This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A few years since correspondents of the Gardener"s Chronicle and some other English periodicals took strong exceptions to Mr. Thomas Meehan's statement, that snakes would sometimes protect their young from danger by gathering them into their throats, and that some batrachians and ophidians, which, under usual circumstances deposited eggs, under other circumstances would bring forth their young alive. Even the editor of the Gardener"s Chronicle sympathised so much with the objections as to assist one of these articles with a facetious cut, in which some creature with a tail, was supposed to be modelled after that of the father of lies, and to be an evolution, working far into the future, of one of Meehan's young snake swallowers.
In view of this difficulty of believing that snakes are oviparous or viviparous according to circumstances, it is curious to see the following in the English papers now. It can, at any rate, do no harm to remind our friends, that while Mr. Gosse's facts seem to be unchallenged, they are of exactly the same nature as those which went to them from this side of the Atlantic, and that such a statement can now appear without that satanic picture being appended to it, shows at least a healthy state of progress; and we shall, no doubt, before long hear of a full belief in what is just as certainly a fact, that under some circumstances, snakes do take their young for protection into their mouths. As the little boy wrote, "Snakes is funny things".
Mr. Phillip H. Gosse had a boa which was with eggs. For a long time it manifested discomfort and restlessness, being savage and irritable, till at length it produced a family of young ones. Knowing it was the habit of this snake to incubate its eggs, Mr. Gosse was greatly surprised at the event; and the startling question occurred to him: When circumstances are unfavorable for the deposition of eggs, could a snake retain them until the young are hatched ? Mr. Gosse's surmises have been confirmed by similar occurences at the Zoological Gardens and by other writers, who, in the subsequent interval, have also given careful attention to the habits of ophidians, and have produced valuable scientific works on the subject. The fact is now well ascertained that not only Chilobothrus, but several other oviparous species may at pleasure be rendered viviparous by retarding the deposition when circumstances are unfavorable for them. In fact, we find that we must almost discard those old distinctions of "oviparous" and "ovoviparous, " which German authors tell us are not founded on any other ground than a greater or less development of the foetus in the egg at the time of laying; or on the nature of the exterior covering of the egg, which is thicker and leathery in those which take some time in hatching, and slighter and membranous in those which are hatched either before or on deposition.