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use their tails, which incline downward, as a support while they run up trees. Parrots, like all other hook-clawed birds, walk awkwardly and make use of their bill as a third foot, climbing and descending with ridiculous caution. All the Gallinæ parade and walk gracefully and run nimbly ; but fly with difficulty with an impetuous whirring, and in a straight line. Magpies and jays flutter with powerless wings, and make no dispatch ; herons seem encumbered with too much sail for their light bodies, but these vast hollow wings are necessary in carring burdens, such as large fishes and the like; pigeons, and particularly the sort called smiters, have a way of clashing their wings, the one against the other, over their backs with a loud snap; another variety, called tumblers, turn themselves over in the air. Some birds have movements peculiar to the season of love ; thus ringdoves, though strong and rapid at other times, yet in the spring hang about on the wing in a toying and playful manner ; thus the cocksnipe, while breeding, forgetting his former flight, fans the air like the windhover ; and the greenfinch in particular, exhibits such languishing and faltering gestures as to appear like a wounded and dying bird ; the kingfisher darts along like an arrow ; fern-owls or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk over the tops of trees like a meteor ; starlings as it were swim along, while missel-thrushes use a wild and desultory flight; swallows sweep over the surface of the ground and water, and distinguish themselves by rapid turns and quick evolutions; swifts dash round in circles; and the bank-martin moves with frequent vacillations like a butterfly. Most of the small birds fly by jerks, rising and falling as they advance. Most small birds hop ; but wagtails and larks walk, moving their legs alternately. Skylarks rise and fall perpendicularly as they sing ; woodlarks hang poised in the air ; and titlarks rise and fall in large curves, singing in their descent. The whitethroat uses odd jerks and gesticulations over the tops of hedges and bushes. All the duck kind waddle ; divers and auks walk as if fettered ; and stand erect on their tails ; these are the Compedes of Linnæus. Geese and cranes, and most wild fowls move in figured flights, often changing their position. The secondary remiges of Tringa, wild ducks, and some others, are very long, and give their wings, when in motion, a hooked appearance. Dabchicks, moor-hens, and coots, fly erect, with their legs hanging down, and hardly make any dispatch; the reason is plain, their wings are placed too forward
out of the true centre of gravity ; as the legs of auks and divers are situated too backward.
(From the Same.)
THE FERN-OWL On the twelfth of July I had a fair opportunity of contemplating the motions of the caprimulgus, or fern-owl, as it was playing round a large oak that swarmed with Scarabæi solstitiales, or fern-chafers. The powers of its wing were wonderful, exceeding, if possible, the various evolutions and quick turns of the swallow genus. But the circumstance that pleased me most was, that I saw it distinctly, more than once, put out its short leg while on the wing, and, by a bend of the head, deliver somewhat into its mouth. If it takes any part of its prey with its foot, as I have now the greatest reason to suppose it does these chafers, I no longer wonder at the use of its middle toe, which is curiously furnished with a serrated claw.
(From the Same.)
THE ROOK The evening proceedings and manœuvres of the rooks are curious and amusing in the autumn. Just before dusk they return in long strings from the foraging of the day, and rendezvous by thousands over Selborne down, where they wheel round in the air and sport and dive in a playful manner, all the while exerting their voices, and making a loud cawing, which, being blended and softened by the distance that we at the village are below them, becomes a confused noise or chiding ; or rather a pleasing murmur, very engaging to the imagination, and not unlike the cry of a pack of hounds in hollow, echoing woods, or the rushing of the wind in tall trees, or the tumbling of the tide upon a pebbly shore. When this ceremony is over, with the last gleam of day, they retire for the night to the deep beechen woods of Tisted and Ropley. We remember a little girl who, as she was going to bed, used to remark on such an occurrence, in the true spirit of physico-theology, that the rooks were saying their prayers ; and yet this child was much too young to be aware that the Scriptures have said of the Deity--that “ He feedeth the ravens who call upon him,"
(From the Same.)
[Tobias George Smollett was born (1721) at Dalquhurn, in Dumbartonshire. His family (Smollett of Bonhill) was a good one, and his grandfather, Sir James, was a judge and a member of Parliament : but the novelist's father was a younger son who died when the boy was a child ; and though Smollett himself would have succeeded to the family estate had he lived a few years longer, he was throughout his life dependent, or mainly so, on his own earnings. Educated at Glasgow, and apprenticed to a surgeon, he took an appointment as surgeon's mate on board one of the ships of the Carthagena expedition in 1741. On this voyage he met Anne Lascelles, a supposed heiress of Jamaica, whom he married. He endeavoured to practice both in London and in Bath, but without success. Before entering the navy he had submitted a bad tragedy, The Regicide, to Garrick; and turning later with better success to novel-writing, he produced in 1748 Roderick Random, which was very popular, and fixed him for the rest of his life as an author. Peregrine Pickle followed in 1751 ; Ferdinand, Count Fathom, in 1753. He afterwards translated or fathered a translation of Don Quixote, and became editor of The Critical Review-a post which brought him into no little trouble, including in one case imprisonment and fine. His History of England very rapidly written and not of great value, but extremely profitable to the author—appeared in 1758, Sir Launcelot Greaves in 1761. Then Smollett, whose health was extremely bad, journeyed to France and Italy, publishing in 1766, after his return, a very ill-tempered book of Travels. Three years later followed the Adventures of an Atom. Its author once more went abroad, and died at Leghorn on October 21, 1771, very shortly after the publication of his last and best book, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.]
It is probable that in that vague reflection of critical opinion in general judgment which rarely goes very far wrong, Smollett takes on the whole the lowest place among the four great novelists of the mid-eighteenth century in England. Scott indeed tried to make him out Fielding's equal ; but this was the almost solitary example of national prejudice warping that sane and shrewd intellect. Smollett is undoubtedly far more amusing to the general reader than Richardson; and it may be contended that his altogether astonishing foulness (which exceeds as a
pervading trait if it does not equal in individual instances the much discussed failing of Swift) is not to a nice morality more offensive than the sniggering indelicacy of Sterne. With very young readers who are not critical from the literary side, Smollett is probably the most popular of the four.
But the reader who begins to “pull him to pieces," to ask what is his idiosyncrasy, what his special contribution to letters, cannot very long remain in doubt as to the fact and the reason of his inferiority. Thackeray, with the native shrewdness of a critic and the acquired tact of a brother of the mystery, hit one side of this inferiority in the remark, “He did not invent much, I fancy." In truth, observation, and observation of the outside rather than of the inside, is Smollett's characteristic. He had seen much ; he had felt much; he had desired, and enjoyed, and failed in, and been indignant at much. And he related these experiences, or something like them, with a fresh and vigorous touch, giving them for the most part true life and nature, but not infusing any great individuality into them either from the artistic or the ethical side. He was a good writer but not one of distinction. He never takes the very slightest trouble about construction : his books are mere lengths cut off from a conceivably infinite bead-roll of adventures. Vivid as are his sketches they all run (except perhaps in his last and best book) to types. His humour though exuberant is for the most part what has been called “the humour of the stick.” He has no commanding or profound knowledge of human nature below the surface. And this brings us to the one idiosyncrasy or characteristic which Smollett did very unfortunately succeed in impressing on his books, and not least on those of them which have survived—the novels. He seems himself to have had many good personal qualities, to have been a fervent lover, a staunch friend, a steadfast politician, a generous acquaintance and patron, a man of dauntless courage and (except in the ugly passage of his taking money to foist in the “Memoirs of a Lady of Quality” into Peregrine Pickle) of incorruptible integrity. But these good things were “dashed and brewed " not merely with the abovementioned coarseness but with a savage ferocity of temper, which not only vented itself on the unlucky authors whom he criticised and the unlucky patrons who did not patronise him enough, but took form in his two first heroes, Roderick and Peregrine—two of the most unmitigated young ruffians who ever escaped condign punishment. The good-natured and often quite valid plea of “dramatic