procyon, we find the species Ursus lotor; under Taxus, Meles labradorius; under Rytina, Stellerus borealis. This is explained by stating, that, in the first case the synonym of the species is placed instead of the name, the name being among the synonyms, whilst in the second and third the same mistake occurs with regard to the synonym of the genus. This at least appears to be the explanation. There are errors of a different kind in the names. Thus, we have a genus called Taphozous taphiens, the French name, (les Taphiens) or the name of another genus having crept in by accident. The genus Felis is styled, ‘Cat or Felis ;' and in the same way we have • Pecari or Dicotyles,' and Cachalot, Physeter.'
The style of Dr Harlan's work is loose, and indicative of haste and want of revision. Two or three examples will explain our meaning.
The above description,' says the author, 'is taken principally from a prepared specimen in the possession of Mr C. Bonaparte, and was killed on the Blue Mountains, in the state of Pennsylvania.' p. 198. The plane of the occiput represents a semicircle.'
• We are credibly informed by an eyewitness of the fact, that the Norwegian rat did not make its appearance in the United States, any length of time previous to the year 1775. p. 149.
We intended to make a variety of other criticisms, both in matters of science and language, which are omitted, because, as it is impossible to notice them all, it is sufficient to have introduced enough to justify the opinions we have expressed. The work is, in fact, so constantly disfigured by instances of looseness, carelessness, and inaccuracy, as to destroy confidence in the fidelity of its execution. The author is evidently not deficient in knowledge of natural history; his errors have mainly arisen, as it appears to us, from the inconsiderate haste with which his work has been written, and hurried through the press. As further proofs of this haste, it may be stated, that Dr Harlan has inserted in his Addenda,
the description of a number of species, discovered by Messrs Lewis and Clarke, and described in the account of their Expedition up the Missouri many years since, a work to which he repeatedly refers in the body of his book; and that, for the descriptions of nearly all the species of the last genus in the volume, Balæva, he refers us to Bonnaterre's Cetologie, instead of translating or abridging these descriptions, a task of which he has not been in other places very sparing.
There is almost a total want in this work of that mechanical assistance, which may be derived from a skilful application of the mode of printing, to the illustration of the details of natural history, or the advantages which proceed from this source, even Cuvier has not disdained to avail himself in his great work, upon the classification of the animal kingdom; and whoever has had occasion to consult it must have perceived the immense facility, which is thus afforded to the student. It is only to appropriate a particular type to the names, and to the descriptions appertaining to each division and subdivision, and the eye catches at once the relative importance and extent of what relates to each. This mechanical aid should never be forgotten ; it is of no trifling assistance even to the most experienced naturalist. But in the Fauna Americana, with a few exceptions, both titles and text are in the same dead unvaried type; the former in italics, the latter in roman; so that the clumsy expedient is adopted, of repeating the words genus, subgenus, and species, whenever these divisions occur.
It will be observed upon reference to the catalogue, on a preceding page of this article, that among the animals of North America, Dr Harlan has inserted a considerable number of fossil species. In fact, the whole of those of the order Edentata, and all but one of the indigenous animals of the order Pachydermata, are fossil. The results which have been obtained, by the investigations of some European naturalists into the characters of fossil bones, have something in them grand and imposing. With regard more particularly to those of Cuvier, there seems to be no reason to doubt that the conclusions, at which he has arrived, possess all the certainty of wbich the subject is capable. The facilities afforded by bis situation for the pursuit of this branch of study, the extent of his attainments in the comparative anatomy of living animals, and, with all this previous qualification, the slow, cautious, and deliberate manner in which he comes to results, give him strong claims to our confidence. Yet it is hard to go along with him when he expresses his belief, that from the smallest remaining bone of any animal, it is possible to determine not only its order, but its genus and species; in short, to reconstruct its whole anatomy; just as it is possible for the mathematician, from any given equation of a curve, to demonstrate all its properties.' That there is such a relation between the parts of the body of every animal, as is asserted by this distinguished anatomist, and that the peculiarity, which every species exhibits as a whole, is also impressed upon even the most minute part of its fabric, may be readily admitted, but that this character is cognisable in the fang of a cuspidatus, the smallest bone of the tarsus, or one of the extreme phalanges, exceeds our belief. We cannot forget, in expressing this opinion, the mistake of a European anatomist, second to but few of bis time, who, in examining some fossil bones, placed an important fragment of the head in a reversed position, and thus gave an entirely new face to the animal. It would not be passing strange, could these antediluvian quadrupeds rise up in judgment against the philosophical disturbers of their remains, if they should exhibit metamorphoses, wrought by the hand of science, extremely inconvenient, and somewhat inconsistent with their former habits. The mammoth, perhaps, might not be sufficiently grateful to anatomists for the elephantine proboscis, so generously bestowed upon him; and the megalonyx might very reasonably prefer ranging the woods, a ferocious and majestic beast of prey, as Mr Jefferson describes him, to a life of idleness and inactivity, under the very different character of the three toed sloth of the antediluvian world, according to the award of Cuvier.
Seriously, we think that the splendid discoveries, which have resulted from the extraordinary attainments of the French anatomist, and we would not speak of them except with respect and confidence, are likely to lead others into very imperfect and crude speculations upon fossil bones. We do not object to the description of all such remains fully and accurately, in connexion with the description of the living animals of the country where they are found. This is proper, and indeed highly important and interesting. But we do