The Botanic Garden - A Poem in Two Parts. Part 1: The Economy of Vegetation
by Erasmus Darwin
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In many of these sand-rocks are found the impressions of vegetable roots, which seem to have been the most unchangeable parts of the plant, as shells and shark's teeth are found in chalk-beds from their being the most unchangeable parts of the animal. In other instances the wood itself is penetrated, and whole trees converted into flint; specimens of which I have by me, from near Coventry, and from a gravel-pit in Shropshire near Child's Archal in the road to Drayton. Other polished specimens of vegetable flints abound in the cabinets of the curious, which evidently shew the concentric circles of woody fibres, and their interstices filled with whiter siliceous matter, with the branching off of the knots when cut horizontally, and the parallel lines of wood when cut longitudinally, with uncommon beauty and variety. Of these I possess some beautiful specimens, which were presented to me by the Earl of Uxbridge.

The colours of these siliceous vegetables are generally brown, from the iron, I suppose, or manganese, which induced them to crystallize or to fuse more easily. Some of the cracks of the wood in drying are filled with white flint or calcedony, and others of them remain hollow, lined with innumerable small crystals tinged with iron, which I suppose had a share in converting their calcareous matter into siliceous crystals, because the crystals called Peak-diamonds are always found bedded in an ochreous earth; and those called Bristol-stones are situated on limestone coloured with iron. Mr. F. French presented me with a congeries of siliceous crystals, which he gathered on the crater (as he supposes) of an extinguished volcano at Cromach Water in Cumberland. The crystals are about an inch high in the shape of dogtooth or calcareous spar, covered with a dark ferruginous matter. The bed on which they rest is about an inch in thickness, and is stained with iron on its undersurface. This curious fossil shews the transmutation of calcareous earth into siliceous, as much as the siliceous shells which abound in the cabinets of the curious. There may sometime be discovered in this age of science, a method of thus impregnating wood with liquid flint, which would produce pillars for the support, and tiles for the covering of houses, which would be uninflammable and endure as long as the earth beneath them.

That some siliceous productions have been in a fluid state without much heat at the time of their formation appears from the vegetable flints above described not having quite lost their organized appearance; from shells, and coralloids, and entrochi being converted into flint without loosing their form; from the bason of calcedony round Giesar in Iceland; and from the experiment of Mr. Bergman, who obtained thirteen regular formed crystals by suffering the powder of quartz to remain in a vessel with fluor acid for two years; these crystals were about the size of small peas, and were not so hard as quartz. Opusc. de Terra Silicea, p. 33. Mr. Achard procured both calcareous and siliceous crystals, one from calcareous earth, and the other from the earth of alum, both dissolved in water impregnated with fixed air; the water filtrating very slowly through a porous bottom of baked clay. See Journal de Physique, for January, 1778.


In small cavities of these sand-rocks, I am informed, the beautiful siliceous nodules are found which are called Scot's-pebbles; and which on being cut in different directions take the names of agates, onyxes, sardonyxes, &c. according to the colours of the lines or strata which they exhibit. Some of the nodules are hollow and filled with crystals, others have a nucleus of less compact siliceous matter which is generally white, surrounded with many concentric strata coloured with iron, and other alternate strata of white agate or calcedony, sometimes to the number of thirty.

I think these nodules bear evident marks of their having been in perfect fusion by either heat alone, or by water and heat, under great pressure, according to the ingenious theory of Dr. Hutton; but I do not imagine, that they were injected into cavities from materials from without, but that some vegetables or parts of vegetables containing more iron or manganese than others, facilitated the compleat fusion, thus destroying the vestiges of vegetable organization, which were conspicuous in the siliceous trees above mentioned. Some of these nodules being hollow and lined with crystals, and others containing a nucleus of white siliceous matter of a looser texture, shew they were composed of the materials then existing in the cavity; which consisting before of loose sand, must take up less space when fused into a solid mass.

These siliceous nodules resemble the nodules of iron-stone mentioned in note on Canto II. l. 183, in respect to their possessing a great number of concentric spheres coloured generally with iron, but they differ in this circumstance, that the concentric spheres generally obey the form of the external crust, and in their not possessing a chalybeate nucleus. The stalactites formed on the roofs of caverns are often coloured in concentric strata, by their coats being spread over each other at different times; and some of them, as the cupreous ones, possess great beauty from this formation; but as these are necessarily more or less of a cylindrical or conic form, the nodules or globular flints above described cannot have been constructed in this manner. To what law of nature then is to be referred the production of such numerous concentric spheres? I suspect to the law of congelation.

When salt and water are exposed to severe frosty air, the salt is said to be precipitated as the water freezes; that is, as the heat, in which it was dissolved, is withdrawn; where the experiment is tried in a bowl or bason, this may be true, as the surface freezes first, and the salt is found at the bottom. But in a fluid exposed in a thin phial, I found by experiment, that the extraneous matter previously dissolved by the heat in the mixture was not simply set at liberty to subside, but was detruded or pushed backward as the ice was produced. The experiment was this: about two ounces of a solution of blue vitriol were accidentally frozen in a thin phial, the glass was cracked and fallen to pieces, the ice was dissolved, and I found a pillar of blue vitriol standing erect on the bottom of the broken bottle. Nor is this power of congelation more extraordinary, than that by its powerful and sudden expansion it should burst iron shells and coehorns, or throw out the plugs with which the water was secured in them above one hundred and thirty yards, according to the experiments at Quebec by Major Williams. Edinb. Transact. Vol. II. p. 23.

In some siliceous nodules which now lie before me, the external crust for about the tenth of an inch consists of white agate, in others it is much thinner, and in some much thicker; corresponding with this crust there are from twenty to thirty superincumbent strata, of alternately darker and lighter colour; whence it appears, that the external crust as it cooled or froze, propelled from it the iron or manganese which was dissolved in it; this receded till it had formed an arch or vault strong enough to resist its further protrusion; then the next inner sphere or stratum as it cooled or froze, propelled forwards its colouring matter in the same manner, till another arch or sphere produced sufficient resistance to this frigoriscent expulsion. Some of them have detruded their colouring matter quite to the centre, the rings continuing to become darker as they are nearer it; in others the chalybeate arch seems to have stopped half an inch from the centre, and become thicker by having attracted to itself the irony matter from the white nucleus, owing probably to its cooling less precipitately in the central parts than at the surface of the pebble.

A similar detrusion of a marly matter in circular arches or vaults obtains in the salt mines in Cheshire; from whence Dr. Hutton very ingeniously concludes, that the salt must have been liquified by heat; which would seem to be much confirmed by the above theory. Edinb. Transact. Vol. I. p. 244.

I cannot conclude this account of Scots-pebbles without observing that some of them on being sawed longitudinally asunder, seem still to possess some vestiges of the cylindrical organization of vegetables; others possess a nucleus of white agate much resembling some bulbous roots with their concentric coats, or the knots in elm-roots or crab- trees; some of these I suppose were formed in the manner above explained, during the congelation of masses of melted flint and iron; others may have been formed from a vegetable nucleus, and retain some vestiges of the organization of the plant.


The great abundance of siliceous sand at the bottom of the ocean may in part be washed down from the siliceous rocks above described, but in general I suppose it derives its acid only from the vegetable and animal matter of morasses, which is carried down by floods or by the atmosphere, and becomes united in the sea with its calcareous base from shells and coralloids, and thus assumes its crystalline form at the bottom of the ocean, and is there intermixed with gravel or other matters washed from the mountains in its vicinity.


The rocks of marble are often alternately intermixed with strata of chert, or coarse flint, and this in beds from one to three feet thick, as at Ham and Matlock, or of less than the tenth of an inch in thickness, as a mile or two from Bakewell in the road to Buxton. It is difficult to conceive in what manner ten or twenty strata of either limestone or flint, of different shades of white and black, could be laid quite regularly over each other from sediments or precipitations from the sea; it appears to me much easier to comprehend, by supposing with Dr. Hutton, that both the solid rocks of marble and the flint had been fused by great heat, (or by heat and water,) under immense pressure; by its cooling or congealing the colouring matter might be detruded, and form parallel or curvilinean strata, as above explained.

The colouring matter both of limestone and flint was probably owing to the flesh of peculiar animals, as well as the siliceous acid, which converted some of the limestone into flint; or to some strata of shell- fish having been overwhelmed when alive with new materials, while others dying in their natural situations would lose their fleshy parts, either by its putrid solution in the water or by its being eaten by other sea- insects. I have some calcareous fossil shells which contain a black coaly matter in them, which was evidently the body of the animal, and others of the same kind filled with spar instead of it. The Labradore stone has I suppose its colours from the nacre or mother-pearl shells, from which it was probably produced. And there is a stratum of calcareous matter about six or eight inches thick at Wingerworth in Derbyshire over the iron-beds, which is replete with shells of fresh- water muscles, and evidently obtains its dark colour from them, as mentioned in note XVI. Many nodules of flint resemble in colour as well as in form the shell of the echinus or sea-urchin; others resemble some coralloids both in form and colour; and M. Arduini found in the Monte de Pancrasio, red flints branching like corals, from whence they seem to have obtained both their form and their colour. Ferber's Travels in Italy, p. 42.


As the nodules of flint found in chalk-beds possess no marks of having been rounded by attrition or solution, I conclude that they have gained their form as well as their dark colour from the flesh of the shell-fish from which they had their origin; but which have been so compleatly fused by heat, or heat and water, as to obliterate all vestiges of the shell, in the same manner as the nodules of agate and onyx were produced from parts of vegetables, but which had been so completely fused as to obliterate all marks of their organization, or as many iron-nodules have obtained their form and origin from peculiar vegetables.

Some nodules in chalk-beds consist of shells of echini filled up with chalk, the animal having been dissolved away by putrescence in water, or eaten by other sea-insects; other shells of echini, in which I suppose the animal's body remained, are converted into flint but still retain the form of the shell. Others, I suppose as above, being more completely fused, have become flint coloured by the animal flesh, but without the exact form either of the flesh or shell of the animal. Many of these are hollow within and lined with crystals, like the Scot's-pebbles above described; but as the colouring matter of animal bodies differs but little from each other compared with those of vegetables, these flints vary less in their colours than those above mentioned. At the same time as they cooled in concentric spheres like the Scot's-pebbles, they often possess faint rings of colours, and always break in conchoide forms like them.

This idea of the production of nodules of flint in chalk-beds is countenanced from the iron which generally appears as these flints become decomposed by the air; which by uniting with the iron in their composition reduces it from a vitrescent state to that of calx, and thus renders it visible. And secondly, by there being no appearance in chalk- beds of a string or pipe of siliceous matter connecting one nodule with another, which must have happened if the siliceous matter, or its acid, had been injected from without according to the idea of Dr. Hutton. And thirdly, because many of them have very large cavities at their centres, which should not have happened had they been formed by the injection of a material from without.

When shells or chalk are thus converted from calcareous to siliceous matter by the flesh of the animal, the new flint being heavier than the shell or chalk occupies less space than the materials it was produced from; this is the cause of frequent cavities within them, where the whole mass has not been completely fused and pressed together. In Derbyshire there are masses of coralloid and other shells which have become siliceous, and are thus left with large vacuities sometimes within and sometimes on the outside of the remaining form of the shell, like the French millstones, and I suppose might serve the same purpose; the gravel of the Derwent is full of specimens of this kind.

Since writing the above I have received a very ingenious account of chalk-beds from Dr. MENISH of Chelmsford. He distinguishes chalk-beds into three kinds; such as have been raised from the sea with little disturbance of their strata, as the cliffs of Dover and Margate, which he terms intire chalk. Another state of chalk is where it has suffered much derangement, as the banks of the Thames at Gravesend and Dartford. And a third state where fragments of chalk have been rounded by water, which he terms alluvial chalk. In the first of these situations of chalk he observes, that the flint lies in strata horizontally, generally in distinct nodules, but that he has observed two instances of solid plates or strata of flint, from an inch to two inches in thickness, interposed between the chalk-beds; one of these is in a chalk-bank by the road side at Berkhamstead, the other in a bank on the road from Chatham leading to Canterbury. Dr. Menish has further observed, that many of the echini are crushed in their form, and yet filled with flint, which has taken the form of the crushed shell, and that though many flint nodules are hollow, yet that in some echini the siliceum seems to have enlarged, as it passed from a fluid to a solid state, as it swells out in a protuberance at the mouth and anus of the shell, and that though these shells are so filled with flint yet that in many places the shell itself remains calcareous. These strata of nodules and plates of flint seem to countenance their origin from the flesh of a stratum of animals which perished by some natural violence, and were buried in their shells.


In many rocks of siliceous sand the particles retain their angular form, and in some beds of loose sand, of which there is one of considerable purity a few yards beneath the marl at Normington about a mile south of Derby. Other siliceous sands have had their angles rounded off, like the pebbles in gravel-beds. These seem to owe their globular form to two causes; one to their attrition against each other, when they may for centuries have lain at the bottom of the sea, or of rivers; where they may have been progressively accumulated, and thus progressively at the same time rubbed upon each other by the dashing of the water, and where they would be more easily rolled over each other by their gravity being so much less than in air. This is evidently now going on in the river Derwent, for though there are no limestone rocks for ten or fifteen miles above Derby, yet a great part of the river-gravel at Derby consists of limestone nodules, whose angles are quite worn off in their descent down the stream.

There is however another cause which must have contributed to round the angles both of calcareous and siliceous fragments; and that is, their solubility in water; calcareous earth is perpetually found suspended in the waters which pass over it; and the earth of flints was observed by Bergman to be contained in water in the proportion of one grain to a gallon. Kirwan's Mineralogy, p. 107. In boiling water, however, it is soluble in much greater proportion, as appears from the siliceous earth sublimed in the distillation of fluor acid in glass vessels; and from the basons of calcedony which surrounded the jets of hot water near mount Heccla in Iceland. Troil on Iceland. It is probable most siliceous sands or pebbles have at some ages of the world been long exposed to aqueous steams raised by subterranean fires. And if fragments of stone were long immersed in a fluid menstrum, their angular parts would be first dissolved, on account of their greater surface.

Many beds of siliceous gravel are cemented together by a siliceous cement, and are called breccia; as the plumb-pudding stones of Hartfordshire, and the walls of a subterraneous temple excavated by Mr. Curzon, at Hagley near Rugely in Staffordfshire; these may have been exposed to great heat as they were immersed in water; which water under great pressure of superincumbent materials may have been rendered red- hot, as in Papin's digester; and have thus possessed powers of solution with which we are unacquainted.


Another source of siliceous stones is from the granite, or basaltes, or porphyries, which are of different hardnesses according to the materials of their composition, or to the fire they have undergone; such are the stones of Arthur's-hill near Edinburgh, of the Giant's Causway in Ireland, and of Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire; the uppermost stratum of which last seems to have been cracked either by its elevation, or by its hastily cooling after ignition by the contact of dews or snows, and thus breaks into angular fragments, such as the streets of London are paved with; or have had their angles rounded by attrition or by partial solution; and have thus formed the common paving stones or bowlers; as well as the gravel, which is often rolled into strata amid the siliceous sand-beds, which are either formed or collected in the sea.

In what manner such a mass of crystallized matter as the Giant's Causway and similar columns of basaltes, could have been raised without other volcanic appearances, may be a matter not easy to comprehend; but there is another power in nature besides that of expansile vapour which may have raised some materials which have previously been in igneous or aqueous solution; and that is the act of congelation. When the water in the experiments above related of Major Williams had by congelation thrown out the plugs from the bomb-shells, a column of ice rose from the hole of the bomb six or eight inches high. Other bodies I suspect increase in bulk which crystallize in cooling, as iron and type-metal. I remember pouring eight or ten pounds of melted brimstone into a pot to cool and was surprized to see after a little time a part of the fluid beneath break a hole in the congealed crust above it, and gradually rise into a promontory several inches high; the basaltes has many marks of fusion and of crystallization and may thence, as well as many other kinds of rocks, as of spar, marble, petrosilex, jasper, &c. have been raised by the power of congelation, a power whose quantity has not yet been ascertained, and perhaps greater and more universal than that of vapours expanded by heat. These basaltic columns rise sometimes out of mountains of granite itself, as mentioned by Dr. Beddoes, (Phil. Transact. Vol. LXXX.) and as they seem to consist of similar materials more completely fused, there is still greater reason to believe them to have been elevated in the cooling or crystallization of the mass. See note XXIV.


Whence ductile Clays in wide expansion spread, Soft as the Cygnet's down, their snow-white bed.

CANTO II. l. 277.

The philosophers, who have attended to the formation of the earth, have acknowledged two great agents in producing the various changes which the terraqueous globe has undergone, and these are water and fire. Some of them have perhaps ascribed too much to one of these great agents of nature, and some to the other. They have generally agreed that the stratification of materials could only be produced from sediments or precipitations, which were previously mixed or dissolved in the sea; and that whatever effects were produced by fire were performed afterwards.

There is however great difficulty in accounting for the universal stratification of the solid globe of the earth in this manner, since many of the materials, which appear in strata, could not have been suspended in water; as the nodules of flint in chalk-beds, the extensive beds of shells, and lastly the strata of coal, clay, sand, and iron-ore, which in most coal-countries lie from five to seven times alternately stratified over each other, and none of them are soluble in water. Add to this if a solution of them or a mixture of them in water could be supposed, the cause of that solution must cease before a precipitation could commence.

1. The great masses of lava, under the various names of granite, porphyry, toadstone, moor-stone, rag, and slate, which constitute the old world, may have acquired the stratification, which some of them appear to possess, by their having been formed by successive eruptions of a fluid mass, which at different periods of antient time arose from volcanic shafts and covered each other, the surface of the interior mass of lava would cool and become solid before the superincumbent stratum was poured over it; to the same cause may be ascribed their different compositions and textures, which are scarcely the same in any two parts of the world.

2. The stratifications of the great masses of limestone, which were produced from sea-shells, seem to have been formed by the different times at which the innumerable shells were produced and deposited. A colony of echini, or madrepores, or cornua ammonis, lived and perished in one period of time; in another a new colony of either similar or different shells lived and died over the former ones, producing a stratum of more recent shell over a stratum of others which had began to petrify or to become marble; and thus from unknown depths to what are now the summits of mountains the limestone is disposed in strata of varying solidity and colour. These have afterwards undergone variety of changes by their solution and deposition from the water in which they were immersed, or from having been exposed to great heat under great pressure, according to the ingenious theory of Dr. Hutton. Edinb. Transact. Vol. I. See Note XVI.

3. In most of the coal-countries of this island there are from five to seven beds of coal stratified with an equal number of beds, though of much greater thickness, of clay and sandstone, and occasionally of iron- ores. In what manner to account for the stratification of these materials seems to be a problem of greater difficulty. Philosophers have generally supposed that they have been arranged by the currents of the sea; but considering their insolubility in water, and their almost similar specific gravity, an accumulation of them in such distinct beds from this cause is altogether inconceiveable, though some coal-countries bear marks of having been at some time immersed beneath the waves and raised again by subterranean fires.

The higher and lower parts of morasses were necessarily produced at different periods of time, see Note XVII. and would thus originally be formed in strata of different ages. For when an old wood perished, and produced a morass, many centuries would elapse before another wood could grow and perish again upon the same ground, which would thus produce a new stratum of morass over the other, differing indeed principally in its age, and perhaps, as the timber might be different, in the proportions of its component parts.

Now if we suppose the lowermost stratum of a morass become ignited, like fermenting hay, (after whatever could be carried away by solution in water was gone,) what would happen? Certainly the inflammable part, the oil, sulphur, or bitumen, would burn away, and be evaporated in air; and the fixed parts would be left, as clay, lime, and iron; while some of the calcareous earth would join with the siliceous acid, and produce sand, or with the argillaceous earth, and produce marl. Thence after many centuries another bed would take fire, but with less degree of ignition, and with a greater body of morass over it, what then would happen? The bitumen and sulphur would rise and might become condensed under an impervious stratum, which might not be ignited, and there form coal of different purities according to its degree of fluidity, which would permit some of the clay to subside through it into the place from which it was sublimed.

Some centuries afterwards another similar process might take place, and either thicken the coal-bed, or produce a new clay-bed, or marl, or sand, or deposit iron upon it, according to the concomitant circumstances above mentioned.

I do not mean to contend that a few masses of some materials may not have been rolled together by currents, when the mountains were much more elevated than at present, and in consequence the rivers broader and more rapid, and the storms of rain and wind greater both in quantity and force. Some gravel-beds may have been thus washed from the mountains; and some white clay washed from morasses into valleys beneath them; and some ochres of iron dissolved and again deposited by water; and some calcareous depositions from water, (as the bank for instance on which stand the houses at Matlock-bath;) but these are of small extent or consequence compared to the primitive rocks of granite or porpyhry which form the nucleus of the earth, or to the immense strata of limestone which crust over the greatest part of this granite or porphyry; or lastly to the very extensive beds of clay, marl, sandstone, coal, and iron, which were probably for many millions of years the only parts of our continents and islands, which were then elevated above the level of the sea, and which on that account became covered with vegetation, and thence acquired their later or superincumbent strata, which constitute, what some have termed, the new world.

There is another source of clay, and that of the finest kind, from decomposed granite, this is of a snowy white and mixed with mining particles of mica, of this kind is an earth from the country of Cherokees. Other kinds are from less pure lavas; Mr. Ferber asserts that the sulphurous steams from Mount Vesuvius convert the lava into clay.

"The lavas of the antient Solfatara volcano have been undoubtedly of a vitreous nature, and these appear at present argillaceous. Some fragments of this lava are but half or at one side changed into clay, which either is viscid or ductile, or hard and stoney. Clays by fire are deprived of their coherent quality, which cannot be restored to them by pulverization, nor by humectation. But the sulphureous Solfatara steams restore it, as may be easily observed on the broken pots wherein they gather the sal ammoniac; though very well baked and burnt at Naples they are mollified again by the acid steams into a viscid clay which keeps the former fire-burnt colour." Travels in Italy, p. 156.


Smear'd her huge dragons with metallic hues, With golden purples, and cobaltic blues;

CANTO II. l. 287.

The fine bright purples or rose colours which we see on china cups are not producible with any other material except gold, manganese indeed gives a purple but of a very different kind.

In Europe the application of gold to these purposes appears to be of modern invention. Cassius's discovery of the precipitate of gold by tin, and the use of that precipitate for colouring glass and enamels, are now generally known, but though the precipitate with tin be more successful in producing the ruby glass, or the colourless glass which becomes red by subsequent ignition, the tin probably contributing to prevent the gold from separating, (which it is very liable to do during the fusion; yet, for enamels, the precipitates made by alcaline salts answer equally well, and give a finer red, the colour produced by the tin precipitate being a bluish purple, but with the others a rose red. I am informed that some of our best artists prefer aurum fulminans, mixing it, before it has become dry, with the white composition or enamel flux; when once it is divided by the other matter, it is ground with great safety, and without the least danger of explosion, whether moist or dry. The colour is remarkably improved and brought forth by long grinding, which accordingly makes an essential circumstance in the process.

The precipitates of gold, and the colcothar or other red preparations of iron, are called tender colours. The heat must be no greater than is just sufficient to make the enamel run upon the piece, for if greater, the colours will be destroyed or changed to a different kind. When the vitreous matter has just become fluid it seems as if the coloured metallic calx remained barely intermixed with it, like a coloured powder of exquisite tenuity suspended in water: but by stronger fire the calx is dissolved, and metallic colours are altered by solution in glass as well as in acids or alcalies.

The Saxon mines have till very lately almost exclusively supplied the rest of Europe with cobalt, or rather with its preparations, zaffre and smalt, for the exportation of the ore itself is there a capital crime. Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and some other parts of the continent, are now said to afford cobalts equal to the Saxon, and specimens have been discovered in our own island, both in Cornwall and in Scotland; but hitherto in no great quantity.

Calces of cobalt and of copper differ very materially from those above mentioned in their application for colouring enamels. In those the calx has previously acquired the intended colour, a colour which bears a red heat without injury, and all that remains is to fix it on the piece by a vitreous flux. But the blue colour of cobalt, and the green or bluish green of copper, are produced by vitrification, that is, by solution in the glass, and a strong fire is necessary for their perfection. These calces therefore, when mixed with the enamel flux, are melted in crucibles, once or oftener, and the deep coloured opake glass, thence resulting, is ground into unpalpable powder, and used for enamel. One part of either of these calces is put to ten, sixteen, or twenty parts of the flux, according to the depth of colour required. The heat of the enamel kiln is only a full red, such as is marked on Mr. Wedgwood's thermometer 6 degrees. It is therefore necessary that the flux be so adjusted as to melt in that low heat. The usual materials are flint, or flint-glass, with a due proportion of red-led, or borax, or both, and sometimes a little tin calx to give opacity.

Ka-o-lin is the name given by the Chinese to their porcelain clay, and pe-tun-tse to the other ingredient in their China ware. Specimens of both these have been brought into England, and found to agree in quality with some of our own materials. Kaolin is the very same with the clay called in Cornwall [Transcriber's note: word missing] and the petuntse is a granite similar to the Cornish moorstone. There are differences, both in the Chinese petuntses, and the English moorstones; all of them contain micaceous and quartzy particles, in greater or less quantity, along with feltspat, which last is the essential ingredient for the porcelain manufactory. The only injurious material commonly found in them is iron, which discolours the ware in proportion to its quantity, and which our moorstones are perhaps more frequently tainted with than the Chinese. Very fine porcelain has been made from English materials but the nature of the manufacture renders the process precarious and the profit hazardous; for the semivitrification, which constitutes porcelain, is necessarily accompanied with a degree of softness, or semifusion, so that the vessels are liable to have their forms altered in the kiln, or to run together with any accidental augmentations of the fire.


Or bid Mortality rejoice or mourn O'er the fine forms of Portland's mystic urn.

CANTO II. l. 319.

The celebrated funereal vase, long in possession of the Barberini family, and lately purchased by the Duke of Portland for a thousand guineas, is about ten inches high and six in diameter in the broadest part. The figures are of most exquisite workmanship in bas relief of white opake glass, raised on a ground of deep blue glass, which appears black except when held against the light. Mr. Wedgwood is of opinion from many circumstances that the figures have been made by cutting away the external crust of white opake glass, in the manner the finest cameo's have been produced, and that it must thence have been the labour of a great many years. Some antiquarians have placed the time of its production many centuries before the christian aera; as sculpture was said to have been declining in respect to its excellence in the time of Alexander the Great. See an account of the Barberini or Portland vase by M. D'Hancarville, and by Mr. Wedgwood.

Many opinions and conjectures have been published concerning the figures on this celebrated vase. Having carefully examined one of Mr. Wedgwood's beautiful copies of this wonderful production of art, I shall add one more conjecture to the number.

Mr. Wedgwood has well observed that it does not seem probable that the Portland vase was purposely made for the ashes of any particular person deceased, because many years must have been necessary for its production. Hence it may be concluded, that the subject of its embellishments is not private history but of a general nature. This subject appears to me to be well chosen, and the story to be finely told; and that it represents what in antient times engaged the attention of philosophers, poets, and heroes, I mean a part of the Eleusinian mysteries.

These mysteries were invented in Aegypt, and afterwards transferred to Greece, and flourished more particularly at Athens, which was at the same time the seat of the fine arts. They consisted of scenical exhibitions representing and inculcating the expectation of a future life after death, and on this account were encouraged by the government, insomuch that the Athenian laws punished a discovery of their secrets with death. Dr. Warburton has with great learning and ingenuity shewn that the descent of Aeneas into hell, described in the Sixth Book of Virgil, is a poetical account of the representations of the future state in the Eleusinian mysteries. Divine Legation, Vol. I. p. 210.

And though some writers have differed in opinion from Dr. Warburton on this subject, because Virgil has introduced some of his own heroes into the Elysian fields, as Deiphobus, Palinurus, and Dido, in the same manner as Homer had done before him, yet it is agreed that the received notions about a future state were exhibited in these mysteries, and as these poets described those received notions, they may be said, as far as these religious doctrines were concerned, to have described the mysteries.

Now as these were emblematic exhibitions they must have been as well adapted to the purposes of sculpture as of poetry, which indeed does not seem to have been uncommon, since one compartment of figures in the sheild of Aeneas represented the regions of Tartarus. Aen. Lib. X. The procession of torches, which according to M. De St. Croix was exhibited in these mysteries, is still to be seen in basso relievo, discovered by Spon and Wheler. Memoires sur le Mysteres par De St. Croix. 1784. And it is very probable that the beautiful gem representing the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, as described by Apuleus, was originally descriptive of another part of the exhibitions in these mysteries, though afterwards it became a common subject of antient art. See Divine Legat. Vol. I. p. 323. What subject could have been imagined so sublime for the ornaments of a funereal urn as the mortality of all things and their resuscitation? Where could the designer be supplied with emblems for this purpose, before the Christian era, but from the Eleusinian mysteries?

1. The exhibitions of the mysteries were of two kinds, those which the people were permitted to see, and those which were only shewn to the initiated. Concerning the latter, Aristides calls them "the most shocking and most ravishing representations." And Stoboeus asserts that the initiation into the grand mysteries exactly resembles death. Divine Legat. Vol. I. p. 280, and p. 272. And Virgil in his entrance to the shades below, amongst other things of terrible form, mentions death. Aen. VI. This part of the exhibition seems to be represented in one of the compartments of the Portland vase.

Three figures of exquisite workmanship are placed by the side of a ruined column whose capital is fallen off, and lies at their feet with other disjointed stones, they sit on loose piles of stone beneath a tree, which has not the leaves of any evergreen of this climate, but may be supposed to be an elm, which Virgil places near the entrance of the infernal regions, and adds, that a dream was believed to dwell under every leaf of it. Aen. VI. l. 281. In the midst of this group reclines a female figure in a dying attitude, in which extreme languor is beautifully represented, in her hand is an inverted torch, an antient emblem of extinguished life, the elbow of the same arm resting on a stone supports her as she sinks, while the other hand is raised and thrown over her drooping head, in some measure sustaining it and gives with great art the idea of fainting lassitude. On the right of her sits a man, and on the left a woman, both supporting themselves on their arms, as people are liable to do when they are thinking intensely. They have their backs towards the dying figure, yet with their faces turned towards her, as if seriously contemplating her situation, but without stretching out their hands to assist her.

This central figure then appears to me to be an hieroglyphic or Eleusinian emblem of MORTAL LIFE, that is, the lethum, or death, mentioned by Virgil amongst the terrible things exhibited at the beginning of the mysteries. The inverted torch shews the figure to be emblematic, if it had been designed to represent a real person in the act of dying there had been no necessity for the expiring torch, as the dying figure alone would have been sufficiently intelligible;—it would have been as absurd as to have put an inverted torch into the hand of a real person at the time of his expiring. Besides if this figure had represented a real dying person would not the other figures, or one of them at least, have stretched out a hand to support her, to have eased her fall among loose stones, or to have smoothed her pillow? These circumstances evince that the figure is an emblem, and therefore could not be a representation of the private history of any particular family or event.

The man and woman on each side of the dying figure must be considered as emblems, both from their similarity of situation and dress to the middle figure, and their being grouped along with it. These I think are hieroglyphic or Eleusinian emblems of HUMANKIND, with their backs toward the dying figure of MORTAL LIFE, unwilling to associate with her, yet turning back their serious and attentive countenances, curious indeed to behold, yet sorry to contemplate their latter end. These figures bring strongly to one's mind the Adam and Eve of sacred writ, whom some have supposed to have been allegorical or hieroglyphic persons of Aegyptian origin, but of more antient date, amongst whom I think is Dr. Warburton. According to this opinion Adam and Eve were the names of two hieroglyphic figures representing the early state of mankind; Abel was the name of an hieroglyphic figure representing the age of pasturage, and Cain the name of another hieroglyphic symbol representing the age of agriculture, at which time the uses of iron were discovered. And as the people who cultivated the earth and built houses would increase in numbers much faster by their greater production of food, they would readily conquer or destroy the people who were sustained by pasturage, which was typified by Cain slaying Abel.

2. On the other compartment of this celebrated vase is exhibited an emblem of immortality, the representation of which was well known to constitute a very principal part of the shews at the Eleusinian mysteries, as Dr. Warburton has proved by variety of authority. The habitation of spirits or ghosts after death was supposed by the antients to be placed beneath the earth, where Pluto reigned, and dispensed rewards or punishments. Hence the first figure in this group is of the MANES or GHOST, who having passed through an open portal is descending into a dusky region, pointing his toe with timid and unsteady step, feeling as it were his way in the gloom. This portal Aeneas enters, which is described by Virgil,—patet atri janua ditis, Aen. VI. l. 126; as well as the easy descent,—facilis descensus Averni. Ib. The darkness at the entrance to the shades is humorously described by Lucian. Div. Legat. Vol. I. p. 241. And the horror of the gates of hell was in the time of Homer become a proverb; Achilles says to Ulysses, "I hate a liar worse than the gates of hell;" the same expression is used in Isaiah, ch. xxxviii. v. 10. The MANES or GHOST appears lingering and fearful, and wishes to drag after him a part of his mortal garment, which however adheres to the side of the portal through which he has passed. The beauty of this allegory would have been expressed by Mr. Pope, by "We feel the ruling passion strong in death."

A little lower down in the group the manes or ghost is received by a beautiful female, a symbol of IMMORTAL LIFE. This is evinced by her fondling between her knees a large and playful serpent, which from its annually renewing its external skin has from great antiquity, even as early as the fable of Prometheus, been esteemed an emblem of renovated youth. The story of the serpent acquiring immortal life from the ass of Prometheus, who carried it on his back, is told in Bacon's Works, Vol. V. p. 462. Quarto edit. Lond. 1778. For a similar purpose a serpent was wrapped round the large hieroglyphic egg in the temple of Dioscuri, as an emblem of the renewal of life from a state of death. Bryant's Mythology, Vol II. p. 359. sec. edit. On this account also the serpent was an attendant on Aesculapius, which seems to have been the name of the hieroglyphic figure of medicine. This serpent shews this figure to be an emblem, as the torch shewed the central figure of the other compartment to be an emblem, hence they agreeably correspond, and explain each other, one representing MORTAL LIFE, and the other IMMORTAL LIFE.

This emblematic figure of immortal life sits down with her feet towards the figure of Pluto, but, turning back her face towards the timid ghost, she stretches forth her hand, and taking hold of his elbow, supports his tottering steps, as well as encourages him to advance, both which circumstances are thus with wonderful ingenuity brought to the eye. At the same time the spirit loosely lays his hand upon her arm, as one walking in the dark would naturally do for the greater certainty of following his conductress, while the general part of the symbol of IMMORTAL LIFE, being turned toward the figure of Pluto, shews that she is leading the phantom to his realms.

In the Pamphili gardens at Rome, Perseus in assisting Andromeda to descend from the rock takes hold of her elbow to steady or support her step, and she lays her hand loosely on his arm as in this figure. Admir. Roman. Antiq.

The figure of PLUTO can not be mistaken, as is agreed by most of the writers who have mentioned this vase; his grisley beard, and his having one foot buried in the earth, denotes the infernal monarch. He is placed at the lowest part of the group, and resting his chin on his hand, and his arm upon his knee, receives the stranger-spirit with inquisitive attention; it was before observed that when people think attentively they naturally rest their bodies in some easy attitude, that more animal power may be employed on the thinking faculty. In this group of figures there is great art shewn in giving an idea of a descending plain, viz. from earth to Elysium, and yet all the figures are in reality on an horizontal one. This wonderful deception is produced first by the descending step of the manes or ghost; secondly, by the arm of the sitting figure of immortal life being raised up to receive him as he descends; and lastly, by Pluto having one foot sunk into the earth.

There is yet another figure which is concerned in conducing the manes or ghost to the realms of Pluto, and this is LOVE. He precedes the descending spirit on expanded wings, lights him with his torch, and turning back his beautiful countenance beckons him to advance. The antient God of love was of much higher dignity than the modern Cupid. He was the first that came out of the great egg of night, (Hesiod. Theog. V. CXX. Bryant's Mythol. Vol. II. p. 348.) and is said to possess the keys of the sky, sea, and earth. As he therefore led the way into this life, he seems to constitute proper emblem for leading the way to a future life. See Bacon's works. Vol. I. p. 568. and Vol. III. p. 582. Quarto edit.

The introduction of love into this part of the mysteries requires a little further explanation. The Psyche of the Aegyptians was one of their most favourite emblems, and represented the soul, or a future life; it was originally no other than the aurelia, or butterfly, but in after times was represented by a lovely female child with the beautiful wings of that insect. The aurelia, after its first stage as an eruca or caterpillar, lies for a season in a manner dead, and is inclosed in a sort of coffin, in this state of darkness it remains all the winter, but at the return of spring it bursts its bonds and comes out with new life, and in the most beautiful attire. The Aegyptians thought this a very proper picture of the soul of man, and of the immortality to which it aspired. But as this was all owing to divine Love, of which EROS was an emblem, we find this person frequently introduced as a concomitant of the soul in general or Psyche. (Bryant's Mythol. Vol. II. p. 386.) EROS, or divine Love, is for the same reason a proper attendant on the manes or soul after death, and much contributes to tell the story, that is, to shew that a soul or manes is designed by the descending figure. From this figure of Love M. D'Hancarville imagines that Orpheus and Eurydice are typified under the figure of the manes and immortal life as above described. It may be sufficient to answer, first, that Orpheus is always represented with a lyre, of which there are prints of four different gems in Spence's Polymetis, and Virgil so describes him, Aen. VI. cythara fretus. And secondly, that it is absurd to suppose that Eurydice was fondling and playing with a serpent that had slain her. Add to this that Love seems to have been an inhabitant of the infernal regions, as exhibited in the mysteries, for Claudian, who treats more openly of the Eleusinian mysteries, when they were held in less veneration, invokes the deities to disclose to him their secrets, and amongst other things by what torch Love softens Pluto.

Dii, quibus in numerum, &c. Vos mihi sacrarum penetralia pandite rerum, Et vestri secreta poli, qua lampade Ditem Flexit amor.

In this compartment there are two trees, whose branches spread over the figures, one of them has smoother leaves like some evergreens, and might thence be supposed to have some allusion to immortality, but they may perhaps have been designed only as ornaments, or to relieve the figures, or because it was in groves, where these mysteries were originally celebrated. Thus Homer speaks of the woods of Proserpine, and mentions many trees in Tartarus, as presenting their fruits to Tantalus; Virgil speaks of the pleasant groves of Elysium; and in Spence's Polymetis there are prints of two antient gems, one of Orpheus charming Cerberus with his lyre, and the other of Hercules binding him in a cord, each of them standing by a tree. Polymet. p. 284. As however these trees have all different foliage so clearly marked by the artist, they may have had specific meanings in the exhibitions of the mysteries, which have not reached posterity, of this kind seem to have been the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life, in sacred writ, both which must have been emblematic or allegorical. The masks, hanging to the handles of the vase, seem to indicate that there is a concealed meaning in the figures besides their general appearance. And the priestess at the bottom, which I come now to describe, seems to shew this concealed meaning to be of the sacred or Eleusinian kind.

3. The figure on the bottom of the vase is on a larger scale than the others, and less finely finished, and less elevated, and as this bottom part was afterwards cemented to the upper part, it might be executed by another artist for the sake of expedition, but there seems no reason to suppose that it was not originally designed for the upper part of it as some have conjectured. As the mysteries of Ceres were celebrated by female priests, for Porphyrius says the antients called the priestesses of Ceres, Melissai, or bees, which were emblems of chastity. Div. Leg. Vol. I. p. 235. And as, in his Satire against the sex, Juvenal says, that few women are worthy to be priestesses of Ceres. Sat. VI. the figure at the bottom of the vase would seem to represent a PRIESTESS or HIEROPHANT, whose office it was to introduce the initiated, and point out to them, and explain the exhibitions in the mysteries, and to exclude the uninitiated, calling out to them, "Far, far retire, ye profane!" and to guard the secrets of the temple. Thus the introductory hymn sung by the hierophant, according to Eusebius, begins, "I will declare a secret to the initiated, but let the doors be shut against the profane." Div. Leg. Vol. I. p. 177. The priestess or hierophant appears in this figure with a close hood, and dressed in linen, which fits close about her; except a light cloak, which flutters in the wind. Wool, as taken from slaughtered animals, was esteemed profane by the priests of Aegypt, who were always dressed in linen. Apuleus, p. 64. Div. Leg. Vol. I. p. 318. Thus Eli made for Samuel a linen ephod. Samuel i. 3.

Secrecy was the foundation on which all mysteries rested, when publicly known they ceased to be mysteries; hence a discovery of them was not only punished with death by the Athenian law; but in other countries a disgrace attended the breach of a solemn oath. The priestess in the figure before us has her finger pointing to her lips as an emblem of silence. There is a figure of Harpocrates, who was of Aegyptian origin, the same as Orus, with the lotus on his head, and with his finger pointing to his lips not pressed upon them, in Bryant's Mythol. Vol. II. p. 398, and another female figure standing on a lotus, as if just risen from the Nile, with her finger in the same attitude, these seem to have been representations or emblems of male and female priests of the secret mysteries. As these sort of emblems were frequently changed by artists for their more elegant exhibition, it is possible the foliage over the head of this figure may bear some analogy to the lotus above mentioned.

This figure of secrecy seems to be here placed, with great ingenuity, as a caution to the initiated, who might understand the meaning of the emblems round the vase, not to divulge it. And this circumstance seems to account for there being no written explanation extant, and no tradition concerning these beautiful figures handed down to us along with them.

Another explanation of this figure at the bottom of the vase would seem to confirm the idea that the basso relievos round its sides are representations of a part of the mysteries, I mean that it is the head of ATIS. Lucian says that Atis was a young man of Phrygia, of uncommon beauty, that he dedicated a temple in Syria to Rhea, or Cybele, and first taught her mysteries to the Lydians, Phrygians, and Samothracians, which mysteries he brought from India. He was afterwards made an eunuch by Rhea, and lived like a woman, and assumed a feminine habit, and in that garb went over the world teaching her ceremonies and mysteries. Dict. par M. Danet, art. Atis. As this figure is covered with clothes, while those on the sides of the vase are naked, and has a Phrygian cap on the head, and as the form and features are so soft, that it is difficult to say whether it be a male or female figure, there is reason to conclude, 1. that it has reference to some particular person of some particular country; 2. that this person is Atis, the first great hierophant, or teacher of mysteries, to whom M. De la Chausse says the figure itself bears a resemblance. Museo. Capitol. Tom. IV. p. 402.

In the Museum Etruscum, Vol. I. plate 96, there is the head of Atis with feminine features, clothed with a Phrygian cap, and rising from very broad foliage, placed on a kind of term supported by the paw of a lion. Goreus in his explanation of the figure says that it is placed on a lion's foot because that animal was sacred to Cybele, and that it rises from very broad leaves because after he became an eunuch he determined to dwell in the groves. Thus the foliage, as well as the cap and feminine features, confirm the idea of this figure at the bottom of the vase representing the head of Atis the first great hierophant, and that the figures on the sides of the vase are emblems from the antient mysteries.

I beg leave to add that it does not appear to have been uncommon amongst the antients to put allegorical figures on funeral vases. In the Pamphili palace at Rome there is an elaborate representation of Life and of Death, on an antient sarcophagus. In the first Prometheus is represented making man, and Minerva is placing a butterfly, or the soul, upon his head. In the other compartment Love extinguishes his torch in the bosom of the dying figure, and is receiving the butterfly, or Psyche, from him, with a great number of complicated emblematic figures grouped in very bad taste. Admir. Roman. Antiq.


Whence sable Coal his massy couch extends, And stars of gold the sparkling Pyrite blends.

CANTO II. l. 349.

To elucidate the formation of coal-beds I shall here describe a fountain of fossil tar, or petroleum, discovered lately near Colebrook Dale in Shropshire, the particulars of which were sent me by Dr. Robert Darwin of Shrewsbury.

About a mile and a half below the celebrated iron-bridge, constructed by the late Mr. DARBY near Colebrook Dale, on the east side of the river Severn, as the workmen in October 1786 were making a subterranean canal into the mountain, for the more easy acquisition and conveyance of the coals which lie under it, they found an oozing of liquid bitumen, or petroleum; and as they proceeded further cut through small cavities of different sizes from which the bitumen issued. From ten to fifteen barrels of this fossil tar, each barrel containing thirty-two gallons, were at first collected in a day, which has since however gradually diminished in quantity, so that at present the product is about seven barrels in fourteen days.

The mountain, into which this canal enters, consists of siliceous sand, in which however a few marine productions, apparently in their recent state, have been found, and are now in the possession of Mr. WILLIAM REYNOLDS of Ketly Bank. About three hundred yards from the entrance into the mountain, and about twenty-eight yards below the surface of it, the tar is found oozing from the sand-rock above into the top and sides of the canal.

Beneath the level of this canal a shaft has been sunk through a grey argillaceous substance, called in this country clunch, which is said to be a pretty certain indication of coal; beneath this lies a stratum of coal, about two or three inches thick, of an inferior kind, yielding little flame in burning, and leaving much ashes; below this is a rock of a harder texture; and beneath this are found coals of an excellent quality; for the purpose of procuring which with greater facility the canal, or horizontal aperture, is now making into the mountain. July, 1788.

Beneath these coals in some places is found salt water, in other parts of the adjacent country there are beds of iron-stone, which also contain some bitumen in a less fluid state, and which are about on a level with the new canal, into which the fossil tar oozes, as above described.

There are many interesting circumstances attending the situation and accompaniments of this fountain of fossil tar, tending to develop the manner of its production. 1. As the canal passing into the mountain runs over the beds of coals, and under the reservoir of petroleum, it appears that a natural distillation of this fossil in the bowels of the earth must have taken place at some early period of the world, similar to the artificial distillation of coal, which has many years been carried on in this place on a smaller scale above ground. When this reservoir of petroleum was cut into, the slowness of its exsudation into the canal was not only owing to its viscidity, but to the pressure of the atmosphere, or to the necessity there was that air should at the same time insinuate itself into the small cavities from which the petroleum descended. The existence of such a distillation at some antient time is confirmed by the thin stratum of coal beneath the canal, (which covers the hard rock,) having been deprived of its fossil oil, so as to burn without flame, and thus to have become a natural coak, or fossil charcoal, while the petroleum distilled from it is found in the cavities of the rock above it.

There are appearances in other places, which favour this idea of the natural distillation of petroleum, thus at Matlock in Derbyshire a hard bitumen is found adhering to the spar in the clefts of the lime-rocks in the form of round drops about the size of peas; which could perhaps only be deposited there in that form by sublimation.

2. The second deduction, which offers itself, is, that these beds of coal have been exposed to a considerable degree of heat, since the petroleum above could not be separated, as far as we know, by any other means, and that the good quality of the coals beneath the hard rock was owing to the impermeability of this rock to the bituminous vapour, and to its pressure being too great to permit its being removed by the elasticity of that vapour. Thus from the degree of heat, the degree of pressure, and the permeability of the superincumbent strata, many of the phenomena attending coal-beds receive an easy explanation, which much accords with the ingenious theory of the earth by Dr. Hutton, Trans. of Edinb. Vol. I.

In some coal works the fusion of the strata of coal has been so slight, that there remains the appearance of ligneus fibres, and the impression of leaves, as at Bovey near Exeter, and even seeds of vegetables, of which I have had specimens from the collieries near Polesworth in Warwickshire. In some, where the heat was not very intense and the incumbent stratum not permeable to vapour, the fossil oil has only risen to the upper part of the coal-bed, and has rendered that much more inflammable than the lower parts of it, as in the collieries near Beaudesert, the seat of the EARL OF UXBRIDGE in Staffordshire, where the upper stratum is a perfect cannel, or candle-coal, and the lower one of an inferior quality. Over the coal-beds near Sir H. HARPUR'S house in Derbyshire a thin lamina of asphaltum is found in some places near the surface of the earth, which would seem to be from a distillation of petroleum from the coals below, the more fluid part of which had in process of time exhaled, or been consolidated by its absorption of air. In other coal-works the upper part of the stratum is of a worse kind than the lower one, as at Alfreton and Denbigh in Derbyshire, owing to the supercumbent stratum having permitted the exhalation of a great part of the petroleum; whilst at Widdrington in Northumberland there is first a seam of coal about six inches thick of no value, which lies under about four fathom of clay, beneath this is a white freestone, then a hard stone, which the workmen there call a whin, then two fathoms of clay, then another white stone, and under that a vein of coals three feet nine inches thick, of a similar nature to the Newcastle coal. Phil. Trans. Abridg. Vol. VI. plate II. p. 192. The similitude between the circumstances of this colliery, and of the coal beneath the fountain of tar above described, renders it highly probable that this upper thin seam of coal has suffered a similar distillation, and that the inflammable part of it had either been received into the clay above in the form of sulphur, which when burnt in the open air would produce alum; or had been dissipated for want of a receiver, where it could be condensed. The former opinion is perhaps in this case more probable as in some other coal-beds, of which I have procured accounts, the surface of the coal beneath clunch or clay is of an inferior quality, as at West Hallum in Nottinghamshire. The clunch probably from hence acquires its inflammable part, which on calcination becomes vitriolic acid. I gathered pieces of clunch converted partially into alum at a colliery near Bilston, where the ground was still on fire a few years ago.

The heat, which has thus pervaded the beds of morass, seems to have been the effect of the fermentation of their vegetable materials; as new hay sometimes takes fire even in such very small masses from the sugar it contains, and seems hence not to have been attended with any expulsion of lava, like the deeper craters of volcanos situated in beds of granite.

3. The marine shells found in the loose sand-rock above this reservoir of petroleum, and the coal-beds beneath it, together with the existence of sea-salt beneath these coals, prove that these coal beds have been at the bottom of the sea, during some remote period of time, and were afterwards raised into their present situation by subterraneous expansions of vapour. This doctrine is further supported by the marks of violence, which some coal-beds received at the time they were raised out of the sea, as in the collieries at Mendip in Somersetshire. In these there are seven strata of coals, equitant upon each other, with beds of clay and stone intervening; amongst which clay are found shells and fern branches. In one part of this hill the strata are disjoined, and a quantity of heterogeneous substances fill up the chasm which disjoins them, on one side of this chasm the seven strata of coal are seen corresponding in respect to their reciprocal thickness and goodness with the seven strata on the other side of the cavity, except that they have been elevated several yards higher. Phil. Trans. No. 360. abridg. Vol. V. p. 237.

The cracks in the coal-bed near Ticknall in Derbyshire, and in the sand- stone rock over it, in both of which specimens of lead-ore and spar are found, confirm this opinion of their having been forcibly raised up by subterraneous fires. Over the colliery at Brown-hills near Lichfield, there is a stratum of gravel on the surface of the ground; which may be adduced as another proof to shew that those coals had some time been beneath the sea, or the bed of a river. Nevertheless, these arguments only apply to the collieries above mentioned, which are few compared with those which bear no marks of having been immersed in the sea.

On the other hand the production of coals from morasses, as described in note XX. is evinced from the vegetable matters frequently found in them, and in the strata over them; as fern-leaves in nodules of iron-ore, and from the bog-shells or fresh water muscles sometimes found over them, of both which I have what I believe to be specimens; and is further proved from some parts of these beds being only in part transformed to coal; and the other part still retaining not only the form, but some of the properties of wood; specimens of which are not unfrequent in the cabinets of the curious, procured from Loch Neigh in Ireland, from Bovey near Exeter, and other places; and from a famous cavern called the Temple of the Devil, near the town of Altorf in Franconia, at the foot of a mountain covered with pine and savine, in which are found large coals resembling trees of ebony; which are so far mineralized as to be heavy and compact; and so to effloresce with pyrites in some parts as to crumble to pieces; yet from other parts white ashes are produced on calcination, from which fixed alcali is procured; which evinces their vegetable origin. (Dict. Raisonne, art. Charbon.) To these may be added another argument from the oil which is distilled from coals, and which is analogous to vegetable oil, and does not exist in any bodies truly mineral. Keir's Chemical Dictionary, art. Bitumen.

Whence it would appear, that though most collieries with their attendant strata of clay, sand-stone, and iron, were formed on the places where the vegetables grew, from which they had their origin; yet that other collections of vegetable matter were washed down from eminences by currents of waters into the beds of rivers, or the neighbouring seas, and were there accumulated at different periods of time, and underwent a great degree of heat from their fermentation, in the same manner as those beds of morass which had continued on the plains where they were produced. And that by this fermentation many of them had been raised from the ocean with sand and sea-shells over them; and others from the beds of rivers with accumulations of gravel upon them.

4. For the purpose of bringing this history of the products of morasses more distinctly to the eye of the reader, I shall here subjoin two or three accounts of sinking or boring for coals, out of above twenty which I have procured from various places, though the terms are not very intelligible, being the language of the overseers of coal-works.

1. Whitfield mine near the Pottery in Staffordshire. Soil 1 foot. brick-clay 3 feet. shale 4. metal which is hard brown and falls in the weather 42. coal 3. warrant clay 6. brown gritstone 36. coal 31/2. warrant clay 31/2. bass and metal 531/2. hardstone 4. shaly bass 11/2. coal 4. warrant clay, depth unknown. in all about 55 yards.

2. Coal-mine at Alfreton in Derbyshire. Soil and clay 7 feet. fragments of stone 9. bind 13. stone 6. bind 34. stone 5. bind 2. stone 2. bind 10. coal 11/2. bind 11/2. stone 37. bind 7. soft coal 3. bind 3. stone 20. bind 16. coal 71/2. in all about 61 yards.

3. A basset coal-mine at Woolarton in Nottinghamshire. Sand and gravel 6 feet. bind 21. stone 10. smut or effete coal 1. clunch 4. bind 21. stone 18. bind 18. stone-bind 15. soft coal 2. clunch and bind 21. coal 7. in all about 48 yards.

4. Coal-mine at West-Hallam in Nottinghamshire. Soil and clay 7 feet. bind 48. smut 11/2. clunch 4. bind 3. stone 2. bind 1. stone 1. bind 3. stone 1. bind 16. shale 2. bind 12. shale 3. clunch, stone, and a bed of cank 54. soft coal 4. clay and dun 1. soft coal 41/2. clunch and bind 21. coal 1. broad bind 26. hard coal 6. in all about 74 yards.

As these strata generally lie inclined, I suppose parallel with the limestone on which they rest, the upper edges of them all come out to day, which is termed bassetting; when the whole mass was ignited by its fermentation, it is probable that the inflammable part of some strata might thus more easily escape than of others in the form of vapour; as dews are known to slide between such strata in the production of springs; which accounts for some coal-beds being so much worse than others. See note XX.

From this account of the production of coals from morasses it would appear, that coal-beds are not to be expected beneath masses of lime- stone. Nevertheless I have been lately informed by my friend Mr. Michell of Thornhill, who I hope will soon favour the public with his geological investigations, that the beds of chalk are the uppermost of all the limestones; and that they rest on the granulated limestone, called ketton-stone; which I suppose is similar to that which covers the whole country from Leadenham to Sleaford, and from Sleaford to Lincoln; and that, thirdly, coal-delphs are frequently found beneath these two uppermost beds of limestone.

Now as the beds of chalk and of granulated limestone may have been formed by alluviation, on or beneath the shores of the sea, or in vallies of the land; it would seem, that some coal countries, which in the great commotions of the earth had been sunk beneath the water, were thus covered with alluvial limestone, as well as others with alluvial basaltes, or common gravel-beds. Very extensive plains which now consist of alluvial materials, were in the early times covered with water; which has since diminished as the solid parts of the earth have increased. For the solid parts of the earth consisting chiefly of animal and vegetable recrements must have originally been formed or produced from the water by animal and vegetable processes; and as the solid parts of the earth may be supposed to be thrice as heavy as water, it follows that thrice the quantity of water must have vanished compared with the quantity of earth thus produced. This may account for many immense beds of alluvial materials, as gravel, rounded sand granulated limestone, and chalk, covering such extensive plains as Lincoln-heath, having become dry without the supposition of their having been again elevated from the ocean. At the same time we acquire the knowledge of one of the uses or final causes of the organized world, not indeed very flattering to our vanity, that it converts water into earth, forming islands and continents by its recrements or exuviae.


Climb the rude steeps, the Granite-cliffs surround.

CANTO II. l. 523.

The lowest stratum of the earth which human labour has arrived to, is granite; and of this likewise consists the highest mountains of the world. It is known under variety of names according to some difference in its appearance or composition, but is now generally considered by philosophers as a species of lava; if it contains quartz, feltspat, and mica in distinct crystals, it is called granite; which is found in Cornwall in rocks; and in loose stones in the gravel near Drayton in Shropshire, in the road towards Newcastle. If these parts of the composition be less distinct, or if only two of them be visible to the eye, it is termed porphyry, trap, whinstone, moorstone, slate. And if it appears in a regular angular form, it is called basaltes. The affinity of these bodies has lately been further well established by Dr. Beddoes in the Phil. Trans. Vol. LXXX.

These are all esteemed to have been volcanic productions that have undergone different degrees of heat; it is well known that in Papin's digester water may be made red hot by confinement, and will then dissolve many bodies which otherwise are little or not at all acted upon by it. From hence it may be conceived, that under immense pressure of superincumbent materials, and by great heat, these masses of lava may have undergone a kind of aqueous solution, without any tendency to vitrification, and might thence have a power of crystallization, whence all the varieties above mentioned from the different proportion of the materials, or the different degrees of heat they may have undergone in this aqueous solution. And that the uniformity of the mixture of the original earths, as of lime, argil, silex, magnesia, and barytes, which they contain, was owing to their boiling together a longer or shorter time before their elevation into mountains. See note XIX. art. 8.

The seat of volcanos seems to be principally, if not entirely, in these strata of granite; as many of them are situated on granite mountains, and throw up from time to time sheets of lava which run down over the proceeding strata from the same origin; and in this they seem to differ from the heat which has separated the clay, coal, and sand in morasses, which would appear to have risen from a kind of fermentation, and thus to have pervaded the whole mass without any expuition of lava.

All the lavas from Vesuvius contain one fourth part of iron, (Kirwan's Min.) and all the five primitive earths, viz. calcareous, argillaceous, siliceous, barytic, and magnesian earths, which are also evidently produced now daily from the recrements of animal and vegetable bodies. What is to be thence concluded? Has the granite stratum in very antient times been produced like the present calcareous and siliceous masses, according to the ingenious theory of Dr. Hutton, who says new continents are now forming at the bottom of the sea to rise in their turn, and that thus the terraqueous globe has been, and will be, eternal? Or shall we suppose that this internal heated mass of granite, which forms the nucleus of the earth, was a part of the body of the sun before it was separated by an explosion? Or was the sun originally a planet, inhabited like ours, and a satellite to some other greater sun, which has long been extinguished by diffusion of its light, and around which the present sun continues to revolve, according to a conjecture of the celebrated Mr. Herschell, and which conveys to the mind a most sublime idea of the progressive and increasing excellence of the works of the Creator of all things?

For the more easy comprehension of the facts and conjectures concerning the situation and production of the various strata of the earth, I shall here subjoin a supposed section of the globe, but without any attempt to give the proportions of the parts, or the number of them, but only their respective situation over each other, and a geological recapitulation.


1. The earth was projected along with the other primary planets from the sun, which is supposed to be on fire only on its surface, emitting light without much internal heat like a ball of burning camphor.

2. The rotation of the earth round its axis was occasioned by its greater friction or adhesion to one side of the cavity from which it was ejected; and from this rotation it acquired its spheroidical form. As it cooled in its ascent from the sun its nucleus became harder; and its attendant vapours were condensed, forming the ocean.

3. The masses or mountains of granite, porphery, basalt, and stones of similar structure, were a part of the original nucleus of the earth; or consist of volcanic productions since formed.

4. On this nucleus of granite and basaltes, thus covered by the ocean, were formed the calcareous beds of limestone, marble, chalk, spar, from the exuviae of marine animals; with the flints, or chertz, which accompany them. And were stratified by their having been formed at different and very distant periods of time.

5. The whole terraqueous globe was burst by central fires; islands and continents were raised, consisting of granite or lava in some parts, and of limestone in others; and great vallies were sunk, into which the ocean retired.

6. During these central earthquakes the moon was ejected from the earth, causing new tides; and the earth's axis suffered some change in its inclination, and its rotatory motion was retarded.

7. On some parts of these islands and continents of granite or limestone were gradually produced extensive morasses from the recrements of vegetables and of land animals; and from these morasses, heated by fermentation, were produced clay, marle, sandstone, coal, iron, (with the bases of variety of acids;) all which were stratified by their having been formed at different, and very distant periods of time.

8. In the elevation of the mountains very numerous and deep fissures necessarily were produced. In these fissures many of the metals are formed partly from descending materials, and partly from ascending ones raised in vapour by subterraneous fires. In the fissures of granite or porphery quartz is formed; in the fissures of limestone calcareous spar is produced.

9. During these first great volcanic fires it is probable the atmosphere was either produced, or much increased; a process which is perhaps now going on in the moon; Mr. Herschell having discovered a volcanic crater three miles broad burning on her disk.

10. The summits of the new mountains were cracked into innumerable lozenges by the cold dews or snows falling upon them when red hot. From these summits, which were then twice as high as at present, cubes and lozenges of granite, and basalt, and quartz in some countries, and of marble and flints in others, descended gradually into the valleys, and were rolled together in the beds of rivers, (which were then so large as to occupy the whole valleys, which they now only intersect;) and produced the great beds of gravel, of which many valleys consist.

11. In several parts of the earth's surface subsequent earthquakes, from the fermentation of morasses, have at different periods of time deranged the position of the matters above described. Hence the gravel, which was before in the beds of rivers, has in some places been raised into mountains, along with clay and coal strata which were formed from morasses and washed down from eminences into the beds of rivers or the neighbouring seas, and in part raised again with gravel or marine shells over them; but this has only obtained in few places compared with the general distribution of such materials. Hence there seem to have existed two sources of earthquakes, which have occurred at great distance of time from each other; one from the granite beds in the central parts of the earth, and the other from the morasses on its surface. All the subsequent earthquakes and volcanos of modern days compared with these are of small extent and insignificant effect.

12. Besides the argillaceous sand-stone produced from morasses, which is stratified with clay, and coal, and iron, other great beds of siliceous sand have been formed in the sea by the combination of an unknown acid from morasses, and the calcareous matters of the ocean.

13. The warm waters which are found in many countries, are owing to steam arising from great depths through the fissures of limestone or lava, elevated by subterranean fires, and condensed between the strata of the hills over them; and not from any decomposition of pyrites or manganese near the surface of the earth.

14. The columns of basaltes have been raised by the congelation or expansion of granite beds in the act of cooling from their semi-vitreous fusion.


Aquatic nymphs! you lead with viewless march The winged vapour up the aerial arch.

CANTO III. l. 13.

I. The atmosphere will dissolve a certain quantity of moisture as a chemical menstruum, even when it is much below the freezing point, as appears from the diminution of ice suspended in frosty air, but a much greater quantity of water is evaporated and suspended in the air by means of heat, which is perhaps the universal cause of fluidity, for water is known to boil with less heat in vacuo, which is a proof that it will evaporate faster in vacuo, and that the air therefore rather hinders than promotes its evaporation in higher degrees of heat. The quick evaporation occasioned in vacuo by a small degree of heat is agreeably seen in what is termed a pulse-glass, which consists of an exhausted tube of glass with a bulb at each end of it and with about two thirds of the cavity filled with alcohol, in which the spirit is instantly seen to boil by the heat of the finger-end applied on a bubble of steam in the lower bulb, and is condensed again in the upper bulb by the least conceivable comparative coldness.

2. Another circumstance evincing that heat is the principal cause of evaporation is that at the time of water being converted into steam, a great quantity of heat is taken away from the neighbouring bodies. If a thermometer be repeatedly dipped in ether, or in rectified spirit of wine, and exposed to a blast of air, to expedite the evaporation by perpetually removing the saturated air from it, the thermometer will presently sink below freezing. This warmth, taken from the ambient bodies at the time of evaporation by the steam, is again given out when the steam is condensed into water. Hence the water in a worm-tub during distillation so soon becomes hot; and hence the warmth accompanying the descent of rain in cold weather.

3. The third circumstance, shewing that heat is the principal cause of evaporation, is, that some of the steam becomes again condensed when any part of the heat is withdrawn. Thus when warmer south-west winds replete with moisture succeed the colder north-east winds all bodies that are dense and substantial, as stone walls, brick floors, &c. absorb some of the heat from the passing air, and its moisture becomes precipitated on them, while the north-east winds become warmer on their arrival in this latitude, and are thence disposed to take up more moisture, and are termed drying winds.

4. Heat seems to be the principal cause of the solution of many other bodies, as common salt, or blue vitriol dissolved in water, which when exposed to severe cold are precipitated, or carried, to the part of the water last frozen; this I observed in a phial filled with a solution of blue vitriol which was frozen; the phial was burst, the ice thawed, and a blue column of cupreous vitriol was left standing upright on the bottom of the broken glass, as described in note XIX.

II. Hence water may either be dissolved in air, and may then be called an aerial solution of water; or it may be dissolved in the fluid matter of heat, according to the theory of M. Lavoisier, and may then be called steam. In the former case it is probable there are many other vapours which may precipitate it, as marine acid gas, or fluor acid gas. So alcaline gas and acid gas dissolved in air precipitate each other, nitrous gas precipitates vital air from its azote, and inflammable gas mixed with vital air ignited by an electric spark either produces or precipitates the water in both of them. Are there any subtle exhalations occasionally diffused in the atmosphere which may thus cause rain?

1. But as water is perhaps many hundred times more soluble in the fluid matter of heat than in air, I suppose the eduction of this heat, by whatever means it is occasioned, is the principal cause of devaporation. Thus if a region of air is brought from a warmer climate, as the S.W. winds, it becomes cooled by its contact with the earth in this latitude, and parts with so much of its moisture as was dissolved in the quantity of calorique, or heat, which it now looses, but retains that part which was suspended by its attraction to the particles of air, or by aerial solution, even in the most severe frosts.

2. A second immediate cause of rain is a stream of N.E. wind descending from a superior current of air, and mixing with the warmer S.W. wind below; or the reverse of this, viz. a superior current of S.W. wind mixing with an inferior one of N.E. wind; in both these cases the whole heaven becomes instantly clouded, and the moisture contained in the S.W. current is precipitated. This cause of devaporation has been ingeniously explained by Dr. Hutton in the Transact. of Edinburgh, Vol. I, and seems to arise from this circumstance; the particles of air of the N.E. wind educe part of the heat from the S.W. wind, and therefore the water which was dissolved by that quantity of heat is precipitated; all the other part of the water, which was suspended by its attraction to the particles of air, or dissolved in the remainder of the heat, continues unprecipitated.

3. A third method by which a region of air becomes cooled, and in consequence deposits much of its moisture, is from the mechanical expansion of air, when part of the pressure is taken off. In this case the expanded air becomes capable of receiving or attracting more of the matter of heat into its interstices, and the vapour, which was previously dissolved in this heat, is deposited, as is seen in the receiver of an air-pump, which becomes dewy, as the air within becomes expanded by the eduction of part of it. See note VII. Hence when the mercury in the barometer sinks without a change of the wind the air generally becomes colder. See note VII. on Elementary Heat. And it is probably from the varying pressure of the incumbent air that in summer days small black clouds are often thus suddenly produced, and again soon vanish. See a paper in Philos. Trans. Vol. LXXVIII. intitled Frigorific Experiments on the Mechanical Expansion of Air.

4. Another portion of atmospheric water may possibly be held in solution by the electric fluid, since in thunder storms a precipitation of the water seems to be either the cause or the consequence of the eduction of the electricity. But it appears more probable that the water is condensed into clouds by the eduction of its heat, and that then the surplus of electricity prevents their coalescence into larger drops, which immediately succeeds the departure of the lightning.

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