« PreviousContinue »
as well as the North of the county; and if the gentlemen from the South will now come forth and unite with the others, I am sure their accession will be hailed with gratitude.
Sir J. AWDRY—Being one of those whom they had just honoured, by naming them as Vice-Presidents, thanked them for the honour conferred upon him. Mr. Fane had adverted to the fact that he (Sir J. Awdry) had the honour of presiding over his brother justices—himself a North Wiltshireman, but called to that position by the kindness, and certainly the absence of local jealousy, of a South Wiltshire bench. (Cheers.) In the next place their attention had been called to the physical conformation of the county, by which a natural division was effected between the parts. That had been aggravated by the civil separation carried out-he did not say improperly, but the effect had been that the local civil business had been separated, instead of being concentrated. The fact was, they did associate less than he could wish, or under other circumstances would have done. But he, for one, had no jealousy towards the South, and he believed he might say the same for the entire Northern part of the county. He only hoped that the excellent local Secretary, who had addressed them on the subject, would shortly obtain such an adhesion of members, from the South, as would remove what certainly had the appearance of jealousy on its part, although he believed it was only the appearance, and not reality.
Mr. WITTEY then proposed that the Rev. W. C. Lukis and the Rev. J. E. Jackson should be appointed as General Secretaries, and he also suggested that Mr. Cunnington should be appointed to the same office.
Rev. Mr. LUKIS expressed a wish to retire from the Secretaryship, pleading his incompetency, and the distance at which he lived from Devizes, the head quarters of the Society. (This was met by cries of “No, no.")
Mr. CUNNINGTON said he should be quite willing to act as a local Secretary, but must beg to decline to serve in the more general capacity.
The motion, as it originally stood, was seconded by the Rev. B. C. DOWDING, and adopted.
The PRESIDENT said it was really to the labours of these gentlemen, who went by the comparatively unostentatious title of “secretaries," that they look for the efficient management of the Society. All the hard work fell to them, and the general body of the members could not feel too much indebted to those gentlemen, who had accepted those more important offices, which at the same time passed under less high-sounding names than some others in the Society.
Mr. KENRICK, of Melksham, next proposed the names of several gentlemen as the Committee for the year ensuing.
Mr. JOHN BRITTON seconded the nomination. He said he persuaded himself they would follow up the example the temporary committee had set them in the establishment of the Society. He hoped at the next anniversary meeting of the Society, those gentlemen would be able to report that the greatest unanimity had prevailed between the two parts of the county in an eminent degree.
Rev. G. GODDARD next proposed the appointment of the local Secretaries.
Mr. FALKNER seconded the motion, which was carried.
Mr. SOTHERON proposed the thanks of the meeting to the Mayor and the authorities for the use of the Hall; and also to the President for the manner in which he had conducted the business of the day. He could not but hope, from the meeting of that day, and the admirable manner in which the President had acquitted himself on that his first appearance, that the Society would meet with much prosperity. And long might they have the good fortune to have a President, who could state to them the objects of the Society in as eloquent a manner as they had heard that day. (Cheers.)
The Mayor of Devizes acknowledged the vote on behalf of the municipal authorities, and assured them that the council would always feel much pleasure in placing the Hall at the disposal of the Society.
Mr. CLARKE then proposed and Mr. MEREWETHER seconded the appointment of Lieut.-Col. Olivier as Treasurer, which appointment was duly affirmed and accepted.
At half-past four o'clock, about fifty members of the Society, (all of whom were present at the meeting in the morning) sat down to a sumptuous dinner at the Bear Hotel, under the presidency of Mr. Sotheron. Immediately afterwards the company left the dinner table, and proceeded to the
“CONVERSAZIONE” AT THE HALL,
which, as at the meeting in the morning, was graced by the presence of many ladies; and the respectability of the company evinced the great interest taken, by the more educated classes, in the object of the Society.
Mr. POULETT SCROPE occupied the chair, and after a few preliminary remarks:
The Rev. J. E. JACKSON, Rector of Leigh-Delamere, proceeded to deliver the following address :
Wishing to assist, to the best of my power, in setting this Society on foot, I have thought that perhaps it might be useful to lay before you, a simple statement of the purpose for which it has been formed.
Its object is to promote a taste for those pursuits which are included under the general names of Natural History and Archæology; and the principle by which the Society proposes to effect this is, by bringing together occasionally, for conference and mutual information, both those who have already followed such pursuits, and the converts whom they hope to make.
By Natural History is meant the history of the productions and contents of the earth-the works of nature, as they are called. These, I need hardly say, are numerous beyond reckoning. They include all the varieties of animals—“ beasts and fowl, and creeping things and fishes;" all the varieties of trees and plants, “from the cedar of Lebanus to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;" and all the lifeless substances of which the solid earth itself is made. The common way of classing all these is, into the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. Together they form Natural History.
But by the name of Archæology, as it is used in the title of this Society, and of others like this, is meant something of a different kind. It means the history, not of any of the works of Nature, but of some of the works of mankind themselves: more particularly such as remain to us from former times, showing what was the taste, or skill, or way of life, of those who lived before us.
If, then, there should be, as we hope there is, or soon will be, a number of persons who spend some of their time in the study of these things, each in his own way, and with such opportunities as they may privately have, which are sometimes not very great; does it not seem reasonable that some means should be contrived, for enabling them to meet together, to compare and communicate, “pro bono publico," what they have learned ? Mutual inquiries and explanations are very useful: we save one another trouble by them; we correct one another's errors; we give information, and take it,—and such information, moreover, as is very often not to be got from books. Of course the difficulty is to bring people together from a distance, as inconvenience sometimes attends it. But they don't mind distance for other things; some of which, without in any way setting up as censors of our neighbours' ways and pursuits, we may fairly say, are, at any rate, not more rational, not more useful, than this. This is an effort to collect the intelligence and satrength of the county, not for any political purpose, nor for mere plieasure, but with the view of seeing what may be done towards mahzing better known what there is in Wiltshire, on its surface,
under its soil, or in its past history, worthy of being described and illustrated.
I sincerely trust that this effort may prosper, because if it does so in any ordinary degree, one may see new openings, made by it, to information of an interesting kind. What will make that information interesting is, that it will concern, not distant countries which we have never seen, and perhaps may never see; but the researches and collections of a “Wiltshire Society," will relate to our own homes and neighbourhood—to the homes and neighbourhood of our friends. The Natural History which we wish to learn more about is that of the country which we can see out of our own windows, or from the tops of our own hills; the antiquities are those which are familiar to our eyes and by name, but are by no means fully understood as to their origin and history.
It may not be the largest or most important county in England, it may not be the most picturesque, it may not be able to boast the driest climate, nor the most elegant and harmonious language. Never mind : “ with all her faults, we love her still.” Whether we are strangers or born in the land, it is ours, whilst we live in it, “ for better or for worse.” And those who have set this Society on foot desire to live in Wiltshire" for better," and not “for worse." They desire to exert themselves on its behalf, by rescuing from local oblivion what deserves to be rescued, by bringing more forward whatever is less known, and by leaving behind them, when it is their turn to depart, more information upon these subjects than they found. There is much in the county to invite those who live in it to pay some attention to these things. It is as liberal in its natural productions as most of the other parts of England. With respect to marks and memorials of former ages and former men, it can show some things that are almost peculiar to it-things which speak with silent eloquence to cultivated minds, asking only for a little curiosity and care; and when that is bestowed they reward us richly.
Some perhaps may think that we do already know all that is to be known about the county, both naturally and archæologically.
It is clear that those who have formed this Society are not of that opinion. There may be, no doubt, individuals well informed upon all such points ; but in the first place, such persons are not very common; and in the next, they do not live for ever. “Wise men die and perish together, as well as the ignorant and foolish, and leave their riches for others :" that is, they leave not only what they may happen to have had of the good things of life, but also what they have learned—the riches of the mind as well as of the pocket—the store of information which such wise men had collected by industry and inquiry. But there is this difference between the two sorts of riches, and the fates which await them ;—the wealth, the pocket is sure enough to be looked after ; there is no fearew that being lost. But, unfortunately, it is not always so eas
about the Cothink that westowed theply for a little with
secure and to perpetuate the wealth of a man's mind. If he has not done that himself, before he dies ; if he has not put his own thoughts and knowledge into shape; into such a shape that his successors may make use of it; then all his acquisitions will be for ever lost.
It is, therefore, a point in the intentions of this Society, to secure, if possible, the fruits of the labour of those who may have turned their attention to the subjects which it would encourage; to invite them to make, for general information, a contribution from their private store of knowledge. In case of their death, it would be glad to secure such papers upon these subjects as they may have left, and which on those occasions are often overlooked and lost. It is for want of some system of collecting and preserving, that the same ground has so often to be trodden over and over again. One generation follows in the track of another; makes the same inquiries; reaches the same point; leaves nothing for the next to start with; and so no progress is made. No doubt amongst the many generations of men who have lived and died in this county before ourselves, there have been those who knew, and could have told us, all about it. I only wish they had. I wish they had only been so provident as to form a Society for handing down to their successors the conquests they had made. If they had done so, we might have turned our attention to something else.
I do not therefore think that we already know all that may be known about our county. Take one branch only of Natural History, the science of Geology ; by which is meant, in its widest sense, the history of the structure of the earth, but which, as the word is commonly used, means only the history of the fossils and minerals which it contains. Those who have never turned their attention to this particular subject have very little notion of the wonderful discoveries that have been made even during the last ten years. At the beginning of the present century, the most ridiculous ideas prevailed about fossils. Those curious stones which are now so well understood to be the remains of ancient animals and plants successively entombed in the crust of the earth, were looked upon as monstrosities, lusus naturæ : and the most childish interpretations, as they now seem, were put upon them by men otherwise not wanting in knowledge. There is nothing in the history of the growth of science more remarkable than the rapid progress of Geology. Even those who at first opposed it as hostile to Scriptural truth, have found that it is more of an auxiliary than an enemy. The very structure of the earth, (i.e., of the crust of it, so beautifully arranged as it is to provide us who move on the surface, with
every variety of material, every variety of useful produce ; this w circumstance, as well as the marks of order and adaptation to their manpur
purpose, found in the animals and plants whose remains occur in a "fossil state—all this bespeaks, as strongly as any example that