Page images
PDF
EPUB

with that of the same age and from the same forest felled in the spring when the sap was rising. In France, where they order these things better,' they not only felled their oak trees when the

wind was at north' and ' in the ware of the moon,' but by a royal ordinance of the year 1669, the time of felling was fixed from the first of October to the fifteenth of April. But Buonaparte, satisfied by the reports of the Sçavans that ships built of timber felled at the moment of vegetation must be liable to rapid decay, and require immediate repairs from the effect of the fermentation of the sap in those pieces which had not been felled at the proper season, issued a circular order à MM. les Agens Forestiers,' that the time for felling naval timber should be abridged, and that it should take place ' in the decrease of the moon, from the first of November to the fifteenth of March.'*

The late miserable failures in all the ships of the line launched from erchants' yards, to which recourse was had from the low state of the navy, and the inadequate means afforded by his Ma jesty's dock-yards to raise it to its proper pitch, have revived the subject; and it is satisfactory to learn that the Commissioners of the Woods and Forests of the crown are instituting inquiries into this interesting question, and conducting experiments on an extended scale. It is high time, indeed, that a question so intimately connected with the vital interests of the country should be finally decided.

To destroy this vegetable principle in timber, which, as we have observed, is called into action long after the tree is cut down, a variety of experiments have been made on a small scale; but they have either not been applicable to large naval tinber, or if applicable, have for the most part failed of success. They have consisted generally in the impregnation of the timber with oils, salts, acids, or in coating its surface with paint or lime, or bringing it to a state of seasoned timber by the application of heat, either by stoving it in close kilns, or by steaming or boiling it.

The application of oil was probably suggested from the known quality which this Auid possesses of killing living plants, as it does insects, by filling up the pores and excluding the circulation of air, or other fluids; or rather perhaps from an observation that ships employed on the whale fishery were never infected with the dry rot. The application of oil in a large way would, we conceive, be both expensive and inconvenient, and not improbably ineffectual; for as the question applies only to green timber, of which the vessels are already occupied by its natural juices, the absorption of oil could only take place in a partial degree.

* Instructions de l'Administration addressées à MM. les Conservateurs, 6 Août, 1803. Circulaire du premier Février, 1811.

The

The same objection would seem to apply to the steeping of timber in saline solutions, or the various kinds of acids, as we cannot see in what manner they could be made to impregnate the whole mass, unless the natural juices were previously driven off. Acids would, besides, very speedily corrode the whole of the metallic fastenings. But there is another and more weighty objection to such impregnation. The attraction for moisture which salts and acids

possess, would keep the whole interior part of the ship dripping wet, like the bannister rail of a staircase on a moist day succeeding a frost, and not only destroy the ship with the wet-rot, but the ship's company also, whose health experience has proved to be best preserved by keeping the ship as dry as possible--the remedy in this case would be infinitely worse than the original disease.

As to coating over the surface of unseasoned timber with paint, washing it with a solution of lime, &c. little benefit, we apprehend, would be obtained from such a process. By excluding the free circulation of air, the vegetable process carrying on within the timber would be more likely to be encouraged than suppressed; and if it be true, as we have heard it asserted, that vessels carrying coals and lime are not subject to dry-rot, this exemption, we apprehend, ought to be ascribed rather to the frequent exposure to the air of the interior surface of the ship, and the absorption of moisture by the articles brought in contact with it, than from any particular virtue inherent in either coals or lime, by which the ship's timbers are supposed, erroneously we think, to be impregnated. It is the smallness of the timbers of which coasting vessels are constructed, and which renders a long seasoning unnecessary, aided by the thinness of the planking and the large open spaces between the timbers, through which the air can freely circulate, that preserves them from the dry-rot; from which they will be found equally free, whether they are employed to carry coals or lime, or cargoes composed of sundry articles.

Few persons, we believe, have given more attention to this important subject, or made more experiments on the rapid seasoning of green oak timber, than Mr. Lukin, though, as far as we can learn, they have all ended in disappointment. He conceived that if the gallic acid and the watery particles were driven out of a piece of oak timber, by a process which should prevent the surface from splitting, the timber would contract its dimensions by the fibres being brought closer into contact, lose much of its original weight, and gain additional strength. With this view he buried a log of green oak in pulverized charcoal, placed in a stove or

When the process was completed the log had a very promising appearance; the surface was close and compact, the log

had

Oven.

had considerably contracted its dimensions, and lost a great part

of its weight; but when the saw was applied to divide it, the fibres within were found to have started from each other; and a plank cut from it exhibited a fine piece of net work, ramified and reticulated precisely like the inner bark of a tree ;-in fact it was completely shaken in pieces, and of course utterly worthless.

Mr. Lukin, however, learned something from the failure of this experiment. He now conceived that if he could by any means contrive, in dissipating the aqueous or other fluid matter of the wood by heat, to supply its place with an oleaginous fluid, he should not only destroy the vital principle of vegetation, but keep the fibres together and accomplish the desired purpose. With this view he got permission to erect a huge oven or stove in Woolwich yard, capable of containing two or shree hundred loads of timber; on the outside, at the two ends of the building, were erected two large stills or retorts, in which the dust of the pitch pine was submitted to distillation. From the heads of these stills ran iron pipes, perforated with holes like a cullender, which, passing through the walls into the building, were continued along the upper part for the whole length. The stove or kiln was kept up to a certain degree of heat sufficient to cause the fluids of the timber to pass off by evaporation, but not so high as to rend the logs. The oily matter distilled from the saw dust, and resembling weak oil, or rather spirit, of turpentine, in passing along the iron pipes, dropped through the holes upon the wood beneath, and was immediately absorbed by it; and thus, it was conceived, filled up the vacant pores from which the aqueous matter had been expelled ;—when the transfusion was supposed to be complete, it was intended to stop the process.

The idea was ingenious enough, though we doubt the efficacy of the experiment; before however the process was completed, an unfortunate explosion took place, which killed six men, and wounded fourteen others, two of whom died afterwards of their , wounds; three of the former and most of the others were struck at the distance of sixty feet from the seasouing house. The explosion was like the shock of an earthquake; it threw down seventy-two feet in length of the dock-yard wall of three bricks thick, a part of which. was driven to the distance of 250 feet into an adjoining field; in the same field it threw down a house. An iron door, weighing 280 pounds, was thrown to the distance of 230 feet; another of the same weight, in its passage through the air, kpocked down a chimney and fell at 190 feet distance, the bricks and sticks of the building were hurled in every direction to the distance of 300 feet, This melancholy accident was supposed to be owing to the flame making its way at the part where the flue entered the building, and

set

set fire to the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gases contained in it.

It is hardly necessary to add that this fatal experiment has not been repeated.

Of all the methods which have been tried for the artificial seasoning of timber, none, we believe, will be found so effectual and in every way so little objectionable, as that of boiling in water or steam—the latter, perbaps, may be considered as too penetrating aud injurious to the fibre; but the former has long been practised, though with other views than that of preventing dry-rot; namely, to bend the piece more easily to the required curve: all the thick planking, for instance, near the bows of a ship, are first boiled in a stove before they are applied to the timbers. It has recently, however, been discovered, as we understand, that fungus will noi grow on a piece of timber that has been so boiled. The experiment is easily made : take a green piece of wood, saw it into two pieces, aici after boiling one of them for twenty-four hours, place both in a close warm cellar. The unboiled piece will, in á very short

space of time, be covered over with a coat of fungus, and if the ocher remain untouched, the effect of boiling is decisive; and the rationale of the experiment is too obvious for us to dwell upon.

We are, however, decidedly of opinion, that nothing but time and a judicious arrangement of the timber stacks, such as will keep them as nilich as possible from wet, and suffer the air freely to circulate through them, will give an effectual seasoning to oak timber on a grand scale, so as to answer all the demands for that article which the British navy requires. Had all our ships of war been built of timber with a seasoning of three or four years, we should not have heard so much of the ravages committed by the dry-rot, nor of so many ships being unfit to keep the sea after two or three years, and sometimes as many months, from the time of their launching. Ships of this kind are not likely, however, to be brought hereafter into the national navy. We have paid somewhat dear, it is true, for experience; but as bought wit' is said to be the best wit, it is to be hoped that we shall profit from it; and, in that case, we may safely predict that a ship of the line will never henceforwards be launched in this kingdom from a merchant-builder's yard.

[ocr errors]

Art. XI. 1. Cumpagne de Paris en 1814, précédée d'un Coup

dæil sur celle de 1813. Par P.F. F. J. Giraud. 8vo. pp.

124. Paris. 1814. 2. Histoire de la Régence à Blois. 8vo. pp. 48. Blois. 1814. 3. Itinéraire de Buonaparte, pour servir de suite à la Régence de Blois. 8vo. pp. 36. Paris. 1814,

4. Oraison

Pp. 534.

4. Oraison Funèbre de Buonaparte. Par une Société de Gens de Lettres. Pp. 32.

pp. 32. Paris. 1814. 5. Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire de France sous le Gouverne

ment de Napoléon Buonaparte. Par J. B. Salgues. 8vo. Pre

mière Livraison. pp. 80. Paris. 1814. 6. Buonaparte peint par lui-même. 8vo.

Paris. 1814. 7. Voyage à l'Ile d'Elbe. Par A. F. de Berneaud. 8vo. pp. 183.

Paris. 1808. 8. Mémoires Secrets sur Napoléon Buonaparte; écrits par un

Homme qui ne l'a pas quitté depuis quinze ans. 2 tom. 12mo.

pp. 440. Paris. Mathiot. 1814. 9. Lettera di un Italiano al Signore di Chateaubriand, autore dell'

Opera intitolata Buonaparte e i Borboni. 8vo. pp. 8. Milano. 1814.

NEVER did metaphor approach so nearly to description as the

comparison of Buonaparte to a meteor--generated in obscurity, kindling to almost instantaneous splendour; shooting to an astonishing height; dazzling the world by its brilliancy; shaking from its horrid hair pestilence and war-then, as suddenly declining, and with a, rapidity not equalled even by its upward flight,' losing itself again in the obscurity from which it sprung. The career of such a man is an object, even with those who abhorred him, of natural curiosity, and of no unphilosophical wonder. Hence it is that through his whole course he has attracted, in an extraordinary degree, the attention of all classes of mankind. The particulars of his origin* and the details of his elevation have been sought after

willi

* It is worth recording as characteristic of Buonaparte, and consistent with his whole course of life, that lie falsified the date of his birth, his own christian and family narues, and the names of his wife and of all his family.

He chose to call himself Napoléon Bonaparte, and to fix his birth-day on the 15th August, 1769. His real names are Napolioné Buonapurté, and he was born on the 5th Feb. 1768.

The change of name was evidently for the purpose of making it somewhat French; and it was not till his appointinent to the army of Italy, that he made this alteration. Barras, in his official account of the affair of the 13 Vindémiaire, 5th Oct. 1796, calls him • le général Buouaporté,' probably a misprint for Buonaparte; and in the contract of marriage between him and his first wife, still existing in the Registry of the second Arrondissement of Paris, dated also in 1796, he is called by the uotary, Napolione Bonaparte; but his own signature at the foot of the contract is written Napolione Buovaparte; and the preamble to this deed states that his baptismal register then produced, attests that he was born on the 5th February, 1768.

- For the change of date three reasons may be assigned, 1st, that he piqued himself on being the youngest of heroes, and was not sorry to strike a year and a half from his real age.--2d, Corsica was not annexed to France till June, 1769, and therefore to make himself a Frenchman, he was obliged to choose a date subsequent to this period.-3d, The 15th August was, in the French calendar, the day on which a vow of Louis XIn. puta bing bis kingdom under the protection of the Virgin, was celebrated, and it therefore

appeared

« PreviousContinue »