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UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION,
APPOINTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE.
THE SHIPWRECK OF THE MEDUSE.
their destruction to be at hand, and announced by The French possessions on the west coast of Africa, their wailings the dismal thoughts by which they extending from Cape Blanco to the mouth of the were distracted. The officers, with great difficulty, Gambia, having been restored at the General Peace, and by putting on a show of confidence, succeeded in 1814, an expedition, consisting of a frigate and in restoring the men to a certain degree of tranthree other vessels, was sent, in the month of June quillity, but were themselves overcome with alarm on 1816, to take possession, of them. It was complete finding that there was neither chart, nor compass, in all its parts, as the French expeditions usually árė, nor anchor on the Raft. One of the men had fortuincluding men of science, artisans, agriculturists, nately preserved a small pocket-compass, and this gardeners, miners, &c., amounting, with the troops, little instrument inspired them with so much conto nearly_four hundred persons, exclusive of the fidence, that they conceived their safety to depend
The naval part was intrusted to M. de on it; but this treasure was soon lost to them; it Chaumareys, who had the command of the frigate, fell from the man's hand, and disappeared between La Méduse, of forty-four guns.
the openings of the Raft. Owing to a very relaxed state of discipline, and None of the party had taken any food before they ignorance of the common principles of navigation, left the ship, and hunger beginning to oppress them, this frigate was suffered to run aground on the bank they mixed the biscuit, of which they had about of Arguin. Attempts were made to get her off, but five-and-twenty pounds on board, with wine, and it was soon discovered that al hopes of saving her distributed it, in small portions, to each man. They must be abandoned, and that nothing remained but succeeded in erecting a kind of mast, and hoisting to concert measures for the escape of the passengers one of the royals that had belonged to the frigate. and crew. Some biscuit, wine, and fresh water, were Night at length came on, the wind freshened, and accordingly got up and prepared for putting into the the sea began to swell; the only consolation now boats, and upon a Raft which had been hastily con was the belief that they should discover the boats structed; but, in the tumult of abandoning the the following morning. About midnight the weather wreck, it happened that the Raft, which was destined became very stormy; and the waves broke over them to carry the greatest number of people, had the least in every direction. share of the provisions; of wine, indeed, it had more During the whole of this night, said the survivors, than enough, but not a single barrel of biscuit. we struggled against death, holding ourselves closely
There were five boats; in the first were the to the spars which were firmly bound together. Governor of Senegal and his family, in all thirty-five; Tossed by the waves from one end to the other, and the second took forty-two persons; the third twenty-sometimes precipitated into the sea; floating between eight; the fourth, the long-boat, eighty-eight; the life and death; mourning over our misfortunes, fifth, twenty-five; and the jolly-boat, fifteen, among certain of perishing, yet contending for the remains whom were four children, and some ladies. The of existence with that cruel element which menaced military had, in the first instance, been placed upon to swallow us up; such was our situation till break the raft--the number embarked on this fatal machine of day-horrible situation! how shall we convey an was not less than one hundred and fifty; making, idea of it which will not fall far short of the reality! with those in the boats, a total of three hundred and In the morning the wind abated, and the sea subninety-seven.
sided a little; but a dreadful spectacle presented On leaving the wreck, M. Corréard, geographical itself—ten or twelve of the unhappy men, having engineer, attached to the expedition, who had volun- their limbs jammed between the spars of the raft, teered to accompany his men on the Raft, wishing to unable to extricate themselves, had perished in that be assured that proper instruments and charts for situation; several others had been swept off by the navigating it had been put on board, was told by the violence of the waves: in calling over the list it was captain that every thing necessary had been provided, found that twenty had disappeared. and a naval officer appointed to take charge of it: All this, however, was nothing to the dreadful this naval officer, however, jumped into one of the scene which took place the following night. The boats, and never joined them.
day had been beautiful, and no one seemed to doubt The boats pushed off in a line, towing the Raft, that the boats would appear in the course of it, to and assuring the people on board that they would relieve them from their perilous state; but the conduct them safely to land. They had not pro- evening approached, and none were seen. From ceeded, however, above two leagues from the wreck, that moment a spirit of sedition spread from man to when they, one by one, cast off the tow-lines. It man, and manifested itself by the most furious was afterwards pretended that they broke; had this shouts. Night came on; the heavens were obscured even been true, the boats might at any time have with thick clouds; the wind rose, and with it the rejoined the Raft; instead of which, they all aban- sea; the waves broke over them every moment; doned it to its fate, every one striving to make off numbers were swept away, particularly near the with all possible speed.
extremities of the raft; and the crowding towards At this time, the Raft had sunk below the water to the centre of it was so great, that several poor the depth of three feet and a half, and the people wretches were smothered by the pressure of their
so squeezed one against another, that it was comrades, who were unable to keep on their legs. found impossible to move ; fore and aft, they were Firmly persuaded that they were all on the point up to the middle in water. In such a deplorable of being swallowed up, both soldiers and sailors situation, it was with difficulty they could persuade resolved to soothe their last moments by drinking till themselves that they had been abandoned; nor they lost their reason. They bored a hole in the would they believe it until the whole of the boats head of a large cask, from which they continued to had disappeared from their sight. They now began swill. till the salt water, mixing with the wine, rento consider themselves as deliberately sacrificed, and dered it no longer drinkable. Excited by the fumes, swore, if ever they gained the shore, to be revenged acting on empty stomachs and heads already disof their unfeeling companions. The consternation ordered by danger, they now became deaf to the soon became extreme. Every thing that was horrible voice of reason; boldly declared their intention to took possession of their imaginations; all perceived murder their officers, and then cut the ropes which
bound the Raft together : one of them, seizing an | proved to be a night of tranquillity, disturbed only axe, actually began the dreadful work. This was the by the piercing cries of those whom hunger and signal for revolt; the officers rushed forward to quell thirst devoured. The water was up to their knees, the tumult, and the man with the hatchet was the and they could only attempt to get a little sleep by first that fell--the stroke of a sabre terminated his crowding closely together, so as to form an immoveexistence.
The morning's sun showed them ten or The passengers joined the officers, but the muti a dozen unfortunate creatures stretched lifeless on the neers were still the greater number; luckily they Raft; all of whom were committed to the deep, with were but badly armed, or the few bayonets and the exception of one, destined for the support of sabres of the opposite party could not have kept those who, the evening before, had pressed his them at bay. One fellow was detected secretly trembling hands in vowing eternal friendship. At cutting the ropes, and immediately flung overboard; this period, fortunately, a shoal of Flying-fish*, in others destroyed the shrouds and halyards, and the passing the Raft, left nearly three hundred entangled mast, deprived of support, fell on a captain of between the spars. By means of a little gunpowder infantry, and broke his thigh; he was instantly and linen, and by erecting an empty cask, they seized by the soldiers and thrown into the sea, but contrived to make a fire; and mixing with the fish was saved by the opposite party. A furious charge the flesh of their deceased comrade, they all partook was now made upon the mutineers, many of whom of a meal, which, by this means, was rendered less were cut down: at length this fit of desperation revolting. subsided into egregious cowardice: they cried out The fourth night was marked by another massacre. for mercy, and asked forgiveness on their knees. It Some Spaniards, Italians, and negroes, who had was now midnight, and order appeared to be restored; taken no part with the former mutineers, now entered but after an hour of deceitful tranquillity, the insur- into a conspiracy to throw the rest into the sea. rection burst forth anew: the mutineers ran upon The negroes had persuaded the others that the land the officers like desperate men, each having a knife was close to them, and that once on shore, they or å sabre in his hand, and such was the fury of the would answer for their crossing Africa without the assailants, that they tore their flesh and even their least danger. A Spaniard was the first to advance clothes with their teeth: there was no time for with a drawn knife; the sailors seized and threw hesitation; a general slaughter took place, and the him into the sea. An Italian, seeing this, jumped Raft was strewed with dead bodies.
overboard; the rest were easily mastered, and order Some palliation must be allowed on account of was once more restored. their miserable condition; the constant dread of Thirty persons only now remained, many of whom death, want of rest and of food, had impaired their were in a most deplorable state, the salt-water having faculties; nor did the officers themselves entirely entirely removed the skin from their legs and thighs, escape. A sort of half-waking dream, a wandering which, with contusions and wounds, rendered them of the imagination, seized most of them : some unable to support themselves. The remains of the fancied they saw around them a beautiful country, fish and the wine were calculated to be just enough covered with the most delightful plantations; others to support life for four days; but in these four they became wild with horror, and threw themselves into also calculated that ships might arrive from St. the sea. Several, on casting themselves off, said calmly Louis to save them. At this moment, two soldiers to their companions, 'I am going to seek for assist were discovered behind the cask of wine, through ance, and you shall soon see me back again.' which they had bored a hole, for the purpose of
On the return of day it was found, that in the drinking it; they had, just before, all pledged them. course of the preceding night of horror, sixty-five of selves to punish with death whoever should be the mutineers had perished, and two of the small found guilty of such a proceeding, and the sentence party attached to the officers. One cask of wine was immediately carried into execution, by throwing only remained. Before the allowance was served out the culprits into the sea. they contrived to get up their mast afresh; but Their numbers were thus reduced to twenty-eignt, having no compass, and not knowing how to direct fifteen of whom only appeared to be able to exist for their course, they let the Raft drive before the wind, a few days; the other thirteen were so reduced, that apparently indifferent whither they went. Enfeebled they had nearly lost all sense of existence; as their with hunger, they now tried to catch fish, but could case was hopeless, and as, while they lived, they would not succeed, and abandoned the attempt.
consume a part of the little that was left, a council * It was necessary, however,' said the survivors, was held, and after a deliberation, at which the most ' that some extreme measure should be adopted, horrible despair is said to have prevailed, it was to support our miserable existence; we shudder decided to throw them overboard. "Three sailors with horror on finding ourselves under the necessity and a soldier undertook the execution of this cruel of recording that which we put into practice; we sentence. We turned away our eyes, and shed tears feel the pen drop from our hands; a deadly cold- of blood, on the fate of these unfortunate men; but ness freezes all our limbs, and our hair stands on this painful sacrifice saved the fifteen who remained; end. Readers, we entreat you not to entertain, and who, after this dreadful catastrophe, had six days for men already too unfortunate, a sentiment of of suffering to undergo, before they were relieved indignation; but to grieve for them, and to shed a from their dismal situation.' At the end of this tear of pity over their unhappy lot.'
period, a small vessel was descried at a distance; she The 'extreme measure' was, indeed, horrible: the proved to be the Argus brig, which had been unhappy men whom death had spared in the course despatched from Senegal to look out for them. All of the night, fell upon the carcasses of the dead, and hearts on board were melted with pity at their began to devour them. Some tried to eat their deplorable condition.— Let any one,' say our unforsword-belts and cartridge boxes; others devoured tunate narrators, ' figure to himself fifteen unhappy their linen, and others, the leathers of their hats; creatures, almost naked, their bodies shriveiled by but all these expedients, and others of a still more the rays of the sun, ten of them scarcely able to loathsome nature, were of no avail.
move; our limbs stripped of the skin; a total change A third night of horror now approached; but it
See Saturday Magazine, Vol. IV.,
in all our features; our eyes hollow and almost | THE IMMENSITY OF THE WORKS OF THE
CREATOR. savage; and our long beards, which gave us an air almost hideous.'
It is extremely difficult to devise any means of Such is the history of these unfortunate men! Of conveying to the mind a correct idea of the magnithe hundred and fifty embarked on the Raft, fifteen tude of the scale on which the Universe is cononly were received on board the brig, and of these structed; of the enormous proportion which the six died shortly after their arrival at St. Louis. larger dimensions bear to the smaller ; and of the
Of the boats, the whole of which, as we have amazing number of steps from large to smaller, or already stated, deserted the Raft soon after leaving from small to larger, which the consideration of it the wreck, two only (those in which the governor offers. The following comparative representations and the captain of the frigate had embarked) arrived may serve to give the reader, to whom the subject is at Senegal: the other four made the shore in different new, some notion of these steps. places, and landed their people. The whole party If we suppose the Earth to be represented by a globe suffered extremely from hunger, thirst, and the a foot in diameter, the distance of the Sun from the effects of a burning sun reflected from a surface of earth would be about two miles, the diameter of a naked sand; but with the exception of two or three, sphere representing the Sun, on the same supposition, they all reached Senegal.
would be something above one hundred feet, and conThe governor, recollecting that the Méduse had on sequently his bulk such as might be made up of two board a very large sum of money, sent off a little hemispheres, each about the size of the dome of St. vessel to visit the wreck; but as if, it should seem, Paul's. The Moon would be thirty feet from us, and that no one part of this wretched expedition should her diameter three inches, about that of a cricket ball. reflect disgrace upon another, with only eight days' Thus the Sun would much more than occupy all the provisions on board; so that she was compelled to space within the Moon's orbit. On the same scale, return, without being able to approach it. She was Jupiter would be above ten miles from the Sun, and again sent out with twenty-five days' provisions, but Uranus (Herschel's planet) forty. We see, then, how being ill found in stores and necessaries, and the thinly scattered through space are the heavenly bodies. weather being bad, she returned to port a second The fixed stars will be at an unknown distance, but, time. On the third attempt she reached the wreck, probably, if all distances were thus diminished, no fifty-two days after it had been abandoned; but what star would be nearer to such a one-foot Earth, than were the horror and astonishment of those who the Moon now is to us, which is 240,000 miles distant ascended its decks, to discover on board three from us. miserable wretches just on the point of expiring! On such a terrestrial globe, the highest mountains
It now appeared that seventeen men had clung to would be about one eightieth part of an inch high, the wreck when the boats and the Raft departed; and, consequently, only just distinguishable. We may their first object had been to collect a sufficient imagine, therefore, how imperceptible would be the quantity of biscuit, wine, brandy, and pork, for the largest animals. The whole organized covering of subsistence of a certain number of days. While such an earth would be quite undiscoverable by the this lasted, they were quiet; but forty-two days eye, except, perhaps, by colour, like the bloom on a having passed without any succour appearing, twelve plum. of the most determined, seeing themselves on the In order to restore the earth and its inhabitants to point of starving, resolved to make for the land; their true dimensions, we must magnify the length, they therefore constructed a raft, or float, which they breadth, and thickness of every part of our supposed bound together with ropes, and on which they set models forty millions of times; and to preserve the off with a small quantity of provisions, without oars proportions, we must increase equally the distance of and without sails, and were drowned. Another, who the sun and of the stars from us. They seem thus had refused to embark with them, took it into his to pass off into infinity; yet each of them thus head, a few days afterwards, to try for the shore; he removed, has its system of mechanical, and, perhaps, placed himself in a hen-coop, dropped from the organic processes going on upon its surface. wreck, and at the distance of about half a cable's But the arrangements of organic life which we length from it, sunk to rise no more. The remaining can see with the naked eye are few, compared with four resolved to die by the wreck; one of them had those which the microscope detects. We know that just expired when the vessel from Senegal arrived; we may magnify objects thousands of times, and the other three were so exhausted, that a few hours still discover fresh complexities of structure; if we more would have put an end to their misery.
suppose, therefore, that we thus magnify every About the time when this dreadful event occurred, member of the universe, and every particle of matter the ALCESTE frigate, which had been sent by the of which it consists; we may imagine that we make King of England with an ambassador on a special perceptible to our senses, the vast multitude of mission to the Emperor of China, was also wrecked*. organized adaptations which lie hid on every side of But how different were the consequences in the case us; and in this manner we approach towards an of the English ship to those which occurred in that estimate of the extent through which we may trace of the Méduse. The two frigates were wrecked the power and skill of the Creator, by scrutinizing nearly about the same time the distance from the his work with the utmost subtilty of our faculties. nearest friendly port pretty nearly the same in the Those magnitudes and proportions which leave one case all the people were kept together, in a our powers of conception far behind-that everperfect state of discipline and subordination, and expanding view which is brought before us, of the every one brought safely home from the opposite scale and mechanism, the riches and magnificence, side of the globe;in the other case, each seems to the population and activity of the universe-may have been left to shift for himself, and the greater reasonably serve to enlarge and elevate our conceppart perished in the horrible way we have just seen. tions of the Maker and Master of all; to feed an [Abridged from the Quarterly Review, 1817.]
ever-growing admiration of his wonderful nature;
and to excite a desire to be able to contemplate more • An account of the wreck of the Alceste will be given in the steadily, and conceive less inadequately the scheme present volume.
of his government and the operation of his power.
TAESE are three large obelisks, standing about half he imagines, that in this place the Druids held a a mile south-west of Boroughbridge. They are irre- great yearly festival, like the famous Grecian games, gular in form, and greatly worn by exposure to the and that these were the goals round which the weather, and are of very ancient origin. In the chariots were turned at the races. Another author time of our famous antiquary Leland, who began his suggests, that they were set up by the early Britons travels through England, in 1536, there were four to the honour of their gods. But the opinions of of these stones, but one has since fallen, or been Leland, Camden, and Drake, seem to be better pulled down*. The three now remaining, stand nearly founded ; namely, that they were the work of the in a line from north to south. The northernmost Romans, and raised to commemorate some important. obelisk is eighteen feet high, and is supposed to victory. The last mentioned writer remarks, "the weigh thirty-six tons; the centre stone, twenty-two foundations of these stones being laid with the same feet and a half high, is estimated at thirty tons; and clay and pebble as the walls of Aldburgh, the the third, twenty-two feet four inches high, is also ancient Isurium of the Romans, is a convincing thought to weigh thirty tons.
proof of their being Roman monuments.” These extraordinary monuments of antiquity did Aldburgh is not a mile and a half distant from not escape the notice of the greatest of all English Boroughbridge, and when, in addition to the fact antiquaries, Camden, who visited Yorkshire in 1582, stated by Drake, we consider the facilities possessed and who imagined that they were compositions of by the Romans, for conveyance on their great military sand, lime, and small pebbles, cemented together. roads, together with their fondness for raising records He was probably deceived by their vast bulk, not to their own honour, we cannot but consider them as conceiving it possible for human art to bring such belonging to the time of the Romans. It is true masses of stone, each being a single block, from any that they bear no marks of Roman elegance, nor the long distance. But it is now well known that they traces of any inscription: yet these, if any such are natural stones, of a kind common in the north existed, may probably, have been worn away by time of England, called the coarse rag-stone, or mill-stone and the weather. Dean Gale had a notion that they grit; and it is fair to conclude, that they were were originally those Mercuries described by the brought from a quarry at Plumpton, near Harrowgate. ancients, which were usually placed where four ways HARGROVE, in his History of Knaresborough, in met (as they did here,) and that the head on the top describing Plumpton, says, “One huge mass of rock, of the stones had been displaced. Amidst so many insulated by water, which measures near fifty feet theories on the subject of the ARROWS, or Boroughin length, without a joint, shows the possibility of bridge Obelisks, we will leave those of our readers, who finding obelisks here, even higher than those at ore curious in such matters, to consult the authorities Boroughbridge, which are believed to have been quoted; and, notwithstanding the title by which these carried from hence, as being of the same grit." stones are commonly known in the country, (the devil's
In the year 1709, the ground about the centre arrows,) we are sure that they will agree in rejecting obelisk was opened to the width of nine feet. At one ancient opinion, quaintly enough adverted to by first a good soil was found, and at about a foot deep Camden in his Britannia. “ As for the silly story of was a quantity of rough stones and large pebbles; their being those bolts which the devil shot at some layers of these appeared, which were probably cities hereabouts, and so destroyed them, I think it placed there, to keep it steady; beneath, was a not worth while to mention it." strong and hard clay supporting the bottom of the At Rudston, about five miles from Bridlington, in obelisk, at above six feet below the surface of the the same county, is a similar obelisk, upwards of
It has never been determined by what people twenty-nine feet high. Its depth in the ground or for what object these stones were erected, although has been traced more than twelve feet without the point has engaged the attention of many inge- coming to the bottom. It stands forty miles from nious men. Stukeley's idea is, that they were fixed any quarry where this sort of stone is found, and by the Britons, long before the time of the Romans; neither history nor tradition has any record either of
• Camden states that one was displaced in hopes of finding money. its date or of the cause of its erection,