Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

despised for their sordid parsimony, and looked upon 'as regardless of the welfare of their dependents. Potatoes have prevailed in this little district, by means of premiums, within these twenty years only; and are much esteemed here now by the poor, who would scarce have ventured to taste them in the last reign.

Our Saxon ancestors certainly had some sort of cabbage, because they call the month of February sproutcale;' but long after their days, the cultivation of gardens was little attended to. The religious, being men of leisure, and keeping up a constant correspondence with Italy, were the first people among us that had gardens and fruit-trees in any perfection within the walls of their abbeys and priories.' The barons neglected every pursuit that did not lead to war or tend to the pleasure of the chase.

It was not till gentlemen took up the study of horticulture themselves that the knowledge of gardening made such hasty advances. Lord Cobham, Lord Ila, and Mr. Waller of Beaconsfield, were some of the first people of rank that promoted the elegant science of ornamenting, without despising, the superintendence of the kitchen quarters and fruit walls.

A remark made by the excellent Mr. Ray, in his Tour of Europe, at once surprises us, and corroborates what has been advanced above; for we find him observing, so late as his days, that "the Italians use several herbs for sallets, which are not yet or have not been but lately used in England, viz, selleri (celery), which is nothing else but the sweet smallage; the young shoots whereof, with a little of the head of the root cut off, they eat raw with oil and

1 The Saxon names of many other months were equally significant; e.g. March, stormy month; May, Thrimilchi, the cows then being milked three times a day; June, dig and weed month; September, bai'ley month, &c.-Ed.

2 “In monasteries, the lamp of knowledge continued to burn, however dimly. In them, men of business were formed for the state: the art of writing was cultivated by the monks; they were the only proficients in mechanics, gardening, and architecture." See Dalrymple's “ Annals of Scotland.”—G. W.

pepper." And farther, he adds, “curled endive blanched is much used beyond seas; and, for a raw sallet, seemed to excel lettuce itself.” Now, this journey was undertaken no longer ago than in the year 1663.

LETTER XXXVIII.

TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES BARRINGTON.

“Fortè puer, comitum seductus ab agmine fido,
Dixerat, ecquis adest ? et, adest, responderat echo.
Hic stupet; utque aciem partes divisit in omnes,
Voce, veni, clamat magna. Vocat illa vocantem."

of a

SELBORNE, Feb. 12, 1778. Na district so diversified as this, so full of hollow vales and hanging woods, it is no wonder that echoes should abound. Many we have discovered that return the

cry pack of dogs, the notes of a hunting horn, a tunable ring of bells, or the melody of birds, very agreeably; but we were still at a loss for a polysyllabical, articulate echo, till a young gentleman, who had parted from his company in a summer evening walk, and was calling after them, stumbled upon a very curious one in a spot where it might least be expected. At first he was much surprised, and could not be persuaded but that he was mocked by some boy; but, repeating his trials in several languages, and finding his respondent to be a very adroit polyglot, he then discerned the deception.

This echo, in an evening, before rural noises cease, would repeat ten syllables most articulately and distinctly, especially if quick dactyls were chosen. The last syllables of

"Tityre, tu patulæ recubangwere as audibly and intelligibly returned as the first; and there is no doubt, could trial have been made, but that at

[ocr errors]

R

midnight, when the air is very elastic, and a dead stillness prevails, one or two syllables more might have been obtained; but the distance rendered so late an experiment very inconvenient.

Quick dactyls we observed succeeded best; for when we came to try its powers in slow, heavy, embarrassed spondees of the same number of syllables,

“Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens

we cculd perceive a return but of four or five.

All echoes have some one place to which they are returned stronger and more distinct than to any other; and that is always the place that lies at right angles with the object of repercussion, and is not too near, nor too far off. Buildings or naked rocks re-echo much more articulately than hanging woods or vales; because in the latter the voice is, as it were, entangled and embarrassed in the covert, and weakened in the rebound.

The true object of this echo, as we found by various experiments, is the stone-built, tiled hop-kiln in Gally Lane, which measures in front forty feet, and from the ground to the eaves twelve feet. The true centrum phonicum, or just distance, is one particular spot in the King's Field, in the path to Nore Hill, on the very brink of the steep balk above the hollow cart-way.

In this case there is no choice of distance; but the path, by mere contingency, happens to be the lucky, the identical spot, because the ground rises or falls so immediately, if the speaker either retires or advances, that lis mouth would at once be above or below the object.

We measured this polysyllabical echo with great exactness, and found the distance to fall very short of Dr. Plot's rule for distinct articulation; for the Doctor, in his "History of Oxfordshire," allows 120 feet for the return of each syllable distinctly; hence this echo, which gives ten distinct syllables, ought to measure 400 yards, or 120 feet to each syllable; whereas our distance is only 258 yards, or near seventy-five feet to each syllable. Thus our measure falls short of the Doctor's, as five to eight; but then it must be acknowledged that this candid philosopher was convinced

afterwards that some latitude must be admitted of in the distance of echoes according to time and place."

When experiments of this sort are making, it should always be remembered that weather and the time of day have a vast influence on an echo; for a dull, heavy, moist air deadens and clogs the sound; and hot sunshine renders the air thin and weak, and deprives it of all its springiness; and a ruffling wind quite defeats the whole. In a still, clear, dewy evening, the air is most elastic; and perhaps the later the hour the more so.

Echo has always been so amusing to the imagination, that the poets have personified her; and in their hands she has been the occasion of many a beautiful fiction. Nor need the gravest man be ashamed to appear taken with such a phenomenon, since it may become the subject of philosophical or mathematical inquiries.

One should have imagined that echoes, if not entertaining, must at least have been harmless and inoffensive; yet Virgil advances a strange notion, that they are injurious to bees.

After enumerating some probable and reasonable annoyances, such as prudent owners would wish far removed from their bee-gardens, he adds,

aut ubi concava pulsu Saxa sonant, vocisque offensa resultat imago.” This wild and fanciful assertion will hardly be admitted by the philosophers of these days; especially as they all now seem agreed that insects are not furnished with any organs of hearing at all. But, if it should be urged, that

1 It is evident too, as Mr. Bennett has observed, from the previous statement of the different number of syllables returned by the echo, according to whether they were quick dactyls or heavy spondees, that some allowance must be made on this account also.—ED.

% This was the opinion of Linnæus and Bonnet, naturalists of the highest authority. But, as Mr. Bennett has remarked, “ repeated obserrations and experiments have since shown that many insects possess the sense of hearing. Without the aid of experiment it might, indeed, almost be regarded as established, that in those cases in which the faculty of producing sound is possessed by one sex of an animal, that of hearing it should belong to the other sex; and it would seem rather

though they cannot hear, yet perhaps they may feel the repercussion of sounds, I grant it is possible they may. Yet that these impressions are distasteful or hurtful, I deny; because bees, in good summers, thrive well in my outlet, where the echoes are very strong: for this village is another Anathoth, a place of responses or echoes. Besides, it does not appear from experiment that bees are in any way capable of being affected by sounds: for I have often tried my own with a large speaking-trumpet held close to their hives, and with such an exertion of voice as would have hailed a ship at the distance of a mile, and still these insects pursued their various employments undisturbed, and without showing the least sensibility or resentment.

preposterous to grant the existence of a sense in one sex of an insect, and deny it to the other. Gilbert White, in his Letter respecting the field cricket (XLVI.), although in the earlier part of it he seems to guard himself from admitting that these insects hear by assuming that they feeló a person's footsteps as he advances,' must be regarded as insinuating the possession of that sense when he subsequently remarks that the males only make that shrilling noise, perhaps out of rivalry and emulation'-a rivalry and emulation which could not be excited in others by a sound unheard by them.

“ But reasoning and conjecture are both equally unnecessary in a case in which direct observation may be adduced in proof. Brunelli's experiments seem on this point altogether satisfactory, and to prove that both the males and the females possess the sense of hearing. He kept several males of the large green grasshopper in a closet, where they were very merry and continued singing all the day; but a tap at the door would immediately silence them. In this instance they might, perhaps, have been affected by the concussion of the air; and the result might rather have been owing to acuteness of touch than to hearing. But his subsequent experiments were not open to such an objection. He learned to imitate the chirping of these grasshoppers: and when he did this at the door of the closet in which they were kept, they soon began to answer him; at first by the gentle chirpings of a few, and then by a full chorus of the whole of them. He afterwards enclosed a male grasshopper in a box, and placed it in one part of his garden, leaving a female at liberty in a distant part of it: as soon as the male began to sing, the female immediately hopped away towards him. This latter experiment was frequently repeated, and in every case the female, as soon as the male began to chirp, hastened to join him."

1 This statement has recently received some confirmation from the experiments of Sir John Lubbock, “ Journ. Linn. Soc.” 1874.—ED.

« НазадПродовжити »