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an indefinite period, so long as the ex- inches; and at five feet three inches, just terior of the trunk, the leaves and root- below the main boughs, twenty-nine feet. lets, escape the accidents to which they The average circumference given by are exposed.”
these measurements is, then, twenty-five The wood of the yew has long been feet six inches, or one thousand two hunknown to be of slower growth, and dred and twenty-four lines. By De greater durability, than that of any other Candolle's method, its age, therefore, is European tree; but I am not aware that, now one thousand two hundred and except by Professor Henslow, any at- twenty-four years; and the mass of contempt has been made to ascertain the centric zones of wood which compose its age of the venerable specimens scattered trunk, when taken in the aggregate, here and there, throughout our island, ought to have an average thickness of by an actual examination of their annual half a line or twenty-four in each inch, woody deposits. De Candolle says, that counting on a line drawn from the cir
measurements of the layers of three cumference to the centre, because, meayews, one of seventy-one, another of suring the diameter of the trunk, we take one hundred and fifty, and a third of two in the two opposite sides of the same hundred and eighty years old, agreed in circle. The results, however, of Mr. proving that this tree grows a little more Bowman's calculation, based upon prethan one line annually in diameter in the vious experiments, and assuming that first one hundred and fifty years, and a its early ratio of growth corresponded to little less from one hundred and fifty that of the young trees examined, differ to two hundred and fifty years." He from those of M. De Candolle; “We adds, “If we admit an average of a find its age, by the nearest approximaline annually, for very old yews, it is tion at which we can arrive, to be one probably within the truth ; and in thousand one hundred and nineteen reckoning the number of their years as years.”. A magnificent female yew tree, equal to that of the lines of their diame- in Darley in the Dale, Derbyshire, the ter, we shall make them to be younger mean circumference of whose trunk is than they really are.” I have a section twenty-eight feet four inches, he calcutaken near the base of a trunk, whose lates at about two thousand and six average annual increase of diameter, the
At first the age assigned to these first forty years, was two and a half lines. (and other) trees, examined by Mr. The average diameter of eighteen yews, Bowman, astonishes; but a careful perunow growing in the churchyard of Gres- sal of the paper, and of the experiments ford, near Wrexham, North Wales, made, will eradicate our doubts, and our which it is on record in the parish regis- faith, as he justly observes, will be ter, were planted out in 1726, is twenty strengthened, when we bear in mind that inches, or two hundred and forty lines, the laws of vegetable life are totally which gives a mean annual increase of different from those of the animal kingtwo lines in the diameter, allowing the dom. The age of many of our ordinary trees to be ten years old when planted yew trees, as ascertained by other means, out.
as registers, etc., exceeds three hundred I shall now give the result of my own years. The average circumference of examinations of two yews of extraor- the trunk of the yew, at about seventy dinary dimensions ; of whose age no or eighty years of age, is twenty inches. other evidence exists beyond that sup- Who, then, can contemplate a large yew plied by their internal structure. The tree, the ancient denizen of the soil on first stands in the churchyard of Gres- which it grows, and reflect upon the ford among the eighteen young ones changes that have taken place around it, already mentioned. It is a male tree, since it first raised its head, a slender its trunk sound to the very core ; its sapling, and not experience that feeling, numerous gigantic boughs spreading allied to reverence, which hoar antiquity widely full of foliage, and partially con- inspires: generation after generation cealing the splintered bases of others has passed away; era succeeded to era ; which have yielded to the storms of thrones and empires have failed, yet still past centuries. Its circumference at the the tree lives on, and when we are no base, is twenty-two feet; at two feet more, our descendants will behold it still high, it is twenty-three feet; at four wave its green branches, and bloom on feet five inches, twenty-six feet six the opening of a future year. M.
bays are filled up, the deposition of earth Pear is a substance of so much value, continues to proceed till the original peat in many parts of our own and other is buried to a considerable depth, and as countries, as a fuel, that a short descrip- such plains are generally brought into tion of its origin, varieties, and the situa- cultivation, it is never again renewed. tions in which it is found, may be inter- Alternations or deposits of marl are esting to our readers.
only found in those situations where the Peat is universally allowed to have had peat has been generated in a lake; and a vegetable origin, and is still produced they offer a criterion, not only of the forby the united action of moisture and mer existence of lakes which have long heat. In some situations it is found be. since disappeared, but are capable of deneath a body of water, in others it can termining, to a certain degree, the depth have been supplied with only a moderate which these once possessed.” quantity of that fluid. The heat also to The evidence which guides the geolowhich it has been subjected has varied, gist in distinguishing the comparative but the temperature most suited to its ages of strata, is equally important in production has not been determined. In every effort to determine the relative ages tropical countries, it is not found, or at of peat beds, and the deposits with which least at common elevations, for the de. they are associated. When we find a composition of vegetables is too rapid bed of peat beneath a loose sand or mud, to permit its formation. In England, we know that at some period it was coverIreland, Scotland, Holland, and other ed with water, and that the sand or mud temperate parts of the globe, peat beds was thus collected or deposited. There are by no means uncommon.
is not, however, the same facility in There are several varieties of peat tracing the connexion between a bed of which in commerce are recognised by peat and the stratum on which it rests. their relative weights, and have received We may imagine that in different places, the names of light, medium, and hard but at the same time, beds may be formpeat. The origin of these varieties may ing upon clay, chalk, marble, and gra be traced to the nature of the vegetable nite, or upon any other rocks attributed substance by which the bed is formed,- by geologists to different eras. The only the quantity of the water supplied, upon certain means, therefore, of determining which the state of vegetable decompo- the age of peat, in all cases, is by an exsition must, in a great measure, de-amination of the bed itself, and the subpend,—the thickness of the bed, and stances it contains. the pressure of the alluvial deposits In our description of the several varieresting upon it. Peat has been other-ties of peat, as dependent on situation, wise distinguished, by some writers, ac- "we shall principally follow the account cording to the situations in which it is given of them by Dr. Mac Culloch, exfound; and we have therefore mountain, cept in those cases where our own observforest, marsh, lake, and marine peat. -ation can guide us. In these situations, the substance may The term “mountain peat” is not have all the varieties distinguished in confined to those deposits which are
found on the sides of mountains, but inThe geological relation of peat, that is cludes all those produced in situations to say, its position in regard to other where the drainage is considerable. In deposits, is not less uncertain than its the highlands and islands of Scotland, it composition or texture. At one place, covers an amazing extent of country, we find it on a bare rock uncovered, at but is seldom more than one or two feet another, beneath a thick bed of alluvial in thickness, and generally not exceedsoil; while in a third, it alternates with ing a few inches. The moors are, for beds of sand, clay, or gravel. Dr. Mac the most part, covered with it.
“ The alternations of peat, article of fuel this variety is of little with sand and gravel, occur either on value, from its want of compactness and sea shores, at the estuaries of rivers, or the thinness of the beds. their termination in lakes; or in other Forest peat is that supposed to have situations where large quantities of these had its origin in forests, and is not, materials are carried down by rivers, so necessarily, as the term may, in the estias for a time to cover the plain, and de- mation of many readers, imply, peat stroy the process of vegetation. In those found in forests. The term, cases where large deltas are formed, or peat” is applied to all those kinds in
which timber is inclosed, or there may decomposition of grasses and rushes can be reason to suppose the mass partly de- effect this change in the course of a few rived its origin from the decayed trunks, years ; but wherever these are growing, branches, and roots of timber trees. In they arrest the progress of much earthy some instances, these large masses of matter that would otherwise be carried vegetable matter have been entirely de- into the deeper parts of the lake; but composed, whilst in others they remain so the mere decomposition of plants, withwell preserved that the species to which out any adventitious matter, would prothey belong may be readily distinguished. duce å bed of considerable thickness in At Maldon, in Essex, we examined on the course of a few years. There are the banks of a river a peat bed contain- certain plants, which botanists have calling many large trunks of trees, which ed perennial, that, after yielding their were chiefly oak, and of a black colour, blossoms, suffer a decay of the lower but so hard that they were used in build- extremities of their roots, but the upper ing by the lower classes. In other situa- portions send forth new shoots, and at tions, the trees have undergone a chemi- the appointed time, new flowers are procal change which renders them quite un- duced, so that they may be not inapprofit for the use of the carpenter, and yet priately called perpetual. Such plants, retain all their external characters. The having an annual renovation, are pecutrees most commonly found in the forest liarly adapted for the formation of peat, peat of this country are oak, beach, and whether in marshes, lakes, or upon the hazel, and in Scotland fir is abundant. margin of the sea. But although the
Marsh peat is that variety in which formation of peat is rapid in some places, the plant, called by botanists the sphag- it is exceedingly slow in others. The num palustre, is so abundant, that only method of ascertaining the time resome writers have attributed all depo-quired is generally by an examination of sits, of the same character, to the succes- the works of art, which they frequently sive growth and decomposition of this contain. A few years since, the palings of
When a bog is drained, this a park, described by Camden, were found variety of peat is produced ; but it is several feet beneath the surface of that more generally presented to our notice moss, over which the Manchester and as a stratum of vegetable roots, chiefly Liverpool railroad now runs. Roman coins by those of the rushes and grasses, retain and utensils are not unfrequently found ing much of the firmness by which they in the English peat beds. In Italy simiare distinguished when living. From lar records have been obtained at a depth this description, it will be evident that the of fifty feet from the surface; and the marsh peat is produced by the annual peat moss, near Lake Broom, is said to growth and partial decomposition of have been formed on a fallen_forest, plants, the bed constantly increasing in within a period of fifty years. This inthickness as new matter is added.
stance, however, gives us but little informLake peat only differs from the variety ation as to the time required for the just described, in the circumstance of its production of a peat bed. There are being produced in a lake, and being some situations where the circumstances formed of a different species of plants. are so favourable, that the gradual accumIn the shallow parts of a lake, as every ulation of vegetable matter may be obone knows, a number of aquatic plants served year after year; and others in flourish, many of them lifting their heads which generation after generation passes above the surface of the water, and pre- away with little or no perceptible senting their gaudy petals to the breath change. We have already stated that of heaven. The annual growth and de- peat beds are sometimes found resting cay of these, form, in connexion with upon solid rocks, and in such situations it the mineral and animal matter collected may well be supposed that the accumulaaround them, a constantly increasing tion has been very gradual, especially bed; and so rapid is the accumulation, during that period when the lichens and in some instances, that we may actually mosses were, by their annual growth and observe the gradual filling up of the decay, forming a soil for the more abunlake; and we may sometimes tread with dant production of their species. safety, or see, crowned with a luxuriant Peat beds may, by an agricultural harvest, the spot which our grandsires re- process, be brought into a proper state member to have been covered with water. for cultivation. To effect this, nature We do not mean to state that the mere must be studied, as well as the peculiar character of the peat itself. Pulveriza- , day, and in their circle, though soon to tion, or we shall perhaps more properly be distinguished no longer amidst the express ourselves by saying, a separation crowds that have preceded, and the of parts, is in all cases necessary. By
crowds that are following, draining, the addition of sand or calcar- “ Of names illustrious, born to be forgot." eous matter, or by burning, the peat is In most of these instances, a tithe would converted into a suitable vegetable soil. have been more creditable to the author,
and more acceptable to the public, than the whole harvest of thoughts," which
might well have been left in the quiet LETTER WRITING,
and beneficentcourse of nature to“ perish” One of the most innocent and exqui- with those who conceived them, and site pleasures of this life is that of hear- those to whom they were uttered at the ing from an absent friend. When we time, in the place, and on the occasions are suddenly reminded, by a letter, of one that called them forth, and made them who is dear to us, and see our name in precious. Of very few, then, among the the well-known hand on the direction, a few, whose relics of this kind are worth flash of delight pervades the whole frame; preserving, all that can be rescued from the heart beats with expectation, while oblivion is permanently valuable; for, the seal is being broken, and as the sheet in the majority of cases, it is principally is unfolded, goes forth in full benevo- so because of its rarity ; that which does lence to meet
the heart of the writer in remain, being so little in comparison with the perusal of its contents. An epistolary what is irrecoverably lost: for example, correspondence between intimate and en- the single letter of the younger Cato to deared connexions is a spiritual commu- Cicero, admirable and characteristic as nion, in which minds alone seem to min- it is of that extraordinary man. Even gle, and, unembarrassed by the bodily of the mightiest and most gifted of manpresence, converse with a freedom, a kind, the heroes or the writers of history fervour, and an eloquence rarely excited, and poetry, the private letters of not and perhaps never more felicitously in more than one or two in an age would dulged, in personal intercourse. Hence bear publication in multitude and bulk, the chief charm of a letter, if the term like Cowper's, any more than their saymay be so applied, is its individuality, as ings would bear repetition, without satiety a message from one whom we love or through excess, like Johnson's. esteem, according to the degree of kin or Several British authors have been so congeniality between us, sent expressly indiscreet as to favour the world with on an errand of kindness to ourselves. their own confidential letters; but probaThe consciousness that it was written bly not one has advanced his reputation to and for him, gives the receiver a pa- by the breach of faith which such a beramount interest in its existence, as well trayal (from vain or mercenary motives) as in its disclosures. To him, therefore, of personal and family concerns must it becomes an object of affection; and involve. The case is widely different, none but himself, however some others when literary adepts have been in the may sympathize with the feelings, can practice of writing essays on set subjects enter into it with the same degree of in- to their correspondents, with the secret effable emotion: that indeed is 66 a joy or avowed purpose of benefiting the with which a stranger intermeddleth world by their epistolary lucubrations, not."
which might as well have been directed It follows, that by far the greater to one as to another of their acquaintproportion of letters which are most ance, or indeed to nobody, except every welcomed and valued by those to whom body; for the latter of whom, in fact, they are addressed, would be read with they were properly intended. Such comparative indifference by all beside ; compositions (many of them excellent in for the familiar epistles of very few, and their kind) must therefore be regarded that only from the peculiar circumstances as regular treatises, not less skilfully deof the parties, can be so lively, touching, vised, and elaborately executed, than and original as to afford universal enter the most stately of their literary works. tainment or instruction. Of late years, In letter-writing, when the heart is it has become common to publish, rather earnestly engaged, the first thoughts in voluminously, the private correspond the first words are usually the best ;
for ence of persons distinguished in their it is thoughts, not words, that are to be communicated; and meaning, not man- course of things,' especially those things ner, which is mainly to be aimed at. that come to all men, in one form or The ideas that rise, and thicken as they another. But by strangers, the value of rise, in a mind full and overflowing letters, never designed for themselves, is with its subject, voluntarily embody estimated according to the knowledge, themselves in language the most easy which, from other sources than personal and appropriate ; yet are they so delicate acquaintanceship, they have acquired of and evanescent, that, unless caught in the parties, as distinguished in some way the first forms, they soon lose their cha- above the multitude among whom they racter and distinctness, blend with each lived; which knowledge has awakened other, and from being strikingly simple the very natural and laudable desire to in succession, become inextricably com- learn more about them individually, than plex in association, on account of their can be obtained from report, tradition, multiplicity and affinity. The thoughts or record, concerning their deeds or their that occur in letter writing will not stay studies, as those may have been performto be questioned; they must be taken at ed, or these matured for public use, if their word, or instantly dismissed. They not for the public good. What is real are like odours from a bank of vio- from the lips, the pens, or the hearts of lets ”-a breath-and away.
He that the illustrious of past ages, is incomparwould revel on the fragrance, by scenting ably more attractive and affecting than it hard and long, will feel that its delicious- all that can be put into their mouths in ness has eluded him; he may taste it tragedy, romance, or even history, when again and again and for a moment, but history (as too often it has done) acts the he might as well attempt to catch therain part of tragedy, or utters the language bow, and hold it, as longer to inhale and of romance. The speeches, the brief, detain the subtle and volatile sweetness. blunt speeches of generals to their He who once hesitates amidst the flow of armies, in ancient times, if they could fresh feelings and their spontaneous ex- have been transmitted to posterity, would pression, becomes unawares bewildered; have been far better (in the sense now and must either resolutely disengage under consideration) than the eloquent himself by darting right forward through harangues which their chroniclers have the throng of materials, to recover the made for them. No man can think anfreedom of his pen, or he must patiently other man's thoughts, except through select, arrange, and array them, as in a that man's own words; much less ex. premeditated exercise of his mind on a press them as he himself would have given theme.
done, from general and abstract knowAs the sweetest sensation communica- ledge, necessarily imperfect, of what ble by a letter can only be once enjoyed, they were, according to rumour or conand that in perfection by him alone to jecture. How is it that the minutest inwhom it was addressed-like a pleasure cidents related by an eye and ear witof hope suddenly realized, though it may ness, especially concerning his own exbe often renewed with less exalting, but perience, his labours, privations, and more enduring delight as a pleasure of sufferings, on foreign travel, in sickness, memory-so the gratification which may perils, difficulties of any kind, among be experienced by strangers who peruse barbarians, like the cannibals of New epistolary memorials of the distant or the Zealand, or semi-civilized neutrals, like dead, and of course, are but partially in the Hindoos—how comes it that these terested in their contents, must be pecu- are much more impressive and soul liar in its kind, and greatly different from stirring to his audience, on missionary that of the writers and receivers. To occasions, for example, from his own the latter every thing included is import- mouth, by the living voice, ranging ant; the common-place passages, topics, through all its modulations, aided by his and allusions, often being most so, be- animated looks, and their momentary cause these come home to their bosoms changes; his manner, emphasis, action, and business; their hopes and their and even his dialect, being each perhappiness; their possessions, prospects, sonal, peculiar, and according with the relationships ; all that they are, and all influence of the subject on himself-how that they hold in connexion with their comes it that the minutest incidents thus kindred, their friends, and their neigh- told, are much more affecting and imbours; and, at the same time, being pressive upon his auditors, than finished, more or less implicated with the ordinary comprehensive, and symmetrical details