« PoprzedniaDalej »
stayed here ten days, and then pursued his journey up the Nile to Cairo, which he reached on the 19th of August. After remaining at Cairo about three months, waiting the departure of a caravan into the interior; he was attacked by a bilious fever, of which, or of an overdose of vitriolic acid, taken as a remedy, he died towards the end of November, 1788, in the thirty-eighth year of his age. His portrait is thus drawn by Mr. Beaufoy, the Secretary of the African Association :
“ To those who have never seen Mr. Ledyard, it may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to know, that his person, though scarcely exceeding the middle size, was remarkably expressive of activity and strength; and that his manners, though unpolished, were neither uncivil nor unpleasing. Little attentive to difference of rank, he seemed to consider all men as his equals, and as such he respected them. His genius, though uncultivated and irregular, was original and comprehensive. Ardent in his wishes, yet calm in his deliberations; daring in his purposes, but guarded in his measures ; impatient of control, yet capable of strong endurance; adventurous beyond the conception of ordinary men; yet, wary and considerate, and attentive to all precautions, he appeared to be formed by nature for achievements of hardihood and peril.” p. 324.
The acts of Ledyard's life, as his biographer well observes, “demand notice, less on account of their results, than of the spirit with which they were performed, and the uncommon traits of character which prompted to their execution.” But amidst our admiration for his enterprise, decision, and untiring steadiness of purpose, we cannot but feel a lively pity, not only for bis premature fate, but for that succession of disappointments which attended him through life. It was his hard destiny to be frustrated in all his schemes, however well-planned or practicable subsequent events have since proved them. That trade on the north-west coast, which it was not permitted him to undertake, has since proved very lucrative to all who have engaged in it, and has made one of the largest fortunes that our country can boast. By his project of crossing this continent, Lewis and Clarke, long afterwards, acquired fame and public distinction. The expedition into the interior of Africa, which he had actually commenced, has since been successfully achieved by Parke, Denham and Clapperton, though two of them, like him, finally found an early grave in that deleterious climate. In these instances, bis failure was owing to circumstances beyond his control, and in each, his manly energy still rose superior to all difficulties, as long as life lasted.
The style of Mr. Sparks is neat and perspicuous; his reflections made with caution and judgment; and his book is written
with that air of sobriety, and freedom from false pretension, which gives the reader assurance that it possesses the first recommendation of a biographical work-fidelity to truth and nature.
ART. IV.-1. The Book of Nature. By JOHN MASON GOOD.
London. New-York, re-reprinted.. i Vol. 8vo. 1827. 2. Nouveau Dictionnaire D' Histoire Naturelle. 36 Vols. 8vo, A. Paris. Chez. Deterville. 1816-1819.
We have placed at the head of this article two works on natural history, of which the first embraces a wide circle within the field of its inquiries, and the second, however deficient it may be in many of its details, and on many of the topics of which it professedly treats, yet deserves to be distinguished for the talent with which all of its general views of nature, and its elementary articles on each branch of Natural History, have been written. Those of Virey, in particular, though sometimes diffuse, are distinguished for their profound views and their eloquence; and we shall embody in our subsequent remarks many observations that are scattered through his writings.
The scheme and fabric of Nature, form the most comprehensive and interesting object of human inquiry-one which addresses itself equally to our feelings, our necessities, and our understandings, -one whose importance must increase with the increasing wants of social life, and whose magnitude can never be felt until we attempt to circumscribe it.
To unfold in its real amplitude the Science of Nature, is a task beyond the powers of the most gifted of the human race. Portions of this great system may be explored, fragments may be examined, connexions between its branches may be traced, affinities between its members may be discovered. We
be amused by the beauty of its decorations, instructed by the wisdom of its arrangements, astonished by the variety of its resources, but we shall constantly feel that the materials of this science are exhaustless, and its extent interminable.
What is there that will not be included in the History of Nature? The earth on which we tread, the air we breathe, the waters around the earth, the material forms that inhabit its surface, the mind of man, with all its magical illusions and all its inherent energy, the planets that move around our system, the firmament of heaven-the smallest of the invisible atoms which float around our globe, and the most majestic of the orbs that roll through the immeasurable fields of space—all are parts of one system, productions of one power, creations of one intellect, the offspring of Him, by whom all that is inert and inorganic in creation was formed, and from whom all that have life derive their being
Of this immense system, all that we can examine, this little globe that we inherit is full of animation and crowded with forms organized, glowing with life and generally sentient. No space is unoccupied—the exposed surface of the rock is encrusted with living substances; plants occupy the bark and decaying limbs of other plants; animals live on the surface and in the bodies of other animals; inhabitants are fashioned and adapted to equatorial heats and polar ice-air, earth and ocean teem with life-and if to other worlds the same proportion of life and of enjoyment has been distributed which has been allotted to ours; if creative benevolence has equally filled every other planet of every other system, nay, even the suns themselves, with beings organized, animated and intelligent; how countless must be the generations of the living ! what voices which we cannot hear, what languages that we cannot understand, what multitudes that we cannot see, may, as they roll along the stream of time be employed hourly, daily and forever, in choral songs of praise, hymning their great Creator.
And when in this almost prodigal waste of life, we perceive, that every being, from the puny insect which flutters in the evening ray, from the lichen which the eye can scarcely distinguish on the mouldering rock; from the fungus that springs up and re-animates the mass of dead and decomposing substances, that every living form possesses a structure as perfect in its sphere, an organization sometimes as complex, always as truly and completely adapted to its purposes and modes of existence as that of the most perfect animal; when we discover them all to be governed by laws as definite, as immutable as those which regulate the planetary movements, great must be our admiration of the wisdom which has arranged, and the power which has perfected this stupendous fabric.
Nor does creation here cease. There are beyond the limits of our system, beyond the visible forms of matter, other princiVOL. II.-NO. 4.
ples, other powers, higher orders of beings, an immaterial world which we cannot yet know; other modes of existence which we cannot comprehend; yet, however inscrutable to us, this spiritual world must be guided by its own unerring laws, and the harmonious order which reigns in all that we can see and understand, ascending through the series of immortal and invisible existence, must govern even the powers and dominions, the seraphim and cherubim that surround the throne of God himself.
Such are the views, such the high and lofty themes which the fabric of nature will present; which must be embraced in an extended survey of creation. But this task is not allotted to man, he is not even permitted to behold but through the obscure veil of revelation and of prophecy, the remote boundaries of this great system. His duties and his researches are limited, his business is with that portion immediately connected with the welfare and existence of the human race; an inhabitant of this globe, his means, his enjoyments, his physical wants are here; a transient visitor on its surface, it is yet with that surface and its inhabitants that all his temporal cares are entwined—and natural history, as now understood, is confined to earth, and is employed to ascertain and to disclose some idea of the structure of the globe he is destined to inhabit, of the rude and inorganic materials of which that globe is composed, and of the living forms that repose on its bosom, and derive support from its teeming and productive surface.
Every step in this inquiry is interesting to man-every object combined more or less intimately with his welfare, associated more or less absolutely with his health, his happiness and his prosperity. Man is altogether and forever dependent on Nature; the air he breathes, the light and heat by which he is vivified and cherished, the food by which he is nourished, the garments by which he is protected, the roof by which he is sheltered, are all derived from her exhaustless bounty, but for the most part must be acquired and rendered useful and valuable by his knowledge. Researches, therefore, connected with natural history, must, in some form or degree, from the earliest period of his existence, have attracted his attention ; nor is it surprising that as these researches increaşed in importance in proportion to the extended and multiplied wants of society, they should have occupied more seriously his time and his reflections. In the infant stages of society, and in un lettered ages, all that appeared theoretical and abstracted must necessarily have been neglected, and only that knowledge noticed and remembered which was essential and practical. Most of the first efforts of intelligent man were probably misdirected, and many of
his original discoveries and opinions have been forgotten, for triumphant ignorance and barbaric force have frequently swept over the fairest portions of the globe, and defaced or obliterated the brightest records of the human understanding; yet, vestiges, even if imperfect, remain to prove, that in the early ages of the existence of our race, there have been illuminated æras; and monuments more ancient than the pages of profane history, attest the improvement in very remote periods, of some portions of the human species—and indicate that much of our present knowledge has been derived from sources of which the origin is now unknown, has descended to us from ages
generations, and people that are now forgotten.
It was no illiterate age, it was no ignorant people who could insculpture on the portals of the temple of Isis, the great mother of nature, its sublime inscription :- I AM WHATSOEVER IS, WHATSOEVER HAS BEEN, WHATSOEVER SHALL BE, AND THE VEIL WHICH IS OVER
MY COUNTENANCE NO MORTAL HAND HAS EVER RAISED.
We will humbly approach the threshold of this great temple, and if to mortal hand it is not given to raise the veil which covers the secret mysteries of nature-if the eye of man is not permitted to scrutinize, nor the understanding to comprehend the origin of matter or of life, we may still search them in their existing power, and trace them in their changing, yet definite career. We are privileged to examine and ascertain the principles and the modifications of being, the composition and structure of all that we observe, and the diversified forms which an omnipotent and omniscient Creator has impressed on the animate and inanimate portions of the material world. · We may discover the qualities, uses and habits which distinguish each object of our research, the properties and characters which connect each individual with surrounding bodies, and the relations of each to man. Of inorganic substances, we can only determine the immediate and mechanical uses; but of those which are organized, it is permitted to us to trace their progress from infancy to age, from life to death: to investigate and determine the laws which govern their production, their growth, their multiplication, their decay, their dissolution ; to observe the circumstances which extend their duration, or the causes which promote their disorganization; the principles which confirm health, or generate disease; and, applying the results of these researches to the immediate benefit and improvement of our own species, we may cast on the physical history and constitution of the human race, nay, even on his moral and intellectual character, light reflected from every department of nature. This is among the primary