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dying; for excepting an epitaph on the Pineal Gland, which was written after phy. siologists had degraded it from the seat of the soul, I recollect no example of gratitude to a decayed theory.
Every age cherishes its favourite errors, which serve to divert the succeeding generation. We ridicule our predecessors for their belief in the fiery sphere of Aristotle, or the vortices of Descartes, without reflecting, that some of our present opinions may afford equal subject of derision to posterity. Why does the history of opinions contain such a list of errors and falsehoods, but because men have so long mistaken their conjectures concerning facts, for facts themselves ?
Much of this evil has certainly proceeded from undue deference to authorities. Authors have believed assertions without enquiry; and might well be expected to assign ridiculous causes, when they engaged to account for events that never existed.
I have been led into this train of reflec
tion, by trying to discover the true founda tions, on which the existence of some monstrous varieties of our species has been supposed. Every philosophical reader is acquainted with the theory of Lord Monboddo on this subject, on which Mr. Tooke has bestowed such masterly satire, that we may justly apply to the author of the ETEQ IITEpoevtc, what Milton has said of Tasso, in his Mansus, though in a different sense;
æternis inscripsit pomina chartis,
I expected to have found the clue to this romance of philosophy, in Linnæus's Systema Naturæ, because he has mentioned, under the genus, Homo, the varieties of the Homo Troglodytes, or pygmy, and the Homo Caudatus, the man with a tail (Lord Monboddo's patriarch); but the greater number of authorities has occurred to me in casual reading
Homer is the first author who mentions the pygmies, and is cited as the chief of the opinion, by all writers on this subject. The
Trojans, says he, moved on to battle with
Ηυτε περ κλαγγη γεραναν τελει εφανοθι προ, ,
Aristotle delivers their history as an indubitable truth. “ It is not fabulous, but certain, that a diminutive race of men, and it is said of horses, exists; living in caverns, whence they take the name of Troglodytes. They fight with cranes.”+
But it was not enough with the older naturalists, to shorten a whole nation to three spans, or to oblige men
but the species was tortured into more fan
# Iliad, r.
tastic shapes than are to be found in the Temptation of St. Anthony. These transfigurations rest both on Pagan and Christian authority, and if any thing could be supported by the mere force of repeated assertion, the monstrous varieties of man would become undeniable.
Pliny exerted surprising industry in accumulating authorities for human monsters;* many of these were supposed to exist among the northern nations, such as the Arimaspi, who had only one eye, and employed themselves in stealing gold from the Gryphons, those compound animals which the ancient naturalists have dressed up
for Milton employs this fable in a fine simile, describing Satan's laborious flight through the chaos.
As when a Gryphon thro' the wilderness
* Lib. viii, c. ii.
One of the authorities quoted for this story is Herodotus, who expressly says that he does not believe it.**
Another race of the Scythians were born with feet turned behind the leg, " aversis post crura plantis," and were (of course) wonderfully swift. Others had heads resembling those of dogs, with long ears, and were armed with talons; Ctesias says, they were in number one hundred and twenty thousand. This is “ profound and solid lying." In other nations, the people were monocolous, that is, having only one leg,+ or sciapodous, having feet so large as to shelter the whole body, in a supine posture; these were the first parasols: In majori æstu humi jacentes resupini, umbra se pedum protegunt. Near these, according to Pliny, lived the pygmies, but they must be confessed to look extremly small beside such astonishing neighbours.
+ See modern authorities for this story, in the Orig, and Prog. of Lang, vol. i, b. ii, ç, iii,