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face perfectly tranquil. His remains were carried into Rouen, where they suffered many brutal indignities from the populace.
Such was the end of Roland, who, if he had possessed the ambition of Robespierre, might have risen to the same bad eminence. There is much of similarity in the earlier career of these two, and the difference of their fate shows forcibly, on the one hand, that we may be forced onward to excesses, at one time perhaps repugnant to the very thoughts of the perpetrator, unless supported by principle; and, on the other, that he who steadily goes forward in the path he believes to be right, may be mistaken, may be unfortunate, but is still respected even in error and misfortune. Roland and Robespierre both started in life poor, but advanced themselves by successful exertion in their professions, Roland as a clerk to the inspector-general of manufactures at Rouen, Robespierre as an advocate. Each made himself known to the public by his writings; Robespierre's being from the first exclusively political, -Roland's devoted to the trade and commerce of the country, and political only when he himself entered the arena. Both from the first joined the party of the Jacobins, and both were distinguished among the leaders of that party. But here the resemblance ends. The declared political aim of each was, up to this point, the same, and, if possible, Robespierre's declarations of patriotism were more warm and apparently disinterested. But Roland meant what he said, and at the best Robespierre only believed that he meant it. Roland served his country honestly to the last; and Robespierre, the man who had written a volume against capital punishments, professing to doubt even if they were lawful in cases of murder, yielded to the weak ambition of becoming the head of a party, and imbrued his hands in blood. It may be that his enormities have been exaggerated by those who smarted from their effects, but no excuse can palliate his offences against humanity. Madame Roland left several works behind her besides her memoirs, but her fame chiefly rests upon her " Appeal to Posterity." It was not made in vain, and posterity has done her justice.
ASCENT OF THE PEAK OF TENERIFFE.
A NEW book of Travels, recently published,* suggests afresh the idea, how useful to science, to literature, and to the general diffusion of knowledge, the Royal Yacht Society might be made. The author of the book-Mr. Wilde, a Dublin surgeon-being in ill health, was easily induced to accompany, as medical attendant, Mr. Meiklam, who, also in ill health, set off, in his own yacht, the Crusader, of 130 tons, to seek change of air and scene. The titlepage, as quoted below, will inform our readers of the various places visited; and though " 'voyaging" in a private vessel,
"with all the comforts such a mode of transit could command, and bending their course wherever climate or curiosity attracted them," the travellers suffered no privations, and encountered only the most ordinary dangers, the results of their adventures, as detailed by Mr. Wilde, are, notwithstanding, full of interest. The countries visited have been recently and repeatedly examined, and described; and it would appear, at first sight, as if we had been overdosed with books about them. Still, Mr. Wilde has something to add; and his remarks on Egypt, his researches on the site of ancient Tyre, and his re-examination of the vexed question of the topography of Jerusalem, all mark a man of quick observation, research, and of habits of close scientific investigation.
We select Mr. Wilde's account of the ascent of the Peak of Teneriffe, as a specimen of his work :
"The answers to our inquiries respecting the ascent of the Peak led us to think that, from the advanced state of the season, it would be impracticable, or at least attended with much suffering and danger; and all the people here united in endeavouring to dissuade us from it. The only encouragement we received wasWhy, it is just possible that you may get up.' Nevertheless, we
Narrative of a Voyage to Madeira, Teneriffe, and along the Shores of the
Mediterranean; including a Visit to Algiers, Egypt, Palestine, Tyre, Rhodes, Telmessus, Cyprus, and Greece. With Observations on the present State and Prospects of Egypt and Palestine, and on the Climate, Natural History, Antiquities, &c. of the Countries visited. By W. R. Wilde, M. R. I. A., Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Member of the Dublin Natural History Society, &c. In two Volumes.-Dublin: Curry, jun. and Co.
determined on making the attempt, and accordingly sent for the guides. They did not appear to relish the journey either, but consented on the condition of their getting an additional gratuity. In summer, the usual mode of proceeding is to leave the port about one or two o'clock in the day, and sleeping at a place called the Estanza des Ingleses (elevated about ten thousand feet, and the highest spot to which horses can be brought), commence the ascent of the actual Piton by moonlight, so as to be on the top at sunrise. Christoval, our principal guide, wished us to wait till twelve o'clock, but it was finally arranged that we should leave at ten P.M. For the last two days I had been suffering from an old enemy, asthma, aggravated by a heavy cold, and I trembled for the result; but it is not every day in a man's life that he stands at the foot of the Peak of Teneriffe, so I concealed my illness both from myself and others as well as I could, and determined to ascend at all hazards.
Having completed our arrangements with the guides, we dismissed them till the appointed hour, and set off to visit the great dragon-tree of Oratava, situate at the distance of a mile or two from the port. On our way we passed by the fine botanic garden established by a Spanish nobleman some years ago, but now left to decay. It was well kept during his life-time, but, fearful of its being neglected by his own family, he presented it to the government on his death. This act has had a fatal tendency; for they, instead of fostering it, tried to compel his own son to keep it up, but having failed in the attempt, they left it to ruin. It is now in the hands of a most ignorant Frenchman, who is neither a botanist nor a gardener. Some time ago the Prussian government offered to purchase it, in order to naturalise some of the plants of the western world before they were brought to Europe; but the Spanish, with becoming dignity and pride, chose to let it fall to ruin in their own hands, rather than allow it to flourish in another's! A garden such as this would be a great acquisition to the English, foremost as they are in the cultivation of every minute as well as great and noble scheme by which knowledge can be increased, and man rendered happy in its possession; to such it would be a great desideratum, as many plants could be acclimatised here, and so made hardy enough to bear the English temperature. Surely such a one ought to be here or in Madeira, where the plants of the varied climes of India, Australia, Africa, and America could meet a more congenial atmosphere. How many horticultural societies could well afford to pay an intelligent gardener in this cheap country, and with a rich reward!
"The town of Oratava not only looks deserted, but is really so. Many of the houses are perfect palaces, and were originally the residence of the aristocracy of the island-the real blue blood,' as the Spanish nobility were wont to call themselves; but the moss is fast creeping over the proud escutcheons that decorate their
"This place is beautifully situated, and has a small stream of water running through each of the streets like the Lavadas of Madeira. We were directed to the garden where the dragon-tree (Dracena draco) stands; and found it in much better preservation than we could have expected, and still very like Mr. Williams's representation of it. The species of tree to which this belongs has an odd and grotesque appearance: it is characterised by a short, thick, leafless trunk, branching out at top with a number of not unlike a candelabrum, each crowned with a tuft of leaves. The measurement of this specimen is forty-seven feet nine inches in circumference above the roots; the trunk is partly hollow, and the opening, which is built up with stones, is thirteen feet in the clear; it must have spread since Humboldt's time, who made the circumference but forty-five feet. branches are propped up with a number of poles, which look like so many crutches supporting its old age; it is, however, going fast to decay, and, although it still produces leaves, it has not borne flowers or fruit for some years. Two young shoots have sprung out of the hollow, and beside it waves one of the finest palms I ever saw, which seems to rear its tall majestic form in mockery of its tottering neighbour. One feels a degree of veneration on standing beside such a patriarch of the vegetable world, which has withstood the suns and storms of centuries. It is supposed to be one of the oldest trees in existence, and is a fit associate for the Cowthorpe oak, the great chestnut of Tamworth, the olives of Gethsemane, the plane-tree of Frauenstein, the Castagno di Cento Cavalli at Etna, and the still older though ungraceful baobabs figured in Macartney's Embassy. The combined ages of a few of those would bring us to the first dawn of life upon our planet.
"Towards evening I became quite excited and restless, between
the desire to proceed and the fear of failure. We had provisions and water packed for several days, in case of accident; as, should we be caught in the snow, or overtaken by a storm, our only chance would have been to remain in some crevice of a rock until it had passed over. Our consul kindly sent us a present of wine and brandy-that of the town being most wretched stuff. At nine the moon rose in the most tempting splendour; she was then within one day of the full. We put on a double suit of everything; and, besides a pair of great-coats and a large cloak, a double blanket was provided for each. At ten o'clock P.M. the guides made their appearance, with four horses, two of which were provided for us, and two to carry the provisions. At half-past ten o'clock everything was ready, our cigars lighted, and we started. Our cavalcade consisted of my friend, Mr. William Meiklam, and myself, on horseback, preceded by our principal guide, Christoval, a-foot; then came the two sumpter-horses; and lastly, our two other guides, an old man and a boy, who formed our rear-guard; and we had also with us a magnificent black spaniel. The night was very fine and warm; we set off in high spirits, and commenced our ascent almost immediately on leaving the town. We soon began to feel the effects of the cold, were obliged to add to our clothing, and the men to put on their blankets. Our guide Christoval pleased us much; he was one of the finest models of a man I ever beheld, and although of Herculean form, he had all the grace of a Spaniard, and a countenance of extreme intelligence. He is not the usual guide to the top, but provides horses as far as the Estanza. He offered, however, to become our guide to the summit on giving him the usual additional allowance of four dollars. We accepted his proposal; and I would advise all travellers to do the same, as you give him an additional interest to get you to the top, besides making him hasten on the horses so as to bring you to the Estanza in proper time; for many have gone thus far, and, from useless delays, have been obliged to return without accomplishing their object. We found him a good guide in every respect. Our older guide seemed to suffer much from the cold, and rode the greater part of the way on one of the provision-horses. The boy,' as he was termed, was about twenty-five, and quite astonished us; he was a light-hearted, good-humoured fellow, of powerful build, though low-sized. The greater part of the night he sung a loud chant, in the chorus of which the others joined. His indifference to the cold was surprising, although his dress was like that worn by the Madeiranese in summer; it consisted of a coarse loose shirt and breeches of linen, the latter reaching but half-way down his thigh; from this downward he had no covering of any description except shoes; a hat and vest completed his costume, and although he had a blanket he did not use it, but carried it thrown across his arm, or on one of the horses. Our small white nags perfectly comprehended their business, never once missing the path, though to us it was often imperceptible; they were exceedingly hardy, and all we could do would not make them go out of Indian file, or from the pace that custom had made their own.
"As soon as we got into the open country, our dog commenced beating, and continued the whole night enlivening the solitude by his short, quick bark, as he started a goat or a rabbit across our path. I have so often descanted on the grandeur of moonlight scenery, that it would be now going over old ground to touch upon it again but here, by the extreme clearness of its silvery lustre, we were enabled to distinguish every trace of vegetation with the greatest accuracy. We had already passed the regions of the vine, the fern, and the heath, which, with the pine, the arbutus, and the broom, form successive belts around the lower parts of the Peak, rising one above another perfectly distinct, and with lines between of the most accurate demarcation.
"After this we entered the vast plains of spartium (the broom), where the ground is more rugged, and the path so broken as to permit but a very easy walk. The cold increased momentarily as we gained the summit of the range of hills that topped the vale of Oratava, which lay beneath us, slumbering in the most death-like stillness; the towns, the cottages, and the sea, had a most grand and imposing effect. At half-past two o'clock, we stopped to feed the men and horses at a place called the Black Rocks." Here we remained about half an hour. The thermometer was forty degrees Fahr. The men seemed rather inclined to rest, and would have delayed had we allowed them, in order to avoid their being at a very high elevation at the coldest part of the morning, which is just before sunrise. Strange to say, that long before I reached this, and when at an elevation of scarce five hundred feet, I found my breathing improved; and when two-thirds of the way up, was perfectly free from ail trace of asthma or cough, and was the only person of the party, including the guides, who did not suffer from
the rarity of the atmosphere. We resumed our way at three o'clock, fortifying ourselves with a little brandy, a cigar, and, what we found still more acceptable, a few cayenne lozenges, which I strongly recommend to all persons exposed to extreme cold. "We now commenced crossing the pumice-stone plains,' which lie at the foot of the actual Peak; and here it was that the novelty and sublimity of our situation most forcibly impressed us. The 'pumice-stone plain' is a term applied to a gradual ascent of great extent, and composed of exceedingly small grey lava and volcanic ashes, stretching far and wide as distant as the eye can reach along the comparatively level surface immediately at the base of the Peak. From this rise occasional masses of dark obsidian, of immense size, and scattered plants of retama (a species of broom), the only vegetable that exists in this barren waste. At the commencement of the plain it is growing in great strength and luxuriance; it gradually becomes more detached, and at the higher extremity it is scattered 'few and far between' in stunted bushes. There was a peculiar wildness in the hour and the scene, the night was truly propitious-not a cloud to be seen throughout the intense azure of the starry vault above us-not a breath of air stirred around us; the full moon shone forth with a splendour the most dazzling, as she sailed majestically through the broad expanse of blue, barely allowing the stars to appear as they twinkled in her path; whilst an occasional plant would now and then start up, as if to challenge her borrowed radiance. Before us lay the clear and boldly-defined outline of the Peak, frowning in all the grandeur of monarchy, and the great rarity of the atmosphere showed every break and unevenness that bounded our horizon; all was wrapped in the most solemn stillness; the deep silence seemed to impress each of us, not a little increased by our momentarily decreasing temperature, which had now completely silenced our melodious muleteers. The tread of the horses made not the slightest noise, as we wound our way across that weary plain, where for the first time I felt sleep come heavily upon me; indeed, I did doze for a few moments, and it was on awaking that I so forcibly perceived our loneliness. The three men in their long white cloaks closed the line, stalking along like so many of the ancient Guanches, who had come out of their caverns to speed us on our way; and the shadows of the great masses of obsidian rose like castles, which assumed every fantastic shape the imagination could picture.
"At the end of the plain our horses were forced up a steep and rugged ascent for about half an hour, when we arrived at the Estanza des Ingleses ('the resting-place of the English '), at halfpast five o'clock; and, although so closely muffled, our sufferings from cold were extreme, and our hands perfectly benumbed. This was the highest point where horses can possibly get up, and we only wondered they ascended so far. We expected to have found some sort of a resting-place here; but it was only a small inclosure made by the fragments of some enormous rocks which nature has piled around it, and one of the most dreary spots that can be well conceived. The men set about kindling a fire with some bits of retama which they had carried up with them. The mercury in the thermometer was thirty-six degrees, and falling rapidly. We had now recourse to our blankets, in which we enveloped ourselves, and reclined against one of the sloping rocks on the outside of the cavern, our faces anxiously turned towards the east to watch the scene that momentarily opened upon us. In our then almost petrified condition, we looked as like as could be to a pair of Egyptian mummies laid against the rock.
Sunrise.-As soon as we had taken our place, we perceived a thin, vapoury, rose-coloured tint to stretch along the eastern horizon; the moon was still full up, but she had thrown the shadow of the Peak over where we stood. As we continued to gaze stedfastly on this first blush of morning, it every second increased, especially towards the centre, extending likewise in length along the horizon. This hue soon deepened to a pink, and then followed such a glorious halo of colours, in which the flower and the metal lent their most dazzling lustre, as to baffle all attempt at description; and the hazy undefined light that ushers in the day began to chase the moonlight shadows from the plain beneath. At six o'clock, the thermometer stood at eighteen degrees, the light in. creasing, the cold intense; and the heavens presented a scene such as we read of in the arctic regions, being formed by the resplendent glories of the Aurora, but with this difference-the most brilliant colours gathered here as it were into a focus. All the east presented a lustrous semicircle, which if you took your eyes off for a moment, seemed to increase tenfold. Between the horizon and the spot on which we stood floated a confused sea, which we at first took for the ruffled bosom of the ocean, but it turned out to
be nothing more than a thin white mist. At a quarter past six the temperature fell as low as fifteen degrees, and sunrise took place a minute after; he rose very suddenly, and his whole disc was almost immediately clear of the horizon. It was a glorious sight, and cheering after all the cold and suffering of the preceding night, to see the great centre of light and heat come up to speed us on our way. I have often tried to form to myself a comparison of sunrise and sunset, and on this occasion have settled the question in favour of the former. Our guides reminded us it was time to recommence the ascent; and to fortify ourselves on the way, we breakfasted. Everything we had carried up with us was frozen-the eggs were perfect balls of ice; we had also brought with us a bottle of coffee, which, having contrived to heat, proved the most grateful of all our refreshments.
"We left the old man to guard the horses, and again set forward. Large masses of pumice, lava, and scoriæ continue some way further up to the small platform of Buona Vista, where there is a plant or two of stunted retama; and here the domain of vegetation ends. From this we climbed up a steep ascent, composed of detached masses of sharp rock basalt and obsidian, some loose, and others with a coating of scoriæ; it reminded me of a magnified rough-cast. Our halts, as might be expected, were frequent; at half-past seven o'clock, during one of these stoppages, I found the glass had risen to thirty-three degrees. From the moment the sun rose the heat began to increase, making us throw off our extra garments, and leaving them in the ascent. With a good deal of difficulty, we at last reached the base of the cone which crowns the summit, the effects of the last eruption.
It is much smaller and more perpendicular than Vesuvius; it stands upon a level platform, somewhat broader than its base, and rises like the great circular chimney of a glass-house, to the height of sixty feet. Here our extreme difficulties commenced; for the fatigue we had already gone through left us but little strength, commensurate with the ceaseless efforts which were to be put forth, and the exertion the task demanded. The external coating is composed of loose stones, lava, pumice, and ashes, in which we sunk ancle-deep, and obliged us to rest every few minutes. We had each to strike a separate line in our ascent, as the composition is so loose that, if once set in motion, large quantities would come powdering on the heads of the persons who have the misfortune to be beneath. Here and there a few reddish volcanic rocks jut out, and afford a resting-place; but there are other whitish-looking stones, that seem equally inviting, but which are nevertheless far from being hospitably inclined, as a young friend of mine wofully experienced. Having sat on one of these 'sulphur stones' for a few minutes, and feeling it rather hot, he rose up exactly in that condition which excited the wrath of Aunt Tabitha against poor Humphrey Clinker, a not very agreeable predicament at such an elevation, and with so keen a breeze.
"We reached the summit at half-past eight o'clock, and my first impulse was to crawl to the highest pinnacle upon the wall of the crater, on the south-east point, whence it slopes on both sides towards the west. This solfatara, or half-extinguished volcano, was more active than usual this morning-large wreaths of smoke proceeding from numerous cavities and cracks in the bowl of the crater. This was smaller than we expected, not being more than a hundred feet in the widest part; shallow, and the edge very irregular, of an oval shape, having a margin of dense whitish lava. We descended into it, and found the opening from whence the smoke issued was near the south-west corner, encased with the most beautiful crystals of sulphur. On opening up these with a stick, we found them enlarged into little chambers, encrusted with the same crystals; the substance on which they rest being a kind of mortar, crumbling in the fingers, but hardening on exposure to the air. Some of these crystals are singularly beautiful, of the greatest brilliancy of colour, and varying from a deep golden orange to the palest straw-colour. The largest of these holes was about the size of my two fists; from this, and two or three others similar, a loud boiling noise was heard, even when standing on the edge of the crater. Large fissures intersect the crater in different directions; the crust between them vibrates under the foot, and produces a hollow sound. Besides the sulphur encrusting round the chinks and holes, large quantities, also crystallised, occur both within and outside the crater, formed in little nuclei, imbedded in a compact and glistening white substance. The fume or smoke is of a dense whitish appearance, and quantities of a watery vapour proceed out of the larger holes; but although the sulphureous vapour is so much complained of, and that some of our party suffered from it, I was able to remain in it fully five minutes. The thermometer, when plunged into one of these, rose to 90 degrees.
"The view that awaited us on the summit amply repaid us for all the toils of the ascent. The morning was beautifully clear, and without a cloud-the finest that had occurred since our arrival. The whole island of Teneriffe lay in the most vivid manner like a map at our feet, with its white towers, its vine-clad valleys, and pinecrowned hills.
"Immediately around the Peak, the mountains form a number of concentric circles, each rising in successive heights, and having it as a centre. It is this appearance that has not inaptly gained for it the simile of a town with its fosses and bastions*. These are evidently the walls of former craters, on the ruins of which the present has been reared. What a fire must have come from the first of these, which inclosed a space of so many leagues! Or, again, how grand the illumination that once burst forth from the place whereon we stood a height of nearly 13,000 feet, and which it is calculated would serve as a beacon at a distance of 200 miles at sea on every side! The crater or circle next below us appears to rise to the height of the Estanza des Ingleses-10,000 feet. "There are a number of smaller cones scattered irregularly over the island; their red blistered summits glance in the sun like so many mole-hills. The largest is towards the west; it rises to a great height, and is the most elevated point on the island next to the Peak itself. Towards Santa Cruz, the marks of recent volcanic action become less-the stratification more perfect. There is less appearance of lava or pumice, and the basalt assumes more of the columnar form. We could perfectly distinguish the few vessels that lay opposite the port of Oratava, a direct distance of thirteen miles, while the ascent is calculated at about thirty. So clear was the atmosphere, that our friends at the port could distinguish us distinctly with the glass. They had been anxiously looking out for us, and hoped, more than expected, our accomplishing the ascent. The archipelago of the Canaries seemed as if stretched at our feet; Grand Canary was particularly plain, being immediately beneath the sun. Palma and Gomera seemed so near that you could almost grasp them in your hand; and, far away in the distance, Heiras seemed to mingle with the horizon. Our attention was now called to a vast body of clouds that brooded over the sea to the east. They were at first perfectly still and motionless, and of that description commonly called wool-packs. They then advanced towards the island, passed beneath us, and finally rested over the heights of Grand Canary.
"Although we had met small detached flakes of snow collected in the rocks, and a good deal around the crater, the air felt comfortably warm on our gaining the summit; presently a light breeze coming from the southward made the temperature fall very suddenly, and our guides began to hasten our departure. At twenty minutes to ten o'clock, it was as low as thirty-nine degrees; so we filled our cases and pockets with sulphur and other specimens, and at ten we reluctantly began our descent;-I say reluctantly, for those only who have witnessed that glorious prospect can know or enter into the feelings that take possession of the beholder standing on that spot!-the recollection of what this once was, and what the smoke and noise of the different crevices tell you it still is; of which who shall say the day it may not again break forth? The cause and the origin of those fires take us back to the time when all this was one mass of flame, vomiting forth those huge masses of rock and obsidian, now scattered for miles around, and the overflowing of whose liquid burning now forms the cliffs that bound its sea-washed base. But in what age did all this occur? "By an observation made in the town at ten o'clock, the temperature was seventy-two degrees. Our descent was rapid in the extreme; on our way we visited the Gueva de Hiebo, or icehouse, a cave of great size, the temperature of which is always so low, that, although far below the region of perpetual snow, the ice and snow that collect in it during the winter remain frozen all the summer. About twenty feet from the surface was one vast sheet of ice, the exporting of which to the different parts of the island forms the pursuit of a particular class of people. The man is let down by a rope, and it is a most arduous and dangerous employment; lives are lost yearly, either at the ice-house itself, or having been overtaken in a storm in those elevated regions, many have perished miserably. We reached our horses at eleven o'clockthe temperature thirty-eight degrees. Here we dined, and rested an hour; the wind became very cold, and we were glad to set forward on our further descent.
* "Von Buch looks upon the Peak as a great chimney, or outlet for the vapour, &c. &c., which would otherwise break out through the sides and other parts of the island."
"At six o'clock we arrived, thus completing our journey in twenty hours; a less time than it has ever been accomplished in by European travellers. It is a task in which many have failed, being always one of considerable labour, and often of much danger. For myself, I cannot look upon it as a feat of physical strength, but to that power of enthusiastic excitement which can carry men over difficulties that would, under other circumstances, appear insurmountable. Shortly afterwards the Crusader hove in sight, and took us aboard about nine o'clock."
WITH A FEW HINTS TO MEMBERS OF MUTUAL INSTRUCTION SOCIETIES.
THE generation of young men who, some ten or fifteen years ago, were inspired with an intense desire for "useful knowledge," and who entered with eager and passionate earnestness into the agitations of the period, is now rapidly giving place to a new generation, to whom all these extraordinary events are but as matters of history. The youth who, in 1840, numbers himself amongst the men, by virtue of being "of age," cannot be supposed to recollect, at least with anything like distinctness, what was the state of public feeling in 1830. There are youths, indeed, who at an early age begin to take an interest in public affairs, more especially if their seniors around them set the example: but these prematurely grave young gentlemen are rare, and, on the whole, it is as little to be desired as expected to see youths "politically" inclined before the age of fourteen or fifteen. After that period, however, we should certainly expect a young man, if possessed of any desire for improvement, to begin to take an interest in what is going on in the world around him; for from fourteen or fifteen begins the proper period of self-reliance and self-instruction.
All our young men, then, who, in the present year, are from fifteen to twenty-one years of age, may be considered as having little or no personal experience of the state of public feeling ten and eight years ago, and therefore did not receive any of the "electrical shocks" which stimulated the minds of those who are now their seniors. What then? Has the whole of that mental agitation died away, and left no trace of its influence, no evidence of its power? Far from it. The new generation, whom the census of 1841 will number amongst the men of Britain, are reaping the fruits of the "useful knowledge" acquired by their immediate predecessors; "man dies, but society lives; " like the wider and wider circles which mark where a stone has been thrown into the water, the impulse given to the mind of one generation acts on another, abated in force, but wider in range. The aggregate number of readers in Great Britain is far greater than it was ten or fifteen years ago. True, there is not such a directness or intensity of purpose. The increased number who have acquired the habit of reading are not so uneasily desirous of acquiring "useful knowledge" as their predecessors, when first awakened to the fact of their ignorance. Many now read merely for amusement, and can hardly be persuaded to read anything but what is funny, or exciting, or ridiculous. Not a few read only what is more or less absurd or pernicious. Still, out of the aggregate number, a very large portion-a large minority, if not a majority —are desirous of acquiring "useful knowledge," and anxiously seek, according to their means and opportunities, for whatever will elevate their minds, add to their stock of information, and increase their capacity for thought. That the increased body of readers give encouragement to not a little that is worthless, is too true; and that men of ability, and even genius, are to be found, who degrade their powers by their application, and, looking merely to "marketable value," pander to vicious tastes, is a matter of
sincere regret. But though, probably, the increase of mere readers goes on faster than the increase of true readers-those who read for a specific and good purpose-we have no doubt whatever that the latter are far more numerous than they were a few years ago; and that they pursue their objects with a distinctness and steadiness which is not only gratifying as regards themselves, but hopeful for the prospects of a future generation.
One of our reasons for so thinking is drawn from the apparent great increase in the number of the private associations of youths, to which the general name of MUTUAL INSTRUCTION SOCIETIES may be given. There appears to be scarcely a small town in Great Britain which has not at least one, and most have several. In our former notice of these associations (No. 61) we stated that we had no means of giving an account of their number throughout the kingdom-neither have we now. Nor have we any data by which we can positively draw the conclusion, that their number now is greater than it was ten or twelve years ago. Still, we can scarcely entertain a doubt that a very large increase has taken place. In our former notice, we gave a few of the communications which we had received from different quarters, for the purpose of letting our readers draw their own conclusions. We have now before us a considerable additional number, mostly received since the former article appeared; a few speak of failures, others ask for advice, and others again of progress in a tone of exultation. As almost all of them, however, are similar in tone and character to the communications printed in the previous notice, we do not think it would serve any really useful purpose to print any more of them, with the exception of one, giving an account of a society formed in the village of Gateshead Fell, which we think interesting.
"I take up my pen," says the writer, "to give you some account of a society I took an active part in forming, and of which I have been a member upwards of four years. I have watched its proceedings with the greatest care and anxiety, and even now, though I am nearly three hundred miles from the village where it is held, I communicate with its members, and often remember the happy hours I have spent during its meetings. In 1835, a few of my companions and myself, living in a village about two miles from Newcastle-on-Tyne, called Gateshead Fell, began to feel the want of some place of resort-the only place in existence at the time being the alehouse-where we could meet together to spend an evening. At last it was proposed that we should form ourselves into a society, rent a room, and form a library; and, after several meetings to arrange matters, we did as was proposed. We next acquainted the rector of the parish with our intention; he immediately offered to become a subscriber of one guinea, and made us a present of books. This put us all right; we opened our rooms a few days after. We were young and poor, and only six in number, but we went heartily to work. Two of us who had subscribed to a Youth's Saving Fund' advanced a little money, to purchase a table, two forms, and some wood for shelving (which we put up ourselves); another brought a fender and fire-irons; the two rooms were new painted and stencilled; all of us brought as many books as we could gather together, with about forty volumes from the rector; so we were quite set up.' The rector called at the rooms on the day we opened, and expressed his gratification at the manner in which we had conducted the business. We issued a circular, announcing that a society had been formed; but we got few to support us. Shortly after we commenced, the rector proposed that we might have the use of the school-room, which would save us rent and firing; we at once embraced this offer, and since that time the meetings have been held there. The members have gradually increased, and the library at present contains upwards of three hundred volumes; classes have been formed, and lectures
delivered. We never succeeded so well with the classes, except the one for debates. A manuscript Magazine has been established, called the Tyro,' which is supported by articles from members both at home and abroad.
"We have had many obstacles to contend with, being all young men, for the elderly part of the community would not co-operate with us; and, moreover, set up an opposition,' in the shape of another society of the same kind, which permitted political discussion, while the old society prohibited party politics and controversial divinity.' The old society, I am happy to say, is the most flourishing; its anniversary is held every Christmas day, when tea is provided for the members and their friends; and perhaps a more pleasing company seldom meet together. The rector takes the chair, and a few of the members address the company at intervals; the choir from the church generally attend, and adds to the pleasure of the company.
"I have said so much to show, that similar institutions can be formed by a few young men in ordinary circumstances. The neighbourhood in which the above society exists is inhabited chiefly by pitmen,' who are in general an ignorant class of men, but I am happy to say that intelligence is fast beating ignorance from their minds, and occupying its place,
"R. W. HETHERINGTON, Secretary."
The encouragement given by the rector of Gateshead Fell, the Rev. Mr. Atkinson, to the proceedings of these young men, is exceedingly creditable to him and we think we may take the account given in this communication as a specimen of the influences at work throughout the kingdom. Some of these associations may flourish for a time, and then fade, leaving no apparent trace of their existence; others may fail for want of hearty co-operation, or even be split up by feuds and "opposition;" while a few may be productive of positive injury, from improper or injudicious management. Still, here is a FACT that the rising generation of young men are, even more than their predecessors, anxious for self-improvement, for mutual instruction, and for acquiring habits of thinking; and that, in pursuit of their objects, they are learning the power of self-reliance and of voluntary co-operation. To what uses, good or bad, may this knowledge not be put!
Addressing ourselves to members of such associations, and to intelligent young men generally, we may be permitted to askWhat is useful knowledge? Does it sound like a very common truism, to say that useful knowledge is wholly a relative term, varying with the characters and conditions of individuals? Obvious, however, as it may be, we fear that most young men, in their acquisitive desire for information, overlook it. It is exceedingly useful to be familiar with the machinery of the steam-engine. It is exceedingly useful to know Greek and Latin, French and German. It is exceedingly useful to be acquainted with algebra. It is useful to know more or less of chemistry; it is even useful to know something about the history of alchemy. It would be useful to a professor of Sanscrit if he knew how to make a pudding; a knowledge of Greek might be useful to a working engineer; but we think it far more useful for the Sanscrit professor to know Greek in preference to pudding-making; and the working engineer may well be excused for studying mathematics in preference to languages. "A time for everything, and everything in its place," is a good household maxim; and it is just as good a maxim in education, that necessary knowledge should precede the agreeable or the ornamental.
The great mistake, then, which young men too often commit is, not the acquiring of useless knowledge-for we would not call any knowledge useless, unless it were pernicious-but wasting their
time on matters or questions having no reference to their professions, their stations in life, and without relation to their time and their opportunities. We quite eschew the cant about "a little knowledge" being "a dangerous thing "-for the quotation is often used in a sense in which Pope never meant it. Mere smatterers are, of course, more likely to be conceited than those who have a profounder knowledge: but it is not the "smattering " that makes them conceited, for the conceit lies in the mind of the individual, and if he were not conceited about his smattering," he would be conceited about something else. The learning of the greatest scholar must be "little," compared with what is still to be known; and, however small may be the portion of knowledge which a person in humble circumstances is able to acquire, that "little" can only be "dangerous" to those who selfishly wish him to know less.
But though a "superficial" knowledge is far better than no knowledge at all, it is good for even the humblest to be well acquainted with some branch or branches, and these should relate more or less to the particular profession by which subsistence is earned. There is perhaps no profession to which a universal knowledge is more valuable than that of the law; a lawyer may have to undertake cases bringing him in contact with "all ranks and conditions of men "-may have to argue on the merits of a mechanical invention, discuss the virtues of a horse, or manage the nicest degrees of scientific evidence in application to the detection of crime. Yet we are generally disposed to forgive a barrister for general ignorance, if he is a profound lawyer. so of all other professions.
Let young men, then, in forming themselves into Mutual Instruction societies, weigh their capabilities, their time, and their prospects. If the club is composed of individuals mostly in the mercantile profession, the questions discussed should be of a diversified nature; they should seek to get acquainted with the constitutional history of their country, with the "machinery of government," and the characters of the great men who have influenced the national destinies. They should also familiarise themselves with questions relating to the national literature, the characters of our historians and poets, the progress of science, and the prospects of the human race. Should the majority of the club belong to businesses connected with manufactures and trades, there certainly should be a sprinkling of technical questions. But let the form of the questions be well considered before they are given out for discussion; for not a few of those discussed in Mutual Instruction Societies have no higher character than the notable one-" Where was Moses when the candle went out?" and their discussion frequently leaves the disputants in much the same situation in which the question supposes Moses to be left -namely, in the dark.
Above all, let the members of Mutual Instruction Societies be
in earnest, and they will not only benefit themselves, but escape the "besetting sin" of debating societies, that of the members striving to be orators-i. e. babblers. Not a few juveniles fancy that, because they can rhyme, therefore they are poets; and not a few fancy that, because they can stand "on their legs," and pour out a number of phrases, therefore they are orators. Poetry and oratory are only produced by geniuses, and every Mutual Instruction Society cannot number a genius in its ranks. Let them be content with what they can do that is, enable themselves to appreciate poetry and oratory, without striving to produce it; or, like the frog in the fable, to do what is beyond them.
A selection of exercises and questions for discussion, on the whole very good, is appended to Mr. Timothy Claxton's "Hints to Mechanics," to which we refer those who wish to have a list of topics worth discussion.