Page images

writes, p. 177, “ In this journey from Sarr to Caire, for a day's time and more, we had so hot a wind, that we were forced to turn our backs to it, to take a little breath, and so soon as we opened our mouths, they were full of sand. Our water was so extremely heated with it, that it seemed to be just taken off the fire; and many poor people of the caradan came and begged of us a cup of water, for God's sake. For our parts we could not drink it, it was so hot. The camels were so infested with this wind, that they could not so much as feed; but it lasted not above six bours in its force; and, if it had continued longer, one half of the caravan would have perished. It was such a kind of wind that the year before so infested the caravan of Mecca, that two thousand men died of it in one night."

The words of Tavernier, speaking of Bander-Abassi, p. 256, are “ March being past, the wind changes, and blowing at W. S. W. in a short time it grows so hot and so stifiing, that it almost takes away a man's breath. This wind is by the Arabians called El-samiel, or the poisonous wind; by the Persians, Badesambour, because it suitocates and kills presently. The flesh of them that are thus stifled, feels like a glewy fat, and as if they had been dead a month before, &c."

Now there is a remarkable passage, in Dr. Shaw's Supplemant to his Travels, relative to this matter, which I think requires a different solution from what the learned Doctor has given it. He says, “ At Saibah, a few days journey beyond Ras-Sem, towards Egypt, there is a whole caravun, consisting of men, asses, and camels, which, from time immemorial, has been preserved at that place. The greatest part of these bodies still continues perfect and entire, from the heat of the sun, and the dryness of the climate; and the tradition is, that they were all of them originally surprised, suffocated, and dried up, by the hot, -scorching winds that sometimes frequent those desarts*.”

This, however, does not appear to me at all probable; for Tavernier observes above, and I think very justly, that the poisonous winds here spoken of, bave a tendency rather to corrupt an animal body, and to cause it to putrefy, than to preserve it. And this is confirmed by Mons. Thevenot, Part ii. p. 54, where he says, “No sooner does a man die by this wind, but he becomes as black as a coal; and, if one take

[ocr errors]

* Shaw's Travels, p. 379. and Supplement, p. 11, 18,

him by the leg, arm, or any other place, his fesh comes from the bones, and is plucked off by the hand that would lift him up.” Wherefore I incline to believe, that the caravan Dr. Shaw speaks of, was first killed by one of these pestilential winds, and then was instantly covered with sand, (storms of sand being exceedingly common in the desarts*) which was the efficient and direct cause of their preservation in their sound state, and not those hot scorching winds to which it is attributed by the Doctor; these, on the contrary, having a disposition to putrefy, rather than to preserve, them. The sand of the desarts has the property of drying, in concurrence with the heat of the sun, as Dr. Shaw himself tells us : “ The same violent heat

may be the reason, likewise, why the carcasses of camels, and other creatures, which lie exposed in these desarts, are quickly drained of that moisture which would otherwise dispose them to putrefaction; and being hereby put into a state of preservation, not much inferior to what is communicated by spices and bandages, they will continue a number of years without mouldering away.”. All, then, that we have to suppose is, that the sand, which first covered and preserved the bodies of this caravan, was afterwards, by the shifting of the winds, blown away from them, so as to leave them entirely exposed to view, and in that uncommon state of preservation and incorruptiou in which they are said to have been found. The supposition seems to be absolutely necessary, in accounting for the phenomenon, as the pestilential wind, supposed to have destroyed them, and which has been described above, could never have left the bodies in such a dry and sound condition,

I am, &c. 1772, Jan,

T, Row.

XLII. On the Leviathan,

MR. URBAN, You are aware, without doubt, of the dispute there has been amongst the learned about the Leviathan described in the xlist. chapter of the book of Job, and mentioned in the civth Psalm; some fixing upon one of God's creatures for the animal intended by the sacred writers, and some upon another. Dr. Thomas Shaw may be deemed the most literate of all our English travellers, in respect of the Encyclopædia, or learning in all its branches and extent; and as he visited the Eastern parts of the world, and has touched upon this subject in his book, and particularly in his Dissertation on the Mosaic pavement at Præneste, (see his Supplement, p. 86) one would expect something decisive upon this controverted point from him. He is of opinion, that the Leviathan is no other than the Crocodile, which (these are his words) from the scaly quality and hardness of its coat, or (in the scripture phrase, Job 4 11 17.) whose scales so stick together, that they cannot be sundered, is in no danger (v. 7.) of having his skin filled with barbed irons, or his head with fish spears. The Crocodile is of too great weight and magnitude likewise (v. 1.) to be drawn out of the river, as fish usually are, with a hook. The Crocodile then, from these apposite characteristics, may be well taken for the Leviathan, as it is described above in the book of Job.' This conjecture of the Doctor's is not new, for you may find it in Calmet's Dictionary, as likewise in other writers; and I much question, though our able traveller has thought proper to adopt and revive it, whether it be the true interpretation. The Crocodile is a river animal entirely, and is never found in the sea; at this time he is not found in the lower or northern parts of the Nile, but n Upper Egypt only. And yet the Royal Psalmist says expressly,

* Churchill, V. p. 533,

CIV. 24. The earth is full of thy riches;

25. So is the great and wide sea also; wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26. There


the ships, and there is that Leviathan, whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.

Where the Leviathan is plainly made to be an inhabitant of the great and wide sea, of the same ocean that is navigated by ships. We are obliged, therefore, to suppose it to have been some large sea fish, of which there were several sorts in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, not unknown to the ancients, who have accordingly given them various names, which need not be here mentioned. And it is not of

any consequence, whether we can now appropriate the name to the particular and identical fish, or not. However, that the Leviathan cannot be the Crocodile, appears to me most certain.

I am, Sir, yours, 1773, Jan.

T. Row.

[ocr errors][merged small]

MR. URBAN, It has been long known to experienced farmers, that taking away small stones and fints is detrimental to ploughed lands in general; but more particularly so to thin light lands, and to all lands of a binding nature.

It was, however, never imagined, that the damage could be so great as it is now found to be, since unusual quantities of fiints and other stones have been repeatedly gathered for the use of the turnpike roads.

In the parish of Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, there is a field known by the name of Chalkdell field, containing about 200 acres; the land in this field was formerly equal, if not superior, to most lands in that county ; but lying convenient for the surveyers of the roads, they have picked it so often, and stripped it of the flints and small stones to such a degree, that it is now inferior to lands that were formerly reckoned not much above half its value, acre for acre. Nor is it Chaikdell-field alone that has materially suffered in that county by the above-mentioned practice; several thousand acres bordering on the turnpike roads from Wellwyn to Baldock have been so much impoverished, that the loss to the inheritance for ever must be computed at a great many thousand pounds.

What puts it beyond a doubt that the prodigious impoverishment of the land is owing to no other cause but picking and carrying away the stones, is, that those lands have generally been most impoverished which have been most frequently picked; nay I know a field, part of which was picked, and the other part ploughed up before they had time to pick it, where the part that was picked lost seven or eight parts in ten of two succeeding crops; and though the whole field was manured and managed in all respects alike, yet the impoverishment was visible where the stones had been picked off, and extended not an inch farther; an incontestible proof of the benefit of the stones. 1773, Murch.

An Hertfordshire Farmer.

XLIV. On the Serpent destroyed by Regulus.

MR. URBAN, THE story of the great serpent, that did so much mischief to the Roman army, commanded by Regulus, in Africa, and was at last encountered, besieged, and killed by him, is so well known, that, I presume, I need not refer you to any authors concerning it. Much difficulty, however, attends this story. Dr. Shaw, indeed, thinks it was a crocodile; these are his words: “There is no small probability, likewise, (as, in the earlier ages, there was no great propriety in the Latin names of animals, Trav. p. 245) that the dragon or serpent, such an one as Regulus is said to have defeated with so much difficulty, upon the banks of the Bagradas, was no other than the crocodile; for this animal alone (from the enormous size to which it sometimes arrives, from the almost impenetrable quality of its skin, which would hardly submit to the force of warlike engines) will best answer, as none of the serpent kind, properly so called, will do, to that description*.” This, though, I doubt, will not do the business; for, in the first place, the serpent in question, according to Orosiust, and, I suppose, other authors whom he followed, was 120 feet long, treble or four times the size of any crocodile that was ever seen or heard of: secondly, the river Bagradas was near Carthage, a part of Africa where crocodiles are not known, and I believe never were; for I take it to be certain, that no river that disembogues into the Mediterranean, ever afforded this animal, except the Nile. Mr. Barrington, I observe, who, I make no question, was well apprised of the above opinion and conjecture of Dr. Shaw, calls the affair of this enormous adder, and Regulus's proceedings in relation to it, an absurd and incredible factt: and, to say truth, it is a hard matter to reconcile it with any tolerable degree of probability; so that, at last, we must be forced to acquiesce in his declaration.

Yours, 1773, Sept.

T. Row.

* Dr. Shaw, Travels, in Supplement, p. 87. it Orosius, IV. 8. I Mr. Barrington, Engl. Version of Alfred's Saxon Version of Orosius, p, 143,

« PreviousContinue »