British Apollo (London, England), April 24, 1710 - April 26, 1710; Issue 13.
Q. Gentlemen, Ferdinand Alvares, Secretary to the Store-house of the Indians, says he saw a Young Merman come out of the Water to steal Fishes from the Fishermen, and Eat' em. In our English Chronicles, it is recorded a Man-Fish was taken in Suffolk, kept six Months on shore, and then stole out to Sea. But the most Memorable and Authentic Story, that I know of this kind is the Mermaid taken by some Milk-maids in Dermer-mere near Campen in 1403. Her Picture hangs in the Town-house of Harlem, with a Subscription in Gold-letters, of the time when she was taken, how long she Lived, when she Dyed, and in what Church Buried. A more particular Relation may be found in the History of the Netherlands. As, a Description of her Person, her Learning to Spin, and shewing Devotion at Prayers; and when Women came, for their Diversion, to the Town house, where she was kept, to Spin with her, she wou'd Laugh, and signify by signs she knew the meaning in some sort, tho' she could never be taught to Speak; with other particulars too many to Ennumerate. But not a Word of that fine Singing common Fame reports of these Creatures.
Now, Gentlemen, I wou'd desire you to inform me, of the Credit of this last Story, and whether the being Merman and Mermaids is not meer Fable, for I cannot persuade my self to believe there ever were such Creatures, and chiefly for this Reason, that none in out time has seen any, that ever I heard off. And it is plain to me if there had been such in past times, there wou'd be such now, and surely then some or other must have seen them.
A. The Story of the Harlem Mermaid is Attested by Historians of so good Credit, that it wou'd be Injustice not to believe them. It is not to be wondred that a Creature having so much of Human shape shou'd have Reason enough to be made capable of appearing Devout, when a Grave Historian tells us of a very Devout Dog at Corbie in the Year 897, that Assisted at Mass with great Reverence and Modesty, and in all the Decent Postures. He Religiously observed Fish on Fast-days, and bit such Dogs as Pissed against the Walls of the Church, or Barked during Divine Service. There can be no doubt made but there are such Creatures as Mermaids, being frequently mentioned by Ancient Writers under the Name of Tritons and Syrens. Whether there are any Testimonies of Modern Authors concerning them we have not had leisure to Examine. The latest Instance of any that we remember in our Reading, is Related by Gossendus in his Life of Peireski.
"That Noble and Curious Person (says this Learned Author) being Informed of a Merman, which was seen at Bell-Isle in France, procured Henricus Gondius, Governor of the Isles, to make Enquiry, and Certify him concerning it. Now the Information was, that as much as was seen of him, was in the shape of a Man, only the shortness of his Arms was not proportioned to the thickness of his Body. His Hands were also disproportionately large, and very White in the Palms. He had thick white Hair hanging down over his Shoulders, and a Beard reaching down to his Stomach. His Eyes were great and fierce. His Skin as for as cou'd discerned rough, neither white nor black. He was reported to have been at first delighted at the approach of Vessels, with the Sight of Men and Women and light coloured Clothes; so that he suffered himself to be inclosed in the Nets; but as soon as they began to use Violence, in endeavouring to draw him forth, and before it could be discerned of what shape he was below the Navel, he easily brake through the Nets and over-turned the Vessels. Afterwards he appeared at a great distance off, Sunning himself upon some inaccessible Rocks, his lower Parts being always covered with Water; sometimes clapping his Hands and making a hissing Noise, which was supposed to be his manner of Laughter. Which Custom he continued, till some Body shot at him with a Musquet Bullet, from which time forward whether frighted or killed, he was never more seen. However it was reported, that there was another seen which was supposed to be a Female (because without a Beard) ending beneath with a forked Tail, like that of a Salmon.
We thought it wou'd not be unpleasant to give this Story at large to the Reader, since it is from an Author of undoubted Credit, and may serve not only to confirm our Belief that there are such Creatures, but also to give us an Idea of them. Besides, this thing happened within the Year, being as we collect, about 1636.