eight "wonder of the world;" this "frightful monster which the
world ne'er saw," until the present year, is not the great
source of attraction in the British metropolis; and three to
four hundred people every day pay their shilling each to see a
disgusting sort of a compound animal, which contains in itself
every thing that is odious and disagreeable. but the
curiosity to see a real Mermaid, after all the fictions that
have been related respecting it, is natural enough-the only
point is, whether it is a real one or not; and even on this
professional men disagree.
singular creature, which it is reported was brought to Bafavia,
in the East Indies, from some of the neighboring islands, is in
a state of high preservation, and appears to have been so for
many years. It is nearly round, about this size of that of
a child two or three years old-its forehead somewhat depressed,
and chin projecting similar to the negro. Its teeth
perfect, and beautifully set in circular rows; but the canine
teeth, as they are called, being longer, project much beyond the
others. The cheeks of the face project a little, which
together with the eyes, eye-brows, chin, month, tongue, ears,
throat, &c. exactly resemble those of the human species.
Its head is somewhat bent forward.
spinous processes of the cervical and dorsal vertebrae project
in that distinct and regular order, down to the lower part of
the breast, that we find in human subject; when they gradually
lost themselves on entering the natural form of the lower
portion of the body of a fish. The scapula and arms-the
latter of which are of great length-hands, thumbs, fingers, and
nails, furnish us with an exact representation of those of a
delicate female: the breast bone, clavicles and ribs of
the chest are perfectly distinct, and the breasts-which are now
of some size, and appear to have been very large-and nipples are
a tolerable model of those in the human species.
body appears to be muscular above the chest, and covered with
cuticle and hair, dispersed as in the human skin.
side of the head is covered with black human hair, about half an
inch or an inch in length; but on the other side it appears to
have been much worn or rubbed off.
examining this singular phenomenon, what excited astonishment
was. the external covering from the chest upwards to be such a
near representation of that of a human being, whilst the whole
of the body below was enveloped with the scaly covering of a
Immediately under the breasts, the fishy form commences, by two
large fins on its belly, on which it has been represented by
those who have seen it at sea to rest the upper part of its body
about water; it then tapers off and terminates in the tail of a
fish, not unlike that of a salmon.
engraving we give in our present number is a very correct
delineation of the appearance of the mermaid which has been
brought from one of the Molucca Islands. But, positive as
some persons are, as to its really being that long-deemed
fabulous creature, the Mermaid, we most beg leave to express our
doubts-we may say firm conviction-that it is a
imposture-certainly not the first that has been practiced on the
credulity of honest John Bull. The fact is, that the lower
part is a real fish, of a species found in the rivers of China
and Japan, the head and shoulders being cut off and replaced by
the bust of a baboon. We are confirmed in our opinion of
its being an imposture by several of our contemporaries, as well
as by the opinions of several professional gentlemen. The
Editor of the Literary Gazette, in speaking of it says:
"Our opinion is fixed that it is a composition; a most ingenious
one, we grant, but still nothing beyond the admirably put
together members of various animals. The extraordinary
skill of the Chinese and Japanese in executing such deceptions
is notorious, and we have no doubt but that the Mermaid is a
manufacture from the Indian Sea, where it has been pretended it
was caught. We are not of those who, because they happen
not to have had direct proof of the existence of any
extraordinary natural phenomenon, push skepticism to the extreme
and deny its possibility. The depths of the sea, in all
probability. The depths of the sea, in all from various
chemical and philosophical causes, contain animals unknown to
its surface waters, or if ever, rarely seen by human eye.
But when a creature is presented to us, having no other
organization but that which is suitable to a medium always open
to our observation, it in the first instance excites suspicion
that only one individual of the species should be discovered and
obtained. When knowledge was more limited, the stories of
Mermaids seen in distant quarters might be credited by the many
and not entirely disbelieved by the few; but now, when European,
and especially British, commerce fills every corner of the earth
with men of observation and science, the unique becomes the
incredible, and we receive with far greater doubt the apparition
of such anomalies as the present. It is curious that
though medical men seem in general to regard this creature as a
possible production of nature, no naturalist of any ability
credits it after five minutes observation! This may
perhaps be accounted for by their acquaintance with the parts of
distinct animals, of which, it appears, the Mermaid is composed.
The cheeks of the blue-faced ape, the canine teeth, the simia
upper body, and the tail of the fish, are all familiar to them
in less complex combinations, and they pronounce at once that
the whole is an imposture. And such is our settled
monthly journal, after giving a long account of Mermaids, and
referring to an engraving of the one now exhibiting in London,
which were are told, appears in the number, has withdrawn the
plate in consequence of a subsequent conviction of the
imposture. It is, however, a very ingenious imposture, and
therefore is worth seeing on that account.
while we doubt the reality of this disgusting looking Mermaid
(as it is called) now exhibiting, we are compelled to
acknowledge that there is a host of evidence in favor of the
existence of such a creature, both in ancient and modern times.
Pliny says, that "the Ambassadors to Augustus from Gaul declared
that sea-women were often seen in their neighborhood."
Solimus and Aulus Gellius also speak of their existence.
related in the Histoire d' Angleierre, part I, page 403, that in
the year 1187, a Merman was "fished up" in the county of
Suffolk, and kept by the governor for six months; it was exactly
like a man in every respect, and wanted nothing but speech.
He never could be brought to any understanding of his nature of
situation, and at length made his escape, and was seen to plunge
into the sea, from whence he returned no more.
1430, in the great tempests which destroyed the dykes in
Holland, some women at Edam, in West-Freezeland, by the waters
into the meadows which were overflowed. They took it, and
(as it is said,) dressed it in female attire, and thought it to
spin, it fed on cooked meat, but all efforts to teach it to
speak proved ineffectual, though Parival says, "it had
some notion of a deity, and made its reverences very devoutly
when it passed a crucifix." It was taken to Haerlem, where
it lived some years, but it ever retained an inclination for the
water. At its death it was allowed Christian burial.
1800, on the coast of Ceylon, some fishermen caught, at one
draught of their nets, seven Merman and Mermaids-they were
dissected and found made exactly like human beings. For a
full account of this last circumstance, see the Histoire de la
Compagule de Jesus, part 2d. t. 4 No. 276.
1531, a Merman, caught in the Bidtie, was sent to Sigismund,
king of Poland, with whom, says the account, he lived three
days, and was seen by the whole court; but whether he died or
escaped at the end of that period, we cannot say. But in
some tracts published by John Gregory, A.M. and chaplain of
Christ Church, Oxford, in 1650, this Identical Merman is
described. "as a huge animal of the human from, but very much
resembling a bishop in his pontilenis." A German engraving
of this being I have seen, it is extremely curious.
Georgius Trapansantius declares that he himself saw a Mermaid,
extremely beautiful, rise many times above water; he adds, that
in Epirus, a Merman came on the shore, and watched near a spring
of water, endeavoring to catch young women that come there; he
was caught, but could not be made to eat.
Mailley, In his Teliamiede, peaks of a Merman which was seen by
the whole of a French ship's crew, off New Foundland, in 1725,
are the accounts given by different writers at various periods
relative to the Mermaid. In our next we shall give similar
evidence of more recent times, reserving for ourselves what we
wish all our readers to do, the right to exercise their own
private judgment as to its fallacy or truth.