The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

Ganders are vivacious animals.  Farmer Ady of Segary had a gander that was fifty yeares old, which the soldiers killed.  He and his gander were both of the same age. (A goose is now living, anno 1757, at Hagley hall in Worcestershire, full fifty yeares old.  Ms. Note.)

Sea-mewes.  Plentie of them at Colern-downe; elsewhere in Wiltshire I doe not remember any.  There are presages of weather made by them. [Instead of “presages of weather,” the writer would have been more accurate if he had said that when “sea-mewes,” or other birds of the ocean, are seen so far inland as Colern, at least twenty miles from the sea, they indicate stormy weather in their natural element. - J. B.]-Virgil’s Georgics, lib. i.  Englished by Mr. T. May:-

        “The seas are ill to sailors evermore
        When cormorants fly crying to the shore;
        From the mid-sea when sea-fowl pastime make
        Upon dry land; when herns the ponds forsake,
        And, mounted on their wings, doe fly aloft.”


[This Chapter contains several extraordinary recipes for medicines to be compounded in various ways from insects and reptiles.  As a specimen one of them may he referred to which begins as follows:-"Calcinatio Bufonum.  R. Twenty great fatt toades; in May they are the best; putt them alive in a pipkin; cover it, make a fire round it to the top; let them stay on the fire till they make no noise,” &c. &c.  Aubrey says that Dr. Thomas Willis mentions this medicine in his tractat De Febribus, and describes it as a special remedy for the plague and other diseases.-J.  B.]

No snakes or adders at Chalke, and toades very few:  the nitre in the chalke is inimique to them.  No snakes or adders at Harcot-woods belonging to —­ Gawen, Esq.; but in the woods of Compton Chamberleyn adjoyning they are plenty.  At South Wraxhall and at Colern Parke, and so to Mouncton-Farley, are adders.

In Sir James Long’s parke at Draycot-Cerne are grey lizards; and no question in other places if they were look’t after; but people take them for newts.  They are of that family.  About anno 1686 a boy lyeing asleep in a garden felt something dart down his throat, which killed him:  ’tis probable ’twas a little newt.  They are exceeding nimble:  they call them swifts at Newmarket Heath.  When I was a boy a young fellow slept on the grasse:  after he awak’t, happening to putt his hand in his pocket, something bitt him by the top of his finger:  he shak’t it suddenly off so that he could not perfectly discerne it.  The biteing was so venomous that it overcame all help, and he died in a few hours:-

        “Virus edax superabat opera:  penituaq{ue} receptum
        Ossibus, et toto corpore pestis erat."- Ovid.  FASTOR.

Sir George Ent, M.D. had a tenant neer Cambridge that was stung with an adder.  He happened not to dye, but was spotted all over.  One at Knahill in Wilts, a neighbour of Dr. Wren’s, was stung, and it turned to a leprosy. (From Sr.  Chr.  Wren.)

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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