Imagens da página

'SKETCHES OF A SEA-PORT Town.' – Two pleasant, readable volumes enough, but not remarkable for any great display of genius, strictly speaking. The sketches are various — now lively and gossiping, anon spirited or pathetic; and there are occasional episodical disquisitions of merit. The work is better than most of the commonplaces which the small authors of England seem so feverishly anxious to empty into the capacious lap of the Arnerican public.

Byron. – The twelfth number of DEARBORN's renowned 'Library of Standard Literature contains the third volume of Byron's works, and embraces Childe Harold, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, Lara, The Siege of Corinth, Parisiana, The Prisoner of Chillon, Beppo, and Mazeppa. A superb likeness of the noble poet, while yet a boy, embellishes the volume.

Scott's Works. — The seventh volume of Messrs. CONNER AND Cooke's 'Complete Works of Walter Scott contains his life of Napoleon Bonaparte, with various corrections of the text, and additional notes, left in two interleaved copies of the work, by the author himself.

Bulwer's Works. — The seventh and eighth volumes of HARPERs' fine uniform edi. tion of Bulwer's works contain 'Devereux' and 'The Student.' Each volume is illustrated by two engravings — the second, from paintings by Chapinan, one of which (the Lonely Man,) is an excellent effort.


[ocr errors]

With the present number commences a new volume of this Magazine. The proprietors, mindful of the liberal favor with which the work has been received at the hands of the public, would embrace the occasion to say, that enhanced attraction will be given to it, in a precise ratio with the increase of its circulation. It has been their steady aim to present a periodical which should be worthy the support of the American people - one in which they might have a just pride. A distinguished native statesman has said, in relation to that literature wbich it is the design of this Magazine to assist in rendering honored at home and respected abroad, that'it is the graceful ornament of civil liberty, and a happy restraiut on the asperities which political controversies sometimes occasion. It is an embellishment of society, and diffuses positive good throughout the whole extent of its influence. It is a gratifying feature in the intellectual aspect of this republic, that these sentiments are every day becoming more general; and the day is not distant when our people, in an equal degree with those of England and Scotland, will evince, by their enlarged support of indigenous literature of merit, how much, in their estimation, it has to do with the real repute and glory of a nation. When it is stated, in connection with an acknowledgment of similar previous success, that within the last month one hundred and seven voluntary subscriptions have been added to the list of this work — (including, however, a dozen or more from London,) — the reasouable ground upon which the anticipations above expressed are founded will become apparent.

'Editors' DRAWER.'--Several articles and parts of articlesincluding a rejoinder of JUNIUS, JR.' to Rev. Dr. BEASLEY - prepared for this department, are delayed un a future number.

[blocks in formation]

If, in tracing the progress of human knowledge, we observe any one department which, more than others, involves important and general consequences, in respect to the condition and relations of mankind, geology claims that distinction. While it reveals to our view and for our use the most valuable resources of nature, it directs our inquiries with no less advantage, to those physical laws which most vitally affect our moral sentiments. To Fossil Geology, in particular, are we indebted, individually and collectively, for those subterranean treasures which have ever been considered the great and enduring elements of social and national prosperity. But for the metals and the immense coal deposits of England, a maximum would long since have been reached in her manufactures — the pride of her people, and the foundation of all she now boasts as a nation. To geology is she equally indebted for the analysis and improvement of her soils, sustaining with comparative ease her dense population. Not less — nay even more are we indebted to this subject for the development of those vast yet half-explored sources of wealth, which now distinguish America, and which, for untold ages, will make us the most numerous and happy people on earth.

Fossil geology embraces all those valuable and interesting inquiries and discoveries which have presented to our wonder and admiration so many organic remains, in both the animal and vegetable kingdoms. The vegetable origin of coal being no longer doubted, all inquiries into its characteristics and formation cannot be otherwise than highly useful and pleasing. The extraordinary animal organic remains also, which have been brought to light by fossil geology, will be no less valuable and interesting

Independent of the importance which this subject assumes, as the medium of communication with the hidden natural resources of our globe, it opens to our admiring gaze the direct and only communication with an infant world. Looking through the media of those animal and vegetable fossils which have been thus presented to us, we are enabled to see into the economy of primeval time. We behold Nature busy in moulding with her plastic hand the future residence of man. We behold organic life successively starting into birth. At first, all is simple, yet admirably adapted to the functions and the spheres of the newly created beings. The zoophitic family, partaking alike of the two kingdoms about to be organized, and destined to inhabit the young mun



dane orb, first slowly come into life. Thence we trace the grades of condition and organic perfection through the various orders of beings, the genera and species, the names of which, however entertaining when associated with their peculiarities of form and character, would here be useless. A new order of geological formations then comes into existence, for the first residents on our virgin planet. In the phenomena of this arrangement, we perceive great commotion to have taken place, and the young tenants of our world to have taken various and anomalous positions from the agitations which ensued. Amid the confusion resulting from the transition of the earth from an uninhabitable to an inhabitable state, we observe the wreck, as well as the creation, of the first series of organized beings. They have gone down, as we may do, to mark a period in the history of a then young, but now waning world. The primary elements of the successive formations retained not a solitary memorial of life, and at this day they present little else than their cold, forbidding aspect to the sight of man. As if to show to the last and the best of those beings which had been reared on the bosom of Nature their origin and destiny - or to look abroad, from the summits of their high places over the fair face of creation, and watch the stirring worlds of life upon it.

From the beginning of existence, thus far removed from the present surface, all the way upward to man, it is then the great and interesting task of fossil geology to unfold.

While by the generous influence of science is spread out to every variety of taste a rich feast of thought, and while the only result of scientific truth is to make us wiser and happier, it is painful to observe the fixed determination of some men, even at this enlightened time, to oppose its spirit, and revile its truths.

Such is the melancholy condition of intellect, unillumed by this and kindred sciences; and hence it is but reasonable to infer that prejudice and superstition are the legitimate offspring of ignorance. Geological science, in its turn, has met with the hate, the contempt, or the ridicule, of those whose preconceived opinions it has confronted. But such opinions have at length given way to philosophical truth, as they ever must. The discovery of organic remains, and the important facts which they disclose, have given birth to the strangest conceits and the most extravagant theories. These have been the result, not only of a desire, but of a firm resolve, to make them coincident with the Mosaic narrative of the creation.

The discrepancy which was perceived to exist between geological facts and the sacred canon, only served to render these theories the more wild and inconsistent: still it must be confessed that they, as well as all those which have preceded them, for the purpose of refuting plain matters of fact, and continuing certain ancient doctrines, merely because they were ancient, have tended to advance the principles of science, and to hasten the period in which they were to be better understood. Such, in particular, is the case in reference to fossil geology. New discove

, ries daily added to the dilemma in which its opponents found themselves involved — and they were at length compelled to acknowledge the difficulty. But the desperate resort to cry down the science of geology, and ridicule or undervalue its discoveries, produced an effect opposite to that intended. Investigations multiplied in consequence, and the cu

[ocr errors]

riosity of all was vastly increased. The wonder excited at the extraordinary animals brought to light from the darkness of tens of thousands of years, gave the most interesting character to geological research, and inspired a general spirit of inquiry. Following the example of those who had made the futile attempt to destroy the evidences presented by the science, and of those who, with equal earnestness, applied the phenomena which it developed to the illustration of the record alluded to, many later and better men have been engaged in the same useless and unfortunate task.

Dr. Buckland, in his .Reliqua Diluviana,' has realized the fulness of all such attempts. After years of research in the production of that work, his favorite theory, establishing a coincidence between the diluvial formations and the deluge of the Scriptures, is abandoned. The offspring of his fruitless labor is discarded by its own parent. All efforts, therefore, to support a theory in opposition to physical laws, must prove abortive. In the language of a late foreign quarterly review, 'the doctor himself has afforded, in his own writings, a striking example of the danger and impolicy of endeavoring to connect geological theories with the Scriptures, and farther geological investigations have satisfied the doctor that his opinion is untenable, and accordingly he quietly renounces it. But may we not justly fear, that such persons as have been led by the eloquent arguments of the Reliquæ to rely on the supposed geological evidences of the deluge, as strong confirmation of the authenticity of the inspired narrative, may feel their faith rudely shaken, on hearing from the same authority that this fancied corroboration is a fallacy; that the evidence is no evidence at all, and rested on an entire misconstruction of the facts,' etc.

Now that wonder has, in some measure, given place to rational inquiry, the remains of a former world are viewed in reference to natural history, and to the aid which they afford in determining the relative age, order, and character of strata. That this wonder was very naturally excited on beholding what now inspires astonishment, and therefore entitled to apology, must be confessed. We cannot view the massive mountain, composed entirely of shells in a perfect state, or what is still more surprising, whole ranges of mountains made up almost entirely of fine fragments of shells — the result of long attrition,

without the strongest emotions. Here are seen myriads of animal exuvia, once enclosing organic life at the depths of the ocean; persect in themselves, and sporting in the fulness of that enjoyment for which animal life is so wisely adapted; now comminuted, and composing immense mountain ranges, upward even to the height of thirteen thousand feet above the surface of their former element.

Nor is it a matter of surprise, that vague theories should have been orginated to account for these extraordinary formations, since those theories were necessarily made conformable to the commonly received opinion in regard to the age of our planet. The moment these preconceived opinions were abandoned, however, geology, and all the wonders which it developed, took an elevated rank, and speculation on the subject was mainly guided by its facts.

During the periods of ignorance, and the early observations to which we refer, the fossil remains of elephants and other huge animals, which were then found in the alluvial formations, were supposed to be the relics of giants, and their preservation was attributed to inhumation. Poetry and sacred and profane history were therefore consulted for an explanation of the mystery. Still, difficulties were encountered, and particularly on the discovery of fossil teeth, and other bones evidently belonging to extinct quadrupeds. These ultimately resulted in the study of comparative anatomy: but previous to this, a variety of crude notions may be supposed to have prevailed. It is related by a Franciscan monk, that he saw the bones of a man in Mexico so large, that the person to whom they belonged must have been eighteen feet in height. Another describes grinding-teeth ten inches high and five broad; from which he infers, that the heads of the giants, out of which they had fallen, were so large that they could not be embraced by two men with their arms. Entire skeletons are also said to have been found, of huge dimensions. One of these was discovered in Dauphiny, twenty-five feet in length, with the head five feet long, and ten feet in circumference. These impostures -- though they indicate a more extraordinary cerebral development than modern phrenologists are disposed to admit

remind us of a skull we saw in Cincinnati, and taken two or three

years since, from one of those remarkable mounds of earth at Chillicothe, containing human bones, which measured more than twenty-seven inches in circumference. Some of the marvellous accounts related may have been errors, as the names of the narrators lead us to conclude; yet the bulk of them originated in a disposition to play the wonderful, not less prevalent now, perhaps, than formerly.

One of these authors (Mons. Le Cat,) relates that two skeletons were found near Athens, one of which measured thirty-six feet and the other thirty-four feet in height. Two others were likewise found, it is said, in Sicily, one measuring thirty-six and the other thirty feet in height. In Spain another was discovered, twenty-two feet in length. The same author mentions still another, found at Rouen, the skull of which held a bushel of corn! The tibia bone of this giant was four feet long, and the whole height seventeen feet. To establish, beyond doubt, the verity of this account, the veracious writer says that the name of his hero was 'the Chevalier Ricon de Valmont,' and this name was inscribed on his tomb.

To the extraordinary plastic power of Nature were many fossil remains attributed, but lately, by Platt, Ray, Lister, and others

. Fossil shells, for instance, were lapides, sui generis

. This vis formativa and vis lapidificativa were most accommodating properties, and admirably suited to the extent of research, and the intellectual caliber of these authors. Among the most curious advocates of this vis plastica, was Langids, who, in his Historia Lapidum Figuratorum, maintained that certain kinds of matter possessed a delegated power, peculiarly adapted to the performance of these marvellous functions. This will hardly be supposed to partake less of the wonderful, than the Giantology of Hernandes and others, to which we have alluded. Swift made both of these the subjects of his humorous criticisms, as will be seen by the descriptive scenes of Brobdignag.

A still more ludicrous attempt at a philosophical solution of the origin of fossil exuviæ, was by supposing them to have been produced by the evaporation of the seeds of fishes and shells into the atmosphere, and from thence deposited, by means of rains and dews, in the fissures of the

« AnteriorContinuar »