Billeder på siden

himself occupying a field which furnished ample scope for the exertion of his powers, as well as for the gratification of his highest ambition. It was while thus engaged in the discharge of the arduous and laborious duties of this situation, that the foundation was laid of that fatal disease of which he died; for so eager was he to acquire knowledge himself, as well as to impart it to those around him, that he would not only expose himself to the foul atmosphere of the anatomical theatre during the whole day, but often subject himself to the severest toil for a considerable part of the night; while the moments which were spared from these labours, instead of being spent in relaxation, or in exercise in the open air for the benefit of his health, were employed in composing papers for the medical journals, in copying the results of his anatomical and physiological investigations, in preparing parts of his Natural History, or in carrying on other literary and scientific studies. It is impossible that a constitution, naturally delicate and predisposed to disease, could long remain unimpaired under such strenuous and unremitting exertions.

After Dr. Godman had prosecuted his anatomical studies in Philadelphia for four or five years, his reputation as a teacher became so generally known, his fame so widely extended, that the eyes of the profession were directed to him from every part of the country; and in 1826 he was called to fill the chair of anatomy in Rutger's Medical College, recently established in the city of New York.

There could scarcely have been a stronger testimony of the high estimation in which he was held, or of his reputation as a teacher of anatomy, than this appointment, in an institution around which several of the most eminent professors in the country had already rallied, and which was called into existence under circumstances of rivalry, that demanded the highest qualifications in those who were called upon to establish and maintain its reputation.

This situation, as well as every other in which Dr. Godman had been placed, he sustained with a popularity almost unparalleled. He never exhibited in public his talents as a lecturer, but he gathered around him an admiring audience, who hung with delight upon his lips. But the duties of the anatomical chair, together with his other scientific pursuits, were too arduous, and the climate too rigorous, for a constitution already subdued by labour and confinement, and invaded by disease; hence, before he had completed his second course of lectures, he was compelled to retire from the school, and seek a residence in a milder climate. repaired with his family to one of the West India islands, where he remained until the approach of summer, when he returned and settled in Germantown. In this place and in Philadelphia he spent the residue of his life.


In 1829, Dr. Godman thus describes his condition :-" My excessive exertion and the exposure to a dreadful climate destroyed me. My lungs became diseased, and last winter I was threatened with so rapid a decline, as to force me to escape from the climate of New York by going to the West Indies. The months of February, March, and April, my wife and I spent in the Danish island of Santa Cruz, where I very nearly perished from my disease, though I should certainly have done so in New York. On my return to Philadelphia in May, I took a house in Germantown, within seven miles of the city, where I have since resided. During the warm weather I was able to creep about, but since the first of the fall have been confined to a single room. My health during all this time has been in a very wretched state, and my consumption very obvious indeed; for I wasted to bones, and lost all my strength. Until the last three weeks past I was exceedingly low, unable to sit up, eat, or perform any function advantageously. Since the time mentioned I have greatly recovered in all respects. My cough is by no means troublesome, and I eat and sleep well. What is best of all is, that I have never had hectic since leaving New York, where I was not properly prescribed for. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, I have had my family to support, and have done sc merely by my pen. This you may suppose severe enough for one in my condition, nevertheless necessity is a ruthless master. At present, that I am comparatively well, my literary occupations form my chief pleasure, and all the regret I experience is, that my strength is so inadequate to my wishes. Should my health remain as it is now, I shall do very well, and I cannot but hope, since we have recently passed through a tremendous spell of cold weather without my receiving any injury. All my prospects as a public teacher of anatomy are utterly destroyed, as I can never hope, nor would I venture if I could, again to resume my labours. My success promised to be very great, but it has pleased God that I should move in a different direction."

From the time Dr. Godman left New York, his disease advanced with such a steady pace as to leave but little hope, either to himself or his friends, of his final recovery. He lingered but a few months, his death occurring on the morning of the 17th of April, 1830; he being then in the thirty-sixth year of his age.

Thus early died this able and worthy man, but not before he had left behind him contributions to natural history which will preserve his memory. His chief work is his "Natural History of American Quadrupeds," well known to European naturalists,-a work marked by research, accuracy and independence of judgment, a striking proof of which is his exposure of the "fabulous history of the beaver," whose marvellous and more than marvellous sagacity was a common theme in our books of natural history till within the last three or four years.

We will endeavour to make the readers of the LONDON SATURDAY JOURNAL better acquainted with Dr. Godman, by reprinting his essays called "Rambles of a Naturalist," which will appear consecutively, in three or four succeeding numbers.


JOSEPH opened the door and announced that the carriage was ready. My mother and sister threw themselves into my arms. "It is not yet too late," they exclaimed. "Abandon this project and remain with us."

"Mother! I am a gentleman, and am now twenty years old. I must make myself known to my country, and must carve a way to fame, either in the army or at the court.'

"But what, my dear Bernard, will become of me when you have left me?"

"You will be proud and happy when you hear of your son's success."

But if you should fall in battle!"

"What then? What is life that we should set such value on it? A gentleman, and at my age, should regard only glory. Oh! my dear mother, fear not that in a few short years you shall see me return a colonel or a field-marshal, or perhaps high in the offices of state!"

"And what then?"

"I shall enjoy respect and dignity." "And then?"

"All will bow before me." "Well?"

"Then I will marry my cousin Henriette; will find husbands for my young sisters, and we will live tranquil and happy on my own estate in Brittany."

"What prevents you from doing all this at once? Has not your father left you in possession of the best fortune in the country? Is there anywhere within ten leagues around a finer estate, a more handsome château, than Roche Bernard? Are you not beloved by your tenantry? When you pass through the village, do not all bow before you? Leave us not, my son; remain with your friends; with your sisters, your old mother, who may be gone hence ere you return. Waste not your energies in the pursuit of vain glory; do not shorten those days which pass so rapidly, by cares and unnecessary sorrows. Life is very sweet, my child, and the sun of Brittany is beautiful."

Thus speaking, my mother led me to the windows, and pointed to the green alleys of the park, the old horse-chestnuts covered with flowers, the lilacs, the honeysuckles which perfumed the whole air,-all that fair scene glittering in the bright sunshine. The gardener and all his family were assembled in the ante-room, sad and silent, and seemed by their looks to say, Leave us not, dear master, leave us not! Hortense, my eldest sister, pressed me in her embrace; and my little sister, Amelie, who had been looking over the engravings in a volume of La Fontaine in a corner of the room, ran up to me with the open book, crying, "Read, dear brother, read this!"

I looked-it was the fable of the "Two Pigeons." I turned hastily, and exclaiming, "Let me go! I am a man, and a gentleman; and honour and glory must be mine." I rushed hastily into the court. I was springing into the chaise, when I beheld Henriette standing at the top of the steps. She did not speak-pale and trembling, she could scarcely support herself. She waved her handkerchief in token of a last adieu, and fell senseless. I flew to her, raised her in my arms, vowed to her an undying love, and as soon as she returned to herself, leaving her to the care of my mother and sisters, I ran to the carriage without again looking

* From the French of Scribe.

back. Had I once more looked on her, my resolution would have failed me. In a few minutes we were on the high road.

For a long time my thoughts were only occupied by my sisters, by Henriette, my mother, and all the happiness I was turning my back upon; but these ideas grew less painful as the towers of Roche Bernard faded from my view; dreams of ambition and glory took their place, and filled my whole soul. What projects, what castles in the air, what glorious achievements I conjured up whilst rolling on in my post-chaise! Riches, honours, dignities, every sort of success I felt sure of attaining. I should deserve everything, and I rewarded myself in proportion. Growing higher in my own estimation, as I went onward I found myself a duke and peer, governor of a province, and a marshal of France ;-when stopping at the inn-door, the voice of my domestic addressing me modestly, as "Monsieur le chevalier," brought me to my recollection, and obliged me to abdicate my dignities.

For several days, for my journey was a long one, I indulged in the same dreams and reveries. My destination was the house of the Duke of C, an old friend of my father, and the protector of my family, who resided in the neighbourhood of Sedan. He had promised to take me with him to Paris, whither he was going at the end of the month, to present me at court, and use all his credit to procure me a company of dragoons.

It was evening when I reached Sedan, and being too late to go to the duke's château, I put off my visit till the morning, and betook myself to the "Arms of France," the best inn in the town, and the usual resort of the officers of the garrison, Sedan being a fortified town; the very streets had a warlike aspect, and even the citizens had a martial appearance, which seemed to say to strangers, "We are the compatriots of the great Turenne.'

I supped at the table-d'hôte, and took an opportunity of inquiring the way to the château of the duke de C, which was about three leagues from the town.

[ocr errors]

Any one will point it out to you," was the reply. "It is well known in the country. It was in that château that the celebrated Marshal Fabert, that great warrior, died."

The conversation now turned, as was natural among a party of military men, upon the marshal. His battles, his exploits, the modesty which induced him to refuse the patent of nobility, and the military orders which Louis XIV. presented to his acceptance, were all mentioned; and beyond all they spoke of the remarkable good fortune which raised a private soldier, the son of a printer, to the rank of a marshal of France. No parallel instance could at that period be brought forward, and it appeared so extraordinary that it was among the uneducated very commonly ascribed to the agency of supernatural causes. It was currently reported, that he had dealt in magic from his boyhood, and that he had made a compact with the devil.

The innkeeper, who was thoroughly imbued with superstition, told us with great gravity, that a man clothed all in black, whom nobody knew, made his appearance at the château of the Duke de C, at the time of Fabert's death, penetrated into his chamber and disappeared, bearing off the poor marshal's soul, which he had purchased, and had become his property; and he further related that in the month of May, the time of Fabert's death, the man in black appeared every evening carrying a lighted taper.

Such discourse lightened our repast, and we quaffed a bumper of champagne to the health of Fabert's familiar, desiring that he would take us also under his protection, and enable us to gain such battles as Collioure and La Marfée.

The next day I rose early, and repaired to the château of the Duke de C ---, a large gothic mansion, which at another time would not have attracted my attention, but which I now regarded with a strange feeling of curiosity, as I recalled the marvellous tales of the preceding evening.

The servant who admitted me, told me he did not know whether his master could be seen, or whether he would receive me. I gave him my card, and he left me in a kind of guard-room, decorated with the spoils of the chase and old family portraits.

I waited some time, but nobody came. "So!" thought I, "my career of glory and honour is doomed to commence in an ante-room." Believing myself a neglected suitor, my impatience increased rapidly. I had counted the old paintings, and all the cross-beams of the ceiling, ten times over, when I thought I heard a slight noise. I perceived it arose from a half-closed door which was agitated by the wind. I looked through, and discovered a small room very elegantly furnished, and lighted by two windows and a glass door, which opened upon a beautiful park. I stepped in, but was suddenly arrested by the sight that met my eyes. A man, whose back was turned towards the door through which I

entered, was lying on a couch: suddenly he started up, and, without perceiving me, ran hastily to one of the windows; tears trickled down his cheeks, and profound despair was imprinted on all his features. He remained for some time motionless, his face buried in his hands; then, raising his head, he began to pace the room with hurried steps. He was close to me before he was aware of my presence, and started when he beheld me. I was retreating, stammering forth some words of excuse for my intrusion, when he stopped me, and, seizing me by the arm, inquired in a loud voice,

"Who are you? What do you want here?"

"I am the Chevalier Bernard de la Roche Bernard, and have just arrived from Brittany."

"I remember, I remember," he replied; and, warmly embracing me, he made me sit down by him, and began to converse concerning my father and the whole family, in a manner evincing so intimate a knowledge that I could not doubt he was the master of the house.


"You are, I presume," said I, at length, "M. de C." He rose, and, regarding me with a haughty air, he replied, was,-I am so no more; now I am but as nothing." Perceiving my astonishment, he added, "Not a word more, young man; ask me no questions."

"I have, sir, become the unintentional witness of your grief and care; and if, by my devotion, my friendship, I could hope to afford some relief to your sorrows,'

"True, true, you are right; but you cannot change my destiny. My last wishes you may fulfil; but that is the only service that remains for you to pay.'

He rose to close the door, and then reseated himself beside me, who, trembling with emotion, anxiously awaited his words. There was something peculiarly grave and solemn about him: his face, especially, wore an expression I had never seen on any other. His forehead, which I noticed particularly, seemed marked by fate. He was very pale; his black eyes flashed fire, and from time to time his features, though worn by suffering, contracted into an ironical smile that had in it something almost demoniacal.

"What I am about to tell you," said he, "will appear incredible. You will doubt,-you will hesitate to believe it; I myself can scarcely give it credit,-at least I would I could not; but the proofs remain,-and in everything that surrounds us, in our very organisation, there are mysteries which it is impossible for us to understand."

He stopped an instant, as if to collect his ideas, and then continued:

"I was born in this château. I had two elder brothers, for whom the riches and honours of our house were destined. I was destined for the church,-a profession much opposed to my inclinations, which were fixed upon schemes of ambition and glory. Unhappy in my obscurity, and eagerly desiring renown, my thoughts were incessantly occupied in devising the means of gratifying my dearest wishes, and I became insensible to all the pleasures and delights of life. The present was as nothing to me; existed only in the future, and the prospect before me was cheerless and gloomy.


"At the age of nearly thirty years I had still done nothing. At that period the renown of the literary reputations that had been achieved in the capital filled the trump of fame; a new path to distinction was opened, and candidates from all quarters hastened towards it. How often I exclaimed to myself, Ah, if I could but obtain a name in the field of literature it would be sufficient to secure renown, and that alone is happiness :'

"I had made an ancient servant, an old negro, who had lived in the family before I was born, the confidant of my griefs; he was older than any one about the house, for no one remembered the time he had entered it: the country people even declared that he had known the Marshal Fabert, and had been present at his death."

Here I could not suppress a movement of surprise. My companion remarked it, and demanded the cause.

"It is nothing," I replied; but I could not help recalling the idea of the man in black whom the innkeeper had spoken of. M. de C went on:

"One day as I was giving way to my despair, and expressing my regret at the obscurity to which I was destined, and the uselessness of my life, in the presence of Yago (such was the negro's name), I exclaimed, 'I would give ten years of life to be placed in the first rank of our authors."

"What are ten years?' said Yago coldly; it is certainly paying much for a trifle,-but, nevertheless, I accept your ten

years. I take them; recal your promises if you please, I shall keep mine.'

[ocr errors]

I cannot express my surprise at this speech. I concluded that age had undermined his intellects: I left him with a smile of pity, and a few days after set out for Paris. There I found myself thrown into the society of men of letters. Their example encouraged me; and I published several works, with a success which I need not now mention. All Paris rang with my praises; the newspapers were filled with encomiums; my name became celebrated, and yesterday you yourself expressed your admiration." "What!" I exclaimed, in great astonishment, "you are not, then, M. de C-?"


No," said he, coldly.

"Who can this be?" I thought within myself: 66 can I be speaking to Marmontel? to D'Alembert? to Voltaire ?" The Unknown sighed: a smile of regret and disdain played over his lips; and he again took up his tale.

"This literary reputation, which I had so much desired, proved far insufficient for so ardent a mind as mine. I aspired to a nobler renown, and I said to Yago, who had followed me to Paris, and never left me,' No real glory, no true fame, can be acquired except in the career of a warrior. What is a man of letters, a poet? Nothing. Let me be a great leader,-the commander of an army; that is the destiny I covet,-and to obtain it I would sacrifice ten of the years that yet remain to me.'

"I accept them,' said Yago; 'I take them; they are mine; do not you forget.'

At this point in his story the Unknown again stopped; and, observing the disturbed and doubting expression of my countenance, he said,

"I have told you already, young man, that you would not credit my story; it seems to you a dream, a chimera! It does so to me; but yet the rank and honours I obtained were no illusion: the soldiers whom I led into the hottest fire, the redoubts carried, the standards taken, the victories which have astonished all France, all were my work,-all this glory was mine."

As he thus rapidly went on, speaking with warmth and enthusiasm, surprise held me motionless, and I said to myself, "Who is it that is beside me? Is this Coligny? is it Richelieu ? or can it be the Marshal de Saxe?"


From this state of excitement, the Unknown relapsed into exhaustion, and, drawing nearer to me, said, with a melancholy air'Yago spoke truth; and when, after a time, disgusted with the emptiness of military glory, I aspired to that which is the only real and positive good in this world; when, at the price of five or six years of existence, I desired gold and riches, he once more gratified my desire. Yes, young man, yes, I saw fortune seconding, nay surpassing, all my wishes; lands, forests, châteaux-this very morning all were at my command; if you doubt me, if you doubt Yago, wait-wait a very little time, and you will see with your own eyes that what bewilders both your reason and mine is but too true."

The Unknown walked to the fire-place and looked at the timepiece, gave a sign of horror, and said to me in a low voice,

"At day-break this morning I felt so oppressed and feeble that I could scarcely sustain myself. I rang for my valet, but Yago appeared in his place."

"He was turning to leave the room. I felt my powers diminishing, that life was ebbing from me.


'Yago! Yago!' I cried, 'give me a few hours, only a few hours more.'

"No, no,' he replied, 'it would take too much from my bargain. I know the value of life better than you do; all the treasures on earth are not worth two hours of existence.'

"I could scarcely speak; my eyes were closing, and the cold of death was seizing on my limbs.

"Well,' I at length exclaimed, making a strong effort, take back those benefits for whose sake I have sacrificed myself. For four hours of life I will give up my gold, my riches, that opulence I so ardently desired.'

"Be it so you have been a good master, and I would willingly do something for your sake. I consent.'

"I felt my vigour return, and I cried, 'Four hours is so short a time. Yago-Yago-four hours more, and I renounce my literary glory, all my works, all that has placed me so high in the estimation of the world.'

"Four hours for that,' cried the Negro, disdainfully; 'it is far too much; but I will not refuse your last request.'

"No, not the last,' cried I, clasping my hands. 'YagoYago-I entreat-give to me this evening, the twelve hours, the entire day, and let all my actions, my victories, my military fame, be effaced for ever from the memory of man-let no memorial of them remain upon the earth-the day-Yago-the whole day, and I will be satisfied.'

"You abuse my good-nature,' said he, and I am making but a fool's bargain. However, I will give you till sunset. Beyond that it is in vain to ask. In the evening I shall come for you.' "And he left me," continued the Unknown; "and this very day on which I am speaking to you is the last of my life." Then, approaching the glass door, which was open, and led into the park, he exclaimed, "I shall no longer behold these beautiful skies, these lawns, these sparkling fountains; I shail no longer breathe the balmy air of spring. Fool that I was! These blessings that God gives to all, those blessings of whose value I was insensible, and whose excellence I only now comprehend, I might have enjoyed for twenty-five years longer. I have wasted my days, sacrificed them for a vain chimera, for a sterile glory which has not rendered me happy, and is dead before me. See-see," he said, pointing to some peasants who were crossing the park, and passing singing to their labour, "what would I not give to partake their toils and hardships! But I have nothing more to give or to hope here below! No! not even misfortune."

At that moment a sunbeam, a ray of the bright sun of May, fell upon his pale, wild features; he laid his hand on me in a kind of delirium, and said,

"See-see-how beautiful is the sun! and I must leave it.I shall never enjoy it again.-Never shall I know such a bright, gladsome day-for me there is no to-morrow!"

He sprang away and ran into the park, and disappeared among the trees before I had the power to stop him. In truth, I did not possess the strength. I had fallen back upon the couch, totally bewildered with what I had beheld and heard. I rose and walked about to assure myself that I was no longer under the influence of a dream. Just then the door opened, and a servant announced

"What can I be suffering from ?' I asked him. "Master, nothing is more natural. The hour approaches, the the Duke de C—. moment is arrived.'

"What hour, what moment?' I cried.

"Can you not divine my meaning? Heaven allotted you sixty years of life you were thirty years old when my service to you commenced.'

"'Yago,' said I in terror,' are you speaking seriously?' "Yes, master, within five years you have expended in glory twenty-five years of existence. You have given them, and they belong to me; and the years of which you are deprived are added to mine.'

"And was this the price of your services?' "Others have paid dearer for them; witness Fabert, whom I also protected.'

"Peace, peace,' I cried; ' it is not possible, it is not true.' "You are pleased to say so; but prepare yourself, for you have but one half hour to live.'

"You trifle with me, you jest—'

"Far from it: make the calculation yourself. You have actually enjoyed thirty-five years of life, and twenty-five years you have sold. The total is sixty. That is your business; every one for himself.'

A gentleman about sixty years of age, bearing in his whole air and carriage the appearance of a man of high rank, entered, and holding out his hand, apologised for having made me wait so long. "I was not at home when you arrived," said he; "I had gone to the town to consult a physician regarding the health of my youngest brother, the Comte de C—.'

"Do you consider his life in danger?" I inquired. "No, thanks be to Heaven," replied the Duke; "but when young, his imagination was too highly excited by ideas of ambition and glory; and a serious illness from which he has lately suffered, and which we feared would carry him off, has left him in a state of delirium and alienation of mind, which impresses on him the constant opinion that he has but one day more to live. It is a delusion he labours under."

[blocks in formation]

"What! do you mean that you have determined to renounce the ments have proved, that when an animal is made to respire oxygen court, and all the advantages that would attend you there?" "Yes!"

"But consider, my young friend, that with my aid your progress would be rapid, and that with a little assiduity and patience, you might some ten years hence-."

"Ten years of lost time!" I exclaimed.

in a pure state, the effect is somewhat like that of intoxication: the breathing becomes hurried, the pulse is excited to a dangerous rapidity, and the blood circulates with a velocity that would very shortly wear life away. The phenomena of combustion would likewise be changed; the intensity of fire would be increased, and its duration shortened; it would be impossible to obtain a gentle,

"Well," replied the Duke, somewhat surprised, "is that pay-gradual heat, but every combustible would burn with a blaze ag

ing dear for glory, fortune, and honours? Come, come, you will yet go to Versailles."

"Excuse me, Monsieur le Duc, I am about to return to Brittany, and I beg you to accept my warmest thanks and those of my whole family for the benefits you intended me."

"This is folly," said the Duke.

"It is wisdom," said I, full of all I had seen and heard. The next day I set out on my journey; with what delight I again welcomed my beautiful château of Roche Bernard, the old trees of the park, the beautiful sun of Brittany! I returned to my tenants, my sister, my mother, and happiness!-I have never quitted them since; for eight days afterwards I married Henriette.


I AM tempted to mention to you one feat of an Arab horse, the property of a person who has more than once been mentioned by me in these letters, Aga Bahram, and which has not, so far as I know, been ever doubted. This animal came from Shirauz to Tehrân, 520 miles, in six days; remained there three days, went back in five; remained at Shirauz nine, and returned again to Tehran in seven days. This same gentleman told me that he had once rode another horse of his own from Tehran to Koom, twentyfour fursucks, or about eighty-four miles, between the dawn of a morning near the vernal equinox, and two hours before sunsetthat is, in about ten hours. This, too, is good going; but Aga Bahram had always the best horses in Persia.-Fraser's Tartar Journey.



THE same influences that are exercised by the blood upon the bodies of animals are also exercised by the ocean upon the constitution of the globe. The fluid is, in both cases, the great principle of existence; it circulates nourishment through every part, it supplies what has decayed, it repairs what has been destroyed, and endows every separate member or region with activity and life.

It is also from the character of the fluid that the whole mass receives its conformation; and as that character alters, the nature of the complete body changes. A very slight variation in the quality or quantity of the blood will, in an animal, sometimes make it fierce or even mad, and sometimes bring on weakness and insensibility: a greater change occasions death. In the ocean, similar results would be produced, by its alterations, upon the life of the world very small differences would modify, and greater would destroy, the existence of every living thing upon its surface; and at last, as the change became still more excessive, the characteristics of the entire planet would assume another form, and as different a one as we may conceive to be that of Mercury or Jupiter.

[ocr errors]

fierce as that of phosphorus, and be extinguished as soon. In this state, life would be but a rapid and giddy whirl, and fire a brilliant but brief flame; and in a short time neither could be found to exist at all.

The gases we have mentioned compose, when combined, pure water; besides these, the waters of the ocean contain salt held in solution and this salt is in quantities so vast, that if the seas were dried away, a stratum of it would be left along the bottom, in some places one thousand feet thick. Concerning the origin of this vast mass, several theories have been formed. Some have supposed that saline particles brought down by the rivers have in the course of ages caused that accumulation: others, that beds of salt existed below the waters, and have been dissolved by them but when we consider that all the salt we have ever discovered to exist on the earth, bears so small a proportion to the enormous quantity required as to be almost invisible in comparison, these theories appear insufficient, and we can only find an explanation in supposing that muriate of soda (for such is the chemical name of seasalt) formed a principal part of the primitive rocky masses on the earth's surface, and that, being soluble, when the ocean was condensed, it was dissolved, and carried down by its waters, and has remained suspended in them ever since.

As the salt is not susceptible of evaporation, it never mixes with the air, nor is able to have any influence on the earth beyond the immediate flow of the tide.. But upon the living contents of the ocean it does exert its influence, and any alteration of its properties would materially affect their existence. We can find no other salt, among the very numerous kinds which are formed by various chemical processes, that would allow life to exist in water which held so much dissolved as the salt in the sea; and we discover that if the proportion of even this calt were much increased, the effects would be equally destructive. On the other hand, multitudes of marine animals and plants cannot live in water less salt than their accustomed element, and will perish if a stream of fresh water reaches them. The geologist often finds the remains of fish in such a position and state of preservation, that it is evident they have lain completely undisturbed since the moment of their death; some of them even retaining in their mouths the prey they had caught, but had not had time to swallow. From these appear ances, we have reason to conclude that the whole inhabitants of some portion of the sea were destroyed at once by the irruption of water more salt or more fresh than they could bear, and so suffered by a tranquil death, and were gradually covered by the deposit of sand or mud in which they are found; since, if some convulsion had destroyed them, it must almost certainly have shattered their very delicate fabrics; or if each individual had separately died a natural death, its body would have been infallibly devoured by its voracious neighbours.

We thus see with what nice accuracy the constituent parts of the ocean must have been provided, in order that the earth might exist in its present form, and with its present inhabitants : let us now consider how far that form is dependent upon the other qualities of the " World of Waters.'

The chemical composition of water is found to be a union of two The most important quality possessed by the water of the sea, is gases, oxygen and hydrogen. Of these, the first, oxygen, exists its capability of evaporation, or of changing its form by the influalso in the atmosphere, of which it forms one-fifth, and supplies ence of heat, and becoming converted into an invisible, elastic that vital air necessary to the respiration and life of animals: the vapour, which mixes with the atmosphere, and, being transported other, or hydrogen, can hardly be said to exist at all in an uncom- by the winds into distant regions, falls again in the form of rain; bined state. We may imagine that these gases were at first formed then collects into channels, giving rise to the mountain-torrent separately, and continued so for a long period, remaining in an and the majestic river; and thus returns to the ocean it was drawn elastic state, and constituting an enormous atmosphere around our from, having completed a circuit, during every part of which it planet; and that, at last, combining together, they formed watery had enriched and benefited the earth. But the accomplishment vapour, and gradually condensed into an ocean. Now, if the ori- of this circuit depends upon some curious and remarkable peculiaginal quantity of hydrogen had been increased but by an exceed-rities attending the process of evaporation. We discover, on very ingly small amount, less than one three-hundredth part, it would superficial observation, the obvious fact, that the quantity of water have combined with the whole quantity of oxygen, and left the which can be held suspended in the air depends upon the heat, and atmosphere deprived of that essential ingredient: in this case there increases with it: but the principle, as so far developed, is not could have been no life of animals, and possibly none of vegetation, sufficient to account for the phenomena which are exhibited in upon the whole earth. nature; since, if the only cause of the fall of rain was the cooling of the air, which would not retain its moisture as the temperature diminished, how could we account for the frequent storms which are so continually recurring at the very time that the heat of the

If, on the contrary, the oxygen had been more abundant, it would have remained in greater proportion in the air, and would have given too high a stimulus to the functions of life. Experi

weather is increasing? or how, indeed, could we ever find rain falling except during night, or on the approach of winter, while the warmth of the earth was decreasing? We must look farther, and observe more accurately, in order to obtain an explanation; and at length we reach it,-for we find that the quantity of vapour formed from the water not only increases with the heat, but increases in a greater degree than it; that is, that for every addition to the temperature, a greater and greater addition is made to the proportion of watery vapour held suspended; and it follows, as a necessary consequence, that two masses of air, saturated with moisture, and differing in temperature, can never unite without producing rain; for the heat of the combined mass will be a mean between that of the two portions, and this will not suffice to retain the water which they held dissolved, and the surplus will fall to the earth.

ciency; it prevents the changes of temperature from being too sudden, and it modifies their extremity. It acts also as the conveyer of heat from one country to another; always taking it from those places where it is abundant, and transporting it to chillier climates. The greater part of the rain and snow are raised in vapour from the ocean in the hot and tropical latitudes; and, as we have explained, in becoming vapour absorb quantities of heat which those sultry regions can well spare, and which are reissued as the clouds distil again upon the earth in colder and more northern climates. To so great an extent does this operation take place, that the water of the sea between the tropics is very considerably more salt than that nearer the poles; because the water, as it evaporates, leaves the salt which it held dissolved behind it; and as it descends again renders more diluted, that is, fresher, the brine with which it mixes. This difference in the proportion of the salt in the different parts of the ocean, is probably increasing; for the cause is in perpetual action, and the only means of restitution is the flow of currents from the equator towards the pcles, and these are slow and infrequent. Another way in which the ocean acts in conveying heat to distant parts, is by means of the icebergs. If the ocean were always calm and still, it would in freezing become a solid, level field of ice, gradually increasing in its hardness and thickness as we approach the pole. This is the way in which we find the vast lakes of North America sometimes frozen; as they form immense uniform plains, broken only by an occasional chasm in the ice, where it is kept open by the flow of some stream from the shores. But the ocean is perpetually in motion, from the action of the tides and a variety of irregular currents; and by these the fields of ice are broken into detached fragments, and swept into some deep bay on the coast, where they are hurled against one another with such force as to raise the smaller masses out of the water, and pile them into cliffs of an enormous height and size. Some of these have been calculated to contain many thousand cubic yards of solid ice; others have been seen four or five hundred feet high above the water; and one is mentioned which had been accidentally pierced by an arched chasm, so large that a sloop could have passed through it in full sail. The icebergs become broken off when summer has dissolved the frozen fields by which they are surrounded, and then they drift they pass through them, and, at last, finally disappear; though this does not happen sometimes till they have travelled an immense distance. Many icebergs from the north seas pass down much beyond the latitude of England, and some have been met with even in the neighbourhood of the Azores, or in the 37th degree from the equator.

Many observations assure us of the truth of this principle. We may notice, for instance, how seldom a change of wind occurs without an accompanying rain—or, at all events, the formation of clouds; because it very rarely happens that the new wind is exactly of the same degree of heat as the one it has superseded. During the autumnal months this is often remarkably exemplified, since then the changes of wind and temperature are frequent and sudden. We have remarked sometimes, after a warm, damp wind has prevailed for a few days, that the arrival of a cold northern blast has been followed instantly by torrents of rain: for though this wind was in itself dry, yet, being cold, it occasioned the rapid fall of the water contained by the warmer air into which it intruded. In a few hours, we have seen the new wind obtain complete possession; and, as the change was completed, the last portions of moisture were frozen and fell in the form of snow, and then a bright dry frost succeeded. The edges of a current of air, when it is touched by another gale moving in a different direction, are often marked by a thin coating of clouds: a long, narrow cloud is sometimes observed in a clear sky, produced by the entrance of a blast of wind, and generally prognosticating that the wind will soon blow upon the surface of the earth in the same direction as the length of the cloud. In tropical countries the changes of wind are more violent than in climates like ours, and the variations of heat are greater; and then, consequently, at certain seasons, occur storms of rain so vehement as to resemble deluges or cata-into the waters of the temperate zones, absorbing their warmth as racts rather than showers, and appear absolutely terrific to those accustomed only to the comparatively moderate phenomena of temperate latitudes. In all these appearances we see proof both of the truth and the sufficiency of the principle we have laid down. Besides the formation of rain and cloud, other and equally important characteristics of this globe depend upon the evaporation of the ocean. Among others, it is by this that the temperature of the whole planct is regulated. The mere substitution of a fluid more or less easy of vaporization than water would produce a greater change in the climate of the earth, than its being placed many millions of miles nearer or farther from the sun. Water, in becoming changed into vapour, absorbs an immense quantity of heat. A fire that will raise cold water to the boiling-point in a few minutes, will have to supply heat for hours before that water is entirely evaporated, and during that whole time the position and sensible degree indicated by the thermometer will never rise the least above that at which ebullition commenced. In the action of the sun's rays upon the ocean, a similar effect is experienced. Water requires a heat of 212 degrees to be converted into steam; but at lower temperatures it will evaporate, though in slower and smaller quantities, and by evaporation, receives into itself and renders imperceptible to the feeling a great amount of heat. On the other hand, when it condenses, and returns to the fluid state, that heat is again liberated, and produces the effect of diminishing, to a great extent, the rigour of the cold that would otherwise be experienced.

The same absorption and emission of heat that occur as water becomes vapour and vapour becomes water, also take place as the fluid passes into, and out of, the state of ice; only in a reversed order, heat being emitted in the process of freezing, and absorbed during that of liquefaction: thus the severity of the polar winter is alleviated by the supplies of caloric furnished by the ocean, as it becomes transformed into the enormous blocks of ice which, at length, convert its surface, in those regions, into a solid field; and, in their summer, a great portion of the rays supplied by the sun, which never sets for many months, is employed in melting

those frozen masses.

We thus see that the ocean becomes the regulator of the climate of the earth; it is a grand storehouse wherein heat is deposited when it is in excess, and whence it may be drawn in times of defi

In observations made upon the climate of the various parts of the earth, the difference between the hottest and the coldest regions is exceedingly small, considering how enormously greater is the actual quantity of heat furnished by the sun to the central circles of the globe than to the polar: the mean temperature, or the average degree of heat throughout the year, seldom in any place exceeds 100°, and never descends lower than 32°; making a difference of not quite 70°, although the equator receives annually many hundred times more rays than either pole. This effect is doubtless due entirely to the ocean; and we may well conclude that if this earth were, as the moon seems to be, a dry, solid sphere, a very small portion of its surface would be fit for habitation, the extremities of the temperature existing in the other and larger parts rendering them unendurable, unless to bodies formed very differently to those of the inhabitants of this earth.

In confirmation of our views on this subject, we may mention a fact or two which we learn from our investigations of the properties of other fluids. Suppose the sea flowed with quicksilver instead of water; or at least with a fluid which resembled quicksilver in the qualities of freezing and evaporation, the difference between this and water would be, that while water becomes ice at 32°, quicksilver requires a cold of 72° lower, or -40° before it freezes; and while water boils at 212°, and evaporates more or less at almost every degree, the other fluid does not boil till it is heated to 660°, and will hardly change to vapour in any appreciable quantity, till between 400 and 500°; the consequence would be, that in the hot countries the rays of the sun would pour down unimpeded by any cloud, and exert an action which there would be no evaporation from the sea to restrain, till a temperature of 500° had been reached; and to that point it would at last arrive, and continue there at least for many hours of every day. In the northern circles, on the contrary, the deficiency of heat would have no sources whence it could be supplied. The few clouds formed between the tropics would have fallen long before they had

« ForrigeFortsæt »