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Title: Sphinx Vespiformis - An Essay
Author: Newman, Edward
Language: English
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    "All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
    Whose body Nature is, and GOD the soul."




      OF FRANCE,
      &c. &c.
                  THE AUTHOR.


The question--What was the Sphinx Vespiformis of Linnæus?--is one that
has occurred to almost every entomologist. It seemed rather strange
that Linnæus should have described, in all his works, an insect which
had no existence; yet that really appeared to be the case. Laspeyres,
the clever monographer of the _Europæan Sesiæ_, previously to the
appearance of that work, wrote to my highly valued and ingenious
friend, Mr. Clark, requesting that he would investigate and describe
for him the real Linnæan specimen of Vespiformis which was in the
Linnæan cabinet, at that time in the possession of the late Sir J. E.
Smith. Mr. Clark not only described the specimen in question, but
employed that excellent artist, Sydenham Edwards, to make a drawing of
it, which was forthwith forwarded to Berlin. Laspeyres exclaims--"_Sed
quod spectaculum!_--_Sesia asiliformis erat_."[1] This was too much to
believe; the search was given up as hopeless, and the existence of the
Linnæan Vespiformis was pretty much considered a fable. On making some
inquiries, a few months back, about the species of Ægeria, the total
loss of one out of the three Linnæan species appeared a little
unaccountable; and seeing the name of my friend in Laspeyres' work, in
the note above referred to, I determined to have recourse to him, as
the best authority on the subject. Mr. Clark, with the greatest
kindness, at once accompanied me to pay a visit to the said Sphinx,
now in possession of the Linnæan Society: we instantly, on seeing it,
fell in with the decision of Laspeyres--"_Sesia asiliformis erat_;"
yet it agreed excellently with the character which Linnæus had
assigned to Vespiformis: "_Alis fenestratis; abdomine barbato nigro;
incisuris tribus posterioribus margine flavis: capite annulo
flavo_."[2]--No character could be more correct; the specimen was
labelled in the handwriting of Linnæus, and the fenestrated wings
merely arose from the specimen being exceedingly wasted. The fact was
decided: the proof is open to all; and the existence of Sphinx
Vespiformis must henceforth cease to be a fable.

          [1] Sesiæ Europeæ, p. 18. Obser.

          [2] Linn. Syst. Nat. T. I. Pars. II. p. 804.

To ascertain the place among insects, or even animated beings, which
this Sphinx Vespiformis naturally occupies, I have attempted in the
following pages.

The SYSTEMA NATURÆ has for years been the object of my most diligent
search; but the idea which I have here taken of the subject is
scarcely a month old. An anxiety to hear the opinions of others has
urged me to scribble these few pages, with, I fear, far more haste
than good speed; for it has happened that other engagements have
prevented my affording them any time but that usually devoted to
repose: so that the rapid and careless manner in which the sketch has
been drawn, must be my apology for the very imperfect state in which I
now offer it to the public. I feel, however, a firm conviction that my
theory is too near an approach to truth, to suffer from any garb,
however slovenly, in which I may have dressed it.

I must for the same reason here observe, that I will in no way pledge
myself to the infallibility of the precise points of contact hereafter
proposed, nor shall I notice any attempts which may be made to
invalidate the principle of my theory, by appealing to such trivial
inaccuracies. Feeble efforts of this kind are naturally and very
excusably called forth by a feeling of disappointment at the sudden
destruction of favourite and long-cherished theories: skilfully
managed, they often throw a momentary shade over truth, but never can
extinguish it; he, therefore, who is confident in having truth on his
side, would be acting ungenerously to quarrel with them.

To conclude--for many excellent suggestions, and the kind and
continued interest which he has taken in the progress of this little
Essay, I embrace this opportunity of publicly acknowledging my sincere
thanks to my esteemed friend, Mr. Edward Doubleday; feeling, however,
that such thanks are a very inadequate return for his invaluable

DEPTFORD, _January 25, 1832_.


Page 14, line 27, _for_ I will suppose them, _read_ I will suppose, then,
     41,       6, _for_ Lasciocampa, _read_ Lasiocampa
     41,      23, _for_ of each, _read_ on each
     42,       4, _dele_ previously
     44, _note_, _for_ Lithosia, _read_ Lithosiæ
     52, line 33, _for_ Phalænæ, _read_ Phalæna
     52,      38, _for_ kaned, _read_ naked




Any attempt to overthrow existing systems, originally devised and
unanimously approved by men of superior talents and great acquirements,
should not only be made but received with the greatest possible
caution; but when, as in the arrangement of the objects of natural
history, there exists no universally received plan, but each
systematist has, for a few months, or at most, years, his little circle
of immediate followers and admirers, one thing must be obvious,--that
the true system is yet undiscovered; and, therefore, surely it is
competent to every one, however unqualified, to try his hand at the
task: that the true system has not been discovered, is admitted by Mr.
MacLeay, the only individual who has made any thing like an approach to
it; for, in the preface to the _Annulosa Javanica_, which appeared
subsequently to the _Horæ Entomologicæ_, in which his circular and
quinary system is proposed, he acknowledges, that, "as yet, we have not
even arrived at the threshold of nature's temple."

Some individuals would, I believe, argue that no fixed system or plan
prevails in nature, but that each individual species exists quite
independently of, and unconnected with all the rest; others, again,
allow that there is a system, but without any other division than that
of species; thus theoretically disallowing those plain and universally
intelligible groups, which we term beasts, birds, fishes, and insects.
It seems to me highly improbable that a Creator, who has, with such
unerring wisdom, adapted means to their destined ends, should have
performed any part of the mighty work of creation without a fixed and
perfect design. If we consider that no muscle, tendon, or vein,
however minute, whether in man, the highest, or in those animals which
may be reckoned the lowest grade among created beings, but has
functions appointed for it regularly to perform, and that no single
portion of our frame can be parted with, without occasioning us
inconvenience, it seems fair to infer, that no single atom, or no one
created thing, exists without filling some appointed place in a great
and perfectly organized and arranged whole; however far that whole
may, and must be, above our limited understandings. To doubt the
existence of a natural system appears to me to be precisely equivalent
to doubting a creation; for one cannot conceive the various tribes of
animals to have received their being at the hands of an Omnipotent
Creator, and yet to be indebted, at the same time, to chance for those
gradual shades of difference from each other, which are found so
harmoniously blending group into group, that the practised naturalist
may follow up the same peculiarity of habit or structure, however
varied in its development, from one to the other of the most opposite
beings which you can place before him. Infinitely varied, however, as
the course of such a peculiarity must be, the naturalist never finds
those sudden departures from the regular flow of variation, which all
systems, even the most approved, are constantly exhibiting; the reason
of which is, that, in thus tracing approaches in his mind, he will
continually discover an individual completely surrounded by others,
each of which partakes of its peculiarities, not only in a different
degree, but in a different mode; and thus he will perceive the
character on which his attention has been fixed, ramifying in all
directions. Now no system, hitherto suggested, will at all cope with
this; it has been the plan, and I imagine the fault of all our
systems, that they are so constructed as to be incapable of receiving
a character from, or imparting it to, more than a single individual:
hence they never can possess capacity sufficient to exhibit those
endless chains of relation which the mind so luxuriates in tracing.
The want of such a system has been, I believe, universally
acknowledged, and should my humble endeavour even prepare the way for
its establishment, and act the mere part of a herald to proclaim its
approach, I shall not only be satisfied, but delighted.

I cannot here plough my toilsome track through the wild waste of
systems and speculations, which have embarrassed, rather than
assisted, natural history during the last hundred years; my aim will
be more to make myself understood than comment on the merits of
others, except as I can lay them under contribution to enhance my own.

Previously to the publication of Mr. MacLeay's _Horæ Entomologicæ_, it
appears to have been an opinion universally prevalent, that there
existed in nature a regularly graduated scale of beings, beginning with
man as the most perfect, and terminating in the least perfect creature
known to possess life. One ingenious author had varied a little from
this theory by allowing a double series to nature's works, which
commencing on a level with the most perfect animal and most perfect
plant, descended gradually and approached as they descended, until they
met in those jelly-like substances which seem yet to hover between the
two kingdoms, puzzling naturalists by their proximity to both--the
system thus assuming the shape of the letter V.[3]

          [3] The system of Lamarck.

However convenient for the formation of a catalogue, or the
arrangement of a cabinet, such a system may be; and however
inconvenient or impracticable any other conceivable plan may appear, I
think few will concur in imagining man capable of, or warranted in,
thus setting up limits and boundary-marks to the works and power of
his Maker; for the next step, as a matter of course, would be the
application of similar restrictions to infinite space, which he might
as reasonably expect to bring under his sapient admeasurement.

Our country has the credit of having first sapped the foundation of a
building, which, though by its founder[4] termed a commodious and well
covered house, could not retain religion or reason among its inmates;
indeed, the illustrious Swede was himself the first to see and to know
that his mansion, however commodious, was built but on the sand; but
knowing its imperfections, he cared not to alter them: he thought it
enough to acknowledge without striving to amend them; in fact, he
really seems to have considered the natural system, like the
philosopher's stone, a mere _ens imaginationis_, the pursuit of
which would be but a waste of time: he doubted not its existence, but
he doubted man's ability to discover it.

          [4] Linnæus.

Such was natural history when Mr. MacLeay's immortal work first
diffused its splendour over the world. The power of thought, the
profound research which he there exhibited, and the confession that
"he was one of those who preferred an imperfect transitory glimpse of
nature pure and unveiled, to a full view of the most commodious and
ostentatious mantle that could be employed to conceal her features
from the gaze,"[5] were such novelties in the science, that men
scarcely credited their understandings: they began thinking, and have
continued to think until the term naturalist is not, as it was but a
short time back, immeasurably separated from that of philosopher. The
extraordinary merit of the _Horæ Entomologicæ_ consists, not merely in
disclosing and elucidating the invaluable fact, that a series of
affinities, naturally arranged, has a constant tendency to describe a
circle which eventually returns into itself: a still more important
feature of the work is, that unceasing and determined endeavour
evinced by its learned author to seek after, weigh, and examine facts,
and to employ these alone in the support of his theories,--an
endeavour indicative of that only true spirit of philosophy which has
and can have no other end in view than the establishment of truth.

          [5] Horæ Entomologicæ, preface, p. xxiv.

That I suppose Mr. MacLeay to have mistaken the number which nature
has adopted in the combination and distribution of her various
tribes--that I totally dissent from his idea of analogies and
affinities, and from his division or rather adoption of Clairville's
division of insects into mandibulate and haustellate, will be
sufficiently evident from the contents of this little Essay; but in
these and all other instances, in which I feel myself bound to
disclose any difference of opinion which may tend to reveal or
establish truth, I hope I shall always be found urging my objections
with the deference due to an author from whose works I have extracted
many important facts, and the still more important discovery which
forms the ground-work of my own theory.

That nature has a decided tendency to the formation of circles, I
cannot for one moment doubt. If there be yet doubters on that
subject,--if there be yet those who deem the discovery of Mr. MacLeay
a mere invention of his own, let them consider the plan of the
universe, as established by the celebrated Newton,--let them behold
the glorious sun, a circular centre of light and life; let them
observe the circular attendant worlds, which revolve in circles about
him, and which are themselves attended by circular moons, whose
progression is still in circles: the very days of the year, a varied
effect of the same universally operating cause, proclaim the existence
of a circle, by lengthening and shortening until they arrive at the
very day from which our observations began. These facts, these
unquestionable facts, while they beautifully illustrate the existence
of circles in the grand primary distribution of nature, point quite as
decidedly to another conclusion, which it is my aim also to
establish--that there is a tendency universally developed, in a
greater or less degree, in all minor or less important circles to
arrange themselves round major or more important ones. Systematists,
although fully allowing the existence of this tendency in this the
primary or highest system of nature which human intellect has hitherto
been able to grasp; yet its application in detail to the systematic
arrangement of the numerous objects of natural history has hitherto
been totally neglected. It can hardly be supposed that the idea has
never occurred to any of the illustrious writers who have devoted
their time and talents to this interesting subject: it has most
probably occurred, and been rejected as insupportable. It may perhaps
be, that the apparent difficulty of arranging the objects of natural
history thus, as it were, in a mass, has operated somewhat against the
proposal or adoption of a plan like the present; but if we come to
consider the question with the cool deliberation which an inquiry of
this kind requires, I trust it will be generally considered that our
first object is to discover, if possible, nature's plan; our second to
adapt it to our own artificial ideas. Should the present, or any
future scheme, prove incontrovertible,--and incontrovertible the real
system of nature must be, whenever discovered,--it will then be high
time to meditate on the best plan of rendering it serviceable to
ourselves, and available to science; and objectors on this score must
please to recollect that the calculations for eclipses, and other
important astronomical phenomena, experienced any thing but delay or
difficulty from Newton's development of the true solar system. Be the
system of nature discovered when it may, it will never be found that
_Appia Via_ which Linnæus has made it out to be, but rather like the
Cretan labyrinth, and whoever may happen to be the fortunate Theseus,
must undertake the task of showing the way to his competitors, until
it becomes so well known, that a map of the road[6] may be drawn for
the use of all.

          [6] A systematic catalogue.

It being then incontrovertibly established, that nature possesses, on
the grand scale, two tendencies; one, the formation of globes or
circles, the other, the disposition of inferior creations to cluster
round superior ones, is it too great a presumption to imagine
tendencies thus exhibited in the creation and government of worlds, as
in some degree typical of the design from which universal nature has
been modelled? Is there the least violation of probability in supposing
the great and beneficent CREATOR the centre of HIS works, and from the
centre pervading and upholding HIS wonderful and stupendous creation?
And again, may not minor centres typify those beings on whom HE has
been pleased to bestow a marked superiority over those around them?
Such an one is man, of whom it is said, "In His own image created he

          [7] Genesis i. 27.

I will suppose them a system composed of an immense multitude of
material beings, organic and inorganic, animate and inanimate,
revolving in circles around the central, everlasting abode of that
Providence who created, pervades, and upholds them, and can, by the act
of HIS will, either annihilate or create anew,--a supposition much more
readily admitted than rejected; and, although not positively proved,
yet incapable of disproof from man's researches. I will further suppose
the minor circles occasionally clustering round major ones; yet I am
still in want of some number by which to allot to these circles their
respective stations, and give something like a primary arrangement to a
multitude that would be, without such an assistance to man's capacity,
an utter wilderness of beings; and here it will be perfectly useless to
devise or invent: the only right plan is carefully to examine all
authority within our reach, and steadfastly endeavour to discover

No authority on this subject can be equal to the Scriptures; and there
we find the number seven always used as a number of greater importance
than any other;--the six days of creation, and the seventh day of
rest, from that time more or less observed as a holy or superior day,
by divine command,[8] is the first and one of the most remarkable
instances: I need merely mention the seven clean animals which Noah
was commanded to take into the ark, the seven plagues, seven years of
famine and of plenty, and that more than two hundred other instances
occur in the Old Testament. In the New the number seven occurs still
more remarkably: as seven golden candlesticks, seven churches, seven
angels, and seven spirits of God. I need scarcely go further; but
being able to adduce the opinions which have been avowed by the
greatest naturalists that have ever lived, I rejoice to strengthen my
own opinion by such high authorities. M. le Baron Cuvier, in a paper
published in 1795, divided all invertebrate animals into six groups,
the vertebrates forming the seventh.[9] Our eminent countryman, Mr.
Kirby, observes: "The number five, which Mr. MacLeay assumes for one
basis of his system, as consecrated in nature, seems to me to yield to
the number seven, which is consecrated both in nature and in
Scripture. Metaphysicians reckon seven principal operations of the
mind; musicians seven primary musical notes; and opticians seven
primary colours. In Scripture the abstract idea of this number is
fulness, completeness, perfection. I have a notion, though not yet
sufficiently matured, that Mr. MacLeay's quinaries are resolvable into
septenaries."[10] Our own observation will speedily convince us, that
most groups of animals with which we are tolerably well acquainted are
divisible into seven; we shall never find the number greater, and when
less, we shall invariably perceive that the deficiency exists in
groups of which our knowledge is particularly limited, for the
perfection of a septenary distribution of any particular group will
depend entirely on our acquaintance with that group: thus the groups
at present known by the names Mammalia, Aves, and Insecta, resolve
themselves instantly into sevens. No ingenuity can frame eight good
groups of either, and no scheme, however plausible, can reduce the
number to sixes or fives. An attempt to reduce birds into five groups
has been made in this country; I cannot do better than refer the
reader to it as a triumphant confirmation of the predominance of the
number seven.[11] The great Linnæus assigned to Mammalia seven orders,
to Aves six, and to Insecta seven, in a system which, though capable
of improvement in many of the orders, evidently points to the truth,
and considering his limited means of reference, compared with what the
naturalist now possesses, was a remarkable and magnificent monument of
human talent.[12]

          [8] Genesis ii. 3.

          [9] Translation of Cuvier by Griffith, Vol. I. p. 64, note.
          Cuvier has since adopted the number four.

          [10] Introduction to Entomology, Vol. III. p. 15, note.

          [11] By Mr. Vigors. Linnæan Transactions.

          [12] It will be observed that in the Mollusca, Radiata, and
          Acrita of MacLeay, all attempts to employ a particular
          number in grouping will be found futile, a circumstance
          obviously attributable to our ignorance; and the only
          conclusion to be drawn from it is this: that, as these
          tribes can never be rendered available for any numerical
          distribution, so they can never be fairly and satisfactorily
          adduced in refutation of such a distribution.

To go back two thousand years before the birth of Linnæus, may be
thought rather an unlikely mode of obtaining proof of the value of a
modern theory in natural history; yet at that time we find a system of
insects[13] divided so accurately into seven groups, that every attempt
to improve it has, as far as regards these great groups, proved an
utter fallacy. Now this array of names, Aristotle, Linnæus, Cuvier and
Kirby, thus corroborating Holy Writ, even in direct opposition to our
own observations, is entitled to a good degree of confidence; but how
much more cheerfully is that confidence given when our own unbiassed
judgment must thoroughly coincide!

          [13] That of Aristotle.

Presuming, therefore, that a septenary and circular arrangement, with
one seventh superior to the others, does exist in nature, its first
application must necessarily be made to the result of the six days'
creation, which I consider as typifying six grand groups of matter,
and the seventh--the day of rest, emphatically commanded to be kept
holy--that Omnipotence who created and presides over the stupendous

          [14] I am fully aware that this part of the subject is far
          above the comprehension of man, and felt exceedingly
          reluctant to carry system farther than the two great
          groups--animals and vegetables; but alluding, as I am
          compelled to do so frequently, to the works of Mr. MacLeay,
          I was fearful lest my silence on this particular subject
          should be construed into consent. See _Horæ Entomologicæ_,
          p. 179.

To trace nature from the trivial differences which may distinguish
between two kindred mosses--differences scarcely to be detected by the
practised eye of the botanist--upwards to the grand grouping of
organized matter, into kingdoms containing myriads of such
species,--to define accurately major and minor divisions, and assign
to each division, and each individual, its appropriate place in an
enduring system, is a task, in all probability, far beyond the mental
powers of any single individual, especially when we consider the
interesting facts and fresh objects which are daily added to our store
in such number as must convince the student that as yet he scarcely
possesses a knowledge of one hundredth part of nature's works;[15] but,
to pencil a dim and dubious outline,--to suggest whether nature has
not aimed at such and such conclusions,--whether she has not chosen
such and such paths, without making the slightest attempt to bend or
turn her aside from her course where it does not precisely coincide
with his own artificial schemes, may be fairly claimed as the
privilege of any of her students, and ought to be freely granted to
him by his fellow-labourers.

          [15] In Britain we labour under another difficulty in this
          respect, a difficulty which has proved beyond measure
          mortifying during the progress of the present essay,--the
          want of a national museum.--A private individual cannot be
          expected to sacrifice all his time and money in procuring,
          preparing, and arranging, a tolerably perfect collection; a
          writer on natural history is, therefore, compelled to travel
          round to two or three hundred private collections, and
          solicit leave to make his memoranda. Few men of taste can
          regret the purchase of the ancient works of art now open to
          the public at the British Museum; but the immense sums of
          public money granted to that institution should insure the
          naturalist a similar treat with the artist. A collection of
          vertebrate and annulose animals should be immediately
          formed, arranged, and named after Cuvier, Latreille, or the
          most approved authority of the day. Among the insecta, I
          have no doubt a tolerably perfect--certainly, a very
          useful--collection might with little trouble be made from
          the specimens already in the Museum.

In looking for a centre around which to arrange the almost infinite
hosts of the animal kingdom, the vanity of man naturally enough
suggests himself; but to gratify this vanity, he must submit to the
somewhat mortifying necessity of admitting six families of apes and
monkies to his immediate company, and the tribe thus constituted may
be termed Primates,--a name originally conferred on it by Linnæus.
Anatomy, as well as external appearances, prove the propriety of this
arrangement, however repulsive the idea may be to our false feelings
of exclusiveness. Primates thus constituted, will be found to be the
central seventh of a larger group, termed Mammalia by Linnæus; a
group, which includes all the truly viviparous and mammiferous
animals. Amongst the outermost of these, as we retrograde gradually
from the type, man, we shall find a bird typified in the bat; a shark
in the seal; many other fish in the whale; a tortoise, crocodile, and
slender lizards, in the armadillos, ant-eaters, &c., all thus
exhibiting a tendency to borrow characters from other approaching
groups. Mammalia, thus surrounded, must of necessity be the central of
seven groups, within the compass of which will be found all animals
which possess a frame of connected bones and a spinal marrow; these
are termed Vertebrata, and, I think, will be found to constitute a
central seventh of all animated nature.

From this it will be apparent, that there are in nature forty-nine
groups of animals, each of about the same value as Mammalia, as far as
regards their relation to a whole. Distrustful of my own very limited
knowledge of the subject, and fearful of encumbering science with
crude theories and ill-defined divisions and characters which future
discoveries may hereafter totally subvert, I shall content myself with
observing, that I believe in the existence of such groups, and shall
not presume to give them, at present, definitions or even names: the
charge of ignorance is merited and easy to be borne, but the charge of
attempting to establish divisions, in order to secure the paltry fame
of naming them, I hope not to deserve.

In some instances, these tribes or sub-kingdoms seem pointed out by
nature's self in so decided a manner, that the lisping infant will at
once recognise them. Where this is the case, what can definition
avail? Let us refer to birds as one of these clearly marked divisions.
I single it out as better understood than either of the others. Let us
ask, To what does all the arrangement tend which has here been so
lavishly bestowed? To utter confusion, volume after volume, essay
after essay, open their yawning leaves, and repeat, again and again,
one and all, utter hopeless, unintelligible confusion. But if,
neglecting the high authorities on the subject _in toto_, we
condescend to consult nature, we shall soon perceive that birds
readily range themselves in seven good and clearly defined groups; one
of which is preeminently distinguished from the rest, and yet partakes
in some one or other of its component genera of the characters of all
the other groups; such a sub-class must, therefore, be central; and,
by a little care in availing himself of the most obvious approaches,
the naturalist will find every other sub-class, and order, and genus,
beautifully filling up their appropriate situations, without causing
any of those distortions which so disfigure every existing arrangement
of this interesting tribe. Syrrhaptes, Serpentarius, and all those
hitherto parodoxical creatures which seem to have frightened our
ornithologists out of their wits, are now not only admissible, but
absolutely necessary to connect tribes which no one had previously
supposed in the least degree related;--but I will not here forestall,
as an attempt to point out the numerous and unlooked-for relations
existing among the genera of birds, which the present plan has served
to develop, forms the subject of a separate essay, already in a state
of forwardness; and the more immediate object of my present inquiry,
although a tenant of the air, is not to be sought for among its
feathered tribes. I will, therefore, leave these for the present,
fully intending that the ornithologist as well as the entomologist
shall have an opportunity of examining whether my theory has truth and
reason to support it, or whether he must condemn it as an _ignis
fatuus_ of the brain.

The law that rules animal rules also vegetable nature: the phænogamous
plants present a centre very nearly corresponding, in relative value,
to vertebrates among animals; these, again, offer equal scope for
subdivision; and the surrounding vegetations must be those at present
termed cryptogamous, which vary as greatly among themselves as they
collectively do from the more perfect and central ones: the various
tribes of Fungi, Algæ, Filices, Musci, &c., possessing wonderfully
varied forms and characters, and assuming every size from the gigantic
fern of the tropical islands to that almost invisible Mucor, which
seems, by its instantaneous appearance, to be for ever floating in the
air, prepared to vegetate wherever it may chance to fall, and has
often afforded arguments to those who deny the dictum of _omnia ex
ovo_, and support that of spontaneous reproduction; thus ennobling
these almost nonentities, by assigning to them properties which man
might pine for in vain, and which cannot be the attributes of dust.

The centre for each particular group will not always derive that mark
of superiority from its size, or intelligence, or beauty, or
complicated structure, but from a combination of these qualities, and
more particularly from uniting in itself the principal and more
decidedly distinguishing characters of the group of which it forms the
nucleus, and the gradation will by no means be found to be regular,
from the most perfect in the centre to the least perfect on the
circumference of minor groups, although I imagine this relative
position to obtain in the extremes: on the contrary, the approaches
towards perfection or imperfection will be infinitely varied,
presenting the most complete labyrinth of intricacies that imagination
can conceive, yet all disposed with that beautiful and wonderful
regularity which proclaims more loudly than words, that "the natural
system is the plan of creation itself, the work of an ALL-WISE

          [16] Horæ Entomologicæ, preface, p. xiii.


Many theories, which read plausibly enough, we find, on attempting to
apply them, totally at variance with facts: I will, therefore, not
content myself with making unsupported assertions, but endeavour to
summon to my aid fragments of the great whole, and array them before
the reader, in what I consider order, asking of him, as an especial
favour, that he will examine and compare the genera and species which
I shall mention as related to each other in corroboration of my
scheme; for much as I could wish by argument to convince him that a
system of circles, grouped in sevens, exists universally throughout
nature, yet I should much prefer that, by actual experiment, he should
convince himself. With this view I will take a rapid survey of the
central class[17] of Insecta, observing in what particulars it is
related to those which surround it. I have selected insecta first
because I already possessed a slight knowledge of its contents;
secondly, because there exists little difference of opinion as to
those contents;[18] and, thirdly, because Mr. MacLeay has given it as
his opinion "that it is among insects above all other groups of
animals, that owing to their myriads of species, the mode in which
nature's chain is linked--a mode, the knowledge of which comprises all
knowledge in natural history, will be most evident, and therefore most
easily detected."[19]

          [17] I have invariably used the term class, to designate the
          orders of Linnæus, and sub-class, for the next division, of
          which seven are supposed to exist in every class: these
          sub-classes may sometimes constitute natural orders, in
          which case a plural termination is given; thus, Blatta
          constitutes in itself a sub-class Blatta, a natural order
          Blattæ, and a genus Blatta; but generally a sub-class will
          contain seven natural orders; as sub-class Scarabæus
          contains natural orders--Lucani, Coprides, Scarabæi,
          Histeres, &c.

          [18] The only question as to the contents of insecta, is,
          whether the pediculi are true insects or not; the class
          Hemiptera is so closely related to them, that I cannot think
          it a great violation to place them in the outermost circle
          of that class; the acari may be supposed meeting them in an
          adjoining circle, but I have no desire to provoke
          controversy on this minor point.

          [19] Annulosa Javanica, preface, p. xi.


It is somewhat remarkable that, although considerably upwards of two
thousand years have elapsed since the first system of insects was
promulged, at least the first of which we have any knowledge, yet no
attempt has hitherto been successfully made to improve it; from this
perfection I think we may fairly conclude, that the philosopher of
Stagira was not merely a man of extraordinary talent, but that he had
made himself the repository of what had previously been saved of the
learning of his forefathers, in a day when it will be recollected the
printing press had no existence; and we have nothing to prove that
entomology had not degenerated through the two thousand years previous
to Aristotle, as it unquestionably did during the two thousand years
subsequent to the time of that philosopher, when our own immortal
countryman, Ray, revived the science, and laid the foundation of a
regenerated lustre, which, perhaps, may eventually rival that diffused
by the great Stagirite himself. Be this as it may, the systematist has
no choice but to go back two thousand years for the primary outline,
or classification of insects; and, I may add, nothing but a desire to
make myself clearly understood, prevents my adopting the nomenclature,
as well as the division of Aristotle. I shall, however, employ the
more modern and less appropriate names for the present, hoping that at
a future day an opportunity may occur of doing justice to the merits
of that writer, whom we are all compelled to follow, or to forsake the
path of truth.[20]

          [20] The learned authors of the _Introduction to Entomology_
          have inserted a sketch of the Aristotelian system in that
          work, a reference to which will convince the reader that it
          is next to impossible for the entomologist to over-rate him.
          See _Introduction to Entomology_, Vol. IV. p. 433.

The reader who does not understand exactly what animals constitute the
sub-kingdom Insecta, may refer to the _Introduction to Entomology_,
where he will find the subject fully and accurately investigated.[21]
It would be a needless incumbrance of my subject to repeat these
definitions here, but as I am unable to meet with any characters
for classes, by which relations and differences can readily and
conveniently be traced, I have been induced to add a few definitions
to those already in use, which I am the more willing to do because
they will be useful here without ever perplexing science by forsaking
the pages of this essay.

          [21] Introduction to Entomology, Vol. III. pp. 1-51.

  Column headings legend:

  G: General character.
  R: Resemblance to Imago.

  |                                   CLASSES                               |
  |        LARVE        |           PUPA        |         IMAGO             |
  |     G    |     R    |      G     |    R     |  Wings.   |    Mouth.     |
  |   I. LEPIDOPTERA.                                                       |
  | Polypod. | None.    | Quiescent. | None.    | Four,     | Antliate.     |
  |          |          |            |          | scaly.    |               |
  |  II. DIPTERA, _Arist._                                                  |
  | Apod.    | None.    | Quiescent. | None.    | Two,      | Proboscidate. |
  |          |          |            |          | and two   |               |
  |          |          |            |          | poisers.  |               |
  | III. HYMENOPTERA.                                                       |
  | Various. | None.    | Quiescent. | Slight.  | Four,     | Mandibulate.  |
  |          |          |            |          | membra    |               |
  |          |          |            |          | naceous.  |               |
  |  IV. COLEOPTERA, _Arist._                                               |
  | Various. | Various. | Quiescent. | Slight.  | Two,      | Mandibulate.  |
  |          |          |            |          | and       |               |
  |          |          |            |          | two       |               |
  |          |          |            |          | wing      |               |
  |          |          |            |          | cases.    |               |
  |   V. ORTHOPTERA.                                                        |
  | Hexapod. | Perfect, | Active.    | Perfect, | Four,     | Mandibulate.  |
  |          | except   |            | except   | structure |               |
  |          | in       |            | in       | various.  |               |
  |          | wanting  |            | wanting  |           |               |
  |          | wings.   |            | wings.   |           |               |
  |  VI. HEMIPTERA.                                                         |
  | Hexapod. | Perfect, | Active.    | Perfect, | Four,     | Promuscidate. |
  |          | except   |            | except   | structure |               |
  |          | in       |            |   in     | various.  |               |
  |          | wanting  |            | wanting  |           |               |
  |          | wings.   |            | wings.   |           |               |
  | VII. NEUROPTERA.                                                        |
  | Various. | Various. | Various.   | Various. | Various.  | Various.      |

The very imperfection of this table will constitute its principal
utility, because, instead of acknowledging variety as a suitable
definition of any particular part or state, the differences of which
in respective classes, entomologists have been accustomed to consider
characteristic, we find authors labouring to confine a group by what
they would wish to consider good and solid characters, which
characters they often at last leave so comprehensive, as not only to
include the class which they had originally intended to define, but
also a majority of those other classes which they had supposed
previously disposed of. If, in reply, my reader should tell me that my
seventh class was somewhat of this too comprehensive kind, I should
simply reply that I intended it to be so; and if my reader happen to
know a better, he can interline it in his copy. A space would then be
occupied, which has hitherto in all such definitions been really,
although not verbally, vacant.

It is hard to break through the trammels of habit; it is hard to give
up what one has for a long time taken for granted; it is hard to
relinquish favourite schemes, however untenable: an innovator,
however, is bound to deliberate well and coolly,--is bound to try all
the various schemes before him with the test of reason. If the
entomologist do this he will find his positive knowledge much less
than he expected,--he will perceive that he is book-wise and
fact-foolish; if, therefore, he would wish to arrive at truth, he must
strip himself of his borrowed garments and all the theoretical dogmas
he may have, however incautiously, imbibed, and trust entirely to what
he has discovered himself, or what has been discovered by those who
had no theory to support but truth,--no end to answer but amusement;
for your theoretical writers, if they meet with a fact which militates
against a favourite theory, will too often suppress it entirely, and
on the same principle are ever anxious to magnify to an unnatural
size, any slight, and often imaginary, circumstance, which they
consider may tell in their favour. Among theories that have been thus
established on very weak and insufficient foundations are all
dichotomous divisions, especially those in which one group is defined
as possessing and the other as wanting any fixed and peculiar
character; a definition, by the by, applicable to nearly all
dichotomies: the dichotomy to which I have here to allude is the
division of insects into Mandibulata and Haustellata. Now every
division founded on the presence or absence of a particular character
should be received with the greatest caution, because the second group
in which the character is absent[22] is sure to be too comprehensive.
Mr. MacLeay,[23] himself no great friend to dichotomies in general, is
completely led away by this particular one. He considers the classes
I. II. and VI. of the foregoing table to constitute one grand order,
and the classes III. IV. V. and VII. to constitute another; and, after
Clairville, he calls the former order, Haustellata, and the latter,
Mandibulata. Mr. MacLeay's name is a tower of strength to any theory;
and his authority, added to the plausibility of the idea, has really
given such a truth-like appearance to this division, that we see it
now universally adopted. Let us examine its worth. First, I would ask,
Can distinctive characters, thus drawn from part only of the external
anatomy of insects, be sound, when to enforce them we are compelled to
neglect various other characters which we have been accustomed to
consider all important? Scopoli has said, "_Classes et genera
naturalia non sola instrumenta cibaria, non solæ antennæ nec solæ alæ
constituunt_;" but our dichotomizing entomologists tell us, that
neither antennæ, nor wings, nor habit, nor metamorphosis, are to be
regarded at all, but "_sola instrumenta cibaria_;" at least, they
infer this by separating Orthoptera and Hemiptera, by the intervention
of several orders totally unrelated to either of them, a disruption
which no nature-loving naturalist could for a moment admit. The truth
is, there are seven kinds of mouth in insects, so distinct that good
classes could be built on them,[24]--classes which would confirm those
which Aristotle appears to have derived chiefly from other characters:
of these seven, three are mandibulate, three are haustellate, and one
without the rudiments of mandible or haustellum. The three which are
mandibulate are somewhat similar, the three which are haustellate bear
no more resemblance to each other than that which they all may be said
to bear to that haustellated quadruped an elephant; and the tie which
holds Haustellata together as a group is about as strong as one formed
to bend in a genus Blaps mortisaga, Acrida aptera, Cimex lectularius,
and the female of Bombyx antiquus, with the one sole character of
being destitute of wings.

          [22] And, be it observed, Haustellata merely means _not
          mandibulate_; it does not propose to assert that the
          contents of the tribe so named need have a particular kind
          of haustellate mouth, or any mouth at all.

          [23] Mr. MacLeay has written a little pamphlet on the
          impropriety of the dichotomous system, which I recollect
          reading, when published, with considerable pleasure. I
          forget its title.

          [24] If the reader happen to be unacquainted with the terms
          which I have used in characterizing the mouth, he will find
          them accurately and elaborately described in _Ind. to Ent._
          Vol. III. p. 393, _et seq._ The orders of Fabricius depend
          entirely on the formation of the mouth. See _Systema

A second fancy which I wish to combat is, that of analogy and affinity;
and as Mr. MacLeay is by far the most learned and competent advocate of
these distinct descriptions of resemblance, and as I cannot pretend to
refer to or cope with the voluminous writings extant on this subject, I
am necessitated to allude to his work alone. It will be seen by the
_Horæ Entomologicæ_, (a work which I have already spoken of with
unfeigned admiration,) that Mr. MacLeay considers that relation
observable in the general appearance, habit, food, metamorphosis, &c.
of insects, a relation of analogy, while that dependent solely on a
fancied resemblance in the mouth he considers a relation of affinity:
thus classes V. and VI., which, in five characters out of six, agree as
closely as such comprehensive classes can do, he considers related by
analogy, and classes I. and VI., which, in five characters out of six,
are as unlike as insects can be, he considers related by affinity;[25]
so Dr. Johnson, when he calls affinity "resemblance," must have made
a capital blunder, for Mr. MacLeay proves clearly that it means
dissimilarity. Classes I. and VI. however, I find will meet as the line
becomes bent into a circle, and therefore we must conclude it to be a
hidden affinity, for it certainly is not apparent; and moreover it must
be remarked, that the relation between classes is but little apparent
generally, except they are taken in pairs: thus, between I. and II.,
between III. and IV., and between V. and VI., the relation is real and
readily ascertained, although distant; while between II. and III.,
between IV. and V., and between VI. and I., it becomes scarcely
traceable. It is also worthy of notice, that the contents of either
pair of classes, with the addition of class VII., may be formed into a
tolerably perfect chain of genera, indeed with much less appearance of
disconnexion than is observable on passing from either pair into the
next pair,--a fact which attaches a degree of importance to the number
three, on which, perhaps, at a future time, more may be said,--and thus
a chain of relation would be established in each instance, leaving four
whole classes entirely out of the question;--a chain which would
steadily pursue its way, regardless and in open violation of all
established laws of analogy, affinity and dichotomy; laws which I hope
ere long to see pining away like Echo, until they also are really what
I now fully believe them to be, _vox et præterea nihil_.

          [25] Horæ Entomologicæ, p. 367.

Mr. MacLeay found that in his quinary groups one of each five
contained genera or species related to other genera or species in each
of the other four groups. That I may be thoroughly understood, I will
quote the author's own words:--"In almost every group which has been
set before the reader, he must have perceived that one of the five
minor groups into which it is resolvable, bears a resemblance to all
the rest; or, more strictly speaking, contains types which represent
each of the four other groups, together with a type peculiar to
itself."[26] As far as my observation has extended, this is universally
the case; and whether the total number of groups be five or seven, I
think I am safe in asserting that the only possible way of making
these types, thus representing groups, approach such groups, is to
place the heterogeneous group in the centre, and the homogeneous
groups around it; taking care that the type peculiar to itself be its
very centre, its "heart's core." Such a heterogeneous group, then, is
Neuroptera: its characters as given,[27] I believe, perfectly correct;
and can any one say they are sufficient? Certainly not; but had I
described it thus--Class VII. Neuroptera, central, partaking of the
characters of all the others, I think a better character could not
have been given. This class contains a type peculiar to itself--the
genus Libellula of Linnæus: a genus so distinct, that several authors
have supposed it to constitute one of the primary divisions of
Insecta. It is, however, merely the Neuropterous type, the very
essence of the class; and many of its species, Anax Imperator for
instance, proclaim themselves by their imperial flight, their enormous
size, their richly variegated colours, their despotic and cruel
habits, emperors of the insect world. In this group we find the organs
of sight, manducation, and locomotion, carried to a greater degree of
perfection than we ever meet with, except in similar centres: like the
king of birds, the dragonfly is unrivalled among his kind. From
Libellula, the centre, we descend at once to Tinodes, or Psyche, on
the circumference of the circle. Supposing Psyche to be the
approaching genus to Lepidoptera, I think I need not enter very
diffusely on the similarities. Passing to the right, we find that
Diptera will next touch the central class; in which, after leaving the
Phryganeæ, we have now arrived among the next group, or sub-class,
Ephemeræ: and here, as we might expect, the inferior wings become much
diminished--at the point of contact obsolete.[28] The flight, instead
of being solitary, is in company, gracefully and gently rising and
falling. The parts of manducation are become obsolete; while, in habit
and appearance, the insect imitates the Tipulæ and Chironomi, so
exactly that the naturalist is foiled in his endeavours to distinguish
between them, as they joyously dance together by myriads in the rays
of the setting sun.

          [26] Horæ Entomologicæ, p. 518.

          [27] See the Table.

          [28] In Cloëon.

We now approach mandibulated orders, and we shall see the loss of
mandibles in Phryganea and Ephemera, although apparently resulting
naturally enough from their distance from the type Libellula, has yet
another cause--the proximity of classes that have no mandibles: in the
city-building Ants, the mandibles are very perfect, and, therefore, we
may expect them, and we find them in the city-building Termites. The
opinion of philosophers, such as the authors of the _Introduction to
Entomology_, is always worth having, although I am doubtful of
assertions about insects, when unconfirmed by thorough entomologists;
and I believe as yet no entomologist is sufficiently acquainted with
the real history of white ants, to decide positively as to their
different stages of existence. The following quotation contains also a
corroboration of the propriety of this approach:--"The white ants,
though they belong to the Neuroptera order, borrow their instinct from
the hymenopterous social tribes, and, in conjunction with the ants,
(Formica,) connect the two orders. Their societies consist of five
descriptions of individuals:--workers, or larvæ; nymphs, or pupæ;
neuters, or soldiers; males and females."[29] The class Coleoptera now
approaches the Neuroptera, and on each side the boundary we find larvæ
digging pitfalls in the sand to catch their prey, and having tubular
mandibles to extract its juices when caught. We find them spinning
silken cocoons, in which they change into quiescent pupæ, incapable of
taking nutriment; which may fairly be supposed a symptom of approach;
but there is no insect whose imago I would venture to place on the
circumference of the neuropterous circle at the point.

          [29] Introduction to Entomology, Vol. II. p. 32.

When we find an insect so doubtfully situated between two classes,
that Linnæus placed it in Neuroptera, Fabricius in Orthoptera,
Latreille, in two of his works, in Orthoptera, and in two others in
Neuroptera, MacLeay in Neuroptera, and Kirby and Spence in Orthoptera,
I think it but fair to conclude, that the orders must approach very
nearly to admit of this difference of opinion: such is Mantispa; and
Mantis-like as it really is, it only borrows that appearance from
being on the extreme circumference of the Neuropterous circle, and
touching the Orthopterous one where Mantis must evidently be situated.
Lastly, we see in Psocus the form, wings, and whole appearance of
Aphis, so exquisitely imitated, that practised entomologists often,
nay mostly, fail in separating them correctly: thus we find that class
VII. contains five natural orders, the contents of which have
been--and may be again, should the linear and dichotomous system
continue in vogue--placed either in the class to which they truly
belong, or respectively in classes I. II. III. V. and VI. at the mere
option and caprice of the systematist. I have already admitted that I
find no neuropterous insect sufficiently related, in its final state
to class IV. to warrant my placing it in contact with that class; and
that I may not be accused of assuming facts which exist only in my
imagination, I am perfectly willing to conclude that no such insect is
to be found; a conclusion that time and discovery, by falsifying, can
only add yet one more buttress to a tower, which nature seems to point
out as built by herself.

There are a few little insects which, like the spiders which crept
across Richard's brain, are somewhat perplexing to the naturalist, yet
he cannot dispose of them as the monarch did of his spiders; I mean
Pulex, Stylops, Thrips, Forficula. But, in truth, the first attempt
of the systematist should be to place classes properly, and these
disconnected species will, after a time, find appropriate places: they
were no more created without a design than man; and their Creator,
doubtless, has appointed them a station, although man, whose wisdom
is utter ignorance, has not yet been able to discover it. It is
impossible for the entomologist not to observe the general similarity,
the family likeness if I may so express it, which exists between these
genera; they appear a little way removed from Coleoptera, yet will
not harmoniously join that class. Thrips is evidently mandibulated,
although the dichotomists call it haustellated, and comes nearer to
Stylops[30] than any other known genus: its larva is, I believe,
unknown; but in March you may observe an active hexapod, lizard-like
animal, running about the flowers of Ranunculus ficaria on sunny
banks, and two or three months later you will find Thrips abundant
on the same flowers in the same spots: this is no proof of their
identity; but as the larva of Thrips and the imago of the said hexapod
are equally unknown, there may be a surmise expressed on the subject.
Mr. Kirby calls this hexapod Pediculus Melittæ, and has given a
description and plate of it in his _Monographia Apum_.[31] He there
asserts that De Geer considered it the larva of the Melöe
proscarabæus, and some observations of my esteemed friend, Mr.
Doubleday, who succeeded in obtaining the larva of Melöe from the egg,
certainly tended to corroborate De Geer. But I am rather wandering
from my subject, and, therefore, will consider these little creatures
also, wandering like comets in eccentric courses over the whole
system, now approaching Staphylinus, and anon Ichncumon, and, as they
draw near, borrowing a character from each: they may, on the other
hand, constitute disconnected links of some other mighty chain, the
intervening parts of which are for a time hidden from the sight of
man, and perhaps hereafter may be revealed; perhaps, again, they may
occupy some of the chasms I have been compelled to leave vacant: but I
deprecate, I detest the idea, of forcing any creature into a situation
which nature has not evidently pointed out as its appropriate one, for
the ignoble purpose of giving plausibility and imperfect perfection to
a scheme.

          [30] For a beautiful and accurate figure and dissections of
          this rare insect, see Curtis's Entomology, pl. 226: for a
          _popular_ figure, _Professor-edly_ of the same insect, see
          Insect Transformations, p. 67.

              A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
              Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

          [31] Monographia Apum, Vol. II. p. 168.


It may be thought a strange propensity to grapple with difficulties,
that leads me to select Lepidoptera as a class, by which to exemplify,
in detail, the septenary and circular arrangement. There is no class
so puzzling to systematists, or for which science has done so
little--no class is at present so badly arranged, and in none are
barbarous combinations so much in vogue. Linnæus founded divisions at
the outset, on characters, "loose, vague, and insufficient:"[32] modern
genera have a little improved minor details, and but little, for their
places appear to have been assigned them by lot, and without the
slightest regard to similarity or approach: in a word, the arrangement
of Lepidoptera appears to have been conducted by collectors, who aimed
rather at a pretty picture than a related series; and all our writers
have rushed headlong by the same path, without staying an instant to
consider whether they were right or wrong, like boys playing at
follow-the-leader,[33] each occasionally leaping some wider gap, or
descending some more dangerous precipice than his predecessor, as
though for the very love of frolic and bravado. _One_, a talented
writer, an assiduous collector, a most accurate observer, hesitated
awhile, it is true, and it was thought he would have broken the line,
but no,--he kept precisely to the track of Linnæus and the rest of
them, through Papilio, Sphinx, Bombyx, Noctua, Geometra, Pyralis,
Tortrix, and Tinea; but, as he stood pledged to traverse no more than
five fields, he hit on the ingenious expedient of asserting roundly,
that the four last named were but one. In fact, the whole of this
immense class presents, at this hour, nothing but a vast chaos, which
seems to await the operation of some predicted spell to call it into

          [32] Particularly in the sections of Papilio.

          [33] Linnæus.


These were apparent difficulties only; for, as no system existed to
direct, so none existed to encumber or perplex. Too much is known now
of Linnæan combinations, to assert, that he always thought correctly;
and since his day no one has thought at all. Now, if you cannot obtain
a nicely drawn plan, you prefer having a blank sheet of paper to one
covered all over with scorings and markings, and then you may set to
work and make your plan yourself. So, in natural history, contrariety
of opinion perplexes, while the absence of opinion leaves the
systematist perfectly unbiassed in the formation of his own. Again,
copious and well-named[34] collections of this favourite class are by
no means uncommon;[35] and through, the liberality of my friends, I had
often been permitted to inspect them, and had gained a sufficient
superficial knowledge of their contents, to be enabled, with the
assistance of my own specimens, to cluster them pretty well into seven
great families or sub-classes; and although, as I have noticed,
nothing available existed on the subject of arrangement of
Lepidoptera, either in essay, or treatise, or catalogue, or cabinet,
yet there was to be found, up and down, much valuable matter, in the
shape of what might be termed natural history of Lepidoptera. Finally,
I knew, that could I master this class, I could stand my ground,
because I had previously tried the experiment on the classes
Hymenoptera and Coleoptera, and had found that, at the word seven,
they fell into instant order, as at the touch of a magician's wand;
and, as for the other classes, we are in such innocent and blissful
ignorance of their contents, that were a scheme ever so futile, a
century at least must elapse before its futility could be proved by
Orthoptera, Hemiptera, or Diptera.

          [34] I mean each species labelled with _a_ name.

          [35] _British_ collections.

Whoever will give himself the trouble to examine thoroughly a
collection of British Lepidoptera, will find a very great majority of
them evincing very evident symptoms of relation to one or other of the
following species:--Papilio Machaon, Sphinx Ligustri, Pyralis
verticalis, Tinea pellionella, Noctua pronuba, and Geometra roboraria;
and should any form widely different from either of these occur, it
may, if the larva be known, be placed in the centre of a ring formed
by the groups, which we will suppose surrounding their six respective
types; or, if its larva be unknown, it must await the discovery of
that most unerring stage of its existence. I am persuaded, did
entomologists know how much depends on the form, habit, food, and
clothing of larvæ, they would not be so neglected as they are at
present. I have much to regret my own remissness in this respect, for
it has seldom happened that I have found the larva of any insect which
had not been previously well known, but it has tended to point out
some approaches that had never before been thought of,--approaches,
even when thus pointed out, totally irreconcilable with existing ideas
of arrangement and combination of groups, but which now open to my
view the most beautiful chains of affinities; and wonderfully but
indubitably prove, that a single individual may be related to three,
four, or even more apparently disconnected groups.

Perhaps no better genus was ever formed than Papilio of Linnæus; its
diurnal flight, its erect wings, and its clavated antennæ, at first
bid defiance to the systematist who attempts to bring any other group
into contact with it; indeed, in Britain we have nothing at all that
will avail us in this respect, which compels me to have recourse to
exotics, an assistance which I shall only avail myself of when I find
it quite impracticable to furnish the approaches from indigenous
species, the reference to which is attainable by every entomologist.
Among foreign Papiliones, especially among those groups which approach
our genera, Hesperia, Lycæna, Polyommatus, and Thecla, there appears
to be an almost infinite variety of form. Now it is but reasonable to
seize on any variations observable in genera or species from the
prominent or typical genus or order from which they may be supposed to
derive their more conspicuous character, and to employ such variations
in arrangement as connecting links between the group to which they
more decidedly belong, and the group to which, by such variation, they
evince an approach: a precisely intermediate species or genus between
two classes or sub-classes, or even orders, I have never met with,
notwithstanding the renowned Linnæan maxim, that _Natura saltus non
facit_; for did nature make no leaps, surely the question were
immediately at rest as to the existence of any other division than
species among created beings, a conclusion which even the most
strenuous supporters of the Linnæan dogma decidedly resist. Among the
Papiliones, this departure from the type may be looked for either in
the form of the antennæ, the position of the wings, or the time of
flight. The first is obviously the most tangible should it occur, and
it does occur. In Urania, the antennæ have become setaceous; the club
has entirely disappeared, yet the other peculiarities remain much as
in Papilio. This single deviation may be assumed as pointing out a
relation to Geometra, which the reader will perceive is supposed to
meet the sub-class Papilio at this point. A second peculiarity is to
be found in an insect figured by Godart, a Polyommatus in shape, but
with pertinated antennæ;[36] the genus he has very suitably named
Barbicornis. This deviation, it must be observed, is in favour of the
Bombyces, which we therefore suppose touching the sub-class at this
point. A third deviation, of a very different kind, is observable in
an insect which Latreille has figured in the Règne Animal, and placed
among the Sphinges: he calls it Coronis D'Urvillii. The antennæ in
this genus, as in Castnia, are gradually incrassated, and they may
probably be eventually both considered as Papiliones: of Coronis
D'Urvillii, I cannot entertain a doubt, as the wings are too
expansive, the antennæ too long, the abdomen too short for it ever to
retain its station among the Sphinges; the inferior wings are also
very decidedly caudate, a common formation among Papiliones, but
unknown among Sphinges; but, let this question be eventually decided
_pro_ or _con_, the approach between Hesperiæ and Sphinges is not
likely to be disputed, nor the fact that it takes place somewhere in
the neighbourhood of the genus Castnia.

          [36] Latreille seems to think this to have been a deception,
          and that the antennæ which Godart found on the insect did
          not belong to it. I cannot suppose that the latter author
          could have been so grossly deceived.

The next type is Sphinx Ligustri; and here again our British
collections are obliged to plead poverty; few, however, as they are at
present, I am compelled, if I purpose consulting nature, to reduce
them about half: the Ægeriæ and Zygænæ must be moved elsewhere; they
look like Sphinges, but are none. I will begin then with Castnia, of
which no more need be said. The next striking departure from the type
occurs in having the abdomen furnished with tufts or brushes, which
the insect spreads as it hovers over flowers, somewhat in the manner
of a bird's tail. The long porrected antlia also has a resemblance,
perhaps rather fancied than real, to the slender bill of a
humming-bird, whence the tribe has received with us the name of
English humming-birds. The genus Sesia I will place on the
circumference of the circle, not doubting but nearer approaches to the
Cossi may be discovered, or are even now known, but no better exists
among our own Sphinges. The next point of contact will be with
Pyralis; and here the genus OEgocera, figured in the Règne Animal,
seems to claim its station: it is a decided Sphinx, with the palpi of
Hypena proboscidalis, and Latreille has placed it between Sesia and
Zygæna, from which it will be seen that I differ only in making Zygæna
pass over the boundary line and into the next section.

We enter the third sub-class then at Pyralis, and find ourselves among
some of the most beautiful little creatures in existence--sylph-like
beings, which spend their lives in the brightest sunshine and among
the sweetest flowers. Linnæus considered them Sphinges, from what
character is not very apparent: the sub-character, applicable only to
this section, is certainly correct; they are truly "_larva diversæ_."
As for the antennæ being "_medio crassiores_," it is not the case,
unless the increase and decrease of pectination can be considered as
making them so. Of this particular tribe Latreille observes, "_Les
autres lepidoptères de cette division ont dans les deux sexes, des
antennes garnies d'un double rang de dents alongées ou bipectinées.
Ceux qui out une trompe distincte forment le genre Glaucopis; ceux où
cette organe manque ou n'est pas distinct celui d'Aglaope--ces
crepusculaires semblent se lier avec les Callimorphes._" The approach
of the genus Aglaope to Aglossa, rather than to Callimorpha, seems to
be presumable from the circumstance of its not possessing a tongue,
the genus Glaucopis having more similarity to our genus Pyrausta,
while some of its species, which appear to call for further generic
division of the order, are closely allied to our Botys literalis, &c.
The only British genera of this order are Zygæna and Ino; the latter,
however, appears to be merely a species of some extra-European genus,
as I have remarked several exotics of precisely similar form. The
insects of this order have a stout and rather hairy larva, much like
those of the generality of the sub-class, and in no respect allied to
that of the Sphinges. Early in the summer they spin a glossy silken
cocoon, generally attached to blades of grass, and remain but a few
days in the pupa state. A great proportion of the perfect insects have
hyaline spots and patches in their wings, and nearly all of them are
brilliantly coloured. It is known that Linnæus occasionally, as in
Tenebrio and the present instance, made his genera recipients of
species, which he found a difficulty in locating properly; but it is
really astonishing to find a naturalist like Latreille abiding by so
absurd a combination as the contents of the Linnæan genus Sphinx, and,
in servile imitation, calling creatures which nothing but an unclouded
sun ever tempts abroad--Crepuscularia.[37] It is no part of my present
plan to assign names to orders, or to describe their contents, except
in those particular instances in which the more immediate object of
this Essay may render it imperative. I will, however, just observe,
that I by no means consider Zygæna the type of the order, but merely
the nearest point of contact with Sphinx, and an evident departure
from its true type, which perhaps may be found in that ill-divided
genus Glaucopis, the form and appearance of which is altogether more
Pyralis-like than Zygæna. I am well aware that OEgocera and Zygæna do
not harmonize so beautifully as many other approaches, and fully
expect to see the connexion between these sub-classes much improved;
but I have seized on these genera as demonstrating a tendency in each
individual towards the sub-class to which it does not belong. The
circumstance of Zygæna having been so long considered a Sphinx will
warrant its situation on the very circumference of the circle which
contains its order, until a more appropriate occupant of that
situation can be found. At the central point of contact, the genus
Aglossa presents a very Bombyx-like appearance; its shape, its want of
the antlia, &c. indicate approach; and from the sub-class Tinea, the
division of Pyralis is at present an imaginary one: at this point,
after making what little comparison I am able, I am induced to place
Galleria, Melia, and Ilithya, in Pyralis; and Chilo, and Crambus in

          [37] Volatu vespertino, _Lin._

The fourth sub-class, Tinea, far exceeds in numbers either of the
others, and probably all of them together; and where such a multitude
of species exists, great diversity in form and habit may be expected:
the Pterophori are a most singular tribe, and greatly resemble the
Tipulæ in many respects. I feel by no means certain that their
situation would not be better between the lepidopterous sub-class,
Tinea, and the dipterous sub-class, Tipulæ, thus throwing them
completely out of the lepidopterous circle; but this I leave. I am now
only sketching a rough and hasty outline from nature. If I attempt to
finish my drawing as I proceed, I shall find occupation sufficient for
a lifetime. I have observed that I considered the chain of relation
entering from the last sub-class at Chilo, or about that genus; the
same order must of course include Crambus, and its congeners; the next
order will contain Yponomeuta, which I will place at the point of
contact; and the next point being among the true Tortrices will drive
Halias fagana as a decided departure from their typical form to the
very circumference of the circle where it touches Noctua.

The fifth sub-class, Noctua, seems to be but one mighty genus: we will
enter it from Halias fagana, an insect so nearly allied to Noctua in
its larva, its pupa, and its imago, that for a long time I hesitated
to which sub-class it belonged; again, in Cymatophora,[38] subtusa and
retusa, I was fearful that by considering them Noctuæ, I might deprive
the order Tortrices of a genus on which perhaps many curious
combinations might depend, and I now only place them in Noctuæ until I
may have an opportunity of examining their larvæ, which I have not yet
been fortunate enough to meet with. Towards the central sub-class
there appear to be many genera which approach the line of contact;
Agrotis and Chareas for instance:[39] I prefer taking the latter, and
must mention the species Graminis, as I am fearful of encumbering my
system with species to which I not only never intended to refer, but
should probably place in some distant order, or perhaps sub-class. At
the approach to Geometra, the genus Catocala, from its looping larva,
seems to have a right to be placed: this I, however, look on with
suspicion, as the larva appears to me any thing but a guide in the
connexion of sub-classes; but I here succumb to customary usage in
making this genus the approach to the real loopers, objecting,
however, to the intervention of Phytometra, Euclidia, and Brepha.

          [38] Ochsenheimer places Oo in this genus, and I observe Mr.
          Stephens confines the genus to that one species. Mr. Curtis
          places Oo in the genus Bombycia: this confusion of genera is
          very puzzling, but I hope, by mentioning species, to make
          myself understood. Oo is not at all applicable to my

          [39] Perhaps Noctua Lambda.

The sixth and last of the exterior sub-classes is Geometra, and we
shall find one insect which is completely a Geometra, and yet in the
larva has two additional feet, and the abdominal fringe of Catocala:
this is Metrocampus margaritaria,[40] an insect, without which the
connexion of these sub-classes would have been difficult to establish.
The next species I am acquainted with seems to be Rumia cratægaria,
and after it the Thorn moths, as they are termed (Crocallis?): these
lead to Geometra[41] in the centre, which may be considered the
farthest removed from any of the surrounding sub-classes; from the
genus Geometra a line may be drawn through Biston, Nyssia, and
Hybernia, to the point of contact with Phalæna in the centre, and
another through Boarmia, Abraxas, and Ourapteryx to Urania, from which
genus of Papiliones perhaps the reader will recollect we set out.

          [40] Of Mr. Curtis's _Guide_. I cannot consider fasciaria,
          Mr. Curtis's next species, at all allied.

          [41] Alcis. Curtis.

The seventh and central sub-class, Phalæna, now claims our attention.
The mere circumstance of having taken a little tour round it gives but
a very poor idea of its contents, and although my reader may assure me
he knows them sufficiently well already, that assurance will by no
means satisfy me that he and I are at all agreed either as to what
those contents may be, or as to their relative situations. Before,
however, I again set in earnest to the task of pointing out relations
and approaches, I feel that some apology is due for attempting the
restoration of a beautiful and euphonious name to that grand group of
Lepidoptera, to which it was originally assigned by the eminent
naturalist who was the first to define and name such groups.[42] I am
fully aware this is an attempt at innovation for which I can never be
forgiven by the scientific; for the merit of the present day seems to
consist in the total neglect of grouping and classifying, and in
making a host of imaginary genera and species, for the mere pleasure
of overwhelming us with a "farrago" of barbarous and unutterable
names,--a practice which my unsophisticated and old-fashioned notions
will never dwell on with that deferential awe which such profound
science has an undoubted right to expect.

          [42] Linnæus.

Again, on the subjects of _orders_, a term I have already been induced
to use now and then, I am quite aware that I here am guilty of another
misdemeanour, and more especially as I call them natural orders,
meaning thereby orders among the contents of which nature has
established the similarity; and to the formation of which "the
cunningly devised fables" of man have contributed but very little; and
meaning also that nature has implanted in us all, more or less, the
power of distinguishing such orders by a mere glance, and without any
reference to our books.

Furthermore, the naming of orders which I have been obliged to mention
by name, in the unscientific way which I have adopted, merely making
them plurals of established names, of large and overgrown genera, I
acknowledge to be a confession of ignorance not usual in this our day,
especially as these old genera have almost in every instance the
disadvantage of being euphonious, easily pronounced, expressive, and
universally understood; and an opportunity once missed of coining
names for three hundred new orders, (and each might have been a
combination of consonants which no one could spell, or speak, or read,
or understand,) alas! alas! may never occur again.

To return; I suppose the sub-class Phalæna to contain seven natural
orders, a number precisely similar to that discovered from
observations made on the larva by that most accurate and indefatigable
naturalist, Dr. Horsfield;[43] and I may add, my own divisions are
derived from the same source, together with the pupa and whole habit:
the perfect insect has no characters, hitherto discovered, by which we
can ascertain either sub-class or order, and from this circumstance I
am compelled to omit those genera of whose larvæ I am ignorant,[44] and
even to leave those as doubtful, of which I possess but a partial
knowledge of that state.

          [43] I regret not having Dr. Horsfield's work to refer to;
          but I believe I am perfectly safe in stating from memory
          that these seven he considered typed in the genera,
          Saturnia, Lasiocampa, Cossus, Cerura, Arctia, Laria, and
          Limacodes: two of these he manages to unite to other two, in
          order to reduce the number to five, but I forget which.

          [44] As the genera which I must mention ought necessarily to
          be drawn entirely from one work, in consequence of authors
          differing as to their contents, I have adopted those in Mr.
          Curtis's _Guide_, invariably: below is a list of the genera
          he has given in this section, with my own idea of their
          situation attached to each, and the addition of six genera,
          which Mr. Curtis does not consider as belonging to the
          sub-class Phalænæ:

              789 Trochilium    2 Cossi.
              790 Ægeria        2 Cossi.
              791 Hepialus      2 Cossi.
              792 Cossus        2 Cossi.
              793 Zeuzera       2 Cossi.
              794 Stauropus     3 Notodontæ.
              795 Pygæra        3 Notodontæ.
              796 Clostera      3 Notodontæ.
              797 Notodonta     3 Notodontæ?
              798 Pterostoma    3 Notodontæ.
              799 Petasia       Sub-class Noctua.
              800 Episema       Sub-class Noctua.
              801 Colocasia     6 Lariæ.
              802 Dimorpha      3 Notodontæ?
              803 Cerura        3 Notodontæ.
              804 Ptilophora    3 Notodontæ?
              805 Endromis      Order uncertain.
              806 Saturnia      7 Phalænæ.
              807 Eriogaster    1 Bombyces.
              808 Clisiocampa   1 Bombyces.
              809 Lasiocampa    1 Bombyces.
              810 Odenestis     1 Bombyces.
              811 Gastropacha   1 Bombyces.
              812 Hypogymna     6 Lariæ.
              813 Orgyia        6 Lariæ.
              814 Laria         6 Lariæ.
              815 Arctia        6 Lariæ.
              816 Arcturus      6 Lariæ?
              817 Spilosoma     5 Arctiæ.
              818 Phragmatobia  5 Arctiæ.
              819 Penthophera   Order uncertain.
              820 Eyprepia      5 Arctiæ.
              821 Eulepia       4 Lithosiæ.
              822 Hypercampa    4 Lithosiæ.
              823 Callimorplia  4 Lithosiæ.
              824 Deiopeia      4 Lithosiæ.
              825 Lithosia      4 Lithosiæ.
              826 Nudaria       Sub-cl. Phryganea.
              827 Psyche        Sub-cl. Phryganea.
              828 Heterogena    Order uncertain.
              829 Limacodes     Order uncertain.
              854 Acronycta     5 Arctiæ.
              942 Platypteryx   3 Notodontæ.
              943 Drepana       3 Notodontæ.
              944 Cilix         3 Notodontæ.

Natural Order--_Bombyces_. Has an elongate cylindrical downy larva,
which rolls itself into a ring when touched; the pupa changes in a
close gummy oval cocoon, remarkably small for the size of the imago.
Among the exotic species of Lasciocampa, we find in the males
particularly slender bodies, expansive wings, the inferior grooved to
receive the abdomen, and diurnal flight, all of them characters so
indicative of an approach to Papilio, that we scarcely hesitate a
moment in assigning it the approaching station, not but I expect fully
that time will eventually furnish us with a connexion on each side yet
more conclusive.[45] The second genus of Bombyces is probably
Odenestis, and the third Gastropacha, whose prominent and elongated
palpi appear to point out an approach toward a tribe of insects with
the same peculiarity, of which there are several to be found in the
following order:

          [45] See a Papilio with the antennæ of a Lasciocampa. Drury,
          Vol. III. pl. v.

Natural Order--_Cossi_. The larva is depressed; naked, except a very
few scattered hairs; has sixteen feet; lives through one or more
winters; never rolls itself in a ring when touched; feeds on the solid
interior woody parts of vegetables. The pupa generally changes in a
tough oval cocoon, interwoven with particles of its food. It has a
double ring of raised denticulations of each segment of the abdomen,
by means of which it is endowed with a considerable power of
locomotion. The genus Zeuzera is very near the point of contact with
the Bombyces. In Zeuzera there is much resemblance to the antennæ of
Gastropacha. One genus, or group of genera, I expect will prove to be
Stygia, a native of New-Holland. A second, at the point of contact
with Sesia in Sphinx, must be Ægeria; thus retaining its place among
British insects, immediately between Sesia and Cossus.[46] This is the
first of a series of the most beautiful instances of approach, or
rather, of what ought to be termed _relations of analogy_, that any
system has ever previously disclosed. As a few words will again be
necessary on this subject, I refrain from any further observation
here, than merely requesting the reader to examine how minutely the
Sphinx characters are appropriated by a true lignivorous Phalæna,
which cannot be said, in any of its prior and principal states, to
have the most distant approach to Sphinx. A third genus is, probably,
the strange and paradoxical exotic Oiketicos, which has been minutely
described in the _Linnæan Transactions_; and a fourth is Hepialus.[47]
This genus has some slight points in which it differs from the others
of the order already known, the larva being radicivorous only, seldom
or never ascending internally the stems of plants: it changes in the

          [46] It is a most singular chance that these genera should
          have been placed so naturally, as the cause of this
          proximity has never before been even hinted at.

          [47] Another type of Hepialus is figured in Drury, Vol. II.
          pl. xiii. 2.

Natural Order--_Notodontæ_. The larva is naked, has sixteen feet, and
is, in different genera, furnished with excrescences, and apparent
distortions in various parts of the body. The eighth or last pair of
feet, and three last segments of the abdomen, are elevated; when the
insect is at rest, the head and first segment are raised in a similar
manner. In one genus (containing Camelina) the head and extremity of
the abdomen nearly meet over the back, when raised in this singular
manner. The posterior feet are frequently useless in walking; in some
genera, entirely obsolete. The pupa is smooth, in a cocoon, mostly
among dead leaves on the surface of the ground: sometimes it is
glutinous, and interspersed with fragments of wood, like the last. I
confess I am exceedingly puzzled both with the contents and extent of
this order; but this arises from my having seen so few of the species
in the larva state. Ptilophora plumigera, figured by Mr. Curtis,[48] I
had always considered a Notodonta; but the larva evidently excludes it
from the order, and, I should imagine, places it among the Noctuæ;
where among them I know not, for I have not the slightest idea of any
congeners, either of the larva or imago. The larva from which a
collector of Lepidoptera could expect to obtain such an imago would be
unicolourous, stouter in the middle, elevated in the penultimate
segment, and more attenuated towards the head.[49] Pygæra appears
doubtful at first, but when observed quite at rest, and in a perfectly
natural position, elevates the head and tail, though in a much less
degree than the typical genus. Mr. Curtis's genus Notodonta contains
several good species, which may be considered as typing the order, as
Ziczac, Tremula, and Dictæoides. The first species, Trepida (the
Peridea serrata of Mr. Stephens,) seems more nearly related to
Endromis. Both these may, however, probably belong to the order
Notodontæ, and be situate near the approach to the central order
Phalænæ. Petasia cassinea and Episema cærleocephala appear to be
genuine Noctuæ, and very near Chareas graminis, and Rusina ferruginea,
as far as my very imperfect knowledge of these four species will allow
me to judge. Clostera is another departure from the type; but this may
be accounted for, in some degree, by its close proximity to Hepialus,
from which genus it borrows its remarkably short antennæ, and other
peculiarities. It seems a strange perversion of judgment to place
Platypteryx at the end of or among the Geometræ; but Linnæus did so,
and that is enough. Hubner, Haworth, and a few others, positively
ventured, in this glaring instance, to refer this genus to the
Bombyces; but their ideas were thought to be wrong, and their judgment
was, _nem. con._ reversed. I have elsewhere expressed a wish that my
readers should convince themselves, and the frequent occurrence of the
larvæ of Platypteryx and Cerura would afford any naturalist abundant
opportunity of ascertaining, that they can be referred to but one
order. The approach of Platypteryx and Cilix to the Pyralides, in
assuming so much of their characters, is very interesting, and is a
most striking departure from the typical form. These genera also
approach the Lithosiæ, but not so nearly as some exotics.

          [48] British Entomology, pl. 328.

          [49] As the larva so decidedly forbids the introduction of
          this insect among the Notodontæ, and places it among the
          Noctuæ, it probably in some degree approaches Geometra
          pennaria in the adjoining sub-class.

Natural Order--_Lithosiæ_. The difference between Lithosiæ and Arctiæ
is rather difficult to point out; yet a difference exists, which it is
perfectly impossible not to detect. The larva of Lithosiæ has sixteen
feet, is very active, is moderately hairy, does not readily roll
itself in ring, but occasionally assumes that attitude. The pupa is
smooth, changes in a slight web, in which the hairs are intermixed.
The approach of Lithosia[50] to the genus Yponomeuta, in Tinea,
scarcely need be pointed out. It will be observed, that Mr.
Samouelle[51] was aware of this approach, and placed the genera
Lithosia and Yponomeuta following each other. The splendid Callimorpha
dominula, although, to all appearance, a real Arctia, must be included
in this order, and placed in contact with the following one.

          [50] See note for the genera of Lithosia.

          [51] Ent. Useful Com. p. 249.

Natural Order--_Arctiæ_. Larva, with sixteen feet, generally very
hairy, bear-like; rolls itself in a ring when touched; pupa smooth, in
a slight web. Whether the whole of Mr. Curtis's genus Acronycta must
be included in this order, I am not able positively to say: the genus
Apatela of Mr. Stephens certainly must, and until I have obtained
sufficient information to decide on Acronycta, we must bring Mr.
Stephens's genus only into the order, leaving the remainder of the
species undisposed of. The development of the antlia in Acronycta
discovers as near an approach to Noctua, as Lithosia does to Tinea;
but the bear-like, cocoon-spinning larva place these insects in close
alliance with the true Arctiæ.

Natural Order--_Lariæ_. Larva, with sixteen feet, and furnished with
various brushes, or fascicles of hair, on different parts of the body,
but mostly on the anterior dorsal segments; it rolls itself in a ring
when touched. The genus Porthesia of Mr. Stephens may be considered a
near approach to Eriogaster, in the following order, Bombyces, in many
of its peculiarities, as the abdominal hair with which it covers its
eggs, in its antennæ, &c. Orgyia antiqua, on the other hand, is in
habit, expansion of wing, slender body, and apterous female, a close
approach to the Geometræ, near the genera Hybernia and Nyssia; in
fact, were it not for the larva, that is, were the larva unknown, we
should have no hesitation about placing this insect with the Geometræ.

Natural Order--_Phalænæ_. Larva, with sixteen feet; it has a circle of
wart-like protuberances on each segment, from each of which spring a
few strong bristles; pupa, smooth, with a few bristles at the tail;
changes in a cocoon, which is singularly left partly open at one end.
We have but one species of this order in Britain, Saturnia
carpini;[52] but among exotics there is a great variety, some
remarkable for the immense expanse of their wings.[53] Probably
Phalæna Atlas of Linnæus is the centre of the group, and, if so, the
centre and type of the class Lepidoptera.

          [52] Saturnia carpini is the Pavonia minor of Linnæus, who,
          apparently, considered it a variety of a completely
          different species: the retention of a name thus originating
          in error is not justifiable.

          [53] Drury has some fine figures of this order, particularly
          Vol. I. pl. xviii. 2; Vol. II. pl. v. 1, pl. vi. 2, pl. xi.
          1, 2, pl. xiii. 2; Vol. III. pl. xix. pl. xxiv. pl. xxv. pl.

I have previously given, in a note, a list of the genera which are
usually considered as Bombyces, and ought, therefore, if properly
placed, to be included in the sub-class Phalæna; five of those genera
yet remain, and at present must be excluded from the sub-class:
Penthophera, Heterogena, and Limacodes, because I know nothing of
their history; Nudaria and Psyche, because, in the larva, pupa, and
imago states, they have the habit and appearance of another class
(Neuroptera). The time of their dwelling with Lepidoptera is over and
gone; they have already occupied too long a position to which they
were not entitled. The difficulty of assigning a situation to
Limacodes I hope to see removed, as the larva is occasionally to be
met with. I must also remark, that although I have proposed a
situation for Endromis, I feel very doubtful as to its being the
correct one. These doubts and difficulties will probably gain me much
censure; but I must endeavour to shelter myself in some degree, by
observing, that I am the first who has ever deviated from the original
Linnæan arrangement of Lepidoptera, the first who has ever thought of
appealing to nature in support of theory, or rather has waited for
nature to supply him with theory; and surely some allowance is to be
made for a first attempt of any kind. I would also plead the poverty
of our British Fauna in the sub-class, and my almost entire ignorance
of exotic Phalænæ. Even supposing myself acquainted with all our
indigenous species, they will barely furnish a systematist with a clew
to the truth: you may pick up a single link of a chain, yet fail to
discover the length of that chain, or the situation in that chain
which the link originally possessed.

Having, then, pointed out, as clearly as my limited knowledge of the
subject will permit, not only the principal contents of the class
Lepidoptera, but endeavoured to establish them in appointed and fixed
stations, and to show their mutual approaches, at least those of the
most striking kind and essential to my purpose, I must now proceed to
make a few remarks on the nature of these approaches. It will be
observed, that they are, almost without an exception, what Mr. MacLeay
considers relations of affinity, that is, the relation is between
species which, in their imago state, have a real and positive
similarity to each other; so much so, that entomologists, unacquainted
with the prior states, and frequently even in direct defiance of their
own knowledge of those states, place them in orders, and even
sub-classes to which they do not belong; to which fact all our systems
and catalogues bear most ample testimony. This similarity is by no
means confined to a cursory glance at the insects, but bears the test
of a minute anatomical investigation, the antlia, palpi and antennæ
demonstrating the approach quite as forcibly as the form and
appearance of the whole insect. Where a tribe has short biarticulate
palpi, a genus departing from the type will assume elongated and
triarticulate palpi, should another tribe with those characters
approach it: again, should a tribe with long antlia approach a tribe
whose character it is to have none, we shall be sure to find a genus
without antlia at the point of approach. On the other hand, the very
egg, the larva, the pupa, the mode of feeding and description of food,
the mode of metamorphosis, and, in fact, every prior quality, or
state, from which distinctions could be obtained, differ so decidedly,
that the characters of these often bear as near an approach to those
of Hymenoptera, Neuroptera, and even Coleoptera, as to those of their
own kindred, into immediate contact with which these approaches will
be found inevitably to bring them. What term can then be applied to
designate the real value of this species of approach? Supposing the
terms analogy and affinity to have had good, sound, and distinct
meanings, as originally employed and explained by great naturalists,
they have now been so confused, confounded, and utterly misunderstood
by ignorant persons, that either of these terms is entirely out of the
question:[54] in fact, a suitable term by which to designate this
peculiar species of relation or approach, I neither know where to
find, or how to invent; and, therefore, I shall purpose simply to call
it relation of larva, relation of pupa, or relation of imago, as the
case may be.

          [54] No individual need say with more heartfelt
          sincerity--"Preserve me from my friends," than Mr. MacLeay;
          let the naturalist read the _Horæ Entomologicæ_, and he will
          pause in admiration at the vigorous, manly display of
          intellect, which, frankly and eagerly seeking truth, throws
          a golden lustre over every page; and, I confess, my eyes
          were opened to the suspicion that all was not pure gold, by
          the awkward and abortive attempts of commentators to prove
          it so. Puerile schemes of applying the quinary system in
          detail, and sundry vapourings about affinity and analogy,
          have so mystified these subjects, that they already totter
          to their very foundations, and must speedily fall; while the
          existence of circles must stand for ever as a discovery of
          which Britain is proud.

In one instance, the relation of imago is, from several combining
causes, which it will be unavailing to recapitulate, uncertain
enough--that of Barbicornis and Lasiocampa; but I would ask the
impartial reader, is it half so far-fetched and untenable as those in
common use? Can human sagacity, in sheer wantonness, invent
combinations more unnatural than ----, twenty or thirty of which we
could all point to in our own cabinets? For the value of the other
relations (eleven others) I appeal to the judgment of the assiduous
collector, the experienced observer, the real nature-loving
naturalist,--to him who has spent days in the woods, and not only
captured but observed these delightful beings,--to him who never
invented or supported a theory,--to him who is pledged to no system,
to no party,--I ask him, nothing doubting of his concurrence, whether
these relations do not too plainly bear the impression of nature's
seal, to allow him to doubt one instant of their reality.

In the next place a question occurs, how is the relative position
of the sub-classes proved to be correct, seeing it is so totally at
variance with what we have from our childhood been perfectly satisfied
with?[55] It is proved correct, simply and solely by the harmony
with which each flows into each,--with which neighbour meets
neighbour,--comparable somewhat to that exquisite feeling which
induces a man to bend to the peculiarities, and perhaps even little
failings of a friend, until he makes them almost his own. It can
hardly be supposed that the sub-classes naturally fell into the
positions which I have assigned to them, without some little
endeavour, on my part, to produce this harmony. This was far from the
case. The discovery, if it be one, was the result of serious and
deliberate study. Even after arriving at their present state, I have
twice endeavoured to alter these positions, once in hopes of making
some of the Tortrices meet the Papilionidæ, as I had an idea that that
very assiduous and ingenious naturalist, Dr. Horsfield, had mentioned
the discovery of such an approach.[56] In vain, however, did _I_
strive to discover such an approach, in either larva, pupa, or imago,
while these points of resemblance were most abundant between the
Geometræ and Papiliones; the pupa, as though in sport, being now
suspended by the tail, now girted round the waist, now enveloped in a
silken web; sometimes round-headed, sometimes pointed, sometimes
eared; now smooth, anon angulated, black, brown, yellow, pure green,
clouded, or spotted: of these, and a thousand other peculiarities,
which tended to corroborate my ideas of arrangement, I refused
invariably to avail myself, trusting to one guide only, which seems as
steadfast as a rock: that _relation of imago constitutes approach of
divisions; relation of larva is the tie which holds divisions
together_. The second alteration I endeavoured to make, was to place
the Papiliones in the centre, a situation to which their splendour and
magnitude would really appear to give them a title. This idea seems
every way so plausible, and so likely to be proposed by entomologists,
should any such see merit enough in this system to give their
attention to its minutiæ, that I am compelled to consider it more at

          [55] This question has occurred.

          [56] It is so long since I have seen Dr. Horsfield's
          beautiful work, that I will not pledge myself to the
          doctor's making this assertion.

To a sub-class selected for a centre, two qualities are indispensably
requisite. They have been previously given from Mr. MacLeay, who, it
will be remembered, discovered that one of each of his five groups
contained types of the other four, besides a type peculiar to itself.
This quality must hold good in any group thus selected for a centre;
it must contain types of the six surrounding groups in the first
place. Now, is this applicable to Papilio? Have we not already
experienced the greatest difficulty in finding three good approaches,
the smallest number which a sub-class can possess? How then can we
hope, by any good fortune in discovery, to make ourselves masters of
three other entirely new ones, and these to sub-classes to which it is
confessedly the most unlike? Phalæna, on the contrary, presents us
with Lasiocampa, Ægeria, Cilix, Lithosia, Apatela and Orgyia, five of
which genera beautifully typify the approximating sub-classes. The
preference on this score then is decidedly with Phalæna.

The second position, that it should contain a type peculiar to itself,
is almost a matter of course; but my own idea is, that the very centre
should not only be a type of the genus, or order, or sub-class, but of
the class itself of which it is the centre. From this position, then,
a further and still more important question arises,--What is the type
of Lepidoptera? The parts which afford the generic characters of
Lepidoptera, and, I believe, generic characters in the perfect state
are the only ones of any value, are these--the mouth, palpi, antennæ
and wings; and, as no medium can constitute a type, the excess of
these characters, whether superlatively or diminutively considered,
must be resorted to as the most probable means we possess of
discovering what this type may really be. First, then, the mouth. In
Lepidoptera, we find two distinct characters in this;--first, its
entire absence; secondly, its being furnished with prodigiously long
antlia. The first character is that of Phalæna, the second that of
Sphinx. Next, the palpi are either entirely obsolete or exceedingly
prominent, the first in Phalæna, the second in Pyralis. Thirdly, the
antennæ are remarkably pectinated, or clavated, or setaceous: the
first character is that of Phalæna, the second that of Papilio, the
third that of Noctua. Fourthly, the wings are enormously expansive in
proportion to the body, or remarkably small,--the first is the
character of Phalæna, the second that of Sphinx. It need scarcely be
added, that all these characters are to be met with in every
intermediate degree of intensity. Now, it appears, that Phalæna
possesses an extreme of each of the four principal characters, Sphinx
of two, Noctua of one, and Papilio of one; therefore Phalæna is the
typical genus, Phalænæ the typical order, and Phalæna the typical
sub-class of Lepidoptera: and a necessary conclusion from this fact
is, the type of Lepidoptera is an insect without antlia or palpi, with
very pectinated antennæ and enormously expansive wings, and we may add
nocturnal flight: so that such peculiar characters as the thick full
body and prodigiously long antlia of Sphinx, the clavate antennæ,
erect wings, and diurnal flight of Papilio, argue a departure from,
and not an approach to, the type.

By a reference to the Diagrams exhibiting the classes of Insecta, and
the sub-classes of Lepidoptera, it will at once be observed, that the
central group in each case contains types of the surrounding groups.
Now after a central group has thrown off a set of six forms, each
representing, in general appearance, some group equally extensive with
such central group, the faculty or power of throwing off such forms
becomes, in a good degree, extinct, or, at any rate, very much
debilitated. This can be no unforeseen, but a perfectly natural, and
absolutely necessary consequence; for taking either of the two classes
which are at present sought after, Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, we must
observe, that did either of them possess as varied forms and
characters as are to be found in Neuroptera, the essential and
distinguishing character of that class, viz. variety, and the
harmonious arrangement of the whole sub-kingdom, would both be
entirely lost; and it would remain for human ingenuity to locate
either of the classes centrally or externally, as caprice, or the love
of differing from others, might dictate. I wish it to be observed,
that Neuroptera, in the genera Psyche, Cloëon, Termes, Psocus and
Mantispa, does not merely assume the form of the genera, Tinea,
Chironomus, Formica, Aphis and Mantis, but actually possesses the
characters and appearance of the classes Lepidoptera, Diptera,
Hymenoptera, Hemiptera and Orthoptera. The obviously homogeneous
character of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, although, probably,
containing in every sub-class more species than the whole of
Neuroptera, clearly disproves the existence of variety amongst their
contents, equal to that amongst the contents of Neuroptera. Yet the
power, although weakened, is by no means extinct; for, amongst the
central group, Phalæna, we find the sub-classes, Papilio, Sphinx,
Pyralis, Tinea, Noctua and Geometra, most faithfully pourtrayed in
Lasiocampa, Ægeria, Cilix, Lithosia, Apatela and Orgyia, and not
merely the individual genera which may happen to approach. As far as I
can discover, after this second series of types the faculty becomes
much weaker, and, after a third, ceases entirely. A decided difference
existing between the first and second series of types, must on no
account be lost sight of, because it so decidedly proclaims the
superiority of the first: in the first instance, the whole character
of the central type, Libellula, is completely lost in each of the
varying types; whereas, in the second instance, the characters of
Phalæna are preserved most decidedly to the remotest ramifications of
the class, subject, however, to the variations already pointed out.

The natural order, _Cossi_, of which the larva and pupa have been
already described, contains but ten genera, even including those whose
claim to a place in the order is somewhat doubtful; and these ten are
readily referable to six families. The genus, Stygia, of New Holland,
seems from Latreille's description, decidedly to belong to this order.
Speaking of Stygia Australis, he says, "_M. Villiers la considère
comme intermediare entre les Sesies et les Zygènes; mais elle n'a
point de trompe; ses palpes sont ceux de Cossus; ses antennes sont
courtes, et nullement en fuse, et plus analogues a celles de certains
Bombyx qu'a celles des Sesies et des Zygènes_."[57] Now the fact, as
M. Latreille supposes, of having no antlia, argues most forcibly the
impossibility of uniting this genus either with Sphinx or Zygæna; for
the sub-class Sphinx not only possesses the most elongate and
conspicuous antlia of any sub-class, but retains this character to its
very circumference, and imparts it to approaching groups, whose types
will be found entirely aglossate: its similarity therefore in shape to
the Sesiæ, which tribe is generally understood to include the Ægeriæ,
is merely that relation of imago which I have before so repeatedly
pointed out. The situation, which without this genus must have been
vacant, thus filled, gives us a most perfect chain of families
throughout the order, except at the point of connexion with Phalæna, a
point of no consequence, because it too much favours old theories to
be contested.

          [57] Règne Animal, tom. V. p. 395.

It is rather remarkable, that in this order no instance should occur
of more than three genera belonging to any one family, a number which
I should hardly suppose complete, because a difficulty must always
occur in placing, as in discovering the typical genus or species,
where the number is confined to three.

The introduction of a new generic name, after what has been said on
that subject, may appear rather an inconsistency, but I found it
indispensable, as the species in question would not bend to either of
the established genera, Trochilium or Ægeria; it will, moreover,
afford those whose labours in this way I have somewhat deprecated, a
fair opportunity for retaliation. The families and their relative
situations, as far as my immature and hastily-formed judgment will
allow me to decide, I have shown in the annexed diagram: but it is now
time for me to describe the species whose situation I am endeavouring
to point out.

Sub-kingdom, INSECTA.

Characters from the imago.

The body is divided into three parts, head, thorax, and abdomen; the
head has two fixed compound eyes, and two moveable antennæ. Insects
have six jointed legs in pairs; they breathe by lateral spiracles.


Characters from larva, pupa, and imago.

Larva polypod, bears no resemblance to the imago; pupa quiescent,
bears no resemblance to the imago. Imago has four scaly wings, and the
mouth aglossate or antliate.

Sub-class, PHALÆNÆ (central).

Characters from larva, pupa, and imago.

All varying (the universal character of such central groups).


Natural order, COSSI.

Characters from the larva and pupa.

Larva depressed, kaned; has sixteen feet, lives through one or more
winters, never rolls itself in a ring when touched, feeds on the solid
interior woody parts of vegetables; pupa changes in a tough cocoon, in
which are interwoven particles of the larva's food; it has a double
row of small raised denticulations on each segment of the abdomen,
which give it partially the power of locomotion.

Family ÆGERIIDÆ, Stephens.

Characters from the Imago.

Palpi triarticulate, incrassated at the base, acuminate at the apex,
prominent, enclosing the antlia; antennæ, sub-cylindric, gradually
incrassated from the base nearly to the apex, the apex itself
acuminate and terminated with a fascicle of hairs; ocelli, two. Flight
diurnal in the hottest sunshine.

Genus MEMYTHRUS.--_Sphinx_, Linn.; _Sesia_, Laspeyres; _Ægeria_, Fab.

Characters from the imago.

Palpi very prominent, and densely clothed with scales at the base, in
appearance angulated; antlia fine, not so long as the antennæ; antennæ
the length of the thorax, in the male much pectinated, in the female
simple; superior wings clothed with scales, inferior hyaline.

Sp. 1. MEMYTHRUS VESPIFORMIS.--_Sphinx Vespiformis_, Linn. Syst. Nat.
II. p. 804, n. 31. _Ægeria Asiliformis_ of Fabricius, and other

Characters from the imago.

Palpi black, yellow at the apex; antennæ black, beneath testaceous;
fulvous at the base; head black, excepting a white mark before each
eye; a yellow ring round the neck; thorax black, with a yellow spot at
the base of each superior wing; abdomen black, slightly barbate, with
three equidistant yellow belts; superior wings deep fuscous, inferior
hyaline; femora and anterior tibiæ black, posterior tibiæ and all the
tarsi yellow.

Inhabits England, but is very rare.

Sp. 2. MEMYTHRUS CRABRONIFORMIS.--_Sesia crabroniformis_, Lasp.

Inhabits Italy.

Sp. 3. MEMYTHRUS CRASSIPES.--_Sphinx crassipes_, Drury.

Inhabits Africa.

Sp. 4. MEMYTHRUS TIBIALIS.--_Ægeria tibialis_, Fab.

Sp. 5. MEMYTHRUS ----?--Unnamed in the Linnæan cabinet.

Several other species probably exist, with which I have not happened
to meet.

The principal distinctions between Memythrus and Ægeria are, that the
antennæ in the former are not longer than the thorax; in the latter
they are much longer; in the males of the former genus they are
decidedly pectinated, in those of the latter but obscurely ciliated;
in the former the anterior wings are always opaque, in the latter
always hyaline.

    _Natural Divisions to which the_ SPHINX VESPIFORMIS _of Linnæus is





1. The Classes of Insecta to face page 21.

2. The Sub-classes of Lepidoptera to face page 31.

3. The Natural Order of Cossi to face page 52.

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