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Snakes and Snake-charming.

( Lloyd’s Weekly .) At the Saturday evening lectures at the Working Men’s College, Great Ormond street, Mr. Arthur Nicols, F.G.S., F.R.G.S., delivered a lecture on “Snakes and Snake-charming.” He expressed the opinion that the power of “ fascination ” supposed to be possessed by snakes was a poetic fancy. The python in the Zoological Gardens was about 2 oft. long, and weighed about four cwt. The python, in swallowing an animal, took the head first, and its mouth soon became as wide as a sack. The snake did not eat his food, but as the. American said, “ put himself outside his dinner.” Then he went to sleep, and a boa-constrictor had been said to have fasted for as long a period as thirteen months. One of the boaconstrictors in Paris, which was not content with his rabbit, also bolted his blanket, but subsequently disgorged it and died. He had reason to believe that the large python in the Zoological Gardens could travel faster than a train going 25 miles an hour. Serpents had no extemal ear nor any delicate internal organisation, such as is found in the head of other animals, so that it was a mistake to suppose that they could be moved by the concord of sweet sounds. When persons saw the forked tongue of the snake, the remark was often made, “ Look at its sting,” but this tongue was harmless. Sir Joseph Fayrer has asserted his belief that in India human beings and 50,000 animals were annually destroyed by snakes, but as statistics could not be obtained from all districts the number probably did not represent the total. If the natives would cast away their superstition the land could soon be cleared from these destructive reptiles. Mr Nicols exposed the impostures of the Indian snake charmers, and said that many Englishmen were expert in handling snakes, but on one occasion a superintendent of police had the top of his finger just touched by a cobra, and he died in three hours. The charmers were in the habit of concealing trained snakes, which had been rendered harmless, about their bodies, and producing them by stealth in a manner to make one believe he was dealing with a strange snake. The poison of a snake was equally fatal even if diluted by water. A full grown cobra emitted from 6 to 13 drops of poison, and if a single drop entered the flesh nothing probably would save life. One-sixteenth of a grain of this poison would prove fatal to a dog of 17 pounds weight. With regard to the “ sea serpent,” naturalists were agreed that no such monstrous serpent as had been represented was possible. Some of the moderate accounts described it as a quarter of a mile long, and others several miles ; and if the mouth was in the same proportion, this supposed beast ought to, bs able to swallow a whale very comfortably. A long list of things might be given as having been

mistaken for this reptile—wreckage, floating masses of seawood, or a large congregation of birds. Although everything was being done, up to the present no remedy for a poisonous snakebite had been discovered. In reply to a question whether the flesh of snake was edible, Mr Nicols said it was good for food.

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Bibliographic details

Snakes and Snake-charming., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 277, 24 February 1881

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Snakes and Snake-charming. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 277, 24 February 1881

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