Philosophical Transactions, for the Year 1742-3

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Philosophical Transactions, for the Year 1742-3  (1743) 
by Henry Fielding
A satire on the life-cycle of a Guinea, in the form of one of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.



For the Year 1742-3.


Several Papers relating to the Terrestrial CHRYSIPUS, GOLDEN-FOOT, or GUINEA, an Insect, or Vegetable, which has this surprising Property, that being cut into several pieces, each piece lives, and in a short time becomes as perfect an Insect, or Vegetable, as that of which it was originally only a part.

Abstract of Part of a Letter from the Heer Rottenscrach, in Germany communicating Observations on the CHRYSIPUS.


Some time since died here of old age, one Petrus Gualterus, a man well known in the learned world, and famous for nothing so much as for an extraordinary collection which he had made of the Chrysipi, an animal or vegetable; of which I doubt not but there are still some to be found in England: however, if that should be difficult, it may be easy to send some over to you; as they are at present very plentiful in these parts. I can answer for the truth of the facts contained in the Paper I send you, as there is not one of them but what I have seen repeated above twenty times; and I wish others may be encouraged to try the experiments over again, and satisfy themselves of the truth by their own eyes. The accounts of the Chrysipi, as well as the collection itself, were found in the cabinet of the above-mentioned Petrus, after his death; for he could never be prevailed on to communicate a sight of either while alive. I am,

SIR, &c.

Terrestrial Chrysipus.jpg

Observations and Experiments upon the Terrestrial Chrysipus, or Guinea, by Mynheer Petrus Gualterus.

Translated from the French by P.H.I.Z.C.G.S.

THE animal in question is a terrestrial vegetable or insect, of which mention is made in the Philosophical Transactions for several years, as may be seen in N° 000. Art. 0000. and N° 00. Art. 002. and N° — Art. 18.

This animal or vegetable is of a rotund, orbicular, or round form, as represented in the figure annexed. In which A, denotes the ruffle; B. the hand; g, the thumb of that hand; d, the finger; e, the part of that finger to which the CHRYSIPUS sticks: f, f, f, f, four tubes, representing the Πέος, [1], or man's staff mentioned by Galen in his Treatise de Usu Partium; and by Aristotle, in that little book called his Άρχβιβλιόν, or Master-piece, The το θηλυκου, or woman's pipe, an oblong perforated substance, to which the said Πεή directly tend, is represented by the letter C. The mouth of the Chrysipus is in this anteriour middle, it opens into the stomach, which takes up the whole length of the body. The whole body forms but one pipe, a sort of gut which can be opened but at one end, i.e. at letter C.

The size of the body of a Chrysipus varies according to its different species.

I know two species only, differing in extent almost one-half; which, for distinction sake, I call the whole Chrysipus, and the hemi-Chrysipus. The latter of these is by no means so valuable as the former. The length of the Πεή differ likewise in proportion to the different size or extension of these two.

The Πεή of those of a modern growth are so imperfect and invisible to the naked eye, that it is much to be feared the species will soon be entirely lost among us; and, indeed, in England, they are observed of late to be much rarer than formerly, especially in the country, where at present there are very few of them to be found; but at the same time it is remarked, that in some places of the Continent, particularly in a certain part of Germany, they are much plentier; being to be found in great numbers, where formerly there were scarce any to be met with.

I have not, after the minutest observation, been able to settle with any degree of certainty, whether this be really an animal or vegetable, or whether it be not strictly neither, or rather both. For as I have, by the help of my microscope, discovered some of its parts to resemble those of a lion; I have at other times taken notice of something not unlike the Flower-de-luce. Not to repeat those parts above-mentioned, which bear great analogy to the 'Άιδοια of the human body. On their extremities (if they are not very old) may be seen certain letters forming the names of several of our kings; whence I have been almost inclined to conclude, that these are the flowers mentioned by Virgil, and which appear to have been so extremely scarce in his time.

Dic quibus in terris inscripti nomina regum
Nascuntur flores.

Particularly as he adds,

Et Phyllida solus habeto.

Of which we shall take notice hereafter, when we come to speak of its properties. What hath principally dissuaded me from an opinion of its being an animal, is, that I could never observe any symptoms of voluntary motion; but indeed the same may be said of an oyster, which I think is not yet settled by the learned to be absolutely a vegetable.

But though it hath not, or seems not to have any progressive motion of its own, yet is it very easy to communicate a motion to it. Indeed, some persons have made them fly all over the town with great velocity.

What is said of the Polypus, in a late excellent paper communicated to the Royal Society, is likewise applicable to the Chrysipus.

'They make use of their progressive motion, when communicated to them, to place themselves conveniently, so as to catch their prey. They are voracious animals; their Πεή are so many snares which they set for numbers of small insects. As soon as any of them touches one of the Πεή, it is caught.'

But then it differs from the Polypus in the consequence; for instead of making the insect its prey, it becomes itself a prey to it, and instead of conveying an insect twice as large as its own mouth into it, in imitation of the Polypus, the poor Chrysipus is itself conveyed into the Loculus or pouch of an insect a thousand times as large as itself. Notwithstanding which, this wretched animal (for so I think we may be allowed to call it) is so eager after its prey, that if the insect (which seldom happens) makes any resistance, it summons other Chrysipi to its aid, which in the end hardly ever fail of subduing it, and getting into its pouch.

The learned Gualterus goes on in these words: 'A Chrysipus, by the simple contact of my own finger, has so closely attached itself to my hand, that by the joint and indefatigable labour of several of my friends, it could by no means be severed, or made to quit its hold.'

As to the generation of the Chrysipus, it differs from all other animals or vegetables whatever; for though it seems the best supplied for this natural function, nature having provided each female part with four male ones, which one would think sufficient; yet it may be said, as of the Polypus, they have no distinguished place by which they bring forth their young.

Gualterus judiciously remarks: [2] 'I have (says he) some of them, that have greatly multiplied under my eyes, and of which I might almost say, that they have produced young ones from all the exterior parts of their body.

'I have learned by a continual attention to the two species of them, that all the individuals of these species produce young ones.

'I have for sixty years had under my eye thousands of them; and though I have OBSERVED THEM CONSTANTLY, and with ATTENTION, so as to watch them night and day, I never observed any thing like the common animal copulation.

'I tried at first two of them; but these I found would not produce a complete Chrysipus; at least I had reason to think the operation would be so slow that I must have waited some years for its completion. Upon this, I tried a hundred of them together; by whose marvellous union (whether it be, that they mix total, like those heavenly spirits mentioned by Milton, or by any other process not yet revealed to human wit) they were found in the year's end to produce three, four, and sometimes five complete Chrysipi. I have indeed often made them in that space produce ten or twenty; but this hath been by some held a dangerous experiment, not only to the parent Chrysipi themselves, which have by these means been utterly lost and destroyed, but even to the philosopher who hath attempted it; for as some curious persons have, by hermetic experiments, endangered the loss of their teeth, so we, by a too intense application to this Chrysipean philosophy, have been sometimes found to endanger our ears.' He then proceeds thus:

[3] 'Another fact, which I have observed, has proved to me, that they have the faculty of multiplying, before they are severed from their parent. I have seen a Chrysipus, still adhering, bring forth young ones; and those young ones themselves have also brought forth others. Upon supposition that perhaps there was some copulation between the parent and young ones, whilst they were yet united; or between the young ones coming from the body of the same parent; I made divers experiments to be sure of the fact; but not one of those experiments ever led me to any thing that could give the idea of a copulation.'

I now proceed to the singularities resulting from the operation I have tried upon them.

A Chrysipus of the larger kind may be divided into one-and-twenty substances (whether animal or vegetable we determine not), every substance being at least as large as the original Chrysipus. These may again be subdivided, each of them into twenty-four; and what is very remarkable, every one of these parts is heavier, and rather larger than the first Chrysipus. The only difference in this change, is that of the colour; for the first sort are yellow, the second white, and the third resemble the complexion and substance of many human faces.

These subdivided parts are by some observed to lose in a great degree their adherent quality; notwithstanding which, Gualterus writes, that, from the minutest observations upon his own experience, they all adhered with equal tenacity to his own fingers.

The manner of dividing a Chrysipus differs, however, greatly from that of the Polypus; for whereas we are taught in that excellent treatise above-mentioned, that [4] 'If the body of a Polypus is cut into two parts transversely, each of those parts becomes a complete Polypus: on the very day of the operation, the first part, or anterior end of the Polypus, that is, the head, the mouth, and the arms: this part, I say, lengthens itself, it creeps, and eats.

'The second part, which has no head, gets one; a mouth forms itself at the anterior end; and shoots forth arms. This reproduction comes about more or less quickly, according as the weather is more or less warm. In summer, I have seen arms begin to sprout out twenty-four hours after the operation, and the new head perfected in every respect in a few days.

'Each of those parts thus become a perfect Polypus, performs absolutely all its functions. It creeps, it eats, it grows, and it multiplies; and all that, as much as a Polypus which never had been cut.

'In whatever place the body of a Polypus is cut, whether in the middle, or more or less near the head, or the posterior part, the experiment has always the same success.

'If a Polypus is cut transversely at the same moment, into three or four parts, they all equally become so many complete ones.

'The animal is too small to be cut at the same time into a great number of parts; I therefore did it successively. I first cut a Polypus into four parts, and let them grow; next, I cut those quarters again; and at this rate I proceeded, till I had made 50 out of one single one: and here I stopped, for there would have been no end of the experiment.

'I have now actually by me several parts of the same Polypus cut into pieces above a year ago; since which time they have produced a great number of young ones.

'A Polypus may also be cut in two, lengthways. Beginning by the head, one first splits the said head, and afterwards the stomach: the Polypus being in the form of a pipe, each half of what is thus cut lengthways forms a half pipe: the anterior extremity of which is terminated by the half of the head, the half of the mouth, and part of the arms. It is not long before the two edges of those half-pipes close after the operation; they generally begin at the posterior part, and close up by degrees to the anterior part. Then each half-pipe becomes a whole one complete: a stomach is formed, in which nothing is wanting; and out of each half-mouth a whole one is formed also.

'I have seen all this done in less than an hour; and that the Polypus produced from each of those halves, at the end of that time, did not differ from the whole ones, except that it had fewer arms; but in a few days more grew out.

'I have cut a Polypus lengthways, between seven and eight in the morning; and between two and three in the afternoon, each of the parts has been able to eat a worm as long as itself.

'If a Polypus is cut lengthways, beginning at the head, and the section is not carried quite through; the result is, a Polypus with two bodies, two heads, and one tail. Some of those bodies and heads may again be cut lengthways soon after. In this manner I have produced a Polypus that had several bodies, as many heads, and one tail. I afterwards at once cut off the seven heads of this new Hydra: seven others grew again; and the heads that were cut off, became each a complete Polypus.

'I cut a Polypus, transversely, into two parts: I put these two parts close to each other again, and they reunited where they had been cut. The Polypus, thus reunited, eat the day after it had undergone this operation; it is since grown, and has multiplied.

'I took the posterior part of one Polypus, and the anterior of another, and I have brought them to reunite in the same manner as the foregoing. Next day, the Polypus that resulted, eat. It has continued well these two months since the operation: it is grown, and has put forth young ones from each of the parts of which it was formed. The two foregoing experiments do not always succeed; it often happens, that the two parts will not join again.

'In order to comprehend the experiment I am now going to speak of, one should recollect, that the whole body of a Polypus forms only one pipe, a sort of gut, or pouch.

'I have been able to turn that pouch, that body of the Polypus, INSIDE-OUTWARDS; AS ONE MAY TURN A STOCKING.

'I have several by me, that have remained turned in this manner; THEIR INSIDE IS BECOME THEIR OUTSIDE, AND THEIR OUTSIDE THEIR INSIDE: they eat, they grow, and they multiply, as if they had never been turned.'

Now, in the division and subdivision or our Chrysipus, we are forced to proceed in quite a different manner; namely, by the metabolic or mutative, not by the schystic or divisive. Some have indeed attempted this latter method; but like that great philosopher the elder Pliny, they have perished in their disquisitions, as he did, by suffocation. Indeed, there is a method called the Kleptistic, which hath been preferred to the metabolic; but this is too dangerous; the ingenious Gualterus never carried it farther than the metabolic, contenting himself sometimes to divide the original Chrysipus into twenty-two parts, and again to subdivide these into twenty-five; but this requires great art.

It can't be doubted but that Mr. Trembley will, in the work he is pleased to promise us, give some account of the longevity of the Polypus. As to the age of the Chrysipus, it differs extremely; some being of equal duration with the life of man, and some of scarce a moment's existence. The best method of preserving them is, I believe, in bags or chests, in large numbers; for they seldom live long when they are alone. The great Gualterus says, he thought he could never put enough of them together. If you carry them in your pockets singly, or in pairs, as some do, they will last a very little while, and in some pockets not a day.

[5] We are told of the Polypus, 'That they are to be looked for in such ditches whose water is stocked with small insects. Pieces of wood, leaves, aquatic plants, in short, every thing is to be taken out of the water, that is met with at the bottom, or on the surface of the water, on the edges, and in the middle of the ditches. What is thus taken out, must be put into a glass of clear water, and these insects, if there are any, will soon discover themselves; especially if the glass is let stand a little, without moving it: for thus the insects, which contract themselves when they are first taken out, will again extend themselves when they are at rest, and become thereby so much the more remarkable.'

The Chrysipus is to be looked for in scrutoires, and behind wainscots in old houses. In searching for them, particular regard is to be had to the persons who inhabit, or have inhabited, in the same houses, by observing which rule, you may often prevent throwing away your labour. They love to be rather with old than young persons, and detest finery so much, that they are seldom to be found in the pockets of laced clothes, and hardly ever in gilded palaces. They are sometimes very difficult to be met with, even though you know where they are, by reason of pieces of wood, iron, &c. which must be removed away before you can come at them. There are, however, several sure methods of procuring them, which are all ascertained in a treatise on that subject, composed by Petrus Gualterus, which, now he is dead, will surely see the light.

I come now, in the last place, to speak of the virtues of the Chrysipus: In these it exceeds not only the Polypus, of which not one single virtue is recorded, but all other animals and vegetables whatever. Indeed, I intend here only to set down some of its chief qualities; for to enumerate all, would require a large volume.

First, then, A single Chrysipus stuck on to the finger, will make a man talk for a full hour, nay, will make him say whatever the person who sticks it on desires: and again, if you desire silence, it will as effectually stop the most loquacious tongue. Sometimes, indeed, one or two, or even twenty, are not sufficient; but if you apply the proper number, they seldom or never fail of success. It will likewise make men blind or deaf, as you think proper; and all this without doing the least injury to the several organs.

Secondly, It hath a most miraculous quality of turning black into white, or white into black. Indeed it hath the powers of the prismatic glass, and can, from any object, reflect what colour it pleases.

Thirdly, It is the strongest love-powder in the world, and hath such efficacy on the female sex, that it hath often produced love in the finest women to the most worthless and ugly, old and decrepit of our sex.

To give the strongest idea in one instance, of the salubrious quality of the Chrysipus: it is a medicine which the physicians are so fond of taking themselves, that few of them care to visit a patient, without swallowing a dose of it.

To conclude, facts like these I have related, to be admitted, require the most convincing proofs. I venture to say, I am able to produce such proofs. In the mean time, I refer my curious reader to the treatise I have above mentioned, which is not yet published, and perhaps never may.


Since I composed the above treatise, I have been informed, that these animals swarm in England all over the country, like the locusts, once in SEVEN years; and like them too, they generally cause much mischief, and greatly ruin the country in which they have swarmed.

Author's Notes[edit]

  1. See Philos. Transact. concerning the arbor vitae, anno 1732.
  2. Vide Remarks on the Polypus, p. 6.
  3. Remarks, p. 7.
  4. See Polypus, pp. 8, 9, 10.
  5. Polypus, pp. 1, 2.