The pollen of metaphor: Box, cage, and trap as containment in the eighteenth century

Anne Milne
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 2016, 57: 121-8
This article uses the concept of "the pollen of metaphor" to discuss three forms of non-human animal containment in the eighteenth century: François Huber's Leaf or Book Hive bee box first described in his Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles (1792, English translation 1806), Sarah Trimmer's bird cages in her didactic children's book, Fabulous Histories; Or, The Story of the Robins (1786), and a mouse trap in Anna Letitia Barbauld's 1773 poem, "The Mouse's Petition, found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air." All three works highlight the eighteenth-century art of observation. The inherent commitment to relationships in the observation process suggests that interpreting ocular evidence involves "plausible relations," metaphor and/or "productive analogy." The article teases out subtle differences between the ways that each author uses containments and concludes that while Huber seeks to circumscribe non-human animal behavior within the bounds of 'reasonable' animal husbandry to better serve human needs, Trimmer goes further to connect 'appropriate' non-human animal containment to moral strictures governing humans. Barbauld's intervention using a literate, speaking animal subject confronts such moral governance to argue for equal rights based on principles of true equality rather than what is observed to be 'reasonable' and/or 'moral.'

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