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1870b Des


Matthew, P. The Gem in the Head of the Toad. Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (28 May 1870), p.736

(Article printed in the issue of May 28)
Matthew considers the existence of beauty in the universe. Matthew holds that the fauna and flora of previous ages, and even the days and nights, were not as beautiful as they are today. As with previous articles, he ponders whether the emergence of beauty might have been timed by design to coincide with the emergence of man:
“It is a remarkable fact that in the flora and fauna of former eras the principle of beauty and of grace appears not to have been so highly developed as it now is, nor, perhaps from the density of fogs and clouds, was the splendid magnificence of the day or the spangled infinite depths of the starry night opened up to be cognisable. Has this embellishment of the flora and fauna and splendour of the face of Nature only been introduced when beings came to be developed able to enjoy it? As proof of the absence of beauty in ancient eras, instance the want, as far as we can judge, of flowering plants (the term flora being improper), and the abundance of ugly saurian monsters and other uncouth types of animals.”

The rest of the article deals with good and bad odours, and an encounter with a toad. Organised religion is once again condemned:
“In ruder climates, and with coarser races, the priesthood, such as our Druids, as well as those of the primitive Jews, and even those of more modern Christians, have found that human sacrifice, whether on the stone altar, or, as in later times, bound to the stake as heretics, forming autos-da-fe, or burnt on the witch hill as witches, had a much more exciting effect upon collected multitudes than incense or anything else in promoting superstition, terror, and priest power.”

A short except from this article (“Last summer I came upon a very fine specimen of the toad…”) is reproduced in the Inverness Courier Thursday 2 June 1870 and the Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet Monday 13 June 1870.

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