Page images

were exchanged for exacerbation and tumult. Of this physical and irref Aible impulse in his conftitution, no man was more thoroughly sensible than himself; and if no man ever less succeeded in subduing ii, no man ever took more pains to obtain a victory. Let us, however, fairly Itrike the balance, and we shall find, that if such a peculiar conftruction of body had its evil, it also had its advantage; and that the very irritability of soul which occalionally hurried him, against his confent, into a violence of controversy not perfectly confitent with the polished manners of the day, hurried him a thousand times oftener, and with a thousand times more rapidity, because affilted instead of opposed by his judgement, into acts of kindness and benevolence. The moment he beheld the possibility of doing good by his own exertions, the good was instantly done, although it were to a man who, perhaps, had causelessly quarrelled with him a few hours before. It was not in his nature to pause, with our acadeinic and cold blooded philosophers of the present day, that he might firit weigh the precise demand of moral or political justice, and inquire into the advantage that would accrue to himself, or in what manner the world at large might be benefited either by a good action or a good example: it was stimulus enough for him that distress exifted, and that he knew it—and it afterwards afforded him {atisfaction enough that he had removed or mitigated it.

• lo intellectual talents he had few «quals, and fewer ftill who had improved the possession of equal talents in au equal degree. To an ardent thirst after knowledge, in all its multitudinous ramifications, he added an astonishing facility in acquiring and retaining it; and so extenfive was his erudition, that it was difficult to itart a subject into which he could not enter, and be heard with both attention and profit. But theology was the prime object of his pursuits, the darling science of his beart, which he had indefatigably ftudied from his infancy, and to which every other acquisition was made to bend. From his verbal knowledge of the Bible, he might have been regarded as a living concordance ; and this not with respect to any individual language alone, or the various and rival renderings of any individual language, but a concordance that should comprise the best exemplars of the mott celebrated tongues into which the Bible has ever been translated. As an interpreter of it, he was strictly faithful and honest to the meaning, or what he apprehended to be the meaning, of his original; and though, in his critical remarks upon the text, he allowed himself a latitude and a boldness which injured his popularity, and drew down upon his head a torrent of abulive appellations, how seldom have we seen a man, fyftematically educated in the characteristic tenets of any established community whatsoever, and especially of the church of Rome, who, when he has once begun to feel his independence, and has determined to fhake off his fetters, and to think for himself, has not flown much further from the goal at which he Harted!' p. 529-534.

To an universal knowlede of the Bible, Dr Goddes added a deep and elaborate acquaintance with the hittory of his own Church; and to thoroughly was he verfed in its annals, in its jurisprudence, in its pole. Cc 3

mics, mics, that I have good authority for afferting, that even at the Vatican it was doubted whether the papal dominions themselves could produce his superior.

• His classical attainments, if not of the first rate, were of a very distinguished character; and when, in his own language, he wrote with coolness and circumspection, his diction, which was always perspicuous, was peculiarly elegant and correct. His style is nevertheless extremely yariable: he often composed precipitately, and occafionally in a state of high mental irritation : and though there be a character which ftill adheres to what he wrote, and fully decyphers the writer, his composiţions uniformly partake of the predominant sensation of the moment. lo few words, he was a benevolent man, an accomplished fcholar, an indefatigable friend, and a sincere Christian.' 536. 537.

Art. XII. Des Pierres tombées du Ciel, ou Lithologie Atmospherique,

&c. &c. Par Joseph lzarn, Professeur de Phyfique, &c. Paris, De la Lain, fils. An XI. (1803.) pp. 427, 8vo. This work is a collection of all the facts and opinions which

have of late years been given to the world with respect to the very singular phenomenon mentioned in the title, M. Izarn's hare of merit in the compilation is extremely small. He has only transcribed the statements of others upon the subject, from their own words, when they happened to write in French, and from French translations, when the original was either English or German. He has here and there added a few remarks, of little value; and has given, at the end, a theory of his own, detailed with great prolixity, and fatiguing affectation of accuracy, but in itself by far the most unsatisfactory of any that has been offered, to explain the difficulties of the question. As the labours of chemical inquirers have now greatly augmented the many wonders of this subject, and brought within the range of philofophical discussion, ideas which, a few years ago, were left to the credulous fancy of the vulgar, we shall take the liberty of presenting to our readers a connected view of the evidence which has been procured upon this very singular branch of natural history, and a statement of the comparative difficulties which incumber the different theories founded upon that evidence. We wish to be understood as offering this sketch as a substitute for M. Izarn's work; because we conceive, that something more was required of him, than a mere transcript of the documents which contain the facts of the case.

The histories of all nations, in early times, abound with fabufous accounts of natural phenomena.' Showers of blood and of leth ; battles of armed men in the air ; animals of different de


{criptions uttering articulate founds, are a few of the tales which we meet with in the annals of ancient Rome: and the lively in magination of Oriental countries has infinitely varied this catalogue of wonders. Of such incidents, however, it has frequently been found possible to give some explanation consistent with the ordinary laws of nature, after the narratives have been freed from the fictions with which superftition or design had at first mingled them. But it is fingular with what uniformity the notion of showers of stones has prevailed in various countries, at almost every period of society; with how few additions from fancy the story has been propagated; and how vain all attempts have proved, to account, by naturai causes, for the phenomenon, with whatever modifications it may be credited. Accordingly, phi. losophers have rejected the fact, and either denied that itones did fall, or affirmed, at least, that if they fell on one part of the earth, they were previoufly elevated from another. The vulgar have as Itedfastly believed, that they came from beyond the planet on which we live; and every day's experience seems now to increase the probability, that in this instance, as in some others, credulity has been more philosophical than scepticism.

There are two methods of inquiring into the origin of those insulated mafles which are said to have fallen in different parts of the earth. We may either collect, as accurately as poflible, the external evidence, the testimonies of those perfons in whese neighbourhood the bodies are situated; or we may examine the nature of the substances themselves, and compare them with the kinds of matter by which they are surrounded. The first mode of investigation is evidently more liable to error, and less likely to proceed upon full and fatisfactory data than the other. But if botla inquiries lead to conclufions fomewhat analogous; if both the inductions of fact present us with anomalous phenomena of nearly the same defcription, and equally irreriucible to any of the clafles into which all other facts have been arranged, we may rest assured that a discovery has been made—and the two methods of demonftration will be reciprocally confirmed.

I. The first narrative which has been offered to the world, under circumstances of tolerable accuracy, is that of the celebrated Gassendi. He was himself the cye-witness of what he relates. On the 27th of November, in the year 1627, the lky being quite clear, he saw a burning itone fall on mount Vaisir, between the towns of Guillauires and lerne in Provence. It appeared to be about four feet in diameter, was surrounded by a luminous circle of colours like a rainbow, and its fall was accompanied with a noise like the discharge of cannon. Bui Güllendi infpected the supposed fallen done fill in.ore nearly; he found that it weigledd 59 lib., was exC ¢ 4

tremely terk, of admetocht, ai cia das gravity Ch 1725. matér this tat of connes 2:e Hazin only 11 L

a nce eraritz, be cuscini, ex unturally, that th: mí, came from fore ribbeing contain, which La Soinin a transient rate ci scari: 22pc.

The celebrated stone of Enteim is act proved to have faljen, ly refimory quite so fascicos: but there are several circumstances narrated with respect to is, which the foregoing account of Cailendi wanis. Cier. Tory writers all agree in fl:.., tie geriral belief of the reizi.courhood, that on the gia of ven.ber 1492; b-tween elevca and tweise o'clock d. m. a dreadful thunder-ci:p was heard 2: E:deim, and that a child law a huge stone fall on a tizid fuwcd wish wheat. It had eni red ihe earth to the depth of three feet; it was then terioved, found to weigh 260 B., and espaied to public view. The defect in Gatlendi's relin is here fupplied; for we have the nature of the grourid dittinctiv described: the natives of the place must have known that in their wheat fiuld no such stone had formerly exifted : but the evidence of its having actually been observed to fall, is by no means to decifre as that of Gaflendi.

Other recitals have been given of finiilar appearances, but ly no means so well authenticated, or so fully examined, although fomewhat nearer our own times. In 16-2, one of the members of the Ablé Bourdelot’s academy presented at one of the meetings, a specimen of two stones which had lately fallen near Vero. na; the one weighed 300, the other 200 lib. The phenomenon, he stated, had been seen by three or four hundred persons. The ftones fell in a floping direction, during the night, and in calm weather. They appeared to burn, fell with a great noise, and ploughed up the ground. They were afterwards taken from thence, and sent to Verona. This account, it may be obferved, was published in the same year. Paul Lucas the traveller relates, that when he was at Larissa in 1706, a stone of 72 lib. weight fell in the neighbourhood. It was observed, he fays, to come from the north, with a loud hilling noise, and teemed to be enveloped in a small cloud, which exploded when the stone fell. It smelt of sulphur, and looked like iron dross.

M. De la Lande, in 1756, published an account of a phenomenon very nearly resembling the above, but deficient in several points of direct evidence. His narrative, however, deserves our attention, because he seems to have been upon the ipor, and to have examined, with great care, the truth of the circumstances which he describes. In September 1753, duris an extremely clear and hot day, a noise was heard in the

neighbourhood neighbourhood of Pont-de-Vesle, resembling the discharge of artillery. It was so loud as to reach several leagues in all directions. At Liponas, three leagues from Pont-de-Vesle, a hilling sound was remarked ; and at this place, as well as at Pont-de-Veile, a blackish mass was found to have fallen in ploughed ground, with such a force as to penetrate half a foot into the soil. The largest of these bodies weighed 20 lib. ; and they both alike appeared, on the surface, as if they had been exposed to a violent degree of heat. It may here be observed, that the small depth at which thefe bodies were found in the ploughed land, renders it in the highest degree improbable that they should have existed there previously to the time of the explosion. To the same purpose, we may remark the complete resemblance of the two masses found at so great a distance from each other.

In the year 1968, no less than three stones were presented to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, all of which were faid to have fallen in different parts of France; one in the Maine, another in Artois, and the third in the Cotentin. There were all' externally of the very same appearance; and Messrs Fougeraux, Cadet, and Lavoisier drew up a particular report upon the first of them. They state, that on the 18th of September 1768, between four and five o'clock in the evening, there was seen near the village of, Lucè, a cloud in which a short explosion took place, followed by a hilling noise, without any flame; that some persons about three leagues from Lucè, heard the same found, and, looking upwards, perceived an opaque body which was describing a curve line in the air, and was about to fall upon a piece of green turf in the neighbouring high road, that they immediately ran to this place, and found a kind of stone, half buried in the earth, extremely hot, and about 7 lib. weight. This account of the fact was communicated to the academicians by the Abbé Bachelay. But they do not appear to have attached much credit to the whole circumstances of his narrative ; for they conclude (chiefly from several experiments made to analyse it) that the stone did not fall upon the earth, but was there before the thunder-clap, and was only heated and exposed to view by the stroke of the . electric fluid.

Of late years, the attention of philosophers has been more anxiously directed to this curious subject; and more accurate ' accounts of the supposed fall of stones have been collected from various quarters. It is not a little singular, that the narrative which, of all others, was supported by the very best and most direct evidence, was treated by naturalists near the spot, with perverse incredulity, until the results of chemical analysis, about ten years after the thing happened, began to operate some


« PreviousContinue »