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On chalky and sandy soils, and in the hot villages about London, the thermometer has been often observed to mount as high as 83° or 84° ; but with us, in this hilly and woody district, I have hardly ever seen it exceed 80° ; nor does it often arrive at that pitch. The reason, I conclude, is, that our dense clayey soil, so much shaded by trees, is not so easily heated through as those above-mentioned ; and, besides, our mountains cause currents of air and breezes ; and the vast effluvia from our woodlands temper and moderate our heats.
The summer of the year 1783 was an amazing and porten. tous one, and full of horrible phenomena; for, besides the alarming meteors and tremendous thunderstorms that affrighted and distressed the different counties of this kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smoky fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the
of By my journal I find that I had noticed this strange occurrence from June 23rd to July 20th inclusive, during which period the wind varied to every quarter without any alteration in the air. The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. All the time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic, and riding irksome. The country people began to look with a superstitious awe at the red, lowering aspect of the sun; and indeed there was reason for the most enlightened person to be apprehensive ; for, all the while, Calabria and part of the Isle of Sicily were torn and convulsed with earthquakes; and about that juncture a volcano sprang out of the sea on the coast of Norway, On this occasion Milton's noble simile of the sun, in his first book of “Paradise Lost,” frequently occurred to my mind; and it is indeed particularly applicable, because, towards the end, it alludes to a superstitious kind of dread, with which the minds of men are always impressed by such strange and unusual phenomena.
-As when the sun, new risen,
We are very seldom annoyed with thunderstorms: and it is no less remarkable than true, that those which arise in the south have hardly been known to reach this village; for, before they get over us, they take a direction to the east or to the west, or sometimes divide in two, go in part to one of those quarters, and in part to the other; as was truly
the case in summer 1783, when, though the country round was continually harassed with tempests, and often from the south, yet we escaped them all, as appears by my journal of that summer.
The only way that I can at all account for this fact-for such it is—is that, on that quarter, between us and the sea, there are continual mountains, hill behind hill, such as Nore-hill, the Barnet, Butser-hill, and Portsdown, which somehow divert the storms, and give them a different direction. High promontories, and elevated grounds, have always been observed to attract clouds and disarm them of their mischievous
contents, which discharged into the trees and summits as soon as they come in contact with those turbulent meteors; while the humble vales
escape, because they are so far beneath them. But, when I say I do not remember a thunderstorm from the south, I do not mean that we never have suffered from thunderstorms at all; for on June 5th, 1784, the thermometer in the morning being at 64°, and at noon at 70°, the barometer at 29-61" and the wind north, I observed a blue mist, smelling strongly of sulphur, hanging along our sloping woods, and seeming to indicate that thunder was at hand. I was called in about two in the afternoon, and so missed seeing the gathering of the clouds in the north ; which they who were abroad assured me had something uncommon in its appearance.
At about a quarter after two the storm began in the parish of Hartley, moving slowly from north to south ; and from thence it came over Norton-farm, and so to Grange-farm, both in this parish. It began with vast drops of rain, which were soon succeeded by round hail, and then by convex pieces of ice, which measured three inches in girth. Had it been as extensive as it was violent, and of any continuance (for it was very short), it must have ravaged all the neighbourhood. In the parish of Hartley it did some damage to one farm ; but Norton, which lay in the centre of the storm, was greatly injured; as was Grange, which lay next to it. It did but just reach to the middle of the village, where the hail broke my north windows, and all my garden-lights and hand-glasses, and many of my neighbours' windows. The extent of the 'storm was about two miles in length and one in breadth. We were just sitting down to dinner ; but were soon diverted from our repast by the clattering of tiles and the jingling of glass. There fell at the same time prodigious torrents of rain on the farms above-mentioned, which occasioned a flood as violent as it was sudden; doing great damage to the meadows and fallows, by deluging the one and washing away the soil of the other. The hollow lane towards Alton was so torn and disordered as not to be passable till mended, rocks being removed that weighed two hundredweight. Those that saw the effect which the great hail had on ponds and pools say that the dashing of the water made an extraordinary appearance, the froth and spray standing up in the air three feet above the surface. The rushing and roaring of the hail, as it approached, was truly tremendous.
Though the clouds at South Lambeth, near London, were at that juncture thin and light, and no storm was in sight, nor within hearing, yet the air was strongly electric; for the bells of an electric machine at that place rang repeatedly, and fierce sparks were discharged.
When I first took the present work in hand, I proposed to have added an Annus Historico-naturalis, or The Natural History of the Twelve Months of the Year, which would have comprised many incidents and occurrences that have not fallen in my way to be mentioned in my series of letters; but, as Mr. Aikin, of Warrington, has lately published somewhat of this sort, and as the length of my correspondence has sufficiently put your patience to the test, I shall here take a respectful leave of you and natural history together, and am, With all due deference and regard, Your most obliged and most humble servant,