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warm on cold nights by seizing the brank-ursine ought to be a bird in its claws and hugging in a good garden. There should it tightly to its breast; but also be pottage herbs, such as in the morning it releases its beet, herb mercury, drach, soravian hot water bottle and rel and mallows." chooses a different victim for breakfast. Similarly the weasel when wounded searches for and eats certain grasses which nature has revealed to it as healthgiving. The weasel, it should be added, was a frequent medieval domestic pet.

We may turn aside a moment at this point to consider Neckham's beliefs concerning plants and their virtues. He mentions a herb called scelerata in order to observe that any one eating it will die laughing. Mugwort, if carried by a traveller, prevents fatigue, while yew excites enmity and hatred. Soft fruit should be eaten only on a fasting stomach; pears are injurious unless taken in wine; and walnuts he places upon the list of dangerous fungi. But most interesting in this department of his encyclopedia is his advice on the planting and stocking of a garden.

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In addition he includes mustard, white pepper, medlars, quince, pears, pomegranates, lemons, oranges, figs, peaches and almonds as growing in the garden of his choice.

But to return to Neckham on animals.

One of his most entertaining chapters concerns the cock; it is of a sort to make modern scientists wonder whether after all they have yet begun to open their eyes to the true marvels of nature. When the cock grows old, says Neckham, he sometimes lays an egg. Upon this egg a toad sits, and from it is hatched the snake whose very glance is death, the dreaded basilisk. A cock "distinguishes the hours by his song" through the operation of the following highly ingenious process. The humours within the body of the bird are set in motion at certain hours by internal heat. This movement of the humours gives rise to a saltiness which in its turn gives rise to irritation. From the irritation comes a sense of tickling, from the sense of tickling a feeling of pleasure, and from pleasure song-all of which seems near to reducing the king of the barnyard to the level of an alarm clock. But the cream of the chapter is contained in Neckham's answer to the problem why cocks have

crests while hens are crestless. not be actuated by its sense

His reason is that cocks have moister brains than their mates, and certain bones at the top of their heads which are not firmly set. Therefore the gross humours arising from their cerebral humidity escape through the fissures like steam, apparently, and condensing in the atmosphere produce crests.

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Yet side by side with this credulity and fantastic reasoning we find the germ of better things. A persistent superstition, a relic of Rome, averred that the beaver mutilates itself in order to escape its hunters. About half a century before Neckham this belief had been repeated by a writer of repute; but," remarks Neckham, "those who are more reliably informed as to the natures of things assert that Bernard has followed the ridiculous popular notion and not reached the true fact." Here at least is evidence of a spirit of discrimination and a refusal to accept what has been passed on by authority. He throws some doubt also upon the companion fable that a lynx is endowed with such marvellous sight that it can see through nine walls. The fact is supposed to have been demonstrated experimentally by carrying a piece of raw meat to and fro in front of a lynx separated from it by nine walls. Wherever the meat stopped, there would the lynx stop also. Neckham, while not questioning the experiment, ventures to ask whether the animal may

of smell rather than by any superior power of vision. It was from such trifling beginnings as this that one can trace the evolution of the principle of taking nothing for granted upon which all modern science is based.

In the theological ideas expressed in the book we may again note, amid much that was the common property of the age, the same germ of better things. With Neckham, as with his contemporary clerics, Christianity

seems strongly tinged with astrology. Even the most eminent divines attached wise men and soothsayers to their persons, and it is said that at each step in his quarrel with Henry II. Thomas Becket was careful to consult the omens-although the termination of the affair could have been no very eloquent recommendation of their utility. Neckham himself denies what many of his contemporaries affirmed, that the planets are animals, but declares that they are set in the sky in order to exert upon human beings various influences assigned to them by God. He also associates the seven planets then generally recognised with the seven liberal arts. But, on the other hand, human sin has a direct influence upon physical nature. To the "prevarication of our first parents," for example, he attributes not merely the markings on the moon, but in addition the wildness of animals and the existence of

venomous insects, diseases, and plagues. To the same cause, incidentally, he attributes carnivorous diet-had not man fallen from his innocence we should have all been vegetarian!

Like other writers of his period, he is lavish in his distribution of occult powers. "In words and stones," he says, "diligent investigators of nature have discovered great virtue. Most certain experience, moreover, makes our statement trustworthy." Gems, to his idea, have greater occult power when set in silver than in gold. The agate renders its bearer amiable and powerful; the loadstone when placed on the head of a sleeping woman compels her to avow her infidelities. The tooth of a wild boar will remain sharp for as long as the animal lives. The fig-tree has the virtue of being able to tame a wild bull, and the moonbeam, like the glance of basilisk or wolf, will kill by the power inherent in it. He slips in, by the way, the interesting piece of folk practice that to counteract fascination a nurse will lick the face of her charge.

But the point at which Neckham stands at variance with, or rather ahead of, his contemporaries is in his appreciation of Aristotle. A century later the Greek philosopher was the touchstone by which all theory was tested; it was Neckham who, not content with numerous references to "the most acute Aristotle," wrote several


commentaries on portions of his works, and by unflagging enthusiasm helped materially to advance him into public favour and thus lay one stone in the foundation of the Renaissance. In Concerning the Natures of Things,' Neckham expresses his surprise that other thinkers should have dared to question the conclusions of so great a sage; it is, he declares, as if a peacock should exhibit its tail in rivalry with the starspangled sky, or as if owls and bats should challenge the unblinking eagle to stare at the noon-day sun. He even goes so far and this must have given food for thought to the more orthodox of his friendsas to discuss on the basis of Aristotelian theory the correctness of Biblical natural history, explaining with some care that Adam's body must have been made from all four elements and not from earth alone, as Genesis might seem to imply. Again, for example, he controverts the Scriptural assertion that "God made two great lights by pointing out that the moon is not in fact one of the larger planets; and argues with great earnestness the chemical composition of what shall remain of the natural world after the Day of Judgment.

If we find it hard to recognise in this early forerunner the encyclopedia of to-day with all its completeness and impartiality, it is not because Neckham did not put his whole knowledge and wisdom into its

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compilation; if its author is now generally forgotten it is not because he is without historical importance or intrinsic merit. As to the man himself, little has been said because little is known; perhaps his spirit-which is a man's true immortality-survives best in the words-possibly the last he ever penned-which have been added to a manuscript devoted to his religious writings in Jesus College, Oxford :


I have confided my heart's secrets; you restore faithfully to me those things which I have committed to your trust; in you I read myself. You will come, you will come into the hands of some pious reader who will deign to pour forth prayers for me. Then, indeed, little book, will you profit your master; then you will recompense your Alexander by a most grateful interchange. There will come, nor do I begrudge my labour, the devotion of a pious reader, who will now let you repose in his lap, now move you to his breast, sometimes place you as a sweet pillow beneath his head, sometimes gently closing you with glad hands, he will fervently pray for me to Lord Jesus Christ, who with Father and Holy Spirit lives and reigns God through infinite cycles of

"Perchance, O book, you will survive Alexander, and worms will eat me before the bookworm gnaws you. . . . You are the mirror of my soul, the interpreter of my meditations, the surest index of my meaning, the faithful messenger of my mind's emotions, the sweet comforter of my grief, the true witness of my conscience. To you as faithful depository ages. Amen." 1

For this rendering I am indebted to Prof. Lynn Thorndike, Ph.D., A History of Magic and Experimental Science.'



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His blotting - paper complexion, twitching fingers, and cold cigarette between cracked lips proclaimed him one one of Rio's band of rascals and unfortunates, that jetsam from all corners of the earth flung up on the water-front of the tropical city; but there was no consciousness of this in his voice or manner. None of the furtiveness that marked his fellows as they drifted over the tessellated pavements of the Avenida, between gleaming negro and powdered mestizo, showed in him. He had not hesitated for an instant, but, coming level with me and lifting his eyes casually to mine, had said in a perfectly natural tone of voice

"Hello, Morris! Taking a look round?"

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by a complete stranger, was to push my way past and ignore him.

But as I glanced up the Avenida Rio Branco, with its white buildings and its trees dazzling in the hard tropical sun, a sudden rage filled me that I should be so quickly marked down as a stranger and lawful prey for these loafers. The self-assurance of the tattered creature who had spoken to me was exasperating; he evidently harboured a fatuous hope that I should imagine I had met him somewhere before, stop, apologise, and ask who he was! Well-I would play his game. It would be worth while to amuse myself with this little impostor, to see if I could disconcert him and throw his well-worn plan out of gear.

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