The Life of the Spider by Jean-Henri Fabre


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Life of the Spider, by J. Henri Fabre,
Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Life of the Spider

Author: J. Henri Fabre

Release Date: March 22, 2005 [eBook #1887]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1912 Hodder and Stoughton edition by David Price,



The Spider has a bad name: to most of us, she represents an odious,
noxious animal, which every one hastens to crush under foot. Against
this summary verdict the observer sets the beast's industry, its talent
as a weaver, its wiliness in the chase, its tragic nuptials and other
characteristics of great interest. Yes, the Spider is well worth
studying, apart from any scientific reasons; but she is said to be
poisonous and that is her crime and the primary cause of the repugnance
wherewith she inspires us. Poisonous, I agree, if by that we understand
that the animal is armed with two fangs which cause the immediate death
of the little victims which it catches; but there is a wide difference
between killing a Midge and harming a man. However immediate in its
effects upon the insect entangled in the fatal web, the Spider's poison
is not serious for us and causes less inconvenience than a Gnat-bite.
That, at least, is what we can safely say as regards the great majority
of the Spiders of our regions.

Nevertheless, a few are to be feared; and foremost among these is the
Malmignatte, the terror of the Corsican peasantry. I have seen her
settle in the furrows, lay out her web and rush boldly at insects larger
than herself; I have admired her garb of black velvet speckled with
carmine-red; above all, I have heard most disquieting stories told about
her. Around Ajaccio and Bonifacio, her bite is reputed very dangerous,
sometimes mortal. The countryman declares this for a fact and the doctor
does not always dare deny it. In the neighbourhood of Pujaud, not far
from Avignon, the harvesters speak with dread of _Theridion lugubre_, {1}
first observed by Leon Dufour in the Catalonian mountains; according to
them, her bite would lead to serious accidents. The Italians have
bestowed a bad reputation on the Tarantula, who produces convulsions and
frenzied dances in the person stung by her. To cope with 'tarantism,'
the name given to the disease that follows on the bite of the Italian
Spider, you must have recourse to music, the only efficacious remedy, so
they tell us. Special tunes have been noted, those quickest to afford
relief. There is medical choreography, medical music. And have we not
the tarentella, a lively and nimble dance, bequeathed to us perhaps by
the healing art of the Calabrian peasant?

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Thu 2nd Dec 2021, 3:25