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pretension. The yearly price is six shillings, sterling. It might well be imported for circulation in this country. Evd.]
ART. III. Letters on Natural Magic, addressed to Sir Walter
Scott, Bart. By Sir David BREWSTER. Murray's Family Library. London, 1832.* Price 5s.
Natural Magic is the name given to those combinations of natural agencies, which, by the illusion or surprise which they produce, seem to us to possess supernatural power. Nor is the name an inappropriate one, though somewhat strange in sound. Magic, in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, supernatural power in human hands, exists only in the imagination; it is not a thing which has ever really been; it is a mere fancy, the offspring of ignorance and superstition, and nothing more. But if we can actually produce, by natural means, the same effects which the believers in magic say are to be achieved by the aid of spirits or other supernatural agents, we have a right to give the name of magic also to the art by which we do this, — adding the epithet natural, to intimate that it is only the products of the magician's trickery which are imitated, and not his pretended mode of operation. If the impostor who professes to raise a spectre by a charm or incantation, calls the deception a piece of magic, the philosopher who does the same thing by an ingenious arrangement of mirrors, is still entitled to give it the same name.
On this subject Sir David Brewster has here produced a learned, instructive, and amusing work. The only regret or disappointment that the reader feels is on account of the parts of the subject which are only alluded to or slightly touched upon. The examples of the wonders of science given in the present volume are only a selection from a much more abundant store of materials of the same kind. It is a selection, however, very judiciously made, and so as, if not to exhaust the subject, yet to present a view, more or less full, of each of its principal departments. First we have the illusions which affect us through the eye very largely treated of. The appearance of spectres to a brain or nervous system in a diseased or extraordinarily excited state, - the case of persons who are insensible to particular colors, – the tricks of the necromancers with concave mirrors,
ave mirrors, – the magic lantern and phantasmagoria, the spectre of the Brocken, and the Fata Morgana, - are included, among many other things, under this head. The illusions depending on the ear, including the modern exhibition of the invisible girl, ventriloquism, the effects produced by the voice on glasses, the phenomena of echoes, &c. are considered in several of the following chapters. Then come two highly interesting chapters on mechanical feats and contrivances, such as remarkable exertions of strength, the automata of the ancients, Degennes's mechan
[Republished by Messrs. J. & J. Harper, New York.]
ical peacock, Vaucanson’s duck, which ate and digested its food, Baron Kempelen's famous automaton chess-player, Duncan's tambouring machine, Babbage's calculating engine, &c. Lastly, the volume closes with a rapid survey of several of the most remarkable wonders of Chemistry. The art of breathing fire, that of walking upon red-hot iron, Aldini's incombustible dresses, the spontaneous combustion of human beings, the effects of the nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, and the very curious subject of certain elastic gases which the author himself has discovered in the cavities of gems, are some of the topics among which the reader is led on through this department.
What we have stated is enough to show what a fund both of amusement and of philosophy the book is. It is an excellent work for a mechanic's or village library.
The following is, we think, the most extraordinary of all the author's statements. The work, it is to be recollected, is addressed in the form of letters to Sir Walter Scott :
One of the most remarkable and inexplicable experiments relative to the strength of the human frame, which you have yourself seen and admired, is that in which a heavy man is raised with the greatest facility, when he is lifted up the instant that his own lungs and those of the persons who raise him are inflated with air. This experiment was, I believe, first shown in England a few years ago by Major H., who saw it performed in a large party at Venice under the direction of an officer of the American navy.* As Major H. performed it more than once in my presence, I shall describe as nearly as possible the method which he prescribed. The heaviest person in the party lies down upon two chairs, his legs being supported by the one and his back by the other. Four persons, one at each leg, and one at each shoulder, then try to raise him, and they find his dead weight to be very great, from the difficulty they experience in supporting him. When he is replaced in the chair, each of the four persons takes hold of the body as before, and the person to be lifted gives two signals by clapping his hands. At the first signal he himself and the four lifters begin to draw a long and full breath, and when the inhalation is completed, or the lungs filled, the second signal is given, for raising the person from the chair. To his own surprise and that of his bearers, he rises with the greatest facility, as if he were no heavier than a feather. On several occasions I have observed that when one of the bearers performs his part ill, by making the inhalation out of time, the part of the body which he tries to raise is left as it were behind. As you have repeatedly seen this experiment, and have performed the part both of the load and of the bearer, you can testify how remarkable the effects appear to all parties, and how complete is the conviction, either that the load has been lightened, or the bearer strengthened by the prescribed process.
At Venice the experiment was performed in a much more imposing manner. The heaviest man in the party was raised and sustained upon the points of the fore-fingers of six persons. Major H. declared that the experiment would not succeed if the person lifted were placed upon a board, and the strength of the individuals applied to the board. He con
We recollect seeing the experiment successfully performed in our country about ten or twelve years since.)
ceived it necessary that the bearers should communicate directiy with the body to le raised. I have not had an opportunity of making any experiments relative to these curious facts; but whether the general effect is an illusion, or the result of known or of new principles, the subject merits a careful investigation.'
Amongst the descriptions of mechanism calculated to cxcite popular curiosity, the following is very striking :
"One of the most popular pieces of mechanism which we have seen is the magician, constructed by M. Maillardet, for the purpose of answering certain given questions. A figure, cressed like a magician, appears seated at thie bottom of a wall, holding a wand in one hand, and a book in the other. A number of questions really prepared are inscribed on oval medallions, and the spectator takes any of these which he chooses, and to which he wishes an answer, and having placed it in a drawer ready to re. ceive it, the drawer shuts with a spring till the answer is returned. The magician then rises from bis seat, bows his head, describes circles with his wand, and, consulting the book as if in deep thought, he lifts it towards his face. Having thus appeared to ponder over the proposed question, he raises his wand, and, striking with it the wall above his head, two folding doors fly open, and display an appropriate answer to the question. The doors again close, the magician resumes his original position, and the drawer opens to return the medallion. There are twenty of these medallions, all containing different questions, to which the magician returns the most suitable and striking answers. The medallions are thin plates of brass of an elliptical form, exactly resembling each other. Some of the medallions have a question inscribed on each side, both of which the magician answers in succession. If the drawer is shut without a medallion being put into it, the magician rises, consults his book, shakes his head, and resumes his seat. The folding-doors remain shut, and the drawer is returned empty. If two medallions are put into the drawer together, an answer is returned only to the lower one. When the machinery is wound up, the movements continue about an hour, during which time about fifty questions may be answered. The inventor stated, that the means by which the different medallions acted upon the machinery, so as to produce the proper answers to the questions which they contained were extremely simple.”
We give, in conclusion, the author's very just observations on the ultimate effect of inventions which at first sight appear to have no really useful object :
" Ingenious and beautiful as all these pieces of mechanism are, and surprising as their effects appear even to scientific spectators, the prin. cipal object of their inventors was to astonish and amuse the public. We should form an erroneous judgment, however, if we supposed that this was the only result of the ingenuity which they displayed. The passion for automatic exhibitions which characterized the eighteenth century, gave rise to the most ingenious mechanical devices, and introduced among the higher orders of artists habits of nice and accurate execution in the formation of the most delicate pieces of machinery. The same combination of the mechanical powers which made the spider crawl, or which waved the tiny rod of the magician, contributed in future years to purposes of higher import. Those wheels and pinions, which almost eluded our senses by their minuteness, reappeared in the stupendous mechanism of our spinning-machines, and our steam-engines. The elements
of the tumbling puppet were revived in the chronometer, which now conducts our navy through the ocean; and the shapeless wheel which directed the hand of the drawing automaton, has served in the present age to guide the movements of the tambourine engine. Those mechanical wonders which in one century enriched only th : conjuror who used them, contri. buted in another in augment the wealth of the nation; and those automatic toys which once amused the vulgar, are now employed in extending the power and promoting the civilization of our species. In whatever way, indeed, the power of genius may invent or combine, and to whatever low or even ludicrous purposes that invention or combination may be originally applied, society receives a gift which it can never lose ; and though the value of the seed may not be at once recognised, and though it may lie long unproductive in the ungenial soil of human knowledge, it will some time or other evolve its gerin, and yield to mankind its natural and abundant harvest."
[Abridged from the London“ Monthly Review. No. 3.'']
Art. III. – A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New
Zealand in 1827; together with a Journul of a Residence in Tristan d'Acunha, an Island situated between South America and the Cape of Good Hope. By Augustus Earle, Draughtsman to his Majesty's Surveying-Ship “ The Beagle.” 8vo. pp. 371. London: Longman & Co. 1832. This is one of the most extraordinary narratives of personal adventure which have fallen within our observation for some time. The author was educated as an artist; but, impelled to foreign travel by an unconquerable love of roving, he seems to have succeeded in gratifying his passion to its utmost extent, with little more expense than that of his time, and now and then a little labor. Through the medium of some interest which he possessed at the Admiralty, he was enabled to visit the Mediterranean in 1815, and to make himself acquainted with several interesting scenes in Africa, Malta, Sicily, and Spain. He next proceeded to the United States, and spent two years in rambling through their cities, mountains, prairies, and forests. After this we find him successively visiting the Brazils, Chili, and Peru, where he practised his profession with great perseverance and good fortune. It was next his ambition to find employment in India, and having returned to Rio for the purpose of procuring his passage in a vessel bound for the Cape of Good Hope, he entrusted himself to an old worn-out Margate hoy, which was proceeding thither with a cargo of potatoes. This was in February, 1824. On the voyage the miserable sloop encountered very severe weather, against which it was so little prepared to contend, that the captain was obliged, under the terrors of a heavy wind and sea, to make for the island of Tristan d'Acunha, - obeying the dictate of the old maxim — “Any port in a storm.”
VOL. I. - NO. I.
frightful-looking spot is situated almost due south of St. Helena, and south-west of the Cape of Good Hope, and is rarely visited except by those adventurous men who are engaged in the South-sea whaling trade. Even these persons have been latterly obliged almost to abandon the island, on account of the dangers that abound upon its dreadful coast. The approach to the shore is absolutely terrific, the sea breaking violently over innumerable rocks which just rise above the water, and the whole extent of the beach being whitened with the surf. When the wind blows strongly, as it frequently does, the noise of the elemental war is deafening. The beach, as well as the rocks in its neighbourhood, are composed of black lava, the colour of which, contrasted with the snow-white foam of the waves, presents a spectacle almost supernatural.
Yet upon this desolate spot it was Mr. Earle's fate to spend several months. The captain having found that the settlers were well supplied with potatoes, resolved on increasing his cargo, and as the operation of transferring his purchases on board the hoy would necessarily take up three or four days, our adventurer, sick and tired of being knocked about at sea, was glad to have the opportunity of going on shore. The island had hitherto been unvisited by any artist, and hoping to be able to add some novelty to his portfolio, he took with him his sketch book, a dog, a gun, and boat cloak, and bent his way to a small village composed of half a dozen houses, which he was equally surprised and pleased to find constructed with every attention to cleanliness and comfort. It was still more delightful to him to find that the settlers spoke his own language, being all of them British subjects, and that they were most anxions to show him every possible kindness. After spending here three days scrambling round the rocks and making sketches, he prepared to return to the hoy, and was already placed in a boat for that purpose, when he beheld the vessel standing out
“I concluded," he observes, "that she was only making a long stretch, and waited on the beach some hours; but she “ stood quite off to sea, and I never beheld her more!"
Thus the author found himself (29th March) left on the island, with one of the men belonging to the sloop, with no other provision in the way of clothes than those they had on, and with little hope of a chance vessel coming in sight, as the winter season was now approaching. He wisely, however, determined to bear his lot patiently, and to cultivate the friendship of the settlers. Their chief, or governor as he was called, rejoiced in the name of Glass. He was a Scotchman, a ci-devant corporal of artillery drivers at the Cape, and a very kind-hearted man. His three companions or subjects had all been seamen, who chose to remain upon the island for the purpose of earning a subsistence by procuring sea-elephant and other oils, which they bartered with the vessels that touched there. They were honest, rough, British tars, and as they had been
accustomed to be either in their whale-boat pulling through the