Изображения страниц

naturally. They cannot reason wrong; for they do not reason at all. They do not think or speak by rule; and they have in general more eloquence and wit, as well as sense, on that account. By their wit, sense, and eloquence together, they generally govern their husbands. Their style, when they write to their friends (not for the booksellers,) is better than that of most authors. Uneducated people have most invention, and the greatest freedom from prejudice. Shakespeare's was evidently an uneducated inind, both in the freshness of his imagination, and in the variety of his views, as Milton's was scholastic, in the texture both of his thoughts and feelings. Shakespeare had not been accustomed to write themes at school in favour of virtue or against vice. To this we owe his admirable dramatic morality. If we wish to know the power of human genius, we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we may read his commentators.

T. T.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

AMONG the many men of science by whom the French metropolis is at present adorned, scarcely any individual ranks higher in public estimation than M. Biot. The extraordinary interest which his late scientific expedition excited in the learned world, as well as the satisfaction which many of its members in this country derived from the society of M. Biot, must render it gratifying to a great body of our readers to learn both the manner in which the objects which he had in view were fulfilled, and the impressions of Scotland and Scottish society which this eminent philosopher carried with him. We have been so fortunate as to procure from a learned friend of M. Biot, a copy of his Report to the French Institute, upon what he did and observed during this interesting tour; and shall now lay the substance of it before our readers.

As soon as astronomers began to observe with attention the movements of the heavenly bodies, the globular

form of the earth became manifest; but many ages elapsed, before they were able to measure its circumference with any degree of accuracy. Repeated attempts made, both by the ancients and by the Arabian philosophers, presented errors of the most enormous magnitude. It was not till 1670, that Picard, in the line formed through Picardy, made an exact measurement of the degree of the ineridian, and thereby ascertained the entire circumference of the globe. This important observation enabled Newton to establish his grand law of gravitation, which had not agreed with the erroneous measurements before made. No suspicion, however, had yet been entertained, that the figure of the earth departed in any degree from that of a regular globe. But two years after, Richer, in an astronomical journey to Cayenne, discovered a variation in the action of the pendulum, which appeared to indicate that the earth was broader at the equator than at the poles. New ton, applying to this observation the principle of gravitation, proved that it was the natural result of a planet moving on its axis, provided its ele ments were once in a state of fluidity. The French Academy of Sciences, after some unsatisfactory attempts to ascertain the fact by measurements confined to France, resolved upon sending two grand expeditions, one to the equator and the other to the arctic circle. Condamine was at the head of the former, Maupertuis of the latter; and they fully confirmed the general principle of Richer and Newton. The irregularity, however, in the figure of the earth was so small, that its precise amount could not be ascertained by the imperfect instruments then in use. These, in the progress of time, were constantly improved; and when the French government conceived the idea of making the circumference of the globe the basis of their new metrical system, they employed Messrs Delambre and Mechain, two of their most eminent men of science, to measure, by a series of triangles, the meridian between Dunkirk and the Balearic Islands. This grand and difficult operation was executed, amid every obstacle, with a precision before unknown, new instruments for the purpose being invented by M. Borda. Mechain, how

ever, as he was completing his observations on the coast of Valencia, fell a sacrifice to fatigue; so that the work was interrupted, till it was resumed by Messrs Biot and Arago, who completed it in the most satisfactory manner. They made also a number of observations with the pendulum, both at the extreme station, and on various parts of the line measured by their predecessors, and the general agreement of the results established the whole in a manner which admitted of no dispute. Meantime, in Britain, a similar survey, begun by General Roy, had been completed by Colonel Mudge, and extended from the south of England to the north of Scotland. To the French scientific bodies, however, it appeared highly desirable, both to verify these observations, and to connect them with the French survey, so as to form an unbroken line between Orkney and Fromentera. This task was zealously undertaken by M. Biot; and we are happy to find that he experienced, on the part of this country, the most active aid and cooperation. "To wish a thing useful to the sciences, (says this liberal and enlightened foreigner,) is to secure before hand the consent of the English men of science, and the approbation of the government." Having made arrangements with Sir Joseph Banks, he set out from Paris in the month of May, carrying with him all the necessary instruments. At Dover he received them entire, under the seal of the customhouse, without duty or examination, as if he had not changed his country." His emotions on meeting the illustrious President of the Royal Society are expressed with peculiar warmth.


"Why cannot I paint what I felt on seeing, for the first time, the ve nerable companion of Cook! Distinguished by long voyages,-remarkable by an extent of understanding, and an elevation of sentiment, which lead him to take an equal interest in the progress of every branch of human knowledge,-possessed of rank, of a great fortune, of universal respect, Sir Joseph Banks has made all these advantages the patrimony of the learned of all nations. His benevolence is so natural, so easy, that to him by whom it is experienced, it appears almost to be in virtue of a newly acquired right, while, at the

same time, it is so kind, that it leaves to you all the individuality of grati tude. We have here a noble example of authority, founded entirely upon esteem, attachment, respect, free and voluntary confidence, and the claims to which consist solely in an inexhaustible good will, and the recollection of services rendered, while its long and undisputed possession implies singular virtues, and an exquisite delicacy, when we think that all this power was to be formed, maintained, and exercised among equals."

M. Biot now set out for Edinburgh, accompanied by Colonel Mudge, and fixed his first station in Leith Fort. He warmly acknowledges the attentions paid to his accommodation, par ticularly by Colonel Sir Howard Elphinstone. A portable observatory was constructed for his use; and, in order to give to the pendulum the requisite soli❤ dity, stones of enormous size were fastened in the walls with iron chains. Colonel Mudge's health not permit ting him to assist, his place was satisfactorily supplied by his son, Captain Richard Mudge. My attention to these duties," says he, " did not prevent me from casting a stolen glance upon all that is beautiful and good in this Scotland, the abode of morality and intelligence. But, foreseeing that such objects would render somewhat too dry the minute detail of weight, length, and measure, I resolved not to pay any close attention to them till my return."


The Orkneys had been the original destination; but, at the suggestion of Colonel Mudge, it was resolved to carry on the survey to Shetland, by resting the summits of triangles on the Isles of Faira and Foula. Having made a short stay at Aberdeen, where he states himself to have experienced the most gratifying hospitality, M.Biot set sail, on the 9th of July, for Shet land. The first aspect of this country is described with animation.

"At length the peaks of Shetland appeared in the clouds; and, on the 18th July, we landed not far from the southern point of these islands, where the currents of the Atlantic, encountering those which come from the sea of Norway, cause a perpetual swell and tempest. The desolate aspect of the soil was in unison with the gloomy approach. I saw no longer those fortunate isles of Spain, those

smiling regions, that garden of Valencia, where the orange and citron trees in flower diffuse their perfumes round the tomb of a Scipio, or over the august ruins of the ancient Saguntum. Here, on landing upon a coast shattered by the waves, the eye perceives only a land, moist, desert, covered with stones and moss; mountains broken into fragments, undermined by the inclemency of the elements; not a tree, not a bush, the view of which might soften this savage aspect; here and there a few scattered huts, whose roofs, covered with grass, let out into the fog the thick smoke with which they are filled. Musing on the gloom of this abode, where we were to remain exiled for several months, we proceeded, not without difficulty, across plains and hills without a road, towards the small assemblage of stone houses, which forms the capital, called Lerwick. There we began to feel, that the social virtues of a country are not to be mea sured by the appearance of poverty or riches. It is impossible to conceive a more frank or cordial hospitality than that with which we were received. Persons who had learned our names only a moment before, eagerly offered their services to conduct us wherever we wished. As soon as they learned the object of our voyage, they gave us of themselves every information which could be useful; they collected it for us, and transmitted it with the same interest, as if it had been a personal concern of their own. We received, in particular, much essential aid from Dr Edmonstone, an intelligent physician, who has published a very good description of Shetland, and who recollected, with pleasure, having attended at Paris the course of our colleague M. Dumeril."

sist winter storms. The portable observatory and the repeating circle were put up in Mr Edmonstone's garden. Captain Mudge being unfortunately taken ill, and obliged to leave the island, Mr Edmonstone suggested the plan of employing an intelligent carpenter, who, like the rest of his countrymen, understood reading, writing, and accounts. In making, however, an astronomer of a carpenter, checks were necessary; and M. Biot's science enabled him to employ some, which appeared to his companion almost miraculous. These checks, however, became daily less requisite; and M. Biot found this assistant answer every necessary purpose In the course of two months, he had completed thirtyfive series of the pendulum, of five or six hours each, fourteen hundred observations of latitude, and twelve hundred observations of the height of the sun and stars; and these immense labours afforded him the satisfaction of having fully completed the great object of his mission. In the intervals, he derived great satisfaction from the intercourse of the inhabitants, of whom he draws a very interesting picture. He says,

"I could not at first conceive what charm could retain them in this wintry, stormy country, without a road, without a tree on the mountains or plains upon which the eye can repose; a region of rain, of wind, and tempest, where the atmosphere, constantly impregnated with a cold moisture, mitigates the severity of winter, only on condition of allowing no suminer. What attaches them to it is the peace, the profound, the unalterable peace which they enjoy. For twenty-five years, in which Europe has been tearing her own vitals, the noise of a drum has not been heard in Unst, scarcely in Lerwick; for twenty-five years the door of the house which I inhabited has remained open night and day. The people here receive the news of Europe as they read the history of the last century; these recall no personal misfortune, and kindle no animosity; they feel not that interest, or rather that fury of the moment, which is produced by the frantic exaltation of all the passions; they philosophize tranquilly on events which seem to belong to another world.

"This calm, this habitual security,

M. Biot had at first proposed Lerwick for the theatre of his operations; but, on farther consideration, he de termined to remove to the small Isle of Unst, half a degree farther north. After a stormy passage, he reached that island, where he was received with every kind of hospitality and attention by a brother of Dr Edmon stone, who happened to reside there. It was difficult at first to find a place where the large instruments could be put. At length the pendulum and its apparatus were fixed in a large sheep-cot, built of thick walls to re

gives to social relations a charm elsewhere unknown. Here all that belong to the class of proprietors are either relations, or allies, or friends, and friendships are like alliances. But as in this world evil must accompany good, this pleasure of living like a great family, is sometimes dearly bought; it makes them feel, with extreme pain, the death of that small number of individuals on whom they have concentrated their affections; such an event is to the whole circle like a family misfortune. They experience almost equal grief when any of their friends departs to seek his fortune elsewhere, which, from the poverty of the islands, is but too comThis departure is felt by those who remain like a death; and, indeed, the Shetland Islands, when quitted in search of a better habitation, are seldom revisited."


M. Biot then gives a view of the mode in which the lower orders earn their subsistence, and concludes with the following very striking picture.

"For these poor people, even the rudeness of their country has charms. They love these ancient rocks, whose daring forms and aspects, so often observed, point out to them the narrow passage through which their bark must return into the protecting bay, saluted by the cry of the sea birds. I myself, tranquil under their guidance, have contemplated with admiration these high cliffs of primitive rock, this old frame-work of the globe, whose strata, inclined towards the sea, and hollowed at their base, threatened to bury under their ruins the frail bark which bounded over the waves at their feet. At our approach, the sea birds came in thousands out of their retreats, surprised to themselves disturbed by a mortal, and making these savage scenes echo with their tumultuous cries; some darting into the air, others plunging into the waves, and coming up almost instantly with their prey; while seals and other cetacea were here and there raising their black heads above the waves, that were clear as crystal; life seemed every where to abandon a cold and moist land, and to fly, more varied and more active, into the air and the waters. But as soon as evening draws her veil over these savage retreats, all relapses into silence. Sometimes a slight south wind


mitigates the coldness of the air, and allows the stars to enlighten with the purest lustre the tranquil scene, when no noise breaks its profound silence, except at intervals the distant murmur of the dying waves, or the sweet and plaintive cry of a sea bird sweeping rapidly over their surface."

M. Biot now narrates his voyage to Edinburgh, and passes the following noble eulogium upon the general character and condition of the Scottish nation.

"After a residence of two months, I quitted these islands, bearing with me recollections that will last during life. An equinoxial breeze brought me to Edinburgh in fifty hours. This sudden transition from solitude to the noise of the world, from patriarchal simplicity to the refinements of civilization and luxury, is not without its charm. Colonel Elphinstone, by the most obliging reception, showed me that friendship was not wholly confined to Shetland. It was then that, entirely liberated from my observa tious, I could contemplate at leisure what the highest perfection of the social state presents in this country, both in institutions and men; a spec tacle at once consolatory and sad for one who has spent his life amid the troubles of the Continent. I saw a people poor, but laborious,-free, but respectfully submissive to the laws;-moral and religious, without harshness, tolerant without indifference. I saw the works of Johnson, and of the most agreeable English moralists, affording amusement to the middling class of people. I saw peasants learning to read in works which contain essays of Addison and Pope. I saw village farmers uniting in clubs to deliberate upon political and agricultural interests, and forming associations to purchase useful books, in the number of which they place the Encyclopædia Britannica, which is known to be composed at Edinburgh by men of science and philosophers of the first order. Lastly, I saw the upper classes of society acting suitably to this high state of civilization, and really worthy of occupying the first place in it by their intelligence, and the nobleness of their sentiments; I saw them exciting and directing all the undertakings conducive to public utility, always in communication with the people, and ne

ver confounded with them; studying to cultivate their minds, in order to teach them their duties, and their true interests; knowing how to provide for their wants, without making them lose virtuous independence, attracting thus their attention, without exciting their envy; and, in recompense of so many efforts, I saw peace, union, reciprocal esteem, mutual confidence, and even a very lively affection, founded on one side upon the habit of beneficence and the sweets of intimacy; on the other, upon gratitude and respect."

Our philosophical traveller then visited the principal counties of "industrious England;" where he saw the powers of nature employed under every imaginable form in the service of man; yet he felt less pleasure than in the former places he had visited: he rather admired this immense system of manufacture, than wished it for his country. After visiting Oxford and Cambridge, he proceeded to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, where, in conjunction with Messrs Arago and Humboldt, he carried on, with the most magnificent accommodation, and every facility, similar observations to those made on the solitary isle of Unst. He does not communicate here the precise result; his calculations, indeed, were not yet completed; but he states, in general, that all the observations made through out Britain corresponded entirely with those in France and Spain; and, as both are in unison with the accurate measurements recently made by Mr Swanberg in Lapland, and Major Lambton in the East Indies, the great problem of the figure of the globe may now be considered as solved in a very satisfactory manner.

the arrival of a French squadron at Carthagena, the Commodore, agree ably to these instructions, dispatched an officer in the barge to the Governor, enjoining him, before actually landing, to keep a sharp look out for any peculiarity in the dress and deportment of the Spaniards, on the Mole, which might possibly be imitable by the French officers; and on spying any such prominent peculiarity, to return without landing, and communicate his discoveries. The officer arrived off the Mole at two o'clock, on one of the hottest days in the month of July,

looked with great curiosity to see what sort of people should asseinble at the landing-place; but the extremity of the heat had depopulated the Mole at that hour, and there only happened to be walking, there a grave ecclesiastic with specticles on, and not far off an ancient cavalier, also with spectacles; from which the youthful and gallant officer inferred, that every vassal of the Spanish crown, of whatever profession, age, or sex, was obliged by some national law or custom, to appear with one pair of spectacles at least. With this observation he returned on board the commodore. To describe the perplexity of all the officers, to find as many pairs of spectacles as there were noses to put them on, would be impossible. It was luckily found, however, that one of the officer's servants had brought a few dozen pairs on a trading speculation, which were instantly put in requisition. The news of the arrival of a French fleet had, by this time, attracted crowds of people to the landing-place, whose surprise was not to be expressed, when they beheld the French, tall young men, gay, sprightly, and yet furnished with such unsuitable appendages. Among other spectators, were two or three companies of marine soldiers of the galleys, who could not repress their laughter. The French impatiently demanded the cause of this mockery; the peals of laughter redoubled; and the business speedily attained that crisis that may be imagined in a military mob. The clamour of the combat soon brought together the governor of the fortress and the commodore of the squadron, who succeeded in appeasing the combatants, though the difficulty was much increased by their perfect and provoking ignorance of each other's language.


From the Spanish of Don J. Cadalso.

I REMEMBER, said Nuno, to have been told by my father, that, towards the close of the last century, during the sickness of Charles II. when Louis XIV. exhausted every means of acquiring popularity among the Spaniards, as the chief engine of his grandson's exaltation to the throne, of this monarchy, all the French squadrons had orders, on their arrival at any peninsular port, to conform with the nicest attention to the customs and punctilios of its inhabitants. On

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »