Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/68

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56
MOLLUSCA.

able that they seem to live for many hours after they are detached from the body, twisting themselves like so many worms."[1]

Thus we have slightly touched a few of the details of the history of this great division of animated beings; and we discover that they are not less rich in interesting endowments and faculties, in various contrivances and compensations, in singular habits and instincts, than other animals higher in the scale of organization. But it is only when we study the Mollusca as living beings, that we discover these points of varied interest. The mere collection of shells, however curious their forms and brilliant their colours, would impart but a small amount of knowledge when separated from the animals to which they belong. "The shell-collector of former days looked upon his drawers, if they were rich in rare species or varieties, as containing an assemblage of gems; and, indeed, the enormous prices given for fine and scarce shells, joined with the surpassing beauty of the objects themselves, almost justified the view which the possessor took of his cabinet of treasures. They were to him really 'les delices des yeux et de l'esprit;' and the energetic zeal with which he collected, and the sacrifices that he made to procure a fine and perfect Many-ribbed harp, a Gloria maris, or Cedo nulli, among the cones; an Aurora or Orange-cowry, a Voluta aulica, or Voluta Junonia, &c., were only comparable to the extravagances of those visited by the tulip mania when it was at its height. But though they were the delight of his eyes, they were, in nine cases out of ten, little more to the owner of them: they were

  1. Excursions to Arran, p. 319.