16 MARCH 1934, Page 21

[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Captain 'Bernard 'Aeworth!s-theory (which

most appro- priately is followed in your columns by a letter entitled, " Affiliation -Proceedings ") is of so astounding a character as to merit (like most astounding suggestions) the closest consideration—especially since more than the reputation of the female meadow pipit is at stake. Should Captain Acworth's surmise be true, the virtuous Wordsworth (althOugh not of the Cockney school of poets) would assuredly have termed the cuckoo not " a _wandering voice," but " a wandering vice"; and he might sadly have mused on Nature's failure to set up in our hedgerows a court for wronged birds akin to that over which Lord Merrivale, till re- cently, so augustly presided.

English lawyers will stoutly maintain two points, viz. : (1) That a charge of this scandalous nature against the cuckoo and his alleged adulteresses must be strictly proved. (For all I know, the suggestion may even be that the cuckoo is the Tarquin of the birds, in which case his alleged conduet takes on a criminal aspect, and demands even stricter-proof).

(2) That in such an investigation, physical violence being always to be deplored, Mr. -Edgar Chance should certainly not take a grin to the cuckoo. Sentence first and trial after- wards is intolerable ; after the —event, the cuckoo might be proved innocent, in which ease the most frightful miscarriage of justice would have occurred.I am, Sir, &c., 5 Gray's Inn Square, London, W.C. 1.

W. J. WENHAM. • P.S.—One important piece...1. ewietance does, prima facie; seem to support Captain Acworth's theory. It is that collection. of cuckoos' eggs in the Natural History Aftiseum with their extraordinarily close mimicry of the eggs of the hostess bird. Can it be plausibly argued for one moment that the mother cuckoo is able, by some swift process of imitative coloirration in the ovarial act, to deterniine the colour of her eggs; so as (for instance) to lay a pale blue one in the-nest of the fledge-sparrow. If so, Mills' powerful inductive argument from marks of design in 1STature (and using the term " design " in a double sense) is remarkably strengthened,