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a nation whose tails were only a few inches long, and in all probability only an elongation of the Os Coccygis. Ptolomy already had made mention of a people having tails,” &c. &c.*
The latest evidence of such conformation (in the case of the school-master of Inverness t) is an honourable and learned writer, who has erected a most stupendous hypothesis on this unequal foundation of a span. What would Boileau's Ass say to all this evidence ?
O! que si l'ane alors, à bon droit misantrope,
might mistake the tail of his prey for a natural appendage.
* Bergmann's Physical Description of the Earth.
+ Orig. and Prog. of Lang. vol. i, b. ii. c. iii.
There are few stronger proofs of the inutility of single observations, than this af fair of the Homines Caudati. The only solid foundation of any of these stories, is an accidental elongation of the os coccygis, which we can easily conceive to happen, as that bone consists of four pieces: redundancies in other parts of the body are so frequent, in monstrous cases, that we cannot wonder to find a joint occasionally added to this part. Thus it is, that a few instances of dwarfs are multiplied by writers into nations; fewer instances of accidental mal-conformation of parts produce other nationsin books.
Men have complained for many years, and we complain at present, of want of facts; yet it appears, that in books of good character we find more facts than can be credited. Do we not want good observers rather than new facts? And is not the indiscriminate collection of facts an encreasing evil? It is certain that in consult
ing authors on the subjects they profess to examine, we are commonly as much disappointed as Mr. Shandy, when he applies to Rubenius for the ancient construction of a pair of breeches. Chemistry is perhaps improving under the fashionable method, because the principal experiments are frequently repeated, and because its objects being permanent, former errors have many chances of being discovered; but in other branches of knowledge, the number of facts, on the whole, overbalances their credibility. It is unfortunate, that since the means of publication have been so much facilitated, every man thinks himself entitled to observe and to publish. How many collections of pretended facts are daily offered to medical men, in which it is happy for mankind if the author's weakness be sufficiently evident, to destroy, at first sight, the credit of his observations! Writers who publish merely for the sake of reputation, may be solid enough for those who read for the sole purpose of talking, but every man who is in quest of real knowledge must lament, that so few books are written with a design to instruct, and so very many only to surprise or amuse.