We all know that Æsop has made his birds and beasts talk, and reason too; and that so well as still to make the volume bearing his name a favourite with thousands. Perhaps, too, we all know that same French author has objected to this method of teaching, alleging that children should not be imposed upon (or something to that effect), and led to believe in the reality of talking birds and beasts. To me it appears plainly that they do not, nor are they inclined to, believe in any such reality. Observe two or three children at play with a favourite kitten. When one of them, in mere wantonness, shall give the little animal a rap on the nose, or a squeeze by the tail, the owner of the cat will instantly exclaim, "Poor little pussy! she does not like that, she says." Now, the child knows very well that the cat did not say a word about the matter, but she looked and acted as if she had, and that was enough.
In the following pages I have endeavoured to make my winged and creeping correspondents talk in their own characters, according to their well-known habits and pursuits.
I have added a few notes, sometimes of illustration, and sometimes of inquiry; for, as natural history is almost a boundless field, I may stand in need of correction myself. It will be obvious that I have taken only some of the plainest and simplest subjects, for the purpose of trying whether any interest can be awakened in young minds by such means. And as I like to write for children, and think a great deal of information might be blended with amusement in this way, I hold myself acquitted of the charge of trifling and puerility, and am the young reader's friend and well-wisher,
R[OBERT] B[LOOMFIELD.]THE BIRD AND INSECT'S POST-OFFICE. MAGPIE LETTER I.
FROM THE MAGPIE TO THE SPARROW.
I have many times thought of addressing to you a few words of advice, as you seem to stand in need of such a friend.
You know that I do not stand much upon ceremony; I am always ready for talking and for giving advice, and really wonder how other birds can keep themselves so quiet. Then you will pardon my frankness, since you know my character, when I inform you that I think you remarkably tame and spiritless: you have no enterprise in you. In an old farmyard, shuffling amongst the straw, there you may be found morning, noon and night; and you are never seen in the woods and groves with me and my companions, where we have the blessing of free liberty, and fly where we please. You must often have heard me sing; that cannot be doubted, because I am heard a great way. As to me, I never come down to your farm, unless I think I can find a hen's egg or two amongst the nettles, or a chicken or duck just hatched.
I earnestly advise you to change your manner of life and take a little free air, as I do. Stop no longer in your dull yard, feeding upon pigs' leavings, but come abroad with me. But I must have done till a better opportunity; for the gamekeeper with his gun has just turned the corner....