« PreviousContinue »
had lately been making some pneumatic experiments. It was some minutes before I recovered the full possession of my senses, and could realize that I had not stuck a man in the brachial artery, or committed the two deadly sins of murder and suicide.
Neither could I separate the circumstances which had occurred in my vision, from those which had really happened ; nor was I certain, whether I had carried a drowned man to the Hospital, or whether it was all an "unreal mockery". A visit from the coroner, the next morning, who informed me of the death of the drowned patient, convinced me of the truth of at least that part of my adventures, and that epispastics and warm water were not the sovereignest things on earth for submersion.
I have never since met the little red-faced fellow who caused me such anxiety in my dream : but I never see Harry Slender without a feeling of horror and aversion, similar to that which the prattling barber produced upon the unfortunate gentleman in the Arabian tale. And the sight of the long nose and lank visage of Polypus gives me the same sensation as if a bucket of cold water was suddenly poured down the back of my neck.
THEORY OF THE WORLD.
The European, who declared that for centuries to come we should import our literature and our science, would probably recant his opinion, if he was informed that this is only the fifth new theory that has been broached on this side of the Atlantic, within as many years. De la Metherie, if we rightly remember, enumerates one hundred and thirty different theories of the earth, derived from the invention of letters to his own time. Our existence as a nation dates but a few years back. proceed as we have begun, we shall ere long rival, at least in number, if not in ingenuity, the theories of our elder brethren of Europe.
Although the learned of all ages have turned their attention to the study of the structure of the earth; though they have climbed the highest mountains, descended into the deepest val
*An Abstract of a new Theory of the Formation of the Earth, by Ira Hill, A. M. Baltimore, 1823. & vo. pp. 214.
leys, and literally left no stone unturned in their researches, yet it must be acknowledged that their labours have been in a great measure fruitless. “The immortal Werner, of deceased memory," as he is styled by Jamieson, spent a long life in the very bowels of the earth, and roundly asserts that nothing of the constitution of the globe is known beyond its mere crust. Cuvier, the Corypheus of geologists, in his late work on the formation of the earth, has the following sentence : “ When I formerly mentioned this circumstance, of the science of geology having become ridiculous, I only expressed a well known truth, without presuming to give my opinion.'
Within a few years, however, geology has assumed higher ground. Rejecting the humble aid of mineralogy, or the still humbler assistance of analysis, geologists can determine by a single coup d'oeil the composition and structure of a mountain range; they can settle to a nicety the difference between clay slate and slate clay, or the more important distinction between amygdaloid and breccia. Newest floetz trap and oldest red sand stone, formation and stratification, have become words of fixed and determined import. To crown the whole, the brilliant discovery respecting the alluvial and diluvial formation, has put the finishing touch to the science of geology.
Our author commences, with singular felicity, his abstract of a new theory of the earth, by dedicating it to the American Cincinnatus, Major General Andrew Jackson! Who so worthy indeed of being instructed in the formation of this globe as he whose name has been so loudly sounded on its surface? Who so fit to receive the dedication of a work, which exhibits “how the sandy alluvion of the Floridas met the triumphant surges of the atlantic," as the man who rendered this alluvion" illustrious by his warlike deeds ? Before his abstract reaches the honours of a second edition, we would suggest, respectfully, that the concluding passage of his preface be omitted. We allude to the wish there expressed, that the gallant general may succeed in his election as President of the United States. We have no sort of objection to acknowledging his claims to this high station ; but we must protest against their being urged in a theory of the formation of the earth.
Should this example be followed, our literature, in times of high political excitement, would present a strange appearance. The cause of one candidate might be covertly defended in a treaties on arithmetic, or the claims of another secretly advanced, in an improved edition of Chesterfield. We should see an attack on a presidential aspirant, at one time peeping through Vol. l. No. 1.
an analysis of a new mineral, at another lurking in the pages of a missionary magazine. Who could be sure indeed that his vote was not pledged, by subscribing to a medical journal, or that his adherence to a caucus nomination was not secured, by his patronage of a new volume of poems ? But to recur to our subject.
Mr. Ira Hill was led to the formation of a new theory of the earth, from observing that infidels make use of the following sophistry to confound the multitude ;- It is a natural impossibility for the waters to cover all the high montains, and the God of nature cannot work impossibilities; and if the waters could have been made to rise so high, where did they recede to ? This our author has most satisfactorily answered. His favourite object, however, seems to be, to give to “the general mass of community” clear and perspicuous notions respecting the formation of the earth; and in this, too, he has succeeded to a wonder; for we venture to assert, that no man, after carefully perusing this book, will presume to dig for salt under trachytic rocks, or expect to find bituminous coal in the primitive series. But let us endeavour to give Mr. Ira Hill's theory, in a few simple words, devested of the attic elegance or resistless force of argument displayed in the abstract.
The premises of this new theory date six hundred years back. The author takes (and in this he is supported by the best geologists) the first chapter of Genesis, as the foundation of his system. So far he proceeds boldly and firmly, and we can assure Mr. Ira Hill that many very sensible and learned men have been contented with the plain and simple facts stated in that sacred book. But it is the privilege of your real genius to scorn such narrow bounds; and we find, accordingly, that our author starts off at a tangent, with the ingenious idea that when the earth was first made, there were no rocks nor stones in the whole confused mass." As it is declared in the abstract, that “the most of the ideas" are peculiar to him, we are to consider this as one of them; and we leave it to our readers to make the most of it. They will, of course, bear in mind the ingenious declaration in the preface, that it cannot be expected that he shall prove to a demonstration all the propositions which may be advanced, and examine carefully " the substantial facts" advanced in proof of every statement.--But to proceed with this new theory.
The earth, or, we should perhaps call it, the globe, is now to be considered as an homogeneous mass, with its denser particles of matter in the centre, and covered with water as with a man
tle; of course, one can hardly conceive of a better subject for moulding into any shape the geologist might require. It is highly desirable, however, to create the new or antideluvian earth ; and we can readily imagine the author's anxiety on the subject--a world is to be made and we will not for the world keep our readers in farther suspense. Mr. Tra Hill takes it for granted, or proves it, we forget which, that heat is an all sufficient cause; but then it becomes necessary to discover the cause of heat. This he has ably shown to be derived from the following principle, viz. “ that when the earth was fashioned, the concussion of particles of matter, in consolidating, would produce heat.” This may be illustrated by a familiar example. The temperature of our bodies in health is the same at all periods of the year. Now we will suppose Mr. Ira Hill, with pen in hand, deeply cogitating on his new theory, and endeavouring to discover the cause of heat. He meditates, nibbles his
pen, stirs the fire, dreams of Dolomieu and Von Buck, and at length rubs his forehead violently : This last movement seems to impart an increased heat to the forehead : upon that hint, he boldly declares that the concussion of particles will produce heat. The following experiment was instituted by one of our scientific friends, and we offer it as an additional illustration of this part of the author's theory. A Wellington boot, carefully prepared by Mr. Benton, was weighed and found to have the Sp. Gr. of 1.89. The thermometer in the airindicated 69°, and applied to the boot 70°. A shoe brush, coated with 3grammes of Day & Martin's best, of the temperature of 70°, was then vigorously rubbed upon the boot for several minutes, at the expiration of which time, both boot and brush indicated a rise in temperature of nearly 40 degrees. This experiment was carefully repeated several times, and gave nearly the same results. But we were to detail the new theory, and not to offer any supererogatory arguments of our own.
The heat being at length obtained, in any required quantity, our readers may be curious to know how it is to be managed. We shall give the author's own words, p. 21.
“ Heat causes matter to expand, and if once excited, will in. crease in power, till it forces its way to a near medium. This heat, generated perhaps several miles beneath the bed of the ocean, by its own force, prepared combustion around its focal point, and bound by a thick covering of earth and water, must have acquired an immense power, before it could raise its incumbent load. The matter which was most exposed to this vast furnace of nature became liquified. When the ocean of fire
within had acquired strength to elevate the mass above, the bottom of the ocean was raised to mountainous heights, and the liquified matter, as it was exposed to water and air, consolidated into masses of what are denominated primitive rocks."
We must be thankful that we have at last something solid to stand upon ; although it be nothing but granite graw wacke and old red sand stone. Mr. Ira Hill looks over from these rocks, and gravely declares, that the waters are rushing into the vast abyss. We may make a passing remark upon the modesty of this amiable geognost.
Your Cuviers and Delucs and Saussures and Huttons have unhesitatingly pronounced upon the exact situation of this heat. Accordingly, some* have placed it in the centre of the earth; and if they are mistaken, their error never will be detected. Otherst assure us that this huge fire will be found a few feet under the Puy de Dome in Auvergne, and Humboldt, standing on one of the peaks of the Andes, cannot refrain from exclaiming, “ Malheur au genre humain si le feu volcanique se fait jour a travers le Chimborazo!” All affect to know its “ exact locality ;' but our author, with that diffidence which characterizes real talent, modestly qualifies his assertions, respecting this internal heat, with a saving “per
Of course the reader will clearly understand, that the eastern continent has made its appearance, and we state, on the authority of Mr. Ira Hill, that there were “no winds, nor current, nor tides, nor tempests; of course, the waters were still, and it very naturally follows that their inhabitants remained in a very quiescent state." This is certainly making smooth weather, and we shall find that our author gets ahead accordingly. As the fishes were perfectly quiescent when alive, it is certainly not unphilosophical to suppose, that they would settle quietly, after death to the bottom, and be quietly petrified,
66 undisturbed by any agitation of the waters. p. 25.
We take this to be one of the most prominent features in the New Theory. We have only to suppose that these animals were quietly reproduced, and dropped down upon each other forages, and weshall have limestone strata to any desirableextent. This is all we are called upon to believe, and it is evidently one of those propositions - which it cannot be expected he shall prove to a demonstration.” It accounts in a most satisfactory manner, not only for primitive and transition limestone, but
* Hutton, Playfair, &c. | Annales du Museum, vol. 2. p. 176. + Faujas St. Fond, Breislak, &c: