Изображения страниц

whenever any thing new in that science was announced, he returned to the laboratory, and renewed his researches with his wonted assiduity: so that, in relation to every new discovery, his authority continued to be predominant in the schools of chimistry.

After entering upon this life of learned leisure, the publication of his works fist employed his attention, and by his " Elements of Chimical Pi ulosophy,” his “Lectures on Agricultural Chimistry," and a series of papers inserted in the Philosophical Transactions, he continued, to the end of his life, to send forth from his retirement, proofs of vigorous habits of industry, and unabated energies of mind, notwithstanding the temptations incident to a state of ease and affluence. He traveled much on the continent, and seemed to be allured to the south of Europe, not more by its sunny climate, than by the remains of ancient art with which it is stored, and by its fine natural scenery. The remnants of ancient paintings at Roine and Pompeii ; the manuscripts dug from the ruins of Herculaneum ; and the volcano of Vesuvius, severally afforded objects for scientific research, from each of which he gathered something to enrich the transactions of the Royal Society.

But the most inportant fruit of this period of his life, was the invention of the Miner's Safety Lamp. This instrument affords an effectual security against the danger of explosion in coal mines, -an evil to which all the collieries of England were subject, and which, by the suilden and awful destruction of a great number of lives almost every year, had spread alarm and consternation among all the coal districts of that country. Various attempts had been made to devise a method of lighting the coal mines, without involving the danger of explosion; but they had all proved unavailing, until the invention of the safety lamp of Davy, in 1815. The philanthropist and the philosopher have vied with each other, in admiring this invention—the one for the lives it has preserved, and the peace of mind it has restored to a great number of families, who were before constantly tortured with apprehension; and the other for the philosophical beauty of the process which led to the invention. Probably the records of science afford no other example of an important invention, so purely philosophical as this; for here the inventor began, not with constructing a lamp, but with inquiries into the nature of the agent which he had to control, namely, the explosive gaseous mixture of the coal mine. He began with inquiring what is the nature of flame—and in studying its properties, he was conducted, step by step, to a method of making a lamp burn freely, and give its light to the miner, in a mixture as explosive as gun-powder, without the smallest danger of explosion.

Several reasons have occurred to us, why Sir Humphry Davy enjoyed so extensive a popularity among his cotemporaries, while Voy. H.


in many other instances, as in the case of Galileo, and to some extent in that of Newton, the highest scientific merit has been repaid to the living by hostility or neglect, and its honors have been left to be awarded by succeeding ages. The different treatment which Davy received, proves the superiority of the age in which he lived, over those ages in which the lights of science shone with solitary splendor, in a night of general darkness. Science and art have never felt their alliance so strongly, as since the rise of modern chimistry. Indeed, through all antiquity, down to the time of Lord Bacon, it was hardly surmised that any relation existed between them. Euclid, it is probable, had not the smallest conception of the practical purposes to which the principles of his geometry would be applied in after ages, such as measuring land and navigating a ship; nor did any of the ancient mathematicians or philosophers cultivate science with the least reference to the improvement of the arts. Hence there was no bond of union, or feeling of reciprocity, between the man of science and the laborer or artisan; but disdain and aversion existed on the one side, and stupid admiration on the other. The philosophy of Lord Bacon, by pointing out this great truth, that what is a principle in science, is a rule in art, laid the foundation for that acknowledged dependence which is now seen to subsist between the sciences and the arts, and prepared the way for the retired philosopher to be hailed as one of the greatest benefactors of his race. Few men of science have ever sought more ardently, or more successfully, to make the truths which they acquired or discovered useful to their fellow men, than Sir Humphry Davy. In the zenith of the popularity, which he acquired in consequence of his discoveries in galvanism, he betook himself with the greatest assiduity to experiments in the farm yard, with the view of making the science of chimistry subservient to the improvement of husbandry. In the funeral train, therefore, among the numerous orders of society who assembled to pay the last honors to his remains, we are not surprised to find the various artisans of the city of Geneva.

We learn that the health of Sir Humphry had begun to decline as early as the year 1827, and that he had afterwards led the life of an invalid. In 1828, he resorted to Rome for the benefit of his health ; but during the ensuing winter, paralytic symptoms warned his friends of his danger. The family party set out for Geneva, at which place they had scarcely arrived, when an apoplexy suddenly terminated the life of this illustrious philosopher, at the age of fifty and a half years.

During this season of declining health, his active mind sought, by imaginary excursions in the prosecution of a favorite amusement, to relieve the tedious hours of confinement. This, as we have before intimated, was the origin of the little work before us. It is

written in the form of a dialogue, professedly reporting the conversations of a party of English gentlemen, engaged in the amusement of angling on eight different days. The style is light and agreeable, though sometimes exuberant.

The characters chosen to support these conversations, are--HaljEUS, who is supposed to be an accomplished fly-fisher; ORNITHER, who is to be regarded as a gentleman generally fond of the sports of the field, though not a finished master of the art of angling; Pietes, who is to be considered as an enthusiastic lover of nature, and partially acquainted with the mysteries of fly-fishing; and Physicus, who is described as uninitiated as an angler, but as a person fond of inquiries in natural history and philosophy.

It was evidently the object of our author, to carry abroad into nature a party so composed, as to unite different tastes and powers of observation, who should view her works in various different lights. Thus Poietes is fitted, both by genius and education, to remark and describe the charms of the landscape, and all that is beautiful in natural productions. Physicus is a philosopher of the graver cast, whose enjoyments are more exclusively intellectual; who would almost overlook the external beauties of natural objects, and natural phenomena, in his zeal to penetrate into the reasons of things, and reduce every particular observation under some general law. Halieus unites the properties of both; blending a warm imagination with a mind highly philosophical, and enjoying, in full and equal measure, the perception of the sublime and beautiful in nature, and the study of her productions and phenomena. Ornither acts a subordinate part, being introduced for the purpose of sup, plying to the party, information respecting various objects in natural history, which happened to excite their curiosity. Sir Humphry Davy was remarkable for versatility of talent, and formed, himself, a striking example of the union of a poetical fancy with a profound intellect; and hence he enjoyed the twofold capacity of deriving exquisite happiness from the slow and laborious researches of the understanding, and from the sudden and vivid pictures presented to

imagination. And, although he has intimated that the character of Halieus is designed to represent “ a most estimable physician, ardently beloved by his friends, and esteemed and venerated by the public,” yet we cannot but recognise in this character a portrait of the author himself.

A party thus constituted, comprising the enthusiastic admirer of nature, the learned naturalist, and the profound philosopher, all men of amiable dispositions and cultivated manners,—would contain fine materials for rendering such excursions into nature profitable and delightful; and accordingly, we find them at one time, participating in the ecstacy of Poietes in viewing the landscape, at

another, listening to the instructive lessons of Halieus upon the curious habits of fishes or insects, or to his interesting remarks upon natural phenomena, which he had accurately observed; while, at another, Ornither and Physicus come in from the two extremes, and all mingle over the table, in the intei vals of rest, in intelligent and animated discussion, upon subjects of natural history, manners, morals, or religion.

The work opens with a discussion, at the breakfast table, between Halieus and Physicus, intended as an apology for the practice of this amusement.

Phys.-Halieus, I dare say you know where this excellent trout was caught : I never ate a better fish of the kind.

Hal.--I ought to know, as it was this morning in the waters of the Wandle, not ten miles from the place where we sit; and it was through my means that you see it at table.

Phys.-Of your own catching?
Hal.-Yes, with the artificial fly.

Phys.--I admire the fish, but I cannot admire the art by which it was taken; and I wonder how a man of your active mind and enthusiastic character, can enjoy what appears to me a stupid and melancholy occupation

Hal.-I might as well wonder in my turn, that a man of your discursive imagination, and disposition to contemplation, should not admire this occupation, and that you should venture to call it either stupid or melancholy.

Phys.--I have at least the authority of a great moralist, Johnson, for its folly.*

Hal.-. I will allow no man, however great a philosopher or moralist, to abuse an occupation he has not tried; and as well as I remember, this same illustrious person praised the book and the character of the great patriarch of anglers, Isaac Walton.

Phys. There is another celebrated man, however, who has abused this your patriarch,-Lord Byron, and that in terms not very qualified. He calls him, as well as I can recollect, “a quaint old cruel excomb." I must say, a practice of this great fisherman, where he recommends you to pass the hook through the body of a frog with care, as thougb you loved him, in order to keep him alive longer, cannot but be considered as cruel.

Halieus adduces the authority of several other poets in his favor, to which Physicus replies

Phys. I am satisfied with your poetical authorities.

Hal.-Nay, I can find authorities of all kinds, statesmen, heroes, and philosophers; I can go back to Trajan, who was fond of angling. Nelson was a good fly-fisher, and as a proof of his passion for it, continued the pursuit even with his left hand. Dr. Paley was ardently attached to this amusement; so much so, that when the Bishop of Durham inquired of

* Johnson's definition of Angling —"an amusement with a stick and a string : a worm at one end and a fool at the other."

him, when one of his most important works would be finished, he said, with great simplicity, and good humor, “ My Lord, I shall work steadily at it when the fly-fishing season is over."

Phyg.-—I do not find much difficulty in understanding why warriors, and even statesmen, fishers of men, many of whom I have known particularly fond of hunting and shooting, should likewise be attached to angling; but I own, I am at a loss to find reasons for a love of this pursuit amongst philosophers and poets.

Hal.—The search after food is an instinct belonging to our natures; and from the savage in his rudest and most primitive state, who destroys a piece of garne or a fish, with a club or spear, to man in the most cultivaied state of society, who employs artifice, machinery, and the resources of va. rious other animals, to secure his object, the origin of the pleasure is similar, and its object the same: but that kind of it requiring most art may be said to characterize man in his highest or intellectual state: and the fisher for salmon and trout with the fly, employs not only machinery to assist his physical powers, but applies sagacity to conquer difficulties; and the pleasure derived from ingenious resources and devices, as well as from active pursuit, belongs to this amusement. Then, as to its philosophical tendency, it is a pursuit of moral discipline, requiring patience, forbearance, and command of temper. As connected with natural science, it may be vaunted, as demanding a knowledge of the habits of a considerable tribe of created beings-fishes, and the animals they prey upon, and an acquaintance with the signs and tokens of the weather and its changes, the nature of waters, and of the atmosphere. As to its poetical relations, it carries us into the most wild and beautiful scenery of nature; amongst the mountain lakes, and the clear and lovely streams that gush from the higher ranges of elevated hills, or make their way through the cavities of calcareous strata. How delightful in the early spring, after the dull and tedious time of winter, when the frosts disappear, and the sunshine warms the earth and waters, to wander forth by some clear stream, to see the leaf bursting from the purple bud, to scent the odors of the bank perfumed by the violet, and enameled, as it were, with the primrose and the daisy; to wander upon the fresh turf below the shade of trees, whose bright blossoms are filled with the music of the bee; and on the surface of the waters, to view the gaudy flies sparkling like animated gems in the sun-beams, whilst the bright and beautiful trout is watching them from below; to hear the twittering of the water birds, who, alarmed at your approach, rapidly hide themselves beneath the flowers and leaves of the water-lily; and as the season advances, to find all those objects changed for others of the same kind, but better and brighter, till the swallow and the trout contend as it were for the gaudy May Ay, and till in pursuing your amusement in the calm and balmy evening, you are serenaded by the songs of the cheerful thrush and melodious nightingale, performing the offices of paternal love, in thickets ornamented with the rose and wood-bine.

Although this passage contains some striking beauties, yet it must be acknowledged to be, to our younger readers, an unsafe model, on account of some redundance of epithets and exuberance of imagery. Our particular object in quoting it at length, is to exemplify the views of our author with regard to the numerous sources of interest and enjoyment, which a mind endowed with superior powers, and enriched and refined by cultivation, would find in its excursions into nature, beyond those which are discover

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »