First Impressions of the English (4)

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CHAPTER X


Shenstone's verses—The singular unhappiness of his paradise—English cider—Scotch and English dwellings contrasted—The nailers of Hales Owen ; their politics a century ago—Competition of the Scotch nailers; unsuccessful, and why—Samuel Salt, the Hales Owen poet—Village Church—Salt-works at Droitwich; their great antiquity—Appearance of the village—Problem furnished by the salt deposits of England; various theories—Rock-salt deemed by some a volcanic product; by others the deposition of an overcharged sea; by yet others the produce of vast lagoons—Leland—The manufacture of salt from sea-water superseded, even in Scotland, by the rock-salt of England.



IT was now near sunset, and high time that I should be leaving the Leasowes, to "take mine ease in mine inn."  By the way, one of the most finished among Shenstone's lesser pieces is a paraphrase on the apophthegm of old Sir John.  We find Dr. Samuel Johnson, as exhibited in the chronicle of Boswell, conning it over with meikle glee in an inn at Chapelhouse; and it was certainly no easy matter to write verse that satisfied the Doctor.


To thee, fair Freedom!   I retire,
    From flatt'ry, cards, and dice, and din;
Nor art thou found in mansions higher
    Than the low cot or humble inn.

'Tis here with boundless power I reign;
    And every health which I begin
Converts dull port to bright champaigne;
    Such freedom crowns it at an inn.

I fly from pomp, I fly from plate,
    I fly from falsehood's specious grin;
Freedom I love, and form I hate,
    And choose my lodgings at an inn.

Here, waiter, take my sordid ore,
    Which lacqueys else might hope to win;
It buys what courts have not in store—
    It buys me freedom at an inn.

Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
    Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
    The warmest welcome at an inn.


    Ere, however, quitting the grounds to buy freedom at the "Plume of Feathers," I could not avoid indulging in a natural enough reflection on the unhappiness of poor Shenstone.  Never, as we may see from his letters, was there a man who enjoyed life less.  He was not vicious; he had no overpowering passion to contend with; he could have had his Phillis had he chosen to take her; his fortune, nearly three hundred a year, should have been quite ample enough, in the reign of George the Second, to enable a single man to live, and even, with economy, to furnish a considerable surplus for making gimcracks in the Leasowes; he had many amusements—he drew tastefully, had a turn, he tells us, for natural history, wrote elegant verse and very respectable prose; the noble and the gifted of the land honoured him with their notice; above all, he lived in a paradise, the beauties of which no man could better appreciate; and his most serious employment, like that of our common ancestor in his unfallen state, was "to dress and to keep it."  And yet even before he had involved his affairs, and the dun came to the door, he was an unhappy man.  "I have lost my road to happiness," we find him saying, ere he had completed his thirty-fourth year.  Nay, we even find him quite aware of the turning at which he had gone wrong. "Instead," he adds, "of pursuing the way to the fine lawns and venerable oaks which distinguish the region of happiness, I am got into the pitiful parterre-garden of amusement, and view the nobler scenes at a distance.  I think I can see the road, too, that leads the better way, and can show it to others; but I have got many miles to measure back before I can get into it myself, and no kind of resolution to take a single step.  My chief amusements at present are the same they have long been, and lie scattered about my farm.  The French have what they call a parque ornée—I suppose, approaching about as near to a garden as the park at Hagley. I give my place the title of a ferme ornée."  Still more significant is the frightful confession embodied in the following passage, written at a still earlier period:—"Every little uneasiness is sufficient to introduce a whole train of melancholy considerations, and to make me utterly dissatisfied with the life I now lead, and the life which I foresee I shall lead.  I am angry, and envious, and dejected, and frantic, and disregard all present things, just as becomes a madman to do.  I am infinitely pleased, though it is a gloomy joy, with the application of Dr. Swift's complaint, 'that he is forced to die in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.' "  Amusement becomes; I am afraid, not very amusing when rendered the exclusive business of one's life.  All that seems necessary in order to render fallen Adams thoroughly miserable, is just to place them in paradises, and, debarring them serious occupation, to give them full permission to make themselves as happy as they can.  It was more in mercy than in wrath that the first father of the race, after his nature had become contaminated by the fall, was driven out of Eden.  Well would it have been for poor Shenstone had the angel of stern necessity driven him also, early in the day, out of his paradise, and sent him into the work-day world beyond, to eat bread in the sweat of his brow.  I quitted the Leasowes in no degree saddened by the consideration that I had been a hard-working man all my life, from boyhood till now; and that the future, in this respect, held out to me no brighter prospect than I had realized in the past.

    When passing through York, I had picked up at a stall a good old copy of the poems of Philips—John, not Ambrose; and in railway carriages and on coach-tops I had revived my acquaintance, broken off for twenty years, with "Cider, a Poem," "Blenheim," and the "Splendid Shilling;" and now, in due improvement of the lessons of so judicious a master, I resolved, when taking my ease in the "Plume of Feathers," that, for one evening at least, I should drink only cider.


Fallacious drink! ye honest men, beware,
Nor trust in smoothness; the third circling glass
Suffices virtue.


The eider of the "Plume" was, however, scarce so potent as that sung by Philips. I took the third permitted glass, after a dinner transposed far into the evening by the explorations of the day, without experiencing a very great deal of the exhilarating feeling described


                            Or lightened heart,
Dilate with fervent joy, or eager soul,
Keen to pursue the sparkling glass amain.


Nor was the temptation urgent to make up in quantity what was wanting in strength: "the third circling glass sufficed virtue."  Here, as at the inns in which I had baited, both at Durham and York, I was struck by the contrast which many of the older English dwelling-houses furnish to our Scotch ones of the same age.  In Scotland the walls are of solid stone-work, thick and massy, with broad-headed, champer-edged rybats, and ponderous soles and lintels, selvedging the opening; whereas the wood-work of the interior is almost always slight and fragile, formed of spongy deal or moth-hollowed fir rafters.  After the lapse of little more than a century, there are few of our Scotch floors on which it is particularly safe to tread.  In the older English dwellings we generally find a reverse condition of things: the outsides, constructed of slim brick-work, have a toy-like fragility about them; whereas inside we find strong oaken beams, and long-enduring floors and stairs of glossy wainscot.  We of course at once recognise the great scarcity of good building-stone in the one country, and of well-grown forest-wood in the other, as the original and adequate cause of the peculiarity.  Their dwelling-houses seem to have had different starting-points; those of the one being true lineal descendants of the old Pict's house, complete from foundation to summit without wood—those of the other, lineal descendants of the old forest-dwellings of the Saxon, formed ship-like in their unwieldy oaken strength, without stone.  Wood to the one class was a mere subordinate accident, of late introduction—stone to the other; and were I sent to seek out the half-way representatives of each, I would find those of England in its ancient beam-formed houses of the days of Elizabeth, in which only angular interstices in the walls are occupied by brick, and those of Scotland in its time-shattered fortalices of the type of the old Castle of Craig-house, in Ross-shire, where floor rises above floor in solid masonry, or of the type of Borthwick Castle, near Edinburgh, stone from foundation to ridge.

    I spent some time next morning in sauntering among the cross lanes of Hales Owen—now and then casting vague guesses, from the appearance of the humbler houses—for what else lies within reach of the passing traveller?—regarding the character and condition of the inmates; and now and then looking in through open windows and doors at the nailers, male and female, engaged amid their intermittent hammerings and fitful showers of sparks.  As might be anticipated of a profession fixed very much down to the corner of a country, and so domestic in its nature, nail-making is hereditary in the families that pursue it.  The nailers of Hales Owen at the present day are the descendants of the nailers who, as Shenstone tells us, were so intelligent in the cause of Hanover during the outburst of 1745.  "The rebellion," he says, in writing a friend just two months after the battle of Prestonpans, "is, as you may guess, the subject of all conversation.  Every individual nailer here takes in a newspaper, and talks as familiarly of kings and princes as ever Master Shallow did of John of Gaunt."  Scarcely a century had gone by, and I now found, from snatches of conversation caught in the passing, that the nailers of Hales Owen were interested in the five points of the Charter and the success of the League, and thought much more of what they deemed their own rights, than of the rights of either monarchs de facto or monarchs de jure.  There was a nail manufactory established about seventy years ago at Cromarty, in the north of Scotland, which reared not a few Scotch nailers; but they seemed to compete on unequal terms with those in England; and after a protracted struggle of rather more than half a century, the weaker went to the wall, and the Cromarty nail-works ceased.  There is now only a single nail-forge in the town; and this last of the forges is used for other purposes than the originally intended one.  I found in Hales Owen the true key to the failure of the Cromarty manufactory, and saw how it had come to be undersold in its own northern field by the nail-merchants of Birmingham.  The Cromarty nailer wrought alone, or, if a family man, assisted but by his sons; whereas the Hales Owen nailer had, with the assistance of his sons, that of his wife, daughters, and maiden sisters to boot; and so he bore down the Scotchman in the contest, through the aid lent him by his female auxiliaries, in the way his blue painted ancestors, backed by not only all the fighting men, but also all the fighting women of the district, used to bear down the enemy.

    In passing a small bookseller's shop, in which I had marked on the counter an array of second-hand books, I dropped in to see whether I might not procure a cheap edition of Shenstone, with Dodsley's description, and found a tidy little woman behind the counter, who would fain, if she could, have suited me to my mind.  But she had no copy of Shenstone, nor had she ever heard of Shenstone.  She well knew Samuel Salt the Hales Owen teetotal poet, and could sell me a copy of his works; but of the elder poet of Hales Owen she knew nothing.  I bought from her two of Samuel's broadsheets—the one a wrathful satire on the community of Odd-Fellows; the other, "A Poem on Drunkenness."


O how silly is the drinker!
    Swallowing what he does not need!
In the eyes of every thinker
    He must be a foot indeed.
How he hurts his constitution!
All for want of resolution
    Not to yield to drink at first!


Such is the verse known within a mile of the Leasowes, while that of their poet is forgotten.  Alas for fame!  Poor Shenstone could scarce have anticipated that the thin Castalia of teetotalism was to break upon his writings, like a mill-dam during a thunderstorm, to cover up all their elegancies from the sight where they should be best known, and present instead but a turbid expanse of water.

    I got access to the parish church, a fine old pile of red sandstone, with dates, in some of its more ancient portions, beyond the Norman conquest.  One gorgeous marble, sentinelled by figures of Benevolence, Fidelity, and Major Halliday, all very classic and fine, and which cost, as my guide informed me, a thousand pounds, failed greatly to excite my interest: I at least found that a simple pedestal in front of it, surmounted by a plain urn, impressed me more.  The pedestal bears a rather lengthy inscription, in the earlier half of which there is a good deal of verbiage; but in the concluding half the writer seems to have said nearly what he intended to say.


         *                        *                        *
Reader, if genius, taste refined,
A native elegance of mind—
If virtue, science, manly sense,
If wit that never gave offence,
The clearest head, the tenderest heart,
In thy esteem ere claimed a part—
Oh! smite thy breast, and drop a tear,
For know thy Shenstone's dust lies here.


The Leasowes engaged me for the remainder of the day; and I again walked over them a few weeks later in the season, when the leaf hung yellow on the tree, and the films of grey silky gossamer went sailing along the opener glades in the clear frosty air.  But I have already recorded my impressions of the place, independently of date, as if all formed at one visit.  I must now take a similar liberty with the chronology of my wendings in another direction; and, instead of passing direct to the Clent Hills in my narrative, as I did in my tour, describe, first, a posterior visit paid to the brine-springs at Droitwich.  I shall by and by attempt imparting to the reader, from some commanding summit of the Clent range, a few general views regarding the geology of the landscape; and by first bearing me company on my visit to Droitwich, he will be the better able to keep pace with me in my after survey.

    The prevailing geological system in this part of England is the New Red Sandstone, Upper and Lower.  It stretches for many miles around the Dudley coal-basin, much in the way that the shires of Stirling and Dumbarton stretch around the waters of Loch Lomond, or the moots of Sutherland or the hills of Inverness-shire encircle the waters of Loch Shin or Loch Ness.  In the immediate neighbourhood of the basin we find only the formations of the lower division of the system, and these are of comparatively little economic value: they contain, however, a calcareous conglomerate, which represents the magnesian limestone, of the northern counties, and which in a very few localities is pure enough to be wrought for its lime: they contain, too, several quarries of the kind of soft building sandstone which I found the old stone-mason engaged in sawing at Hagley.  But while the lower division of the New Red is thus unimportant, its upper division is, we find, not greatly inferior in economic value to the Coal Measures themselves.  It forms the inexhaustible storehouse of our household salt—all that we employ in our fisheries, in our meat-curing establishments for the army and navy, in our agriculture, in our soda manufactories—all that fuses our glass and fertilizes our fields, imparts the detergent quality to our soap, and gives us salt herrings and salt pork, and everything else salt that is the better for being so, down to our dinner celery and our breakfast eggs; it forms, in short, to use a Scoticism, the great salt-bucket of the empire; and the hand, however frequently thrust into it, never finds an empty corner.  By pursuing southwards, for seven or eight miles, the road which, passing through Hales Owen, forms the principal street of the village, we rise from the lower incoherent marls, soft sandstones, and calcareous conglomerates of the system, to the equally incoherent marls, and nearly equally soft sandstones, of its upper division; and, some five or six miles farther on, reach the town of Droitwich, long famous for its salt springs.  There were salt-works at Droitwich in the times of the Romans, and ever since the times of the Romans.  In the age of the Heptarchy, Kenulph king of Mercia, after cutting off the hands and putting out the eyes of his brother-king, Egbert of Kent, squared his accounts with Heaven by giving ten salt furnaces in Droitwich to the church of Worcester.  Poor Edwy of England, nearly two centuries after, strove, though less successfully, to purchase the Church's sanction to his union with his second cousin, the beautiful Elgiva, by giving it five salt furnaces more.  In all probability, the salt that seasoned King Alfred's porridge, when he lived with the neat-herd, was supplied by the works at Droitwich.  And still the brine comes welling up, copious as ever.  I saw one powerful spring boiling amid the twilight gloom of its deep pot, like a witch's caldron in a cavern, that employs a steam-engine night and day to pump it to the surface, and furnishes a thousand tons of salt weekly.  In 1779, says Nash, in his history of Worcestershire, the net salt duties of the empire amounted to about two hundred and forty thousand pounds, and of that sum not less than seventy-five thousand pounds were derived from the salt-works at Droitwich.

    The town lies low.  There had been much rain for several days previous to that of my visit—the surrounding fields had the dank blackened look so unlovely in autumn to the eye of the farmer, arid the roads and streets were dark with mud.  Most of the houses wore the dingy tints of a remote and some what neglected antiquity.  Droitwich was altogether, as I saw it, a sombre-looking place, with its grey old church looking down upon it from a scraggy wood-covered hill; and what struck me as peculiarly picturesque was, that from this dark centre there should be passing continually outwards, by road or canal, waggons, carts, track-boats, barges, all laden with pure white salt, that looked in the piled-up heaps like wreaths of drifted snow.  There could not be two things more unlike than the great staple of the town and the town itself.  There hung, too, over the blackened roofs, a white volume of vapour—the steam of the numerous salt-pans, driven off in the course of evaporation by the heat—which also strikingly contrasted with the general blackness.  The place has its two extensive salt-works—the old and the new.  To the new I was denied access; but it mattered little, as I got ready admittance to the old.  The man who superintended the pumping engine, though he knew me merely as a curious traveller somewhat mud-bespattered, stopped the machine for a few seconds, that I might see undisturbed the brine boiling up from its secret depths; and I was freely permitted to take the round of the premises, and to examine the numerous vats in their various stages of evaporation.  It is pleasant to throw one's-self, unknown and unrecommended, on the humanity of one's fellows, and to receive kindness simply as a man!

    As I saw the vats seething over the furnaces, some of them already more than half-filled with the precipitated salt, and bearing a-top a stratum of yellowish-coloured fluid, the grand problem furnished by the saline deposits of this formation rose before me in all its difficulty.  Geology propounds many a hard question to its students—questions quite hard and difficult enough to keep down their conceit, unless, indeed, very largely developed; and few of these seem more inexplicable than the problem furnished by the salt deposits.  Here, now, are these briny springs welling out of this Upper New Red Sandstone of central England—springs whose waters were employed in making salt two thousand years ago, and which still throw up that mineral at the rate of a thousand tons apiece weekly, without sign of diminution in either their volume or their degree of saturation!  At Stoke Prior, about three miles to the east of Droitwich, a shaft of four hundred and sixty feet has been sunk in the Upper New Red, and four beds of rock-salt passed through, the united thickness of which amount to eighty-five feet.  Nor does this comprise the entire thickness, as the lower bed, though penetrated to the depth of thirty feet, has not been perforated.  In the salt-mines of Cheshire, the beds are of still greater thickness—an upper bed measuring in depth seventy-eight feet, and an under bed, to which no bottom has yet been found, a hundred and twenty feet.  And in Poland and Spain there occur salt deposits on a larger scale still.  The saliferous district of Cordova, for instance, has its solid hills of rock-salt, which nearly equal in height and bulk Arthur's Seat taken from the level of Holyrood House.  How, I inquired, beside the flat steaming caldrons, as I marked the white crystals arranging their facets at the bottom—how were these mighty deposits formed in the grand laboratory of nature?  Formed they must have been, in this part of the world, in an era long posterior to that of the Coal; and in Spain, where they belong to the cretaceous group, in an era long posterior to that of the Oolite.  They are more immediately underlaid in England by a sandstone, constituting the base of the Upper New Red, which is largely charged with vegetable remains of a peculiar and well-marked character; and the equally well-marked flora of the carboniferous period lies entombed many hundred feet below.  All the rock-salt in the kingdom must have been formed since the more recent vegetation of the Red Sandstone lived and died, and was entombed amid the smooth sands of some deep-sea bottom.

    But how formed?  Several antagonist theories have been promulgated in attempted resolution of the puzzle. By some the salt has been regarded as a volcanic product ejected from beneath ; by some, as the precipitate of a deep ocean overcharged with saline matter ; by some, as a deposit of salt water lakes cut off from the main sea, like the salt lagoons of the tropics, by surf-raised spits or bars, and then dried up by the heat of the sun. It seems fatal to the first theory that the eras of Plutonic disturbance in this part of the kingdom are of a date anterior to the era of the Saliferous Sandstone. The Clent Hills belong to the latest period of trappean eruption traceable in the midland counties; and they were unquestionably thrown up, says Murchison, shortly after the close of the Carboniferous era—many ages ere the Saliferous era began. Besides, what evidence have we derived from volcanoes, either recent or extinct, that rock-salt, in deposits so enormously huge, is a volcanic product? Volcanoes in the neighbourhood of the sea—and there are but few very active ones that have not the sea for their neighbour—deposit not unfrequently a crust of salt on the rocks and lavas that surround their craters; but we never hear of their throwing down vast saliferous beds, continuous for great distances, like those of the Now Red Sandstone of England. And further, even were salt in such huge quantity an unequivocally volcanic production, how account for its position and arrangement here? How account for the occurrence of a volcanic product, spreading away in level beds and layers for nearly two hundred miles, in one of the least disturbed of the English formations, and forming no inconsiderable portion of its strata? As for the second theory, it seems exceedingly difficult to conceive how, in an open sea, subject, of course, like all open seas, to such equalizing influences as the ruffling of the winds and the deeper stirrings of the tides, any one tract of water should become so largely saturated as to throw down portions of its salt when the surrounding tracts, less strongly impregnated, retained theirs. I have seen a fishcurer's vat throwing down its salt when surcharged with the mineral, but never any one stronger patch of the brine doing so ere the general mixture around it had attained to the necessary degree of saturation. And the lagoon theory, though apparently more tenable than any of the others, seems scarce less enveloped in difficulty. The few inches, at most few feet, of salt which line the bottoms and sides of the lagoons of the tropics, arc but poor representatives of deposits of salt like those of the Upper Old Red of Cheshire; and Geology, as has been already indicated, has its deposits huger still. Were one of the vast craters of the moon—Tycho or Copernicus—to be filled with sea water to the brim, and the fires of twenty Ætnas to be lighted up under it, we could scarce expect as the result a greater salt-making than that of Cordova or Cracow. A bed of salt a hundred feet in thickness would demand for its saltpan a lagoon many hundred feet in depth ; and lagoons many hundred feet in depth, in at least the present state of things, are never evaporated. [10]

    The salt-works at Droitwich were visited, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, by Leland the antiquary.  He "asked a salter," he tells us, "how many furnaces they had in all; and the salter numbered them to an eighteen score, saying, that every one paid yearly to the king six shillings and eightpence." "Making salt," the antiquary adds, "is a notable destruction of wood—six thousand loads of the young polewood, easily cloven, being used twelvemonthly; and the lack of wood now perceivable in all places near the Wyche, on as far Worcester."  The Dudley coal-field seems to have been broached just in time to preserve to the midland districts their iron and salt trade. The complaint that the old forests were well-nigh gone was becoming general, when in 1662 a Dudley miner took out a patent for smelting his iron-stone with coke instead charcoal; and the iron trade of England has been on the increase ever since.  And only a few years later, the salters of Droitwich became equally independent of the nearly exhausted forests, by lighting up their "eighteen score furnaces" with coal.  The railways and canals of the country have since spread the rock-salt of the New Red Sandstone over the empire; a it is a curious fact, that some of our old established Scotch salt works—works so old that they were in existence for centuries before the Scotch salter had ceased to be a slave—are now engaged in crystallizing, not sea-water as formerly, but rock salt, from the midland counties of England.  I picked up, about a twelvemonth ago, on a cart-road in the neighbourhood Prestonpans, a fragment of rock-salt, and then, a few yards nearer the town, a second fragment; and, curious to know where the mineral could have come from, in a district that has none of its own, I went direct to one of the more ancient salt-works of the place to inquire.  But the large reservoir of salt-water attached to the works for supplying the boilers, and which communicates by a pipe with the profounder depths of the sea beyond, of itself revealed the secret.  There, against one of the corners, lay a red, half-molten pile of the rock-salt of Cheshire; while the enveloping sea-water—of old the only source of the salt manufactured in the village—constituted but a mere auxiliary source of supply, and a solvent.


 
CHAPTER XI.


Walk to the Clent Hills—Incident in a fruit-shop—St. Kenelm's Chapel—Legend of St. Kenelm—Ancient village of Clent; its appearance and character—View from the Clent Hills—Mr. Thomas Moss—Geologic peculiarities of the landscape; illustration—The Scotch drift—Boulders; these transported by the agency of ice floes—Evidence of the former existence of a broad ocean channel—The geography of the geologist—Aspect of the earth ever changing—Geography of the palæozoic period; of the secondary; of the tertiary—Ocean the great agent of change and dilapidation.



LET us now return to Hales Owen, and thence pass on to the Clent Hills—famous resorts, in those parts, of many a summer pic-nic party from the nearer villages, and of pale-faced artisans and over-laboured clerks, broken loose for a few happy days from the din and smoke of the more distant Birmingham.  I was fortunate in a pleasant day-rather of the warmest for walking along the low dusty roads, but sufficiently cool and breezy on the grassy slopes of the hill.  A humble fruit-shop stood temptingly open among the naileries in the outer skirts of Hales Owen, and I stepped in to purchase a few pears: a sixpenceworth would have been by no means an overstock in Scotland to one who had to travel several miles up-hill in a warm day; and so I asked for no less here.  The fruitman began to fill a capacious oaken measure, much like what in Scotland we would term a meal lippy, and to pile up the fruit over it in a heap.  "How much is that?" I asked.  "Why, only fivepenn'orth," replied the man; "but I'll give thee the other penn'orth arter."  "No, no, stop," said I; "give me just the half of five penn'orth: you are much more liberal here than the fruit-dealers in my country; and I find the half will be quite as much as I can manage."  The incident reminded me of the one so good-humouredly related by Franklin.  When fresh from Boston, where food was comparatively high, he went into a baker's shop in Philadelphia to purchase threepence worth of bread on which to breakfast, and received, to his astonishment, for the money, three huge loaves, two of which he had to carry through the streets stuck under his arms, while satiating his hunger to the full on the third.

    When little more than a mile out of town, I struck off the high road through a green lane, flanked on both sides by extensive half-grown woods, and overhung by shaggy hedges, that were none the less picturesque from their having been long strangers to the shears, and much enveloped in climbing, berry-bearing plants, honeysuckles, brambles, and the woody night-shade.  As the path winds up the acclivity, the scene assumes an air of neglected wildness, not very common in England: the tangled thickets rise in irregular groups in the foreground; and, closing in the prospect behind, I could see through the frequent openings the green summits of the Clent Hills, now scarce half a mile away.  I was on historic ground—the "various wild," according to Shenstone, "for Kenelm's fate renowned;" and which at a still earlier period had formed one of the battle-fields on which the naked Briton contended on unequal terms with the mail-enveloped Roman.  Half-way up the ascent, at a turning in the lane, where the thicket opens into a grassy glade, there stands a fine old chapel of dark red sandstone, erected in the times of the Heptarchy, to mark the locale of a tragedy characteristic of the time—the murder of the boy-king St. Kenelm, at the instigation of his sister Kendrida.  I spent some time in tracing the half-obliterated carvings on the squat Saxon door-way—by far the most ancient part of the edifice—and in straining hard to find some approximation to the human figure in the rude effigy of a child sculptured on the wall, with a crown on its head and a book in its hand, intended, say the antiquaries, to represent the murdered prince, but at present not particularly like anything.  The story of Kenelm we find indicated, rather than told, in one of Shenstone's elegies:—


Fast by the centre of yon various wild,
    Where spreading oaks embower a Gothic fane,
Kendrida's arts a brother's youth beguiled;
    There nature urged her tenderest pleas in vain.
Soft o'er his birth, and o'er his infant hours,
    The ambitious maid could every care employ;
And with assiduous fondness crop the flowers,
    To deck the cradle of the princely boy.

But soon the bosom's pleasing calm is flown;
    Love fires her breast; the sultry passions rise;
A favoured lover seeks the Mercian throne,
    And views her Kenelm with a rival's eyes.
See, garnished for the chase, the fraudful maid
    To these lone hills direct his devious way:
The youth, all prone, the sister-guide obeyed;
    Ill-fated youth! himself the destined prey.


    The minuter details of the incident, as given by William of Malmesbury and Matthew of Westminster, though admirably fitted for the purposes of the true ballad-maker, are of a kind which would hardly have suited the somewhat lumbrous dignity of Shenstone's elegiacs.  Poor Kenelm at the time of his death was but nine years old.  His murderer, the favoured lover of his sister, after making all sure by cutting off his head with a long-bladed knife, had buried head, knife, and body, under a bush in a "low pasture" in the forest, and the earth concealed its dead.  The deed, however, had scarce been perpetrated, when a white dove came flying into old St. Peter's, at Rome, a full thousand miles away, bearing a scroll in its bill, and, dropping the scroll on the high altar, straightway disappeared.  And on the scroll there was found inscribed in Saxon characters the following couplet:—


In Clent, in Caubage, Kenelm, kinge-born,
Lyeth under a thorne, his hede off shorne.


So marvellous an intimation—miraculous among its other particulars, in the fact that rhyme of such angelic origin should be so very bad—though this part of the miracle the monks seem to have missed—was, of course, not to be slighted.  The churchmen of Mercia were instructed by the pontiff to make diligent search after the body of the slain prince; and priests, monks, and canons, with the Bishop of Mercia at their head, proceeded forthwith in long procession to the forest.  And there, in what Milton, in telling the story, terms a "mead of kine," they found a cow lowing pitifully, beside what seemed to be a newly-laid sod.  The earth was removed, the body of the murdered prince discovered, the bells of the neighbouring churches straightway began "to rongen a peale without mannes helpe," and a beautiful spring of water, the resort of many a pilgrim for full seven centuries after, burst out of the excavated hollow.  The chapel was erected immediately beside the well; and such was the odour of sanctity which embalmed the memory of St. Kenelm, that there was no saint in the calendar on whose day it was more unsafe to do anything useful.  There is a furrow still to be seen, scarce half a mile to the north of the chapel, from which a team of oxen, kept impiously at work during the festival of the saint, ran away, and were never after heard of; and the owner lost not only his cattle, but, shortly after, his eyes to boot.  The chapel received gifts in silver, and gifts in gold—"crouns," and "ceptres," and "chalysses:" there grew up around it, mainly through the resort of pilgrims, a hamlet, which in the times of Edward the First contained a numerous population, and to which Henry the Third granted an annual fair.  At length the age of the Reformation arrived; Henry the Eighth seized on the gold and silver; Bishop Latimer broke down the well; the pilgrimages ceased; the hamlet disappeared; the fair, after lingering on till the year 1784, disappeared also; and St. Kenelm's, save that the ancient chapel still survived, became exactly such a scene of wild woodland solitude as it had been ere the boy-prince fell under the knife of the assassin.  The drama of a thousand years was over, when, some time about the close of the last century, a few workmen, engaged in excavating the foundations of the ruined monastery of Winchcomb, in which, according to the monkish chroniclers, the body of the young prince had been interred near that of his father, lighted on a little stone coffin, beside a larger, which lay immediately under the great eastern window of the church.  They raised the lid.  There rested within, a little dust, a few fragments of the more solid bones, a half-grown human skull tolerably entire, and beside the whole, and occupying half the length of the little coffin, lay a long-bladed knife, converted into a brittle oxide, which fell in pieces in the attempt to remove it.  The portion of the story that owed its existence to the monks had passed into a little sun-gilt vapour; but here was there evidence corroborative of its truthful nucleus surviving still.

    I reached the nearest summit in the Clent range, and found it an oblong grassy level, many acres in extent, bounded on the right by a secluded valley that opens among the hills, with a small stream running through it.  The green slopes on both sides of the hollow, for half their heights, from the summits downwards, retain all their old irregularities of surface, unscarred by plough or harrow: a few green fields, and a few picturesque cottages environed by hedge-rows, with an old mill and mill-pond, occupy the lower declivities and the bottom; and just where the valley opens into the level country we find the little ancient village of Clent, one of the prettiest and most characteristic of all old English villages.  It stands half enwrapped in tall wood, and half embraced by the outstretched arms of the valley, with its ancient time-eaten church rising in the midst, like the central obelisk in a Druidic circle, and its old, venerable dwellings betimbered with dark oak and belatticed with lead, and much beshrouded in ivy and honeysuckle, scattered irregularly around.  There were half a-dozen children at play in the grass-grown street as I passed; and a gentleman, who seemed the clergyman of the place, stood in earnest talk, at one of the cottage doors, with an aged matron in a black gown and very white cap; but I saw no other inhabitants, and scarce any mark of more: no noisy workshops—no stir of business—nothing doing, or like to be done.  Clent, for the last nine hundred years, seems to have had a wonderful easy life of it—an indolent, dreamy, uncaring, summer-day sort of life.  It was much favoured by Edward the Confessor, as a curious charter, exempting its inhabitants from the payment of tolls at fairs, and from serving as jurors, still survives to show; and, regarding itself as a village fairly provided for, it seems to have thrust its hands into its pockets at the time, and to have kept them there ever since.  Its wood-embosomed churchyard, as might be anticipated from its years, seems vastly more populous than its cottages.  According to the practice of this part of the country, the newer tombstones are all in deep black, and the lettering in gold: the stones rise thick around the grey old church, half-concealing the sward; and the sun gleaming partially through openings in the tall trees, that run hedge-like round the whole, glistens here and there with a very agreeable effect on the bright letters.  It would seem as if the tomb, less gloomy here than elsewhere, was smiling in hope, amid the general quiet.  I had come down on the left-hand side of the valley to visit the village, which I now quitted by ascending the hill on the right, through long hollow lanes, rich in black-berries and ivy, and over which aged trees shoot out their gnarled branches, roughly bearded with moss.  The hill-top I found occupied, like that on the other side of the valley, by an uneven plain, covered by a short sward, and thinly mottled with sheep; and all around to the dim horizon lay, spread out as in a map, the central districts of England.

    One half the prospect from this hill-top is identically that which Thomson described from the eminence over Hagley.  There stretches away along the horizon a blue line of hills, from the Wrekin and the Welsh mountains on the north, to the steep Malverns and the hills that surround Worcester on the south.  The other half of the prospect embraces the iron and coal districts, with their many towns and villages, their smelting furnaces, forges, steam-engines, tall chimneys, and pit-fires innumerable; and beyond the whole lies the huge Birmingham, that covers its four square miles of surface with brick.  No day, however bright and clear, gives a distinct landscape in this direction,—all is dingy and dark; the iron furnaces vomit smoke night and noon, Sabbath-day and week-day; and the thick reek rises ceaselessly to heaven, league beyond league, like the sulphurous cloud of some never-ending battle. The local antiquary can point out amid the haze a few scenes of historic and literary interest.  Yonder church due north, in the middle distance, that seems to lead so unquiet and gloomy a life among the furnaces—a true type of the Church militant—had for its minister, many years ago, one Mr. Thomas Moss, who wrote, amid the smoke, a little poem known to every English reader—"The Beggar's Petition."  In an opposite direction there may be seen, when the sun shines, an old building, in which the conspirator Garnet, whose head wrought miracles on the straw amid which it was cast, [11] and several of the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators, secreted themselves for many days in a cavity in the wall.  I have already referred to the scene of the old British battle, and of the assassination of St. Kenelm, both full in view; and to the literary recollections that linger around Hagley and the Leasowes, both full in view also.  But the prospect is associated with an immensely more ancient history than that of the days of the Romans or of the Heptarchy, and with a literature considerably more modern than that of Lord Lyttelton or Mr. Moss; and it is on this more ancient history, as recorded in this more modern literature, that I shall attempt fixing the attention of the reader.  When Signor Sarti exhibits his anatomical models, he takes up one cover after another—first the skin, than the muscles, then the viscera, then the great blood-vessels and deeper nerves—until at length the skeleton is laid bare.  Let us, in the same way, strip the vast landscape here of its upper integuments, coat after coat, beginning first with the vegetable mould—the scarf-skin of the country—wherein its beauty lies, with all its fields and hedgerows, houses and trees; and proceed downwards, cover after cover, venturing a few remarks on the anatomy of each covering as we go, till we reach those profound depths which carry within their blank folds no record of their origin or history.

    The vegetable mould is stripped away, with all its living inhabitants, animal and vegetable; man himself has disappeared, with all that man has built or dug, erected or excavated; and the vast panorama, far as the eye can reach, presents but a dreary wilderness of diluvial clays and gravels, with here a bare rock sticking through, and there a scattered group of boulders.  Now, mark a curious fact.  The lower clays and gravels in this desert are chiefly of local origin; they are formed mainly of the rock on which they rest.  These quartz pebbles, for instance; so extensively used in this part of the country in causewaying footways, were swept out of the magnesian conglomerate of the Lower New Red; these stiff clays are but re-formations of the saliferous marls of the Upper Red; these darkened gravels are derived from the neighbouring coal-field; and yonder grey, mud-coloured stratum, mixed up with fragments of limestone, is a deposit from the rather more distant Silurians.  But not such the character of the widely-spread upper stratum, with its huge granitic boulders.  We may see within the range of the landscape, where all the lower beds have come from; but no powers of vision could enable us to descry where the granitic boulders and gravels have come from.  Strange as the circumstance may seem, they are chiefly Scotch—travellers, in the remote past, from the granitic rocks of Dumfries and Kircudbright.  They lie amid sea-shells of the existing species—the common oyster, the edible cockle and periwinkle, island cyprina, rock-whelk (purpura lapillus), and a host of others of the kind we may any day pick up on our shores.  Now, mark the story which they tell.  This region of central England was once a broad ocean sound, that ran nearly parallel to St. George's Channel: there rose land on both sides of it: Wales had got its head above water; so had the Cotteswold Hills in Gloucestershire; and not a particle of the Scotch drift is to be found on either side where the ancient land lay.  But the drift marks the entire course of the central channel, lying thick in Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire; in some localities to the depth of a hundred and fifty feet.  And in its present elevation it averages in its course from fifty to five hundred feet over the existing sea.  This ancient sound seems to have narrowed towards the south, where it joined on to the Bristol Channel; but such was its breadth where we now stand, that the eye would have failed to discover the eastern shore.  Its waves beat against the Malverns on the one side, and the Cotteswold Hills on the other; it rose high along the flanks of the Wrekin; the secluded dells of Hagley were but the recesses of a submarine rock, shaggy with sea-weed, that occupied its central tide-way; while the Severn, exclusively a river of Wales in those days, emptied its waters into the sea at the Breidden Hills in Montgomeryshire, a full hundred miles from where it now falls into the Bristol Channel.  Along this broad sound, every spring, when the northern ice began to break up—for its era was that of the British glacier and iceberg—huge ice-floes came drifting in shoals from the Scottish coast, loaded underneath with the granitic blocks which they had enveloped when forming in firths and estuaries; and as they floated along, the loosened boulders dropped on the sea-bottom beneath.  Here lie scores in the comparatively still water, and there lie hundreds where the conflicting tides dashed fierce and strong.  "In the tract extending from the hamlet of Trescot to the village of Trysull, in the south-western parts of Staffordshire," says Sir Roderick Murchison, "the quantity, and occasionally gigantic dimensions, of these northern boulders (several tons in weight) may well excite surprise, seeing that they there occupy one of the most central districts of England.  Here the farmer is incessantly labouring to clear the soil, either by burying them or by piling them up into walls or hedge-banks; and his toil, like that of Sisyphus, seems interminable; for in many spots new crops of them, as it were, appear as fast as the surface is relieved from its sterilizing burden.  So great, indeed, is their abundance, that an observer unacquainted with the region would feel persuaded he was approaching the foot of some vast granitic range; and yet the source of their origin is one hundred and fifty miles distant."

    There are few things that speak more powerfully to the imagination of the geologist than the geography of his science.  It seems natural to man to identify the solid globe which he inhabits by its great external features, particularly by its peculiar arrangement of Continent and Ocean.  We at once recognise it in the prints of our popular astronomical treatises, as seen from the moon, or through the telescope from some of the more distant planets, by the well-known disposition of its land and water; and were that disposition made greatly different in the representation, we should at once fail to regard it as the earth on which we ourselves reside.  It might be some of the other planets, we would say, but not ours.  And yet these great features are exceedingly evanescent, compared with the enduring globe which they diversify and individualize—mere changing mist-wreaths on the surface of an unchanging firmament.  The up-piled clouds of one sunset, all gorgeous with their tints of bronze and fire, are not more diverse in place, arrangement and outline, from the streaked and mottled cloudlets of another, radiant in their hues of gold and amber, than the lands and oceans of any one great geologic system from the lands and oceans of the system that had preceded or come after it.  Every geologic era has had a geography of its own.  The earth, like a child's toy, that exhibits a dozen different countenances peeping out in succession from under the same hood, has presented with every revolution a new face.  The highest lands of Asia and Continental Europe formed ocean-beds in the times of the Oolite: the highest lands of our own country were swam over by the fish of the Old Red Sandstone.

    There is much to exercise the imagination in facts such as these, whether one views in fancy the planet as a whole, ever changing its aspect amid the heavens, or calls up more in detail the apparition of vanished states of things amid existing scenes of a character altogether diverse—buried continents, for instance, on the blue open sea, or long evanished oceans, far inland, amid great forests and mighty hills.  I can well understand the feeling experienced by Dr. Friedrich Parrot, as he travelled day after day in his journey to Ararat along the flat bank of the Manech, and saw in the salt marshes and brine lakes of the district irrefragable evidence that a great inland sea, of which the Caspian and the Sea of Aral are but minute fragments—mere detached pools, left amid the general ebb—had once occupied that vast central basin of Asia into which the Volga and the Oxus fall.  He was ever realizing to himself—and deriving much quiet enjoyment from the process—a time when a sea without visible shore occupied, league beyond league, the surrounding landscape, and picturing in fancy the green gleam of the waves, interposed, cloud-like, between him and the sun.  Very similar must be the feelings of the voyager on the great Pacific.  We find trace in this ocean of a sinking continent—a continent once of greater area than all Europe—in the act of foundering, with but merely its mast-heads above the water.  Great coral reefs, that whiten the green depths league after league and degree after degree, for hundreds and thousands of miles, with here and there a tall mountain-peak existing as a surf-engirdled island, are all that remain to show where a "wide continent bloomed," that had existed as such myriads of ages after the true geologic Atlantis had been engulfed.

    It seems more than questionable whether we shall ever arrive at a knowledge approximating to correct, regarding the distribution of ocean and continent in the earlier, or even secondary geologic formations.  The Silurian and Old Red Sandstone systems give but few indications of land at all, and certainly no indications whatever of its place or extent.  The Coal Measures, on the other hand, puzzle with the multiplicity of their alternations of land and water—in some instances, of sea and land.  We know little more than that an ocean deposit forms very generally the base of the system, and that the deep bottom occupied by the sea came afterwards to be a platform, on which great forests sprang up and decayed; and that amid the broken stumps of these forests, when again submerged, the Holoptychius and Megalichthys disported.  The same sort of obscurity hangs over the geography of the New Red Sandstone: we but know that land and water there were, from finding, wrapped up in the strata, the plants and reptiles of the one, and the fish and shells of the other.  A few insulated facts dawn upon us in the Oolite.  We ascertain that the Jurassic Alps formed, in those early times, the bottom of the sea—nay, that the cuttle-fish discharged its ink, and the ammonite reared its sail, over the side of the gigantic Himalaya range; whereas, from the disposition of the Oolitic patches on both the eastern and western coasts of Scotland, it seems at least probable that, in that remote period, this ancient country—"Old Scotland"—had got its head and shoulders above water.  From the Weald we merely learn that a great river entered the sea somewhere near what now forms the south of England or north of France—a river which drained the waters of some extensive continent, that occupied, it is probable, no small portion of the space now covered up by the Atlantic.  It is not at all impossible that the long trails of sea-weed, many fathoms in length, which undulate in mid ocean to the impulses of the gulf stream, and darken the water over an area hundreds of miles in extent, are anchored beneath to what once formed the Rocky Mountains of this submerged America.  The Cretaceous system, as becomes its more modern origin, tells a somewhat more distinct story.  It formed the bed of a great ocean, which extended from central England to, at least, the shores of the Red Sea, and included within its area considerable portions of France, Spain, Italy, Dalmatia, Albania, and the Morca—a considerable part of Syria, as indicated in the ichthyolitic Strain of Lebanon—and large tracts of the great valley of Egypt, as shown by the nummulitic limestone of the pyramids.  But the geography of these older formations, whether Palfæzoic or Secondary, cannot be other than imperfect.  Any one system, as shown on the geologic map, is but a thing of shreds and patches.  Here it occurs as a continuous belt—there as a detached basin—yonder as an insulated outlier; and it is only on these shreds and patches that the geography of each system can be traced, when we can trace it at all.  The field of the map in each instance resembles one of those dilapidated frescoes of Pompeii, in which by much the greater part of the plaster has fallen from the wall, and we can trace but broken fragments of the picture on the detached bits that remain.  The geologic geographer finds himself in the circumstances of the cod-fishing skipper, who, in going one day, when crossing the Atlantic, to consult his charts, found them reduced to detached tatters, and came on deck in a paroxysm of consternation, to tell his crew that they might put about ship when they pleased, for the rats had eaten Newfoundland.

    With the dawn of the Tertiary ages the fragments greatly extend, and tolerably adequate notions of the arrangements of land and water over wide areas may be formed. [12]  The reader must have seen Lyell's map of Europe, as Europe existed in the Eocene period—a map constructed mainly on the geologic data of M. A. Boué.  The land which it exhibits exists as detached groups of islands.  There is, first, the British group, little different in form and extent from what it is now, save that the south-eastern corner of England is cut off diagonally, from the Wash to the Isle of Wight; next the Swedish and Norwegian group, consisting mainly of one great island; and then a still larger group than either, scattered over the existing area of France, Southern Austria, part of Turkey in Europe, and part of Italy.  Running through the midst, there is a broad ocean sound, that stretches across, where it opens into the German Sea, from Norway to Dover, and that then expands in breadth, and sweeps eastwards—covering in its course the beds of the Black and the Caspian Seas—into the great Asiatic basin.  And in this Europe of shreds and fragments—of detached clusters of islets, with broad ocean channels flowing between—the strange existences described by Cuvier enjoyed life during the earlier ages of the Tertiary.  As we descend towards the present state of things, and lands and seas approximate to their existing relations, the geographic data become more certain.  One side of the globe has, we find, its vanishing continent—the other its disappearing ocean.  The northern portion of our own country presents almost the identical outline which the modern geographer transfers to his Atlas, save that there is here and there a narrow selvedge clipped off and given to the sea, and that while the loftier headlands protrude as far as now into the ocean, the firths and bays sweep further inland: but in the southern part of the island the map is greatly different; a broad channel sweeps onwards through the middle of the land; and the Highlands of Wales, south and north, exist as a detached, bold-featured island, placed half-way between the coasts of England and Ireland.  I found it exceedingly pleasant to lie this day on the soft short sward, and look down through the half-shut eye, as the clouds sailed slowly athwart the landscape, on an apparition of this departed sea, now in sunshine, now in shadow.  Adventurous keel had never ploughed it, nor had human dwelling arisen on its shores; but I could see, amid its deep blue, as the light flashed out amain, the white gleam of wings around the dark tumbling of the whale and the grampus: and now, as the shadows rested on it dim and sombre, a huge shoal of ice-floes came drifting drearily from the north-the snow-laden rack brushing their fractured summits, and the stormy billows chafing angrily below.

    Was it the sound of the distant surf that was in mine ears, or the low moan of the breeze, as it crept through the neighbouring wood?  Oh, that hoarse voice of Ocean, never silent since time first began—where has it not been uttered!  There is stillness amid the calm of the arid and rainless desert, where no spring rises and no streamlet flows, and the long caravan plies its weary march amid the blinding glare of the sand, and the red unshaded rays of the fierce sun.  But once and again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there.  It is his sands that the winds heap up; and it is the skeleton remains of his vassals—shells, and fish, and the stony coral—that the rocks underneath enclose.  There is silence on the tall mountain peak with its glittering mantle of snow, where the panting lungs labour to inhale the thin bleak air—where no insect murmurs and no bird flies, and where the eye wanders over multitudinous hill-tops that lie far beneath, and vast dark forests that sweep on to the distant horizon, and along long hollow valleys where the great rivers begin.  And yet once and again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there.  The effigies of his more ancient denizens we find sculptured on the crags, where they jut from beneath the ice into the mist-wreath; and his later beaches, stage beyond stage, terrace the descending slopes.  Where has the great destroyer not been—the devourer of continents—the blue foaming dragon, whose vocation it is to eat up the land?  His ice-floes have alike furrowed the flat steppes of Siberia and the rocky flanks of Schehallion; and his nummulites and fish lie embedded in great stones of the pyramids, hewn in the times of the old Pharaohs, and in rocky folds of Lebanon still untouched by the tool.  So long as Ocean exists there must be disintegration, dilapidation, change: and should the time ever arrive when the elevatory agencies, motionless and chill, shall sleep within their profound depths, to awaken no more—and should the sea still continue to impel its currents and to roll its waves—every continent and island would at length disappear, and again, as of old, "when the fountains of the great deep were broken up,"


"A shoreless ocean tumble round the globe."


Was it with reference to this principle, so recently recognised, that we are so expressly told in the Apocalypse respecting the renovated earth, in which the state of things shall be fixed and eternal, that "there shall be no more sea?" or are we to regard the revelation as the mere hieroglyphic—the pictured shape—of some analogous moral truth? "Reasoning from what we know"—and what else remains to us?—an earth without a sea would be an earth without rain, without vegetation, without life—a dead and doleful planet of waste places, such as the telescope reveals to us in the moon.  And yet the Ocean does seem peculiarly a creature of time—of all the great agents of vicissitude and change, the most influential and untiring; and to a state in which there shall be no vicissitude and no change—in which the earthquake shall not heave from beneath, nor the mountains wear down and the continents melt away—it seems inevitably necessary that there should be "no more sea."

But, carried away by the speculation, I lag in my geological Survey.


 
CHAPTER XII.


Geological colouring of the landscape—Close proximity in this neighbourhood of the various geologic systems—The Oolite; its medicinal springs; how formed—Cheltenham—Strathpeffer—The saliferous system; its organic remains and foot-prints—Record of curious passages in the history of the earlier reptiles—Salt deposits—Theory—The abstraction of salt from the sea on a large scale probably necessary to the continued existence of its denizens—Lower New Red Sandstone-Great geologic revolution—Elevation of the trap—Hills of Clent; era of the elevation—Coal Measures; their three forests in the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton—Comparatively small area of the Birmingham coal-field—Vast coal-flelds of the United States—Berkeley's prophecy—Old Red Sandstorm—Silurian system—Blank.



LET us now raise from off the landscape another integument—let us remove the boulder clays and gravels, as we formerly removed the vegetable mould, and lay the rock everywhere bare.  There is no longer any lack of colour in the prospect; it resembles, on the contrary, a map variously tinted by the geographer, to enable the eye to trace his several divisions, natural or arbitrary.  The range of trap-hills which furnishes our peak of survey is of a deep olive green; the New Red Sandstone that spreads out so widely around it, of a bright brick-red.  There is a coal-field on either hand—the barren field of the Forest of Wyre, and the singularly productive field of Dudley; and they both are irregularly chequered black, yellow, and grey.  Beyond the Wyre field lies an immense district of a deep chocolate-red tint—a huge development of the Old Red Sandstone.  Still further beyond, we may discern in the distance a bluish-grey province of great extent, much broken into hills, which consists of an at least equally huge development of the Silurian; while, rising over the red saliferous marls in an opposite direction, we may see a series of flat, low-lying rocks of the Oolite system, passing from a pale neutral tint into a smoky brown and a light straw yellow.  In such close proximity are the geological systems in this part of the country, that the geologist who passes the flight in Birmingham on the Lower New Red Sandstone, may go and take an early breakfast on the Silurian, the Old Red, the Carboniferous, the Saliferous, or the Oolitic systems, just as he inclines.  Good sections, such as our northern sea-coasts furnish, are all that are wanting to render the locality one of the finest in the kingdom to the student of the stony science; but these he misses sadly; and he, alas! cannot deal with the stubborn integuments of the country in reality, as we are dealing with them so much at our ease in imagination on one of the summits of the Clent Hills.

    The integument that falls to be examined first in order after the boulder drift and the gravels is the Oolitic one; but it occupies merely a corner on the verge of the horizon, and need not engage us long.  One remark regarding it, however, though rendered familiar to the geologic reader by the writings of Murchison and Mantell, I shall venture to repeat.  We have seen how this central district of the kingdom has its Storehouses of coal, iron, salt, lime—liberal donations to the wants of the human animal, from the Carboniferous, Saliferous, and Silurian systems; and to these we must now add its inexhaustible deposits of medicine—contributions to the general stock by the Oolitic System.  Along the course of the Lias, medicinal springs abound; there is no other part of England where they rise so thickly, or of a quality that exerts a more powerful influence on the human fame.  The mineral waters of Cheltenham, for instance, so celebrated for their virtues, are of the number; and the way in which they are elaborated in such vast quantities seems to be simply as follows:—They all rise in the Lias—a formation abounding in sulphate of iron, lime, magnesia, lignite, and various bituminous matters; but they have their origin far beneath, in the saliferous marls of the Upper New Red, which the Lias overlies.  In the inferior formation they are simply brine springs; but brine is a powerful solvent: passing through the Lias, it acts upon the sulphur and the iron; becomes, by means of the acid thus set free and incorporated with it, a more powerful solvent still; operates upon the lime, upon the magnesia, upon the various lignites and bitumens; and at length rises to the surface, a brine-digested extract of Liassic minerals. The several springs yield various analyses, according to the various rocks of the upper formation which they pass through—some containing more, some less lime, sulphur, iron, magnesia; but in all, the dissolving menstruum is the same.  And such, it would appear, is the mode in which Nature prepares her simples in this rich district, and keeps her medicine-chest ever full.

    Let us trace the progress of a single pint of the water thus elaborated, from where it first alights on the spongy soil in a wintry shower, till where it sparkles in the glass in the pump-room at Cheltenham.  It falls among the flat hills that sweep around the ancient city of Worcester, and straightway buries itself, all fresh and soft, in the folds of the Upper New Red Sandstone, where they incline gently to the east.  It percolates, in its downward progress, along one of the unworkable seams of rock-salt that occur in the superior marls of the formation; and as it pursues, furlong after furlong, its subterranean journey, savours more and more strongly of the company it keeps; becomes in succession hard, brackish, saline, briny; and then, many fathoms below the level at which it had entered, escapes from the saliferous stratum, through a transverse fissure, into an inferior Liassic bed.  And here it trickles, for many hundred yards, through a pyritiferous shale, on which its biting salts act so powerfully, that it becomes strongly tinctured by the iron oxide, and acidulated by the sulphur.  And now it forces its upward way through the minute crevices of a dolomitic limestone, which its salts and acids serve partially to decompose; so that to its salt, iron, and sulphur, it now adds its lime and its magnesia.  And now it flows through beds of organic remains, animal and vegetable—now through a stratum of belemnites, and now a layer of fish—now beside a scam of lignite, and now along a vein of bitumen.  Here it carries along with it a dilute infusion of what had been once the muscular tissue of a crocodile, and here the strainings of the bones of an ichthyosaurus.  And now it comes gushing to the light in an upper Liassic stratum, considerably higher in the geologic scale than the saliferous sandstone into which it had at first sunk, but considerably lower with reference to the existing levels.  And now take it and drink it off at once, without pause or breathing space.  It is not palatable, and it smells villanously; but never did apothecary mix up a more curiously-compounded draught; and if it be not as salutary as it is elaborate, the Faculty are sadly in error.

    The underground history of the mineral springs of Great Britain would form an exceedingly curious chapter.  I visited, a few weeks since, the springs at Strathpeffer, and explored, as carefully as rather imperfect sections and rather limited time permitted, the geology of the valley.  The lower hills that rise around it are composed of the great conglomerate base of the Old Red Sandstone system.  The denudation of ages has swept every trace of the superior strata from their sides and summits; but in the sheltered trough of the valley at least one of the overlying beds has escaped.  We find laid at length along the hollow bottom, like a pancake in a platter, the lower ichthyolitic bed of the formation, so rich in other parts of the country in animal remains, but which exists in this locality as a grey brecciated rock, devoid of visible fossils, but so largely saturated with the organic matter into which they have been resolved, that, when struck by the hammer, the impalpable dust set loose affects very sensibly the organs of taste, and appeals scarce less strongly to those of smell than the swine-stones of England.  And it is through this saturated bed that the mineral waters take their course.  Even the upper springs of the valley, as they pass over it contract in a sensible degree, its peculiar taste and odour.  The dweller on the sea-coast is struck, on entering the pump-room, by the familiarity of the powerful smell which fills the place.  It is that of a muddy sea-bottom when uncovered by the ebb.  He finds that, whatever else may have changed within the rock since the times of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, the scent of the ancient ooze of this system is exactly what it ever was; and he drinks the water, convinced, if a geologist, that if man did not come early enough in the day to breakfast on the fish of the Old Red—Acanthodiens, Dipteriens, Coccostei, and Pterichthyes—he has at least come quite in time enough to gulp down as medicine an infusion of their juices and their bones.

    We strip off the Liassic integument, "as ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;" and it is with the Upper New Red formation, on which the Lias rests—its saliferous marls and vast beds of rock-salt—that we have now to deal.  There occurs, among the superior strata of the formation, a bed of variously-coloured sandstone, of little depth, but great horizontal extent, remarkable for containing what, in England at least, is comparatively rare in the New Red, organic, remains.  We find it chiefly characterized by an inequilateral bivalve, not larger than a small pea, which conchologists term the Posidonomya; and by the teeth and ichthyodorulites of fishes: on the surface, too, of some of its ripple-marked slabs, curious records lie inscribed of the doings of the earlier reptiles.  On one large slab in the Warwick Museum, figured by Sir Roderick Murchison, we may see the footprints of some betailed batrachian, that went waddling along, greatly at its leisure, several hundred thousand years ago, like the sheep of the nursery rhyme, "trailing its tail behind it."  There is a double track of footprints on the flag—those of the right and left feet: in the middle, between the two, lies the long groove formed by the tail—a groove continuous, but slightly zigzagged, to indicate the waddle.  The creature half-way in its course lay down to rest, having apparently not much to do, and its abdomen formed a slight hollow in the sand beneath.  In again rising to its feet, it sprawled a little; and the hinder part of its body, in getting into motion, fretted the portion of the surface that furnished the main fulcrum of the movement, into two wave-like curves.  The marks on another slab of the same formation compose such a notice of the doings of one of the earlier chelonians as a provincial editor would set into type for his newspaper, were the reptile My Lord Somebody his patron.  The chelonian journeyed adown a moist sandy slope, furrowed by ripple-markings, apparently to a watering-place.  He travelled leisurely, as became a reptile of consequence, set down his full weight each step he took, and left a deep-marked track in double line behind him.  And yet, were his nerves less strong, he might have bestirred himself; for the southern heavens were dark with tempest at the time, and a thunderous-like shower, scarce a mile away, threatened to wet him to the skin.  On it came; and the large round drops, driven aslant by a gale from the south, struck into the sand like small shot, at an angle of sixty.  How the traveller fared on the occasion has not transpired; but clear and palpable it is that he must have been a firm fellow, and that the heavy globular drops made a much less marked impression on the sand consolidated by his tread than when they fell elsewhere on the incoherent surface around him.  Such are two of the curious old-world stories recorded on this upper bed of New Red Sandstone; and there are many more of the same class.  A lower bed of light-coloured stone occupies the base of the saliferous system, forming its pavement, and separating it from the inferior New Red.  And this bed has also its organisms, chiefly vegetable—flabelliform palm-leaves—narrow, slender spikes, resembling those of the grasses—and a peculiarly formed ear-like cone or catkin, termed the echinostachys.  And these constitute some of the earliest remains known to the geologist of a flora specifically different from that of the Coal Measures.  Interposed between this pavement and the fossiliferous sandstone band above, there occurs a vast thickness of saliferous marls, interstratified with those enormous beds of rock-salt, continuous over wide areas, in which all the salt-mines of England have been excavated, and which now forces upon us, a second time, the problem of the saliferous deposits.  The wind-bound shipmaster, detained in port long after the specified day of sailing, takes instruments in the hands of a legal official, and, "protesting against the weather," frees himself from all risk of prosecution from passenger or supercargo.  I have already, in like manner, entered my protest against the difficulties which environ this subject; and shall now launch into it, shielded by the document against the responsibility of failure, or the odium consequent on entering a wrong port.

    If, in the existing state of things, we seek for phenomena similar in kind to those which produced the Coal Measures, we shall not be disappointed; but we shall be greatly disappointed if we seek for phenomena not only similar in kind, but also equal in power.  An American swamp or a Scotch morass gives us but the equivalent of a single thin seam of coal; a submarine peat-moss, based on a layer of vegetable mould, and topped by a bed of sea-sand, the equivalent merely of a single thin seam, resting on an earthy shale, and overlaid by a shelly sandstone.  Swamp, morass, submerged peat-moss, nay, even if we add to these some river delta, which, like that of the Mississippi, receives the spoils of a wide forest-covered continent, are but slender representatives of even our Scottish coal-field, with its three hundred and eighty-seven successive beds, of which eighty four are seams of coal.  We must be content, in our illustrations drawn from the present scene of things, with phenomena similar in kind, without looking for aught corresponding in extent.  Even had we now the Carboniferous vegetation, the stiff and rigid earth, grown old, would not exhibit the ever-recurring sinkings, with occasional risings of surface, which buried the lower beds of the Carboniferous system full four thousand feet beneath its upper deposits.  Now, in dealing with the Saliferous system, let us content ourselves, as in dealing with the Coal Measures, with simply illustrating the foregone phenomena by phenomena of the existing state of things, apparently similar in kind, though palpably dissimilar in extent and degree.  Let us take for granted, as we do in the case of the Carboniferous period, a comparatively flexible state of the earth's crust—frequent sinkings of the surface, with occasional risings, and progressive depositions of matter, that keep pace with the general subsidence.  And let us then refer to some of the salt formations of the present time, as illustrative of the way in which, amid greatly more active energies of nature, vastly more enormous deposits of this mineral came to be formed; just as our writers on the Coal Measures refer, on a similar understanding, to existing swamps and mosses.

    We are told by Major Harris, in his "Highlands of Ethiopia," that when on his journey, he reached with his party, near the Abyssinian frontier, a desert valley, occupied by a salt lake, the Bahr Assal, which forms a prolongation of the Gulf of Tadjura.  A broad bar of lava had cut off its waters from those of the gulf; and, fed by no rivers, and exposed in a burning climate to the unmitigated rays of the sun, intensified by reflection from hot rocky mountains, they had shrunk into "an elliptical basin, seven miles in its transverse axis, half-filled with smooth water of the deepest cerulean line, and half with a solid sheet of glittering, snow-white salt, the offspring of evaporation."  Here, at least, was one extensive bed of salt in the forming; nor is it difficult to conceive how: the work of evaporation completed, and the entire lake rendered a white, solid mass, some general sinking of the surface continued, till the waves of the outer gulf toppled for a time over the lava bar, and then, succeeded, as such sinkings so often were during the Carboniferous period, by a slight elevatory movement, might give to it a second supply of brine with which to double its thickness.  We find no lava bars in the saliferous sandstone; but sand bars, raised by the surf on a flat arenaceous coast during a slow and equable sinking of the surface, would meet the emergencies of our theory less clumsily and better.  Let us conceive, then, along a range of flat coast, extending from the northern parts of Lancashire to the Bristol Channel, a chain of lagoons, some of lesser, some of larger extent, and separated from the main sea by sand spits or bars raised by the surf; let us suppose the climate to be at least as warm as that on the African shore of the Red Sea, in which the salt of the Balhr Assal is forming; let us imagine a subsidence of the land going on, so exceedingly slow and gradual as to be counterbalanced by the deposition of earthy matter taking place in the sea on the one hand—by the crystallization of the salt in the lagoons, fed by occasional supplies of salt water on the other—and by the rise of the bar, ever operated upon by the surf, in the line between.  A paroxysm of sudden subsidence would, of course, bring the formation of the salt-bed to a close, and cover it up with a stratum of sand or marl; a slight elevatory movement succeeding the paroxysm would have the effect of rendering the superimposed stratum the foundation of a second lagoon and second bed of salt.  According as the periods between the elevatory movements and the paroxysms of subsidence were long or short, the beds of salt would be thick or thin.  Among the five beds that occur at Stoke Prior, in the vicinity of Droitwich, there is one more than thirty feet in depth, and one not more than six inches.  According as the duration of the term of submergence was extended or brief, would be the thickness or thinness of the bars by which the salt-beds were separated.  At Stoke Prior, one of these separating bars falls short of three feet, while another somewhat exceeds twenty-four.  As the lagoons chanced to be well or ill protected from the introduction of extraneous matter, the salt which formed in them would be pure or impure.  One of the Stoke Prior beds contains full twenty-five per cent. of reddish marl, while another is so unmixed with earthy matter, that it might be used, without any previous refining preparation, for the purpose of the fish-curer.  And thus deposition after deposition would take place, and, as in the Coal Measures, subsidence succeed subsidence, until the entire saliferous system would come to be formed.  It has been started as an objection to the lagoon theory, that the salt-beds contain no organic remains, which, it is held, they would have done had they owed their origin to sea-water.  I am, however, not sure that the objection is particularly strong.  Let us remember that the organisms of the entire system in England are but few and ill preserved, and that the marls which alternate with the salt have failed to preserve organisms at all; while the shells of the superior band occur but as more casts in an incoherent clay.  Let us further remember what takes place in the upper pots and hollows of our rocky shores, when, at the height of a stream-tide, they receive their fill of sea-water mingled with sea-wrack, and are then left during the neaps to present their festering contents undisturbed and undiluted to the influence of the sun.  Their waters assume a turbid blue colour and a strong fetid odour, and become in this state so powerful a dissolvent, that a few warm days converts the wrack which they contain into an impalpable mud.  Further, it may be deemed a fact worthy of consideration, as at least not hostile to the sea-water theory, that the rock-salt of England contains, like the bilgewater of these tide-forsaken pots, a considerable admixture of iodine—a substance which enters largely into the composition of the sponges and marine algæ.

    Single masses of salt, like those of Cordova, might come to be elaborated by a greatly more simple process.  The Mediterranean is not an intertropical sea: but what, notwithstanding, would be the probable result were it to be cut off from the Atlantic by some such bar of rock as severed the Bahr Assal from the Gulf of Tadjura?  There is no other inland sea that, in proportion to its extent of surface, receives such scanty contributions of river water; and, to supply the waste of evaporation from its million of square miles of surface, its deep throat is continually gulping up the waters of the Atlantic at the rate of many thousand tons hourly.  A powerful current flows incessantly inwards through the Straits of Gibraltar, and yet the level within is not more than maintained.  Were the Atlantic excluded, the inland sea would of course gradually dry up, until its area had so considerably lessened, that its rivers would be of themselves sufficient to counterbalance its waste of surface; and were its rivers wanting, as might well be the case had it a desert of Sahara on its northern, as on its southern side, even its profounder depths of more than a thousand fathoms would in time evaporate, and but enormous beds of salt remain behind.  It seems not improbable that the loose arenaceous materials of the New Red Sandstone may have existed, ere they formed an ocean bottom, as the incoherent sands of some geologic Sahara that encircled the inland seas and lagoons of this system, and that a consequent lack of rivers may have operated influentially in the formation of the salt.  By the way, may not this process of separating huge deposits of this mineral from the sea—a process which has been going on, we find, in every formation, from the Onondago salt group of the Upper Silurian, as developed in the United States of America, down to the recent salt-lakes of the Asiatic basin—be a provision in nature for preserving to the ocean its proper degree of density and saturation?  In the natural course of things, the sea would necessarily be growing salter and heavier.  The waves wash out of every shore, and receive from every river, minute supplies of salt, which evaporation has scarce any tendency to dissipate, and which, in the lapse of ages, would be necessarily accumulating in the waters, till the delicate gills and branchiæ of the various inmates, formed with reference to a rarer medium, would labour amid the dense and briny fluid, and their bodies, heretofore of a gravity exactly proportioned to that of their element, but now grown too light for it, would float helplessly a-top. [13]  True, the salt seems in every instance to have been abstracted and locked up by accident; but then the recurrence of the accident in every geologic formation demonstrates it to be one of those on which the adept in the doctrine of chances might safely calculate.  It seems an accident of the fixed class on which Goldsmith bases his well-known reflection in the "Vicar of Wakefield."  "To what a fortuitous concurrence," he remarks, "do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives!  How many seeming accidents must unite before we can be clothed or fed!  The peasant must be disposed to labour, the shower must fall, the wind fill the merchant's sail, or numbers must want the usual supply."

    And now we strip off the thick saliferous integument of the Upper New Red, with all its marls, rock-salts, and sandstones, and lay bare the lower formation.  Within at least the range of our prospect, we shall find in it few marks of organic existence, and these few doubtful and indistinct.  Some of the red incoherent sandstones which form its base contain carbonaceous markings, but of a character too obscure to be interpreted; and we may occasionally detect in the calcareous conglomerate above—its upper member—shells and encrinital stems; but they occur in merely the enclosed fragments, and belong to the older rocks.  And yet there attaches no little geologic interest to this barren formation: it marks the era of a great change.  The rugged conglomerate, which rises so high along the flanks of the hill on which we stand, represents in this locality the Magnesian Limestone—the formation with which the long-derived and darkly-antique Palæzoic systems end, and on whose tipper platform the first of the Secondary systems begins.  A strange shifting of scenes took place on that rough stratum at our feet; but it would seem as if the theatre had been darkened when the alterative process was going on.  The lamps burnt low, and concealed the machinery of the stage.  In the long course of geologic history there have been many medals struck—many previous to the time of this revolution, and many after it; but none records the nature of the revolution itself; nor is there geology enough in the world to fill up the gap.  It yawns in the middle of the forum, and no one has dared to fling even a plausible conjecture into it.  Up till the deposition of that Magnesian stratum had taken place, all the fish of which we possess specimens sufficiently well-preserved to indicate the fact, were characterized by the heterocercal tail—the vertebral column was prolonged into the upper lobe of the caudal fin; [14] but with that stratum the peculiarity ceased, and fishes with the homocereal tail of our common osseous varieties took their place.  In that Magnesian formation, too, just ere the occurrence of the revolution, we find the first trace of reptiles.  The long drama of the Palæozoic period, with all its distinct acts, ended with the dethronement of the huge sauroid fish, for untold ages the master-existence of creation; and the newborn reptile reigned in its stead.  We find, too, numerous well-known types of shells, familiar in the older rocks, appearing in this formation for the last time.  So far as is yet known, the Magnesian Limestone contains the last-created species of Producta, and the last created Spirifer. [15]  We ascertain that these shells continued to exist up till the breaking out of this great geologic revolution, and that then, like some of the extinct French noblesse cut short by the guillotine, they disappear for evermore.  And now, raising from off the landscape this curious integument, and setting it aside, as Signor Sarti removes to a side table one of the bits of his figure—a piece of the external skin, mayhap, thickened by its adipose lining, or a well-compacted sheet of muscle and sinew—we lay base the coal-fields, and the range of trappean eminences that broke them up as with wedges, just as their upper strata had been consolidated, and they had received their first thin covering of the Lower New Red.

    I must, I find, employ, though with considerable modifications, an illustration which I have used at least once before.  Here is a small shallow pond, covered over with a thick cake of ice, and with a line of boulders rising in its centre.  There have been two frosts and an intervening thaw.  Just as the first frost set in, the boulder tops lay under the surface, and the earlier-formed crust of ice stretched over them; but, as frequently happens when the temperature sinks suddenly below the freezing point, a great shrinking of the water took place: the ice, unsupported from beneath, leaned for a little while on the boulders, and then giving way on both sides, half-way between their summits and the shore, and, as a direct consequence, cracking also directly over them, the summits came through, and the ice-sheets lay reclining in masses against them, broken by faults, and shivered by transverse cuttings.  At this stage, however, the thaw came on, and encircled with a shallow ring of water, that rose over the depressed surface, the central patch of shivered ice, and the boulders in the midst; and then the second frost set in, and the shallow liquefied ring became a solid.  Now, let us mark the phenomena exhibited.  There, first, in the centre of the pond, rises the line of boulders.  There is an isolated area all around them—a formation of the earlier frost, much broken by faults; and these radiate from the stones rudely and irregularly, but still, on the whole, distinctly enough to indicate the boulder line as a producing cause of the fracturing and dislocation.  And then, around this broken and disjointed area, we find an encircling formation of the latter frost—the solidified ring—in which there are no faults or cuttings, but in which all is undisturbed and entire.  Our geological model is now complete; that row of boulders represents the chain of Trap and Silurian hills which runs along the Dudley coal-field, and whose elevation from below has so broken up the formation with long lines of radiating faults and transverse fractures.  The fractured, insulated area of the ice of the first frost represents the coalfield itself; the unbroken enveloping ring of the second, the surrounding New Red Sandstone.

    Now, there are several points worthy of notice in this model.  Observe, first, that we can ascertain with great certainty, relatively at least, at what period the dislocations and fracturings of the central area took place.  They occurred at the close, or not long after the close, of the first ice formation, and not later; for had they taken place during the time of the second ice formation, it also would have been broken up, whereas we find it entire.  Observe, next, that under the shallow solidified ring of the second frost we may naturally expect to find existing, as a nether stratum, a prolongation of the shattered ice of the first.  And founding on exactly this same principle, the New Red Sandstone of this part of the country, i.e., the unfractured ice of the second frost, has been lately pierced through, to get at the Coal Measures, i.e., the fractured ice of the first; and very valuable though deeply-seated seams of coal have repaid the boldness of the search, and confirmed the justness of the reasoning.  Observe, further, that this broken condition of the coal-field, if its surface were bared in the style we have dared to uncover it from our hill-top, as Asmodeus uncovered the houses of Madrid, would present, viewed from above, a very striking appearance.  Of the twelve panes in the window opposite to which I write, by far the most conspicuous is the pane through the centre of which an unlucky urchin sent yesterday a stone.  There is a little hole in the middle, from which some fifteen or twenty bright rays proceed, star-like, to every part of the astragal frame.  The ray-like cracks of the coal-field are, of course, wholly obscured by the diluvium and the vegetable mould.  A shower of snow—to return to our first illustration—has covered up, with a continuous veil, central boulders, flawed area, and encircling ring, reducing them all to one aspect of blank uniformity; and we can but dip down upon the cracks and flaws, here the point of a finger, there the end of a stick; and so, after many soundings have thus been taken, piece out a plan of the whole.  It would seem as if, in at least one of the planets to which we point the telescope, there, is no such enveloping integument, and the starred and fractured surface remains exposed and naked, like that of the ice of the pond ere the snow-shower came on.  Those who have enjoyed the luxury of hearing Professor Nichol of Glasgow lecture on the lunar phenomena, must remember his graphic description of the numerous ray-like lines, palpable as the cracks in a damaged pane, that radiate in every direction, some of them extending for hundreds of miles, from all the larger craters of the moon.

    There are not a few interesting appearances in this Dudley coal-field.  Its seams, like those of every other coal-field yet known, have been formed under very various conditions: some of them must have been deposits of vegetable matter washed by rivers into seas or lakes; some of them seem to have formed in marshy hollows, like our existing peat-mosses, or, if we must seek our analogies from somewhat warmer climates than those in which peat is elaborated, like the Dismal Swamp of the United States; and some evidently covered as great forests, the sites which they now occupy as coal seams.  There is a colliery about a mile and a half to the south of Wolverhampton, where an outcrop of what is termed the bottom coal is wrought in the open air.  The surface, in consequence, has been bared of the debris and diluvium, and in one corner the upper plane of a thin seam of coal exposed for about a quarter of an acre.  It is found to present exactly the appearance of a moor on which a full-grown fir wood had been cut down a few months before, and only the stumps left behind.  Stump rises beside stump, to the number of seventy-three in all: the thick-diverging roots strike out on every side into what had been once vegetable mould, but which now exists as an indurated, brownish-coloured shale.  Many trunks, sorely flattened, lie recumbent on the coal, some of them full thirty feet in length, while some of the larger stumps measure rather more than two feet in diameter.  There lie thick around, stigmaria, lepidodendra, calamites, and fragments of ulodendra; and yet, with all the assistance which these lent, the seam of coal formed by this ancient forest does not exceed five inches in thickness.  It must have required no little vegetable matter to consolidate into the mineral which supplies us, year after year, with our winter fuel: the coal which loads a single large collier would, when it existed as wood, have built many large colliers.  Not a few of the stumps in this area are evidently water-worn; and there have been found immediately over them scales of Megalichthys, and the shells of an Unio, somewhat resembling in form the common pearl muscle of our rivers, but considerably smaller.  The prostrate forest had been submerged, and molluscs lived and fishes swam over it.  It is further worthy of notice, that this upper forest is underlaid, at the depth of a few feet, by a second forest, in which the stumps lie as thickly, and are of as great a size, as in the first; and that this second forest is underlaid, in turn, by the remains of yet a third.  We find three full-grown forests closely packed up in a depth of not more than twelve feet.

    Once more, ere we wrap up this Carboniferous integument of the landscape, and lay bare the Old Red Sandstone, let us mark to how small a coal-field central England has, for so many years, owed its flourishing trade.  Its area, as I have already had occasion to remark, scarcely equals that of one of our larger Scottish lakes; and yet how many thousand steam-engines has it set in motion—how many railway trains has it propelled across the country—how many thousand waggon-loads of salt has it elaborated from the brine—how many million tons of iron has it furnished, raised to the surface, smelted, and hammered!  It has made Birmingham a great city—the first iron depot of Europe; and filled the country with crowded towns and busy villages.  And if one small field has done so much, what may we not expect from those vast basins, laid down by Lyell in the geological map of the United States, prefixed to his recent singularly interesting work of travels?  When glancing, for the first time, over the three huge coal-fields of the States, each surrounded by its ring of Old Red Sandstone, like patches of mineral bitumen floating in their clay-tinged pools, I called to mind the prophecy of Berkeley, and thought I could at length see, what Berkeley could not, the scheme of its fulfilment.  The metaphysical bishop marked the westward course of empire: he saw Persia resigning the sceptre to Macedonia, and Macedonia yielding it, in turn, to Rome, and to those western nations of Europe that abut on the Atlantic.  And at a time when North America was still covered with the primeval forests, he anticipated an age in which that country would occupy as pre-eminent a place among the nations as had been occupied in other ages by Assyria or Rome.  Its enormous coal-fields—equal in extent, some of them, to all England, and whose dark seams, exposed to the light for miles, inlay the landscape as with ebony, and impart to it its most striking peculiarity of feature—seem destined to form no mean element in its greatness.  If a patch containing but a few square miles has done so much for central England, what may not fields containing many hundred square leagues do for the United States?


Westward the course of empire takes its way;
    The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
    Time's noblest offspring is the last.


    And now, stripping off the dark Coal Measures like a pall, we expose the chocolate-coloured beds of the Old Red Sandstone.  In our immediate neighbourhood there is a hiatus in the geologic series—the Carboniferous system rests on the Silurian; but, westwards, and on the south-west, we may see the Old Red Sandstone stretching away in enormous development.  As estimated by a practised eye—that of Sir Roderick Murchison—its entire thickness in this part of the country falls little short of ten thousand feet.  Here, as everywhere else, it seems chiefly remarkable for its strange forms of the vertebrate animals, exclusively fish.  The upper Old Red formation, so rich in Scotland in the remains of Holoptychius, Platygnathus, Bothriolepis, and their contemporaries, is comparatively barren in England.  The middle formation, however, we find mottled with ichthyolitic fragments, representative of the two great orders of fish in which, at this early period, and for long ages after, all vertebrate existence was comprised.  Fragments of the ichthyodorulites of Placoids are not unfrequent; and the occipital plates of the Ganoid Cephalaspides abound.  The true fish seems to have overspread and taken full possession of the seas during the deposition of this system, as the Trilobite had taken possession of them in the preceding one.  But we hasten on: the thick Old Red coils up and away, like a piece of old elastic parchment that had been acquiring for ages the set of the roll; and now the still more ancient Silurian system occupies the entire prospect.  In this system the remains of the vertebrate animals first appear—few and far between, and restricted, so far as is yet known, to its great upper division exclusively.  We pass hurriedly downwards.  The vertebrata vanish from creation.  We have traced the dynasty to its first beginnings; and now an ignobler though more ancient race of kings occupy the throne.  We have reached in our explorations, the dynasty of the crustacea.  In all creation, as it exists in this period of dusk antiquity, we see nothing that overtops the Trilobite, with his jointed mail of such exquisite workmanship, and his prominent eye of many facets, that so capriciously refuses to admit the light through more or less than just its four hundred and ten spherical lenses.  The Cephalopoda, indeed, may have held with him a divided empire; but the Brachiopoda, the Pteropoda, the Gasteropoda, and the Acephala, must have been unresisting subjects, and all must have been implicit deference among the Crinoidea, the Pennularia, the Corals, and the Sponges.  As we sink lower and lower, the mine of organic existence waxes unproductive and poor: a few shells now and then appear, a few graptolites, a few sponges.  Anon we reach the outer limits of life: a void and formless desert stretches beyond, and dark night comes down upon the landscape.



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NOTES.

 
10.    Dr. Friedrich Parrot, the Russian traveller, gives a brief account in his "Journey to Ararat" (1836) of the salt lakes that now mark the site of the inland sea which seems to have once occupied a large portion of the central basin of Asia.  Their salt, however, though abundant and valuable, regarded as an article of traffic and a source of revenue, would form, we find, but an inconsiderable geologic deposit—a stratum scarce equal to the thinnest of the unworkable seams at stoke Prior or Northwich.  "At the western extremity of the expansion of the river Manech, on its northern shore," says the traveller, "are a number of salt lakes, the largest of which, there called Grusnoe Azore, is probably the same that is distinguished in our maps by the name of the new salt lake, and is five miles long and two-thirds of a mile wide.  These lakes have the property, in common with others of the same kind, that during the hottest season of the year, which in these parts is from May to the end of August, the surface of the water becomes covered with a crust of salt nearly an inch thick, which is collected with shovels into boats, and piled away.  This is managed by private individuals, who rent the privilege from the government of the Don, on condition of paying a tenth of the produce.  On this occasion I was much interested in being able to prose to my own satisfaction, that in such lakes it is nothing more than the rapid evaporation from the heat of the sun, and the consequent supersaturation of the water with salt, that effects the crystallization of the latter; for these lakes are so sallow, that the little boats in which the salt is gathered are generally trailing on the bottom, and leave a long furrow behind them on it; so that the lake is consequently to be regarded as a wide pan of enormous superficial extent, in which the brine can easily reach the degree of concentration required; while, on the other hand, if the summer prove cold or rainy, the superfluous water must necessarily militate against the crystallization of the salt, or even prevent it altogether."
 
11.    The miracle of the straw seems to have been considerably less remarkable than the belief in it.  A young Jesuit-presumptive, attached to his reverend brother the "Martyr Garnet," had possessed himself, by way of relic, of one of the bloody ears of straw, stained by contact with the gory head, and stored it up in a bottle.  Looking at it shortly after, he saw through the glass, on one of the chaff sheathes, the miniature semblance of a human head surrounded by a glory, and called on several of his co-religionists to admire the miracle.  It was, however, unsafe in those days for Jesuits to work miracles in England.  Tidings of the prodigy got abroad; law proceedings were instituted at the instance of the Privy Council; and though straw, bottle, and Jesuit, had prudently disappeared, witnesses were cited to give evidence in court regarding it; among the rest, a painter named Bowen.  And the painter's testimony was very amusing, and much to the point.  He had seen the miniature head on the straw, he said; there could be no doubt of that; but then he had quite as little doubt that he could make as good, or even a better head, on an ear of straw, himself.  And such was the miracle on the faith of which it was held that either Garnet was innocent of the gunpowder Plot, or the Gunpowder Plot laudable in itself.
 
12.    One of the most ingenious pieces of geologic geography to be anywhere met with in the literature of the science, may be found in Mr. Charles Maclaren's well-known "Sketch of the Geology of Fife and the Lothians."  It occurs as part of a theory of the diluvial phenomena of "Crag and Tail," and appeals with equal effect to the reason and imagination of the reader.  "If there has been a good deal of denudation on the cast side of Scotland," says Mr. Maclaren, "there has been much more on the west.  The absence of sand-banks on the west coast, the greater depth of the ocean there, the numerous and profound indentations of the land, in the shape of bays, estuaries, and lakes; the rocky islands, which had once been parts of the mainland; the removal of so large a part of the red sandstone of Ross and Sutherland, which had once covered a hundred miles of the western coast to the depth of two or three thousand feet, and is now reduced to a few isolated cones—all these facts, with the familiar examples of Crag and Tail, indicate that the surface of Scotland has been swept by powerful denuding currents coming from the west.  The west coast of England and Ireland also exhibits deep indentations in high rocky land.  We find the same appearances in a less marked degree on the coast of Normandy and Brittany in France, and on a still smaller scale upon the west coasts of Spain and Portugal.  The west coast of Norway is one long line of islands, promontories, and deep fiords—showing that the primary rocks, in spite of their hardness, have been breached in a thousand places by powerful currents.  The western coasts of Denmark, Holland, and Belgium, having the British Isles before them as a breakwater, have few indentations, except where laid open by the rivers.  An effect so general should have a general cause, and perhaps physical geography may afford a clue to it.  If the land rose in detached portions, and by successive lifts, from the sea, we may suppose that there was a time when the surface of the globe consisted of a great expanse of ocean studded with islands.  Such Adolphe Brongniart supposes its condition to have been, at least in Europe, when the Coal Measures were deposited.  In this state of things there would be three great and constant currents—one within the tropics, running westward; and two running eastward between the tropics and the poles.  The trade-winds in the torrid zone, and the prevailing westerly winds in the extra-tropical regions, would alone account for these currents.  But to these causes must be added the southward course of an under-current, from the pole, of cold water, with a low velocity of revolution, and the northward course of an upper current, from the equator, of warm water, with a high velocity of revolution.  The first would become a westerly current when it reached the tropics; and the second an easterly current when it reached the temperate zone.  Such would be the state of an open ocean from the equator to the north pole; and, mutatis mutandis, the same description applies to the southern hemisphere.  All the three currents, in truth, exist at this day, but enfeebled and metamorphosed by the transverse position of the two great continents.  Now, if these currents were acting permanently, and with the force which they would have if little obstructed, their operation, when tracts of land rose above the sea, would be thus:—They would form deep indentations on the east side of inter-tropical, and on the west side of extra-tropical lands; and, when acting in very favourable circumstances, would form islands, by making breaches through continents, or separating their prominent parts.  The boundary between the opposite currents would be between the latitudes of 28° and 30°, where a zone of still water would exist; and their maximum effort would be near the equator, and within the polar circle.  When the land was rising, and near the surface of the water, or partially above it, the currents would produce the phenomena of Crag and Tail.  The crag or head would point to the east within the tropics, and to the west in the temperate regions.  The current would of course not flow invariably in one precise direction, but be occasionally deflected by high lands to the north or south of its true direction.  We must keep in mind also, that though not perhaps very strong, it would be constant: and that transitory storms and hurricanes would generally incorporate themselves with it, and augment its force.  A temporary current evidently would not explain the facts.  If the same agent swept away the solid rocks which once environed and covered Arthur's Seat and North Berwick Law, and also deposited the tail of clay and gravel lying behind these mountains, it must have acted for thousands of years.  But it is more probable that there were two or more currents at distant epochs.  Perhaps New Holland, New Guinea, Borneo, the Philippines, and Spice Islands, may be the remnants of what was once the southern prolongation of the Asiatic continent, and which had been breached and divided by the tropical current before Africa and South America rose from the deep to arrest its free course.  The idea, however, is thrown out merely as a conjecture on a subject requiring much additional investigation."
 
13.    Indisposition prevented me from hearing Professor Fleming lecture last spring on the saliferous deposits; but the idea started here belongs, I am inclined to suspect, to the Professor notwithstanding.  I think I must have received it in conversation from some attendant on the course, who had enjoyed the pleasure which I unluckily missed.
 
14.    At the annual general meeting of the Geological Society, held in February last (1846) it was stated by the President, Mr. Horner, in his admirable address, that certain highly characteristic genera of the fishes of the Old Red Sandstone, such as the Coccosteus and Pterichthys, do not possess the heterocereal tail.  It should have perhaps been added, however, to prevent misconception, that neither do they possess tails of the homocercal type.  The form of tail in both cases is quite as unique among the ancient Ganoid order, as that of the tail of the Ray family among existing Placoids.
 
15.    Since this passage was written (1845), a few Spirifers, with a few almost microscopic Producta, have been detected in the Lower Lias; and trace of the reptile has been found in the Coal Measures, and even in the upper beds of the Old Red Sandstone.—Third Edition.

 


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