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M. Bottineau, a native of the island of Bourbon, laid this discovery before M. de Castries, in 1784. The minister sent him back to the island to continue his observations there under the inspection and superintendance of the government.
M. Bottineau engaged, that not a single ship should arrive at the island without his having sent information of it several days before.
An exact register of his communications was kept in the secretary's office. All his reports were compared with the ship's books as soon as they arrived, to see whether the variations of weather, calms which retarded them, &c. &c. were such as agreed with his reports.
It must be observed, that when his reports were made, the watchmen, stationed on the mountains, could never perceive any appearance of ships; for M. Bottineau announced their approach when they were more than a hundred leagues distant.
From the authenticated journal of his reports, which has been published, it appears that he was wonderfully accurate. Within eight months, and in sixty-two reports, he announced the arrival of one hundred and fifty ships of different descriptions.
Of the fact there can be no reasonable doubt; because every method was adopted to prevent deception, and his informations were not only registered, as soon as they were made, in the government office, but were also publickly known over the whole island. The officers of government, moreover, were far from being partial to M. Bottineau; on the contrary, they were highly displeased with him for obstinately refusing to sell them his secret, which they wanted to purchase at a high price, so that he could expect no favour from their representations. Truth, however, obliged them to give abundant testimony to the reality of his extraordinary talent, in their letter to the French minister, which is published in a "Memoire sur la Nauscopie, par M. Bottineau."
The following are two of the reports extracted from this Memoire.
"On the 20th of August, 1784, I discovered some vessels at the distance of four days from the island. On the following day the number multiplied considerably to my sight. This induced me to send information of many vessels. But though they were only at four days distance, I nevertheless stated in my report, that no settled time could be fixed on for their arrival, as they were detained by a calm. On the 25th, the calm was so complete, as to make me think, for a few hours, that the fleet had disappeared, and gone to some other place. I soon after perceived again the presence of the fleet, by the revived signs. It was still in the same state of inaction, of which I sent information. From the 20th of August to the 10th of September, I did not cease to announce, in my reports, the continuation of the calm. On the 13th I sent word that the fleet was no longer becalmed, and that it would arrive at the island within forty-eight hours. Accordingly, to the surprise of the whole island, M. de Regnier's fleet arrived at Port Louis on the 15th. The general astonishment was greatly increased, when it was known that this fleet had been becalmed, since the 20th of August, near Rodriguez islands, which was precisely the distance that I had pointed out in my reports.'
"I soon had another opportunity of showing the certainty of my observations. A few days before the arrival of M. de Regnier's fleet, I announced the appearance of another fleet, which became perceptible to me. This created a great deal of uneasiness, because, as no other French fleet was expected, that which I discovered might be English ships. I was ordered to
repeat my observations with the greatest accuracy. I clearly perceived the passage of several ships, and declared that they were not bound for our island, but were taking another course. In consequence of this information, the Naiade frigate and the Duc de Chartres cutter, were suddenly despatched to M. de Suffrein. The cutter actually saw and avoided the English fleet in the ninth degree, but unfortunately, did not find M. de Suffrein in the bay of Trincomalee. The report of the cutter effectually convinced the incredulous of the reality of my discovery."
The last circumstance of despatching the frigate and cutter, plainly shows the confidence which the French officers must have put in the information of M. Bottineau. It shows also that he deserved their confidence.
Conjectures respecting the Phenomenon on which the preceding Observations were founded.
The waters of the ocean form an immense gulf, in which substances of all kinds are swallowed up.
The innumerable multitudes of animals, fish, birds, vegetable, and mineral productions, which decay, and are decomposed in that vast basin, produce a fermentation abounding in spirits, salt, oil, sulphur, &c. &c.
The existence of these is sufficiently apparent by the disagreeable smell and flavour of sea water, which can only be rendered drinkable by distillation, and by the evaporation of those heterogeneous particles which infect it.
The spirits intimately united to the sea waters. continue undisturbed, as long as those waters remain in a state of tranquillity; or, at least, they experience only an internal agitation, which is slightly manifested externally.
But when the waters of the sea are set into motion by storms, or by the introduction of an active mass which rides upon their surface, with violence and rapidity, the volatile vapours contained in the bosom of the sea escape, and rise up a fine mist, which forms an atmosphere round the vessel.
This atmosphere advances with the vessel, and is increased every moment by fresh emanations rising from the bottom of the water.
These emanations appear like so many small clouds, which, joining each other, form a kind of sheet projecting forward, one extremity of which touches the ship, whilst the other advances into the sea, to a considerable distance.
But this train of vapours is not visible to the sight. It escapes observation by the transparency of its particles, and is confounded with the other fluids which compose the atmosphere.
But as soon as the vessel arrives within a circumference, where it meets with other homogeneous vapours, such as those which escape from lapd, this sheet, which till that time had been so limpid and subtil, is suddenly seen to acquire consistence and colour, by the mixture of the two opposite columns.
This change begins at the prolonged extremities, which by their contact, are united, and acquire a colour and strength; afterwards, in proportion to the progression of the vessel, the metamorphosis increases and reaches the centre. At last the phenomenon becomes the more manifest, and the ship makes its appearance,
Memoir of Robert Levett, the Inmate of Dr. Johnson for near thirty Years.Written by the late George Steevens, Esq. the celebrated Commentator on Shakspeare. [Not Published in Boswell's Memoirs of Johnson.]
ROBERT LEVETT, though an Englishman by birth,* became early in life a waiter at a coffee-house in Paris. The surgeons who frequented the house, finding him of an inquisitive turn, and attentive to their conversation, made a purse for him, and gave him some instructions in their art. They afterwards furnished him with the means of other knowledge, by procuring him free admission to such lectures in pharmacy and anatomy as were read by the ablest professors of that period. Hence his introduction to a business which afforded him a continual, though slender maintenance. Where the middle parts of his life were spent is uncertain. He resided almost thirty years under the roof of Johnson, who never wished him to be regarded as an inferiour, or treated him like a dependant.†
He breakfasted with the doctor every morning, and, perhaps, was seen no more by him till midnight. Much of the day was employed in attendance on his patients, who were chiefly of the lowest rank of tradesmen. The remainder of his hours he dedicated to Hunter's lectures, and to as many different opportunities of improvement as he could meet with on the same gratuitous conditions. "All his physical knowledge," said Johnson, "and it is not inconsiderable, was obtained through the ear. Though he buys books, he seldom looks into them, or discovers any power by which he can be supposed to judge of an author's merit."
Before he became a constant inmate of the doctor's house, he married a woman who had persuaded him (notwithstanding their place of congress was a small coal-shed in Fetter-lane) that she was nearly related to a nobleman, but was injuriously kept by him out of large possessions. It is almost needless to add, that both parties were disappointed in their views. If Levett took her for an heiress, she regarded him as a physician already in considerable practice. Compared with the marvels of this transaction (as Johnson himself declared, when relating them) the Tales in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments seem familiar occurrences. Never was infant more completely imposed upon than our hero. He had not many days been married, before he was arrested for debts incurred by his wife. In a short time afterwards she was tried (providentially, in his opinion) for theft at the Old Bailey. Levett attended the court, in the hope she would be hanged: and was very angry with the counsel who undertook her defence. "I once thought," said he, "the man had been my friend; but this behaviour of his has proved the contrary." She was, however, acquitted; and Johnson himself concerted the terms of separation for this ill-starred couple, and then took Levett home, where he continued till his death, which happened suddenly, and without pain, at the age of eighty.
As no relations of his were known to Dr. Johnson, he advertised for them.
* He was born at Hull, in Yorkshire.
† Dr. Johnson has often declared, that Levett was indebted to him for nothing more than house room, his share in a penny loaf at breakfast, and now and then a dinner on a Sunday.
He had acted for many years in the capacity of physician, surgeon, and apothecary, to Johnson. After the good and learned Dr. Lawrence retired from business, the care of Johnson entirely devolved upon Levett; nor was any other physician ever called in till after Levett's death, which happened in January, 1782.
In the course of a few weeks an heir-at-law appeared, and ascertained his title to what effects the deceased had left behind him.
Levett's character was rendered valuable by repeated proofs of honesty, tenderness, and gratitude to his benefactor, as well as by an unwearied diligence in his profession. His single failing (if it may be called one) was an occasional departure from sobriety. Johnson would observe," he was, perhaps, the only man who ever became intoxicated through motives of prudence. He reflected, that if he refused the gin or brandy offered him by some of his patients, he could have been no gainer by their cure; as they might have nothing else to bestow upon him-The habit of taking a fee, in whatever shape it was exhibited, could not be put off by advice, or admonition of any kind. He would swallow what he did not like, nay, what he knew would injure him, rather than go home with an idea that his skill had been exerted without recompense."
"Had," continued Johnson, "all his patients maliciously combined to reward him with meat and strong liquors instead of money, he would either have burst, like the dragon in the Apocrypha, through repletion, or have been scorched up, like Portia, by swallowing fire." But let not from hence an imputation of rapaciousness be fixed upon him; though he took all that was offered him, he demanded nothing from the poor, nor was known, in any instance, to have enforced the payment of even what was justly his due.
His person was middle sized, and thin; his visage swarthy, adust, and corrugated; his conversation, except on professional subjects, barren: when in dishabille, he might have been mistaken for an alchymist, whose complexion had been hurt by the fumes of the crucible, and whose clothes had suffered from the sparks of the furnace.
Such was Levett, whose whimsical frailty, if weighed against his good and useful qualities, was
"A floating atom-dust that falls unheeded
To the above prose character of Levett, by Mr. Steevens, we cannot resist giving the fine poetical one written by Dr. Johnson, which is equally worthy of the pen and the heart of the author.
Condemned in hope's delusive mine,
Of every friendless name the friend.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
When fainting nature called for aid,
And hovering death prepared the blow,
The power of art, without the show.
In misery's darkest caverns known,
Where hopeless anguish poured his groan,
The toil of every day supplied.
Ilis virtues walked their narrow round,
The busy day, the peaceful night,
Then with no throbs of fiery pain,
CURIOUS ANECDOTES OF A POPULAR PERFORMER.
From Ryley's Itinerant; or, the Memoirs of an Actor.
COOK is so well known as an actor, that my opinion can neither add to, nor diminish his fame; were either in my power, panegyrick would run through a dozen pages, and yet fall short of his merits. In some characters he is as much superiour to any actor of the present day, as Garrick was to those of his time; but they are limited to such parts as suit his figure, which wants grace and proportion. Where these can be dispensed with, he has no competitor. As a man in private life, he is the gentleman, the scholar, the friend, the life of every party, an enemy to scandal and detraction, and benevolent even to imprudence.
Such is Cook in his sober moments; but, when stimulated by the juice of the grape, he acts in diametrical opposition to all this. No two men, however different they may be, can be more at variance than Cook sober, and Cook in a state of inebriety. At these times, his interesting suavity of manners changes to brutal invective, and the feelings of his nearest and dearest friends are sacrificed. Such are the unfortunate propensities of this singular man, unfortunate, I say, because he seems incapable of avoiding them, although they have a tendency to ruin his health, injure his property, and destroy his social connexions. No one can more regret these failings than he does in his hours of sanity, or make more handsome apologies; and if at night he creates enemies, his conciliatory manners in the morning are sure to raise double the number of friends.
Of this great actor many ludicrous anecdotes are related. I shall point out a few which came under my own observation.
One evening, in Manchester, we were in a publick bar amongst a promiscuous company, where Cook was, as usual, the life of the party. Mirth and good humour prevailed till about ten o'clock, when I perceived a