I first came across the Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet a few years back, whilst working on Crabbe’s botanical predecessors. His extraordinary description of the sensitive plant in The Contemplation of Nature (trans. 1766) is what first grabbed me; a near supernatural account of a section of the plant growing leg-like protuberances to walk away. Looking through the rest of the text this morning, I came upon this, which seems equally remarkable considering it is written by a devout Christian in 1764:
By what degrees does nature raise herself up to man? How will she rectify this head that is always inclined towards the earth? How change these paws into flexible arms? What method will she make use of to transform these crooked feet into supple and skilful hands? Or how will she widen and extend this contracted stomach? In what manner will she there place the breasts, and give them a roundness suitable to them?
The ape is this rough draught of man; this rude sketch; an imperfect representation, which nevertheless bears a resemblance to him, and is the last creature that serves to display the admirable progression of the works of God!