Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/675

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1873.


 
SILK-WORMS AND SERICULTURE.[1]
By A. DE QUATREFAGES.

TRANSLATED BY ELIZA A. YOUMANS.

GENTLEMEN: When your honorable director invited me to speak before you, I felt much embarrassed. I desired both to interest and instruct you, but the subjects with which I am occupied are of too abstract a nature to offer you much interest. In entering upon them I run the risk of tiring you, and, as people who are tired are little instructed, my aim would be doubly missed.

However, among the animals I have studied, there is one which, I think, will awaken your attention. I mean the silk-worm. Its history is full of serious instruction. It teaches us not to despise a being because, at first, it seems useless; it proves that creatures, in appearance the most humble, may play a part of great importance to the world; it shows us that the most useful things are often slow to attract public attention, but that sooner or later their day of justice arrives. It teaches us, consequently, not to despair when valuable ideas or practical inventions are not at first welcomed as they should be, for, though their triumph is delayed, it is not less sure.

Perhaps, also, in choosing this subject, I have yielded a little to national egotism. I was born in that province which was the first in | France to understand the importance of the silk-worm; which owes to this industry, fertilized by study and management, a prosperity rarely equalled, and which, of late cruelly smitten, bears its misfortunes with a firmness worthy of imitation.

We are to speak, then, of industry, of studious care, of perseverance, of courage; I am certain that you will be interested.

Permit me, at first, to make a supposition––what we call an hypothesis: what would you say if a traveller, coming from some distant

  1. A lecture delivered at the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes.