Page images

relish, though, to my thinking, not a very great luxury, by rapid pedestrians of all ages, but chiefly by young being coarse and strong. Mixed with potatoes, how- men and women, eager to see the sight. Hundreds and ever, like “ porpoise balls,” they answer very well for thousands of people were astir in every quarter of the variety. A good appetite makes almost any kind of metropolis, many of them expressing the regret so comfood palatable. I have eaten whale-flesh at sea with as mon to the Londoners, that the conflagration was not much relish as I ever ate roast-beef ashore. A trying- in the immediate vicinity, that they might enjoy the out scene has something peculiarly wild and savage in excitement and the luxury of looking at it; and, to do it-a kind of indescribable uncouthness, which renders them justice, the still greater luxury and excitement of it difficult to describe with anything like accuracy. aiding to put it out. All the night long the firemen There is a murderous appearance about the blood- were on the alert, buckling on their helmets, preparing stained decks, and the huge masses of flesh and blubber their hose,' and driving, as on an errand of life or lying here and there, and a ferocity in the looks of the death, through the stony highways of the capital. All men, heightened by the red, fierce glare of the fires, the night long, however, there was a most provoking which inspire in the mind of the novice feelings of indistinctness of intelligence as to the precise locality mingled disgust and awe. But one soon becomes accus of the enemy which they were to combat. Meantime tomed to such scenes, and regards them with the indif- the sky grew redder and redder, as if suffused with the ference of a veteran in the field of battle. I know of hazy glow of a burning city forty miles off, and not nothing to which this part of the whaling business can with the reflection of any smaller conflagration at a be more appropriately compared than to Dante's pic. nearer distance. Spiral shoots, as of immense volumes tures of the infernal regions. It requires but little of sparks, were projected on the azure forehead of the stretch of the imagination to suppose the smoke, the sky; and at each deepening of the colour a shudder ran hissing boilers, the savage-looking crew, and the waves through the multitude, and women whispered to women of flame that burst now and then from the flues of the their earnest hopes that no human creatures, no mothers furnace, part of the paraphernalia of a scene in the and young children, were at these moments perishing lower regions.

in the flames. Sometimes the reflection grew fainter, The book from which the foregoing passages are and then a hope spread through the multitude that the taken, affords another instance of the adventurous worst was over, that the danger was past, that the spirit prevalent among the inhabitants of the United fire had burned itself out, or that the engines had sucStates. Such instances are not rare in American lite- cessfully battled with the destroyer. Ultimately the rature. Mr Browne's work will not be the least valu- reflection grew paler and paler still, and flickered away able if he should succeed in causing some restraint to to nothing. The people retired to their beds, and conbe placed on the unbridled tyranny of the whaling cap- soled themselves with the idea that they should know tains, of which his volume contains several examples. all the particulars of the fearful damage, and slake Many lives are annually sacrificed, and many a brave their burning' curiosity, in the newspapers of the next fellow's spirit crushed for ever, from this cause alone. morning. There is no class of whale-men, as in this country; and The newspapers of the next morning did not, how. many young men are inveigled into the service under ever, afford the information desired. They had no acdelusive promises, who, at the expiry of their three counts in large letters, or any letters, of the conflagrayears' cruise, find themselves penniless from the rapa- tion; and either those ready purveyors of intelligence cious knavery which has beset them at their outfit, were for once in arrear with a matter of public noto. and during the whole voyage. It is to be hoped that riety, or would announce it in the course of the mornthe American authorities, for their own sakes, will no ing, and give it all the importance desirable from a longer neglect a class on whose industry so great a por- second or third edition ; or there had been a mistake tion of their commerce depends.

altogether, and the supposed fire was no fire at all. The latter supposition ultimately proved to be the cor.

rect one. The people had been deceived. The rePUTTING OUT THE AURORA.

flection in the sky proceeded from a brilliant aurora Any one who has lived long in London, and who has borealis. The firemen had had their labour in vain, paid ordinary attention to the passing occurrences of and had returned home long ere morning with the the hour, must have been startled more than once by full conviction of the delusion of which they had been the cry of 'Fire!' and the alınost simultaneous rattle the victims. and rumble of the engines consequent upon it. We The incident reminded us that men in all ages had have often, during our residence in the great capital, made similar mistakes in the moral world, and that left our books and our comfortable chimney corner to this street occurrence might stand as a type and symbol observe not merely the fire, and the sublime spectacle of the oft-repeated efforts of ignorant men to destroy a which a large one invariably offers, but the behaviour glory which they did not understand—to quench the of the crowd, and to listen to the conversation of those light of heaven upon the apprehension that it proceeded whose curiosity was excited. Upon one occasion, in from a fire of the earth, and was of the earth, earthy; particular, we felt more than ordinary interest in the and to wage a finite war with the splendours of the Incry. We heard Fire !-fire!' shouted by numerous finity. A great fireman of this class was . Melitus, the voices; and turning out into the street in a cold night son of Melitus, of the borough of Pitthos.' He declared of December, saw the people gathering at their doors, or upon oath to the people of Athens that 'Socrates, son looking out of their windows, and the ragged urchins, of Sophroniscus, of the borough of Alopece, was guilty that always swarm in great cities, rushing towards the of not believing in the gods which the state believed in, supposed scene of the conflagration. The sky was red and of introducing other new divinities; that he was as with fire. Each man asked his neighbour where the guilty, moreover, of corrupting the young, and demischief was. • It is at Blackheath,' said one: ‘it must manded against him the penalty of death.' The people be there, or at Lee, or Lenisham, or Bromles—the glow of Athens believed that this fire of heaven in the soul is clearly in that direction.' Perhaps it is at Green- of Socrates was a mortal and earthly fire that would wich,' said a second. It is undoubtedly in the vicinity damage their city. They listened, therefore, to the cry of Greenwich, chimed in a third. “It is very awful,' of ' Melitus, the son of Melitus, of the borough of said a fourth. There go a lot of boys after the engines,'| Pitthos;' they extinguished the life-light in the frail said a fifth ; "they can tell us where the fire is.' A boy tenement of an old man's body, and found, when they being seized hold of by the last speaker, he was asked had done so, that there was an aurora still shining-an where the engines were going to. •Down the Kentaurora of truth, which their puny efforts could not exroad somewhere,' said he; the flames are in that tinguish from heaven or from earth. They, like the direction. And all the crowd looked, and so they were. Londoners, had attempted to put out the aurora.' Engine rattled after engine, followed at short intervals When the Jews and the Romans, in the early ages

ever. aurora.

of Christianity, and the Inquisition at a later period, session, beheld, to their dismay, whole legions of rats sought by the cross, the rack, the stake, the boiling pouring in upon them. Regardless of everything, and caldron, the thumb-screw, and the gibbet, to destroy impelled by hunger, they filled the rooms, overran the Christianity in the persons of its most illustrious teach- beds and other furniture, and scampered about with ers, they made the same mistake. They imagined the unconcern along the passages, and up and down the light of heaven to be an incendiary fire; they strove stairs. to direct their powers of extinction against it: they M. Dulaure, the new proprietor, did not suffer this brought out their terrible engines, they traversed the invasion without attempting a repulse. His first plan earth in search of the spreading flames, that they might was to buy a great number of cats, and these were let annihilate them. All in vain. The glow was a glow loose on the foe. A short experience proved the futility in the Infinitude; the glory was from above, and all of the effort. The cats devoured what they killed, and their efforts were unable to obscure it. They could not therefore destroyed no more rats than they could eat. quench the aurora.

Besides, after a few days, the cats became disgusted One more instance will suffice. Friar Bacon, the with the occupation. They had eaten so many rats, greatest scholar of his age and nation, was too wise for that all relish for them was gone. Occasionally they his time. His light shone too brilliantly before men. would still attack a few stragglers, but the rats defended It was thought to be the light of hell, and not of heaven themselves so vigorously, that the cats were almost al-a fire to be extinguished with as much promptitude as ways vanquished. possible, for the safety of the people. He was put into As the war of attack ceased, the rats assumed their prison for being wise. He was cut off from his friends, wonted confidence. Discovering, by experience, that the his studies, his books, and subjected to such cruel pri- best times for visiting the family were during meals, vations, that he was often on the point of perishing they made their appearance regularly every day at with hunger. He procured his liberty by chance, en- breakfast and dinner, when, sitting down quietly near joyed it for a few years, and was again, at the age of the table, they would wait patiently for some crumbs, sixty-four, put into a dungeon, where he remained for seemingly expecting them as a right, which they took ten years. They could not extinguish his light, how the trouble to pick up. Unable to repel these disagreeIt shines even yet. They could not put out the able guests, both masters and servants, tired of the

continual warfare, came to the determination of setting There is no necessity for citing the stories of Galileo, apart the rats' share. Thus a quantity of scraps was Harvey, Jenner, and scores of others equally appro- abandoned to them each day, and, strange to say, their priate. In all these cases the light was an alien light depredations became less frequent; but, doubtless wishto the people. They saw it shining; but not under- ing to thank their entertainers for this kind proceeding, standing it, they thought it could not be good; and not they appeared in greater numbers than ever at the being good, that they were called upon to aid in the usual hours: some of the more youthful led the old work of its extinction. But in each case it was too gray-headed rats with all the assurance of intimate heavenly for them—it was beyond the reach of their acquaintances introducing their friends. water-pipes; and the ignorant “ brigades' bestowed One of their number, nearly white with age, always their trouble in vain, in consequence of not being able walked slowly and heavily, taking care to pass as near to distinguish the difference between a chimney on fire as it could to a large cat, which was obliged to be content and the splendours of the aurora.

with raising its back and sputtering, without daring to The same causes are still in operation. Let us take attack the offender. This rat was of an extraordinary care that by no fault of ours we run on any such foolish size : the poor cat was, however, no coward, as was errands. If we see a great light upon the horizon, do easily perceived from its being minus an ear, and havnot let us hastily conclude that because it has recently ing a dreadfully scarred face; but poor Tom recognised appeared—because it was not there when we last looked such a dreadful adversary in this old patriarch, that -because we do not understand it—that it must of he was willing enough to abuse him, but ventured no necessity be a light of mischief—the reflection of a con- further. flagration—the result of incendiarism—a thing born of The inhabitants of the Châtelet gave this rat the evil, and spreading evil-or that we are called upon, as name of Gaspard, and he soon became familiar with good citizens, to aid in its extinction. Let us be con this appellation, always turning to look in the direction vinced, before we move in the matter, that it is not an from whence he was called. M. Dulaure, having seen aurora, and thereby save our zeal for the more profit-Gaspard several times, gave him the name of the able occasion when there may be a real fire in our own • Nestor of the Tribe.' street; and when our own house, or that of our neigh Whenever one attempted to chase these strange bour, may be in danger of destruction.

visitors, it was always remarked that Gaspard retreated

as slowly as ever-though he could have trotted much THE RATS OF THE CHÂTELET.

faster, if he had chosen so to do—and that his compa

nions never lost sight of him, appearing always ready Till the period of the Revolution, Paris possessed an to defend and protect him if necessary. ancient prison, more like a fortress than a jail, called It was soon found to be perfectly useless to wage war the Grand Châtelet. This old structure was situated against the rats, the vast numbers setting all available on one of the quays facing the Rue St Denis, and was powers of destruction at defiance: their agility, as well of imposing height and appearance. In the course of as the danger of their bites, had completely discouraged the terrible doings of 1792, the Châtelet ceased to be the servants. Poison and traps obtained no better used as a prison, and was partly demolished. The success than cats; and so great was their instinct, that remainder, as national property, was sold to a private they learned to detect poison, and turned away from individual, in whose hands it remained till 1813, when the traps. The cats having learned wisdom by exthe whole was cleared away to enlarge the adjoining perience, attempted nought but a war of ambuscade, square.

that was neither frequent nor successful enough to be On taking possession of the edifice, the private pro- of great service, and in which they often proved themprietor just mentioned found that he was by no means selves less knowing than their adversaries.

To an to be the sole tenant of the building. The dungeons, Englishman, it will appear somewhat remarkable that vaults, and many passages above and below the ground a few terrier dogs were not tried as an engine of exwere discovered to be in possession of rats, to an extent tirpation. Such a dog as the famed Billy, for example, beyond all power of calculation. In vain had the ac- would probably have cleared the house in a week ; but cesses to the lower caverns been built up, and other the French do not appear to possess this useful variety means adopted to free the upper apartments from the of the canine species, or at all events it was not thought intrusion of these visitors: the family, on taking pos- of on the present occasion.

It would be amusing to detail all the plans abortively par excellence ! It is a detestable calumny, a vile prejuattempted to quell the rats. At one time the inha- dice, as dishonourable to the English character, as it is bitants of the Châtelet succeeded in enticing a number unjust towards a generous-hearted race ! - Mysteries of of them into a room where several trains of sulphur London. [ We cordially agree in this manly defence of a and powder had been previously laid: this met with cruelly-misrepresented people.] some success; but those who escaped having retained the memory of the smell, it was quite impossible to

HOPE. allure them a second time. They, however, had dread

The future is man's immemorial hymn: ful battles in the vaults amongst themselves, and when

In vain runs the present a-wasting; a victory was won, or a suspension of arms took place,

To a golden goal in the distance dim the survivors regaled themselves on the dead and dying,

In life, in death, he is hasting. by which means the nation was no doubt relieved in

The world grow old, and young, and old, times of scarcity. Truly, if a method could have been

But the ancient story still bears to be told. found of breathing discord amongst them, in order to raise civil war, it would have been the most efficacious

Hope smiles on the boy from the hour of his birth;

To the youth it gives bliss without limit; means of destroying them.

It gleams for old age as a star on earth, It was long ere the poor servant-maids could get

And the darkness of death cannot dim it. over the terror they felt at the constant apparition of

Its rays will gild even fathomless gloom, these animals : they were to be seen everywhere, even

When the pilgrím of life lies down in the tomb. creeping up on the skirts of the women and children, but running off at the slightest scream, never attempt

Never deem it a Shibboleth phrase of the crowd,

Never call it the dream of a rhymer; ing to bite, if not retained, of which there was little

The instinct of nature proclaims it alouddanger. They evidently liked warmth, as they would

WE ARE DESTINED FOR SOMETHING SUBLIMER. lie down quietly under the blankets, on the beds, and

This truth, which the witness within reveals, even beside the sleepers ; but as they were not famished,

The purest worshipper deepliest feels. the only harm they did was to cause alarm and dis


J. C. MANGAN. gust.

The final demolition of the Grand Châtelet at once dispersed this extraordinary colony of rats. Turned

NOVEL USE OF EGGS. out of their ancient homes, they fled to the surrounding streets, and endeavoured to find a lodgment in the hens’ eggs are circulated as small coins, forty-eight or fifty

In some parts-for example, in the province of Jaujahouses. The inhabitants, however, were on their guard, being counted for a dollar. In the market-places and in and many were killed. There was something almost the shops, the Indians make most of their purchases with melancholy in the fate of these poor creatures. Shut this brittle sort of money: one will give two or three eggs out from human habitations, great bands of them wan for brandy, another for indigo, and a third for cigars. dered about like emigrants seeking a settlement, and These eggs are packed in boxes by the shopkeepers, and were fain to take refuge on the banks of the Seine, and sent to Lima. From Jauja alone several thousand loads in the common sewers of the city. Little by little they of eggs are annually forwarded to the capital.—Tschudi's

Travels in Peru. disappeared ; and it is believed that many found refuge and food in some large grocery stores at the corner of THE BANE OF THE TOWN THE BOON OF THE COUNTRY. the Rue St Denis; with what satisfaction to the owners, The very refuse of the materials which have served as we are unable to say.

food and clothing to the inhabitants of the crowded city, and which, if allowed to accumulate there, invariably and

inevitably taint the air, and render it pestilential, promptly It is the fashion in this country to decry the Jews—to removed and spread out on the surface of the surrounding represent them as invariably sordid, mercenary, avaricious, country, not only give it healthfulness, but clothe it with to such a length, as to associate with their names a spirit Southwood Smith's Evidence before the Health of Towns? Com

mission. of usury amounting to the most flagrant and dishonourable extortion. And these charges have been repeated so often, and echoed seriously by so many persons deemed a respectable authority, that the prejudice against the Jews

CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE. has become interwoven with the Englishman's creed. But

A work for some time in considerable request has now been added the exceptions have been mistaken for the rule; and, to the Educational Course-'ARITHMETIC, THEORETICAL AND strange as the assertion may sound to many ears, we boldly PractiCAL," which, while serving as a sequel to the "Introducproclaim that there is not a more honest, intelligent, humane, and hospitable class of persons on the face of the treatise, conducting the pupil from the first steps in the science of

tion to Arithmetic,' formerly published, forms an independent earth'than the Jews. The fact is, when an Englishman is numbers to that stage where it becomes necessary to adopt the broken down in fortune, and can no longer raise funds by mortgage on his estate, nor by the credit of his name, he more general symbols of Algebra. flies to the money-lender. Now, Jews are essentially a

By the addition of this work, the series of books in the EDUfinancial nation ; and money-broking, in all its details, is (Mathematics) may be said to be complete. The list is as fol

CATIONAL COURSE on the science of Number and Measurement their special avocation, The class of Israelite moneylenders is, therefore, numerous; and it is ten to one that the broken-down individual who requires a loan ad

Introduction to Arithmetic. Price Is. dresses himself to a Jew, even if he take the money Arithmetic, advanced treatise, now issued. Price 2s.6d. lender living nearest to him, or to whom he is first recom The Elements of Algebra, in two Parts, each 2s. 6d. mended. Well, he transacts his business with this Jew; A Key to the Elements of Algebra. Price 2s.6d. and as he can give no security beyond his bond or his bill, Plane Geometry, or Simson and Playfair's Euclid extended and as his spendthrift habits are notorious, he cannot of and improved. Price 28. 61. course obtain the loan he seeks, save on terms proportionate A Key to Plane Geometry. Price 23. to the risk incurred by the lender. Yet he goes away, and Solid and Spherical Geometry. Price 28. 60. denounces the Jew as a usurer.

But does this person

Practical Mathematics, two Parts, each 4s. reflect that, had he applied to a Christian money-broker, Mathematical Tables. Price 38. 60. the terms would have been equaily high, seeing that he

W. and R. CHAMBERS, Edinburgh, and all Booksellers. had no real security to offer, and that his name was already tarnished? Talk of the usury of the Jews-look at the usury practised by Christians! Look at the rapacity of Published by W. & R. CHAMBERS, High Street, Edinburgh. Also Christian attorneys !---look at the greediness of Christian

sold by D. CHAMBERS, 98 Miller Street, Glasgow; W. S. ORR,

147 Strand, and Amen Corner, London; and J. M'GLASHAN, bill-discounters !-look, in a word, at the money-making 21 D'Olier Street, Dublin.-Printed by W. and R. CHAMBERS, spirit of the Christian, and then call the Jew the usurer Edinburgh.






No. 174. NEW SERIES.

SATURDAY, MAY 1, 1847.

Price 11d.

most discordant of all. It seems to be owing, in no YOU WOULD LIKE HIM, IF YOU KNEW HIM. small degree, to the reserved and solitary lives which Persons who only hear of each other, are found in these men almost necessarily lead. Some time ago, an many instances to entertain a mutual prejudice. Op- economical kind of club was formed in London by the position in politics, variety of creed, rivalry in pro men engaged in the refined arts, and I am assured that fession, and many such matters, give rise to this re- it has already been the means of dispelling many groundpugnance. Or it may spring from some of those mys- less antipathies. The men come into social contact. terious caprices which sometimes lurk at the bottom Little favours and kindnesses are exchanged. They of our minds. As, for instance, we may dislike a man mutually find they are better than they had supposed. because we hear him often spoken of, or his sayings And the result is, that the exercise of high intellect quoted, or because we think he wears some part of his becomes attended by those genial sentiments which are attire in a provoking manner. One great source of alone worthy of it. hatred, is a suspicion that the other party sets himself Imperfect knowledge may be said to be the real above us. We assume that he is proud, and then con- foundation of pretty nearly all mutual repulsions. Reademn him for the imaginary offence. Sometimes we soning from a single fact, or what is assumed to be a suspect he hates us, and think it only right that we fact, and ignorant of a variety of redeeming circumshould hate him in return. Misunderstandings, fre- stances, we suddenly rush to conclusions which are quently from the most trifling causes, also lead to altogether unwarrantable on grounds of truth or reaestrangements which perhaps endure for life, while a son. In this erroneous evolution of mind, there may, short explanation, and possibly a mere show of conces- indeed, be a perverse disinclination to search for truth. sion, would remove every feeling of hostility, and ren- Having formed a theory of cause and effect, seemingly der men of congenial feelings the best of friends. End- complete in structure, there is an unwillingness to do less, alas ! are even the fictitious causes of mutual anything likely to overturn the fabric, for it would wrath and jealousy.

amount to a confession of error, and damage self-esteem. It is not uncommon, accordingly, to hear one well. Thus the man who, from a sudden, but, as he conceives, enough meaning person railing at some other, of whom proper impulse, insults another, rarely makes any overhe has no certain knowledge. On such occasions, a ture at reparation. He considers his judgment to be bystander will quietly remark, “You would like him, at stake, and will rather endure a life of painful resent. if you knew him.' This is often the truth. Did we ment, it may be of remorse, than acknowledge that he know the man, we should find that we had dressed up, could by any possibility be in error. in imaginary peculiarities of a detestable nature, one Nations, like men, hate because they know each who is, to say the least, a very passable kind of man, other imperfectly. Were the French and English to if not one of somewhat extraordinary good qualities. make a point of spending a twelvemonth in youth in And many a time does it happen that we do, in time, each other's countries, not as strangers in the hotels, become acquainted with the object of our aversion, and but as members of each other's families, there would learn to look upon him with both esteem and affection. never again be war between them, for then would ignoIt is not, however, necessary for a change in our feel rant antipathies give place to mutual respect and kindly ings towards the formerly hated stranger, that we regard. The English pass in great numbers to France ; should discover in him either very brilliant or very but instead of uniting domestically with the people, they loveable qualities, or find that we have many points of keep apart, and maintain all their own national habits ; common taste or opinion. It is enough, in most cases, consequently little is done towards conciliation. Doubtfor the desired revolution, that we have met, and con- less, however, it will not be so always. The facilities versed, and found each other human. Sweet are the afforded to travelling will by and by produce a much words of courtesy between man and man: those who greater interfusion of the people of the two countries ; have exchanged the simplest greetings, find them like assimilations in manners and ideas will take place ; and the eating of salt among the Arabs—a controlling bond then capricious hatreds of all kinds must die a natural of the most sacred kind. Hence, after a brief commu- death. It is in this way that the material and mechanion, the prejudice will vanish almost as mysteriously nical doings of our age are yet to tell in great moral as it arose ; and we part, acknowledging each other effects. Iron will, in time, be an instrument of love and to be very tolerable persons, although not one word union, as it has heretofore been one of captivity and beyond commonplace may have passed between us. oppression.

There are some professions and courses of life more In the meanwhile, why should not both individuals apt than others to raise ignorant hatreds. Literary and nations exercise some control over those emotions men are said to be liable to such feelings in an unusual which lead to the antipathies of ignorance? Suppose degree. So are artists. Perhaps the musicians are the we hate a man whom we never met or conversed with,

merely because he is of a different political or religious made in the walls of his chamber, in order to observe the denomination from us, or because we think he must be a passage of stars across the meridian, are yet to be seen in haughty man, or because we suspect he has no good feel the house in which he lived. In the quiet and leisure ing towards ourselves : let us reflect on what he might afforded by his new position, Copernicus reflected on the be, if we knew him—what pleasantnesses, what virtues doctrines taught by the astronomers he had visited, and we might find in him—what kindly feelings he might comparing them with the ancient theories, was struck prove to be entertaining for us, all the time we thought by the want of harmony in their arrangement of the unihim haughty and contemptuous—what community of verse. With a view to attempt the reduction of the disdesign and aspiration there might be discovered beneath cordant elements to some simple proposition, he read over the various external profession--and we shall see cause a second time the existing works on astronomy. He for at least moderating or suspending our jealous found that Nicebas, and some other Pythagoreans, had notions, if not for substituting amicable sentiments in made the sun the centre of all the planetary motions ; their place. Let nations in like manner imagine them- while Apollonius of Perga, retaining the same general selves acquainted with each other, so as to see with arrangement, made the sun in turn revolve round the their eyes, what all travellers tell, that everywhere the earth-a system afterwards adopted by Tycho Brahe. charities of life are in some shape developed, every- Copernicus saw that the cycles and epicycles of Ptolemy where is there much to love and admire ; and then were a confused attempt to explain the alternations in it could only appear absurd to cherish groundless the movements of the planets, which he was led to believe jealousies, fears, and hatreds against the other families might be accounted for by a much more simple process. of our race.

The true relations of the parts to each other gradually unfolded themselves to his mind, until he became con

vinced of the immobility of the sun in the centre of the RESISTANCE TO GREAT TRUTHS. planetary system ; while its apparent motion, and the

alternations of day and night, were to be attributed to COPERNICUS AND ASTRONOMY.

the annual and diurnal movements of the earth. The history of astronomy, in common with that of

Something more than the mere possession of a great almost every other science, presents numerous instances idea is required to constitute a great genius: there must of arbitrary opposition to the development of thought and be the faculty for looking at it in all its phases, and for progression of truth. Dating from the infancy of our testing it by the evidence of nature and of the senses. race, and originating where so many other mental phe- Copernicus had extensive astronomical knowledge, and a nomena took their source in the East, the young science good geometrical genius, and the elaboration of his theory developed itself in strange and uncertain forms, a gradual presents a memorable example of the power of patient accumulation of extravagant opinions and wild hypo- and earnest thought in the investigation of a complicated theses, until, by the labours of Hipparchus, Pythagoras, subject, and acuteness of discrimination between the true and the early Greek and Arabian philosophers, it was and the fallacious. In his day, it must be remembered, transmitted to Ptolemy, with some show of mathemati- the want of telescopes rendered all appearances in the cal demonstration. Ptolemy was the first to unite the sky much more difficult of explanation than they would various phenomena, and form something like a complete have been a century later. To appreciate his services in treatise; but, leaving totally out of view the beautiful the cause of science at their full value, we must place simplicity of nature, he based his system on impossible ourselves back in the times and circumstances that saw laws. He imagined the heaven to be an immense vault, their birth. The accumulated errors and superstitions of revolving round the earth, which was stationary in the fourteen centuries were not to be easily shaken or recentre, in twenty-four hours, and interlined by innu- moved; neither were the prejudices and dogmas of the merable circles-the orbits of the sun and planets. To learned to be disturbed with impunity. What might account for the apparent contradictions in their motion, have been astronomical science, was, even in the writings he contrived his famous cycles and epicycles, making the of the fathers, little better than a mass of absurd and centre of some to roll round the circumference of others. subtle disquisitions on the substance of the heavens and Still, as a means of representing celestial appearances, planets. The latter were supposed to be hollow, and to the system of Ptolemy, with all its imperfections, was be placed immediately under the waters, which were useful to science; and glimpses of the truth occasionally above the firmament, in order to keep it cool; while the presented themselves to his successors. In the year 1252 earth floated in the waters which were under the firmaappeared the famous Alphonsine tables, under the ment. The moon, too, came in for a due share of notice auspices of Alphonso, king of Castile, who distinguished in the controversies : some asserted that her spots were himself by his devotion to the cause of astronomical the body of Endymion; others declared them to be a lion science. The superstition of the day, however, opposed with his tail to the east; and a third party contended a formidable barrier to anything like progress. At length, that she was made of pumicestone, and showed a human in the fifteenth century, distinguished by so many great face. The doctrine of the earth's immobility was everyevents, the genius appeared destined to change the whole where taught by the learned, and universally believed by face of astronomical science.

the multitude. Of course any attempt to substitute å Nicholas Copernicus was born at Thorn, a city of Polish new theory could not fail to provoke much clamour. Prussia, in February 1473. He acquired the elements of Nevertheless, with the resolute perseverance that freGreek and Latin under the paternal roof, and afterwards quently accompanies true genius, Copernicus commenced studied philosophy and medicine in the university of Cra- a series of observations by which to verify his calculations ; cow, where he gained the title of doctor. His attention and having constructed the necessary instruments, he was, however, principally attracted by the study of ma- paused not in his investigations until the tables required thematics; this he pursued with extraordinary zeal, and for the prediction of the phenomena were completed. at the same time he obtained some knowledge of astro- About the year 1507 he began to commit his thoughts to nomy and the use of instruments. The fame of Regio- writing; and in 1530, at the age of fifty-seven, he had the montanus inspired him with a desire to visit Italy; and satisfaction of seeing his manuscript labours brought to a at the age of twenty-three he set out for that country, close, in a work divided into six books, entitled De Revowhere he first attended the lectures of the astronomer lutionibus Orbium Cælestium,' in which the whole theory Dominic Maria, at Bologna. On his arrival at Rome, he is reduced to one simple idea, exhibited with clearness was appointed to a professorship of mathematics; and and precision, constituting what is now known as the after a residence in that city of several years, during Copernican System; that is, that the sun is the centre of which he pursued his astronomical observations, he re a system of planets which revolve round it, and that, turned to his native country. Through the influence of consequently, the earth moves. The real distances of the his uncle, the bishop of Warmia, he obtained a canoni- planets, and the declination of the pole of the earth, were cate at Frauenburg, where he took up his residence, and also explained. continued his scientific studies. The openings which he However firm the conviction of Copernicus as to the

« PreviousContinue »