Page images

The one remains, the many change and pass,
Heaven's light for ever shines, earth's shadows fly,
Life, like a dome of many coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity
Until death tramples it to fragments.-Die
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek,
Follow where all is fled.-Rome, azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak!'

This, as far as we can gather, was his final religious creed (if indeed we are justified in ascribing to him any serious convictions at all), and this plastic spirit is the nearest approach he seems to have attained to the idea of a personal God. Indeed, if we are at all right in what we have said hitherto, one path, at least, which leads from man to God, must necessarily have been closed to Shelley. It seemed a melancholy thing to Shelley that men should hate their crimes, or repent of them; he could not understand the sacredness of law, or the beauty of obedience; and thus, when the idea of a Supreme Ruler presented itself to his mind, he could only think of him as an omnipotent tyrant, hostile to human liberty and human right, and rejoicing over the wickedness and suffering of mankind. It would be easy to prove this, but it would be still more painful; and no reader of Shelley's poetry can have overlooked the audacity with which this view is expressed. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to believe with Moore and De Quincey that he was in reality capable of loving that religion which he insanely hated. And we know that, though he saw no Divinity in its founder, he had come to understand that it was in Him that the spirit of love and self-sacrifice he thought so noble had found its highest development on earth. We may be permitted to believe that had he not been cut off so early, he might have advanced one step further, and have embraced the faith he rejected-the faith which ought to have transmuted his vague yearnings for the knowledge of a Central Power and an all-pervading Spirit, into knowledge and love of the Most High.


ART. II.-1. Reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Coal-Mines. 1859.

2. Our Coal and our Coal-Pits: the People in them and the Scenes around them. By a Traveller Underground. 1853. 3. The Coal-Fields of Great Britain: their History, Structure, and Duration. By Edward Hull. 1861.

4. Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers. 1852-59.


HERE are few of the principal elements of our commercial prosperity so little known, yet few so worthy of being universally known, as our coal-mines. Nearly seventeen millions of money represent the value of the coal raised every year at our pits' mouths. Twenty millions of money represent its mean annual value at the place of consumption, and the capital engaged and invested in our coal-mining trade (we say nothing of the value of the mines themselves) considerably exceeds twenty millions sterling. The amount of coal which we annually extract is about seventy millions of tons; indeed, it is doubtful whether this is not an under-estimate. The pecuniary results just given are based upon the estimate of 66,000,000 tons. Taking the calculation of a working collier (J. Ellwood, Moss Pit, near Whitehaven), we may state that, if 68,000,000 tons of coal were excavated from a mining gallery 6 feet high and 12 feet wide, the gallery would be no less than 5128 miles and 1090 yards in length. Or, should a pyramidal form be selected, this quantity would constitute a pyramid the square base of which would extend over 40 acres, and the height of which would be 3356 feet. There are grounds for estimating that the annual produce of the coal-fields of the world does not at present greatly exceed one hundred millions of tons, and therefore that our own country contributes more than three-fifths of the total of the world's coal-mining labour.

If we divide the coal-yielding counties of Britain into four classes, so as to make nearly equal amounts of produce for each of the four, we find that Durham and Northumberland yield rather more every year than seven other counties, including Yorkshire and Derbyshire; more than another group of eight counties; and nearly as much as the whole collieries of North and South Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, the annual yield of all the latter class being about seventeen million tons, and that of the two first-named northern counties about sixteen million tons. We shall proceed to speak of these counties as comprehending the Great Northern, or, as it is more commonly but less correctly termed, the Newcastle coal-field.

This most important deposit, which assumes somewhat of that basin-like form to which most of our coal-fields incline, extends in length for a distance of about forty-eight miles, being bounded on the north by the river Coquet, a favourite fishing stream, and reaching southward nearly as far as Hartlepool, on the river Tees. It has a breadth of about twenty-four miles in the extreme, and its area is about seven hundred and fifty square miles. From this area some of the chief cities in Europe have for a long period been supplied with their best household fuel ; and a map of the entire district, showing the situation of the pits by dark spots, would represent it as if it were riddled with small openings, resembling those of an enormous sieve or


Natural circumstances have favoured its development. Its three navigable rivers-the Tyne, the Wear, and the Teesso intersect its area as to offer great facilities for the speedy and cheap transit of the coals by sea. the coals by sea. Engineering science also was early called into exercise in this locality, to add to and economise its natural facilities. Here were born the men who afterwards became the foremost engineers of their day. In the midst of these very collieries laboured George Stephenson as a humble mechanic. At Killingworth he mended steam-engines and clocks, and there up against a blackened wall he early fixed a sun-dial, which, as report assures us, he looked upon in his later years with peculiar affection. On the banks of the Tyne was born that eminent son of his who has spanned the river with the High-Level Bridge. That town, the streets of which he trod as a humble schoolboy, and in which he formed his great locomotive engine manufactory, now claims him as one of the most eminent citizens she has ever nourished, and as her greatest benefactor.

In 1773 there were only thirteen collieries on the Tyne; in the year 1800 there were upwards of thirty. The number of collieries had in 1828 increased to forty-one on the Tyne and eighteen on the Wear, in all fifty-nine, which produced 5,887,552 tons of coal. The coal-produce of Northumberland and Durham was in 1854 no less than 15,420,615 tons; and now there are in Northumberland and Durham 283 collieries.* Colliery-railways, which at first stretched over the district in rare

This is the number under inspection in Northumberland, Durham, and South Durham. In 1854 Mr. T. Y. Hall stated the number of collieries in the Great Northern coal-field to be about 136, the number of firms working these to be about 90, and the number of pits for sea-sale to be about 200. The two leading owners were the Marchioness of Londonderry and the Earl of Durham, who owned eleven and eight pits respectively.


and remote lines, are now spread over it like an intricate web of iron, running and ramifying in all directions. Here the first locomotive drew trains of coal-waggons, and suggested that vast railway traffic which now distinguishes our entire country. According to local belief (as to the accuracy of which we give no opinion), William Chapman, an engineer of Newcastle, was the first who tried the locomotive engine, about the year 1805, and in 1811 or 1812 his little experimental engine was lying neglected in a corner at Willington Ropery, a patent rope-walk of his own, near the banks of the Tyne. The wheels of this curious type of our locomotives were slightly indented, for Chapman had no conception that weight and friction would of themselves give the wheels sufficient hold upon the rails.

Mining began upon the Tyne, and continued on the Wear, where it was largely developed, and then passed onward and downward towards the Tees. A strong local prejudice had hindered the southward tendency of mining, arising from the professional proverb, No coal under the limestone'-that is, the Magnesian limestone of geologists. William Smith, the father of English geology, suspected that this proverb was ill-founded. He therefore traced the coal-strata in their courses, conjectured their rise under the limestone, estimated its thickness, and wisely inferred that the best seam of coal would be found at an attainable depth at Haswell, a few miles from Durham. Many experts declared that, if coal did exist there, it would prove of very inferior quality, as they supposed that the Magnesian limestone impaired the quality of all coal found under it. Trials were made, and Smith's opinion was confirmed. In our boyhood we heard the details from his own lips, accompanied with the lamentation that, while a certain proprietor benefited by Smith's knowledge to the extent of many thousands per annum, yet he, the geologist, was never a pound the richer. Smith died in the receipt of a small Government pension, the coalowner accumulated an immense fortune, and the county became richer by the acquisition of a valuable geological truth-now, indeed, a well-known fact-viz. that the limestone is an unconformable cover' to the coal-strata below it, and that these are inclined upwards, and not horizontally disposed. In the latter case they would have been unattainable.

There are in all about fifty-seven different seams of coal in the Great Northern coal-field, and these vary in thickness from an inch to five feet five inches and six feet, and they comprise an aggregate of about seventy-six feet of coal. Assuming the total


area of this field to be in round numbers 750 square mileswhich we believe to be the most probable estimate of several -we may classify the contents as household-coals, steam-coals or those employed in steam-engine boilers, and coking-coals or those used in making coke. As to the household-coals, or those brought to market for domestic and ordinary consumption, we find that there are only ninety-six square miles out of the total 750 which bear this character, and that all the remainder belong either to the steam-coal or the coking-coal order. Nor do the ninety-six square miles now remain under ground, for the greater portion of them have been worked out on the Tyne; they are rapidly decreasing on the Wear, where the largest bulk of household-coal lies; and the collieries on the Tees possess but six square miles out of the ninety-six, so far as we at present know. Descending, however, to that part of the coals which is regarded as precarious, and consists of first, second, and third rate household-coals, we have for additional future use 300 square


The London market was for many years supplied with coal from pits lying east of Tyne bridge. There stands the famous Wallsend Colliery, which has given its name to the best kinds of coal, but which has now been drowned, and, like the great Roman Wall, at the termination of which it is excavated, and from which it derives its name, is already an antique.

Other collieries of local fame have been closed of late years on the banks of the Tyne, and, in fact, the great bulk of so-called 'Wallsend coals' now come from the chief collieries shipping by the Wear. Strictly speaking, there is now no such thing as Wallsend coal; but the seam which supplied the latter is continued in Durham, and either it or its equivalents afford a million or two of tons every year to the London consumers. The old collieries had established a reputation which the newer ones sustain; but it must always be borne in mind that the supply, as respects this locality at least, is rapidly diminishing. Very careful calculations have been instituted by two independent authorities, and, without here entering into the details, the result may be summarily stated. The workable quantity contained in the ten principal seams of this coal-field, and now remaining, is estimated as 1,876,848,756 Newcastle chaldrons. Deducting losses occasioned by underground and surface waste in preparing for market, the total merchantable 'round' or goodsized coals will not much exceed 1,251,232,507 Newcastle chaldrons (each 53 cwt.). Now, proceeding upon this basis, as fairly established by Mr. Greenwell, in 1846, we may readily arrive


« PreviousContinue »