M M S, pseud. [Mary M Sherwood] * / Anon
Letter, Extract; Afterword
Wonder, Natural History, Expertise, Observation, Status, Controversy, Imposture
The letter begins with an extract from the Gentleman's Magazine for March 1834 which disputes accounts of toads found alive encased in trees or stone on the basis that 'there never was a well authenticated instance of such discoveries'. The extract relies on the failure of Joseph Banks, 'a most accurate, curious, and investigating naturalist', to trace such a tradition to a credible authority. (174) The letter-writer describes her childhood experience of a toad found alive in a block of limestone. A lengthy editorial afterword questions why a fact 'so notorious' as the occurrence of toads in rocks or trees 'should have been questioned simply on the grounds that it had not been personally witnessed by the eminent naturalist mentioned'. The editor introduces 'the testimony of an equally accurate, curious, and investigating naturalist', John Ray, who disputed such occurrences in his Wisdom of God, but later accepted accredited accounts of them in the same book. (175) The narrator relates from personal experience an account of an insect which was dislodged alive 'from the centre of a mass of border-stone' in a quarry (176).
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