The Botanic Garden - A Poem in Two Parts. Part 1: The Economy of Vegetation
by Erasmus Darwin
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Or sphere on sphere in widening waves expand, And glad with genial warmth the incumbent land.

CANTO I. l. 143.

A certain quantity of heat seems to be combined with all bodies besides the sensible quantity which gravitates like the electric fluid amongst them. This combined heat or latent heat of Dr. Black, when set at liberty by fermentation, inflammation, crystallization, freezing, or other chemical attractions producing new combinations, passes as a fluid element into the surrounding bodies. And by thawing, diffusion of neutral salts in water, melting, and other chemical solutions, a portion of heat is attracted from the bodies in vicinity and enters into or becomes combined with the new solutions.

Hence a combination of metals with acids, of essential oils and acids, of alcohol and water, of acids and water, give out heat; whilst a solution of snow in water or in acids, and of neutral salts in water, attract heat from the surrounding bodies. So the acid of nitre mixed with oil of cloves unites with it and produces a most violent flame; the same acid of nitre poured on snow instantly dissolves it and produces the greatest degree of cold yet known, by which at Petersburgh quicksilver was first frozen in 1760.

Water may be cooled below 32 without being frozen, if it be placed on a solid floor and secured from agitation, but when thus cooled below the freezing point the least agitation turns part of it suddenly into ice, and when this sudden freezing takes place a thermometer placed in it instantly rises as some heat is given out in the act of congelation, and the ice is thus left with the same sensible degree of cold as the water had possessed before it was agitated, but is nevertheless now combined with less latent heat.

A cubic inch of water thus cooled down to 32 deg. mixed with an equal quantity of boiling water at 212 deg. will cool it to the middle number between these two, or to 122. But a cubic inch of ice whose sensible cold also is but 32, mixed with an equal quantity of boiling water, will cool it six times as much as the cubic inch of cold water above-mentioned, as the ice not only gains its share of the sensible or gravitating heat of the boiling water but attracts to itself also and combines with the quantity of latent heat which it had lost at the time of its congelation.

So boiling water will acquire but 212 deg. of heat under the common pressure of the atmosphere, but the steam raised from it by its expansion or by its solution in the atmosphere combines with and carries away a prodigious quantity of heat which it again parts with on its condensation; as is seen in common distillation where the large quantity of water in the worm-tub is so soon heated. Hence the evaporation of ether on a thermometer soon sinks the mercury below freezing, and hence a warmth of the air in winter frequently succeeds a shower.

When the matter of heat or calorique is set at liberty from its combinations, as by inflammation, it passes into the surrounding bodies, which possess different capacities of acquiring their share of the loose or sensible heat; thus a pint measure of cold water at 48 deg. mixed with a pint of boiling water at 212 deg. will cool it to the degree between these two numbers, or to 154 deg., but it requires two pint measures of quicksilver at 48 deg. of heat to cool one pint of water as above. These and other curious experiments are adduced by Dr. Black to evince the existance of combined or latent heat in bodies, as has been explained by some of his pupils, and well illustrated by Dr. Crawford. The world has long been in expectation of an account of his discoveries on this subject by the celebrated author himself.

As this doctrine of elementary heat in its fluid and combined state is not yet universally received, I shall here add two arguments in support of it drawn from different sources, viz. from the heat given out or absorbed by the mechanical condensation or expansion of the air, and perhaps of other bodies, and from the analogy of the various phenomena of heat with those of electricity.

I. If a thermometer be placed in the receiver of an air-pump, and the air hastily exhausted, the thermometer will sink some degrees, and the glass become steamy; the same occurs in hastily admitting a part of the air again. This I suppose to be produced by the expansion of part of the air, both during the exhaustion and re-admission of it; and that the air so expanded becomes capable of attracting from the bodies in its vicinity a part of their heat, hence the vapours contained in it and the glass receiver are for a time colder and the steam is precipitated. That the air thus parts with its moisture from the cold occasioned by its rarefaction and not simply by the rarefaction itself is evident, because in a minute or two the same rarefied air will again take up the dew deposited on the receiver; and because water will evaporate sooner in rare than in dense air.

There is a curious phenomenon similar to this observed in the fountain of Hiero constructed on a large scale at the Chemnicensian mines in Hungary. In this machine the air in a large vessel is compressed by a column of water 260 feet high, a stop-cock is then opened, and as the air issues out with great vehemence, and thus becomes immediately greatly expanded, so much cold is produced that the moisture from this stream of air is precipitated in the form of snow, and ice is formed adhering to the nosel of the cock. This remarkable circumstance is described at large with a plate of the machine in Philos. Trans. Vol. LII. for 1761.

The following experiment is related by Dr. Darwin in the Philos. Trans. Vol. LXXVIII. Having charged an air-gun as forcibly as he well could the air-cell and syringe became exceedingly hot, much more so than could be ascribed to the friction in working it; it was then left about half an hour to cool down to the temperature of the air, and a thermometer having been previously fixed against a wall, the air was discharged in a continual stream on its bulb, and it sunk many degrees. From these three experiments of the steam in the exhausted receiver being deposited and re-absorbed, when a part of the air is exhausted or re-admitted, and the snow produced by the fountain of Hiero, and the extraordinary heat given out in charging, and the cold produced in discharging an air-gun, there is reason to conclude that when air is mechanically compressed the elementary fluid heat is pressed out of it, and that when it is mechanically expanded the same fluid heat is re-absorbed from the common mass.

It is probable all other bodies as well as air attract heat from their neighbours when they are mechanically expanded, and give it out when they are mechanically condensed. Thus when a vibration of the particles of hard bodies is excited by friction or by percussion, these particles mutually recede from and approach each other reciprocally; at the times of their recession from each other, the body becomes enlarged in bulk, and is then in a condition to attract heat from those in its vicinity with great and sudden power; at the times of their approach to each other this heat is again given out, but the bodies in contact having in the mean while received the heat they had thus lost, from other bodies behind them, do not so suddenly or so forcibly re-absorb the heat again from the body in vibration; hence it remains on its surface like the electric fluid on a rubbed glass globe, and for the same reason, because there is no good conductor to take it up again. Hence at every vibration more and more heat is acquired and stands loose upon the surface; as in filing metals or rubbing glass tubes; and thus a smith with a few strokes on a nail on his anvil can make it hot enough to light a brimstone-match; and hence in striking flint and steel together heat enough is produced to vitrify the parts thus strucken off, the quantity of which heat is again probably increased by the new chemical combination.

II. The analogy between the phenomena of the electric fluid and of heat furnishes another argument in support of the existence of heat as a gravitating fluid. 1. They are both accumulated by friction on the excited body. 2. They are propagated easily or with difficalty along the same classes of bodies; with ease by metals, with less ease by water; and with difficulty by resins, bees-wax, silk, air, and glass. Thus glass canes or canes of sealing-wax may be melted by a blow-pipe or a candle within a quarter of an inch of the fingers which hold them, without any inconvenient heat, while a pin or other metallic substance applyed to the flame of a candle so readily conducts the heat as immediately to burn the fingers. Hence clothes of silk keep the body warmer than clothes of linen of equal thickness, by confining the heat upon the body. And hence plains are so much warmer than the summits of mountains by the greater density of the air confining the acquired heat upon them. 3. They both give out light in their passage through air, perhaps not in their passage through a vacuum. 4. They both of them fuse or vitrify metals. 5. Bodies after being electrized if they are mechanically extended will receive a greater quantity of electricity, as in Dr. Franklin's experiment of the chain in the tankard; the same seems true in respect to heat as explained above. 6. Both heat and electricity contribute to suspend steam in the atmosphere by producing or increasing the repulsion of its particles. 7. They both gravitate, when they have been accumulated, till they find their equilibrium.

If we add to the above the many chemical experiments which receive an easy and elegant explanation from the supposed matter of heat, as employed in the works of Bergman and Lavoisier, I think we may reasonably allow of its existence as an element, occasionally combined with other bodies, and occasionally existing as a fluid, like the electric fluid gravitating amongst them, and that hence it may be propagated from the central fires of the earth to the whole mass, and contribute to preserve the mean heat of the earth, which in this country is about 48 degrees but variable from the greater or less effect of the sun's heat in different climates, so well explained in Mr. Kirwan's Treatise on the Temperature of different Latitudes. 1787, Elmsly. London.


So to the sacred Sun in Memnon's fane Spontaneous concords quired the matin strain.

CANTO I. l. 183.

The gigantic statue of Memnon in his temple at Thebes had a lyre in his hands, which many credible writers assure us, sounded when the rising sun shone upon it. Some philosophers have supposed that the sun's light possesses a mechanical impulse, and that the sounds abovementioned might be thence produced. Mr. Michell constructed a very tender horizontal balance, as related by Dr. Priestley in his history of light and colours, for this purpose, but some experiments with this balance which I saw made by the late Dr. Powel, who threw the focus of a large reflector on one extremity of it, were not conclusive either way, as the copper leaf of the balance approached in one experiment and receded in another.

There are however methods by which either a rotative or alternating motion may be produced by very moderate degrees of heat. If a straight glass tube, such as are used for barometers, be suspended horizontally before a fire, like a roasting spit, it will revolve by intervals; for as glass is a bad conductor of heat the side next the fire becomes heated sooner than the opposite side, and the tube becomes bent into a bow with the external part of the curve towards the fire, this curve then falls down and produces a fourth part of a revolution of the glass tube, which thus revolves with intermediate pauses.

Another alternating motion I have seen produced by suspending a glass tube about eight inches long with bulbs at each end on a centre like a scale beam. This curious machine is filled about one third part with purest spirit of wine, the other two thirds being a vacuum, and is called a pulse-glass, if it be placed in a box before the fire, so that either bulb, as it rises, may become shaded from the fire, and exposed to it when it descends, an alternate libration of it is produced. For spirit of wine in vacuo emits steam by a very small degree of heat, and this steam forces the spirit beneath it up into the upper bulb, which therefore descends. It is probable such a machine on a larger scale might be of use to open the doors or windows of hot-houses or mellon- frames, when the air within them should become too much heated, or might be employed in more important mechanical purposes.

On travelling through a hot summer's day in a chaise with a box covered with leather on the fore-axle-tree, I observed, as the sun shone upon the black leather, the box began to open its lid, which at noon rose above a foot, and could not without great force be pressed down; and which gradually closed again as the sun declined in the evening. This I suppose might with still greater facility be applied to the purpose of opening melon-frames or the sashes of hot-houses.

The statue of Memnon was overthrown and sawed in two by Cambyses to discover its internal structure, and is said still to exist. See Savary's Letters on Egypt. The truncated statue is said for many centuries to have saluted the rising sun with chearful tones, and the setting sun with melancholy ones.


Star of the earth, and diamond of the night.

CANTO I. l. 196.

There are eighteen species of Lampyris or glow-worm, according to Linneus, some of which are found in almost every part of the world. In many of the species the females have no wings, and are supposed to be discovered by the winged males by their shining in the night. They become much more lucid when they put themselves in motion, which would seem to indicate that their light is owing to their respiration; in which process it is probable phosphoric acid is produced by the combination of vital air with some part of the blood, and that light is given out through their transparent bodies by this slow internal combustion.

There is a fire-fly of the beetle-kind described in the Dict. Raisonne under the name of Acudia, which is said to be two inches long, and inhabits the West-Indies and South America; the natives use them instead of candles, putting from one to three of them under a glass. Madam Merian says, that at Surinam the light of this fly is so great, that she saw sufficiently well by one of them to paint and finish one of the figures of them in her work on insects. The largest and oldest of them are said to become four inches long, and to shine like a shooting star as they fly, and are thence called Lantern-bearers. The use of this light to the insect itself seems to be that it may not fly against objects in the night; by which contrivance these insects are enabled to procure their sustenance either by night or day, as their wants may require, or their numerous enemies permit them; whereas some of our beetles have eyes adapted only to the night, and if they happen to come abroad too soon in the evening are so dazzled that they fly against every thing in their way. See note on Phosphorus, No. X.

In some seas, as particularly about the coast of Malabar, as a ship floats along, it seems during the night to be surrounded with fire, and to leave a long tract of light behind it. Whenever the sea is gently agitated it seems converted into little stars, every drop as it breaks emits light, like bodies electrified in the dark. Mr. Bomare says, that when he was at the port of Cettes in Languedoc, and bathing with a companion in the sea after a very hot day, they both appeared covered with fire after every immersion, and that laying his wet hand on the arm of his companion, who had not then dipped himself, the exact mark of his hand and fingers was seen in characters of fire. As numerous microscopic insects are found in this shining water, its light has been generally ascribed to them, though it seems probable that fish-slime in hot countries may become in such a state of incipient putrefaction as to give light, especially when by agitation it is more exposed to the air; otherwise it is not easy to explain why agitation should be necessary to produce this marine light. See note on Phosphorus No. X.


Or mark in shining letters Kunckel's name In the pale phosphor's self-consuming flame.

CANTO I. l. 231.

Kunckel, a native of Hamburgh, was the first who discovered to the world the process for producing phosphorus; though Brandt and Boyle were likewise said to have previously had the art of making it. It was obtained from sal microcosmicum by evaporation in the form of an acid, but has since been found in other animal substances, as in the ashes of bones, and even in some vegetables, as in wheat flour. Keir's chemical Dict. This phosphoric acid is like all other acids united with vital air, and requires to be treated with charcoal or phlogiston to deprive it of this air, it then becomes a kind of animal sulphur, but of so inflammable a nature, that on the access of air it takes fire spontaneously, and as it burns becomes again united with vital air, and re-assumes its form of phosphoric acid.

As animal respiration seems to be a kind of slow combustion, in which it is probable that phosphoric acid is produced by the union of phosphorus with the vital air, so it is also probable that phosphoric acid is produced in the excretory or respiratory vessels of luminous insects, as the glow-worm and fire-fly, and some marine insects. From the same principle I suppose the light from putrid fish, as from the heads of hadocks, and from putrid veal, and from rotten wood in a certain state of their putrefaction, is produced, and phosphorus thus slowly combined with air is changed into phosphoric acid. The light from the Bolognian stone, and from calcined shells, and from white paper, and linen after having been exposed for a time to the sun's light, seem to produce either the phosphoric or some other kind of acid from the sulphurous or phlogistic matter which they contain. See note on Beccari's shells. l. 180.

There is another process seems similar to this slow combustion, and that is bleaching. By the warmth and light of the sun the water sprinkled upon linen or cotton cloth seems to be decomposed, (if we credit the theory of M. Lavoisier,) and a part of the vital air thus set at liberty and uncombined and not being in its elastic form, more easily dissolves the colouring or phlogistic matter of the cloth, and produces a new acid, which is itself colourless, or is washed out of the cloth by water. The new process of bleaching confirms a part of this theory, for by uniting much vital air to marine acid by distilling it from manganese, on dipping the cloth to be bleached in water repleat with this super-aerated marine acid, the colouring matter disappears immediately, sooner indeed in cotton than in linen. See note XXXIV.

There is another process which I suspect bears analogy to these above- mentioned, and that is the rancidity of animal fat, as of bacon; if bacon be hung up in a warm kitchen, with much salt adhering on the outside of it, the fat part of it soon becomes yellow and rancid; if it be washed with much cold water after it has imbibed the salt, and just before it is hung up, I am well informed, that it will not become rancid, or in very slight degrees. In the former case I imagine the salt on the surface of the bacon attracts water during the cold of the night, which is evaporated during the day, and that in this evaporation a part of the water becomes decomposed, as in bleaching, and its vital air uniting with greater facility in its unelastic state with the animal fat, produces an acid, perhaps of the phosphoric kind, which being of a fixed nature lies upon the bacon, giving it the yellow colour and rancid taste. It is remarkable that the super-aerated marine acid does not bleach living animal substances, at least it did not whiten a part of my hand which I for some minutes exposed to it.


Quick moves the balanced beam, of giant-birth, Wields his large limbs, and nodding shakes the earth.

CANTO I. l. 261.

The expansive force of steam was known in some degree to the antients, Hero of Alexandria describes an application of it to produce a rotative motion by the re-action of steam issuing from a sphere mounted upon an axis, through two small tubes bent into tangents, and issuing from the opposite sides of the equatorial diameter of the sphere, the sphere was supplied with steam by a pipe communicating with a pan of boiling water, and entering the sphere at one of its poles.

A french writer about the year 1630 describes a method of raising water to the upper part of a house by filling a chamber with steam, and suffering it to condense of itself, but it seems to have been mere theory, as his method was scarcely practicable as he describes it. In 1655 the Marquis of Worcester mentions a method of raising water by fire in his Century of Inventions, but he seems only to have availed himself of the expansive force and not to have known the advantages arising from condensing the steam by an injection of cold water. This latter and most important improvement seems to have been made by Capt. Savery sometime prior to 1698, for in that year his patent for the use of that invention was confirmed by act of parliament. This gentleman appears to have been the first who reduced the machine to practice and exhibited it in an useful form. This method consisted only in expelling the air from a vessel by steam and condensing the steam by an injection of cold water, which making a vacuum, the pressure of the atmosphere forced the water to ascend into the steam-vessel through a pipe of 24 to 26 feet high, and by the admission of dense steam from the boiler, forcing the water in the steam-vessel to ascend to the height desired. This construction was defective because it required very strong vessels to resist the force of the steam, and because an enormous quantity of steam was condensed by coming in contact with the cold water in the steam-vessel.

About or soon after that time M. Papin attempted a steam-engine on similar principles but rather more defective in its construction.

The next improvement was made very soon afterwards by Messrs. Newcomen and Cawley of Dartmouth, it consisted in employing for the steam-vessel a hollow cylinder, shut at bottom and open at top, furnished with a piston sliding easily up and down in it, and made tight by oakum or hemp, and covered with water. This piston is suspended by chains from one end of a beam, moveable upon an axis in the middle of its length, to the other end of this beam are suspended the pump-rods.

The danger of bursting the vessels was avoided in this machine, as however high the water was to be raised it was not necessary to increase the density of the steam but only to enlarge the diameter of the cylinder.

Another advantage was, that the cylinder not being made so cold as in Savary's method, much less steam was lost in filling it after each condensation.

The machine however still remained imperfect, for the cold water thrown into the cylinder acquired heat from the steam it condensed, and being in a vessel exhausted of air it produced steam itself, which in part resisted the action of the atmosphere on the piston; were this remedied by throwing in more cold water the destruction of steam in the next filling of the cylinder would be proportionally increased. It has therefore in practice been found adviseable not to load these engines with columns of water weighing more than seven pounds for each square inch of the area of the piston. The bulk of water when converted into steam remained unknown until Mr. J. Watt, then of Glasgow, in 1764, determined it to be about 1800 times more rare than water. It soon occurred to Mr. Watt that a perfect engine would be that in which no steam should be condensed in filling the cylinder, and in which the steam should be so perfectly cooled as to produce nearly a perfect vacuum.

Mr. Watt having ascertained the degree of heat in which water boiled in vacuo, and under progressive degrees of pressure, and instructed by Dr. Black's discovery of latent heat, having calculated the quantity of cold water necessary to condense certain quantities of steam so far as to produce the exhaustion required, he made a communication from the cylinder to a cold vessel previously exhausted of air and water, into which the steam rushed by its elasticity, and became immediately condensed. He then adapted a cover to the cylinder and admitted steam above the piston to press it down instead of air, and instead of applying water he used oil or grease to fill the pores of the oakum and to lubricate the cylinder.

He next applied a pump to extract the injection water, the condensed steam, and the air, from the condensing vessel, every stroke of the engine.

To prevent the cooling of the cylinder by the contact of the external air, he surrounded it with a case containing steam, which he again protected by a covering of matters which conduct heat slowly.

This construction presented an easy means of regulating the power of the engine, for the steam being the acting power, as the pipe which admits it from the boiler is more or less opened, a greater or smaller quantity can enter during the time of a stroke, and consequently the engine can act with exactly the necessary degree of energy.

Mr. Watt gained a patent for his engine in 1768, but the further persecution of his designs were delayed by other avocations till 1775, when in conjunction with Mr. Boulton of Soho near Birmingham, numerous experiments were made on a large scale by their united ingenuity, and great improvements added to the machinery, and an act of parliament obtained for the prolongation of their patent for twenty-five years, they have since that time drained many of the deep mines in Cornwall, which but for the happy union of such genius must immediately have ceased to work. One of these engines works a pump of eighteen inches diameter, and upwards of 100 fathom or 600 feet high, at the rate of ten to twelve strokes of seven feet long each, in a minute, and that with one fifth part of the coals which a common engine would have taken to do the same work. The power of this engine may be easier comprehended by saying that it raised a weight equal to 81000 pounds 80 feet high in a minute, which is equal to the combined action of 200 good horses. In Newcomen's engine this would have required a cylinder of the enormous diameter of 120 inches or ten feet, but as in this engine of Mr. Watt and Mr. Boulton the steam acts, and a vacuum is made, alternately above and below the piston, the power exerted is double to what the same cylinder would otherways produce, and is further augmented by an inequality in the length of the two ends of the lever.

These gentlemen have also by other contrivances applied their engines to the turning of mills for almost every purpose, of which that great pile of machinery the Albion Mill is a well known instance. Forges, slitting mills, and other great works are erected where nature has furnished no running water, and future times may boast that this grand and useful engine was invented and perfected in our own country.

Since the above article went to the press the Albion Mill is no more; it is supposed to have been set on fire by interested or malicious incendaries, and is burnt to the ground. Whence London has lost the credit and the advantage of possessing the most powerful machine in the world!


In phalanx firm the fiend of Frost assail.

CANTO I. l. 439.

The cause of the expansion of water during its conversion into ice is not yet well ascertained, it was supposed to have been owing to the air being set at liberty in the act of congelation which was before dissolved in the water, and the many air bubbles in ice were thought to countenance this opinion. But the great force with which ice expands during its congelation, so as to burst iron bombs and coehorns, according to the experiments of Major Williams at Quebec, invalidates this idea of the cause of it, and may sometime be brought into use as a means of breaking rocks in mining, or projecting cannon-balls, or for other mechanical purposes, if the means of producing congelation should ever be discovered to be as easy as the means of producing combustion.

Mr. de Mairan attributes the increase of bulk of frozen water to the different arrangement of the particles of it in crystallization, as they are constantly joined at an angle of 60 degrees; and must by this disposition he thinks occupy a greater volume than if they were parallel. He found the augmentation of the water during freezing to amount to one-fourteenth, one-eighteenth, one-nineteenth, and when the water was previously purged of air to only one-twenty-second part. He adds that a piece of ice, which was at first only one-fourteenth part specifically lighter than water, on being exposed some days to the frost became one-twelfth lighter than water. Hence he thinks ice by being exposed to greater cold still increases in volume, and to this attributes the bursting of ice in ponds and on the glaciers. See Lewis's Commerce of Arts, p. 257. and the note on Muschus in the other volume of this work.

This expansion of ice well accounts for the greater mischief done by vernal frosts attended with moisture, (as by hoar-frosts,) than by the dry frosts called black frosts. Mr. Lawrence in a letter to Mr. Bradley complains that the dale-mist attended with a frost on may-day had destroyed all his tender fruits; though there was a sharper frost the night before without a mist, that did him no injury; and adds, that a garden not a stone's throw from his own on a higher situation, being above the dale-mist, had received no damage. Bradley, Vol. II. p. 232.

Mr. Hunter by very curious experiments discovered that the living principle in fish, in vegetables, and even in eggs and seeds, possesses a power of resisting congelation. Phil. Trans. There can be no doubt but that the exertions of animals to avoid the pain of cold may produce in them a greater quantity of heat, at least for a time, but that vegetables, eggs, or seeds, should possess such a quality is truly wonderful. Others have imagined that animals possess a power of preventing themselves from becoming much warmer than 98 degrees of heat, when immersed in an atmosphere above that degree of heat. It is true that the increased exhalation from their bodies will in some measure cool them, as much heat is carried off by the evaporation of fluids, but this is a chemical not an animal process. The experiments made by those who continued many minutes in the air of a room heated so much above any natural atmospheric heat, do not seem conclusive, as they remained in it a less time than would have been necessary to have heated a mass of beef of the same magnitude, and the circulation of the blood in living animals, by perpetually bringing new supplies of fluid to the skin, would prevent the external surface from becoming hot much sooner than the whole mass. And thirdly, there appears no power of animal bodies to produce cold in diseases, as in scarlet fever, in which the increased action of the vessels of the skin produces heat and contributes to exhaust the animal power already too much weakened.

It has been thought by many that frosts meliorate the ground, and that they are in general salubrious to mankind. In respect to the former it is now well known that ice or snow contain no nitrous particles, and though frost by enlarging the bulk of moist clay leaves it softer for a time after the thaw, yet as soon as the water exhales, the clay becomes as hard as before, being pressed together by the incumbent atmosphere, and by its self-attraction, called setting by the potters. Add to this that on the coasts of Africa, where frost is unknown, the fertility of the soil is almost beyond our conceptions of it. In respect to the general salubrity of frosty seasons the bills of mortality are an evidence in the negative, as in long frosts many weakly and old people perish from debility occasioned by the cold, and many classes of birds and other wild animals are benumbed by the cold or destroyed by the consequent scarcity of food, and many tender vegetables perish from the degree of cold.

I do not think it should be objected to this doctrine that there are moist days attended with a brisk cold wind when no visible ice appears, and which are yet more disagreeable and destructive than frosty weather. For on these days the cold moisture, which is deposited on the skin is there evaporated and thus produces a degree of cold perhaps greater than the milder frosts. Whence even in such days both the disagreeable sensations and insalubrious effects belong to the cause abovementioned, viz. the intensity of the cold. Add to this that in these cold moist days as we pass along or as the wind blows upon us, a new sheet of cold water is as it were perpetually applied to us and hangs upon our bodies, now as water is 800 times denser than air and is a much better conductor of heat, we are starved with cold like those who go into a cold bath, both by the great number of particles in contact with the skin and their greater facility of receiving our heat.

It may nevertheless be true that snows of long duration in our winters may be less injurious to vegetation than great rains and shorter frosts, for two reasons. 1. Because great rains carry down many thousand pounds worth of the best part of the manure off the lands into the sea, whereas snow dissolves more gradually and thence carries away less from the land; any one may distinguish a snow-flood from a rain-flood by the transparency of the water. Hence hills or fields with considerable inclination of surface should be ploughed horizontally that the furrows may stay the water from showers till it deposits its mud. 2. Snow protects vegetables from the severity of the frost, since it is always in a state of thaw where it is in contact with the earth; as the earth's heat is about 48 deg. and the heat of thawing snow is 32 deg. the vegetables between them are kept in a degree of heat about 40, by which many of them are preserved. See note on Muschus, Vol. II. of this work.


Cold from each point cerulean lustres gleam.

CANTO I. l. 339.


There was an idle dispute whether knobs or points were preferable on the top of conductors for the defence of houses. The design of these conductors is to permit the electric matter accumulated in the clouds to pass through them into the earth in a smaller continued stream as the cloud approaches, before it comes to what is termed striking distance; now as it is well known that accumulated electricity will pass to points at a much greater distance than it will to knobs there can be no doubt of their preference; and it would seem that the finer the point and the less liable to become rusty the better, as it would take off the lightening while it was still at a greater distance, and by that means preserve a greater extent of building; the very extremity of the point should be of pure silver or gold, and might be branched into a kind of brush, since one small point can not be supposed to receive so great a quantity as a thicker bar might conduct into the earth.

If an insulated metallic ball is armed with a point, like a needle, projecting from one part of it, the electric fluid will be seen in the dark to pass off from this point, so long as the ball is kept supplied with electricity. The reason of this is not difficult to comprehend, every part of the electric atmosphere which surrounds the insulated ball is attracted to that ball by a large surface of it, whereas the electric atmosphere which is near the extremity of the needle is attracted to it by only a single point, in consequence the particles of electric matter near the surface of the ball approach towards it and push off by their greater gravitation the particles of electric matter over the point of the needle in a continued stream.

Something like this happens in respect to the diffusion of oil on water from a pointed cork, an experiment which was many years ago shewn me by Dr. Franklin; he cut a piece of cork about the size of a letter-wafer and left on one edge of it a point about a sixth of an inch in length projecting as a tangent to the circumference. This was dipped in oil and thrown on a pond of water and continued to revolve as the oil left the point for a great many minutes. The oil descends from the floating cork upon the water being diffused upon it without friction and perhaps without contact; but its going off at the point so forcibly as to make the cork revolve in a contrary direction seems analogous to the departure of the electric fluid from points.

Can any thing similar to either of these happen in respect to the earth's atmosphere and give occasion to the breezes on the tops of mountains, which may be considered as points on the earths circumference?


There is a phenomenon supposed to be electric which is yet unaccounted for, I mean the Fairy-rings, as they are called, so often seen on the grass. The numerous flashes of lightning which occur every summer are, I believe, generally discharged on the earth, and but seldom (if ever) from one cloud to another. Moist trees are the most frequent conductors of these flashes of lightning, and I am informed by purchasers of wood that innumerable trees are thus cracked and injured. At other times larger parts or prominences of clouds gradually sinking as they move along, are discharged on the moisture parts of grassy plains. Now this knob or corner of a cloud in being attracted by the earth will become nearly cylindrical, as loose wool would do when drawn out into a thread, and will strike the earth with a stream of electricity perhaps two or ten yards in diameter. Now as a stream of electricity displaces the air it passes through, it is plain no part of the grass can be burnt by it, but just the external ring of this cylinder where the grass can have access to the air, since without air nothing can be calcined. This earth after having been so calcined becomes a richer soil, and either funguses or a bluer grass for many years mark the place. That lightning displaces the air in its passage is evinced by the loud crack that succeeds it, which is owing to the sides of the aerial vacuum clapping together when the lightning is withdrawn. That nothing will calcine without air is now well understood from the acids produced in the burning of phlogistic substances, and may be agreeably seen by suspending a paper on an iron prong and putting it into the centre of the blaze of an iron-furnace; it may be held there some seconds and may be again withdrawn without its being burnt, if it be passed quickly into the flame and out again through the external part of it which is in contact with the air. I know some circles of many yards diameter of this kind near Foremark in Derbyshire which annually produce large white funguses and stronger grass, and have done so, I am informed, above thirty years. This increased fertility of the ground by calcination or charring, and its continuing to operate so many years is well worth the attention of the farmer, and shews the use of paring and burning new turf in agriculture, which produces its effect not so much by the ashes of the vegetable fibres as by charring the soil which adheres to them.

These situations, whether from eminence or from moisture, which were proper once to attract and discharge a thunder-cloud, are more liable again to experience the same. Hence many fairy-rings are often seen near each other either without intersecting each other, as I saw this summer in a garden in Nottinghamshire, or intersecting each other as described on Arthur's seat near Edinburgh in the Edinb. Trans. Vol. II. p. 3.


Where dwell my vegetative realms benumb'd In buds imprison'd, or in bulbs intomb'd.

CANTO I. l. 459.

A tree is properly speaking a family or swarm of buds, each bud being an individual plant, for if one of these buds be torn or cut out and planted in the earth with a glass cup inverted over it to prevent its exhalation from being at first greater than its power of absorption, it will produce a tree similar to its parent; each bud has a leaf, which is its lungs, appropriated to it, and the bark of the tree is a congeries of the roots of these individual buds, whence old hollow trees are often seen to have some branches flourish with vigour after the internal wood is almost intirely decayed and vanished. According to this idea Linneus has observed that trees and shrubs are roots above ground, for if a tree be inverted leaves will grow from the root-part and roots from the trunk-part. Phil. Bot p. 39. Hence it appears that vegetables have two methods of propagating themselves, the oviparous as by seeds, and the viviparous as by their buds and bulbs, and that the individual plants, whether from seeds or buds or bulbs, are all annual productions like many kinds of insects as the silk-worm, the parent perishing in the autumn after having produced an embryon, which lies in a torpid state during the winter, and is matured in the succeeding summer. Hence Linneus names buds and bulbs the winter-cradles of the plant or hybernacula, and might have given the same term to seeds. In warm climates few plants produce buds, as the vegetable life can be compleated in one summer, and hence the hybernacle is not wanted; in cold climates also some plants do not produce buds, as philadelphus, frangula, viburnum, ivy, heath, wood-nightshade, rue, geranium.

The bulbs of plants are another kind of winter-cradle, or hybernacle, adhering to the descending trunk, and are found in the perennial herbaceous plants which are too tender to bear the cold of the winter. The production of these subterraneous winter lodges, is not yet perhaps clearly understood, they have been distributed by Linneus according to their forms into scaly, solid, coated, and jointed bulbs, which however does not elucidate their manner of production. As the buds of trees may be truly esteemed individual annual plants, their roots constituting the bark of the tree, it follows that these roots (viz. of each individual bud) spread themselves over the last years bark, making a new bark over the old one, and thence descending cover with a new bark the old roots also in the same manner. A similar circumstance I suppose to happen in some herbaceous plants, that is, a new bark is annually produced over the old root, and thus for some years at least the old root or caudex increases in size and puts up new stems. As these roots increase in size the central part I suppose changes like the internal wood of a tree and does not possess any vegetable life, and therefore gives out no fibres or rootlets, and hence appears bitten off, as in valerian, plantain, and devil's-bit. And this decay of the central part of the root I suppose has given occasion to the belief of the root-fibres drawing down the bulb so much insisted on by Mr. Milne in his Botanical Dictionary, Art. Bulb.

From the observations and drawings of various kinds of bulbous roots at different times of their growth, sent me by a young lady of nice observation, it appears probable that all bulbous roots properly so called perish annually in this climate: Bradley, Miller, and the Author of Spectacle de la Nature, observe that the tulip annually renews its bulb, for the stalk of the old flower is found under the old dry coat but on the outside of the new bulb. This large new bulb is the flowering bulb, but besides this there are other small new bulbs produced between the coats of this large one but from the same caudex, (or circle from which the root-fibres spring;) these small bulbs are leaf-bearing bulbs, and renew themselves annually with increasing size till they bear flowers.

Miss —— favoured me with the following curious experiment: She took a small tulip-root out of the earth when the green leaves were sufficiently high to show the flower, and placed it in a glass of water; the leaves and flower soon withered and the bulb became wrinkled and soft, but put out one small side bulb and three bulbs beneath descending an inch into the water by long processes from the caudex, the old bulb in some weeks intirely decayed; on dissecting this monster, the middle descending bulb was found by its process to adhere to the caudex and to the old flower-stem, and the side ones were separated from the flower- stem by a few shrivelled coats but adhered to the caudex. Whence she concludes that these last were off-sets or leaf-bulbs which should have been seen between the coats of the new flower-bulb if it had been left to grow in the earth, and that the middle one would have been the new flower-bulb. In some years (perhaps in wet seasons) the florists are said to lose many of their tulip-roots by a similar process, the new leaf-bulbs being produced beneath the old ones by an elongation of the caudex without any new flower-bulbs.

By repeated dissections she observes that the leaf-bulbs or off-sets of tulip, crocus, gladiolus, fritillary, are renewed in the same manner as the flowering-bulbs, contrary to the opinion of many writers; this new leaf-bulb is formed on the inside of the coats from whence the leaves grow, and is more or less advanced in size as the outer coats and leaves are more or less shrivelled. In examining tulip, iris, hyacinth, hare- bell, the new bulb was invariably found between the flower-stem and the base of the innermost leaf of those roots which had flowered, and inclosed by the base of the innermost leaf in those roots which had not flowered, in both cases adhering to the caudex or fleshy circle from which the root-fibres spring.

Hence it is probable that the bulbs of hyacinths are renewed annually, but that this is performed from the caudex within the old bulb, the outer coat of which does not so shrivel as in crocus and fritillary and hence this change is not so apparent. But I believe as soon as the flower is advanced the new bulbs may be seen on dissection, nor does the annual increase of the size of the root of cyclamen and of aletris capensis militate against this annual renewal of them, since the leaf- bulbs or off-sets, as described above, are increased in size as they are annually renewed. See note on orchis, and on anthoxanthum, in Vol. II. of this work.


From the deep craters of his realms of fire The whirling sun this ponderous planet hurld.

CANTO II. l. 14.

Dr. Alexander Wilson, Professor of Astronomy at Glasgow, published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions for 1774, demonstrating that the spots in the sun's disk are real cavities, excavations through the luminous material, which covers the other parts of the sun's surface. One of these cavities he found to be about 4000 miles deep and many times as wide. Some objections were made to this doctrine by M. De la Laude in the Memoirs of the French Academy for the year 1776, which however have been ably answered by Professor Wilson in reply in the Philos. Trans. for 1783. Keil observes, in his Astronomical Lectures, p. 44, "We frequently see spots in the sun which are larger and broader not only than Europe or Africa, but which even equal, if they do not exceed, the surface of the whole terraqueous globe." Now that these cavities are made in the sun's body by a process of nature similar to our earthquakes does not seem improbable on several accounts. 1. Because from this discovery of Dr. Wilson it appears that the internal parts of the sun are not in a state of inflammation or of ejecting light, like the external part or luminous ocean which covers it; and hence that a greater degree of heat or inflammation and consequent expansion or explosion may occasionally be produced in its internal or dark nucleus. 2. Because the solar spots or cavities are frequently increased or diminished in size. 3. New ones are often produced. 4. And old ones vanish. 5. Because there are brighter or more luminous parts of the sun's disk, called faculae by Scheiner and Hevelius, which would seem to be volcanos in the sun, or, as Dr. Wilson calls them, "eructations of matter more luminous than that which covers the sun's surface." 6. To which may be added that all the planets added together with their satellites do not amount to more than one six hundred and fiftieth part of the mass of the sun according to Sir Isaac Newton.

Now if it could be supposed that the planets were originally thrown out of the sun by larger sun-quakes than those frequent ones which occasion these spots or excavations above-mentioned, what would happen? 1. According to the observations and opinion of Mr. Herschel the sun itself and all its planets are moving forwards round some other centre with an unknown velocity, which may be of opake matter corresponding with the very antient and general idea of a chaos. Whence if a ponderous planet, as Saturn, could be supposed to be projected from the sun by an explosion, the motion of the sun itself might be at the same time disturbed in such a manner as to prevent the planet from falling again into it. 2. As the sun revolves round its own axis its form must be that of an oblate spheroid like the earth, and therefore a body projected from its surface perpendicularly upwards from that surface would not rise perpendicularly from the sun's centre, unless it happened to be projected exactly from either of its poles or from its equator. Whence it may not be necessary that a planet if thus projected from the sun by explosion should again fall into the sun. 3. They would part from the sun's surface with the velocity with which that surface was moving, and with the velocity acquired by the explosion, and would therefore move round the sun in the same direction in which the sun rotates on its axis, and perform eliptic orbits. 4. All the planets would move the same way round the sun, from this first motion acquired at leaving its surface, but their orbits would be inclined to each other according to the distance of the part, where they were thrown out, from the sun's equator. Hence those which were ejected near the sun's equator would have orbits but little inclined to each other, as the primary planets; the plain of all whose orbits are inclined but seven degrees and a half from each other. Others which were ejected near the sun's poles would have much more eccentric orbits, as they would partake so much less of the sun's rotatory motion at the time they parted from his surface, and would therefore be carried further from the sun by the velocity they had gained by the explosion which ejected them, and become comets. 5. They would all obey the same laws of motion in their revolutions round the sun; this has been determined by astronomers, who have demonstrated that they move through equal areas in equal times. 6. As their annual periods would depend on the height they rose by the explosion, these would differ in them all. 7. As their diurnal revolutions would depend on one side of the exploded matter adhering more than the other at the time it was torn off by the explosion, these would also differ in the different planets, and not bear any proportion to their annual periods. Now as all these circumstances coincide with the known laws of the planetary system, they serve to strengthen this conjecture.

This coincidence of such a variety of circumstances induced M. de Buffon to suppose that the planets were all struck off from the sun's surface by the impact of a large comet, such as approached so near the sun's disk, and with such amazing velocity, in the year 1680, and is expected to return in 2255. But Mr. Buffon did not recollect that these comets themselves are only planets with more eccentric orbits, and that therefore it must be asked, what had previously struck off these comets from the sun's body? 2. That if all these planets were struck off from the sun at the same time, they must have been so near as to have attracted each other and have formed one mass: 3. That we shall want new causes for separating the secondary planets from the primary ones, and must therefore look out for some other agent, as it does not appear how the impulse of a comet could have made one planet roll round another at the time they both of them were driven off from the surface of the sun.

If it should be asked, why new planets are not frequently ejected from the sun? it may be answered, that after many large earthquakes many vents are left for the elastic vapours to escape, and hence, by the present appearance of the surface of our earth, earthquakes prodigiously larger than any recorded in history have existed; the same circumstances may have affected the sun, on whose surface there are appearances of volcanos, as described above. Add to this, that some of the comets, and even the georgium sidus, may, for ought we know to the contrary, have been emitted from the sun in more modern days, and have been diverted from their course, and thus prevented from returning into the sun, by their approach to some of the older planets, which is somewhat countenanced by the opinion several philosophers have maintained, that the quantity of matter of the sun has decreased. Dr. Halley observed, that by comparing the proportion which the periodical time of the moon bore to that of the sun in former times, with the proportion between them at present, that the moon is found to be somewhat accelerated in respect to the sun. Pemberton's View of Sir Isaac Newton, p. 247. And so large is the body of this mighty luminary, that all the planets thus thrown out of it would make scarcely any perceptible diminution of it, as mentioned above. The cavity mentioned above, as measured by Dr. Wilson of 4000 miles in depth, not penetrating an hundredth part of the sun's semi-diameter; and yet, as its width was many times greater than its depth, was large enough to contain a greater body than our terrestrial world.

I do not mean to conceal, that from the laws of gravity unfolded by Sir Isaac Newton, supposing the sun to be a sphere and to have no progressive motion, and not liable itself to be disturbed by the supposed projection of the planets from it, that such planets must return into the sun. The late Rev. William Ludlam, of Leicester, whose genius never met with reward equal to its merits, in a letter to me, dated January, 1787, after having shewn, as mentioned above, that planets so projected from the sun would return to it, adds, "That a body as large as the moon so projected, would disturb the motion of the earth in its orbit, is certain; but the calculation of such disturbing forces is difficult. The body in some circumstances might become a satellite, and both move round their common centre of gravity, and that centre be carried in an annual orbit round the sun."

There are other circumstances which might have concurred at the time of such supposed explosions, which would render this idea not impossible. 1. The planets might be thrown out of the sun at the time the sun itself was rising from chaos, and be attracted by other suns in their vicinity rising at the same time out of chaos, which would prevent them from returning into the sun. 2. The new planet in its course or ascent from the sun, might explode and eject a satellite, or perhaps more than one, and thus by its course being affected might not return into the sun. 3. If more planets were ejected at the same time from the sun, they might attract and disturb each others course at the time they left the body of the sun, or very soon afterwards, when they would be so much nearer each other.


While Ocean wrap'd it in his azure robe.

CANTO II. l. 34.

From having observed that many of the highest mountains of the world consist of lime-stone replete with shells, and that these mountains bear the marks of having been lifted up by subterraneous fires from the interior parts of the globe; and as lime-stone replete with shells is found at the bottom of many of our deepest mines some philosophers have concluded that the nucleus of the earth was for many ages covered with water which was peopled with its adapted animals; that the shells and bones of these animals in a long series of time produced solid strata in the ocean surrounding the original nucleus.

These strata consist of the accumulated exuviae of shell-fish, the animals perished age after age but their shells remained, and in progression of time produced the amazing quantities of lime-stone which almost cover the earth. Other marine animals called coralloids raised walls and even mountains by the congeries of their calcareous habitations, these perpendicular corralline rocks make some parts of the Southern Ocean highly dangerous, as appears in the journals of Capt. Cook. From contemplating the immense strata of lime-stone, both in respect to their extent and thickness, formed from these shells of animals, philosophers have been led to conclude that much of the water of the sea has been converted into calcareous earth by passing through their organs of digestion. The formation of calcareous earth seems more particularly to be an animal process as the formation of clay belongs to the vegetable economy; thus the shells of crabs and other testaceous fish are annually reproduced from the mucous membrane beneath them; the shells of eggs are first a mucous membrane, and the calculi of the kidneys and those found in all other parts of our system which sometimes contain calcareous earth, seem to originate from inflamed membranes; the bones themselves consist of calcareous earth united with the phosphoric or animal acid, which may be separated by dissolving the ashes of calcined bones in the nitrous acid; the various secretions of animals, as their saliva and urine, abound likewise with calcareous earth, as appears by the incrustations about the teeth and the sediments of urine. It is probable that animal mucus is a previous process towards the formation of calcareous earth; and that all the calcareous earth in the world which is seen in lime-stones, marbles, spars, alabasters, marls, (which make up the greatest part of the earth's crust, as far as it has yet been penetrated,) have been formed originally by animal and vegetable bodies from the mass of water, and that by these means the solid part of the terraqueous globe has perpetually been in an increasing state and the water perpetually in a decreasing one.

After the mountains of shells and other recrements of aquatic animals were elevated above the water the upper heaps of them were gradually dissolved by rains and dews and oozing through were either perfectly crystallized in smaller cavities and formed calcareous spar, or were imperfectly crystallized on the roofs of larger cavities and produced stalactes; or mixing with other undissolved shells beneath them formed marbles, which were more or less crystallized and more or less pure; or lastly, after being dissolved, the water was exhaled from them in such a manner that the external parts became solid, and forming an arch prevented the internal parts from approaching each other so near as to become solid, and thus chalk was produced. I have specimens of chalk formed at the root of several stalactites, and in their central parts; and of other stalactites which are hollow like quills from a similar cause, viz. from the external part of the stalactite hardening first by its evaporation, and thus either attracting the internal dissolved particles to the crust, or preventing them from approaching each other so as to form a solid body. Of these I saw many hanging from the arched roof of a cellar under the high street in Edinburgh.

If this dissolved limestone met with vitriolic acid it was converted into alabaster, parting at the same time with its fixable air. If it met with the fluor acid it became fluor; if with the siliceous acid, flint; and when mixed with clay and sand, or either of them, acquires the name of marl. And under one or other of these forms composes a great part of the solid globe of the earth.

Another mode in which limestone appears is in the form of round granulated particles, but slightly cohering together; of this kind a bed extends over Lincoln heath, perhaps twenty miles long by ten wide. The form of this calcareous sand, its angles having been rubbed off, and the flatness of its bed, evinces that that part of the country was so formed under water, the particles of sand having thus been rounded, like all other rounded pebbles. This round form of calcareous sand and of other larger pebbles is produced under water, partly by their being more or less soluble in water, and hence the angular parts become dissolved, first, by their exposing a larger surface to the action of the menstruum, and secondly, from their attrition against each other by the streams or tides, for a great length of time, successively as they were collected, and perhaps when some of them had not acquired their hardest state.

This calcareous sand has generally been called ketton-stone and believed to resemble the spawn of fish, it has acquired a form so much rounder than siliceous sand from its being of so much softer a texture and also much more soluble in water. There are other soft calcareous stones called tupha which are deposited from water on mosses, as at Matlock, from which moss it is probable the water may receive something which induces it the readier to part with its earth.

In some lime-stones the living animals seem to have been buried as well as their shells during some great convulsion of nature, these shells contain a black coaly substance within them, in others some phlogiston or volatile alcali from the bodies of the dead animals remains mixed with the stone, which is then called liver-stone as it emits a sulphurous smell on being struck, and there is a stratum about six inches thick extends a considerable way over the iron ore at Wingerworth near Chesterfield in Derbyshire which seems evidently to have been formed from the shells of fresh-water muscles.

There is however another source of calcareous earth besides the aquatic one above described and that is from the recrements of land animals and vegetables as found in marls, which consist of various mixtures of calcareous earth, sand, and clay, all of them perhaps principally from vegetable origin.

Dr. Hutton is of opinion that the rocks of marble have been softened by fire into a fluid mass, which he thinks under immense pressure might be done without the escape of their carbonic acid or fixed air. Edinb. Transact. Vol. I. If this ingenious idea be allowed it might account for the purity of some white marbles, as during their fluid state there might be time for their partial impurities, whether from the bodies of the animals which produced the shells or from other extraneous matter, either to sublime to the uppermost part of the stratum or to subside to the lowermost part of it. As a confirmation of this theory of Dr. Hutton's it may be added that some calcareous stones are found mixed with lime, and have thence lost a part of their fixed air or carbonic gas, as the bath-stone, and on that account hardens on being exposed to the air, and mixed with sulphur produces calcareous liver of sulphur. Falconer on Bath-water. Vol. I. p. 156. and p. 257. Mr. Monnet found lime in powder in the mountains of Auvergne, and suspected it of volcanic origin. Kirwan's Min. p. 22.


Gnomes! you then taught transuding dews to pass Through time-fallen woods, and root-inwove morass.

CANTO II. l. 115.

Where woods have repeatedly grown and perished morasses are in process of time produced, and by their long roots fill up the interstices till the whole becomes for many yards deep a mass of vegetation. This fact is curiously verified by an account given many years ago by the Earl of Cromartie, of which the following is a short abstract.

In the year 1651 the EARL OF CROMARTIE being then nineteen years of age saw a plain in the parish of Lockburn covered over with a firm standing wood, which was so old that not only the trees had no green leaves upon them but the bark was totally thrown off, which he was there informed by the old countrymen was the universal manner in which fir-woods terminated, and that in twenty or thirty years the trees would cast themselves up by the roots. About fifteen years after he had occasion to travel the same way and observed that there was not a tree nor the appearance of a root of any of them; but in their place the whole plain where the wood stood was covered with a flat green moss or morass, and on asking the country people what was become of the wood he was informed that no one had been at the trouble to carry it away, but that it had all been overturned by the wind, that the trees lay thick over each other, and that the moss or bog had overgrown the whole timber, which they added was occasioned by the moisture which came down from the high hills above it and stagnated upon the plain, and that nobody could yet pass over it, which however his Lordship was so incautious as to attempt and slipt up to the arm-pits. Before the year 1699 that whole piece of ground was become a solid moss wherein the peasants then dug turf or peat, which however was not yet of the best sort. Philos. Trans. No. 330. Abridg. Vol. V. p. 272.

Morasses in great length of time undergo variety of changes, first by elutriation, and afterwards by fermentation, and the consequent heat. 1. By water perpetually oozing through them the most soluble parts are first washed away, as the essential salts, these together with the salts from animal recrements are carried down the rivers into the sea, where all of them seem to decompose each other except the marine salt. Hence the ashes of peat contain little or no vegetable alcali and are not used in the countries, where peat constitutes the fuel of the lower people, for the purpose of washing linen. The second thing which is always seen oozing from morasses is iron in solution, which produces chalybeate springs, from whence depositions of ochre and variety of iron ores. The third elutriation seems to consist of vegetable acid, which by means unknown appears to be converted into all other acids. 1. Into marine and nitrous acids as mentioned above. 2. Into vitriolic acid which is found in some morasses so plentifully as to preserve the bodies of animals from putrefaction which have been buried in them, and this acid carried away by rain and dews and meeting with calcareous earth produces gypsum or alabaster, with clay it produces alum, and deprived of its vital air produces sulphur. 3. Fluor acid which being washed away and meeting with calcareous earth produces fluor or cubic spar. 4. The siliceous acid which seems to have been disseminated in great quantity either by solution in water or by solution in air, and appears to have produced the sand in the sea uniting with calcareous earth previously dissolved in that element, from which were afterwards formed some of the grit- stone rocks by means of a siliceous or calcareous cement. By its union with the calcareous earth of the morass other strata of siliceous sand have been produced; and by the mixture of this with clay and lime arose the beds of marl.

In other circumstances, probably where less moisture has prevailed, morasses seem to have undergone a fermentation, as other vegetable matter, new hay for instance is liable to do from the great quantity of sugar it contains. From the great heat thus produced in the lower parts of immense beds of morass the phlogistic part, or oil, or asphaltum, becomes distilled, and rising into higher strata becomes again condensed forming coal-beds of greater or less purity according to their greater or less quantity of inflammable matter; at the same time the clay beds become purer or less so, as the phlogistic part is more or less completely exhaled from them. Though coal and clay are frequently produced in this manner, yet I have no doubt, but that they are likewise often produced by elutriation; in situations on declivities the clay is washed away down into the valleys, and the phlogistic part or coal left behind; this circumstance is seen in many valleys near the beds of rivers, which are covered recently by a whitish impure clay, called water-clay. See note XIX. XX. and XXIII.

LORD CROMARTIE has furnished another curious observation on morasses in the paper above referred to. In a moss near the town of Eglin in Murray, though there is no river or water which communicates with the moss, yet for three or four feet of depth in the moss there are little shell-fish resembling oysters with living fish in them in great quantities, though no such fish are found in the adjacent rivers, nor even in the water pits in the moss, but only in the solid substance of the moss. This curious fact not only accounts for the shells sometimes found on the surface of coals, and in the clay above them; but also for a thin stratum of shells which sometimes exists over iron-ore.


Cold waves, immerged, the glowing mass congeal, And turn to adamant the hissing Steel.

CANTO II. l. 191.

As iron is formed near the surface of the earth, it becomes exposed to streams of water and of air more than most other metallic bodies, and thence becomes combined with oxygene, or vital air, and appears very frequently in its calciform state, as in variety of ochres. Manganese, and zinc, and sometimes lead, are also found near the surface of the earth, and on that account become combined with vital air and are exhibited in their calciform state.

The avidity with which iron unites with oxygene, or vital air, in which process much heat is given out from the combining materials, is shewn by a curious experiment of M. Ingenhouz. A fine iron wire twisted spirally is fixed to a cork, on the point of the spire is fixed a match made of agaric dipped in solution of nitre; the match is then ignited, and the wire with the cork put immediately into a bottle full of vital air, the match first burns vividly, and the iron soon takes fire and consumes with brilliant sparks till it is reduced to small brittle globules, gaining an addition of about one third of its weight by its union, with vital air. Annales de Chymie. Traite de Chimie, per Lavoisier, c. iii.


It is probably owing to a total deprivation of vital air which it holds with so great avidity, that iron on being kept many hours or days in ignited charcoal becomes converted into steel, and thence acquires the faculty of being welded when red hot long before it melts, and also the power of becoming hard when immersed in cold water; both which I suppose depend on the same cause, that is, on its being a worse conductor of heat than other metals; and hence the surface both acquires heat much sooner, and loses it much sooner, than the internal parts of it, in this circumstance resembling glass.

When steel is made very hot, and suddenly immerged in very cold water, and moved about in it, the surface of the steel becomes cooled first, and thus producing a kind of case or arch over the internal part, prevents that internal part from contracting quite so much as it otherwise would do, whence it becomes brittler and harder, like the glass-drops called Prince Rupert's drops, which are made by dropping melted glass into cold water. This idea is countenanced by the circumstance that hardened steel is specifically lighter than steel which is more gradually cooled. (Nicholson's Chemistry, p. 313.) Why the brittleness and hardness of steel or glass should keep pace or be companions to each other may be difficult to conceive.

When a steel spring is forcibly bent till it break, it requires less power to bend it through the first inch than the second, and less through the second than the third; the same I suppose to happen if a wire be distended till it break by hanging weights to it; this shews that the particles may be forced from each other to a small distance by less power, than is necessary to make them recede to a greater distance; in this circumstance perhaps the attraction of cohesion differs from that of gravitation, which exerts its power inversely as the squares of the distance. Hence it appears that if the innermost particles of a steel bar, by cooling the external surface first, are kept from approaching each other so nearly as they otherwise would do, that they become in the situation of the particles on the convex side of a bent spring, and can not be forced further from each other except by a greater power than would have been necessary to have made them recede thus far. And secondly, that if they be forced a little further from each other they separate; this may be exemplified by laying two magnetic needles parallel to each other, the contrary poles together, then drawing them longitudinally from each other, they will slide with small force till they begin to separate, and will then require a stronger force to really separate them. Hence it appears, that hardness and brittleness depend on the same circumstance, that the particles are removed to a greater distance from each other and thus resist any power more forcibly which is applied to displace them further, this constitutes hardness. And secondly, if they are displaced by such applied force they immediately separate, and this constitutes brittleness.

Steel may be thus rendered too brittle for many purposes, on which account artists have means of softening it again, by exposing it to certain degrees of heat, for the construction of different kinds of tools, which is called tempering it. Some artists plunge large tools in very cold water as soon as they are compleatly ignited, and moving it about, take it out as soon as it ceases to be luminous beneath the water; it is then rubbed quickly with a file or on sand to clean the surface, the heat which the metal still retains soon begins to produce a succession of colours; if a hard temper be required, the piece is dipped again and stirred about in cold water as soon as the yellow tinge appears, if it be cooled when the purple tinge appears it becomes fit for gravers' tools used in working upon metals; if cooled while blue it is proper for springs. Nicholson's Chemistry, p. 313. Keir's Chemical Dictionary.


The recent production of iron is evinced from the chalybeate waters which flow from morasses which lie upon gravel-beds, and which must therefore have produced iron after those gravel-beds were raised out of the sea. On the south side of the road between Cheadle and Okeymoor in Staffordshire, yellow stains of iron are seen to penetrate the gravel from a thin morass on its surface. There is a fissure eight or ten feet wide, in a gravel-bed on the eastern side of the hollow road ascending the hill about a mile from Trentham in Staffordshire, leading toward Drayton in Shropshire, which fissure is filled up with nodules of iron- ore. A bank of sods is now raised against this fissure to prevent the loose iron nodules from falling into the turnpike road, and thus this natural curiosity is at present concealed from travellers. A similar fissure in a bed of marl, and filled up with iron nodules and with some large pieces of flint, is seen on the eastern side of the hollow road ascending the hill from the turnpike house about a mile from Derby in the road towards Burton. And another such fissure filled with iron nodes, appears about half a mile from Newton-Solney in Derbyshire, in the road to Burton, near the summit of the hill. These collections of iron and of flint must have been produced posterior to the elevation of all those hills, and were thence evidently of vegetable or animal origin. To which should be added, that iron is found in general in beds either near the surface of the earth, or stratified with clay coals or argillaceous grit, which are themselves productions of the modern world, that is, from the recrements of vegetables and air-breathing animals.

Not only iron but manganese, calamy, and even copper and lead appear in some instances to have been of recent production. Iron and manganese are detected in all vegetable productions, and it is probable other metallic bodies might be found to exist in vegetable or animal matters, if we had tests to detect them in very minute quantities. Manganese and calamy are found in beds like iron near the surface of the earth, and in a calciform state, which countenances their modern production. The recent production of calamy, one of the ores of zinc, appears from its frequently incrusting calcareous spar in its descent from the surface of the earth into the uppermost fissures of the limestone mountains of Derbyshire. That the calamy has been carried by its solution or diffusion in water into these cavities, and not by its ascent from below in form of steam, is evinced from its not only forming a crust over the dogtooth spar, but by its afterwards dissolving or destroying the sparry crystal. I have specimens of calamy in the form of dogtooth spar, two inches high, which are hollow, and stand half an inch above the diminished sparry crystal on which they were formed, like a sheath a great deal too big for it; this seems to shew, that this process was carried on in water, otherwise after the calamy had incrusted its spar, and dissolved its surface, so as to form a hollow cavern over it, it could not act further upon it except by the interposition of some medium. As these spars and calamy are formed in the fissures of mountains they must both have been formed after the elevation of those mountains.

In respect to the recent production of copper, it was before observed in note on Canto II. l. 394, that the summit of the grit-stone mountain at Hawkstone in Shropshire, is tinged with copper, which from the appearance of the blue stains seems to have descended to the parts of the rock beneath. I have a calciform ore of copper consisting of the hollow crusts of cubic cells, which has evidently been formed on crystals of fluor, which it has eroded in the same manner as the calamy erodes the calcareous crystals, from whence may be deduced in the same manner, the aqueous solution or diffusion, as well as the recent production of this calciform ore of copper.

Lead in small quantities is sometimes found in the fissures of coal- beds, which fissures are previously covered with spar; and sometimes in nodules of iron-ore. Of the former I have a specimen from near Caulk in Derbyshire, and of the latter from Colebrook Dale in Shropshire. Though all these facts shew that some metallic bodies are formed from vegetable or animal recrements, as iron, and perhaps manganese and calamy, all which are found near the surface of the earth; yet as the other metals are found only in fissures of rocks, which penetrate to unknown depths, they may be wholly or in part produced by ascending steams from subterraneous fires, as mentioned in note on Canto II. l. 398.


Over some lime works at Walsall in Staffordshire, I observed some years ago a stratum of iron earth about six inches thick, full of very large cavities; these cavities were evidently produced when the material passed from a semifluid state into a solid one; as the frit of the potters, or a mixture of clay and water is liable to crack in drying; which is owing to the further contraction of the internal part, after the crust is become hard. These hollows are liable to receive extraneous matter, as I believe gypsum, and sometimes spar, and even lead; a curious specimen of the last was presented to me by Mr. Darby of Colebrook Dale, which contains in its cavity some ounces of lead-ore. But there are other septaria of iron-stone which seem to have had a very different origin, their cavities having been formed in cooling or congealing from an ignited state, as is ingeniously deduced by Dr. Hutton from their internal structure. Edinb. Transact. Vol. I. p. 246. The volcanic origin of these curious septaria appears to me to be further evinced from their form and the places where they are found. They consist of oblate spheroids and are found in many parts of the earth totally detached from the beds in which they lie, as at East Lothian in Scotland. Two of these, which now lie before me, were found with many others immersed in argillaceous shale or shiver, surrounded by broken limestone mountains at Bradbourn near Ashbourn in Derbyshire, and were presented to me by Mr. Buxton, a gentleman of that town. One of these is about fifteen inches in its equatorial diameter, and about six inches in its polar one, and contains beautiful star-like septaria incrusted and in part filled with calcareous spar. The other is about eight inches in its equatorial diameter, and about four inches in its polar diameter, and is quite solid, but shews on its internal surface marks of different colours, as if a beginning separation had taken place. Now as these septaria contain fifty per cent, of iron, according to Dr. Hutton, they would soften or melt into a semifluid globule by subterraneous fire by less heat than the limestone in their vicinity; and if they were ejected through a hole or fissure would gain a circular motion along with their progressive one by their greater friction or adhesion to one side of the hole. This whirling motion would produce the oblate spheroidical form which they possess, and which as far as I know can not in any other way be accounted for. They would then harden in the air as they rose into the colder parts of the atmosphere; and as they descended into so soft a material as shale or shiver, their forms would not be injured in their fall; and their presence in materials so different from themselves becomes accounted for.

About the tropics of the large septarium above mentioned, are circular eminent lines, such as might have been left if it had been coarsely turned in a lathe. These lines seem to consist of a fluid matter, which seems to have exsuded in circular zones, as their edges appear blunted or retracted; and the septarium seems to have split easier in such sections parallel to its equator. Now as the crust would first begin to cool and harden after its ejection in a semifluid state, and the equatorial diameter would become gradually enlarged as it rose in the air; the internal parts being softer would slide beneath the polar crust, which might crack and permit part of the semifluid to exsude, and it is probable the adhesion would thus become less in sections parallel to the equator. Which further confirms this idea of the production of these curious septaria. A new-cast cannon ball red-hot with its crust only solid, if it were shot into the air would probably burst in its passage; as it would consist of a more fluid material than these septaria; and thus by discharging a shower of liquid iron would produce more dreadful combustion, if used in war, than could be effected by a ball, which had been cooled and was heated again: since in the latter case the ball could not have its internal parts made hotter than the crust of it, without first loosing its form.


Transmute to glittering flints her chalky lands, Or sink on Ocean's bed in countless sands.

CANTO II. l. 217.


The great masses of siliceous sand which lie in rocks upon the beds of limestone, or which are stratified with clay, coal, and iron-ore, are evidently produced in the decomposition of vegetable or animal matters, as explained in the note on morasses. Hence the impressions of vegetable roots and even whole trees are often found in sand-stone, as well as in coals and iron-ore. In these sand-rocks both the siliceous acid and the calcareous base seem to be produced from the materials of the morass; for though the presence of a siliceous acid and of a calcareous base have not yet been separately exhibited from flints, yet from the analogy of flint to fluor, and gypsum, and marble, and from the conversion of the latter into flint, there can be little doubt of their existence.

These siliceous sand-rocks are either held together by a siliceous cement, or have a greater or less portion of clay in them, which in some acts as a cement to the siliceous crystals, but in others is in such great abundance that in burning them they become an imperfect porcelain and are then used to repair the roads, as at Chesterfield in Derbyshire; these are called argillaceous grit by Mr. Kirwan. In other places a calcareous matter cements the crystals together; and in other places the siliceous crystals lie in loose strata under the marl in the form of white sand; as at Normington about a mile from Derby.

The lowest beds of siliceous sand-stone produced from morasses seem to obtain their acid from the morass, and their calcareous base from the limestone on which it rests; These beds possess a siliceous cement, and from their greater purity and hardness are used for course grinding- stones and scyth stones, and are situated on the edges of limestone countries, having lost the other strata of coals, or clay, or iron, which were originally produced above them. Such are the sand-rocks incumbent on limestone near Matlock in Derbyshire. As these siliceous sand-rocks contain no marine productions scattered amongst them, they appear to have been elevated, torn to pieces, and many fragments of them scattered over the adjacent country by explosions, from fires within the morass from which they have been formed; and which dissipated every thing inflammable above and beneath them, except some stains of iron, with which they are in some places spotted. If these sand-rocks had been accumulated beneath the sea, and elevated along with the beds of limestone on which they rest, some vestiges of marine shells either in their siliceous or calcareous state must have been discerned amongst them.

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