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THIS delightful writer, but imprudent man, immortalized by the "Vicar of Wakefield," and celebrated as a poet, a dramatist, and an historian, was born in Ireland, 1731, and died April 4th, 1774, after a life of difficulties, unhappily chiefly owing to his own recklessness and want of management.
Of all the solitary insects I have ever remarked, the spider is the most sagacious, and its actions, to me, who have attentively considered them, seem almost to exceed belief. This insect is formed by nature for a state of war, not only upon other insects, but upon each other. For this state, nature seems perfectly well to have formed it. Its head and breast are covered with a strong natural coat of mail, which is impenetrable to the attempts of every otherinsect, and its belly is enveloped in a soft pliant skin, which eludes the sting even of a wasp.
Its legs are terminated by strong claws, not unlike those of a lobster; and their vast length, like spears, serves to keep every assailant at a distance.
Not worse furnished for observation than for an attack or defence, it has several eyes, large, transparent, and covered with a horny substance, which, however, does not impede its vision. Besides this, it is furnished with a forceps above the mouth, which serves to kill or secure the prey already caught in its claws or its net.
Such are the implements of war with which the body is immediately furnished; but its net to entangle the enemy seems what it chiefly trusts to, and what it takes most pains to render as complete as possible. Nature has furnished the body of this little creature with a glutinous liquid, which, proceeding from the rear, it spins into thread, coarser or finer as it chooses to contract or dilate its sphincter. In order to fix its threads when it begins to weave, it emits a small drop of its liquid against the wall, which, hardening by degrees, serves to hold the thread very firmly.
Then receding from the first point, as it recedes, the thread lengthens; and when the spider has come to the place where the other end of the thread should be fixed, gathering up with its claws the thread, which would otherwise be too slack, it is stretched tightly, and fixed in the same manner to the wall as before.
In this manner it spins and fixes several threads parallel to each other, which, so to speak, serve as the warp to the intended web. To form the woof, it spins in the same manner its thread, transversely fixing one end to the first thread that was spun, and which is always the strongest of the whole web, and the other to the wall. All these threads, being newly spun, are glutinous, and therefore stick to each other, wherever they happen to touch; and in those parts of the web most exposed to be torn, our natural artist strengthens them, by doubling the threads sometimes six-fold.
Thus far, naturalists have gone in the description of this animal: what follows is the result of my own observation upon that species of the insect called the house-spider. I perceived, about four years ago, a large spider in one corner of my room, making its web, and though the maid frequently levelled her fatal broom against the labours of the little animal, I had the good fortune then to prevent its destruction, and, I may say, it more than paid me by the entertainment it afforded.
In three days the web was with incredible diligence completed; nor could I avoid thinking that the insect seemed to exult in its new abode. It frequently traversed it round, and examined the strength of every part of it, retired into its hole, and came out very frequently. The first enemy, however, it had to encounter, was another and much larger spider, which having no web of its own, and having probably exhausted all its stock in former labours of this kind, came to invade the property of its neighbour. Soon, then, a terrible encounter ensued, in which the invader seemed to have the victory, and the laborious spider was obliged to take refuge in its hole. Upon this I perceived the victor using every art to draw the enemy from his stronghold. He seemed to go off, but quickly returned, and when he found all arts vain, began to demolish the new web without mercy. This brought on another battle, and, contrary, to my expectations, the laborious spider became conqueror, and fairly killed his antagonist.
Now then, in peaceable possession of what was justly its own, it waited three days with the utmost impatience, repairing the breaches of its web, and taking no sustenance that I could perceive. At last, however, a large blue fly fell into the snare, and struggled hard to get loose. The spider gave it leave to entangle itself as much as possible, but it seemed to be too strong for the cobweb. I must own I was greatly surprised when I saw the spider immediately sally out, and in less than a minute weave a new net round its captive, by which the motion of its wings was stopped, and when it was fairly hampered in this manner, it was seized and dragged into the hole.
In this manner it lived, in a precarious state, and nature seemed to have fitted it for such a life; for upon a single fly it subsisted for more than a week. I once put a wasp into the nest, but when the spider came out in order to seize it as usual, upon perceiving what kind of an enemy it had to deal with, it instantly broke all the bands that held it fast, and contributed all that lay in its power to disengage so formidable an antagonist. When the wasp was at liberty, I expected the spider would have set about repairing the breaches that were made in its net; but those, it seems, were irreparable, wherefore the cobweb was now entirely forsaken, and a new one begun, which was completed in the usual time.
I had now a mind to try how many cobwebs a single spider could furnish; wherefore I destroyed this, and the insect set about another. When I destroyed the other also, its whole stock seemed entirely exhausted, and it could spin no more. The arts it made
use of to support itself, now deprived of its great means of subsistence, were indeed surprising. I have seen it roll up its legs like a ball, and lie motionless for hours together, but cautiously watching all the time; when a fly happened to approach sufficiently near, it would dart out all at once, and often seize its prey.
Of this life, however, it soon began to grow weary, and resolved to invade the possession of some other spider, since it could not make a web of its own. It formed an attack upon a neighbouring fortification with great vigour, and at first was as vigorously repulsed. Not daunted, however, with one defeat, in this manner it continued to lay siege to another's web for three days, and at length, having killed the defendant, actually took possession. When smaller flies happen to fall into the snare, the spider does not sally out at once, but very patiently waits till it is sure of them; for upon his immediately approaching, the terror of his appearance might give the captive strength sufficient to get loose; the manner then is to wait patiently till, by ineffectual and impotent struggles, the captive has wasted all its strength, and then he becomes a certain and easy conquest.
The insect I am now describing lived three years; every year it changed its skin, and got a new set of legs. I have sometimes plucked off a leg, which grew again in two or three days. At first it dreaded my approach to its web; but at last it became so familiar as to take a fly out of my hand, and upon my touching any part of the web, would immediately leave its hole, prepared either for a defence or an attack.
On Good Breeding.
BORN Sept. 22, 1694, educated at Cambridge, and afterwards distinguished both as a politician and a man of pleasure. He died in 1773.
Good breeding has been very justly defined to be "the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them." Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed) it is astonishing to me that anybody, who has good sense and good nature, can essentially fail in good-breeding. Astothemodes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, places, and circumstances; and are only to be acquired by observation and experience: but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally
the same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general; their cement and their security. And as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones, so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners, and punish bad ones. And indeed there seems to me to be less difference both between the crimes and punishments than at first one would imagine. The immoral man who invades another's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill manners, invades and disturbs the quiets and comforts of private life, is by common consent, as justly banished society. Mutual complacences, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilized people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think that, next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing! and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. Thus much for good breeding in general. I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely
their superiors; such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons, of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the manner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion and of the world, expresses it in its fullest extent; but naturally, easily, and without concern: whereas a man, who is not used to keep good company, expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal: but I never saw the worst-bred man living guilty of lolling, whistling, scratching his head, and such like indecencies, in company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to show that respect which everybody means to show, in an easy, unembarrassed, and graceful manner. This is what observation and experience must teach you.
In mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part of them, is, for the time at least, supposed to be upon a footing of equality with the rest; and consequently, as there is no one principal object of awe and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitude in their behaviour, and to be less upon their guard; and so they may, provided it be within certain bounds, which are upon no occasion to be transgressed. But, upon these occasions, though no one is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, every one claims, and very justly, every mark of civility and good breeding. Ease is allowed, but carelessness and negligence are strictly forbidden. If a man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or frivolously, it is worse than rudeness, it is brutality, to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and not worth hearing. It is much more so with regard to women; who, of whatever rank they are, are entitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to an attentive, but an officious good-breeding from men. Their little wants, likings, dislikes, preferences, antipathies, and fancies, must be officiously attended to, and, if possible, guessed at and anticipated, by a well-bred man. You must never usurp to yourself those conveniences and gratifications which are of common right; such as the best places, the best dishes, &c., but on the contrary, always decline them yourself, and offer them to others, who, in their turns, will offer them to you: so that, upon the whole, you will, in your turn, enjoy your share of the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his good-breeding in good company; and it would be injurious to you to suppose that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own good-nature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce the practice.
There is a third sort of good-breeding in which people are the most apt to fail, from a very mistaken notion that they cannot fail at all. I mean, with regard to one's most familiar friends and acquaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there undoubtedly agreater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private social life. But ease and freedom have their bounds, which must by no means