Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

understood afterwards, were regarded as the discharges of cannon; so much so, that the garrison of St Anne's castle was kept under arms for the remainder of the night.

The explosions having ceased, nothing occurred to excite my attention during the remainder of the night; but when I arose, on the light of morning beginning very faintly to appear, I was struck with surprise on approach ing the window, by seeing what I took to be a very dense black cloud, threatening rain, as a thunder storm was not to be expected at that period of the year: the horizon, along the edge of the sea, was clearly defined by the morning light; but immediately above it, the black cloud seemed to fringe the surface of the sea, and to cover the whole atmosphere. At this time I had not observed any fall of dust; but I was afterwards informed by my servants, that particles of dust had been falling for the greater part of the night, though in small quantity! On returning to the other part of the room, and fixing my eyes steadily on the window, I was greatly astonished by the gradual disappearance of the faint light which had been visible before, and in a few minutes afterwards, by finding that I had totally lost sight of the sash of the window an occurrence which I well knew never takes place in the most stormy or the darkest night of the West Indies. I groped my way to the window, and touched the glass without seeing it, and on opening the sash, I first perceived that particles of dust were flying about, but the darkness was so profound, that I could not discover the outline of the neighbouring hills, the trees around the house, or, in short, any one object. I soon after quitted the house, and found that the earth was covered with dust; that it fell in a constant thick shower, occasionally with considerable force and that the windows, on the windward side of the house, were incrusted with it: but the darkness was 80 great, that a white handkerchief held close to the face could not be seen, land it was impossible for me to walk in the garden without the risk of striking against the trees or other large objects. I then first remarked a smell of some burnt matter, and I fancied I saw, or I really saw, on look ing upwards attentively, a lurid red appearance of the clouds, over head, through the profound darkness.

At this time a perfect calm, and the most remarkable stillness, uninterrupted by the usual noise of the surf of the sea, was observable, and was rendered more evident by the crash of the limbs of the trees of a very large wood which was adjacent to the house, and which formed an awful contrast to the extreme stillness of the atmosphere. On holding a lantern to some of the trees, I found that the limbs of the inore flexible ones were bent almost to the ground by the weight of the dust which adhered to them. The fall of dust dur ing the period of darkness was incessant, but at some times it was harder and thicker than at others. It ceased between twelve and one o'clock. I first began to discover the sashes of the windows, and the outlines of the trees, soon after twelve; and at one [ could plainly distinguish the lurid red clouds of a fiery aspect which hung low, and swept past the island; it was at this time that I was first struck by the noise of a tremendous surf, and on looking to the sea, I evidently saw it lashing the shore, having, as it would appear, risen to its utmost height and fury from a state of perfect quiescence in the shortest possible space of time; as during the period of darkness not the slightest murmur of the sea could be heard.

The aspect of the country around was now become wintry and dreary; the sugar canes were levelled with the earth; the smaller plants were laid prostrate; and the limbs of the trees were either broken off or bent downwards, as the wood was flexible or brittle, and the whole surface of the soil was covered with greyish ashes to the depth of an inch,

The next morning I rode to the beach, and could clearly perceive by the mark which the sea had left on the dust lying on the green sward, that it had risen to a height which had covered the whole of the sands, and reached the adjacent shrubs and grass. The perpendicular height which, to have effected this, it must have risen, I then measured, and I perfectly recollect that it was very great; as, however, I have left the memoranda, (which I penned at the time) of all the circumstances of this event in Barbadoes, I will not venture to state from memory that measurement.

If regard be had to the relative situation of the island of Barbadoes, it

is evidently a most singular circumstance attendant on the fall of volcanic dust, that the eruption of a volcano taking place in the island of St Vincent, twenty leagues to leeward of Barbadoes, should have projected that immense mass of heavy matter to a height above the influence of the northeastern trade wind, so that it should have been carried in a contrary direc tion to it, and then have been precipitated by its gravity on the island of Barbadoes and beyond it; for in this way only can we account for the volcanic dust having made its way seemingly against the trade wind, which, at that period of the year especially, is steady and uniform.

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

growing crops of corn, were neither so suddenly produced, nor in such vast numbers, as those which fed on the foliage of the potato; but successive generations of them continued to follow each other, so that scarcely any corn was reaped, and the island of Barbadoes suffered a sort of famine for many months.

As soon as the crop of corn (zea maize and holcus sorsum), and of potatoes (sweet potato, or convolvulus batatas, of the West Indies), the planting of which had been long retarded by the preceding drought, and took place shortly after the fall of the dust, were established, swarms of caterpillars, of a variety of species, suddenly made their appearance, and destroy ed the growing corn and the foliage of the potatoes. The sudden production of these animals, and their immense quantities, scarcely can be conceived. It will be sufficient to mention, that, in one instance, in a field of potatoes, not a single caterpillar was observable early in the morning, and before noon of the same day, they were discovered in such abundance as to require to be swept up and carried off in the earthen vessels used in the sugar manufactory to contain molasses, and which hold about five gallons each. The cater pillars, however, which destroyed the

How far the production of these caterpillars was connected with the presence of the volcanic dust, may be a question difficult of solution; but it may not be irrelevant to mention, that the dust had the property, from the large quantity of iron it contained, of absorbing and retaining the solar heat, so as to be painfully hot to the touch: this heated state was probably favourable to the evolution of larvæ.

As soon as the dust was mixed with the soil, or was washed from it, so as to lie in less abundance on the surface, the caterpillars gradually disappeared.

It may not be unworthy of mention, that the destruction of the foliage of the potatoes by the caterpillars did not in any degree diminish the crop: on the contrary, the return was unusually abundant, and ultimately saved Barbadoes from a continuance of the famine which the loss of the crops of corn exposed it to. From this circumstance I am induced to infer, that the dust, though it never seemed to unite intimately with the soil, yet had a fertilizing property. The chemical analysis of this dust is already before the public.-I have the honour to be, sir, &c.

ANECDOTES OF ANTIQUARIES.

MR EDITOR,

I'HAVE just seen the first Number of your Magazine on a table in the study of a much respected friend of mine, whose talents have gained for him a distinguished rank among the learned and elegant writers of Caledonia.

I observe you announce, that a portion of the publication is to be set apart as an "Antiquarian Repertory."

As oft as you can procure well-authenticated articles, connected with antiquity, whether they are deemed of importance in the estimation of some of your readers, or unprofitable in that of others, you will do well to publish them, for "even out of the chaff a pottage is made." But beware that

you are not "bronzed," and take care you have reasonable proofs, that what you publish is authentic.

Now in point, Mr Editor, I will tell you a story, a story well known, though, of course, not to nine-tenths of your readers.

66

A venerable, learned, and worthy country gentleman, who, had he been in life, would have found a pleasure in contributing to your "Repertory," happened, in the course of a forenoonwalk, to come upon some industrious people who were engaged in clearing away the extensive moss of. In the course of their operations, one of them met with a substance which resisted his spade. The spade was thrown aside, and the pick-axe grasped to" split in flinders" this resisting substance. Softly, my friend," said the antiquary; "continue with your spade, and trench round; perhaps you may raise, entire, a Roman urn. -For I have always been of opinion," said he to himself," that this was the line of march of the Romans." The illiterate peasant knew as much about an " urn," as, mayhap, he did about "Roman." But his respect for the "venerable" was too great not to obey his orders. Well, then, he trenched, till at last Ir made its appearance. "A Roman camp-kettle," with enthusiastic pleasure, said the antiquary to himself, “ Carry it to the HOUSE, Duncan, and I shall amply reward you." He did so, and was amply rewarded, befitting so inestimable a treasure. For in all his actings he dealt justly-succoured the needy -was a repressor of vice-a promoter of industrious virtue. Such was our venerable antiquary.

It was placed on a table in his study. He viewed it with admiration and delight, it confirmed him in his opinion,-its goblet form,-its moveable semi-circular handle;-all conspired. "Unquestionably," said he, " the Romans must have made this their line of march, and not that, as some ignorant writers have asserted.

Pursuing these ideas, it has been insinuated that he wrote a learned dissertation about this kettle, preparatory to its being presented elsewhere. It is further said, that it was presented and received with equal veneration and thanks.

However, to make " a long tale short," Mr Editor, I shall not at full VOL. I.

length detail the amusing colloquy which took place, upon an after occasion, between the venerable and the real owner of the kettle. Suffice it to say, he was no Roman,-but a sturdy Highlander, who would have given hard blows to any Roman who dared to invade his kettle, or any thing else belonging to him. In a word, then, his story was this;-that his wife "Shanet" had, twelve months ago, bought this identical kettle in the town of and in her way home, having indulged too freely to cure a colic, mistook her path through the moss, plumped into what is called a peat-bog, and was glad to quit her kettle and save herself; that Duncan's description of the size, shape, &c. of the kettle, and Janet's, exactly agreed; and that there was no doubt but it was their "nown" kettle. "If your honour will only gie me back the kettle, I'll hing it in the very middle kaiber o' the pothie, to be a warning to Shanet to get trunk no more." "That is impossible, Donald," said the venerable; "but there is as much money for you as will buy two such kettles; and in order to correct Janet's colics, there is, beside, a copy of Macneil's History of Will and Jean, which you may cause your son, Peter, read to his mother again and again, and you, yourself, will not be the worse for listening to the moral tale." Donald accepted of the boon, and having repeatedly said "Got pless and thank your honour," withdrew.

[ocr errors]

66

Now, Mr Editor, this is not a bronze,"- -no story of fancy ;-some of your readers will at once recognize it, and will blame me for telling it so clumsily.

Well-I have just another story to tell you, by way of introduction to our future acquaintance, and then, for the present, I have done.

A select knot of antiquaries set out to explore classic ground. "Here, here!" exclaimed one"Now we have it,-look here! look at this stone; perfectly distinct and plain !→→ mark the letters! R. I. L.-as clear as day, although our researches may sometimes be covered in obscurity. Quite plain and intelligible-R. I. L. Thus far, and no further, he exultingly exclaimed, Romani Imperii Limes!" The antiquaries gathered around, and were struck with wonder "We shall," said one of them, " find to a certainty, an urn, containing the bones

S

of some valorous Roman general." Let us to work, said they, with one concurring voice, and with their mattocks they set furiously to the business. Before they had proceeded far, their attention was attracted by the hallooing and bellowing of a sturdy peasant, who was hastening towards the spot. When he had approached them, and stopping till he had gathered wind, he exclaimed, "Hoot, hoot, lads! what's that you're about? mind what the Bible says,-Cursed be he who removes a land mark."-" Peace, clown," said the junior antiquary,

""

-

66

you are ignorant of the matter; R. I. L. that is, Romani Imperii Limes." "Hoot, toot, lads!" said the countryman, I ken Latin as weil as you do yoursel. Do ye think I was na bred wi' Mr Doig, at Falklan school, wha could hae learned the very kaes that biggit in the auld palace to speak Latin, as my auld granny said, gin they had only leeted till him. And you say, too, I am ignorant o' the mat

ter.

But faith, birky, let me tell you, I should ken mair of the matter than you, for was na I present whan auld Rab Roughcast, the mason, hewed and pat in that very stane, in my gutcher, Robin Rantletree's time. Romani Imperii Limes, wi' a ban to ye! I believe ye are nae better than a band o' tinklers, wha wad claim Rab Innes' lands as the property of ony Roman. But there's auld Rab Innes himsel, poor feckless body, coming-we're no owre thrang neebours, yet I wadna like to see him wranged for a' that. But I'se gae my ways, and gif he lets you remove the land mark, I say again, accursed be he wha does sae."

This onset gave the antiquaries no stomach to encounter Rab Innes, and they precipitately took a direction which separated them equally from Rab Innes and young Rantletrees, leaving the R. I. L. in quiet possession of the field.

to press, furnish you with some very curious matter connected with the ancient manners and history of our country; and, I think, that out of the great materials I am possessed of, the article will be upon "Border Bonds of Manrent." I am, &c. STRILA. Edinburgh, 23d April 1817.

Now, Mr Editor, you must not suppose that I intend to throw any discredit upon your Antiquarian Repertory. Quite the reverse. All that I mean to deduce from what I have said is, a caution to you against being taken in by a gudewife's "kail pat" for a "Roman camp kettle," or by the land mark betwixt two decent cock lairds for a Romani Imperii Limes.

In proof of my sincerity, I shall, D. V., before your June number goes

CHEMICAL PROCESS OF COMBUSTION.

IT appears from the notices inserted in the scientific journals, that the attention of Sir Humphry Davy is at present particularly directed to the consideration of the chemical process of combustion-and though we do not consider ourselves entitled to suppose that all our readers can possess that minute acquaintance with this subject, which might justify us in presenting it to them in considerable detail, we yet think that on so very interesting a topic it is possible to convey such general information as may be sufficiently understood by every description of readers. No phenomenon, it is evident, presents a subject of more interesting speculation to a mind of just philosophical taste. The instantaneous transition from a state of darkness to that of clear and useful illumination, which is produced by the presence of a lighted taper-the beautiful form which the flame itself is disposed to assume the varied tints which characterise this appearance from the mild blue of its base to the white or orange of its waving summit-and the unfailing steadiness with which it maintains its place, so long as the materials of its nourishment are afforded, present an assemblage of striking appearances, which but for the inattention induced by its almost habitual presence, is better fitted, perhaps, to awaken the interest of a thinking mind than any other phenomenon of daily occurrence. It is a fact, however, that the researches and theories of modern chemistry have as yet been able to advance but a very little way towards a satisfactory explanation of these appearances.-The most obvious supposition unquestionably is, that the light and heat which are essential to the phenomenon, are derived from the burning body itself-and this, accordingly, it is universally known, was the opinion entertained by the followers of Stahl, whose doctrines exercised an unlimited influence, before the introduction of

the present views, over the philosophers and chemists of modern Europe. According to this philosopher, then, combustion was merely the evolution from the burning body, when placed in circumstances adapted to this effect, of a peculiarly subtile and active principle, to which, from the ordinary appearance which its evolution assumes, he gave the name of Phlogiston-light and heat being those properties of this body by which it adapts itself to the observation of our powers of perception. This theory, we have said, from the high reputation which its author had obtained, was long unanimously adopted by philosophers and being in perfect agreement with the most natural and obvious judgment of mankind, scarcely a suspicion was allowed to intervene, that there could be any thing imperfect or inaccurate in the theory. The progress of philosophical opinion upon this subject, however, presents, we think, a very instructive instance of a disposition which seems universally characteristic of mankind, that, we mean, of employing any favourite principle to account for every appearance which presents itself, however little warranted such an application may be by the circumstances most characteristic of the phenomenon in question. It is accordingly very generally known, that about the latter part of the last century, and while the doctrines of Stahl were in all their vigour, the existence and properties of oxygen were discovered, and immediately excited the utmost attention in all who were devoted to philosophical pursuits. The discovery was, in reality, both beautiful and instructive in a very uncommon degree. The increased illumination communicated by this gas to any ignited body which the operator immersed in it-the pure and apparently etherial nature of the gas itself the very energetic properties it was found to possess and the vast variety of bodies into whose composition it was discovered to enter all contributed to point out this substance as one of the most important instruments in the economy of nature, and insensibly produced a very general disposition to receive its operation as a complete account of any former unexplained phenomena, with whose existence and properties it might have any connexion. While the minds of

men, accordingly, were in this state, it was opportunely discovered, that when a burning body is introduced into a jar of common air, the mouth of the jar being at the same time inverted over water, the oxygenous portion of the air is altogether consumed, and the burning body is found to have acquired an additional weight, precisely corresponding with that of the oxygen which had disappeared. From this discovery it was immediately concluded, that combustion is in fact nothing else than the combination of oxygen with the combustible body-that the light and heat are the consequences of this combination, being necessarily given out by the combining oxygenand that the whole process of combustion is explained, when it is stated to be the consequence of the separation of oxygen,-first, from the other constituent of the air, and next, from the light and heat which it contained before it began to experience this separation, and also, of the combination of this gas with the body whose combustion was actually observed. A few of the more intelligent and cautious of the learned might still entertain a very invincible opinion, that the phenomenon in question had not really been accounted for-but the great multitude of the studious, who seldom condescend to a very careful examination of any particular subject, received the doctrine as impregnably established-while, in the public demonstrations of professed teachers, the difficulties that remained were either entirely unnoticed, or were hastily concealed from the view of the curious, by ambiguous language, or unsatisfactory conjecture.

From the application of this statement, however, we conceive ourselves bound to exempt all the more enlightened and illustrious chemists. Sir Humphry Davy, we believe, in his public lectures, always expressed himself upon this subject with much becoming freedom of opinion-and Dr Thomson has repeatedly stated, in his excellent system, that he still considered the explanation of the phenomena of combustion as in a very imperfect state. The opinion of this latter philosopher, indeed, if we are not much mistaken, has always coincided exactly with that which we are anxious at present to submit to the

« AnteriorContinuar »