26 AUGUST 1876, Page 17



SIR,—Although the Spectator does not appear to be an organ for the discussion of special subjects, but rather for noticing at more or less length whatever interests a large and varied body of readers, I still think it should depart a little from this rule of a general literary journal, in bringing a subject into more prominent notice than ordinary, when the publications devoted to it decline or delay doing it. I allude to the question, so long discussed by naturalists, whether or not vipers swallow their young. I do not, however, ask you to do more than call attention in this way to. what appeared in Land and Water on the 22nd of July, in which a writer (Mr. Buckland, it is presumed), in noticing "Contribu- tions to Natural History and Papers on other Subjects," by my- self, says :—" The fact that the natural-history papers in this volume made their appearance in the first instance in these columns, is an effectual bar to our offering any opinion on their- merits." This seems to me to be a very odd conclusion to arrive at, considering that it is Mr. Buckland himself who maintains that vipers are not "swallowers." All the papers sent to him were in- tended for him to comment on, and admit or reject the evidence contained in them. If the authority of the writer is requested for that purpose, I readily give it to him, and I call on him to. say whether or not the evidence furnished in the work, and an appendix published lately, does not conclusively prove that vipers do swallow their young? I do this more particularly for the reason that Mr. Buckland, in his edition of White's "Natural History of Selborne," has taken no notice of evidence, no matter where it comes from, on the affirmative side of the question.—I am, Sir, &c.,.