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voice of infinite wonder, called out, "Where the d-1 is the man driving to? - why, we are in Broad St. Giles'!"
"O, he's very right," cried Madame Duval, “so never trouble your head about that, for I shan't go by no directions of yours, I promise you.'
When, at last, we stopped, at a Hosier's in High Holborn Sir Clement said nothing, but his eyes, I saw, were very busily employed in viewing the place, and the situation of the house. The coach, he said, belonged to him, and therefore he insisted upon paying for it; and then he took leave. M. Du Bois walked home with Miss Branghton, and Madame Duval and I retired to our apartments.
How disagreeable an evening's adventure! Not one of the party seemed satisfied except Sir Clement, who was in high spirits but Madame Duval was enraged at meeting with him; Mr. Branghton, angry with his children; the frolic of the Miss Branghtons had exceeded their plan, and ended in their own distress; their brother was provoked that there had been no riot; Mr. Brown was tired; and Mr. Smith mortified. As to myself, I must acknowledge, nothing could be more disagreeable to me than being seen by Sir Clement Willoughby with a party at once so vulgar in themselves, and so familiar to me.
LOVE AND AGE.
BY MADAME D'HOUDETOT.
(Translated by Leigh Hunt.)
[COUNTESS D'HOUDETOT, 1730-1773, was a friend of Rousseau (see the extract from his "Confessions" in Vol. 16, detailing his relations with her), and the "Julie" of his "Nouvelle Héloïse."]
WHEN young, I loved. At that enchanting age,
So sweet, so short, love was my sole delight;
Snows come at length, and livelier joys depart,
LETTERS FROM SELBORNE
TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES BARRINGTON.
BY GILBERT WHITE.
[GILBERT WHITE: An English naturalist; born at Selborne, July 18, 1720; died there June 20, 1793. He was educated at Oxford and obtained a fellowship there in 1744, later taking orders in the Church of England. His life was chiefly spent in Selborne, where he was rector from 1785 until his death. He wrote "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne" (1789) and "The Naturalists' Calendar, with Observations in Various Branches of Natural History" (1795). His "Letters" were published in 1876.]
I SHALL make no apology for troubling you with the detail of a very simple piece of domestic œconomy, being satisfied that you think nothing beneath your attention that tends to utility: the matter alluded to is the use of rushes instead of candles, which I am well aware prevails in many districts besides this; but as I know there are countries also where it does not obtain, and as I have considered the subject with some degree of exactness, I shall proceed in my humble story, and leave you to judge of the expediency.
The proper species of rush for this purpose seems to be the juncus conglomeratus, or common soft rush, which is to be found in most moist pastures, by the sides of streams, and under hedges. These rushes are in best condition in the height of summer; but may be gathered, so as to serve the purpose well, quite on to autumn. It would be needless to add that the largest and longest are best. Decayed labourers, women, and children, make it their business to procure and prepare them. As soon as they are cut they must be flung into water, and kept there; for otherwise they will dry and shrink, and the peel will not run. At first a person would find it no easy matter to divest a rush of its peel or rind, so as to leave one regular, narrow, even rib from top to bottom that may support the pith; but this, like other feats, soon becomes familiar even to children; and we have seen an old woman, stone-blind, performing this business with great dispatch, and seldom failing to strip them with the nicest regularity. When these junci are thus prepared, they must lie out on the grass to be bleached, and take the dew for some nights, and afterwards be dried in the sun.
Some address is required in dipping these rushes in the
scalding fat or grease; but this knack also is to be attained by practice. The careful wife of an industrious Hampshire labourer obtains all her fat for nothing; for she saves the scummings of her bacon-pot for this use; and, if the grease abounds with salt, she causes the salt to precipitate to the bottom, by setting the scummings in a warm oven. Where hogs are not much in use, and especially by the sea-side, the coarser animaloils will come very cheap. A pound of common grease may be procured for four pence; and about six pounds of grease will dip a pound of rushes; and one pound of rushes may be bought for one shilling; so that a pound of rushes, medicated and ready for use, will cost three shillings. If men that keep bees will mix a little wax with the grease, it will give it a consistency, and render it more cleanly, and make the rushes burn longer; mutton-suet has the same effect.
A good rush, which measured in length two feet four inches and a half, being minuted, burnt only three minutes short of an hour and a rush of still greater length has been known to burn one hour and a quarter.
These rushes give a good clear light. Watch-lights (coated with tallow), it is true, shed a dismal one, "darkness visible"; but then the wicks of those have two ribs of the rind, or peel, to support the pith, while the wick of the dipped rush has but The two ribs are intended to impede the progress of the flame and make the candle last.
In a pound of dry rushes, avoirdupois, which I caused to be weighed and numbered, we found upwards of one thousand six hundred individuals. Now suppose each of these burns, one with another, only half an hour, then a poor man will purchase eight hundred hours of light, a time exceeding thirty-three entire days, for three shillings. According to this account each rush, before dipping, costs of a farthing, and afterwards. Thus a poor family will enjoy 5 hours of comfortable light for a farthing. An experienced old house-keeper assures me that one pound and a half of rushes completely supplies his family the year round, since working people burn no candle in the long days, because they rise and go to bed by daylight.
Little farmers use rushes much, in the short days, both morning and evening, in the dairy and kitchen; but the very poor, who are always the worst economists, and therefore must continue very poor, buy a halfpenny candle every evening, which, in their blowing open rooms, does not burn much more
than two hours.
Thus have they only two hours' light for
their money instead of eleven.
SELBORNE, Nov. 1, 1776.
A NATURAL BEE-TAMER.
We had in this village more than twenty years ago an idiot-boy, whom I well remember, who, from a child, showed a strong propensity to bees; they were his food, his amusement, his sole object. And as people of this cast have seldom more than one point in view, so this lad exerted all his few faculties on this one pursuit. In the winter he dozed away his time, within his father's house, by the fireside, in a kind of torpid state, seldom departing from the chimney-corner; but in the summer he was all alert, and in quest of his game in the fields, and on sunny banks. Honey-bees, humble-bees, and wasps were his prey wherever he found them: he had no apprehensions from their stings, but would seize them nudis manibus, and at once disarm them of their weapons, and suck their bodies for the sake of honey-bags. Sometimes he would fill his bosom between his shirt and his skin with a number of these captives; and sometimes would confine them in bottles. He was a very merops apiaster, or bee-bird; and very injurious to men that kept bees: for he would slide into their bee-gardens, and, sitting down before the stools, would rap with his finger on the hives, and so take the bees as they came out. He has been known to overturn hives for the sake of honey, of which he was passionately fond. Where metheglin was making he would linger round the tubs and vessels, begging a draught of what he called bee-wine. As he ran about he used to make a humming noise with his lips, resembling the buzzing of bees. This lad was lean and sallow, and of a cadaverous complexion; and, except in his favourite pursuit, in which he was wonderfully adroit, discovered no manner of understanding.
When a tall youth he was removed from hence to a distant village, where he died, as I understand, before he arrived at manhood.
SELBORNE, Dec. 12, 1775.
GEOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF EARTH-WORMS.
Lands that are subject to frequent inundations are always poor; and probably the reason may be because the worms are drowned. The most significant insects and reptiles are of much
more consequence, and have much more influence in the conomy of Nature, than the incurious are aware of; and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention; and from their numbers and fecundity. Earth-worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of Nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. For, to say nothing of half the birds, and some quadrupeds which are almost entirely supported by them, worms seem to be great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them; by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants; by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it; and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass. Worms probably provide new soil for hills, and slopes, where the rain washes the earth away; and they affect slopes, probably to avoid being flooded. Gardeners and farmers express their detestation of worms; the former because they render their walks unsightly, and make them much work: and the latter because, as they think, worms eat their green corn. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound, and void of fermentation; and consequently sterile: and besides, in favour of worms, it should be hinted that green corn, plants, and flowers, are not so much injured by them as by many species of coleoptera (scarabs) and tipulæ (long-legs), in their larva, or grub-state; and by unnoticed myriads of small shell-less snails, called slugs, which silently and imperceptibly make amazing havoc in the field and garden.
Farmer Young, of Norton farm, says that this spring (1777) about four acres of his wheat in one field was entirely destroyed by slugs, which swarmed on the blades of corn, and devoured it as it sprang.
These hints we think proper to throw out in order to set the inquisitive and discerning to work.
A good monography of worms would afford much entertainment and information at the same time, and would open a large and new field in natural history. Worms work most in the spring; but by no means lie torpid in the dead months; they are out every mild night in the winter, as any person may satisfy himself. They are hermaphrodites, and are, consequently, very prolific.
SELBORNE, May 20, 1777.